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Stationery

A writer friend posed a question on Facebook today asking if anyone else had a stationery addiction. That would be me.  I have more notebooks than I expect to get through, but I still see a pretty notebook and want it. During the discussion on the post, I also realised that I have distinct uses for the different types of notebooks I have.

The picture is of the drawer I keep of the unused notebooks that look good.  Most of them are spiral bound and hard backed, because these are the type I most like to do my first draft writing in.  These are generally A5 but a few are B5, but mostly I prefer A5.

I use the A6 notebooks for ideas. They’re easy to carry and if they get messed up, I don’t mind. I have one I’ve nearly filled with ideas for my next steampunk trilogy, including character descriptions, background data, details on fashion, architecture, world history and even sketches of ‘hieroglyphs’ that will be used in the series.

What I won’t photograph are the stacks of A4 pads and papers that I have at least two magazine racks packed with.  These I keep for editing, when I write out the story events by chapter to ensure that I’ve got everything I the right order.  This does not, of course, include my stash of A4 printer paper.

The there are the piles of part used notebooks from which I have torn pages already transcribed.  These get used when I want to write something short, usually one-off-scenes or short stories.  Or maybe when the mode is “I need to use up some of these notebooks” before someone points out my notebook hoard is out of control.

Glue-spined, soft-cover notebooks are not a favourite , which means I won’t buy them, but I still get gifted them.  These notebooks I use for working out stuff, crosswords clues, codeword possibilities, games score, or generally use as needed.

Remember this is just about my stash of writing papers. Probably best not to ask about my pen/pencil collection – and don’t even start on the sticky notes!

I love stationery, how about you?

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Crime Blog

Here’s a thing you may not know about me, I have a second blog:

GB Williams Crime Blog

If you get a chance, please pop over there in February as I’m posting a series of interviews with crime authors and I’m finding it interesting to learn more about what makes these people tick.

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Month 1

My new notebook for my new novel – let’s hope the wording is prophetic

Like a lot of times when you reach a milestone, it’s time to celebrate and take stock.  I sat down this evening and felt like I haven’t done anything.

But that’s not true.

Over January, I completed an editing commission, I finished editing my own latest novel, and I completed dry January, though in all honesty, I’m also looking forward to having a drink next week.

But I also managed to read seven books.  I don’t think I’ve every read that many books in a month before. 

I’ve also achieved a fair bit this weekend. I read one whole book in the last two days.  Ata 225 pages, okay, not the longest, but still a whole book. I also managed to read the first “Book” of the Iliad.  That is one dense read! There are 24 books within the Iliad, doubt I’ll get through that whole tome in a month let alone a weekend. 

I also did two things this weekend that have really helped my mental health.  Firstly, I dressed properly, not just dressed – I do that every day.  But it was that I dressed in smart(ish) clothes. Including an actual skirt.  I can’t remember the last time I wore an actual skirt.

The second thing I did, yesterday, was that I started writing a new book.  I had got out a new notebook, and I started writing.  I got the notebook because I was in pain in my left hand and I couldn’t face typing then (clearly better today).  So I wrote, and I wrote 21 pages long hand, more than that – I am LOVING this story.

Today, I also spent a far amount of time tidying up my website and my blogs, yes, blogs, not just this one, by my crime writing blog, too.  I put out a call to other crime writers, and many of them have agreed to do blogs for me, which is fabulous, and I can’t wait to learn more of my follow wordsmiths.

So yeah, a good month, I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished and I’m hoping that it’s a sign of how the rest of the year will go.

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Good Reading

Writers need to be readers, and I do enjoy a good read.

Last year I got through 48 books.  These included the very long (584 pages), the very short (67 pages), graphic novels and audible books.  I know some people get sniffy that listening to books doesn’t count, but that doesn’t mean I know any less about the book because I listened instead of read, I still count them. Equally some people get sniffy about graphic novels being included, well those people can count what they want, I’ll count what I want.  And I know I’m getting the better part of the bargain because graphic novels are a real artform in themselves.

When setting my goal for this year because I don’t have the commute and I’m a slow physical reader, I decided that I’d cut my Goodreads goal down to 24. That’s two books a month, which for years has been a real trial while working full time and writing.

So far this year, and January isn’t even over yet, I’ve read six books. And I started on number seven this morning. This has been achieved because I have those two hours a day back. And because I’ve been deliberately selecting books I really, really wanted to read. Even the one I struggled with a bit, I did want to read.  The graphic novel is in there because I wanted to read it before the vaguely related show came out on TV.

I don’t think that this will set a precedent and I’ll read quite so much every month over the coming year, but I have enjoyed what I’ve read. Also I intend to read the Iliad this year, so I’m expecting that to slow me down considerably.

If you want to know what I’m up to reading wise, you’ll find me as Goodreads – Gail B Williams

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Speech to text

Following on from yesterday’s post, I have used several speech-to-text systems.  They all have good and bad points, but here is my experience with them.

The first one I tried was Dragon Naturally Speaking.  It was version 9 that I had, it’s now on 15, so there may (should) have been some improvements in that time.  I found this difficult to get on with, the training took so long it wasn’t worth the effort in the end.  I have a friend that swears by this mind, so it could just be me.  The big benefit of this is that you can use it to voice command just about all of your computer, not that I did. The downside is the cost.

I tried Google dictate – it worked, but not great, not well enough to make it acceptable to me.  One attempt was enough to put me off.

Then I stumbled across this system called Speechnotes. I’ve used this on my tablet, my phone and via the internet.  It works fine, it’s not perfect but good enough for me.  There are only two problems I have with this, it doesn’t do speech marks, and “new paragraph” gives two lines for block paragraphs, so I have to remember to say, “new line”.  Then of course come the hassle of having to transfer it all into whatever word processing tool I happen to be using.  The big benefit is, it’s free.

Word now includes a dictate function.  It has the same issue with speech marks, which gets to me because I tend to carry stories on conversations, but it works well enough and no moving into the word processing tool because I’m already in it.  Unless I’m using Scrivener. The good thing is that it’s part of Word package, so no extra cost.

What I find is all work best where I’m reading out pre-written passages rather than the stop-start speech that comes from creating on the fly. I also find that if it can’t understand unusual names, so I tend to call characters ‘Bob’ or ‘Dave’ and then do a load of universal changes. 

I’m only report my experience, I’d recommend others try a few to find what works for them.

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Not Writing

Whatever you might think from the title, I am in fact writing, but I’m also getting a great amount of pain in my little fingers and hands generally. I have a horrible suspicion that this is the start of arthritis or something similar because the pain is constant, and becomes more intense when I get cold.

Because of this, I’m finding typing a bit uncomfortable at the moment, I can do it for a while, then I have to give my hands a rest. It’s also true that for a while I have suffered with RSI (repetitive strain injury), which I believe has been brought on my years of working on computers, it’s also why I have an ergonomic keyboard and a vertical mouse. But even they can cause strain at times.

The other thing that I’m finding starts to strain is my eyesight. Too much screen time and I have to stop looking. What that means is that I write stuff out longhand in rough to get things down, but that means typing them up can lead to more strain, especially if I’m eager to get on with something new, because I rush and want to press on.

Some of this is doubtless because of my age, I’m 51, but mostly I suspect that it’s because I have never been very good at taking care of myself (hence the state of my mental health last year).  However, what I have found, is that I have an unexpected helper when it comes to the typing.  Speech to text software.  Yes, I’ve used it for a while, and I’ve tried various.  But I try to keep these blogs down to 300ish words, so I’m going to leave it hear for now, and post tomorrow about the different software I’ve used.

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Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday, the third Monday of January is the glummest day of the year due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, dark days, gloomy weather and the arrival of the dreaded credit-card bills. I suspect that those trying to follow Dry January or Veganuary aren’t helping themselves to a certain extent, self-denial often makes one feel worst.  Though alcohol is a depressant, so should be avoided, and I like steak too much to comment on Veganuary.

However, we can all try to make this a less depressing day.  Thinking about or doing stuff for others often helps, and though you can’t exactly go round and have a cuppa with your neighbour, you might be able to call them and check they’re okay, have a chat, make sure they aren’t feeling too alone, and in the process ensure that you aren’t feeling too alone either.

Mental health affects us all, I openly admit to suffering depression, it makes life hard sometimes, and I know how lucky I am to have a loving and supportive family. The things that make me feel better, are, usually, simply, and freely, conversations. I like hearing good news from others. If the others don’t have good news, then I’ll listen to that and sympathise, or help if I’m in a position to, even join in the slag-fest if that’s where the conversation goes.  I’ll encourage where I can. I’ll use a shoulder when all I can do is cry.

The point I suppose is even when we are blue, we don’t have to paint the town red, we just have to share a moment with the people around us. A wave across the street. A note on social media. A chat on the phone or a message/text. So reach out, you are not alone, please don’t be lonely.

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Overused

Am in that part of the editing process where I’m totally happy with the story, and just have to do a lot of work on individual sentences – the copy editing stage. 

This is a stage that I would usually tell authors that they can’t do terribly effectively themselves.  And I do think that’s true, and I will be sending the manuscript on to an editor in due course.  In the mean time I’m putting the book chapter by chapter through an automated checker.

What this shows is that I have a real issue with overused words like “was/were” and “could”, and the other frequent flyers are “think/believe” and “feel/felt”.  Most of the time I find ways to rewrite a sentence to remove many of these instances.

Only this book is proving a problem.  The story is a thriller told from two points of view, for the first half of the book, the characters are separate, and they have lots of questions.  Questions about each other and what they are doing and what they are capable of doing.  So there’s a lot of lines like, “Was he doing this?” or “Could she do that?”

What this means is that I am doing everything I can to reduce numbers in line with the program, but I’m just not getting there in some cases.  Still, the thing to remember is that these program have been written against rules.  Rules for general purposes, there will be times when those rules have to be broken and in a story of questions, was and could will be more used than in most scripts, I’m not going to knock myself out with it.

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Virtual Festival

Today, I have been largely at a literary festival.

I know, we’re not supposed to go anywhere, and I didn’t, it was all on-line.  Me and a load of other writers getting together thanks to Showboat TV and talking about our writing.  And in my case my editing too.

We’re talking about our books, old and new, and reading segments of the book.  It made me think that I should read a snippet of each of my books and stick them on my website too, but to do that I’d actually have to listen to me and that is so cringe-worthy I’m not sure I could.

With lockdown, I’m actually finding that there are advantages to on-line literary festivals.  For a start, I don’t have to travel.  Now don’t get me wrong – I LOVE travelling, but it takes up a lot of time, can be uncomfortable and stressful.  It means staying in places you don’t know and buying food you can’t be certain of.

On-line means I only have to travel from one end of the house to the other – and it really isn’t that big a house. I get the comfort of my own chair, let alone my own bed at night, and I can have whatever food I want.  Today I made a jambalaya and it was lovely – and it meant that the place smelt great for the afternoon when I did the second slot.

More importantly, it meant that I got to met up with some old writer pals I’ve not seen in ages because we usually met up at festivals and book fairs and of course, we haven’t had any of those for a year.

So if you’d like to hear what’s going on with writing in Wales, check out www.showboat.tv as they will be putting recordings of the day up on their site.  See how we writers can put words on the page, but can’t always read them out.  😉

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Writer Editor

Writers don’t write as much as they edit.

It’s a odd statement but it’s also true. When I’m really writing, I’m basically spewing the story out onto the page.  I love that part, constantly playing a game of what if, knowing that I have to get these people to do certain things and then wondering why they don’t do them, and trying to figure out how to get them back on track.

But after the story is down, there’s still so much work to do.  The editing.  I reckon I take 4 to 5 times longer to get a book edited than to write the thing in the first place.  The editing is all about getting the story right. Making sure that it flows, is sensible and everything works.  It’s polishing the sentence structure and ensuring that the correct character does what they need to when they need to do it.

Then it’s running through the various writing checkers for spelling and grammar and all the other technicalities.  Only then can you send the manuscript out.

And it it’s accepted, it will invariably come back with more edits to do. Writers write, but they spend an awful lot of time editing too.

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