Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Call for drama scripts

Bafta Rocliffe New Writing Forum

What seems like many moons ago now, I submitted one of my scripts to what was the Rocliffe Forum, a group of scriptwriting professionals who chose three of the best received and showcased them above a pub at the Angel, Islington in London.

I was lucky to be chosen as one of the three and the advice from the room and the joy of hearing the lines in the hands of professionals and receiving their feedback was so invaluable, that the play was eventually improved and recorded. Although 'A Bench in the Park' languished for a year being mislaid and re-mislaid at the BBC, before reaching the top of the pecking order, where it received a swifter rejection than its original trajectory had been, it was never returned. Hosiprog Productions and the Essex Players picked it up and recorded it for hospital radios in the UK and the USA.


Since then, Rocliffe has become the Bafta Rocliffe New Writing Forum and the team have discovered several promising new playwrights. The first of their searches for TV drama scripts this year has already opened but if you're thinking of submitting a script, you need to get it in before the final date - 28 February.

You need to send a ten page extract of either a TV screenplay or an episode from an original series on any subject or genre and it must reflect the diversity in society. You can see a list of deadlines for future submissions on the website.

Many of last year's winners have been signed by agents and have had major broadcast commissions and dramatisations for radio accepted. Winner of one of the Writing for Children calls with his script 'The Things', John Hickman posts on their site on his writing journey and how he got to where he is.

'Rocliffe Notes'

The Forum's scriptwriter's guide, 'Rocliffe Notes',  has been on the Amazon Best Seller List for the last two months. Richard Eyre says it's 'a really useful guide to getting on', while Jim Sheridan called it 'brilliant'.

Scriptwriting feedback

If your script isn't ready for submission yet, Rocliffe runs a script report service where you can receive professional advice and feedback.

You can find out more at www.rocliffe.com or Facebook: BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Importance of good writing and career prospects

Grammarly survey highlights the importance of good writing

Who says spelling, punctuation and grammar aren't important any more? Words spelt differently mean different things. Punctuation is how we make sense of our sentences. And we need to be able to speak and write our own language properly. Grammarly, which claims to be the world's most accurate grammar checker, recently conducted a survey of 400 freelancers to find out what impact writing skills have on a person's career opportunities.

Here, my guest blogger, Nikolas Baron, from Grammarly's marketing team in San Francisco, says that they aim to raise awareness of the importance of good writing. 'Good writing is not only foundational to good communication but it can also unlock knowledge, job opportunities and access to education.'

Nikolas's job entails talking to writers, bloggers, teachers and others about how they use Grammarly's online proofreading application to improve their writing. Below, he writes about common errors and gives his take on how to avoid them.

Nik Baron
The Most Common Errors and How to Avoid Them

Terri Bruce, the author of a fantasy novel series, just took her publisher to court.  She complained that the publisher had introduced hundreds of unapproved revisions. According to Terri, these revisions were errors. These errors, she said, made her look like “an illiterate git.”  Terri won her case. The publisher halted the books’ publication and returned the rights to the author. The judge served this verdict because he agreed that the book in the debated form could have damaged the author’s reputation.  In particular, Terri counted 260 alleged errors in her novel. Fortunately, the average new author does not have to worry about such extraordinary experiences.  There nonetheless exist some general missteps committed by almost every newbie. Follow these tips to avoid making these common errors

Make Sure One Plus One Equals Two

As you develop your plot, perhaps you will allow the characters to lead the story.  While you write, the story may make twists and turns.  When you finish, are you as shocked at the surprise ending as your readers will be? This method yields rich, character-driven stories. Unfortunately, the process often generates loose ends and plot flaws irritate readers. This problem should be avoided because you want readers to discuss your novel with others.  However, you do not want the discussion to center around the holes that you left in the plot.  Have a friend review your novel to make sure that the plot is consistent throughout the novel.  What should you do if the facts do not add up?  It is imperative to rewrite.   Supplement the plot with the details that are necessary to make the events of the novel as logical as possible.

Put some flesh on those bones!

Let me share with you something I once heard about romance plots:  Romance novels work because the reader falls in love with the character.   The readers must see why the love interest is worthy of attention and pursuit. In any novel, the character needs to show a fully-developed personality.  Go beyond describing the physical appearance of your character.  Describe the experiences that shape his or her emotions and hopes.  Ensure that the reactions that he or she expresses towards the events that transpire are in keeping with the characteristics that you have described. The reader will not cheer when a poorly developed character overcomes obstacles.  The villains will become boring.  The supporting characters will seem frivolous and forgettable.  I found two great online resources to address this issue.  Check out Character Questionnaires from Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the online classes hosted by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Do not sound like “an illiterate git”!

I sympathized with Terri Bruce when I read an article about her experience.  The strongest attraction, however, was to the quote that I have used twice in this piece.  Even now, I laugh a little inside at the phrase “illiterate git.”   Words are extremely provocative.  With a few words, you can make yourself seem ridiculous or worthy of acclaim.  Hire a developmental copy editor who will help you eliminate grammatical errors and arrange the story in a manner that flows well.  If you cannot afford a professional copy editor, use an online proofreading service. Each time that you make a revision, check the document again for errors. After publication, critics will comment on the quality of the writing.  It would be a shame if grammar flaws ruined your reputation as an author.

Imagine that you are going to go for a drive.  Your friend tells you to watch out for the huge puddle in the middle of Main Street.  He informs you that it is deceptively deep, and you could wreck your tire if you drive through it.  I am that friend!  I have seen hundreds of manuscripts in my work at Grammarly.  I have researched some pitfalls associated with new authors that you would do well to avoid.  I have only scratched the surface in this article.  There are many more challenges that you can overcome with some foresight.  I recommend the article, “Seven Self-Publishing Mistakes that Can Sabotage Your Book”.  Happy Writing!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Mslexia competitions for women writers


Here's some news for women writers looking for a chance to air their work. Women's writers' magazine, Mslexia has thrown down the gauntlet with a short story competition and lots of other opportunities for you to get into print.

Entrants have until 16 March to get their short story entries in for the Women's Short Story Competition 2015. You're allowed a maximum of 2,200 words on any theme and if you win, you'll scoop £2,000. Your story will be judged by novelist, short story writer and essayist, Alison MacLeod.
The winner will also receive a week's writing retreat at Ty Newydd Writers' Centre and a day with a Virago editor. Prizes for 2nd and 3rd winning entries are £500 and £250 respectively with three other finalists winning £100 each. All the winning entries will be published in the June 2015 issue of the magazine. Enter online at www.mslexia.co.uk/shortstory

Mslexia likes to encourage new writers, so also included are 11 regular open submission slots.

Monologue is for scriptwriters - submit 200 words on any topic in a single character's voice. The editor is currently on the lookout for monologues in the voice of a 'zombie'. I'm sure you've all met lots of those. The deadline for that is 13 April.

Poets can send their take on Four Lines that Rhyme; fans of social media can submit A Week of Tweets about their writing and/or life or apply for a three-month residency on the Mslexia Blog.

If you're good at writing descriptions, Pen Portrait invites you to convey a character in second or third person in no more than 200 words. The deadline is 13 April and the theme is a pen portrait of a 'headmistress'. I remember mine from my junior school in Prestwich, Manchester bringing down her cane with a swish onto my extremely tiny and sensitive pianist's hand. Hard to believe nowadays but that might be a good entry. I must away and get to work...

For contributors' guidelines, payment details and regular updates, visit www.mslexia.co.uk/submit, email postbag@mslexia.co.uk or phone 0191 204 8860. Good luck!