Friday, 28 February 2014

Writers' Village competition


The Writers' Village site has a short story competition.
  • Prizes totalling £4500.
  • Deadline is 30th June 2014.
  • Entry fee is £15.
  • Stories can be up to 3000 words, any genre.
  • Rules and entry here.
It should be noted that the top 50 contestants get a brief personal critique of their stories. I've had those, and thought they were very useful.
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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review: Little Brother


Little Brother
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



I think this is an important book, like a modern reworking of 1984 but with a more positive outcome. The latter is possibly because it is written in a style accessible to teenagers – great, get them interested in questioning things, empower them to take action rather than bow down to oppressive regimes. People need to be politicised!

It made me laugh out loud in a few places, e.g. “The web browser we used was supplied with the machine. It was a locked-down spyware version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s crashware turd that no one under the age of forty used voluntarily.”

It works as a story; it works as a warning; it works as a believable interpretation of many governments, since we learn more and more about how much they spy on us, how unclear the law is on the matter, and how they silence people who spread the truth with imprisonment and draconian laws. (My favourite recent UK example is http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/31/footage-released-guardian-editors-snowden-hard-drives-gchq ).

The other thing about the story – it works at making you angry. Angry at the assumption by those in power that they are not our servants, but rather, that we are theirs. To be secretly spied on. And most countries have systems whereby your only vote options are between parties that will let this continue. Is it any wonder that people feel disenfranchised by the formal political systems? Politics is about how you live your life. Politics is about the right to express yourself free from interference. We don’t have this. Legitimate concerns and dissatisfaction are interpreted as ‘terrorism’ by Governments, showing how out of touch they are with the people. And this book captures that zeitgeist.

PS Download it for free from Cory's site.

View all my reviews
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Monday, 10 February 2014

Apostrophes

I've been thinking about apostrophes recently, following Cambridge Council's dropping of them, then their reinstatement following public pressure (including my digging). I've been asked questions about apostrophes, and when they should be used. I thought I would do a bit more public service and explain the rule I work by.

Traditionally we talk about apostrophes as being there to show omission and possession. The issue of omission is quite straightforward, and I'll link to some good guides on that. The idea of possession is not quite so simple though, since it does not fully explain the many cases where there is no possession or ownership in any traditional sense.

"That is Karl's book." This is straightforward. I own the book. But then we come across cases like these:

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Monday, 3 February 2014

Stages in writing a novel - rewriting

There are various stages involved in writing a novel. This is a simplified view, which generally represents my own process.


  1. First is the 'gathering ideas and thinking' stage. This doesn't mean planning everything out, but does lead to convincing details, key plot points, and ideas about some of the characters. And although some of the research can come after the first draft is written, with the imagination filling in the blanks for now, at least a bit of research is appropriate here since it will save you time. The system I use is quite efficient. I have folders for future novels, and even though I am not working on them yet I save snippets whenever I come across a phrase, description, bit of information or scene idea that is relevant. By the time I come to start that project I will already have a lot of material to work from.
  2. Then you will write a first draft. I'm not going to say much about that today. During the process you'll also do some editing and further research.
  3. The mysterious process of 'rewriting'. More on this below.
  4. Probably an external literary editor. This is a bit like a game of snakes and ladders: if you are unlucky you might get sent back to the rewriting stage. If you rolled a six then you can move on.
  5. Make the changes and edits your literary editor suggested. Keep polishing the stone.
  6. Get it proofread. Do some tweaks, more polish, and then you could be finished. Celebrate with some cake and a nice glass of ginger wine.


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