Thursday 30 September 2021

Writing is definitely rewriting

 Mistakes, Editing, School, Red Ink

This is so true it has almost become a cliché.

I submitted a novel for consideration to a publisher yesterday.  On the online form I had to say whether it had been edited. Unashamedly I picked “yes” from the drop down list. I’ve been through it at least eighteen times. And I always check each section three times as I write. I always think that what you don’t spot in three readings at one sitting you’re not going to spot until you get some distance from the work.

It can seem daunting that when you’ve done all of this work an editor will still find something else to comment on. But the cleaner the text, the more effective the editor’s input will be and the more the text will shine afterwards.

I always concentrate on one aspect of the work each time I edit, though I will pick up other matters as well as I go through on every check.

Here is my checklist for editing my YA books:

1.      Is the overall structure sound?  - hook, inciting incident, increasing complexities, crisis, climax –

2.      Is the resolution satisfying?

3.      Overall time scale

4.      Check format and length against target market / reader

1)      Mixed genre

2)      Emotional closeness

3)      Leaving reader to decide

4)      Pushing boundaries

5)      Fast paced / high stakes

6)      Characters resemble young adults

7)      Bildungsroman

5.      Characters. Are they consistent? Do they develop? Do you know everything about them that you should?

6.      Is it convincing? Is there cause and effect?

7.      Is there conflict and tension? Are there peaks and troughs?

8.      Does the pace vary?

9.      Dialogue

1.      It should not be too natural

2.      It should only say important things

3.      It should differentiate characters' voices

4.      When angry, becomes childish

5.      Should take 2/3 of popular book

6.      Should convey mood, character and reaction

7.      Every speech should give information

10.  Detail and description should be slipped in small chunks.

11.  Point of View – is it consistent and if it “zooms” does it do so in a reasonable way? 

12.  Show, don’t tell.

13.  Kill off your darlings.

14.  Get rid of clichés

15.  Overall flow (read out loud)

16.  Copy edit

Saturday 18 September 2021

Email and the Writer

 Wordpress, Blogging, Blogger, Editor

One writer’s perspective.

I get about 200 emails a day. They will bring a mixture of good news, bad news, news that makes me disgruntled, news that brings me great joy, bills, orders for books and interesting articles. It's a great procrastination tool but not necessarily a welcome one. It’s easy to get bogged down. So, for this reason, I don’t look at my emails until after lunch.  

My routine 

·         I’ll file all the sent ones for the day before

·         I’ll go through the spam filters – to see if anything interesting is lurking and to see what I can permanently delete.  

·         I’ll spend half an hour going through them – the oldest to the newest looking at anything that is interesting.

·         Then I’ll just carry on and only answer the important ones.

·         As I work I’ll file or delete.

·         I’ll then leave my inbox open on until about 9 p.m. and will deal with anything urgent even after that first sweep. 

·         I aim to answer emails within 48 hours.  I usually manage this.  

Some dislikes

·         I can’t stand emails that start “Gill,”. They rather remind me of when my mother was about to tell me off. Though, she called me “Gillian” then.  

·         Emails without any form of salutation just sound downright rude. I’m almost minded to say I won’t even look at them. However, it is more reasonable if it’s a reply or a reply to a reply.

·         Several emails coming one after another, adding a little more information each time. It’s confusing and somewhat unprofessional. Any email should be as carefully thought out as a letter.       

·         People who expect an instant response – and then keep nagging when they don’t get it.  I refuse to be at the beck and call of my inbox 24/7. If I give in to that, nothing else will be done.

The tyranny of email

If we’re not careful, email can overwhelm us.  It is a very useful tool. We should remember that it is there to serve us not rule us.   

Friday 10 September 2021

An Interview with Dianne Stadhams


Today I'm interviewing on my  blog Dianne Stadhams. We have published several of her short stories in our annual anthologies. We have also been pleased to publish her linked short story collection  Links. Today we are talking  to her about her writing in general and about her YA novel Doll Face.    


What do you write? Why this in particular?

So many reasons! Because I enjoy telling stories. Because I am incensed at the level of social injustice... literature is a powerful tool to raise awareness and contribute to social change. Because ageing women in developed world societies are increasingly invisible. Actually I'm guessing they always have been... or vilified as witches etc. And just BECAUSE!!!

 What got you started on writing in the first place?

I have always enjoyed writing... from school (where teachers got me to write to keep me quiet and sitting still) to work (where I wrote non-fiction which included anything from business development plans and evaluations to academic articles on poverty alleviation strategies). From my passion for theatre I started writing scripts and had some success. When I moved to a rural area and briefly joined a writers' group I started writing short stories because the other members didn't want to read scripts.

Do you have a particular routine?

I try and write most days but life can be a great disrupter. I hibernate in mid-winter and try to get a first draft of a novel completed.

Do you have a dedicated working space?

Yes I'm very fortunate to have my own office... nicknamed The Tip... say no more... except that it overlooks a forest with Welsh mountains in the background.

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

When I got my first royalty payment. It might only have bought me a coffee or two but it felt momentous and bone fide. I usually say I'm trying to write full-time rather than I AM a writer. It's not exactly lack of confidence. More ego... as people always ask if they would have heard of my books. Answer... err, well, do you want to check me out on Goodreads? Amazon? The Hive? Bridge House Publishing? The Red Telephone?

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

Supportive in that they see writing fulfills a need in me. Delighted that I've had publishing success. I only wish more of them would upload reviews. My family has copies of books on display in their homes... but I'm not sure they've actually read the books.

What are you most proud of in your writing?

Finishing a manuscript; having three plays selected for workshops and productions at London and Bristol theatres; being published.

How do you get on with editing and research?

The research I quite like doing. I tend to delve as it fits the plot point. I find editing works best for me when I write the draft and then put it away for a time. Then what doesn't flow or the gaps in the work leap out.

Do you have any goals for the future?

I have three novels and another collection of short stories I would like to see published.

Which writers have inspired you?

Too many to list but three books that had a massive, positive impact for different reasons are: Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Apeirogon by Colum Mc Cann.

And about Doll face specifically:

So, tell me about Doll Face

Doll Face is the story of what happens when Tilly is taken hostage on holidays. She’s 14, feisty, funny and was born with Mosaic Down Syndrome. Post-holiday Tilly is not sleeping. Her parents and school are worried. Tilly is sent for therapy where she shares her views on tourism development and land rights campaigners. With her secret passion for dodgy websites Tilly’s decision to tell the world her version of the truth and what justice is really all about goes viral.

Doll Face is told through the eyes of Tilly talking to her psychologist; naive Yousef, the young, British educated, leader of the campaign group who seize the tourists to raise awareness about environmental issues; ambitious student Giselle, a wannabe journalist reporting for a British television channel, whose arachnophobia triggers a deadly crisis; smitten Private Jack, a British soldier sent to deal with the hostage situation who is flattered by Giselle’s flirtation but learns the price of interference; and loyal friend Jane Doll, Tilly’s alter ego who accompanies her at all times and is the namesake on her Internet blog.

The novel was short-listed for the Triskele prize for debut writers.

Tell us about your research for this book.  

Much of the reason for writing the book came from my work and studies in tourism development in some of the world's poorest communities. How individuals, communities and governments see tourism and its benefits can be contentious. The research on Down Syndrome was rooted in my experience with a friend's child over many years, contact with a charity and a lot of reading about the topic.. 

What inspired you to write this? 

I am fascinated and amused at how other people view their worlds. A childlike perspective can be so inspirational and reveal a powerful truth.

What's next?

Editing the manuscript of a sequel to a who dunnit. The first novel, Crococdile Tears, was set in the 1990's. The sequel is set in contemporary times.

Completing an immersive, theatrical script with original music and lyrics which will premiere in Gloucestershire on June 25 2022.

 Do you have any events planned?

Attending the launch in London of Resolutions, a collection of short stories by Bridge House Publishing. My story, Advent Calendar, opens the collection




Sunday 5 September 2021

Time in Stories

       Smart Watch, Apple, Wrist, Wristwatch

One of the first edits I do on a completed novel is to check whether the time works. I’ve just completed that for The Glastonbury Specification. I never have too many problems with this as I’m quite a planner and it’s already, to a large extent, planned in.  But of course some things slip as you write them.

Also I need to check if the time is clear to the trader- if the time matters.


How I do it

I read through the whole novel and put into the title chapter when this takes place and how long it lasts. Sometime there are just a few minute in a chapter and sometimes there may be gaps of months between section breaks. For the sake of creating cliff hangers there are often just a few seconds between chapters thought sometimes one fast forwards to the consequences of what has happened at the end of a chapter.


What I look out for

I’m looking to see:

  • That time doesn’t pass too quickly
  • That there’s enough time for a human to live – to sleep, eat, get dressed, go to the toilet, though of course one doesn’t need to give details of all of these things
  • That longer time frames work – e.g. no ten month pregnancies, not traveling light years in a few days, no cooking a casserole in a few minutes


Marking time

This can be done with weather, plants, light, - or lack of it – actual named times, the presence of watches and clocks, the length of journeys.

I have a particular challenge with what I’m writing at the moment. Quite a bit of the novel is set on a space ship.  I have decided that it has its own time but this is based on the earth’s twenty-four hour clock. The main character live permanently on a planet that goes through all the seasons in one day – so morning is spring, afternoon is summer etc. Its relationship to its tow suns is the same way as the earth is to our sun otherwise. They are going to a planet that takes a lot less time to circle its sun. Its moon goes through is phases in three of our weeks.     


Time can be a tricky character. We need to keep it under control.