Being A Biographer

By Stephen Nelson

Biography is a genre perhaps some authors wouldn’t think about writing. A biography can be of someone who is or was famous, infamous or unknown to readers until they read about them. Not many people can identify the author(s) of biographies unless the readers follow the genre.

I’ve decided to try writing a biography for genealogical purposes. This project has made me think of many factors before even starting to write a biography.

Some factors for consideration are:

1. Be comfortable doing research, notetaking, doing interviews, being organized and  possibly travelling to places significant to the subject’s life. 

2. What is the subject’s appeal and if readers would be interested in them?

3. Have any biographies been written before on the person?

4. Too many published biographies can diminish interest in the biography you considering to write. On the other hand, if there hasn’t been a biography written about someone, is there enough interest in the person to warrant one being written?

There should be a reason about the subject to keep you interested in writing the biography. 

5. Know your target audience. An adult wouldn’t be as interested in a teenage singer and a young adult would not be as interested in an historical figure. Write the biography to the educational level of the target audience.

6. The information sources used in the biography being written should be compiled in a bibliography. Fans of the subject, biography genre readers and fact checkers will want to know where the facts and details are obtained.

7.  Keep a copyright authorization folder or file and backup to protect you as an author against any legal action. Written permission from the living subject or their estate and any source is required to use their photographs or documentation. Documentation requesting permission to use something in the biography and the authorization correspondence should be retained.

It’s better to be prepared before starting to write.


Editing Tip – Is It Logical?

by Stephen Nelson

I read the novel and jot down some details in each chapter about characters, location or something I think will be referred back to later in the novel.

I write down sentences that don’t make sense to me.

Some examples are:

He walked upstairs, put on his suit, showered and shaved.

To me, the sentence is not logical.

The way it’s written, he showered when he was wearing his suit. So… he’s wearing a soaking wet suit. Unless that’s the point, the word order should be changed.

Johnny printed his name in blue ink on the black puck.

The idea of printing his name on the puck so he wouldn’t lose it is perfect, but it’s not logical.

Blue ink can’t be seen clearly on a black object. I recommended the authour amend the colour of the ink to neon green. 

© Stephen Nelson 2020

The Art of Worldbuilding, Part II

by Stephen Nelson

A world for your characters to inhabit is a daunting task to build. Doing the research to make your world believable to your readers might take as much time as writing your novel.

You probably have compiled a Story Bible or electronic folders and files containing the aspects of geography, society, fashion, language, inventions, nature and weather. The collected information is important when writing the novel, especially if there are differences from the world we live in. 

If dragons, elves or aliens exist in the world of the novel, maybe their lifecycle and powers can be noted in the documentation for easy access when you write the novel. 

Cheat Sheets

Cheat sheets can be helpful for reference when you write. A double-sided page for each character, location, geography, weather conditions, flora and fauna (nature), inventions, society, language(s) and fashion.

Map and Illustrations

Some readers love seeing a map of the imaginary world in which the novel is set. A map and illustrations dispersed through the book can pique a prospective buyer’s interest when they take the book off a bookstore shelf and thumb through the pages. Illustrations can be simple or complex in nature.

List of Characters

I find it useful sometimes to read a list of characters in the back of a novel. Their name, relationship to others and maybe their occupation, if relevant can be written.


Historical and any sub-genre, science fiction and fantasy novels can have terms or words which the reader might not know. Some names of creatures or the alien lifeforms for example can be described in a glossary at the end of the book.

Guide Book or Encyclopedia

Why let the hard work of research, developing and writing a new world go to waste? Something to consider is writing an encyclopedia which is the source material you used to build the world where your novel is set.

Anything you have written as source material for the novel can be incorporated in a guide book or an encyclopedia. Many readers love to know more about their favourite novels. An example is, J.K. Rowlings, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a guide book.


These ideas might trigger your own creativity to develop the material you were ready to purge. Remember that fabric scraps in the right hands can make a beautiful quilt. The same goes for scraps of information can be recycled and reused. After all, it is your material to use in another work in progress.

© Stephen Nelson 2020

The Art of Worldbuilding, Part I

by Stephen Nelson

Reading a short story or novel pulls the reader into the world which the authour has made for the characters. That is the beauty of imagination. To make a person believe they are in the world of the characters. Worldbuilding can be as small as a room or a boat on the ocean. Other stories and novels can be set in a fictional city or even on a planet.

Each genre has its aspects of worldbuilding. An historical novel regardless of its subgenre like mystery or romance has to have some accuracy in its description of society, fashion and events unless it is an alternative history novel or short story.

Whether a novel is a standalone, or one of many in a series, the novel’s world must be created. The set could be set in an existing town or city or an invented location using bits and pieces of a current place. An authour might create a complete world from their imagination, like J.K. Rowlings, Harry Potter and J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings.

I must confess. I am a Planner. I plan as much as possible before putting pen to paper or striking a computer keyboard to write a short story or novel.

I will do a second Worldbuilding post for science fiction and fantasy writing, but a novel can have locations and settings which are from the authour’s imagination. I like to think the following should be considered before writing any genre.


I like to call it, the “lay of the land”. Sending characters on a quest or trip to find a person or an object is affected by the geography they cross. Obstacles like mountains, volcanoes soon to erupt, raging rivers, oceans to cross provides drama and conflict in a novel or short story.


A character’s social class, where they live in the community and income might influence how they react to an event. The late 1800s social norms are far different than present day. Research is necessary to write accurate details.

What a wealthy family does for a living, where they live and for entertainment wouldn’t be the same as a poor family.


Fashions and fads change. Different countries have different fashions. A person wearing bell bottoms and platform shoes would stand out in a Regency romance novel. The fashion of the people has to be from the era which the novel is set.


People speak differently, depending on where they are from. Idioms and slang words might identify the nationality or at least the region to which the character has connection. Two different words in English can mean the same object if one is from North America and the other is from the United Kingdom.


When writing an historical novel or story, you have to make sure the inventions of the day are accurate. As examples, do not have a telephone or telegraph in a novel set before they were invented.


When a real event happens, research the actual weather that occurred to make the event more authentic.


You can develop and build your new world for your novel as detailed as you want. After all, it is your novel.

© Stephen Nelson 2020

How Much To Research

By Stephen Nelson

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, “To research or not to research or how much to research?” is the question and it’s up to the authour to decide the answer.

A person isn’t an expert in everything. Therefore, do research to add realism to a story or novel. It doesn’t matter what the genre.

A work in progress set in an historical period, a writer needs to know the language, fashion, transportation, occupations, society, technology and food from that time period.

When writing a novel, whether it’s science fiction or historical, try not to repeat the facts most people know. Mix in new facts which relate to the theme, subject or time period.

Michael Crichton read an article about extracting DNA from an insect in the amber and he wrote “Jurassic Park”.

Even if you don’t use all the information you have researched for the novel you are going to write, you might just have an idea for another novel or a short story buried in your research folder and files.

© Stephen Nelson 2020

NaNoWriMo Tips

by Stephen Nelson

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, writing a word count of 50,000 words or more in November is the goal.

Some hints or tips to increase your word count are simple. Revising the rough draft after November will decrease the word count, but at least the concept and idea of what you want to write is a bare bones skeleton.

Ideas to increase the word count are:

  • Identify each Chapter by Chapter followed by its number as Chapter 1, Chapter 2 etc. you can delete the word Chapter when revising if you want. Some writers have a title for each Chapter.
  • If you write addresses with numbers or phone numbers, spell out the numbers. The number 365 counts as one word, but three, six, five counts as three words.
  • I find that conversation or dialogue between characters is an easy way to add word count.
  • Describe a location, house, or room in great detail. Some authors dislike description because they want the reader to use their imagination. For NaNoWriMo, it’s a way to freewheel your writing. Sometimes more detail will give the writer inspiration for additional scenes.
  • Write scenes or chapter using the different senses.
  • Don’t forget to incorporate the weather conditions and time of day into a scene when it is appropriate.
  • Give characters a first name, a middle name and a surname. Identify the characters by their three names each time you write their name. You can call them by their first name or first name and surname in the final edit.
  • Adding a salutation to the character’s name will identify their profession, rank in society, gender and marital status. Doctor, Professor, Sir, His Royal Prince, Miss, Ms., Mrs. and Mister are examples to consider.
  • Do not use contractions. The key is to have more words in the November written novel or short story. You can always make contractions in December or later.