Time to Start Planning for NaNoWriMo 2017!

Time to Start Planning for NaNoWriMo 2017!

The nights are drawing in now and that can only mean one thing. It’s time to start planning for NaNoWriMo 😀

For anyone who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month, and it comes around every November.

From humble beginnings in 1999, when there were just 21 participants, NaNoWriMo has grown into a world-wide phenomenon. In 2016 384,126 people took part, and the numbers this year are likely to be even greater.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are always welcome), and no prizes either. Essentially, it’s a challenge to help you write that novel you had always meant to write but keep putting off.

By registering with NaNoWriMo, you are joining a world-wide community of writers who are all seeking to achieve the same end, and are thus able to encourage and support one another.

Although there are no prizes for completing a novel for NaNoWriMo, if you do (and you have to prove it by uploading your work to the NaNoWriMo site), you will be able to download an official ‘Winner’ web badge and a PDF Winner’s Certificate, which you can print out.

And, of course, you will have the first draft of a novel you should be able to polish and submit for possible publication (or publish yourself).

There are lots of useful resources on the NaNoWriMo website, including wordcount widgets, web badges, flyers for downloading, motivational articles, and much more. There is also a busy forum where you can compare notes with other participants.

NaNoWriMo is also, by the way, a great opportunity to apply the techniques taught in my publisher WCCL’s Novel in a Month course, or indeed my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

I’d like to wish you the very best of luck if you do decide to register for NaNoWriMo. Please do post a note below if you succeed in completing the challenge!

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Start Writing Fiction

Free Fiction Writing Course Starting Soon

I have mentioned FutureLearn on this blog before. It’s a UK-based platform for short online courses from British and international universities. All FutureLearn courses are free and open to anyone in the world.

Anyway, I thought you might like to know that a course titled Start Writing Fiction begins on Monday 25 September 2017. It comes from The Open University, a well-respected UK distance learning institution. It will run for eight weeks and you can enrol now if you wish. It is also usually possible to register for a few days after a course has started.

This particular course runs regularly via FutureLearn and I have mentioned it on this blog before. If you can’t fit it in this time, you can put your name down on the website to be notified the next time it is scheduled.

Start Writing Fiction is intended for anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing. There is a particular focus on creating interesting, believable characters. The course does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

Start Writing Fiction focuses on a skill which is central to the writing of all stories and novels – creating characters.

You will listen to established writers, such as Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey, talk about how they started writing. You’ll consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal.

You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback.

The course is run by short-story writer and novelist Dr Derek Neale. It requires a commitment of around three hours a week.

The course itself is free, but optionally you can pay £39 to upgrade. Upgrading entitles you to receive a Statement of Participation when you complete over half the course. In addition, you get unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, and quizzes). With the free version, your access ends 14 days after the end of the course. You can, of course, sign up for free and upgrade later if you choose.

For more information (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Start Writing Fiction information page of the Futurelearn website.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally. I recently took one called Secrets of Successful Ageing from Trinity College, Dublin, which was informative and thought-provoking. As well as the teaching itself, another big attraction of FutureLearn courses is the opportunity they provide to interact with fellow students all over the world. You can see all upcoming courses on this web page.

If you have any comments or questions about FutureLearn, as ever, please do post them below.

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Power Up Your Writing With Parallel Construction

Power Up Your Writing with Parallel Construction

I haven’t done a post about the craft of writing for a little while, so today I thought I’d take a look at parallel construction.

Parallel construction (also known as parallelism) is a technique of good writing. It’s a way of constructing a sentence to show that two or more ideas within it are of equal importance.

You apply this principle by writing the sentence in grammatically parallel form, lining up a noun with a noun, a verb with a verb, or a phrase with a phrase.

Julius Caesar did it with three simple verbs:
I came; I saw; I conquered.

Winston Churchill did it with four nouns when he told the British people what to expect in World War II:
I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

The need for parallel construction is most clearly seen in sentences that include the use of the conjunctions ‘and’ or ‘or’. Items linked in this way are parallel and therefore usually need to be expressed in the same grammatical forms (nouns, verbs, infinitives, adjectives, etc.). Here are some examples of faulty parallelism, each followed by one or more corrected versions:

1. To write well and listening well are important communication skills.

Correct parallel construction:

Writing well and listening well are important communication skills.

OR

To write well and to listen well are important communication skills.

2. Remind Judith to go to the store, the library, and check if the laundry is ready.

Correct parallel construction:

Remind Judith to go to the store, return her book to the library, and check if the laundry is ready.

OR

Remind Judith to go to the store, the library, and the dry cleaner’s.

3. He wanted three things out of university: to learn a skill, to make good friends, and learning about life.

Correct parallel construction:

He wanted three things out of university: to learn a skill, to make good friends, and to learn about life.

4. The reorganization of the company is neither simple nor will it be cheap.

Correct parallel construction:

The reorganization of the company will be neither simple nor cheap.

5. There’s nothing I like better than putting my feet up, switching on the TV, and to watch one of my favourite serials.

Correct parallel construction:

There’s nothing I like better than putting my feet up, switching on the TV, and watching one of my favourite serials.

Faulty parallelism is quite common among inexperienced writers, who may feel the need to change some components of a sentence for the sake of variety (as in many of the examples above).

Parallelism is a good thing to check for when reviewing your work, as it can present opportunities to strengthen it. For example, in an article I wrote recently for a client about how to succeed at job interviews, I originally wrote the following:

Try to relate the skills you acquired then to the job you’re now applying for.

On going through the draft article, I realised this was faulty parallelism. The words ‘then’ and ‘now’ need to be in the same relative position in the phrases concerned. So I changed it to:

Try to relate the skills you acquired then to the job you’re applying for now.

That’s better parallelism, and I think makes the sentence stronger.

In general, of course, parallel construction is a stylistic principle rather than a grammatical rule. Faulty parallelism is not in itself ‘wrong’, but if you are guilty of it, your writing will lack the impact it would otherwise have had. To illustrate this, I will close this post with a few classic examples of parallel construction.

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
– Winston Churchill

A college is a corner of men’s hearts where hope has not died. Here the prison house has not closed; here no battle is yet quite lost. Here, we assert, endow, and defend as final reality the best of our dream as men. Here lies our sense of community.
– Howard Lowry

We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.
– Benjamin Franklin

Do not ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
– John F. Kennedy

What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens.
– Benjamin Disraeli

If you use the principle of parallel construction correctly – as the examples above demonstrate – your writing will be stronger and more compelling as a result.

If you have any comments or questions about parallel construction, as always, please do post them below.

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Writing for Newsjack

Sketches and One-Liners Wanted for Newsjack (BBC)

If you’re an aspiring comedy writer, here’s a market opportunity you should definitely check out.

The BBC’s satirical radio comedy show Newsjack is returning for a new run, and inviting submissions of short topical sketches and one-liners from freelance writers. This is primarily an opportunity for UK writers, though if you live outside the UK (and understand the British sense of humour!) there is nothing to stop you submitting work as well.

Submissions are open now, with a weekly deadline of 12.00 pm on Mondays from 11 September (last submissions for this series Monday 16 October 2017).

More information, including the format for submitting work and downloadable templates you can use, can be found on the BBC Newsjack website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1hDdvFLfWClPHW7zT3sq01S/submit-a-sketch. You can also view example sketches and one-liners on this page.

And there are more tips on writing for Newsjack in this BBC Blog post from 2015.

This is, of course, a paying opportunity. Payments are as follows:

£43.00 per minute for sketches
£21.50 per 30 seconds for sketches
£21.50 per one-liner

They say this fee will take in all rights for the work on a non-exclusive basis (so no repeat fees, unfortunately!).

This is a great entry-level opportunity for anyone hoping to get into radio comedy writing. If you consistently submit work that gets noticed, you may be invited to join the show’s team of commissioned writers, which in turn will present all sorts of further networking opportunities.

It’s also a market I have a soft spot for, as some years ago I had a number of sketches and one-liners accepted by the long-running predecessor of Newsjack, Weekending. I was invited to meet the show’s producer and was sounded out about joining the writing team, but in the end decided against as it would have meant relocating to be nearer London.

Good luck if you decide to try submitting work to Newsjack. Please do leave a comment below if you are successful!

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