I have always enjoyed reading books. I am a member of a local book club and we meet up monthly to review and discuss books we have read. Reading a variety of books and authors is a really good way to improve your own writing.
An author whose blog I follow, mentioned NetGalley, so I checked it out and liked what I saw.
Read and Review
NetGalley is a website where publishers allow book reviewers and bloggers to read books before they are published, in order to get reviews. It is a UK website where you will need to create a log-in and undertake to review the books you get to read. As part of the profile creation, you are asked where you will review the books, whether on the website or on a blog. You are expected to review the book as part of it being made available to you.
There are a wide range of publishers registered there, including Faber and Faber Ltd, HarperCollins, Hodder & Stoughton and Mills & Boon. All kinds of books are there, including children’s books, non-fiction, fiction, autobiographical books and comics and graphic novels.
For the more popular authors or publishers, you might have to be approved before being offered a book to read and review, but there are also free books that anyone registered can access and read.
The downloads offered are known as digital review copies and they are similar to galley proofs. The text has been edited and corrected and proofread too. It is hoped that there are very few errors left as it is almost time to print the book. You might find one or two mistakes, but generally, the book is being offered as if it were an e-book. The aim is to bring the books to the attention of influencers in the book world and people encouraged to become a reader, include librarians, teachers, journalists and booksellers as well as reviewers and bloggers. You are encouraged to link your account to your social media, Goodreads and to verified industry organisations. The website used a NetGalley Shelf app to make the books available but other devices and apps are supported.
Readers and reviewers do not pay to use NetGalley, but publishers do. The website will also work with independent authors and marketing and PR companies. The aim is promote books and help with marketing and promotions.
My first book review for NetGalley will follow shortly. If you have a book blog or enjoy reviewing books, do check them out.
One of the oldest pieces of advice for people who want to write fiction is that they should “write what they know’. This sage piece of wisdom is passed down from teachers to young pupils, from tutors to college students and in many creative writing classes. Yet, what does it actually mean? And is it a piece of advice worth following?
Write what you know
Writing what you know suggests that the writer can not step outside their own experience. It suggests that their writing should be autobiographical in nature and always include a piece of themselves. While it could be good advice to write about what you know, if you were a former pirate, sailing the high seas who accidentally kidnapped a prince, more normal people may find it more difficult. Most people’s lives are fairly ordinary and there doesn’t seem to be much room for excitement.
Directing someone to write what they know, ignores the rich imaginations that most writers have. We can imagine what it is like to walk on a strange planet or to dive deep in the oceans. We can imagine how things could turn out when you meet the one person that you have always wanted to meet – even if it has never happened to you. I would not recommend that writers always stick to writing what they know or what they have experienced.
Knowing what you write is a different thing. Here, writers research before they write and use it to help create the story. You may not know everything before you begin to write, but you may have done some research and use it to help the story along. You may need to stop and make notes of further knowledge you need, but you can begin the story and leave gaps. This will enable you to slot in extra research, which will enrich the story. The best research fits seamlessly in the story.
Call on your emotions for your writing
We have all experienced emotion in one form or another, even if we have not experienced a specific event such as losing a parent or having our heart broken. Most people understand what it can be to fall in love, to like somebody who doesn’t know you exist or somebody unattainable like a celebrity. Using the emotions that you have felt during your life is a good use of writing what you know. It can enrich your writing and bring your characters to life.
Another variation on this rule is to write what you read. This is some of the best advice that a writer could be given. If you already read and enjoy a particular type of genre, then you will enjoy writing it too. If you don’t read, then how will you know what you enjoy and which type of book calls to you on a deeper level? Being a reader is the first step to becoming a writer.
Do you write regularly? Do you think that you should write what you know or were rules made to be broken? Comment below.
Sometimes it’s not just all about the romance in anovel. For me, there is nothing like a brilliantly defined girl friendship. Our friends can offer us a shoulder to cry on, good advice, sometimes bad advice, a cup of coffee and a much needed listening ear when we need it.
Here are some of my favourite girl BFFs in fiction – feel free to add your own at the end in the comments.
1.Beatrice & Hero – Much Ado about Nothing (play) by William Shakespeare
Beatrice is such a strongly written character – many of Shakespeare’s women were feisty and strong and Beatrice is her own person who believes in herself and is confident. Beatrice is a little older and wiser than her friend Hero. Hero is younger and inexperienced. She is not jaded in love, but in love for the first time, so she has an extreme reaction to being accused of infidelity. Beatrice is a true friend to Hero: in troubled times, she stands by her friend, comes up with a plan to redeem her good name and will do anything to help her – even charging her one-time enemy (and would-be lover) Benedick to kill the man who has accused her friend. We could all do with a friend like Beatrice.
2. Elizabeth & Jane Bennett – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
These two sisters are very different people, but they get on so well. They are each other’s confidant and are able to talk about their feelings and their crushes very eloquently. They support each other completely. One of reasons that Elizabeth is so prejudiced against Darcy is that she believes that he separated her sister from her love, Mr. Bingley. The sisters are united in their embarrassment of their loud, match-making mother and rambunctious younger sister, Lydia. They commiserate with each other when it seems as though all is lost when Lydia elopes and they can rejoice with each other when it all comes right in the end. Thankfully, their men are BFFs too!
3. Glinda & Elphaba – The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Baum (based on the Wizard of Oz
The musical has taken the world by storm, and the unlikely friendship between Glinda, the good witch and Elphaba, the wicked witch of the west is at the heart of the story and the musical. Elphaba is green-skinned, an animal rights activist and not that interested in her appearance. Glinda is beautiful, aristocratic and very much concerned with how she looks, but these two girls find common ground and become good friends. Although they are only really together during their school days and are then separated for 20 years, they stay loyal to one another despite having different beliefs and their lives taking different paths.
4. Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy March – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The March sisters are a close-knit family whose story takes place during the American civil war. Their father is away, fighting and the family does not have much money. The girls make their own amusement by performing the plays that Jo writes. The girls all have their own personalities: Meg is grown-up and sensible, Jo is the creative one, Beth is musical and Amy is a very girlie girl. Although the girls bicker, their friendships endure and when things go wrong, they all pull together. This story and the three that follow (Good Wives, Little Men & Jo’s Boys) all follow the March sisters as they grow up.
5. Elinor & Marianne Dashwood – Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
These sisters are very different people. Elinor is the elder sister, sensible to the point of almost losing her own happiness, a support to her family and always thinking of others. She wants to do what’s right according to the conventions of her time. Marianne is the opposite – giving in to her emotions and living in the now. These sisters do not really confide in each other – well, no one is left in any doubt as to how Marianne feels, but Elinor does not really share her feelings until she has no choice, but they love and support each other and rejoice when each finds her heart’s desire.
6. Anne Shirley & Diana Barry – Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
These two girls meet and are immediate friends. Mrs Barry, Diana’s mother, is not too taken with Anne, who is an orphan mistakenly sent to help Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on their farm but Diana refuses to listen to her mother and the two girls have such a lovely friendship. They love and support each other right the way through the books and this is one of my favourite fiction friendships.
These are just a few of the girl BFFs that are found in fiction. Most of these are friendships from long-standing novels (and a play) that many people will have heard of and enjoyed.
There are many more, and if I have missed out your favourite girl BFF in fiction, then please do share in the comments below.
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We love to hate the villains in the fiction we read and in the films that we watch. These days, villains can be multi-faceted and are not necessarily all evil. Here is my top 10 villains:
10. Lucius Malfoy – I love Malfoy senior’s name from the Harry Potter books. Lucius is reminiscent of Lucifer while Mal is French for ‘bad’ which gives you some indication of his character.
9. Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby. Squeers is the headmaster of the school Dotheboys Hall in the story. He is mean and cruel as his name would seem to suggest.
8. The white witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is all the more evil for her beauty. She also has a fiendish penchant for plots – the fact that it is always winter in Narnia but never Christmas is diabolical. She does have some great garden statues, though.
7. Captain Hook from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan is more like a pantomime villain (oh no he’s not, oh yes he is!) than an evil mastermind, but he does have to put up with marauding children. He also has a terrifying nemesis himself in the crocodile that appears whenever he is least expecting it. At least the wrist watch inside it means he can hear it coming.
6. The Child-Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was all the more scary by the portrayal brought to life on the screen by Robert Helpmann whose evil looks have brought nightmares to generations of children.
5. Ebenezer Scrooge has a great name that suggests mean with money and miserly. Sure enough, early on in the novel, we see him begrudging his clerk extra firewood to heat the office and expecting him to come into work during the Christmas season.
4. Voldemort in the Harry Potter series has a very sinister name, and it makes it more evil when people are afraid to say his name, referring to him instead as ‘he who shall not be named’. His gang, the Death-eaters are also villains that strike fear into the wizard’s hearts.
3. Ursula the sea witch in The Little Mermaid is evil in the extreme. Not content with tricking the little mermaid into exchanging her voice for a pair of legs, she then changes the game when it looks like she is going to lose. Not a very nice person.
2. Miss Trunchbull – Matilda isn’t cowed by Miss Trunchbull, but she’s the only one. Miss Trunchbull makes small children quiver in their shoes as she shouts at them and shuts them in the chokey. This is not a woman who will get teacher of the year award.
1.Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter is the most evil creation I know. Her love of fluffy kittens and the colour pink contrasts sharply with her vindictive nature and her influence on Harry is far worse than that of Voldemort as she has full access to him in school. She is a bully of the worst kind and I consider one of the worst villains in literature.
This is my list of fictional villains and it has been hard to keep it to 10. What would your list look like and who is your all-time villain? Post them in the comments below.