Category Archives: writing

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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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.

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-GB
X-NONE
X-NONE

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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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Bloggers

Been reading an ARC, advance reader copy, in case anyone wonders.  This is only the second time I’ve every done this, and I oddly feel the pressure because I have to get it read and reviewed by a specific date.

I shouldn’t be pressured, because that date is more than two weeks away, and I’m loving this book so much I’m already a third of the way through on day 2. I don’t want to put it down.

But it made me think about all the hard work that book bloggers must go through to keep their reading and reviewing up to date. It has to be remembered that book bloggers don’t get paid, they don’t always get the books for free (though often), so to read that many books and write often in-depth reviews, is really quite impressive. 

I couldn’t get through reading one book a week to review, I’ve got too much else going on. I’ve doing the Goodreads reading challenge this year, and so far I’m 22 books in, and most of that because I listen to Audible books too.  I’ve only set a challenge of 48 books this year, which I don’t feel any pressure to fulfil. If I miss my own expectations, so what?  Reading is about relaxing and enjoying. I’m not comparing my reading to someone else, that’s pointless, this is not a competitive sport.

And if it was, the bloggers I know would have me beat hands down. And good on them, they do a fabulous job for all authors, and largely go unsung.  So, thank you bloggers. I am in awe.

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Want to Write a Privileged White Male – Part 2

Okay, so here’s Part 2 in which, as promised I share some of the things men have said to me that just go to prove their PWM standing, though in some cases it’s more a case of just sheer stupidity, I’ll let you decide which is which.  Of course, there are levels of PWM extremism which is why I’ve given two definitions in some cases, also remember, some men are like this because they don’t know better and some are like this because they believe that they already know best.  Don’t cast them all in the same depth of shade.

What he says What he means
You seem to have misunderstood … You’re wrong and it’s your fault
I didn’t intend … It’s not my fault
… it’s a longstanding trademark… And I’m not going to change
… my lack of protocol is legendary… I’ll do what I want regardless
… I wasn’t bypassing you … I can’t see it so it can’t matter

OR

I was, and I don’t care

… I suppose this is typical of me … I’ve no intention of changing
I’ve never experienced… Therefore, it didn’t happen
I haven’t seen that You made it up
It’s just me being me You must make allowances

OR

I don’t see why I should change

What you need to understand is… Your tiny female brain can’t cope with the big male facts
Don’t worry your pretty little head… You’re a bimbo with no brain, let the big clever man take care of things
It’s not equality they’re looking for, it’s female privilege How dare any woman think they’re as good as me

OR

I’m higher up the ladder than my skills warrant and I’m under threat.

… shouldn’t dress provocatively. It’s women’s fault that I can’t control my sexual urges
Why Privileged White Males? Isn’t that racist? If I posted about … I’d be banned You’re discriminating against me and I’m going to whine about it.
I don’t have to put up with your attacks. Adieu! I can’t find a way to counter the valid statement you just made so I’m flouncing out.

 

Should you want to put the cherry on the cake of the PWM character – and let’s face it PWMs think they all deserve the cherry – you could always have him use a number of the above phrases in a so-called ‘apology’ then email mutual connections of some description to tell them how he tried and so that “everyone can appreciate [his] grovelling.”

What now follows is quotes from other people who shared their experiences with me,

What they said What I heard
Don’t want a baby? Keep your legs shut. Birth control is not my responsibility.
Slavery’s not too bad, they were housed, fed, and clothed Humans who aren’t like me are worth less, may not even be human.
Can’t do anything without it being some kind of sexual assault! I don’t respect women and should be able to grab what I want, when I want.
There’s no such thing as the gender pay gap Women aren’t as skilled as men so aren’t worth the same pay

 

As mentioned, feel free to use any of the above for inspiration, but here are two quotes from Val Portelli and her book “Story of A Country Boy”, that illustrate exactly what I’m talking about:Another perennial that I’m sure more then than a few can identify with, probably anyone who isn’t a privileged white male, in fact, is the repeating of your idea as if it’s their own.  Love that one.

‘… when I asked what was for dinner, she had the cheek to tell me to make it myself! Well, if that didn’t deserve a slap I don’t know what did.’

‘She didn’t apologise, but the next morning I came down to find a proper cooked English breakfast so I forgave her.’

 

Before anyone screams, yes – I know not all men are like this. I’ve given extreme definitions to illustrate the point. I suspect that this blog will offend a man or two, but if it does, perhaps those men should stop for a moment and question why they find this offensive.  I find parts of this offensive because it’s been used against me.  I find parts of this offensive because it’s been used against others.

The unfortunate truth is that privileged white males exist.  As it is a part of human experience there will be people who want to write about it, which is why I’m putting this out as what to consider if you want to portray a written character as a privileged white male.  In real life, most men, thankfully, do not think or act this way and hopefully, in a generation or two, none of them will.

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Want to write a Privileged White Male? Part 1

PWM2

Do you want to write a character who is a privileged white male?  No, I’m not sure why you would either, unless he’s the villain of the piece in the modern era. And yes, there is so much on this topic that I’m having to split this into 2 blogs.  Well, there’s probably enough for more that 2 blogs, but there’s a limit for most things.

Now I don’t claim I’m perfect, far from it, I have nasty little thoughts of prejudice, but I try to recognise and reduce them.  What I’ve found of late is that there are some men who think that they are being prejudiced against when actually, the level of the playing field is just being evened up.  They simply don’t see that they are the product of a system that actively promotes them over others.

Anyway, I’ve encountered a fair bit of this behaviour over the years, so I thought I’d share some of the things that have been said to me and if you want to use them, feel free. If I find a need for a loathsome character of this nature, I’d sure I’ll be trotting a few of these out too.

On the topic of positive discrimination:

  • It’s discrimination
  • If I did something for only white heterosexual males, I’d be locked up
  • The best women will always rise
  • Why should we have an International Women’s Day?
  • Why should I put up with something mediocre just because it’s from a woman?

It’s discrimination – yes, it is, but it only feels bad to you because you’re being excluded from a tiny, tiny race when you’re allowed to enter all other races and are in fact, given a head start in most.

If I did something for only white heterosexual males, I’d be locked up – Oh if only!  In the UK the vast majority of everything is still run, led and set up to support and promote white heterosexual males.  So, there are a few things out there that want to actively promote women – yey for them, everything else is already yours.

The best women will always rise – Yes, they will. The problem is that anyone below the best, including the very good and the good women, still get pipped at the post by mediocre or useless men.  Why should women have to fight for what men are handed on a plate?  A few weeks ago, I was talking to a woman working in the construction industry and she asked why a man younger than her with less experience was given the promotion she was after, and she was told that it was because she had children.  When she pointed out that so did the promoted man, she was told, “Well that’s different.”  You want to see how male-dominated all the major events/breakthroughs of the last 200 years are, go look who got the praise for putting men on the moon, who got the awards for discovering DNA, there are hundreds of examples, just open your eyes to them.

Why should we have an International Women’s Day?  – Because the other 364 days are year are all about men, 365 days a leap year, and let’s face it, even on International Women’s Day, some men still find a way to make it all about men. This is the same reason we need Black History Month because everything else is whitewashed.

Why should I put up with something mediocre just because it’s from a woman? – Why should put up with mediocre and rubbish from men, just because they’re men?  Despite 100 years of the vote and 30 years of Equal Opportunities legislation, we still don’t have equality in the workplace.

This is now a long blog, so I’ll finish here, but don’t worry, you won’t have to wait long for part 2 in which I’ll share some of the things PWM say and what they actually mean.

Also, I want to say that these examples are from a minority. I know most men, and women, out there are actually good guys trying hard to straddle the world our grandparents and parents knew to the one we live in and the one we want to make better for our children and grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

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