There is nothing I love doing more on the weekend than poring over my stash of newspapers and magazines. I love the fact that I find the names of our graduates prominently featured in the bylines of Australia’s biggest publications.
Such as Evelyn Lewin’s piece in Sunday Life this week (pictured above). And Mandy McKeesick’s piece in Good Weekend the week before that. During the week, I’m also regularly coming across our graduates’ stories in everything fromThe Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, to MiNDFOOD, Essential Kids and countless other publications – as well as on the shelves of bookstores.
I particularly love that I’ve either met so many graduates either in person or in our graduate forums. I’m honestly so thrilled at your success. Many of you have changed careers and become full-time writers. And I can’t tell you how much I admire the fact you’ve taken what you’ve learnt in our courses and put it into action. After all, learning is one thing. But putting the skills you’ve learnt into practice is even better!
Warm fuzzy time. I want to thank you all for being so pro-active in your writing journey. We love helping you achieve your goals, whether it’s a class increative writing, teachings in travel, the mysteries of magazines or some other course. But we also know that the only person who can really make a change in your life is you. (Pretty sure you know that too.) Thank you for the privilege of letting us play a small part in achieving your goals – past, present and future.
Have a motivational week!
What our graduates are saying
A big advantage of teaching writing is that when students complete a course with us, they often have some very intelligible things to say. Like these gems:
“It was a great experience all round and extremely helpful. The class has given me an excellent sense of direction, it’s fantastic.”
– Liam O’Leary (Writing Books for Children and Young Adults)
“The presenter was fantastically patient with a bunch of beginners who had many questions and could talk from her own personal experience which was incredibly useful. It gave me a good idea of the amount of work and preparation involved in becoming a published author. I have started practicing!”
– Karena Viglianti (Creative Writing Stage 1)
“I have worked in the publishing industry for 15 years and it was fantastic to have a presenter with so much experience and knowledge. It was just the dose of confidence I needed to plunge back into the world of publishing – and now with the writing tips and tricks I lacked.”
– Didee Mitton (Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1)
They sit right there above the letters on the keyboard, but how do we go with using them? This week we examine numbers…
Q: Hi AWC, can I ask a question?
A: Well, that capital Q in front of everything you say suggests that you can. What’s on your mind this week? Q: Well, I was reading a sports article last week which had a sentence stating that “between the ninth and 14th holes, the golfer shot only birdies.” Is this correct?
A: Well we’d have to check their signed scorecard to be perfectly sure. And even then, we’ve been known to cheat on our score at mini golf when we can’t get past that windmill… Q: No, I mean is it correct to use numbers as both words and numerals in the same sentence? I thought it looked a bit odd.
A: Ah, yeah good question. It’s mostly about style though. Q: Well I think it said he had one of those hideous jumpers on and long socks with white shoes. Oh and a ridiculous hat.
A: No, not the golfer’s style. Ridiculousness is a given there. We’re talking about style guides for various publications or organisations. You need to check how each treats numbers, as there are a number of ways to tackle it. See what we– Q: Yes I see what you did there. Okay, fine about style guides. But surely there are some universal rules?
A: A few, sort of. Numbers one to nine are generally written as words. And after that it’s as numerals – 10, 11, 12 etc. Thirteen would have been 13 just now, except that it was at the start of a sentence and the typical rule is that numbers look better as words when kicking off sentences. Q: But what about my golf example?
A: Now, maybe it’s their style rules, but we think the writer took the word/numeral threshold too literally. If you have two numbers in a sentence that relate to the same thing, they really should match each other. So it would read better as “…between the 9th and 14th holes…” with it favouring the numeral format. We usually use numerals for precise measures such as percentages, time, dates, years, units etc, and we use words for vague non-specific descriptions like hundreds, thousands or millions etc. However, in your example, if it had just referred singularly to “the ninth hole” – it would be back to word format again. Q: Okay, so you’re saying that as soon as a number that’s 10 or higher enters a sentence, all other numbers should change to numeral format, yes?
A: Nope. You miss-hit that shot I’m afraid. It’s only things that relate to each other on the “same scale” – like golf holes in this case. So if it had been a good day for many golfers, we’d be looking at “between the 9th and 14th holes, the five golfers shot only birdies.” “Five” didn’t become “5” as it is counting golfers, not holes. Q: Ah okay. So back on that numbers starting sentences thing. Is that a sure thing?
A: This is English; it’s about as sure as Beyoncé running for President. Besides, in today’s content-hungry world of Buzzfeed-type sites, it’s commonplace to see headlines that open with numerals. Q: Oh, you mean like “37 Celebrities You Won’t Believe Used to be Janitors” or “16 Cute Kittens You Simply Must Click On Right Now”?
A: That’s exactly what we mean. Q: What about really big numbers – like if I wrote about that song from the musical Rent. “Five hundred and twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes are in a typical year.” Seems clunky.
A: Yes, only a computer wizard from MIT would like that sentence. We’d generally recommend shuffling things about so you don’t have the number as the first cab off the sentence rank. For example, “A typical year has 525,600 minutes.” But again, style guides can overrule this – same for years. Two thousand and fourteen may seem okay if the style suggests it can, just like you’ll find 90%, 90 percent and even ninety per cent in equal doses. It’s like a buffet restaurant – nothing is particularly offensive to look at, all the options have been touched plenty of times, yet none are likely to kill you. Q: Got it. So what about my novel. Are there dialogue rules?
A: This one is thankfully pretty universal. All numbers are usually written as words. So your book might say “Tiger hasn’t won here in twenty-five years,” said Rory. Q: OK, what about when you have, say, “a group of 12 10-year-olds”. Two numbers next to each other looks stupid. Would you convert one of them to words?
A: Hole in one! That’s exactly what you’d do. Q: And what can you tell me about “my 11-year-old nephew being allowed to enter into a two-year iPhone 6 contract”?
A: Well, first, your sister probably told him it’s just for emergencies, but we all know he’s texting and Minecrafting up a storm. As for the numbers, ages do tend to follow the same one-to-nine words/10-and-over numerals rules, with the added bonus of hyphens when “year” is singular – 11-year-old or seven-year-old. (When it’s “years” after the subject, say goodbye to the hyphens. “My nephew is 11 years old.”) That’s pretty much par for the course. See what we– Q: Yes I see what you did there. And the rest of the example?
iPhone 6 is a brand name, so you don’t mess with that. That’s like calling it Toy Story Three
. (But don’t get us started on “SE7EN”…) The phone company has a two-year contract, but a bank may call it a 3-year fixed term loan – it can often come down to style and consistency again. If you get no other clues, stick to the “words for nine and under” rule. Q: Gee, this is starting to resemble a free-for all. My head hurts.
A: Yeah, apart from a few general-ish rules, numbers are all over the place. Actually, it’s about as frustrating as a round of golf, and has just as many holes, flags and hazards. But if you tee up each example consistently, you’ll go a fair way to avoiding the rough. (See what we did there?)
Got a Q&A topic you’d like us to tackle in our own unique way?
Send us an email!
This week Valerie and Allison discuss HarperCollins accepting unsolicited manuscripts, Cleo’s man of the year and how it’s never too late to be published. Also the Beer Bloggers Conference and Joanna Penn talks collaboration, case studies and much more!
You can listen to the podcast here or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here.
You’ll find a course starting soon to suit your writing goals:
Caption competition winner
Last week we gave you this picture and asked you to caption it for us. We did have a lot of “I’ve lost my pen” variations, which we agree can be traumatic. Notable mention goes to Amy D for “The deadline is WHEN?! Emergency M&Ms, come at me!!”, but the winner is Ross P of NSW for his on-trend response: “Pru didn’t like people to know she was taking another one of her weird selfies.”
It totally looks like she is taking a selfie! Nice work Ross – your copy of The Lost Testament by James Becker is on its way to you. And this week, there are TWO competitions – check them out on the Blog section and in the Picture This below. Good luck!
#Trending this week: Terrorism
It may have been in the news more often since 2001 – and certainly in Australia over recent weeks, but the term “terrorism” is actually over 200 years old, first coined during the French government’s “Reign of Terror” back in post-revolution France during 1793-94 (where they basically executed “all zee enemies of zee revolution”). These days, the use of “reign of terror” is widespread in various contexts, but there remains a problem when it comes to defining “terrorism”. This dilemma is best summed up in the saying: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter“. Illustrating this are the likes of Nelson Mandela and Julian Assange, who have both been called terrorists in the past. (Others claim this quote simplifies things too much, suggesting terrorism is never a good thing, no matter how noble the cause.)
Needless to say, it’s such a politically and emotionally charged word, making it so hard to pin down. And again, that’s nothing new, with the UN failing to agree on a universally accepted definition 40 years ago. Today’s modern definition refers to “criminal or illegal acts of violence at randomly chosen targets, in an effort to raise fear” – and it’s usually attributed to the “weaker” side. Meanwhile, “terror” is often seen as being practiced by the stronger side – governments, law enforcement etc. A fine line indeed! Now, after researching and using the word many times, then sending out to 25,000 of you, all that’s left to say is “wave hello to ASIO everyone!”
On the blog this week: Competition! (and an interview)
We chat with Anna Romer about her new book,Lyrebird Hill – a haunting fairytale of a novel, set in rural Australia. What Anna has to say is interesting, and even better is the fact that when you get to the end, you have the chance to win one of two copies of the book, just for giving us your favourite bird and why! So fly on over andenter now…
Tip: Gold-medal winning character names
Last week, one of our online courses brought up an interesting question about using friends’ names for characters, especially when you’re looking for authentic ethnic-sounding ones that are beyond your own experience or culture. Here was presenter Pamela Freeman’s response:
“The problem with using friends’ names or a similar process is that it tends to simplify the very complex multicultural society we have. I find the Olympic Games very helpful – not only are all the athletes’ names published, they are tagged by country, and you can usually find a bio about them. So you can construct ethnically appropriate names very easily, and this is increasingly important – especially if, like me, you write for children. I want all the kids who read my books to feel represented there.”
Featured Course: Smart, sassy and successful writing
Popular Women’s Fiction with Lisa Heidke
Two-day weekend course, Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 November
If you love to read about smart, funny and often a little clumsy-in-love characters, you may also love writing your own Popular Women’s Fiction title! In this course, you’ll learn precisely how to do just that – why writing this type of fiction differs to others, and what you need to do to bring your voice to life.
These books are soooo character driven (yes, four Os) – making it essential you create characters that your readers – and hopefully Prince Charming (a.k.a Dan from Accounts) – will fall in love with. There’s a few tricks to doing it well, and your presenter, Lisa, has them all safely tucked up her sleeve ready to go. So throw your handbags in the middle and dance a happy dance, because this is one weekend you don’t wanna miss!
To become the next Kinsella or Keyes, book your spot now.
Course: Popular Women’s Fiction with Lisa Heidke
When: Saturday 1 November and Sunday 2 November 2014
Picture This: Naming Rights
This week, following on from our chat about character names, we’d like you to name these two lovable characters. Get creative – they should be both believable and stand out from the pack. (Or is that litter?)
The most interesting entry wins a copy of The House on Carnaval Street by Deborah Rodriguez. To enter, simply hit reply to this email, changing the subject line to NAMES and get your memorable monikers to us by 11:39pm Monday 6 October 2014. It’s all about dogged determination. Good luck!
Webpick: Download some self control
Okay, 9am, time to write. But first, twitter. Facebook. Oooh, what’s that photo? Pinterest. Facebook. Bored Panda. Facebook. Twitter. Buzzfeed. Wikipedia. Oh look, it’s lunchtime.
Sound familiar? SelfControl is a free Mac app that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. You choose to add sites to a “blacklist” and then once you start that timer, all bets are off – you won’t be able to access those ones (even if you restart or delete the app!) until the timer runs out.
Now stop reading this newsletter and get some work done!
Check it out here.
(noun) A person who steals books
But if you want to be in our good books, you should steal a minute or two and match your writing goals to one of our awesome courses…
Australian Writers’ Centre
Sydney and Online: (02) 9929 0088
Melbourne: (03) 9005 6737
Perth: (08) 9468 0177
Australian Writers’ Centre | National office: Suite 3, 55 Lavender Street Milsons Point, New South Wales 2061 Australia 02 9929 0088