Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Block Text Of Doom - Writing Advice

Following the Mills and Boon New Voice, I've been reading a lot of stories - well first chapters! 

Now I come from a fanfiction background, where I've been used to posting stories online and realised that the text block of doom does not bode well with writers and their readers.  It's a shame some didn't realise this when posting their entries and it's probably due to the lack of knowledge of posting online for some.

Here is my example of the block text of doom: 


Not being a native ‘Westoner’ (I was born in Surrey), I’ve always thought Weston-Super-Mare as a cross between Brighton and Woolacombe – two places I love visiting.   Brighton for its pier, amusements and nightlife.  Woolacombe for its long sandy beach and the surfing.  
Although it has the sand, Weston-Super-Mare’s beach isn’t quite like Cornwall or North Devon beaches - you don’t really get to see the sea or huge white foaming waves crashing onto the beach.  The only types of surfers seen are wind-surfers.  In fact, if you don’t attempt to search for the sea (as it’s usually out so far) you’ll stick to a large expanse of sand, rather than find the mud, and take a stroll along the sandy three-kilometre stretch or build huge sand castles. 
What makes Weston similar (in my mind) to Brighton are the bars and restaurants that spread along the seafront.  A thicket of tables, chairs and umbrellas, where people sit and socialise with a cold refreshing beer (or two) until the sun sets.  If you look closely some of the restaurants and cafes tucked away are still stuck in the 70s, but newer, more modern, stylish establishments are popping up giving Weston a trendier feel.  There is something for everyone!  And there are enough pubs and nightclubs to keep you busy, too.  You certainly don’t have to go home early – well you can, in the earlier hours of the morning.
Sadly we lost our pier in 2008 but its burnt charred remains have been cleared and there is no longer the smell of ash and smoke in the air.  Work has commenced and hopefully we’ll have it back to its glorious state this summer. 

is far harder to read than this;  

Losing our pier certainly hasn’t deterred the visitors.  In the warmer weather, people are strolling in their masses the very long stretch of promenade.  As you walk, the salty sea air is intermingled with the aromas of fish and chips, candy floss and popcorn – it’s hard not to feel hungry.  The seagulls’ distinctive cry reminds you that you’re by the coast as they soar above, like vultures, waiting for someone to drop their chips or ice-cream and get a quick meal.

Every now and then, the land train will pass you by, filled with waving children (and parents) that you feel compelled to wave back to.  Donkeys walk the beach with excited children on their backs – a particular favourite of my sons.  There is a bouncy castle, trampolines, crazy golf and much more.

During the summer there is always something going on along the beach lawns; the John Carter Steam Fair, with its old fashioned fairground attractions; the sand sculptures with their unbelievable intricate detail, or the helicopters on Heli Day.

Last year it was hard to miss the new attraction; the Weston Wheel that stood 40 metres tall.  On a clear sunny day you could see for miles, great sea views and across the North Somerset countryside.  I miss its magnificent presence and wonder if it will return.

So you see, this is why I love Weston.  There is plenty to do day and night in the Victorian town.   Now I must go dig out my old T-shirt, the one that reads ‘life’s a beach, then you die.’


The spacing between  the paragraphs is much easier on the eye, and allows the reader to read without getting lost.  

I think sometimes that's why I've found it hard and struggled with some of the chapters over there.  I'm losing my place and getting easily confused as I scroll.  Therefore losing interest with the story and not finishing it.  Unless it's really held my attention, I've really struggled to continue reading, which is a real shame. 

Admittedly, I had my chapter formatted initially so that it was indented on the first line of the paragraph, and double lined spaced, but no new line for the next paragraph, because if I were to send it to the likes of Mills and Boon as a manuscript that's how they'd like to see it.  I researched ahead before posting my own chapter and saw that there was basic formatting for this competition (I lost my italics which were Sophie's thoughts, bringing it closer pov) and re-jigged my chapter in MS Word, re-formatting it, so it fell into the Mills and Boon entry box easier.  

So, if you may have fallen into the block text of doom this time, never mind but you know not to do it again ;-) 

If you're about to enter (you have until the 22 September 2010) then format your document, with spaces between new paragraphs, before you copy and paste.  And you don't have to publish immediately, make sure you are 100% happy with your story and it's formatting before you publish - because it's too late afterwards.

And to all, whether you blog or publish short stories on the internet, whatever you do, try to avoid the block text of doom. 

(The above was written for my first assignment for The Writer's Bureau... and was published in the local paper.  Sadly, I was not paid - but one day!)


  1. I did format mine with spaces between paragraphs, but still had to go into the box and add spaces, so it doesn't always work if it's formatted. I'd suggest just looking at it when it's copied and adding any spaces needed.

    I've tried not to penalise people for formatting, but I agree it makes it hard to read. Even harder to read are paragraphs that are meant to be long, and seem to go on forever.

  2. Yes, I've tried not to either. There are some good chapters on there lacking the formatting. But when it's late, I think I've found it a lot harder with some stories to get into them, and the formatting hasn't helped :-(

    Yes, definitely check it before publishing though!


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