Friday 28 August 2020

Stages of revision 16: final copyedit and some further suggestions


The end or not the end?

This is the last time you’ll look at your script ….  until it’s accepted and you go through it with an editor or it’s rejected and you take another look at it, some months down the  line, before you send it out again.
Oh yes, by the time you get to this stage you’ve really polished it … and the first thing the publishing house’s editor is going to do is take it apart.
You yourself will do this as well at a later date – because fashions in writing change and you move on as a writer anyway.
To be honest, editing never ends.


More of a proof read?

You’ve probably got rid of most of the more obvious mistakes by now. The read aloud edit helps a lot. It may be wise here to concentrate on a few specific things. There are some things that we all get wrong frequently and there will be your own specific common mistakes. E.g. I often type “form” when I mean “from” 

Here is a suggested list but it is by no means comprehensive. It’s a good idea to develop your own list over time.
·         Is dialogue set out correctly?
·         Are you using a word too often e.g. “Gosh” “seems”
·         Is your use of the apostrophe correct?
·         Look out for confusions  such as
o   who’s / whose
o   its / it’s
o    your / you’re, 
o   to/too/two
o   their / there
o   bare / bear
o   affect / effect  
·         Are you consistent in the way you hyphenate words?  
·         Are you consistent in the way you write numbers as words (different styles recommend numbers up to twenty, up to fifty or up to one hundred – can you see which style I’m using?)
·         Are you distinguishing between generic relations – mum, dad, grandpa, and proper  nouns Mum, Dad, Grandpa  
Some proof-reading tricks
Can you bear to start at the end reading one paragraph at a time?
Complete this edit in small chunks.
But perhaps the wisest of all: ask someone else to proof read, or even pay someone else to do it.   

Change the way the text looks

This will help you to get some objectivity. You can:
  • Change the font.  
  • Single space
  • Set it out as booklet
  • Print it out as a booklet


A final tip

Start each stage of revision in a different place. Otherwise, you tend to rush as you get towards the end and your final chapters will receive less attention.  How many pages does your text have? Divide that by 16.  Say you come up with 25.  So start revisions 1 on page 1, revision 2 on page 26, revision 3 on page 52 etc.
Then get submitting!       

Image by  Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay 

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Another interview with a Waterloo Festival Writing Competition winner, Mehreen Ahmed

Another interview with a Waterloo Festival Writing Competition  winner. I've been very pleased to be involved in judging the Waterloo Festival Writing Competition  over the last three years. We're currently putting the three e-books we've produced of the winning entries into one paperback book to be launched on 5 December. In recognition of this, I'm publishing an occasional series of interviews with some of the winners. Today I welcome Mehreen Ahmed.       

We chat about writing in particular and the winning story in particular. There is also an excerpt of 
the story. 

What do you write? Why this in particular? 

I write literary fiction. As an English graduate, I grew up on a steady feed of literary fiction to an extent that it has influenced me so much that it has become a part of me. 

What got you started on writing in the first place?

My journals. I always wrote them as a child. I penned whatever little event was happening at the time. Or create stories at times too, based on my surroundings.

Do you have a particular routine? 

Not really. I write when I feel inspired. Anything can inspire me, be it a wet path, or trembling of a leaf, raindrops or rainbow.

Do you have a dedicated working space?

Yes, I usually write in bed on my laptop in my pyjamas sometimes, with a pot of tea by my side.

When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?

When I began to get recognised by reader reviews, and prizes.

How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?

I hope so. I hope they understand what I am writing. My mother has been very supportive although she did complain about the lack of punctuations in my stream- of-consciousness fiction.

What are you most proud of in your writing?

I love writing in stream-of-consciousness fiction. I love this style of writing. I find it both challenging and artistic. A successful stream-of-consciousness style of writing entails a fine balance between presenting chaos in the raw as they appear in the head with a semblance of filter for the sake of art. That is hard to achieve, I think. 

How do you get on with editing and research?

I don't edit much. I think too much editing distances the end product from the wilderness in the writer's head. There should be some of that left, I think to touch base with reality so to speak. The reality in the head. However, the research must be top notch.

Do you have any goals for the future?

Yes, I would like to write a few more books. And I would love to see my books used in education.

Which writers have inspired you?

Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Pablo Neruda, Nazrul Islam, Tagore to name a few.

Tell me about your story in the collection.

Dolly is about a flower girl. She sells flowers on the streets. One day, she came across a car. As she came to the car, to sell her flowers, she got kidnapped. However, for her personal protection, the girl always carried a doll. She believed in this doll that it would save her from danger one day. And it did. The doll came through when she needed her most. She saved her from her kidnapper.

What inspired you to write this?

Flower girls. Once I was sitting in a car when a lad came up to the car to sell garlands, I gave him money and asked him to keep the garlands and sell them elsewhere. He told me that I needed to keep them, because if I didn't then a super power would punish him. He dropped the garlands on my lap through the car window and he disappeared.

How did you hear about the competition? 

I heard about it via one of your emails.

Have you had any other success in short-story writing?

I have been published by nearly 160 publishers internationally. I have also published a short story collection and two more short and flash fiction in the pipeline.

I am still writing them and publishing.

What for you makes a good short story? 

The one which comes out of reality but gradually fades into absurdity or impossibility.

Do you have any tips for new writers or writers seeking publication? 

Be imaginative, transcend reality.

An excerpt from Mehreen's story:  


Not without her,” Ana screamed. “I’m not leaving without Dolly.”

But the police officer kept pestering. She put Ana’s hands in hand-cuff. Ana yelled at the constable. She told Ana that she must leave without her doll. For it was really she who was in trouble, not her doll. Ana realised that police officer didn’t understand that Dolly was her security blanket, now and always. Ever since she was five, now fifteen.

“Trouble?” she screamed. You say, I’m in trouble? A parasite? Under the radar until you caught me out?”

“What else would you call yourselves? You, downy mildews of fester? You steal buns from that bakery, there.

“I only steal for hunger.”

“Little snitch! I’ll get you sorted out.”

“Ha! You make me laugh. I have been like this since five. I sold flowers on Harlon Street, an orphan, and a phantom to most. Those who saw my flowers, never saw me; invisible like a camouflaged screech owl on a living bark. Then one day, someone noticed me,” she said.

“Who? Who noticed you?” asked the police constable.

“He did. The big man. One evening, it rained. I appeared at his car window with a bunch of yellow chrysanthemums. He rolled down his windows and offered me money. He told me to take the money, and re-sell the wet bunch. Just when the lights changed, I dropped the flowers on his lap, saying that he must take them or else Dolly would get offended and she would punish me. The man drove away.”
 She looked down at the grooved pavement littered with torn plastic bags. A bed made out of slippery bags for a slippery life. Her doll lay there, too.

“Is this a way to live? You should be ashamed of your life?” the constable yelled.

“Yeah? You have a better idea? Where were you when they took me? Those big men’s playing doll that I had almost become. Where were you when those leeches nearly lay me down in their valley? The dark night’s under-bridge.”
Read more here:


Wednesday 19 August 2020

Dawn Knox - one of the winners in the 2020 Waterloo Festival Writing Competition.

I've been very pleased to be involved in judging the Waterloo Festival Writing Competition  
over the last three years. We're currently putting the three e-books we've produced of the winning 
entries into one paperback book to be launched on 5 December. In recognition of this, I'm 
publishing an occasional series of interviews with some of the winners. Today I welcome Dawn

We chat about writing in particular and the winning story in particular. There is also an excerpt of 
the story.   

What do you write? Why this in particular?  

There are three genres in which I mainly write.
Firstly, quirky, humorous stories, secondly, historical romance and thirdly, horror.
I find the quirky, humorous writing such as ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ and ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ (coming soon, both published by Chapeltown Books), the easiest and most enjoyable to write and I love creating eccentric characters and putting them in whacky situations. So that’s probably my favourite way to write. 

Historical romance, I find harder to write and yet, I feel drawn to it and to the research needed to be able to – hopefully - give the story some realism. It usually takes me much longer to write but once I’m finished, I’m always really pleased I persisted.
And occasionally, I’m tempted to indulge the darker side I didn’t know I had, and to write horror!

What got you started on writing in the first place?

I’ve always made up stories in my head but never had the urge to write them down until about eighteen years ago when I was trying to help my son with his essay homework. I tried to give him a few ideas to inspire him to get his homework done – and I failed completely! The ideas didn’t motivate him but they did me, and I went on to write the story myself.

Do you have a particular routine?  

During lockdown, I’ve been getting up earlier than I used to and going for a walk in the garden. I dictate my current work in progress into my phone as I walk, and it converts speech to text. Later, I transfer that to my computer. Other than that, I don’t have a routine. I do everything I need to do to keep the household running and then any spare time is mine to do as I like. While I’m doing chores, I listen to audiobooks. The time that remains, is precious so I don’t use it to watch television – I either read or write – but mostly write.

Do you have a dedicated working space? 

I’m really lucky to have an office just off my bedroom in the attic which is quiet and since it’s up three flights of stairs, I don’t get interrupted very often!

When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact? 

It took me a long time to refer to myself as a writer and if I meet someone new, I don’t usually have the nerve to describe myself as such. I still feel a bit of a fraud. I’m more likely to write that I’m a writer, than to say it!

What are you most proud of in your writing? 

I’m most proud of my two World War One plays which were performed by a professional production company in England, France and Germany. Using research from the plays, I wrote the book ‘The Great War – 100 Stories of 100 Words Honouring Those Who Lived And Died 100 Years Ago’ that I describe as ‘the book in which you’ll find my heart and soul’. I’ve had some touching organic reviews for the book which was shortlisted for three book awards  

How do you get on with editing and research?

I try to immerse myself in any research by reading and listening to audiobooks about that particular subject and/or era. I’m currently writing a book set during the 18th century and have several factual and fiction books set during that time which I’m reading and listening to so that I can get a feel for that time period, the people who lived in it and the language they used.

Some people recommend that a writer shouldn’t start editing until a piece of work is complete but I often edit partially-finished work and try to get it into shape. I don’t like to get too far into a work in progress without tidying up a bit. I like to feel that I’m not leaving too much of a mess when I move on to the next bit!  

Do you have any goals for the future? 

Not any specific goals. I’d like to keep writing for my own enjoyment and hopefully, for others’!

Which writers have inspired you?

I think I was probably particularly inspired by any author whose book I read when I was young. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was absorbing their styles and their voices and developing a deep love of reading and story-telling.

Now let's talk about your stories in the Waterloo Festival collections

I have a story called ‘Never a Coward’ in the 2018 collection and one called ‘Rising from the Ashes’ in the 2020 collection.

What inspired you to write these?

The first story, ‘Never a Coward,’ was set during the First World War. I’ve often wondered about the women of the ‘White Feather Movement’, who handed out white feathers to men they assumed were shirking the fighting. I wondered how they felt when the true horror of what the men faced in the trenches became known. It would be interesting to find out how many of them, regretted their actions and how many believed what they’d done in trying to shame the men was justified. 

The second story, ‘Rising from the Ashes’, was inspired by the dreadful bush fires which raged across Australia at the end of 2019 and into 2020. My family and I went to Australia for Christmas and were rather nervous about doing so, but miraculously, we didn’t see any evidence of the fires – other than on the news reports. In one interview, a woman said that her life was usually filled with music but since she’d lost everything to the flames, the music had died - and that phrase struck me and remained with me, inspiring my story.  

How did you hear about the competition?  

I heard about it at the Chapeltown book launch at the end of 2017

Have you had any other success in short-story writing? 

I’ve had short horror and speculative fiction stories accepted for anthologies, as well as romances for women’s magazine such as My Weekly and People’s Friend. In addition, Bridge House Books have published a single author anthology of my speculative fiction, sci-fi and quirky stories entitled Extraordinary– stories to take you out of this world!

What for you makes a good short story? 

It doesn’t matter how short it is, it has to have a beginning, middle and a satisfying or a funny ending.

Do you have any tips for new writers or writers seeking publication?  

Read and write. Write and read. And keep going. Don’t take rejection personally. Take note of 
any criticism and make changes if necessary and then submit elsewhere.

And now an excerpt from one of Dawn's stories:

Rising from the Ashes


Drops of rain pitter-pattered on the scorched, mangled metal which had once been Amy’s roof. The storm was welcome but it would’ve been more useful if it had arrived several weeksbefore, during the height of the drought. Such a deluge might not have halted the bushfire which had swept through the small township of Warringa, but it might have prevented it from escalatingto the inferno which had capriciously consumed one building, yet spared another. Such blazeswere common around Warringa at this time of year but Amy’s neighbour, Peggy, who’d beenborn in the township eighty-nine years before, had never experienced anything like it.And now, like Amy, Peggy had lost her home and everything in it to the bushfire. “Warringa!” the elderly lady scoffed, “What a joke!” The town’s name was an Aboriginal word, meaning“Cool Place”.

Peggy had looked after the newly-weds, Amy and Mike, when they’d arrived from Sydney, thirty years before – young and eager to build their own house and start a family. Twins, Ben and Josh, 
had been born several years later but at age eighteen, they’d left for Sydney and had not returned. 
Amy and Mike had stayed in Warringa, missing their sons, but content in the idyllic backwater, in
 the house they’d built together.

And now, here at Amy’s feet, lay the twisted, tangled remains of everything they owned. A buckled saucepan lay next to the charred skeleton of a chair. It alone remained whilst its companions and the table they’d surrounded had been reduced to ashes by the fickle flames. Incongruously, in the garden, the stone birdbath appeared untouched.

Dawn’s Blog –
Dawn’s Amazon Author Page -