Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets)

This post focuses on writing blogs, website content, social media and emails rather than stories and books.

As independent authors, our ability to write such is of paramount importance to our promotional and marketing strategy. Yet the way you write could be alienating those who are not quite as apt as you or me at reading.


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A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful comment from a person who suffered from dyslexia about a post.

Although his comments were primarily about the content and not the presentation of the post, he mentioned he found my post far easier to read than many, if not most.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Why I wondered, could he read and understand my posts, when he struggled to read so many others?

Over the next few days, he and I conversed, by email, about his reading on a personal AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxCAAAAJDdmZDE5N2IxLWUxZmUtNGMwNi04YzE3LWYyNGUxYjA3MDE1MQlevel and Dyslexia in general.

 

Before I carry on and explain the outcome of our conversations, I think as writers we should all know and understand what dyslexia and some of the most common reading difficulties are. So, I am including the following few paragraphs & bullet points, (which I cribbed from the internet), for clarity.

 

A formal definition of dyslexia used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states, “It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. “

Unsurprisingly, the International Dyslexia Association defines it in simple terms. “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.”


In contrast, Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder, meaning that it relates specifically to how the brain processes the visual information it receives. It is not a language-based disorder and phonics-based instruction will not help someone with Irlen Syndrome improve in the same way it will help someone with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

At its core, Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific wavelength of light and this sensitivity is what causes the physical and visual symptoms that people with Irlen Syndrome experience. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading not because their brains have difficulty connecting the letters they see with the sounds those letters make, but because they see distortions on the printed page, or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes, gives them a headache, or makes them fall asleep when trying to read.

Unlike dyslexia, difficulties experienced because of Irlen Syndrome can reach well beyond just reading. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty processing all visual information, not just words on a printed page, so they often have trouble with depth perception, driving, sports performance, and other areas not generally connected with dyslexia.


Alexia is a form of dyslexia, but dyslexia is developmental, meaning that it does not happen from an occurrence such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Alexia is an acquired reading disability because of an acquired event such as a stroke. It is most common for alexia to be accompanied by expressive aphasia (the ability to speak in sentences), and agraphia (the ability to write).

All alexia is not the same, however. You may have difficulty with the following:

Recognizing words ● Difficulty identifying and reading synonyms ● Difficulty with reading despite your ability to sound out pronunciation of words.

Although you can read words, it is too difficult to read for very long ● Blind spots blocking the end of a line or a long word ● Focusing on the left side of the paragraph or page ● Double vision when trying to read ● Reading some words but not others. Of course, this makes reading impossible.

A stroke survivor with alexia that can read larger words, but cannot read tiny words such as “it,” “to,” “and,” etc. ● Any combination of some of these traits.

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My conversations with, (I shall call him ‘Jay’ during this post), led me to take a close look at how I was presenting my blogs, what made them so different and, could I improve them further?

It turns out the style I chose… I was going to say developed, but that sounds arrogant. So, the style I was using at the time was to write in small(ish) chunks, using relatively short sentences and paragraphs, as I have so far in this post.

Unlike the following.

This differed to most blogs and posts on the interweb which were, (and still are), long blocks of continuous sentences and sub-sentences, forming large paragraphs with very little line spacing or breaks. This may be a ‘style’ welcomed by universities and those writing technical/medical/professional and some literary journals. I have seen many papers which follow this style. I have even read a few and I must agree it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading. To read such a document, one must concentrate fully and focus on each word of each line. Whenever the eye moves from its forced liner motion, even for a moment, is when the reader finds some difficulty in returning to the exact location they were at previously, often meaning one must, annoyingly, re-read sections already read. Like you have possibly just done when reading with this last long drivelling, over worded paragraph I have written in just such a manner to illustrate my point that it makes for uncomfortable reading, even for those of us blessed with good eyesight and adequate skill. A point which I hope I have now made adequately clear with this paragraph which is representative of many blogs.

Writing in this form creates such a large block of words it becomes challenging to separate them into clear concise ‘bite-sized‘ and manageable ‘lots’ of information.

This is one of the areas of written presentation which was highlighted to me by Jay.

I already used a style of writing which broke long paragraphs into much smaller ones, whenever practicable, but I was not aware of the impact doing so made on the reader. From then on, I broke paragraphs down even further than I did ‘pre-‘Jay’

I was also made aware of unnecessarily long sentences, sentences with too many superfluous words.

This simply meant cutting out all those unnecessary words to make sentences read far more precisely and clearly.

OR

Eliminating irrelevant words.

You see, this is not fictional or creative literature as when writing a novel, or even a short story. This is describing and sharing thoughts, ideas, information and data. Another skill set entirely.

Authors often discover this when having to write a precise about their latest book, like the back-cover blurb, an agent’s query synopsis, or for a promotional activity.

We all know, or at least should, that mixing sentence lengths makes for better reading. But so does spacing and breaking them up, like I have done in most of this post.

Please do not get me wrong.

I am not solely writing or directing my words specifically to those with reading difficulties, but I am looking to be as inclusive as possible and not simply because I am attempting to be politically, or socially correct.

I do it because I want as many people as possible to read my words. That is why I write.

Looking at how one presents their posts on the screen does not take much effort. Neither does adjusting one’s style to make it clearer and easier to read… for everybody, including you and me.

To finish, look at this Git-Hub virtual reality page. It shows how we can best comprehend the way those suffering from dyslexia and associated reading difficulties may see the written word.

https://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

My lesson following my conversations with ‘Jay’ is, “We can all learn from others, even those we may have previously considered had nothing to give us. After all, I never thought a dyslexic could teach an established author how to write clearer, even better. How wrong I was.”

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings. Please subscribe to this blog if you will.

I am open to all comments and try to reply to them all personally.

Keep happy, Paul


Oh, take a peek at my website, I have a ton of good stuff waiting there 

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All about Marketing

 

 

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You have guessed it, this post is all about marketing…

BUT… not marketing as you may comprehend it from a basic level, which is an amalgamation of advertising and promotion, but marketing from a perspective you may not have realised exists.

Have I got your attention?

I do hope so, because I believe having a clear understanding of this view of marketing can make or break your success as an author.

I once worked in hard-copy magazine publishing and spent many hours discussing marketing with prime agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, John Walter Thompson (JWT), BDM & BBDO (now combined with Abbott Mead & Vickers I think,) along with media buying services Zenith, Media.com and OMD and PR companies including Ogilvy, Brunswick and Edelman.

ALL the agents I met were looking for that ‘something’ which would take the target audience by storm. They all wanted to make their mark within the industry by having a campaign which would enter media/publishing/broadcasting folklore. I.E, propel them into ‘the big time’.

Now, I am not one to poo-poo or trying to dissuade anyone from wishing to advance their career, far from it, BUT (I always have but’s in my blog posts), these agency agents failed to notice an overriding fact. The most successful agents, many whom now owned or partnered the companies these agents were working for, became successful by constants and continuity, not by a flash in the pan, however big a bang that may make at the time.

It is this same attitude I find when speaking to many business people, including authors, particularly new and/or first time/wannabe writers.

It is irrelevant, regarding the content of this post, if you write the most amazing, perfectly formed tome ever, or you have hastily scribbled a ‘quick’ novella or e-book novelette.

NO one will buy your book… unless they know about it, so you must tell people you have written a book. Doing so is called advertising, which a division of marketing.

Running a Thunderclap or posting about your book on social media is another area of marketing, like sending emails to friends to let them know you have published your book, BUT (another one), these are only the most obvious and basic parts of what marketing covers.

However, what marketing REALLY is, is EVERYTHING that you do.

You are Your Own Brand card isolated on white background

Allow me to explain.

Whatever tasks you are working on now, right now, ask yourself this question…  “How does this affect my marketing?”

Ask yourself this question at the beginning, during and at the end of each and every task you undertake in your role as a writer and author. Soon you will begin to understand everything has some form of influence in marketing you and your work to the world.

The way you look and dress in a video or podcast… “How does this affect my marketing?”

The images you post on social media. “How does this affect my marketing?”

Your profile image, “How does this affect my marketing?”

Your comments and replies. “How does this affect my marketing?”

How you look and speak at book fairs and events. “How does this affect my marketing?”

The layout and design of your tables and space. “How does this affect my marketing?”

Where, when and how you advertise and promote. “How does this affect my marketing?”

…… and so on.

You may notice I have not touched on your books covers, content, banners, advertising material design or so on, yet.  

When do you make a paperback or eBook version of that book? “How does this affect my marketing?”

Did you notice I said when? Timing is also critical as an aspect of marketing.

There is an old, but true adage, is say’s, “If you want to sell your [books] you have to sell yourself first.”

Nothing is truer.

Another is, “People buy People”.

I will not argue with that.

These are things we all need to keep in mind. Dale Carnegie should have said, “we have to win friends to influence people.” That saying would sit well in our modern digital world.

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In conclusion, we must create a persona as an author or business person. Much like a fictional character from one of our tales.

This character however should not be fake, but a facet of ourselves, our ‘public image’ one we must nurture and cultivate in absolutely everything we do.

The one of which we ask, “How does this affect my marketing?” in everything you do.

Only by doing so, by becoming aware that marketing means marketing YOURSELF, constantly, consistently and at every opportunity can you play the long game, the strategy which will make you an ongoing constant and not another nonentity looking for that great flash in the pan, the non-existent big bang which will propel you into the big time.

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I could go on and write more. But… (another but) I would like you to consider this content seriously before I delve any deeper into the subject of marketing.

 

Thanks for reading this Rambling, Paul

(“How does this affect my marketing?”)


 

I also write fiction…

Take a peek at my website while you are here, 

http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

Yoghurt Tasting.

yoghurt

We often talk of how important punctuation and grammar are when writing. I think this is also true of the spoken word, oration and pronunciation should be a foremost concern.

NOT, I hasten to add, for everyday conversation where colloquialisms, dialects and vernaculars colour our conversations and lives, but when the spoken word is transmitted by mainstream media.

I believe, broadcasters have a duty to society to articulate, to use elocution and enunciation to the highest standard and, by doing so, enable our young to learn the wonders of well-versed dialogue, gain the ability for constructive discourse and communication.

How can we expect our young to learn to speak clearly and precisely, to acquire the ability to explain, to communicate effectively, if the denizens of our communications industry cannot do so themselves?

Personally, I do not think ‘dumbing down’ standards to ‘accommodate’ those considered, in correct ‘PC’ terms to be ‘less fortunate’ is the answer. This only has the effect of decreasing the overall standards by suggesting the lowering of general standards are acceptable. Which, of course, they are not.

I fear for the future.

Today I found myself disappointed by such a badly enunciated sentence.

“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoghurt taster from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

Now…I have, as many of you do, a writers mind. This is a strange and oft uncontrollable beast. One which will pick-up on tid-bits and oddities which would, for the greater part, pass most people by without causing a ripple in their lives.

But for those of us who are cursed, or blessed, with such minds will know once this beast has focused on its intended target, once it has its victim firmly caught, there is little we can do until it has satisfied its hunger, or passions, or whatever desires need stating.

This was my situation earlier today. As soon as that sentence had been spoken my muse went into overdrive.

A quick and personal excuse (Disclaimer!): I was not watching or listening to the programme being broadcast, it was just ‘on’. My wife had switched the TV on earlier and it was playing away in the background.

So, where was I? Oh, yes my muse awakening, giving me a jolt.

Questions started to flood my head, ‘Yoghurt taster’ what kind of a job was that? Was it a flavour tasting position or simply to ensure the product was of a certain quality? Maybe this was a taste panel for R&D, for new products, new lines?

How did one get a job like that? Could I get a job like that? What qualifications, besides liking yoghurt, did one need?

My muse was excited; could this be part of a plot? A Poisoning?  Mass poisoning…holding corporations to ransom? Maybe the start of strange happenings in a small town… Zombie like conditions…Mmmm? My mind continued to race.

However, I love that word so I’ll say it again!

However, somewhere beside my overly stimulated muse, I had a nagging doubt such a position, a job as a yoghurt taster, actually existed. Food taster, yes. But I could not believe anyone could be employed solely as a Yoghurt taster.

No, I convinced myself, something was wrong. (Much to the annoyance of my muse!).

Thanks to modern technology, satellite, cable, Digi-boxes etc. we are able to do so many things with ‘live’ and ‘on-air’ television which have previously been impossible. One of these is instant ‘re-wind’.

This is what I used to take the programme back to the point where the ‘voice-over’ presenter stated that Emma was a ‘Yogurt taster’ from Essex.

This time I would actually be watching and listening to the broadcast, rather than having it grumbling away in the background, where only my subconscious was taking note.

Sitting too close and staring at the screen, like a six-year-old child, I pressed ‘play’. The images began to move and the narrator started to speak.

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“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoga teacher from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

I played this over and again, four times in total, until I was absolutely certain this version was the correct one.

Emma was a yoga teacher and not a yoghurt taster, as I had first thought.

This was not me miss-hearing, it was clearly a case of shameful presentation.

I must say, I was more than a little disappointed.

I am sure, in the world of yoghurt, tasters are required? although I am uncertain of what the progression of seniority may be in such a profession. Perhaps one starts with the ‘own label’ products, progressing to ‘natural’ before moving to thick ‘Greek-style’ yoghurts. Maybe, an alternative route would be to delve into the technical realm of flavours, or the scientific corridor of ‘low-fat’ and ‘healthy’ options.

I guess I shall never know.

A divergent track that leads me, by some circuitous route, back to where I began this post; which is where I stated my belief that major broadcasters and, in many respects, our respective Governments, should take responsibility for the clarity and precision of language when transmitting programmes.

The above is a prime example of bad annunciation and elocution, the equivalent in my book, (note the pun!), of bad grammar and punctuation in writing.

Besides, my restless muse was unnecessarily disturbed.

Now I have to find an excuse NOT to write a novel about a wicked dairy farmer, who decides to get his revenge on the local townsfolk by plying them with infected yoghurt, thus turning them into pliable and malleable zombie-like humanoids who forever more will do the farmers bidding. Of course, as with all good pulp-fiction, there is always one young girl who hates all milk type products, regardless of flavour. Perhaps it is she who can fight back against the forces of evil and bovine product manipulation to save the earth…or at least the local town?

That is all I am going to say on the matter!

Milkmaid

So, until next time, enjoy your writing, even if your inspiration has been stimulated by a miss-print or badly spoken presenter. But please, please take care with your grammar. You never know when someone may read your work live on air, they may even be an ex yoghurt taster venturing into a new career!

 

Thank you for reading, Paul.

You may like to visit my website and see what else I am writing? http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

© Paul White 2016    RTWM310716/975

A bit about differing narration in your stories.

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I have recently been asked if I can help another writer with regards to narration.

(Narration is sometimes referred to as the ‘stories voice’, at term which is frequently used in the USA and is essentially descriptive of its nature.)

The writer in question is not a ‘new’ writer, in fact she has authored several books over as many years.

She has asked for my assistance now, because her works to date have been of the same genre, they have required the same form of narration; one she has developed and honed, one which has also become her ‘style’.

Perfect for what she has accomplished, but a difficult task to abruptly alter, as it brings much self-doubt and worry with it.

Luckily, I am not one who writes in one genre, or in one style. Much of my work ventures into realms unknown and unexplored (from a personal perspective.) I push my wordsmithing skills every opportunity I have.

Whilst helping my author friend, I found having her read a sample of my own work, one with a certain narrative style, helped me explain how I achieved to create that chosen narration.

In this post, I shall try and do the same.

I have three examples to share with you; the first is taken from a humourus tale, the second from somewhere much darker and the third is told by a character where English is not their first language.

Each of the above forms of narration hold certain challenges for the author if they are to allow the story to flow smoothly, while still making each word believable.

Without further ado, here is the first sample, an excerpt for my short story ‘Fixing the thingamabob.’ (It is an exercise of using metasyntactic terminology.)

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I had a job to do which needed more than a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

So, I wandered down the garden to my shed to find the whatchamacallit, which I knew was in the wooden box under the shelf between the screw box and the other thing.

My wife had been nagging me for eons regarding fixing the thingamabob, which had started to rattle and shake several months ago.

As it happened today was sunny, bright and warm. Just the type of day I liked to attend to the pesky little jobs that stack up over time. Plus…I was in the mood for tinkering, which was actually a big plus!

Once I had the whatchamacallit in my hand I wandered back to the house, placed the thingamabob on the kitchen table and started to dismantle it.

Personally, I would have ditched this one years ago and replaced it with a new, up-to-date, all singing, all dancing, micro chipped, high tech whatchamacallit. But because this old rusting one had some sort of sentimental attachment my wife was certain I could fix it and all would be well for another thirty years.

I was not so sure; especially now that I had umpteen bits and bobs scattered on sheets of newspaper spread over the table top.

I was not even sure if they all belonged to the whatchamacallit, or if some pieces had tumbled from the small jars of screws, washers and odd bits I had kept for repairing such items.

Besides the springs there were a few plastic doodahs of indiscriminate origin, a strange angular thingummy with various sized holes and a host of………bits…..loose sort-of-screw(ish) pieces.

I was still quietly confident that I would not have to fork out a fistful of klebies to purchase a new whatchamacallit, because despite the number of random odd and sods before me, I had all the key parts in separate saucers. The rest I could figure out during re-assembly.

Having got thus far, I decided a fresh brew was in order and proceeded to stand from the kitchen stool. That was when my knee came in painful contact with the underside of the table top, sending all the random and the carefully separated odds and ends flying into the air, most of which came crashing down onto the stone tiled floor.

As I have said, being an organised sort of bloke I was using several saucers to keep the whatsits from rolling all over the place, thus avoiding the chance of mixing them up with other doodahs or losing them altogether.

Now, not only were all these jumbled-up with the rest of the bits and bobs which I had previously spread out ready for use, but my wife’s best saucers were in splintered shards on the kitchen floor, mixed among the plastic and metal thingamajigs…..

End of Sample

In this excerpt the reader automatically senses the light-hearted pace of the story. The ‘nonsense’ words liberally sprinkled through the character’s speech seems to confirm the cheerful tones of, if we could hear it, the character’s voice; and that is the clue here, the character’s voice…his narration…his is telling this story and you, the reader, are sitting comfortably and listening with a half-grin already plastered on your face.

To achieve such a form for this stories voice I found myself ‘playing’ the character. During the moments of writing I was that ‘doddery, old, half- henpecked, half-happy-go-lucky, uncaring/caring, semi-foolish husband’!

I became that ‘chap’ and wrote this in a manner I felt was akin to which I would have done if I were sitting in a bar and relating the tale to half a dozen of my cronies.

<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>

Now read this next example of my narrative form. This is from the story called ‘Deep Waters’.

When they came to remove the last of the medical equipment from the house they found me laying on the kitchen floor in a pool of my own vomit.

The nurse said it was ‘lucky’.

Lucky I was found when I was, or I would have certainly died.

I did not consider myself lucky.

After that incident?

Two years of psychiatric help is enough to send any man insane, which is why I have come to the island. To get away from the hospitals, the clinics, the doctors and shrinks.

To get away from that house.

A house which held too many precious memories; cupboards in which her scent still lingered, rooms where her voice echoed at night and doorways where I always caught a glimpse of her figure.

I needed to clear my mind, to find out what I was supposed to do now.

To do that I did not need white coated, bearded psychoanalyst prying into my life, or friends constantly nattering in my ear, however good their intentions. I did not need a shoulder to cry on, or soft breasts on which to rest my head. I did not need friends with benefits.

Although I appreciated their efforts and the offers, all I needed was some peace and quiet. I needed isolation and tranquillity.

I needed time.

My time.

That is why I came here, why I came to the island.

Now I am here I realise how integral to life boats are. As I have said, I am no master of the sea, but I do fancy a small pleasure boat in which I can sail out to the centre of the lake. Maybe even take up fishing, something else I have never had the opportunity to try before.

But I think I shall deal with the boat first.

Small steps.

One thing at a time.

I think I know what I am to do.

But I am not in any rush.

 

The small craft I eventually chose was a twenty-five-foot cabin cruiser. Cabin cruiser sounds a grand title for a small fiberglass and wood boat with a slightly extended wheelhouse. I think the wheelhouse was considered the cabin, or was that the tiny compartment just below?

This compartment housed a toilet, which was half the size of a broom cupboard and a ‘main galley’. The main galley was a miniature sink & a two ring gas burner, opposite was a seat large enough for two people to sit on, providing they were in an intimate relationship.

The seat lifted and pulled-out to become a three-quarter size bed. I am not certain to what the ‘three quarter’ referred too?

However, the boat suited me perfectly, because I had no intentions of sharing it with anyone. This was the perfect vessel in which I could detach myself from the rest of humanity. Floating out there in silence in the centre of the lake sipping a hot coffee, or maybe a hot whiskey, would be absolutely perfect while I looked introspectively at my life.

While I considered my options.

End of Sample

This is an emotionally haunting tale, one which guarantees to bring a tear to the eyes of everyone who reads it. The reason is the soulful nature of the stories telling. It is spoken with an intimacy.

This is not like the first example, you could not relay this in a crowded bar. The narration is designed to ‘almost’ be a secret; a secret solely shared between the character and the reader. It is the reader finding a personal diary, reading that person’s own thoughts and secrets and fears and doubts.

Once again, the writer, the author must have their mindset ‘set’ into that mode and write as they would themselves, should they ever find themselves in such a position.

As the writer sits at their desk or in the café they should feel everything the character would feel if this were true. The author must become the moment, feel the air temperature, hear the ripples lapping the shore, smell the ozone and the scent of pine trees on the breeze.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

My third and (for now) final excerpt is from ‘Estell’s Tattoo’ (A story which raises awareness of the rape of women in Africa.)

When I wrote this, I wanted (and still do) to show that fiction can also be used to spread the word about important social issues.

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      Grace and Estelle and I once more walked along the dusty path that wound its way from our village, down the steep hill and on towards the river. The river was wide and twisted, like a glistening giant brown snake that wound its way through the lush green vegetation of the forests.

     As we became closer to this river the path changed from dust to crushed grasses. Many feet had trodden this path and in their passing had squashed the plants along the way, so that now only the toughest grass and the most persistent of weeds grew along the narrow footpath.

   Grace, Estelle and I spoke of many things during our journey to the river this day and when we were not talking of our village or family matters we sang our songs. I am sure that on this morning many birds came close to us to hear our sweet tunes, or at least that is how I remember it.

    I do not remember before that day seeing so many birds along the edges of this footpath. On any other day to see such colourful birds you would have to stray deep into the forest and sit very still for a long time. But that morning they came to us.

    It took us about one and a half hours before we reached the river. On arriving we put down the large bundles of clothing we had brought to the river to wash. All through our journey along the footpath we had balanced these bundles upon our heads. It is the way we women carry heavy loads over such long distances.

    Once we placed the laundry on the bankside we sat and drank water and rested our legs for a short while. In fact, it was a long short while because today was also a very hot day. The winds were not blowing at all and the sun shone fiercely down upon the earth, baking the soil into a hard crust which began to crack open and crumble.

    But here, in the shade by the river it was much cooler. So, we sat and spoke between ourselves for a long time during our short rest.

    Finally, we began to wash the clothing we had carried all this way, which was after all the reason for our journey to this place today. Using stones and a lot of effort we washed the dirt and grime from the materials. After which we hung the garments upon the branches of the nearby bushes to dry in the sun. The sun would soon dry the clothes today as it was a very hot sun, much hotter than on most days, something I have told to you already.

    We had also brought with us a little food. So as the sun beat down from the sky we sat near our drying clothes and ate. After that we decided to go into the river to cool our bodies and to cleanse our own skins from the dirt and the dust….

End of Sample

Before I wrote this story I read several books and listened to audio readings of books, written by people whose first language was not English, but of African origin.

I wanted to create an authenticity of ‘voice’ in this story. By using long descriptions, yet using simple words and repeating some of them far more than one would ‘normally’ do, I found I could capture ‘Estell’s’ voice.

Once I was happy with some short draft pieces, I became Estell and, looking through her eyes, began to write this story in earnest.

I have received many compliments for this story because of its narration.

<<<<< >>>>>

Please note: as a way of comparing the three examples above, you will note I have chosen stories which are all written in first person singular.

I shall leave you to consider the above and how one can alter each story’s narrative by some simple, and some not so simple, adjustments!

The prime factor is to try. Write some shorter pieces, use them as a literary exercise to flex your wordsmithing muscles. If you are uncertain, try poetry or prose to create those first few lines of text which take you away from your standard form.

I for one love to try something new whenever I get a chance.

I love to flex my literary fingers and fumble about in places I have never been before. It is often surprising, frequently exciting and, more often than not, extremely rewarding.

Paul.

Read more of my short stories: A Little more Fiction

 

 

 

 

 

 

From bare bones…how I build a story.

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We all have different systems for writing our stories. Some like to plan everything out, make charts and story boards. Others write copious notes and character biographies, graphs and guides. Some just start scribbling away and see where their words lead them.

The way we set about our writing is personal preference. If, at the end of the day (or many day’s) we end up with a completed work that we are satisfied with, then all is good.

But some parts, some of the stages of writing are I suggest, common to all. These are; the re-writing of the first draft, the re-writing of the second draft. Editing, beta reading, more editing, proofreading, another re-write, more editing and so on.

This will eventually lead to a finished work which we are happy with, (mostly), except for one or two minor alterations…and a little more editing!

The final polished work, which you are now totally and completely satisfied with (?), will now be ready for publishing.

Your amazing work will then sell like proverbial hotcakes; be turned into a TV series, a Hollywood blockbuster movie and a West End play, which will run for at least thirty-five years.

You will become, a multi-millionaire, live on a yacht when you are not staying at one of your several million dollar mansions, which are scattered around the world in the most exotic locations and have a Lear jet to flit from one place to the other.

Your life will be good.

Yeah okay, I got carried away, so maybe not that last bit, at least not yet!

Back in the real world…

The reason I know that we all have differing ways of going about the construction of our novels is a simple one, I have spoken to many of you, read your posts, articles and followed the threads of a thousand and one conversations.

In general, the stages are common, the concepts are common; it is the application, the mechanics which vary.

It was to address this issue that I decided to write this post. But then it became clear, that to include the many minutiae of variances was an impossible task, unless I was to write an entire thesis. Not something I had intended or actually wish to do, at least not now!

So what I have decided is to give a sketch of how I build my own stories, of how I take an idea, a concept and turn it into a book or a novel.

As with many of my posts I am staying away, as much as possible, from any technical jargon, because I think that will help the novices and uninitiated to comprehend my concepts and explanations better.

So here goes!…

 

Using the analogy of a human body!

My initial concept is rather like a jumble of bones. I can easily identify a tibia, the radius and, of course the skull. But the others are mixed in with bones from other species. In this case notes, rough drafts and such that belong to other stories.

The first job I have to undertake (see what I did there!?) is to lay out the bones in an order which loosely resembles a skeleton. The second job is to sift through the remains (at it again!?) and start connecting the larger bones with the smaller ones.

At this stage my bones…read story line…is looking basically as intended. The final pieces of the skeleton, all those niggly wrist bones, the teeny-weeny ear bones can be slotted into place. Standing back, (reading through a day or two later) I can judge how well my efforts have been and make any adjustments needed.

The next step is to double check that the arm is in the position I want it; the legs are angled just so. After all I don’t want my skeleton just hanging around like those from the biology lab. I want mine to pose, to attract and captivate the onlooker. Once I have all the sections (Chapters) in the order I wish, I can the start to put some meat and flesh onto those bones.

This is where I start over again.

Carefully layering, word by word the ‘flesh’ onto the bare bones. Taking my time back and forth over each section of the skeleton ensuring that the thickness of the ‘meat’ is correct in relation to the basic underlying structure. For instance, nobody has a fat forehead!

In the same way I do not want to pad out the first sentence or paragraph of my book with a ton of unnecessary bumf. I want my readers to instantly recognise what kind of person this is… (read- what style of book).

f8a476db508154058928e4f9905bac87I also want my creation to be attractive to that reader. If they like romance then my words must convey that, if it is tension as in a thriller, that must be portrayed too. All this must be accomplished within the first few lines, or at least the first few paragraphs. In this analogy it must be love at first sight.

As I, or you the writer, progresses down the body the same process must take place, adding just the right proportion of flesh to the various areas of you skeleton. By the time you reach its little pinky you should have a basic, rather stout figure laying out before you.

That is the end of that stage, but just the beginning of making your Frankenstein a wholesome human being, or you book into a readable tome.

At this point it is worth standing back once more and regarding the whole. Have a family member or a couple of your close friends inspect your handiwork. Listen to their comments and suggestions. Often two or more pairs of eyes are better than just your own, especially as you will be wearing those rose tinted spectacles.

The next step is to become a cross between Ed Gein (see Texas Chainsaw

Michaelangelo
<This one…not that one>

Massacre) and Michael Angelo. Your job is to carefully sculpt each and every inch of your work. Ruthlessly cut away all the unnecessary, useless, divergent, misleading crap. In fact, everything that is not in harmony with the premise of the story should go.

But don’t throw it away. Keep it filed for another book, a short story or that twist which will let you escape from the dead-end you will write yourself into at some point.

What you have left will be a mean, lean, fighting machine…or not!

Once again work on the sections and chapters of your book, make certain all the joints connections and move smoothly. That the transitions work. This may mean adding some more flesh, but this time ensure it is lean meat and not fat, unless you need that little extra padding. But be cautious.

Time now to stand back again. Sleep and eat properly and regularly for a day or two. Then review your work.

Happy…No? Then go back and polish it some more.

Happy…Yes? Good. Now it is time to beautify your creature, lay on the outer skin.

This is yet another review, edit if you wish. Tidy up anything and everything which is not sleek and smooth. Dot your i’s and cross the t’s. Change ‘that’ to ‘which’ colons or commas to semi-colons, past tense to present. This is like eliminating the moles and birthmarks.

My museNext stage. The test run, test drive. Time for your beta readers to see and feel what you have made. What tasks you have set, or asked your beta readers to do, will affect the feedback you get.

One thing is almost certain. Each beta reader will have poked, prodded, sniffed, licked, and tasted your creation. It will have been tossed about and pulled apart. So you will have to go back and patch it up. All those imperfections that you will…note I say ‘will’…have missed before need correcting.

One good thing is, at this stage of the process is that you can now add the final flourishes. The hair gel and the make-up. Dress your work in fine clothing, titivate it. Get your creation ready for the cat-walk, the promenade. The editor.

You see a good editor wants to look at your work with a critical eye. They are the sage, the modern day Maharishi. With blue and red pens, they (the editors) will clutter the margins with various annotations that require your attention. Oh glory be!

Now you can start from the top, once more, working your way down, through each layer of flesh, each rise and fall, curve and dimple until eventually and exhaustedly you reach that little pinky toe on which you have etched those wonderful words….

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But as you well know that is not the end, because your editor, or another should take at least one more run through…. just in case!

Only after this should you even consider letting your monster out of your laboratory.

I feel I must say, especially those new to writing and who have read this far! That doing everything above only means that you have finished your manuscript.

I have not touched on the subjects of pagination, typesetting, design, book covers, illustrations, blurb, publishing, marketing, promotion, or anything else at all. I have only briefly covered the very simple bit, the writing of a story for a book.

Happy days! 

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 While I have you attention why not pop over and take a wander around my website? 

 

 

 

Harper Lee has nothing on me! Miriam’s Hex…….the truth behind the story.

It may have taken about fifty years for ‘Go set a Watchman’ to be published, because of Harper Lee’s uncertainties!

It has also taken an awfully long time for ‘Miriam’s Hex to be published too.

This is the story behind the book.

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About two years ago (2013) while having a household de-clutter I found an old cardboard folder in a box in my loft.

This folder contained many poems I had written in the late 1970’s & 1980’s. Many were hand scribbled, most were type-written, yes I did say type-written!

Also in this folder were notes for use in, or as, ‘possible and potential’ stories, old abandoned writings, half started tales, partial paragraphs and such like. It really was a rather eclectic combination of various scribblings.

I was filled with personal wonderment as I read these sheets of yellowing paper. Here were my thoughts, my emotions, my ideas of a lifetime ago.

Some of the writings and poetry I recalled instantly, others staggered out from the mists of amnesia. I was amused by some, horrified by others; the amateur nature, the naivety, the bad grammar and miss-spellings made me cringe.

All however, transported me back to another time, another world, another life which was connected yet somehow detached from myself. It was partially like an out-of-body experience, but somehow more so while being less direct, less united. Possibly that is the effect of passing years?

Bunched at the back of this folder was a wad of A4 sheets held together by a rusting paperclip. I started to read, it was an untitled story. A light hearted black comedy, if that is at all possible, of selfishness, of greed, impatience and latent curses.

Despite the many changes, the crossing-out’s and the pencilled notes the story drew me in, as I read through small pinpricks of memory began to seep back. This was a story, one of the few I had written at that time, which had a beginning, a middle and an end. (Although throughout there were still many threadbare patches).

You see, I first scribbled out a rough draft of a storyline in 1978, according the dates on the draft. This (first?) draft had no title and no end. In 1980 I reviewed and re-wrote it, apparently! (I found a few margin notes to confirm this), although I cannot recall doing so. This time is when I added the final few paragraphs so there was now an ending…of sorts.

It was thirty five years later, after I had become a professional writer and published author, I rediscovered this early work, first started when I was in my late teens.

At first I simply returned it to the folder, the archives if you wish. But something was nagging at me. It was that this story was, in fact pretty good, it was something different, there was an originality about it.

So I pulled the manuscript from the dusty cardboard folder once more and began, letter by letter, word by word, to type it onto the computer, to re-write certain parts, to edit and eventually to complete the story. All the time I was doing the re-write I was conscious of not changing the basic story, not to expand or cut too much. I wanted, needed to keep the piece as close to the original draft as possible while making it readable.

Once I was as happy as I was ever going to be, I gave the work a title for the first time. I called it Miriam’s Hex.

In November 2014, thirty six years from its conception, I self-published Miriam’s Hex as an eBook.

Miriam’s Hex is a very long short story! A Novelette of twenty two pages.

It is a story I would like you to read, not only because I am certain you will enjoy it, but because of this story, the story behind the book.

I hope that it will not only add a provenance to Miriam’s Hex, but will lend encouragement to all the writers among you who, at times, have doubts and worries about their own works and capabilities.

Harper Lee…..phiff!

Thank you for reading my story.


As a bigger thank you I have reduced the price of Miriam’s Hex to just .99pence/cents (plus any applicable taxes!), so please feel free to download and enjoy. Just put this ASIN: B00PM249TO into your search bar or go to any Amazon site worldwide.

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Miriams-Hex-selfishness-latent-curses-ebook/dp/B00PM249TO

Amazon USA http://www.amazon.com/Miriams-Hex-selfishness-latent-curses-ebook/dp/B00PM249TO


Now there is a ‘SPECIAL EDITION’ of Miriam’s Hex, one that includes this story too!

The Special edition is ONLY available directly from me through my website

Just click on this cover image.

Miriam's Hex new


I am also open to feedback and comments about this post, Miriam’s Hex or any of my other books, my blogs or anything you want to discuss.

Simply email me!

paulznewpostbox@gmail.com

How to be very, very SEXY and attract lots of attention.

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I have recently posted a number of articles intended to assist you with self-promotion and the marketing of your books, blogs and other writings. (If you have not read them scroll down and take a look after you have read this).

In this post I am not going to get technical or start preaching, but simply ramble away about how you can use the oldest attractor to help generate many more ‘hits’ to your site, Blog or book promotions.

It is something you know well, even intimately! Yet are still hesitant about showing it off to the public at large!

You will, no doubt be aware of the old saying that ‘sex sells’.

It is one of the most truthful quotations ever and one which continues to prove its own legitimacy on a daily basis.

Now before you go off in a huff of indignation or embarrassment let me make it quite clear this is not a post about sex per se, but the use of sensuality and titillation to initially attract readers to your works.

I have already demonstrated the simplest of these methods, the word itself.

In this case the word sexy made you stop and read this blog today. Okay I teamed it up with a few other words to make a sentence, but it was that single word ‘sexy that has bought you right here, right?

Therefore, as long as you employ some link however tenuous it may be, to lead the reader from the ‘sex’ word to your content you have made the first step, you have attracted another potential follower, or purchaser of you goods.

If you are averse to using the word directly you can substitute it with other words which create passionate or sensual imagery adopting a subtle ‘softer approach’. The outcome however will be the same to the reader, a mental stimuli which is difficult to ignore!

The next step is to add an image, which again I have done here, (at the top of the post).

Whether you use the soft curves of a female torso or the squarer, muscular masculine is dependent to which audience you are directing your writing towards.

Although overall the female form has a greater impact on the general populace as both sexes are attracted, albeit for a variety of reasons, including gender and sexual persuasion, which I shall not endeavour to delve into in this particular post.

Once again however, I am not speaking of pornography, unless you are solely directing your work to that market, in which case I would then suggest looking at a very different approach altogether so as not to become enmeshed in the mass of generality.

For the most part soft suggestive stimuli is all that is required, after that it is you work, your content and presentation which must endear your readers.

Basically I am saying that, yes…SEX does sell.

Do not be afraid to use it for your own gain; after all you won’t know how good it is until you have tried it!

Enjoy, Paul.

Have you read my Blog ‘Further Ramblings’ yet? It’s all about life and living, go take a look now. http://wp.me/5njAU

Sitting in the garden

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As the title indicates I am writing this as I sit my garden.

I am sat at the large table on the raised decking which is, at this time, bathed in dappled sunlight. I can hear the water from the falls melodically splashing into the ponds, and the heady scent from the mass of blooms is gently wafting around me, carried by the light breeze.

It is, in my opinion, the perfect place and atmosphere for a writer to work.

Since coming into the garden a short while ago I have furthered a piece, which is destined to be a jointly written story with another writer, one who I adore and respect. Written a poem, which by the time you read this will be in my book Teardrops & White Doves (Available via Amazon)! and I am now attempting to write something of interest for you in this Rambling of mine.

As with many of my Ramblings I do not have a particular subject or topic in mind when I begin to write, I just start to tap away at the keys and hope that something evolves that is informative, interesting and enjoyable to read.

In fact, if I achieve any any two of these three things then I shall consider this Rambling a success!

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I have, in past Ramblings, spoken of Writers Block, Inspiration, Creativity, Imagery and a whole plethora of various subjects, many which have absolutely nothing to do with actually writing at all. but of the common tasks and problems we writers face in our daily lives.

However, it seems that as my Rambling have developed, from very short notes about whatever was at the forefront of my mind, to my later posts (which have unconsciously, and almost subliminally from my point of view, strayed into the theme of the techniques of writing), I have won the minds, if not the hearts of so many of you, so many friends, that I now feel so very humbled indeed.

I mean that in all honesty and with my hand firmly placed on my heart.

I read each and every comment you post in reply and try my best to answer them all.

So this is a thank you, a big thank you to all of you who read my irrelevant scribbling’s regularly, and a welcome to those of you who may be reading a Rambling for the first time.

   I hope it will not be the last time you do so!

As for the subject of this particular Rambling, there really isn’t one!

Except to say that for a writer, as with so many artistic vocations, the stimulus needed to create are many and varied. For me the atmosphere of my garden right now is an absolutely perfect environment to get those creative juices flowing.

I hope I have not squandered nature’s gift of a beautiful day, but have, in some respect, justified her benevolence.

Thank you all for reading this Rambling.

Bless you, Paul.

   To see more of my work, or to find out more about me, visit my website

http://fluffybunnypj.wix.com/paul-white