Between other things today, I have been working on my short story for the Honno submission. I’ve got the word count to the exact allowance, and I’ve checked spelling and grammar, all seems okay.
Only thing is – I’m not sure if it’s great or awful.
This kind of self doubt is not exactly a me problem, it’s a writer thing. Lots of writers I know suffer with what’s called ‘imposter syndrome’. We’re all just waiting to be found out. The reality is that we’re not imposters, but writing is a difficult game.
Anyway, one thing about the short story, is that it’s actually an origin story for the main character in a new series that I’m working on. So I’m hoping that my story gets picked because it’s the first test of the character, so if it gets rejected, I’m in trouble for the series. Very nerve wracking.
Today the Reading Between the Lines festival began, and I was very fortunate to be on a panel this afternoon with Jackie Baldwin and Val Penny.
Before the event we read one another’s books and used those as a basis for the discussion.
All three books have a strong theme of family, not just blood relations, though of course there are plenty of those, but the families we choose to be part of, through friendship, proximity, work and whatever it is that brings people together.
If you want to hear what we had to say, check out the YouTube Reading Between the Lines channel and look for our video, should be up soon. Of course because this is a channel, you’ll also find all the other events there. And congratulations to Lynsey Adams from doing the hard work of pulling all this together.
Timing is everything in life, but what about in competition?
The last week I’ve been working on a short story for a competition for Honno Crime Anthology, see Honno for details. I’ve written a whole 5,000 word new and original story. I’ve had a friend look over it and give me notes. I’ve edited it and I’m happy with it.
It’s now 22nd of March and the competition doesn’t close until the 30th June. So what do I do? Do I send it off now or wait till June?
If I send it off now, that will mean it’s done and I can forget all about it and concentration on other projects.
If I wait, I can put it to the back of my mind for a couple of months, then read/edit again before I send off. But I’ve got a memory like a sieve – what if I forget to send it? Well I guess that’s what diary reminders are for. I’ve also got a dying laptop – what if I lose the file? Well that’s what doing a backup is for.
What if in the intervening months, I think of a whole new short story worth putting in? Well if I’ve not sent anything, then it won’t matter, I can write the new idea and compare the two, then decided. Or possibly send two – not sure if that’s allowed, doesn’t say one way or the other, but I’ll check later.
This is just one of those writer dilemmas that I’m never sure of. What would you do?
I know I didn’t do much here but that was because I was busy on my crime blog, I did an author interview per day, and I’m deep into an editing commission, did an interview about my last crime release and I’ve been finishing one steampunk series and starting another. I was also reading a lot, mostly because I have a couple of festivals coming up – more on them later.
While this is my musing blog, I also set it up to talk about writing more, and share some experiences/knowledge and learning with you guys. I hope you find at least some of it interesting. So over the coming months, I intend to have a few guest posts, see what others have to say too. Hope that that’s okay with you all, shoul spice things up a bit.
Reading wise this year I set my Goodreads challenge at 24 – I read 7 books in January and am on 10 for February. Though to be honest, I think it was 6, you see I read a comic volume (yes they still count) which Goodreads only had in issue form, so it counted as 5 instead of 1 book. Seeing that – I bumped up my target to 30 to more than compensate. However, since I’ve already done 17 in total, I may bump that up. What to I haven’t decided yet, may go to 48, which is what I did last year. Once I decide, I’ll hitch the target up.
If you want to follow me on Goodread – friends are always welcome, here’s the link to me (and yes, that is now a very old photo!)
Have fun as we move on to March, and happy St Davids Day.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.