7 Things to know about writing – From author Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is author of ‘Mistress of Rome’, and Daughters of Rome’

This is her list:

1. Be patient. Everything in the publishing world moves at the speed of glacier, so a good supply of patience will save your sanity. It took me about seven years of (on and off) searching just to find a literary agent; then another four months to find a publisher, who then assigned my book a publication date 18 months away. Don’t let all the waiting kill you – get to work on a new project while waiting for progress on the old.
2. Learn to produce on a deadline. The one thing in the publishing world that doesn’t move slowly is your deadline when it gets closer and closer. Maybe you took three years to write your first book, and had another three years to tinker with it while you tried to get it published. Why not; you had the time. But when the publisher signs you for a second book, well, after you’ve had a chance to celebrate your good fortune, you should realize you do not have another six years to finish Book 2. You might have a year; you might only have a few months – so get used to the idea of putting your butt in that chair day after day, and producing words under pressure.
3. Self-edit. You will probably have to make changes to your first-born book in order to make it publishable – and my agent once estimated that fully half of all first-time writers will sink themselves by being either unable or unwilling to make those changes. Maybe you love your book just the way it is, but if a trusted and experienced publisher tells you that you need to cut 50,000 words and Character B to make it work, then listen. They’ve been in this business longer than you, and likely they know what they’re talking about. Reach for a pair of scissors and start cutting up your baby.
4. Be nice to your team. A whole host of people will have a hand in your book’s production: not just your agent and your editor, but a publicist and a managing editor and a copyeditor and a cover artist and a whole host of others you may never even hear about, much less meet. They are overworked folks who got into this business because they love books – so do your best to make their jobs easier. Love your new cover? Get the artist’s name and send him a thank-you note. Want your editor to love you forever? Be early on all your deadlines. These people work hard for you, so repay them by being a dream client.
5. Develop an online presence. It’s not enough these days just to write a book, then sit back and wait for it to sell. Writers are expected to promote themselves online, and being a Luddite is no excuse. You’ll probably have to start a blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page; you should phone in to book clubs and speak at conferences and be active in online reader communities like Goodreads and OnFictionWriting.com. So learn the etiquette of online promotion: promoting your book, yes; constant updating/tweeting/Facebooking/any other nonstop online blabbing about your book, no. Unless you want to be labeled a spammer.
6. Grow a thick skin. Those negative reviews will come, and they will hurt. And thanks to the internet and that online presence you’ve worked so hard to create for yourself, it’s tempting to put a snarky comment up on that blogger review, pointing out the blogger’s complete lack of literary discernment and utter misuse of the subjunctive. Resist the impulse, because nothing will trash your reputation faster than public whining about your bad reviews. It’s always better to take the high road and let the bad reviews sink unnoticed, rather than get into an online spat that goes viral. For an example of what NOT to do, just google “Jacqueline Howett The Greek Seaman.”
7. Deal with writer’s block. Bernard Cornwell has said he doesn’t believe in writer’s block: “Do nurses decide they can’t go to work one day because they have nurse’s block? Do plumbers?” Since Cornwell has hit the New York Times bestseller list umpteen number of times, I figure the man must know what he’s talking about. Writing is a job, and like any other job, there will be days when you just don’t want to do it. But you have a deadline (remember #2?), so park yourself in the chair, grit your teeth, and get to work anyway. Most of the time, the prose you squeeze out word by painful word is no better or worse than the stuff you wrote in the white-hot flush of inspiration. If you can make yourself write even when you’re not “feeling it,” then congratulations – that, more than the book contract or the shiny paperback sitting on the New Release table at Barnes & Noble, means you are a professional.

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How do small meaningless words reveal writing style?

How do small meaningless words reveal writing style?*

Writing styles have changed dramatically since Charles Dickens wrote, ‘It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ Of course not many of the characters we write about today are facing the guillotine as Dickens’s character was but even if writing about the same situation today the style would be different.**

The question this raises is; has the influence of the established canon of literary classics lessened?  It seems so. With the increase in the number of authors in print every generation, allowing for the influence that direct predecessors exert on writers, the reach of older works is shrinking.

A study analysing how authors use small “content free” words such as ‘to” and “that” led to mathematician, Daniel Rockmore and colleagues at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire to conduct the first, large scale “stylometric” analysis of literature. ***

Using the Project Gutenberg digital library Rockmore’s team analysed 7733 English language works written since 1550 and showed the most outstanding difference in style was the distinctive use of content free words.

“Two writers might use the same words, but they will use ‘syntactic glue’ differently to link them.  It’s as if they find dialects in time. Content is what makes us distinctive, but content free words put us in different groups,” says Alex Bentley of the University of Bristol who was not involved with the study.

*    Sara Reardon in New Scientist Magazine 15 May 2012

**   A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens 1859

***  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI:10.1073/pnas.1115407109

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Dead migrant workers’ organs not stolen.


Dead migrant workers’ organs were not stolen: Foreign minister Jakarta Post Contrary to speculation that three dead Indonesian migrant workers had fallen victim to organ traffickers, the Foreign Ministry announced on Friday that all the internal organs of the dead men were intact. “The police forensics team found no evidence …See full story:



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Minister to be responsible in organ harvesting case.

Manpower Minister, BNP2TKI must be responsible for workers’ slain: Kiemas

Margareth S. Aritonang, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Thu, 04/26/2012 8:07 PM

A  | A  | A |

The People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Taufik Kiemas urged both Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimim Iskandar and the head of the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI), Jumhur Hidayat, to take responsibility for the death of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia.

Read full story from Jakarta Post 28th April 2012 below:


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New inquest today to check if organs are missing.

Following up from yesterday’s story about the 3 migrant workers killed in Malaysia there is an update below.

Keep watching for further news and give your comment/ complaint below.


See also below “Chinese teen sells organ to buy ipad” and add your comments.


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Indonesian migrant workers victims of organ harvesting?

Indonesian families of three  migrant workers killed in Malaysia are concerned that results of autopsies were not made available to to their relatives. They are demanding new autopsies because of concerns that cases of organ harvesting could be involved.

This chilling possibility is not so far fetched in light of a case twenty years ago where the body of a female worker was sent home with organs replaced by plastic bags.

What has made this new case more urgent is the fact that the female worker just mentioned had her eyes sewn up as did the recent three men. This is not usual after an autopsie.

It is shocking to think that in these modern times horrendous crimes of this type could be happening with no re-dress. It is time that effective international laws were put in place to protect these people – some of the most vulnerable in society- whose only crime is being poor.

The three have been buried in East Lombok and relatives and officials are requesting that the bodies be resumed and another autopsie performed.

Control and click on the URL below for full details.



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Writer’s Prize cancelled.

It’s a bad week for writers, readers and those in the publishing business. and bad timing for an event during the ‘Year of reading’.  The yearly round of prizes for literary achievement previously offered by the Queensland premier has been cancelled.

This was decided by the newly appointed premier Campbell Newman.

Is there a good side to this? Only that a group of writers have refused to acknowledge the situation and have continued to apply for the prize. Alongside them, in protest, judges who have previously been paid for their efforts will go ahead and judge without pay.

What is the motivation to keep this competition going? Why do some of us consider this an important feature of our cultural life?

The money itself is not the big deal. It’s a bonus but the main advantage is the fact that winning one of the prizes offered is a boost to a writer’s career. It’s an encouragement for first time novelists, for indiginous writers to make their mark. It is a chance to make known the talent that all of us , as Australians can be proud of.

Let’s give whatever support we can to the continuation of this important event and make known our disapproval of the mean spiritedness of Campbell Newman and others like him who would reduce our society to a cultural wasteland.

Read article from News.com:-


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Who pays the most for bargain fashionwear?

The Easter weekend edition of The Sydney Morning Herald carried the news item titled ‘Workers abused at factory supplying Coles fashion wear.’

Along with Coles several European retailers, including British Home Stores, support factories in North Bengal employing around 5000 workers supervised by 70 Chinese managers.

Workers who protested the gross abuses of the factory managers have been beaten or imprisoned and tear gas used against them to silence complaints such as the following examples:-

  • Pay rates of 16 cents to 22 cents an hour.
  • Being forced to work up to 84 hours a week.
  • Unpaid overtime and holiday pay.
  • Routine sexual harassment
  • Beatings.
  • Mass firings.
  • Imprisonment on false charges.

The Institute  for Global labour and Human Rights,  a US organisation, wrote to Coles’managing director, Mr Ian McCleod last week outlining the abuse.

The director of the Institute, Charles Kernaghan, told the Herald the workers were treated like slaves. For example, workers who arrived late could be forced to stand at attention with arms at their sides for four hours.

‘Every single labour law in Bangladesh is being violated. It seems the Chinese owners are trying to implement Chinese labour practices in Bangladesh but the workers wouldn’t allow it.’ he said.

We need to make some decisions ourselves. Can we afford to buy cheap products manufactured at such human cost. Who really pays in the end?

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One thing to know about writing- advice from Gene Weingarten

During an interview author Gene Weingarten gave the following advice.

1. “One thing to know about writing.  That it’s hard. If you think it’s not hard you’re not doing it right. ”

2. ” How can we achieve the best writing?  Keep it simple…meaning it’s not full of flourishes and vocabulary dumps that get in the way of the story you are telling. Once you accept that what are you left with? You are left with the story you are telling.”

3.  “Most importantly persuade yourself, going into a story , that it must be larger than itself – some universal truth.”


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Closing a Novel -Hints taken from Writers’ Digest an extremely useful magazine with interactive features such as on line tutorials, webinars and an online bookshop.

Your closer is the most important incident in the novel, bar none. Yes, the opener is critical, but only second in importance to the climax. The opener must impress an agent enough to ask for more pages to help her decide whether or not to represent your book. The opener must impress an editor enough to force him to ask for more pages to help him decide whether or not to buy your book. The opener must impress the reader to take your book home from the bookstore.

But it’s the finale that closes the deal for all three parties—that’s the reason I call it the closer and am going to walk you through how to end a novel.

The Closer Defined

The question is, when I say closer, do I mean the climax, the resolution or both? Let me explain it by using an example. In the novel Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child, the opener is six chapters long. And I suppose you could include Chapter 7, if you want to, because the seamless structure is like a string of linked subway cars. The opener is the entire content of all those chapters. It’s the high-action setup to the novel, and it meets all the above criteria. Think of it as one large incident broken into six or seven smaller incidents. And within each chapter, you might argue, there are other incidents. In the closer, I include the climactic confrontation, which leads to an inevitable, if not reasonable, resolution. Don’t try to get too academic about how many incidents you should include in your closer. Very likely, you will take the climax as several incidents, and the resolution, which follows a shorter one.

I don’t mean to tell you that your opener requires a minimum of seven incidents. Or that a closer must contain anywhere from two to 13. I can tell you this: The editor who bought my first novel said that after he decided he liked the opening 50 pages, he skipped right to the ending to see if I could deliver in the climax. Only then did he make an offer on the book. He didn’t worry too much about the resolution. I doubt many editors do. If you’ve written a good story, your resolution will write itself.

Key Questions for the Closer

What readers say after they put your book down matters more for your sales than what they say when they pick it up. So, ask yourself these questions about your closer:

Is this Incident a titanic final struggle? Blow away your readers. Simple as that. No incident that precedes the closer should be more exciting. This is the payoff for your fiction.

Does the heroic character confront the worthy adversary? Absolutely mandatory. No exceptions.

Is the conflict resolved in the heroic character’s favor? Not mandatory. But it’s usually the most popular choice, meaning most readers like it that way, meaning it’s a more commercial choice.

Does the heroic character learn an important lesson? Your hero’s scars cost him something, but he also wears them like badges of learning. A reader who walks away from the novel with a so-what attitude will kill you in the word-of-mouth department.

Does the Incident introduce new material? It shouldn’t. Everything that appears in the closer should have been set up earlier in the story. Worse yet, new material introduced by the writer rather than the hero is flat-out cheating. Readers hate that.

Does the Incident rely on flashbacks? Avoid them at all cost in the closer. Keep the story moving with action and dialogue.

Does the Closer use exposition? Explanation causes this vital incident to drag. It’s the one thing I hate about parlor mysteries. If the heroine has to give a 10-minute lecture to show how brilliant she is, the story has failed in some way. The genius should be self-evident, both in the heroine and in the author’s work.

Is the conclusion logical? Just as all that goes before should point to the closer, even if many signposts have been artfully concealed, all that flows from the decisive moment of climax should be reasonable. An ending with a twist is fine, but no tricks.

Does the Closer leave us feeling a sense of wonder? Contrary to the conventional wisdom about impressions, your novel will be judged by its final impression, not its first. What will readers tell their friends after they put down your story?

Bottom line? You must create a climactic incident that surpasses any other incident in the novel in terms of action, conflict, imagery and dialogue. Blow your readers away with the height and depths of the emotions you achieve. Leave them feeling disadvantaged that they might never meet your heroic character again (unless, of course, you write another novel featuring her).

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