Tag Archives: editing


Felt a little down today, but this time is was a physical down not a mental one.

My period started again. Painful periods are not new or unique to me, many women suffer the same and worse. Menstrual pain has been a part of my life since I hit puberty.  Sometimes it’s just general discomfort, sometimes I can’t stand straight and at it’s worse, I’m curled up in a ball, hot water bottle on my back, pain killers in my belly and crying. Today’s experience was just a strong discomfort with occasional sharp cramp when I moved. Which is better than it was yesterday, severe discomfort and unwillingness to move.

But today was painful enough to know that it was not the day to do work that would stress my back, meaning I was in no condition to go weed the front garden which was my plan for today.

Instead I sat at my desk, because my desk chair is the most supportive, and I edited. I managed to get through to the end of the novel I started editing yesterday.  That is the one that I printed and ranted about earlier in the week and edited on paper, I finished transferring those edits to the electronic version today.

It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was productive.

All I have to do now is take it from the scenes as I’ve written them into readable chapters.

Oh, and weed the front garden, but both of those are for another day.

Now stay safe and stay well.

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Not been sleeping again.  Got about three hours last night and that was broken. 

Consequently, today hasn’t been great. I’m shattered and feeling off colour.  Had a sneezing fit this morning which was a worry until I discovered that today was a high pollen alert, especially for trees, and it is tree pollen I’m allergic to.  An antihistamine sorted the problem out.

Went out for a bit of a walk today, saw a neighbour hadn’t seen for months, spoke over her garden wall, so at least 2 meters away.  But also found out she’s having a little trouble getting food delivery slots (something I’m sure lots of people are experiencing). I took her phone number so that when I next go shopping I can pick any odd bits up for her.

Editing hasn’t gone well today, because I couldn’t concentrate. I put it aside and decided not to beat myself up about it. Had some good news from my crime publisher, they’re going to release some of my books in American in June.

Also managed to catch up with a mate of mine who I haven’t really spoken to for a while, he’s made a job change and it’s working out well. Am pleased for him, and a bit jealous.

I have been signed off for another 4 weeks, which hopefully will help me get back on track, but I feel at a bit lose at the moment, but things will improve.

Did do the paella today, and the family wolfed it down.  Daughter’s cooking tomorrow, hubby the day after. Hubby on nights, daughter and I have been watching “Alien” because she’d never seen it before (age 21).

Am very tired, so once this is posted, I’m off to bed (have taken a sleep aid, which should help).

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Finished novel (prints from last page forward)

Exactly two weeks ago I got an email from my American publisher asking for books 2 to 4 of my steampunk series. Book 2 was ready, book 3 needed revision and I’d only written 62k of book 4, and I hadn’t written a word of it since January.

Books 1 and 2 were both in the region of 96k, book 3 stretched to 106k. So there was lots to do. 

I love writing, I find writing good for my mental health, so I’ve been writing book 4 with renewed vigour. Today, I’ve finished it, which is to say that I’ve finished the first draft, any writer will tell you that that still means that there’s loads of work to do. The first 2 days were taken up with checking book 3 before sending it, that means that in 12 days I have written 45k words to finish book 4.

Next step is printing out to start the editing process. The book is 500 pages. Which I got – eventually.  My printer did not want to play ball.

I colour code my writing as a reminder of whose POV I’m working from.  After 176 pages, the colour cartridge ran out. I don’t have a spare and nipping to Tesco for non-essentials is a bit off right now.  So, I turned the whole script to black text and printed the rest. Until the black cartridge ran out.  Thankfully I did have a spare black. Then the paper started getting jammed.


I’m glad it’s happening now, because if that had happened two weeks ago, I would have cried or possibly thrown the printer (sometimes my depression leads to rages as well as raging self-loathing).

Still, I have my latest novel, tomorrow I’ll start polishing it. Wish me luck.

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Just to be clear, this like most of the pictures I’ve used in this blog were taken years ago. This one in Bloody Scotland (crime writing festival), about 5 years ago.

Got out today, only a walk to a local store for essentials – including a bottle of wine.  Trust me, after the best of three weeks in the house, it felt like an essential. Mind you, I’ve got a glass of it at my side, turns out it’s not as nice as I remember.  But there again, I did dry January, got through most of February with only one evening of drinking, and haven’t drunk anything since my melt down a few days before I started this blog, when I drank two bottles straight – and much to my surprise and my husband’s annoyance, didn’t have a hangover.

So today, I have:

  • Taken my multivitamins, Brewer’s Yeast and iron
  • Taken a walk
  • Done a chore – vacuuming this time
  • Done about 16 pages of editing
  • Written 1800 words of my novel
  • Taken a bath
  • Listened to The Hairy Bikers Roadtrip CD
  • And worried about my family

This last isn’t symptomatic of anything other than I have family I care about, these are worrying time and I feel helpless. Not depressed helpless, just I know I am helpless, there really isn’t anything I can do to help them, much as I want to.

Anyway tonight I’m going to sit in my bed, write a little steampunk while listening to mostly 80s rock, and sip on a glass of wine. Not glamorous, but it gets me through. So for anyone out there, just keep on rocking.

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Late with this because yesterday was full.

In isolation we all need to reach out where we can, and yesterday I had four contacts. All made me feel simultaneously better and worse.

Depression tends (for me) to lock me in my own head where negative niggles becomes bloody great un-ignorable shouts. Contacts help broaden horizons.  When really depressed I tend to shut down, I did when I got to my worst recently, but then that was what I needed because other voices were just too much. I removed social media from my phone so I not to be disturbed and now only go back on via a laptop, max of an hour a day, much more manageable.

My contacts were:

  • A website. It was professional, took a bit of time, but we sorted some issues. That engendered a welcome sense of achievement.
  • An editing job. I love helping people with their writing, so this felt good. But it also felt bad because it took me away from my writing, which I’m enjoying again. Though the edit isn’t urgent, a job is a job and must be done.
  • My son. He lives away and he’s isolating with his partner who is vegetarian, allergic to gluten and suffers with an exhaustion condition. They are both fine, but because of that way they have to eat, they’re struggling to get hold of the right foods. The downside here was  feeling useless because there’s nothing this mum can do to help.
  • My sister. Thankfully she and her family are safe, so upside! Downside – her wanting details of my illness which she got, but talking about it just made me feel bad.

Point is, now more than ever we need these contacts, especially those of us with mental health issues, so make sure you get them.

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Editing is Hard

“Editing is hard.”

One of my editing clients said this to me the other day – yes even after I’m done tearing apart their manuscripts clients do still speak to me.

My internal voice said “No sh** Sherlock,” but externally I smiled and nodded and agreed.  But it made me realised that this is news to some people.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that writing is easy, that you just scribble a few lines and that’s it, you can self-publish and everything will be great, best seller, right.  Wrong.

You can write a novel in 30 days (see NaNoWriMo), I’ve done it.  Normally I can write a novel in two months – well that is 60 days of work, not always every day for sixty days on a trot because I have a life and two jobs.  But if I had sixty days on full-time writing, I could do it in 60 days, hell full time I would write it in 30 days.  But it wouldn’t by any means be publication ready.

That’s where editing comes in.

Writing is the quick part, editing takes forever, and sometimes it feels like it’ll never end.

Let me give you the example of my last completed novel, Shades of Aether.  This is my first steampunk novel, and I wrote it in about 60 (non-consecutive) evenings.  Then I reread it – the first self-edit.  With that, I picked up any obvious inconsistencies, made any changes I thought necessary, in this case, I upped the level of steampunk in the text. Then I booked it in for an edit.  My editor couldn’t do it immediately, so I have time for another read through to find a few more typos, tweaks, and corrections.  Then it went off to my editor.

Let me underline that – it went off to an editor. At no point did I think that could ever get a book complete for publication on my own.

So it went off to edit, that’s another four weeks gone – though I think in this case it was five weeks.  Then it came back with loads of questions that I hadn’t even thought about, so I had to do some major edits after that to ensure that I answered all those questions for the reader.  Having the facts in my head are no use if I can’t get them onto the page.

So that was another couple of months of rethinking and rewriting, editing and tweaking. And it wasn’t easy.  Some of the questions and queries that had been raised really stretched me, forced me to re-imagine my ending completely.

Then – guess what – more editing.  Yes, I sent it off for another professional edit, because to a certain extent I had a new book.  That one is due back to me any day now, but even then, I’ll still have to edit it, then reread it.  So there’s another couple of months gone by.

Once that is done, then there is the last stage – proofreading.  More time, more money, because proofreading, like editing, cannot really be done by the writer.

Writing the full novel is only the beginning.  Once it’s done all the hard work really starts, that is editing.  So don’t underestimate how much time and effort editing takes, but it’s well worth it.  Editing is the only way that you will ever get a publication ready book.


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Rules and When to Break Them


Rules, rules, rules.

At a conference, I once heard Joanne Harris say that the reason she wrote Chocolat was to break every rule she had been given by an author who had critiqued (and torn apart) another of her novels.  I love that story.

We all know that there are always rules to every aspect of life and writing is no exception.  But here’s the thing about rules – there are exceptions, so I thought I’d highlight a few of those exceptions.

Rule:  Never use ‘Emolument’ when you mean ‘tip’.

(Stephen King)

What this rule is actually saying is keep it simple.  I have an editor who screeches about some of the vocabulary I use.  He hates words like ascend, he writes comments on why it should be ‘went up’, similarly with descend, he doesn’t even like entered or exited.  Now, maybe I wouldn’t use emolument (because I had to go look up what it meant anyway) but as for ascend and descend, entered or exited, they have there a place in the English language so they have a place on the appropriate prose.

When to break the Rule:  When it’s appropriate to what you are writing.

I write crime, mostly contemporary, but I have recently written a steampunk crime novel set in the 1870s.  These are very different styles.  No one in the twenty-teens would descend – that lot go down stairs.  My Victorians though – they descend from the upper floors.  Then there’s conversation.  Like Stephen King says in another of his rules – Talk whether ugly or beautiful, is an index of character. The vocabulary picked for the character tells the reader who that person is.  So if you want an upper-crust, over-educated egotist, they might not so much leave a tip as talk about extending emolument. Yes as a reader I already despise that character, but then that is the point of the description and the vocabulary choice.  Remember Mark Twain’s rule: Use the right word, not its second cousin.

Rules: Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue

(Elmore Leonard)

The more that I edit, the more I agree with this rule.  It also goes back to the previous rule: keep it simple – I say.  Also remember that you don’t have to use speech tags on every line of speech.  But yet, I can’t always agree with Mr Leonard on this one.

When to break the Rule:  When it gets boring.

There is nothing more irritating to a reader than constantly reading the same word, and after a while, that is true of ‘said’ too.  So if someone shouts, say they shouted.  If they whisper, use the word whispered.  But make sure they do so sparingly and correctly.

Rule: Work on one thing at a time until finished.

(Henry Miller)

If you can stick to this rule, good on you.  I can’t and I’m not going to beat myself up over that.

When to break this rule:  When it works for you.

Love this rule as an idea, but let’s get real here it’s not always possible. So let’s bring a little reality to the world and let me give you a clue how this works for me.  Right now I am writing a User Manual, my second steampunk crime novel, and a contemporary thriller.  Now the manual – that’s part of the day job, so I do it in working hours.  While I’m in the office, because I’m also doing other things, if I have to wait for a long calculation or upload, I have my notebook by my side to write the steampunk because I write that out first in long hand, I find it helps with the Victoriana tone. But when I get home at night, if I’m not editing, I write my contemporary crime because I’m doing that on the computer only.  Three things, all writing, and all happening at the same time.

Rule:  The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season

(Stephen King again)

Wow!  To be honest, there’s a huge part of me that utterly agrees with this one.  Generally, I do complete a book in that time frame, so why is it in my list of rules to break?  Because this is a list of WHEN to break the rules.

When to break the rule:  When life gets in the way.

I know that that sounds like a cop-out, and frankly it is, but here’s why.  Unlike Stephen King, I haven’t yet been able to give up the day job, so I can’t write solidly for three months.  If I could this would be easy.  The book that got me my agent was written entirely during NaNoWriMo.  But I know a lot of writers and a lot of us are unnecessarily harsh on ourselves, so you have to be real about the rules you follow.  I started a novel in November I still haven’t finished.  Why haven’t I finished it?  Because I’ve was diverted on to a different novel by some solid agent-y advice, and I have taken some time out to (a) edit my first steampunk crime novel and (b) do a paid editing job.

Admittedly I haven’t finished the other novel either, but I’m 37k words in and trying for 1000 words a day, but even that goal goes by the wayside when I get home from the day-jobbery exhausted.  So the real point of this is to give writers a reason to give themselves a break – don’t beat yourself up too much if you can’t meet this time frame.  Equally – don’t take this as a reason to slouch either.  If it’s taken ten years to write the first draft, that’s not a good sign.

So, go on, be a rebel, break some rules but get the writing job done anyway.

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What a Difference a Week Makes


Well, it’s Jan 3rd and I’m already on the back foot.

I try to blog at the start of the month, but despite having the week between Christmas and New Year off, I didn’t have time to write a blog.  I thought about writing it, but didn’t get around to actually doing it.  However, I did do a lot of other stuff.

Obviously, a lot of the “stuff” I did was Christmas, family and New Years.  Had a great time – thanks for asking – hope you did too.  But I also got a lot of writing work done too.

In the seven days from Boxing day to New Year’s Day bank holiday, I managed to write over 12k words of my latest contemporary thriller.  This may not sound like much to some of you (may sound like masses to others, what would I know), but for me this was a surprising rush.  You see Elaine has been giving me grief all through November and most of December.  Let me explain…

Elaine is my main character and she has to basically carry this book.  She’s an everyman (and no that’s not sexist, it’s just a description), and she has to go through some fairly big changes from the first chapter of this book and I’m now 22 chapters in.  But despite writing and pushing, I couldn’t get her to go where I needed her to go.  This was mostly because I didn’t really know how she was going to go there, or who she was going to have to deal with when she got there.  Well, that’s not entirely true, I knew what he was, I knew what he looked like, I knew what he’d be like, I knew how he would react.  In fact, the only thing I didn’t know, was his name.  But I hadn’t even got to him, and Elaine was still reluctant to go anywhere.

I think in the end what it was, was that like a lot of mothers, she just first had to go see her daughter, and like a lot of those lot of mothers – it took longer than this outsider expected.  But then, there were an awful lot of issues that needed to be resolved between the two of them. Once I’d sorted that things really started to flow.

Then, of course, there was him.  He was fine once I decided what to call him.  That was one moment when keeping a database of my characters was really useful in ensuring that I don’t double name, I had to check it just to be sure, because once I had his name it felt so familiar that it was like déjà vu.

Now they are properly on different teams the book is working well, can’t wait for the time when these two characters have to start actually working together.  Really looking forward to that.

That wasn’t all the writing I did either.

I also hand wrote (yes in a book with a pen) about 1000 words of my second steampunk novel – then I realised I didn’t like it and started all over again with a different point of view character and it works better though I haven’t had chance to catch up to where I was yet.  That has a lot to do with the fact that the new POV required that I start the scene several minutes earlier than I had and that takes up word count – that and now Elaine is cooperating I’m concentrating on her.

I’m also working on an editing commission so that’s me keeping busy.

Unfortunately, I never got the cover design last year, but this year I have found a new artist so I hope to have my collection out in the next few weeks.

Well, life and editing calls…


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Getting an Agent – some more ideas

Getting an Agent isn’t easy, but a lot of traditional publishers still use Agents to screen writers (yes I do mean that as two words) so they don’t have to wade through the worst of the submissions.  It took me years to find an agent, but I finally got one.  If you keep trying you can make it HAPPEN.  Here’s some more ideas of how:  (First ideas were here)


You have to be honest, not only with the agent you are submitting to but also with yourself.  Make an honest assessment of your own skill level.  You will need help with this, independent help.  Asking your friends and family will probably result in willing encouragement – the most encouragement I ever got from family was a sister who reviewed a book with the quote “I really wanted not to like this book but…”  To be fair after that it did get complimentary, so I can’t complain. The best avenues for feedback I’ve had have been my local writers circle (Swansea and District Writers’ Circle) and my editors Tony at Jefferson Franklin Editing and Sam at Bowler Fern Ltd (different editors for different types of books).  Yes, I have to pay them but they will tell me with I’m producing rubbish (I’ve ditched a whole series of novels because Tony said the main character didn’t work).  If you’ve got talent, you can make it, and remember I am telling you to be honest, honesty does not necessarily include that paranoid voice in the back of your head that constantly tells you you’re not good enough – surely I can’t be the only one with that?

You also have to be honest when you approach the agent.  You will have to produce a covering letter that says a bit about you and your intentions, don’t tell them that you’re going to write four books a year unless you actually can.  Most people are lucky to be able to one done a year, two for some.  Also be honest about what you are doing now.  If they are the only agent you are approaching, tell them why, and if not, say that you’re doing simultaneous submissions.  Some won’t mind, others might, that’s a risk you’ll have to take.



Know your audience is one of those phrases that often comes up about writing.  This time what I’m talking about is know the agent you’re approaching.  Get personal – within reason.  Make sure you know their name at least, “Dear Sir or Madam” does not cut it.  Know what that agent is looking for, appeal to that.  If you’ve met them, reference the meeting – possibly relate what they said to what you’re doing.  For example, if the agent mentioned that they were looking for a working class hero, say something like, “Joe Bloggs is just the working class hero you mentioned looking for”; again be concise.  Be clear about why you want to work with that agent.  If you know who the audience is for your book, don’t forget to mention that, it will help the agent figure out if you are an author for them.



Remember that you are approaching a professional, so you need to be professional in your approach because if you are to have a relationship with an agent, it has to be a professional one.  Don’t waste their time.  Prepare your covering letter and synopsis with all the same care and attention that you prepared your manuscript.  Make sure it makes sense, that it’s concise and intriguing and it doesn’t contain any spelling or grammar mistakes.



This is, for most, the most difficult part of getting an agent.  It takes time to send each submission and each submission takes time to get a response to.  I’ve had refusals take anything from two weeks to six months, and plenty that have never even bothered to respond.  I do now have an agent, and that was a long process.  It took about four or five months from submission to signing the agency contract.  I have no idea how that measures up to other people’s time frames.  I’ve spoken to a number of writers who have been through this experience and it’s a general consensus that you have to wait at least a month before chasing a response.  Then if you really want to contact the agency again, do so, but if you do, for everybody’s sake, BE POLITE.  Ask nicely if they received your submission and if they can tell you of any progress.  Don’t go in on the attack, you could have the next big thing as far as the industry is concerned, but if you’re rude to the receptionist, you are not going to get that agent.   Also remember that if you do get an agent, you still have to get a publishing deal, that could take a couple of years and when you get a publishing deal you’re looking at about 18 months before the book hits the shelves, so patience is the watch word in this job.



As the literary markets get harder and harder to make money from, the more agents are looking for publication-ready manuscripts and that means you need to edit your story.  You will, of course, need to edit your novel yourself from the first draft forward, but I’d strongly recommend that you also get a professional edit (and not just because I’m an editor).  Yes, this is expensive, but try to think of it more as an investment.  It amazes me what errors/gaps/issues an editor can spot in my scripts, amazes me what I find in other people’s scripts.  Spotting a problem is halfway to solving it, and most editors will give advice on how to make things better and that is invaluable.

Of course, the biggest expenditure is in the effort you have to put in.  Writing a book takes time, sweat and tears, so does going the traditional publishing route.  Don’t think that means I’m suggesting self-publishing – I’m not, but there again, there are stories of people who have self-published and got agents that way, but it is few and far between, on or two in thousands upon thousands, so don’t pin all your hopes on that possibility. There again, if you are self-publishing – spend money on a good editor it is important.



Words may be our stock in trade, but there is a big argument that getting an agent is a numbers game.  Each agent is just one person, one person’s opinion.  If the first doesn’t like your manuscript, try the next.  If the thirtieth doesn’t like it, try the thirty-first.  Think of each rejection as one step closer to acceptance.  Though if you have to go much past forty agents I would suggest that the issue is the book not the agents, but on the other had Kathryn Stockett was turned down by 60 literary agents before she found someone willing to represent The Help.  Also, remember that things change over time.  It’s possible that this year no agent will touch a story about a prince in waiting[1], but maybe next year they’ll bite your hand off for it.  You can’t follow the trends in publishing because by the time your book is ready, the trend will have changed.  Set your own trend.


So there you have it, go out and make getting an agent HAPPEN for you.


[1]  You can steal this idea if you want, but John Christopher wrote it 1970.


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No, No, NaNo, No


Well, we’re halfway through the month and if you are NaNoWriMo-ing then you should be around 25k into your work.  Where am I?  About eleven thousand words.

I have pretty much given up on NaNo this year, not because I’m not writing, quite the opposite in fact. So do I feel like I’m failing?  Actually, yeah a little bit, but there’s absolutely no reason for me to feel that way, it’s not like I’m not working.

The reason I’m not NaNo-ing is that I’m working through my collection of short stories “Last Cut Case Book” as I need to get that finalised asap; I’m editing on my steampunk novel which I’ve had back from my editor and now want to polish, and I am still working on the novel I had finally settled on for NaNo, just not concentrating on that alone and therefore not writing it as fast as NaNo requires.

I know I’m not the only one who has given up, I’ve seen similar posts on Facebook and Twitter, and in blogs. Not just this year either.  This is the fourth year I’ve started Nano, but it’s the first year that I haven’t been a winner.  So why do people not complete the challenge?

I’ve heard some people complain that it’s one of the shorter months, which I honestly don’t get.  It’s not February  there are still 30 days, plenty of time if you devote yourself, one more day won’t make that much difference.

I’ve heard that a number of my American friends say it’s difficult because they are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas – that I get, but then it was all started in America so I’m sure that was taken into consideration.

My own issues are that it’s my birthday this month, right at the end admittedly and I don’t have to do much for that.  But this year I’m also off to Iceland Noir and that’s basically a week away from home and I don’t even know if I can take my laptop yet.  However, at a minimum, I will be taking my tab, so I can write on that.

Anyway, my point in writing this is to say that, just because we might not be NaNoWriMo winners, that doesn’t make any of us losers.

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