Writer on Vacation: A Guilty Pleasure

Recently my family and I decamped to the Polish coast for a week of quality time before the annual school grind sets back in for another year. I didn’t plan to write anything substantial while there, if for no other reason than the Baltic is at its warmest at this time of year: sometimes the water is as mild as +5 degrees and, if one can dodge the icebergs*, one can have quite a refreshing swim. However, these swims do not promote creativity. Instead, afterwards I indulge in my guiltiest pleasure: taking photos of strangers. Continue reading “Writer on Vacation: A Guilty Pleasure”

Shootout at the Double Spacebar Corral

Two spaces or not two spaces? That is the question…

Right, time to get something straight. This whole two-spaces-after-a-full-stop thing needs a proper airing. After the comments that developed on this post by the lovely K. S. Brooks, I have to admit that I lost the plot (and not for the first time, as I’m sure my readers would agree). Fortunately, the Evil Mastermind had the good sense to chain my legs properly to the dungeon floor, and was kind enough to let me snack on a few of his beloved, prized piranhas while I calmed down enough to write this. Continue reading “Shootout at the Double Spacebar Corral”

Avoid clichés like the plague?

Author Chris James

There’s no doubt that one person’s cliché is another person’s erudite phrase, but how to handle clichés in your writing deserves careful consideration.

Technically, a cliché is a phrase that was once considered meaningful or novel but which loses its original meaning or effect through overuse. Or, as Salvador Dali put it: “The first man to compare a young woman’s cheeks to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.”

Many problems with written clichés stem from the fact that in spoken English there are numerous common and convenient linguistic shortcuts we all use without thought. On a busy Friday afternoon at work, if a colleague asks you the best way to drive out of the town, it’s natural to respond with, “Well you should avoid that bridge like the plague.” Moreover, the tendency on social networking sites is to write as we speak, so in one window you are writing your current work of fiction, while in the other three you’re having nice chinwags with your friends. This kind of overlap has blurred what used to be a clear distinction between common utterances and what constituted appropriate prose. Continue reading “Avoid clichés like the plague?”

So what’s your House Style?

Author Chris James

[Author’s Note: we recommend reading this post only after having imbibed at least a triple-strength portion of your preferred caffeine-based beverage and propping each of your eyelids open with a matchstick.]

Self-publishing is power. The power to sidestep agents and traditional publishers. The power to it your way. But with power comes responsibility. You’re going to publish without a traditional publisher, so without all of the behind-the-scenes support that publishers employ before a product comes to market. In that case, there’s one thing you need to get yourself, apart from a reliable supply of happy pills. It costs nothing but your time and a small ability to make decisions. It can help your writing, your editing, and your proof-reading, so leaving your angst and self-torture to roam free over characterisation, plot and exposition. It’s called a House Style.

Each traditional publisher, whether of books, magazines or journalism, has a House Style, a document which states how certain words and phrases are always used in its publications. The main purpose is so that all writers, editors and proof-readers who work for it adhere to the same rules, and thus its readers come to expect and appreciate the same quality content. Fortunately you as the self-publishing writer do not have to contend with a small army of writing subordinates who all think they know how to write better than you. But by having your own House Style, by deciding how you’re going to use certain language items, you can ease your writing journey a little, and be more confident of bringing a good quality product to market.

Here are a few points I’ve found helpful to decide beforehand, rather than suddenly realising that I must make a decision about them just as I’m agonising over some other vital story problem. Decide these either when you begin writing or as a separate editing objective. What follows is by no means exhaustive; any proper House Style document will run to several thousand words, but I hope these results of my experiences may give you an idea of a few of the concomitant editorial issues that face every self-publisher. Continue reading “So what’s your House Style?”

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