How fast can you read?

Here’s a cool online test to show you.

Apparently I read just under 300 words per minute, which is 19% faster than the average adult…but slower than the average 11th grader? I’m not sure how that works. It would take me around 33 hours to read War and Peace.

Take the test and let us know your score.

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

Dublin’s best museum: a must-visit for writers and readers

Back in March, I was lucky enough to spend a weekend with my husband’s Irish cousins in Dublin.

For my husband, his dad, and his cousin, it was a big rugby weekend. The men in my family are big Ireland rugby supporters (I can’t bring myself to tell them the hero in my novel First Aid for a Broken Heart plays for England), and that weekend Ireland smashed Scotland.

But tickets are expensive, so I watched the match on TV with my mum-in-law and cousin’s wife. You get much better close-ups of players getting their shorts ripped off that way.

Chester Beatty LibraryAnyway…the day of the match, my mum-in-law and I had a girl-date. As a belated birthday treat for me, she took me to the Chester Beatty Library, and I’ve been urging people to go ever since.

Here’s the story:

Chester Beatty was a New Yorker, born in 1875. He studied mining and started his career shoveling rock in mines before going on to become an engineer and then consultant.

But Chester’s main passion was collecting. As you’d imagine, he started off with minerals as a kid, but as an adult he branched out into European and Persian manuscripts.

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Tools for culling repetitious words from your writing

Before I started working in charity communications, I spent four years teaching English as a foreign language in Prague and London.

One of my first classes was full of Czech bankers who gave up their Saturdays to learn English. They were an intermediate-level group, so they could make themselves understood but were far from fluent. They were also one of my favorite classes to teach because every single one of them was enthusiastic and fearless, throwing themselves wholeheartedly into every activity I planned. We spent our Saturdays laughing together.

Half-way through the year, their boss (who was paying for their classes) visited to find out what they thought of their teacher. She interrupted my class with no warning and spoke with them in Czech, so I only understood the gist of what was going on. The boss asked them a question; my students smiled at me.

“Awesome!” one of them shouted, giving me a big thumbs-up.

“Yes, she’s totally awesome!” another agreed, also with a thumbs-up.

Thumbs up
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It was the moment I realized I always praised them in the same way. “Awesome answer, Jiri!” “Your pronunciation was totally awesome, Pavel!” Big thumbs-up from Katrina.

Yes, I’d just moved to the Czech Republic from Los Angeles. And no, I didn’t claim to be teaching them proper English.

We all have words that slip into our speech more than others. When they infiltrate our writing, it becomes a problem. There are certain words my readers nail me for over and over. When Kaki Warner read an early draft of my second manuscript, she noted how many times I referred to my characters’ stomachs and bellies. That’s where they carried all of their emotions. (Her stomach clenched. His belly knotted.)

These repetitions are usually invisible to me – of course they are, otherwise I wouldn’t let them survive the first edit. But once someone points them out, I see how obvious they are.

I’ve found a couple of fun ways to visualize my writing and help me cull repetitious words.

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Ten tips on writing characters with accents, by Rose Lerner

Rose LernerAnyone who’s read one of Rose Lerner’s novels (In for a Penny and A Lily Among Thorns) will know that her characters come from a wide range of backgrounds. Rose is a master at writing accents so a reader can hear her characters’ distinctive voices.

She’s very generously written this post on how she writes characters with different accents. Let us know how you deal with characters’ accents in the comments!

Hi everyone! Kat already wrote a great post about how I used accents in In for a Penny and a really awesome post on writing accents generally…I’ll try not to repeat myself, or her!

British people pay a lot of attention to accents. People from different regions and different social classes have marked differences in speech, and everyone is very conscious of that fact. Of course this is true in the States as well, but I really don’t think the degree is comparable.

I can think of several British memoirs off the top of my head that extensively discuss accents, either by referencing others’ accents by specific type or talking about the memoirist’s own accent (poor Roger Moore practically had a complex about not sounding posh enough!), and anyone remember that Monty Python sketch where no one can understand the rural accents and slang at the airfield?

So if, like me, you tend to write romances that have major characters from a variety of places and social classes, paying attention to accents is important. Here are a few guidelines and tips for how I do it:

1. I never write an accent phonetically.

Writing a particular word phonetically because its pronunciation is so different or it’s unique to a particular accent, okay. Writing all a character’s dialogue that way, no. Apart from being sometimes confusing for the reader, I’m going to come right out and say that I think this is rude.

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Simply Inflatable – and other romance titles

“What’re you reading now?” my husband asks. “Buggered by the Butler?”

Yeah, yeah. Everyone who reads romance knows the titles can earn them some raised eyebrows and a few sniggers.

They don’t embarrass me, and I’m happy to see some of my favorite authors having fun with them too. Sound quality’s not great on this, but how cool is it to see so many greats enjoying themselves?

And, it includes author Jill Shalvis, whose novel Simply Inflatable, er, Simply Irresistible I’m giving away this week!

Make sure you watch the outtakes at the end!

Can you think of any romance novel titles you could improve on?