Writing Groups in Madrid

Spain Series: III

Come join me while I fill you in on the three different writing groups in Madrid I participated in during my week-long stay there after the fortnight’s writers’ retreat in southern Spain.

I spent the week doing clients’ work, and attending three different writers’ groups.

Writing Groups in Madrid. Group 1: Write What you See

Seven of us met on a Monday evening in a café in the trendy suburb of Tribunal. The convenor is a multi-published author, and the others included an ex-journo from the States, a Spanish writer, an English writer, a Cuban scriptwriter, the friend I met at the writers’ retreat and I.

Tribunal Metro station for writing groups in Madrid

The convenor’s brief was to write a descriptive piece with no embellishment. ‘Just write what you see without commentary.’

You never know what you’re going to write in these impromptu sessions, which is part of the appeal. You’re put on the spot and it forces you to come up with something. I quite enjoy writing in longhand for a change from doing it on the laptop, which I tend to associate with ‘work’.

I began writing what I observed around me: the décor of the café, a couple sitting at a table opposite ours, the wait staff. I was amused that the ex-journo wrote nothing the whole time, but sat with his chin in his hand, not-so-subtly observing us, his fellow writers. So I ended up returning the favour as his behaviour intrigued me. We wrote for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, we sat around talking for hours, but did not read out what we’d written.

This is what I wrote, warts and all. It won’t win any literary prizes, but neither was this the point of the exercise. I can imagine incorporating parts of this into other writing. Remember: we had to write only what we observed, with no commentary. I almost nailed it.

Reflections from wall-mounted lights on glossy ochre walls. Globes suspended from metal rods reflect distortedly on glossy ceiling.

Long-stemmed red carnations in bottles on marble-topped tables with shapely iron frames. Dark timber shutters and window frames.

Solitary tealight candle flickering in a glass. Red lights on expresso machine. White-shirted waitress pulling beers. Silver tray on metal tabletop.

Occasional laughter from front of café. Muted lighting. Parquet floor. Red upholstered lounges. Timber chairs. Twang of background jazz.

She sips on a white wine. He bends his head towards her, dark on dark, profile to profile, the red sofa between them the shape of a heart.

Man walks in carrying pamphlets. Blue cap. Blue and white striped shirt. Tan pants. Navy sports shoes. Walks to end of café. Looks disconcerted. Why are four men and two women sitting together at the back without speaking or looking at one another?

The journo, wearing a smart navy jacket and black-banded white trilby, observes, right leg crossed over left, right hand resting on right leg. Checks watch. Looks bored.

Writer in blue t-shirt taps sandalled foot in time to jazz. Removes glasses, checks mobile phone, taps out the beat with his foot.

Incongruous: a stick of celery in a vase of pink carnations.

Writing Groups in Madrid. Group 2: Random Words

Just three of us turned up for this group held during the daytime. Not so surprising given that people work! And given Madrid’s unbearable summertime heat. We sat at an outdoor table in the shade as it was too busy and noisy indoors. Happily, a slight breeze made it pleasant enough.

The random words exercise is one I’ve carried out several times in writers’ groups I’ve run in the past. Some people love the exercise. Others hate it. Over the years, I’ve often been pleasantly surprised at what I’ve come up with, finding the writing has stood the test of time. I’ve published a couple of these stories on my website. Check here and scroll down: https://editors4you.com.au/gail-tagarro-author/  

We wrote for only about 20 minutes and afterwards, read out what we’d written to the others. The random words we each picked were: Watch, Baffle, Broad, Dance, Challenge, Screeching, Cheese, Smother. I didn’t manage to fit in ‘cheese’ and didn’t want to force it into the writing.

This is what I wrote:

Sulphur-crested cockatoos screeching from the tops of the eucalypts in the paddock beside the house dragged her from her reverie. She watched them dancing from branch to branch, then they settled down. In the dusk, against the ashen clouds, they looked like splotches of snow.

In the still air and smothering heat, even breathing was a challenge.

Evan entered the room opposite, his broad shoulders seeming to take up the whole of the doorframe. He was still not speaking to her and she did not know how to break the silence between them. He had not even looked at her as he’d passed the room.

She sighed.

This was his house, his domain, his … everything. It was very clear that it was on her to put things right, to tidy up this mess they had found themselves in.

But how to do it?

She had tried to say she was sorry, tried to put things right, but her requests for forgiveness had only made him retreat further into himself.

The rain that had been building up all afternoon finally came in torrents, pounding on the tin roof and lashing the windows and the verandah. Hailstones the size of golf balls followed, crushing the tomatoes, shredding the lettuces and basil and lemongrass, silencing the cockatoos.

She should have protected the garden somehow. She’d known the storm was coming.

Gazing through the window at the destruction, she wasn’t aware of Evan entering the room until he came up to her and stood beside her. She jumped at his sudden nearness and a new apology sprang to her lips.

‘Evan …’ she began.

He shushed her, put his arm around her, pulled her close.

The rain eased and the cockatoos squawked and flew off, white blotches against the steely sky.

© Gail Tagarro 2010
cockatoos story writing groups in Madrid
Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Writing Groups in Madrid. Group 3: An Existing Short Story

My final writers’ group in Madrid was the best one from my perspective. Five of us met in yet another café, also located in the suburb of Tribunal.

The convenor writes for pleasure, and I found his critiquing abilities excellent. There was also a young scriptwriter from South America who despite his youth, was also excellent at critiquing.

Before the meeting, we were invited to submit to the convenor via Google Docs the piece of writing we intended to read to the group so the other members had the opportunity to read it beforehand. I chose an existing short story.

Here’s my story:

Stormy

Auckland. Summer of 2001. A night punctuated by thunderstorms, downpours.

She’d left the office late, was crossing the road during a heavy downpour to reach the bus stop. The gutters were flooded waterways, and in her skirt and high heels she was desperately but vainly trying to avoid getting drenched. ‘Damn weather-forecasters, never get it right,’ she grumbled. Car headlights illuminated the slick puddles as she waited at a pedestrian crossing. The windswept rain battered her umbrella and lashed against her legs. Finally, the green man beeped and flashed, and she ran across the street to the shelter of the shop verandahs and down the chewing-gum-splattered footpath to the bus stop. Newton was so seedy, so dirty, so goddamn ugly.

Only one other person was waiting at the bus stop, engrossed in his evening newspaper, immaculately dressed – and bone dry. The effrontery, blast him. Furiously self-conscious, she glanced at her reflection in a murky shop window and took a quick inventory: hair – windblown; clothes – half drenched; shoes – patchy with watermarks. She cast another furtive look at the newspaper reader. Where’s he come from, anyway, she wondered, scowling. Couldn’t have just appeared out of nowhere. She looked up and down the street. Wherever it was, he would have had to cross the street somewhere and been exposed to the weather. No one with those looks could work in one of these seedy buildings. A mystery.

She amused herself by inventing news headlines. Man defies the elements. Mystery man at bus stop. She smiled to herself, the bad mood lifting in synch with the steam rising from the road. Another look his way. What’s so interesting about that blasted newspaper anyway? He doesn’t even acknowledge that I exist. Even his newspaper’s dry. She scowled again.

‘Do you always scowl at strangers?’

‘What?’ Her startled eyes raced to his face. ‘Pardon? Are you talking to me?’

He looked around. ‘No one else here,’ he drawled.

She opened her mouth, about to retort in kind, but something about the way he was looking at her froze the impulse.

‘I do believe you’re speechless.’ She could only gape. ‘I get the impression you’re seldom at a loss for words.’

‘Bad day at the office,’ she mumbled, struggling to recover. ‘So where’s your office – up there? Doesn’t it rain in heaven?’

He laughed coolly. ‘Never lost for words, huh?’

‘Don’t know about me, but you sure look the type who likes to be right,’ she countered, recovered from her momentary loss of speech. ‘Um, have a nice life. Here comes our bus.’

‘A woman who must have the last word.’ He threw the comment at her as the bus drew up.

Silence is often the best answer, she chanted silently, recalling some pseudo-philosophical words of wisdom she’d read recently in an email. But she couldn’t resist casting him a withering look.

Searching the bus for a suitable seat as she pushed her ticket in the electronic feeder, she was relieved to see a spare seat beside another woman. Edging through the dripping raincoats and umbrellas, she repressed the urge to grimace at the odour of dampness and humanity. Mr Smartmouth took the seat behind her. She felt his eyes drilling into her neck, tried to practise meditation to take her mind off him. But when she began thinking about the first chakra, associated with the colour red, her ears and neck and face became suffused with red. This made her so agitated and angry and frustrated and heated that she had to take off her hot, damp jacket. A contrived throat clearing behind her indicated it had not gone unnoticed. She sat fuming silently.

A crack of lightning followed immediately by a tremendous boom of thunder directly overhead made everyone jump and heightened her discomfort and irritation.

Finally, the bus reached her stop. Thank heavens I don’t have far to walk, she thought. Without a backward glance at Smartmouth, she alighted and dashed to the shelter of a nearby tree to put up her umbrella. The bus accelerated off with a roar and a haze of fumes. It was still raining torrentially, and she was anxious to reach home before the next bout of thunder and lightning.

‘I say, mind if I share your umbrella?’

She spun around. ‘My God, you’ve got a cheek! How dare you follow me home!’

‘Follow you home?’ he echoed incredulously. ‘I live here.’

‘Well, w… well, you can … you can just get wet, like the rest of us mere mortals.’ She began walking away. I owe him nothing, she thought.

‘I am wet actually, thanks to your not sharing your umbrella with me.’

‘What’s your problem? I don’t even know you. Give me one good reason why I should share my umbrella with you.’

‘Because it’s be-kind-to-stray-animals day, it’s Friday, there’s no work tomorrow, and when you walk me home, I’ll invite you in for a nice hot chocolate or brandy or whisky, whatever happens to take your fancy.’

‘My God, I’ve met Mr Confident. You’re so damned sure of yourself, aren’t you?’ Despite her protests, he was succeeding at drawing her in. ‘Where do you live, anyway?’

He took her arm and drew in close to her under the relative shelter of her umbrella.

‘Just up the road. What’s your name?’ he asked.

‘Gail.’

‘Is that spelt G-a-l-e?’

© Gail Tagarro 2010
couple with umbrella for writing groups in madrid

Critiquing is an art, that’s for sure. While I do it every day professionally as an editor and writing coach, I found myself somewhat reticent about providing the same level of critique in these groups. I guess it’s natural. I was the newbie and was attending the groups as a one-off.

photo of Unamuno for writing groups in Madrid
Miguel de Unamuno: an intellectual and literary giant, member of the Generation of ’98

I loved the ‘tertulia’ atmosphere of the writing groups. ‘Tertulia’ is a Spanish word meaning a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones. Meeting with other writers in the Madrid cafés was evocative of the tertulias I used to read about when I lived in Spain and studied Spanish language and literature. These included the famous tertulias of the ‘Generation of ’98’ and the ‘Generation of ’27’.

A full list of the writers comprising the Generation of ’98 and the Generation of ’27 is in the links below.

Acknowledgements

Wikipedia, 2019. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generaci%C3%B3n_del_27 and https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generaci%C3%B3n_del_98. Accessed 25 July 2019.

The Author-Editor’s Books


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A Day in the Life of a Writer in Spain

Spain Series: II

I figure after a two-week writers’ retreat in southern Spain, I can talk about a day in the life of a writer in Spain!

After the fortnight in the Alpujarra region, I spent a week in Madrid to catch up on work and attend some writers’ groups (watch out for this in the upcoming third post of this series). I stayed at a friend’s in the suburb of Nueva España, apparently an upmarket area of the capital.

Quiet in Madrid

29 June 2019. It’s quiet in Madrid when I leave the apartment building just before 9 this morning.

a day in the life of a writer in Spain cafe in madrid spain with coffee cup and glasses
A day in the life of a writer in Spain: Coffee and journalling in a Madrid cafe

And cool.

It’s unusual for Madrid to be quiet. Guess because it’s Saturday morning. Too early for one of the cafes that I’ve adopted as a favourite in the week I’ve been here. They open at 10, I discover. Instead, I go to my second-favourite for a morning coffee and croissant.

There’s a unique aspect to the Spanish lifestyle that I’d always put down to the culture: as a nation, and generally speaking, Spanish people go to bed later and get up later than their European counterparts.

Today, after digging to find the real reason, I’m disabused of the notion that it’s cultural.

Solar Time and Clock Time in Mainland Spain

When I lived in Spain way back in the 1970s and again in the early 1980s, I was intrigued when told that in mainland Spain, the time is permanently one hour ahead of mean solar time, and in summer with daylight saving time it is a further hour ahead.

The mismatch between solar time and Spain’s clock time means that it doesn’t get dark here in summertime until 10.30 or 10.45 pm. Even sunset isn’t until nearly 10! A disincentive for going to bed early because when you do, you feel you’re missing out on life.

How the Mismatch Came About

On this visit, I looked into how the time mismatch came about. Whereas I’d always enjoyed what I saw as a unique aspect of Spanish life, what I discovered was disturbing, as it has its origins in Francoist Spain – i.e. during the 41-year-long dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Franco died in 1975. I was living in Spain in the early 1970s and got a pretty good feel for what it was like living under a dictatorship. That, of course, was nothing compared to the early years when dissidents were murdered by extremists (a notable victim was the poet Federico Garcia Lorca of Granada), and hundreds of Spanish intellectuals, artists and dissenters sought exile abroad in order to live.

Back to the reason for that mismatch in time. In 1940, during WWII, Franco changed the time zone to Central European Time to be in line with German time, as did several other western European countries. Although it was considered to be a temporary wartime decision, it became permanent.

There have been discussions around returning Spain’s clock time to its original time zone, with arguments that it would boost productivity, avoid downtime during the working day and boost the declining birth rate. But it hasn’t happened, yet.

Having lived the Spanish lifestyle, it’s difficult for me to imagine Spanish people going to bed earlier.

It’s not all Fiestas and Siestas

a day in the life of a writer in Spain. spanish women traditional dress
A day in the life of a writer in Spain: Dressed for fiestas … but Spain isn’t only about fiestas, or siestas

Many believe it would be a positive change for Spain to turn back the clock, in a manner of speaking. A 2013 Spanish national commission reveals that with the anomalous schedule caused by the mismatch between solar time and clock time, Spanish people are deprived of almost one hour’s sleep compared to the European average, that is, they sleep one hour less than their neighbours. They also work longer hours than their European counterparts, on average 11-hour days, from 9 am to 8 pm.

These facts give pause to anyone who’s ever thought that Spanish people are all about partying and taking siestas. They work longer hours and sleep less than most of their European neighbours.

The Weather

Isn’t the weather always a grand topic of conversation?

I mentioned it was cool this morning, and it was a blessed relief. For the past two days, we’ve experienced 38°C heat in the afternoons, caused by hot winds driven from northern Africa. While June can be hot here, this, too, is anomalous, as the hottest months are normally July and August.

Two days ago, on Thursday, the Saharan heatwave caught me by surprise. I’d been in air-conditioning all day, and left the café where I’d been working to buy supplies for dinner. Cool and collected, I opened the café door and stepped into the street, to be assaulted by a smothering, airless heat that seemed to wrap itself around me. I didn’t run, but neither did I linger, seeking refuge in the Supercor supermarket and then returning straight home with my dinner ingredients.

I swear, that supermarket has a magic revolving door, or a parallel universe. I can’t figure it out. Whenever I go there, I enter one door, take the escalator downstairs to the fruit and veg department, take the escalator back up to pay, and mysteriously, exit by a different door in the street parallel to the one I entered.

If you’re ever visiting Madrid, let me know. I’ll give you the address and you can tell me if the same happens to you. Is it another anomaly?

Acknowledgements

The Guardian, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/22/spaniards-sleep-time-zone-spain. Accessed 29 June 2019.

Wikipedia, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_in_Spain. Accessed 29 June 2019.


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Writers Retreat in Spain

Spain Series: I

Up until 2019, I’d been to a spiritual retreat in England long, long ago, a meditation retreat in the hinterland of the Gold Coast in Queensland a few years back and a yoga retreat in Bali in 2015.

Considering writing has been an important part of my life for much of it, it’s surprising that the writers retreat in Spain was my first. It may also seem surprising that I had to cross the world to spend time on my own books. While some writers have the discipline and lifestyle enabling them to write every day, I do find it challenging, especially as I’m working on other writers’ books from Monday to Friday. After spending all week in front of my laptop, my eyes and hands need a break from it and before I know it, the weekend has sped by – with not a word written.

The writers retreat in Spain gave me two weeks of pure indulgence insofar as my own writing was concerned.

writers retreat in Spain Photo of whitewashed Spanish village in the Sierra Nevada
Village of Ferreirola

Why a Writers Retreat in Spain?

Why I chose Spain instead of a local writers’ retreat, or France, or anywhere else in the world was because I wanted to return after many years’ absence. Also, as my family and close friends know, Spain holds a special place in my heart. I planned to travel around a bit and make it a working holiday once the two-week retreat was over. After all, why travel almost to the other side of the world for just two weeks?

Where the Writers Retreat in Spain was Held

The writers retreat was held in a 400-year-old restored guesthouse called Casa Ana in the village of Ferreirola. It’s in the Alpujarras region of Andalucía, southern Spain, amidst the rocky Sierra Nevada mountain range, 1,000 metres above sea level. I arrived for the 8–22 June retreat, and having packed for summer, I was glad of the only light jacket and wrap I’d taken with me as it was cool for the first week, especially nights and mornings. June temperatures vary between 14°C and 28°C but that first week we got nowhere near the high.

Casa Ana is a beautiful guesthouse restored in the Spanish style. It’s a stunning location with impressive views and the house is set amidst beautifully kept gardens.

writers retreat in Spain Spanish patio with wisteria climbing over trellis and view of mountains
Writers retreat in Spain: the patio of Casa Ana bathed in afternoon sunshine

The Other Writers

There were just six of us, all English speakers. Two live in Spain, one in England, one in Germany, one in the States, and me in Australia. When attending a writers’ retreat you wonder what genres the others write, and what sort of writing expertise they have. The most important things were that we were all serious about our writing, everyone had written for years (not necessarily published) and the environment was supportive.

How the Days were Structured

Most days had the same structure. Breakfasts and lunches were included as part of the retreat, so our day began at 9 am for breakfast, a leisurely start for me.

From 9.45 am until 1.30 pm was quiet time, when we worked, in silence, on our writing. The only sounds punctuating the silence were the tinkling of goats’ bells when the farmers were herding them back to the home fields around midday and in the evenings, the water meandering over rocks in the streams in the valley below and the buzz of bees in the lavender and wisteria of the garden. There’s a huge bee in the Alpujarra region called the carpenter bee. I know it exists elsewhere also but I’d never seen one. Its body is black and its wings a gorgeous iridescent blue.

For views, we had the steep mountains and deep valleys of the Sierra Nevada to look out upon as we wrote, and we could choose various writing spots, moving around as our fancy took us: at the writing table in our bedrooms, in the sitting room, outside on the patio, or in various little nooks and crannies on the different levels outdoors.

writers retreat in Spain Mountains in the Sierra Nevada region of southern Spain
Writing retreat with a view

By lunchtime at 1.30 pm we were ready for chats as well as food and always looked forward to the amazing Spanish meals prepared for us by a private chef.

By 2.30 pm, it was silent writing time again until 6.30 pm.

Between 6.30 and 7.30 pm, we’d chat about our writing, or about anything, over a drink and nibbles on the patio, or just rest or keep writing if we felt like it. It was also the time to go for walks through the narrow streets of the village with the traditional whitewashed houses of the south. Ferreirola has only around twenty-eight permanent inhabitants. Some of the writers went on hikes along the many trails the region is renowned for. If I’d had more time in the area I’d have done so, and I did do a few of the shorter walks at the end of the writing days, but my priority was progressing with my writing.

We could choose, for an additional cost, to participate in dinners provided by the retreat three times a week, or walk ten minutes up the road to one of the three country restaurants there. We could also buy our own food to cook in the kitchen.

Quiet time again at 10.30 pm, but this was to sleep rather than to write.

Twice a week, the afternoon writing session/silent time finished an hour earlier, at 5.30 pm, to allow for a group critiquing session, which was included in the retreat price. Casa Ana organises a resident mentor for the duration of the writing retreats, and she led the critiquing sessions. We chose an excerpt of around 1,500 words from the writing we were working on and read it out to the group. Then each person in the group gave their feedback, followed by the mentor’s feedback. This was useful. Constructive feedback may:

  • reinforce a problem you see with your writing but aren’t sure about
  • confirm your feeling that your writing is strong
  • highlight issues with your writing that you haven’t been able to see yourself.

Private Mentoring

Three sessions of private mentoring a week were available with the resident mentor at an additional price. The writers submitted an extract of around 1,500 words for review. They then had a one-on-one session of one hour with the mentor to receive feedback and discuss the issues they had with their writing.

What I Learnt

It was wonderful being able to fully focus on my writing in a way I’ve probably never been able to previously. Having constructive, objective feedback from the others helped reinforce my confidence in my writing. I learnt how I could carry back into the ‘real world’ a support network by teaming up with another writer for regular critiquing sessions. The writer who told me this sends his ongoing novel to a writing buddy he met on a different retreat, and she sends him her ongoing writing. This is possibly one of the most valuable outcomes for me, as it will keep me on task.

A couple of the other writers keep a daily journal as a writing discipline. This is something I’ve done on and off most of my life, but sometimes ‘off’ lasts too long! So I’ve taken up daily journalling again. Even if it’s just a couple of paragraphs it’s preferable to nothing. Finally, I made some long-term connections with other writers.

Was it Worth it?

For me, definitely. I went to Spain with the goal of finishing, to publication readiness, two books I’d written years ago, and I’m happy to say I achieved that goal. Next goal is publishing them before the end of this year.

I couldn’t have wished for a more ideal, peaceful, beautiful location. With most of the meals and housekeeping taken care of, we were free to … just write.

young spanish women wearing traditional dress
Granada is the largest city in the Alpujarras region. The festival of Corpus Christi was being celebrated and so traditional dresses were on display

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Stuck with your writing? Need some guidance? Or maybe you’ve finished your manuscript and need to have it professionally edited before making those publisher submissions. Give me a call on 0405 695 534! Have a read about Writer CoachingEditing, and Manuscript Appraisals.

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How to Punctuate Dialogue

double quotation marks, how to punctuate dialogue

Is it a struggle for you knowing how to punctuate dialogue? How to punctuate dialogue correctly eludes a lot of writers. Yet once you know the rules, it is straightforward.

Quotation marks, speech marks and quotes

Quotation marks are also referred to as ‘speech marks’ or ‘quotes’. I’ll use the term ‘quotation marks’ here so as not to confuse it with the other meanings of ‘quote’.

Quotation marks are either single – ‘ or double – “

In Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, it seems more common for writers to use single quotation marks for dialogue, while in the United States, double quotation marks are more common. Either is correct – consistency is the key.

Opening and closing quotation marks

When you use quotation marks in dialogue, you use opening quotation marks – ‘ – to begin the dialogue, and closing quotation marks – ’ – to end the dialogue.

Do you always need to use quotation marks in dialogue?

The English language is very flexible and readers are not too fussed about whether you do or don’t use quotation marks in dialogue. However, most writers do, because it clearly separates narrative from dialogue. So if you don’t use quotation marks, then you need to make clear to the reader in some other way when you are switching between dialogue and narrative.

Comma to introduce speech

When you have a dialogue tag – she said/he said or similar – introducing a character’s speech, you need a comma before the opening quotation marks.

Example:

Jenna asked, ‘Can I go to the movies with you tonight?’

Comma after speech and before dialogue tag

When the dialogue finishes and you are using a dialogue tag – he said/she said or similar – as long as the dialogue doesn’t end in a question mark or an exclamation mark, you use a comma before the end quotation marks.

Example:

‘I’m going to the movies with you tonight,’ Jenna said.

But:

‘Can I go to the movies with you tonight?’ she asked.

‘I’m not going to the movies with you tonight!’ she said.

In the above two sentences, you only use a question mark or an exclamation mark, not a comma as well.

You’ll note that the first word of the dialogue tag – she – needs to be in lower case (small letters), as the sentence is not considered finished until after the dialogue tag.

However, sometimes a separate sentence follows the dialogue, as in the example below, so that sentence needs to begin with a capital letter:

‘I’m going to the movies with you tonight.’ It was clear that Jenna was not going to take no for an answer.

Punctuation falls inside closing quotation marks

Just keep in mind that before using closing quotation marks, you need to finish punctuating the sentence – with a comma, a full stop, an exclamation mark, or a question mark – just as you’d do if the sentence had no speech.

Examples:

I looked at James and said, ‘Your glasses really suit you.’

Here, you can see that the full stop comes before the closing quotation marks.

‘Can you send me that file today please?’

The question mark comes before the closing quotation marks.

‘How dare you!’

The exclamation mark comes before the closing quotation marks.

More than one person or character speaking

When two or more characters are speaking, make sure you have a paragraph break for each new speaker. This makes it clear to your readers which character is speaking.

Quoted text within quotation marks

When a character is quoting another character or person, put the words they are quoting within double quotation marks nested inside the character’s speech.

Example:

Jenna said, ‘Mum always used to say to me, “Be careful who you associate with”, and I’ve always taken notice of that.’

Note that the closing quotation marks of the quoted speech go before the comma.

Dialogue plus dialogue tag plus dialogue

When you have your character begin a sentence, then interrupt their speech with a dialogue tag, then resume their speech after the dialogue tag, this is how to punctuate the sentence correctly.

Example:

‘Your glasses really suit you,’ I said to James, ‘so I think you should wear them more often.’

You could also break it down into two sentences separated by a full stop:

‘Your glasses really suit you,’ I said to James. ‘You should wear them more often.’

Dialogue interrupted by an action or a thought

Example:

 ‘Your glasses really suit you’ – actually, I couldn’t take my eyes off him so I was just stalling so he’d keep talking with me – ‘and I think you should wear them more often.’

‘Your glasses really suit you’ – Penny walked past and threw him a come-hither look – ‘so I think you should wear them more often.’

Multiple paragraphs of dialogue by the same speaker

Characters sometimes have a lot to say for themselves! While it’s wise not to tax the reader’s patience by frequently having characters talk for several paragraphs, when their speech is longer than, say, five or six lines, it’s a good idea to break it into two paragraphs. The rule is to use an opening quotation mark in the second paragraph to indicate the same character is still speaking, and to end the quotation marks after the paragraph in which the character finishes speaking.

Example:

‘I want to see you every day of my life from now until forever and I hope you feel the same way. Do you know when I first fell in love with you? It was that day at the market when that little kid fell down the steps and you rushed to help him up.

‘There was so much tenderness in your eyes, it was all I could do to stop myself from proposing to you then and there. You have the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.’

Anything else you’d like to know about punctuating dialogue?

Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may like a manuscript appraisal, or to ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!

IPEd Accredited Editor (AE)

Logo for Institute of Professional Editors

I invite you to download my eBook – see cover below. Enhance your writing skills! Learn how easy it is to self-publish your book!

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Is your Book Character-Driven or Plot-Driven?

Do you know, is your book character-driven or plot-driven? The first question should be, what does character-driven and plot-driven mean?!

Illustration of a confused person looking at different options to represent the choice between character-driven and plot-driven stories
What do character-driven and plot-driven mean?

Plot-driven

In a plot-driven story, the action is the focus of the writing, not the character. The character tends to be static; there is little character development. Plot-driven stories are often genres like horror, action, science fiction. An example of a plot-driven story is Dan Brown’s mystery thriller The Da Vinci Code. The story focuses not on the development of protagonist Robert Langdon or focus character Sophie Neveu but on their search for clues in an attempt to solve a mystery.

Character-driven

Character-driven stories focus on the character, the character’s emotional depth and the transformation the character experiences. A famous example of a character-driven story is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The central characters, children Scout and Jem Finch, develop an awareness of racism and its implications when their lawyer father Atticus defends Tom Robinson. They also ‘grow up’ (develop) in their understanding of their neighbour Boo Radley when he ultimately saves them from the story’s villain.

NY Book Editors  explain it like this: ‘Whereas plot-driven stories focus on a set of choices that a character must make, a character-driven story focuses on how the character arrives at a particular choice. The plot in a character-driven story is usually simple and often hyper-focused on the internal or interpersonal struggle of the character(s).’

Do you write character-driven or plot-driven stories?

As writers, our style naturally tends towards either character-driven or plot-driven stories. What’s important is to get the balance right – because both plot and character are necessary!

This means becoming aware of how we approach storytelling – that is, whether we write character-driven or plot-driven stories – and then consciously making a choice to keep the balance right between character and plot.

Problems of imbalance

Why is it necessary to have a balance between character and plot? Most of us write because we love writing. Beyond that, we write so that readers will want to read our books. We’re writing for an audience, ultimately, and good storytelling engages our audience through to the end of the story. This means we need to find the happy balance between character and plot.

Losing the plot

Stories that focus so much on character that they ‘lose the plot’ risk making their characters yawningly boring. A character may be appealing, intelligent and good-looking but if they are given no task to fulfil in the story – no conflict they have to face, so no growth and no development – then there’s unlikely to be great reader engagement with the story. 

Too much focus on plot

A fast-paced page-turner with heaps of action and heart-stopping scenes that leave the reader breathless, but that star one-dimensional characters, will be unsatisfying to the reader. One-dimensional means the characters lack depth, they do not learn or grow – they are boring.

How to nail it

If you’re struggling with getting the balance between character and plot right, these ideas may help:

Analyse movies

When you’re watching a movie, follow it more closely than you might usually and work out whether it’s character-driven or plot-driven.

Read

Read excellent books written by excellent writers. You can’t go wrong with the classics of worldwide literature, and if you’re unsure, a quick Google search will reveal them. Your local librarians are a good source of knowledge on first-rate writers and books.

A couple of examples of books where the author got the balance between character and plot just right are:

Do a writing exercise

Challenge yourself to come up with an interesting situation asking a ‘what-if’ question, like Stephen King suggests (see below). Think up your main character, and then write a scene or a couple of pages. You never know; from these humble beginnings an award-winning story may be born!

Take courses

Many writers’ centres all over the English-speaking world now offer online courses in many aspects of creative writing. Search online to see what’s on offer for 2019.

What Stephen King says

Let’s finish this discussion with what storytelling master Stephen King says in his book On Writing: A memoir of the craft. He says that he distrusts plot, putting forward two valid reasons: ‘… our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning’. He also believes that ‘plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible’. What is needed is a strong situation. He proposes that the ‘most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a What-if question’, and gives examples of his own books: ‘What if vampires invaded a small New England village? (Salem’s Lot). What if a young mother and her son became trapped in their stalled car by a rabid dog? (Cujo)’ (© 2000 Stephen King).

I hope you have found the post, Is your book character-driven or plot-driven? – useful. Let me know if you’d like more on this topic.

Acknowledgements

Australian Writers’ Centre, Character-driven versus plot-driven stories, 2014.
https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/character-driven-versus-plot-driven-stories/. Accessed 14 Jan 2019

Jennifer Kenning, How to be your own Script Doctor, 2006, the Continuum International Publishing Group, New York. Page 83: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=WT4VZC4lKiQC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=Character+driven+vs+plot+driven+stories&source=bl&ots=biInlzdkNQ&sig=MeS9yKpo4drzEEIcC0_JBKBRws4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjFtpTCvuzfAhUFKo8KHcQtA084lgEQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=Character%20driven%20vs%20plot%20driven%20stories&f=false. Accessed 14 Jan 2019

Stephen King, On Writing: A memoir of the craft, 2000, Hodder & Stoughton, London.

NY Book Editors, Character-Driven Vs. Plot Driven: Which Is Best, nd.
https://nybookeditors.com/2017/02/character-driven-vs-plot-driven-best/. Accessed 14 Jan 2019

The Guardian, How to Write, 2000. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2000/oct/01/stephenking.sciencefictionfantasyandhorror. Accessed 15 Jan 2019.


Gail Tagarro, Accredited Editor (AE)


Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may think you need a manuscript appraisal for further development. Ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!


I invite you to download my self-published eBook – see cover below. Click here to download. Enhance your writing technique and skills! Learn how easy it is to self-publish your book!

cover of ten ways to supercharge your writing skills by gail tagarro

The Incorrigible Optimists Club

the incorrigible optimists club

A Book Review

I had never heard of The Incorrigible Optimists Club or the Algerian-born writer Jean-Michel Guenassia. I came across it in the library when I was selecting books for my Christmas holiday reading. The original is written in French and I read the English translation by Euan Cameron.

It is quite untrue that covers don’t sell books. I was drawn to the cover and then I was hooked after reading the blurb and the first page. (It wasn’t until later that I noticed the border design of the book bizarrely matched that of my laptop case.)

I love long works of quality fiction, especially for Christmas holiday reading, and at 624 pages, this one fulfilled my craving.


A Highly Recommended Read!

The Incorrigible Optimists Club is one of those special books that’s hard to set aside when you have to do necessary things, like cook meals, or sleep.

It’s hard to believe that The Incorrigible Optimists Club is this author’s debut novel. Written against the backdrop of the Algerian War (the war for independence between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front 1954—1962), and the era of the Iron Curtain, the book offers no facile solutions to the issues raised. Neither does it excuse the terrible tragedies caused by politics and war. What’s more, the author manages to maintain an optimistic tone, and insert humour, despite the seriousness of some of the issues.

Paris 1959

The year is 1959, the place Paris. The story follows Michel Marin, a twelve-year-old compulsive reader and amateur photographer who’s a champion table football player at the local neighbourhood bistro.

But for his age, Michel has an extraordinary interest in the wider affairs of the world and a special empathy. He is drawn to a curtained-off area at the back of the bistro where a group of exiled Eastern European men gather to chat, play chess and smoke: the Incorrigible Optimists Club. As he is gradually accepted into their circle, he listens to their stories about their homelands before they fled to France, and becomes involved in their lives.

He forms a friendship with a Russian former doctor and expert chess player, Igor, who teaches Michel to play chess. He also becomes friends with another exile, Sacha, who is rigorously and aggressively denied access to the club, especially by Igor and another Russian, Leonid, whenever he dares show up. We do not learn until the end of the book why these two men hate him so much.

Michel becomes an important connection to the outside world for Sacha. In his turn, Sacha becomes a trusted sounding board for Michel’s teen angst in the absence of his father who has moved away from Paris when he and Michel’s mother, an aloof figure in Michel’s life, separate.

The club is also the occasional haunt of Jean Paul Sartre, French philosopher, writer and political activist, and Joseph Kessel, Argentinian-born French journalist and novelist. Many of the men in the club survive thanks to the generosity of Sartre and Kessel. The author drops these famous characters into his book as if he were telling the time of day, although the characters treat them with due reverence: “We gazed at him [Sartre] from a distance, slightly intimidated, feeling we were privileged witnesses of creativity in action, and even those who disliked him watched in silence…”

In the tense resolution of the story, Sacha’s strange rituals and the mysteries surrounding him are finally revealed in a way Michel could never have foreseen.


Jean-Michel Guenassia, The Incorrigible Optimists Club, 2014, Atlantic Books Ltd, London. Available through the Book Depository with free shipping.


Gail Tagarro, Editor (AE)


Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may like a manuscript appraisal, or to ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!


I invite you to download my self-published eBook – see cover below. Click here to download. Enhance your writing technique and skills! Learn how easy it is to self-publish your book!

cover of ten ways to supercharge your writing skills by gail tagarro

ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES and other words

While Charles Darwin gave us the theory of evolution in his ground-breaking work On the Origin of Species, the subject of this blog is etymology: the origin of words and how their meanings have changed over time.

This blog is not intended as an academic treatise on etymology. It does not give every single meaning of the words given below. It is intended as a light and playful skim of the surface rather a plunge into the depths of the meaning, history and origin of words.

On the origin of species and other words

on the origin of species

On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, 1809-1882

species

The noun species comes from Latin species, which meant ‘a particular sort, kind or type’. In Late Latin, it also came to mean ‘a special case’. The Latin noun is related to the verb specere ‘to look at, to see, behold’. From the 1550s, species came to mean ‘appearance, outward form’, and by the 1560s it had evolved to mean ‘distinct class (of something) based on common characteristics’. The biological meaning of ‘species’ dates from c. 1600. The term ‘endangered species’ appears to date from 1964.

Did you know? The word ‘spice’ derives from the same Late Latin word species.

…and now we go alphabetical

Now that we’ve looked into ‘on the origin of species’, we’ll look at some other words.

I’ve chosen the theme of prefixes and compounds. A prefix is a group of letters, with a specific meaning, added to the beginning of a word to create a new word with a different meaning. The prefix un-, for example, added to the beginning of happy, changes the meaning to, in this case, its opposite: unhappy. Compound nouns comprise some or all of the letters of two separate words in combination.

ante-

This prefix derives from the Latin ante, meaning ‘before (in place or time), in front of, against’.

Some examples:

antechamber – a chamber, room or apartment through which access is gained to a principal apartment

antenatal – before birth

ante meridiem – before midday. Most of us are familiar with the abbreviated form am, which is used in the example sentence below.

Sentences using the above:

The king’s youthful groom of the stool looked up when the queen entered the antechamber on her way to the king’s private apartments.

The young parents attended antenatal classes to be ready for the birth of their twins.

‘We leave at 11 am,’ Dot’s husband announced.

What’s the opposite of ante-?

The opposite of ante- is post-.

bene-

bene- comes from the Latin adverb meaning ‘well, in the right way, honourably, properly’.

Some examples:

beneficence – kind, charitable

benefit – something beneficial or advantageous

benign – kind, favourable

Sentences using the above:

The king’s beneficence was appreciated by all his medieval subjects.

A benefit of working from home is you don’t get caught in peak traffic.

He has a benign smile.

What’s the opposite of bene-?

The opposite of bene- is mal-.

cardio-

This prefix comes from the Greek word kardia meaning ‘heart’.cardio

Some examples:

cardiologist – heart specialist

cardiometer – a device to measure the strength of the heart

cardiopulmonary – relating to the heart and the lungs

Sentences using the above:

The cardiologist measured the strength of Sue’s heart using a cardiometer.

The conference addressed specialists in cardiopulmonary diseases.

dec- and deca-

These prefixes derive from the Greek word deka meaning ‘ten’.

Some examples:

Decalogue – the Ten Commandments. The word originally came from the Greek dekalogos; later, in Latin, this became decalogus.

decagon – a polygon with ten angles and ten sides

decaspermal – a botanical term meaning a plant that contains ten seeds

Sentences using the above:

God handed Moses the Decalogue on Mt Sinai.

A polygon with ten sides is called a decagon.

The berry of the plant Psidium decaspermum is decaspermal.

eco-

This is a shortening of ecology or ecological and refers to the environment and its relationship with human beings. It originates from the Greek oikos for ‘house, dwelling’.

Some examples:

ecofreak (that’s a good one!) – someone who is fanatical about conservation of the environment

ecology – the branch of biology dealing with the relationship of living organisms to their environment (Greek eco- + logos ‘word, reason, discourse’)

eco-friendly – causing limited or no damage to the environment

Sentence using the above:

Some people think Ben’s an ecofreak because he majored in ecology and he works for an eco-friendly organisation.

Franco-

Franco- derives from the Medieval Latin word meaning ‘French’ or ‘the Franks’. From the early eighteenth century it has been used to form English compound words.

prefix Franco

ooh la, la

Some examples:

Francophile – a person who loves France and the French to the point of obsession

Francophobe – a person who has a morbid fear of the French

Franco-Canadians – French-speaking Canadians

Sentences using the above:

All Fred’s friends call him a Francophile because he visits France every year and he’s in love with France and the French.

Robert is a Francophobe who can’t stand France or the French.

People who speak French in Canada are called Franco-Canadians or Canadiens.

gastro-

Deriving from the Greek word gastēr, this meant ‘stomach’.

Some examples:

gastroenterologist – a specialist in the branch of medicine dealing with the stomach and intestines

gastroenteritis – inflammation of the stomach and intestines. You may have heard this abbreviated colloquially to ‘gastro’

gastropod – a class of molluscs that move by sliding along on a ventral (relating to the belly) muscular ‘foot’

Sentences using the above:

Frank was having recurring problems with his digestion so his doctor referred him to a gastroenterologist.

I had to take two days off work because I had an attack of gastroenteritis.

Slugs and snails are gastropods.

hydro-

From the Greek hydōr meaning ‘water’.

Some examples:

hydroelectric – electricity produced from the energy of running water

hydrogen – colourless, gaseous element. From the French hydrogène (Greek hydōr + Greek genēs meaning ‘born’), coined in 1787 by French chemist L.B. Guyton de Morveau in reference to the generation of water from the combustion of hydrogen

hydroplane – motor-powered boat that glides on the surface of water, coined 1895 by U.S. engineer Harvey D. Williams. (Greek hydōr + Latin plānum ‘level surface’). As a verb, it was first recorded in 1962 meaning to ‘skid on a thin layer of water’ (especially of car tyres)

Sentences using the above:

The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, China is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, commissioned in 2008.

Hydrogen is a colourless gas and it is the lightest and most common element in the universe.

hydroplane is a speedboat that rises out of the water when it reaches a certain speed.

idio-

From the Greek idio- meaning ‘private, separate, distinct’, this indicates peculiarity, isolation, or something pertaining to an individual person or thing.

Some examples:

idiom – words whose meaning cannot be understood from the meanings of accompanying words, e.g. ‘It was raining cats and dogs’. Unless you’re a native English speaker, or a proficient non-native English speaker, you cannot predict the meaning of ‘cats and dogs’ in this sentence

idiosyncrasy – a quirk or unusual trait, mannerism or behaviour (from Greek idiosunkrasia: idio– + sunkrasis mixture, temperament)

idolatry – ‘the worship of idols’ or ‘excessive devotion to someone/something’

Sentences using the above:

The English-language students looked at one another in astonishment when their teacher used the idiom ‘bite the bullet’.

Her idiosyncrasy was that she wore reading glasses when she didn’t need them.

His idolatry of the president is insufferable.

kerato-

From the Greek kerat-, keras meaning ‘horn’

Some examples:

keratin – a  protein in the outer layer of the skin and in hair, nails, feathers, hooves, etc.

keratosis – a harmless skin condition characterised by a horny or scaly growth

Sentences using the above:

A horn is a permanent pointed projection on the head of various animals consisting of a covering of keratin and other proteins surrounding a core of live bone (Wikipedia).

When I had my skin cancer check recently, the specialist said not to worry as I only had a solar keratosis.

Did you know? The word cornea (the transparent membrane covering the front of the eyeball) is a Latin word related to the Greek keras.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about the origin of words like ‘species’, ‘ecofreak’ and ‘Francophile’, drop me an email.

Acknowledgements

Collins Online Dictionary, accessed 03/01/19, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english

Macquarie Dictionary, accessed 03/01/19, https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/

Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed 02/01/19, https://www.etymonline.com/

Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition, CD-ROM Version 4.0

Wikipedia, accessed 03/01/19, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horn_(anatomy)

I invite you to download my self-published eBook “Ten Ways to Super-Charge your Writing Skills! with bonus chapter on Self-Publishing”

Options for Publishing Your Book

Whenever I’m approaching the end of a book edit, most of my clients begin thinking about the next step. So, what are the options for publishing your book?

All that hard work…

That precious manuscript of yours that took you months, maybe years, to write, has now been professionally edited. You’re ready to look into what to do next.

This blog does not pretend to go into all the possible publishing options that exist. Nor is it a comprehensive go-to of publishing. The purpose of the blog is to give you a boost in the right direction so you can begin thinking about those next steps, and what option suits you and your book best.

e-book or print book?

This is your first consideration. How do you know whether it’s better to produce your book as an e-book or a print book?

Clearly, there are no printing costs associated with producing an e-book. Also, you don’t have to consider book storage as you do when producing a print book, a factor many first-time authors overlook. Do you have storage space in your home for 100+ books?

photo of books on bookshelves for post options for publishing your book

Where will you store your books?

Type of book

The type of book you have written may determine whether it will sell better as an e-book or a print book. For example, a coffee table style book, while expensive to produce, is designed to be picked up and looked at, rather than read on a device. It all comes down to preference as to whether users want to read a book on a device, or in traditional paper format. As an example, my daughter has written and published several plant-based cookbooks, in both print and e-book formats. She has received positive feedback on both styles. Check out her books here: The Hippie Cook Cookbook.

Audience

If the potential audience of your book is not tech-savvy, you are likely to sell more copies of a print book. Nevertheless, with so many people joining the digital age regardless of stage of life, the tech-savvy population is on the increase and this may not be such a big consideration.

Options for publishing your book: Should I try mainstream or subsidy publishing, a literary agent, or self-publishing?

photo of signposts indicating confusion for post options for publishing your book

This is the next big consideration: deciding whether to make submissions to publishers and literary agents, to contact a subsidy publisher and try for a publishing contract, or to self-publish your book.

Mainstream publishers

The first thing you need to know about publishing with a mainstream publisher is that they call the shots. You don’t just walk into a publishing company office with your manuscript proudly tucked under your arm and ask for the editor. Neither can you get the name of the submissions editor and address a personal request to them.

(That is, unless you know someone who knows someone and can get an introduction to the submissions editor in the publishing house. But even that, of course, is no guarantee. They have to approve your book, and it has to fit with their current publishing list.)

You must join the ranks of all those other author hopefuls and follow the publishing house online submission guidelines – to the letter – to stand any chance of your manuscript even being read. And that’s only when they are accepting unsolicited manuscripts. An unsolicited manuscript is yours and mine: the publisher hasn’t asked to see it; you are essentially cold-calling them with your manuscript.

The times that a publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts may change. There are currently four mainstream publishers in Australia accepting unsolicited manuscripts. You will find them by clicking on this link (they are listed towards the end of that blog). Also, there are usually specific days, with a cutoff time, that they accept these manuscripts,

(For help doing publisher submissions, click here.)

Subsidy publishers

With subsidy publishing, the author contributes to the cost of producing the book (the publishing costs), and the publisher assumes responsibility for editing the book and for all aspects of producing the book. They also have channels for distributing the book. A reliable subsidy publisher is worth gold. An ethical subsidy publisher in Queensland is Zeus Publications. Click here for links to their story, and for new author information.

I’ve also had a good report from a client about another Queensland subsidy publisher called Odyssey Books. You need to submit a query on their online form.

Literary agents

Literary agents work in a similar way to publishing houses. They accept certain types of manuscripts only, and like publishers, may only accept unsolicited manuscripts at certain times. Some may not accept unsolicited manuscripts at all. Please click here to find two links to Australian literary agents.

(For help making submissions to literary agents, click here.)

Vanity publishers

I have one word to say if you are considering a vanity publisher: DON’T. To read a sage article on why to avoid vanity publishing, click on the following link that ends in the word ‘beware’ to see what the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) has to say.

Self-publishing

The stigma of the self-published author has disappeared, and it is possible to be very successful indeed in promoting and selling your book. I have a client in Baltimore who, in September 2018 alone, sold 7,000 copies of her book Sidelined: The Penalty on Amazon! Check out this amazing lady who works full time yet has now written and published two books: Bianca Williams Books.

What a self-publisher isn’t

Let’s start with what self-publishing isn’t! Many organisations provide author services. They are not self-publishers. 

What is self-publishing?

The reflexive ‘self’ in the word means that you, the author, are also the publisher of your own book. You write the book, and you publish it.

This means that you buy the ISBN and the barcode for your book, and register it with the national and state libraries (the latter is free in Australia). You also need to have a typesetter lay out your book and design a cover. You are in full control of how your book looks (within the limits of what is possible), and are responsible for distribution and promotion. You can set and control the price of your book. If you list your book on major databases such as Amazon, however, you lose control of the pricing but gain a worldwide audience.

If you would like to self-publish, you may be interested in seeking help from WriteDesign Publications

Options for publishing your book: Promoting and distributing your book

Promoting and distributing books, including via your own website and social media, is a whole topic on its own, which I plan to discuss in the future. Watch this space!


Hopefully, you are now a little more informed than at the beginning of this article ‘Options for publishing your book.’


Please contact me for more in-depth information and pricing for any of the following services:


Gail Tagarro Author

Writer Coaching to Develop your Writing

writer coaching to develop your writing

Writer coaching to develop your writing: A writing coach supports you

“Writer coaching empowers you with the tools and knowledge to write your book and evolve as a writer.”

If you want to write a book but…

  • you just can’t get started, or
  • you’ve almost finished writing the book but you’ve come up against dreaded writer’s block, or
  • you’ve finished writing the book but it doesn’t seem ready for the next step – editing

…then writer coaching and mentoring to develop your writing might be just what you need.

The aim of coaching is to empower you with the tools and knowledge to help you write your book and evolve as a writer.

Writer coaching and mentoring help you grow and develop as a writer, improving your writing skills and your craft. You receive feedback on your writing, with focus on both the strengths and the issues. With one-on-one coaching and mentoring, you can thoroughly pick the writing coach’s brains!

Can I write a book?

I often hear from people who’ve never written a book before and who think they don’t have the skills. They ask about ghostwriting. That is one solution. But for most people, ghostwriting is significantly out of budget.

People are often surprised when I suggest they can learn the skills to write a book themselves – with the right guidance. Sure, you can wait until you’ve written the book and then have it professionally edited. That is another way to go about it, especially if you’re confident about your writing skills. If however you’re a new writer and you haven’t had the benefit of guidance through the writing process, it’s likely the book’s going to need a very heavy edit. That translates into a significant editing fee.

A friendly little caveat here: While coaching will improve your writing immensely, it is not intended as a substitute for editing. It is strongly recommended your manuscript be professionally edited after the final draft is complete. However, because your manuscript will probably go through several improvement passes during the coaching/mentoring period, the subsequent edit should take less time and therefore cost less.

Making a start

You’ve decided you have a book in you. But each time you try to make a start, you walk away from a blank piece of paper or an empty computer screen after half an hour of frustration.

Writer coaching to develop your writing

Writer frustration

A good writing coach can help you get started. One way they can do this is by working out a structure first. Another is by helping you come up with a strong opening scene for a fiction novel. Different writers have different creative processes, and your writing coach can help you in the way that works best for you.

I’m close to the finish

Have you written a lot of the book but have now reached a roadblock?

You might be unhappy with the sentence structure, the beginning, the ending… You might think there are plot holes. The pacing might be off. You might lack confidence in writing dialogue, or have issues with spelling and grammar. Perhaps you’re unsure how to resolve the problem that your hero faces.

A writing coach will discuss your issues with you and offer objective input and suggestions so that together, you’ll come up with solutions and you can continue writing with confidence.

The book is finished, but it doesn’t feel right

Have you written the book, but feel that it is not yet ready for editing?

When you have been very close to your book for a long time, it is almost impossible to be objective. You simply can’t see the issues.

writer coaching reading aloud

Read Aloud to Test Your Writing (Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

A great first step is to stand back and look at your writing objectively by reading it aloud – to yourself preferably, when no one else is around, otherwise you will probably feel self-conscious.

A writing coach will be able to see the issues that you can’t. Writers tend to make the same kinds of errors. You might overuse ‘as’ constructions, or ‘tell’ in your writing rather than ‘show’. Your writing might be narrative-heavy so that it would benefit from more dialogue. The sentence structure might be awkward in parts and when the coach points this out to you, you’ll understand how to restructure the sentences for better flow. You might want to work on point of view in writing, or learn how to correctly format your manuscript for submission to publishers.

When you work with a writing coach, you can decide: to methodically work through your manuscript together; or focus on specific writing techniques such as those mentioned above.

 

To discuss writer coaching and mentoring with editors4you, or just to have a chat about your ideas, drop me an email.

 

Client Testimonials for Writer Coaching

M.B. Wynter: “Writer coaching with Gail has changed my novel from an amateur’s first draft, to a well-put-together manuscript. I sought a writing coach and editor who would understand my manuscript, respect it, and most importantly, work with me to better it for publication. Gail succeeded in all areas. She was honest and gave thorough notes and advice on not only the manuscript, but for me as a writer. It was an honour to be Gail’s first formal client for writing coaching!”—Aug 2016-Jan 2017. M.B. Wynter recently published her book, The Fetal Position. 
 
B. Kennett: “Our initial coaching session has had a lasting impact on my writing. My confidence has gone through the roof, as well as my overall awareness pertaining to what I write. This week alone I’ve hammered out nearly 20,000 words for my novel and they’ve been good ones too! In any case I really just wanted to say thank you for the excellent work you’ve done and I’m looking forward to the next session.”—June 2017
 

I invite you to download my self-published eBook “Ten Ways to Super-Charge your Writing Skills! with bonus chapter on Self-Publishing”

Ghostwriting Australia

woman embraced by a figure coming through the page of a book

Ghostwriting Australia: Ghostwriter Gratitude

What is a Ghostwriter?

In this blog post, Ghostwriting Australia, we define a ghostwriter as an author who writes books, stories, blogs, magazine articles, or any other written content that will officially be attributed to another person. That other person is known as the credited author or ‘commissioner’.

Why use Ghostwriting Services?

Sportspeople, politicians, celebrities, and businesspeople are the traditional users of ghostwriting services. While these people are experts in their fields, they are not professional writers. Hiring a ghostwriter to write their autobiography, biography or business document ensures they convey their message clearly and professionally.

I’m not a Celebrity. Why do I Need my Story Ghostwritten?

Some reasons that you may choose to work with a ghostwriter are:

  • English is not your first language and you are not confident about writing a book for publishing
  • You are writing your first book and need help getting started
  • You have a story that is important to you. It may be a memoir, a biography, your autobiography, ‘that’ story you have held inside you for your whole life, a ‘how-to’ or self-help book that you want to share with others, an article, or an online blog. You do not have the confidence to express your ideas with clarity or the experience to write with confidence.

What do Ghostwriters Write?

A ghostwriter may be hired by the credited author (or the credited author’s publisher) to:

  • write a complete book, article or blog
  • do most of the writing for a book based on a specified outline
  • do research for a book, article or blog
  • finish off a book in the same style as the author to free them up for other writing work
  • write sections of a book in collaboration with the credited author (similar to ‘developmental editing’).

How do I Find a Ghostwriter for my Book?

The best way to find a good ghostwriter is to:

  • consult professional publications and professional organisations
  • do an online search for ghostwriting
  • contact several writers and ask them about their experience.

Ghostwriting Australia: Finding a Ghostwriter

Ghostwriting Fees

How much does it cost to ghostwrite? There are several considerations around fees:

  • How much material is involved and how long will it take to write?
  • How much written material can you provide the writer, and what kind of shape is that material in?
  • What is the complexity of the subject matter and the required expertise of the ghostwriter? If you need a book written on rocket science, you would expect to pay both for the ghostwriter’s writing expertise and for their knowledge of the specialised subject
  • How established and experienced is the ghostwriter?

To write a complete book, a professional ghostwriter can take several months to a year to research, organise, write, edit, and revise a non-fiction work. Meantime, they have to live, and so if they are working pretty much full time on your book, you will need to expect to pay accordingly.

Some ghostwriters charge a flat fee per word, or per page. Other ghostwriters may accept a percentage of the royalties on the sales of the book. If you are an unpublished author and you do not yet have a publishing contract, it is unreasonable to expect the ghostwriter to accept payment based exclusively on a percentage of royalties when there is no realistic basis for expecting there will be any.

Book ghostwriting fees can range from the ‘low’ end at $10,000, to $100,000 per project charged by established celebrity ghostwriters (some celebrity ghostwriters command $250,000 plus).

If the project is small – the ghostwriter will write a blog, an article, or a few chapters of your book – then you can expect to pay an hourly or per-page rate, and this depends on what the individual ghostwriter charges per hour or per page.

It is worth checking with your accountant, as the cost of ghostwriting a book related to your business may be tax-deductible.

How Long does it take to Ghostwrite a Book?

As a rough guide, a 200-page non-fiction book may require close to 300 hours of time – around 70 hours of research and organisation time, one hour’s writing time per page, and one hour of editing/revision time for each 10 pages.

Should I hire a Ghostwriter Offshore?

A recent trend has been to outsource ghostwriting jobs offshore. While this may initially save fees, the quality varies wildly and usually, a book that has been ghostwritten by someone whose first language is not English is never published. The ghostwriter does not understand the culture, or the nuances of the English language, or the vernacular (e.g. Australian English).

In suggesting that it is not ideal to hire a ghostwriter whose first language is other than English, my intention is not to be culturally insensitive. I am simply being practical. If the boot was on the other foot, and you wanted your book written in a language other than English, you would be unlikely to hire a writer whose first language was English rather than the target language.

Choosing a ghostwriter based exclusively on price is false economy and ultimately not cheaper. You may need to spend a lot of time communicating your intent when the ghostwriter does not ‘get it’. The ghostwriter may have to rewrite multiple times before they get it right – if they do. Isn’t that precisely why you hired a ghostwriter? To get it right the first time?

It’s simple really; you get what you pay for.

What should I look for in a Ghostwriter?

  • A good writer. Give them an idea of what you want. Ask them to provide samples of their work
  • A person you communicate with easily and feel at ease with
  • A ghostwriter whose first language is English
  • A ghostwriter who understands the cultural context of your story, and the nuances of the English language.

Should I Credit the Ghostwriter for Writing the Book?

There are various ways that a ghostwriter can receive credit for their writing contribution if you as the credited author wish to. It is up to you how much credit, if any, you give to the ghostwriter. The ghostwriter may receive partial credit (‘with [your name]’ or ‘as told to [your name]’ on the cover), or the acknowledgement may mention the ghostwriter’s contribution.

If you do not wish the ghostwriter to receive any official credit for writing your book or article, you as the credited author can agree this with the ghostwriter. You may ask them to sign a nondisclosure contract that forbids them from revealing their ghostwriting role. The reason they’re called ‘ghostwriter’ is that their role is usually invisible!

Is the Ghostwriter Entitled to a Share of Royalties when my Book is Published?

If you are paying per page or per word, or you have agreed a flat fee for ghostwriting your book, you generally keep the royalties. How you pay the ghostwriter and whether you share the royalties is part of negotiating with the ghostwriter.

Ghostwriting Australia: Should we have a Contract?

As with any business arrangement, it is always a good idea to have a written contract, signed by both parties, setting out the agreement between you. The Australian Society of Authors has a template the ghostwriter can use as a basis for the agreement.

Is Ghostwriting really for you?

This post has explained that ghostwriting is a lengthy and costly process. That’s why it’s mainly well-known people like politicians and sportspeople who commission a ghostwriter. Also, the manuscripts of such figures are much more likely to be picked up by mainstream publishers, who need to minimise their risks. One of the main ways to reduce their risk is by being confident that the book will sell. A well-known writer will more easily sell a biography or an autobiography than an unknown writer. While this may be discouraging to hear, it is an understandable reality.

Alternatives to Ghostwriting

Would you like to write your book yourself? But you believe you don’t have the confidence, or the skills, or you don’t know where to start? Then writer coaching and mentoring may be what suits you better. 

Writer Coaching and Mentoring

Please click here: writer coaching and mentoring

Full Service for Self-Publishing Authors

As for writer coaching, you want to write your book yourself, plus you want guidance throughout the process, all the way to publishing and printing your book. We offer a full service to self-publishing authors, from go to whoa, and anywhere in between.

Please click here: https://editors4you.com.au/writedesign-publications/

Ghostwriting Australia Explained

NOTE: I am not currently taking on major ghostwriting projects. If you have a short ghostwriting project such as a blog or an article, or you would like to enquire about writer coaching or the full service for selfpublshing authors, please connect with me.


I hope you have found lots of helpful information in this blog, Ghostwriting Australia.

Gail Tagarro Books

cover of historical novel by G.E. Tagarro Winter in Mallorca about Chopin and George Sand for blog post ghostwriting australia

Click here to read a description of Winter in Mallorca. You can also purchase the novel at that link $24.95 (+postage, or pickup Gold Coast).