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Two Hectic Months!

Just a little bit of my white board.

Sometimes I wonder if I get anything done, then I have a couple of months like the last two and I wonder how I’ve kept up. June and July have been totally hectic!

In the last two months I have written 4 short stories, completed 3 editing commissions, been part of 4 writing events and several committee meetings, made 3 agent submissions, created a new blog, post on 3 different blogs, figured out a new ending for a book, and been as active as I could be on social media.

I wrote all the four short stories for submissions to an anthology, the shortest one is 6k, longest 10k. To be honest, two of these may not make it to anthologies, and go instead to collections of my own, maybe even reader magnets for joining my newsletter. Honestly, I don’t know but I have until the end of September to decide.

I love editing and helping authors with their work, and what I really love about this is that I get to read books I might not otherwise see. I’m also really blessed this last two months as all three books, while very different, were well written and enjoyable to read.

The writing events I’ve attended have taken a huge range of formats. During the PWA Crime Writing Week, I picked up some great tips. I chaired the CWA/Diamond Crime online event for National Crime Reading Month in which I interviewed Jaqueline Harret, Gwyneth Steddy, and Thorne Moore. I attended the Waterstones author evening with Philip Gwynne Jones for “The Angels of Venice”, which was a fun evening. And I was at Harrogate Crime Festival which led to the agents, see my last blog.

Committee Meetings have been for the Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival which is shaping up nicely.

Agent Submissions are the three I secured at Harrogate, and I really hope that something comes of that.

I’ve started a new blog for steampunk, Shades of Aether, which I’ve already put nine blogs on, and schedule the next. Then there’s the Crime Blog, and of course this one.

The new ending is for the next Elaine Blake book. Because of the situation in Ukraine, I’ve been asked to move the action away from there, for obvious reasons. I selected the new location quickly. What’s taken a lot more brain power was how the characters and action will play out in that new location because it can’t be a simple case of changing the city name and leaving it as it. I’ve got the storyline sorted now, so it’s just a case of writing it now.

And of course, social media gets a mention because it’s something we all do. I admit I could be more active here, but there are only so many hours in a day. 

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Okay, reaction to the rejection over.  Big girl pants on and behaving myself today.

After my wobble, I tripped over an older log of mine, this one: Getting an agent – some more ideas.  So I read it. You know what, when I’m not an emotional cripple, I actually can talk some sense.  

As a result, yesterday evening, after I’d finished working, I sat down with “The Writers and Artist Yearbook” (admittedly from 2019, but that’s new enough), and went through looking for other possible agents. I checked their websites to ensure that they were open to submissions and if so, what they wanted in a submission – not all agents want the same thing so there’s no point in sending the same thing to everyone.

I also had a bit of a chat about things with a couple of friends who were helpful with suggestions about agents they know and who cast a quick eye over my submission prep. I then spent this morning revising and polishing my pitch, synopsis and first 50 pages.  And more importantly, I’ve submitted to another agent. 

This is good on the principle that each submission is one step closer to the agent who’s going to take me on.  But there’s still the awful wait of up to 3 months to hear possibly nothing if they aren’t interested.  But that’s the way with agents. All I can do is write my best work and present it, and in the manner of “Sweet Charity”, do my best to live hopefully ever after.

Sweet Charity (1969) - Film | cinema.de

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Catching Up

Well, it’s been a while since I blogged, not quite the month, but I figured it was time I did a bit of a catch up since the last two blogs have been rather ranty.

So catch up then.

Let’s start with the fact that the gag remains in place on Thomasina (see the blog before last).  Feeling quite positive about things, even despite today, which I’ll explain later.

Well, let’s start with a crowning.  I was on the phone to someone and going through the things I enjoy doing.  Writing: crime, steampunk and Cthulhu.  Editing.  Films.  Comics.  Attending comic conventions. Looking at Forensics. Science fiction (especially Dr Who). Quiz shows.  Geocaching.  Yeah, see, scrap away one layer of geekdom and you just get another.  Anyway, I got off the phone and my husband turns to me and says ‘Wow you really are Queen of the Geeks.’  After laughing I did point out that there was nothing in the conversation he didn’t know about, which he admitted, but as he said, he’s watched it build up over all the years we’ve known each other, so he hadn’t quite realised the level to which it had grown.  I should also stress that it wasn’t meant in any way as an insult.

I’ve been working on my novels as usual, but I’ve also put a few short stories out for various anthologies, I’ve only heard back from one, but that was positive, I have another story to be published in an anthology to be released next year.

I’ve also put the novel that got me the agent through to a couple of debut author competitions.  A win in either will help sell the book to a publisher.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

Went to the Swansea and District Writers’ Circle monthly meeting on Wednesday, and one the things that we do is share writers news.  I was able to report that since starting writing for Warped Factor, I’ve actually had 61 articles published.  I would never have expected that many, can’t believe I’ve actually managed more than one a week.  Admittedly most of these are comic reviews, but I do enjoy a good comic.  But I’m particularly proud of a recent film review of Spectre, it really shows how geeky I am with references from here there and everywhere.

While talking about SDWC, should also mention that the feedback group has been really good at giving great feedback.

I found out about NaNoWriMo three years ago.  The first book I wrote was Locked Up, yes the book that got me an agent, the one that went to those debut awards, was a NaNoWriMo piece.  Edited more times than I want to think about, but basically that book.  It was 71k words when I finished the NaNo, 88k at last edit – which I suspect won’t actually be the last edit, but there you go.

Anyway, the reason I mentioned NaNoWriMo is that it’s that time of year again, and I have been NaNoWriMoing again.  November started so busy that NaNoing might as well not have happened.  Sunday 1st – I could barely move I was in that much pain from a run on Saturday, then I lost over four hours travelling up to my mother-in-law’s for a birthday dinner, she was 80.  Lovely meal, but left me with very little time to write, managed a lousy 1198 words. The 2nd was no better, only 800 words, rubbish right?  Right.  But not as rubbish as the 3rd when I wrote nothing.  Zero.  Nada.  Well, actually, nothing is a bit unfair, I did go and watch Spectre and wrote the review I mentioned earlier.

Anyway, I’m trying something a bit different this year, something I’m not sure is going to work.  I’m writing a story in reverse.  I have no idea if this is going to work, but by the end of the month, I should know one way or the other.  Because I have no idea if this is going to work, I haven’t planned this as much I as I usually do, so this is going to be difficult, and just as I don’t know if the idea will work, I’m not confident that I’ll get the 50k target either.

That said, I’ve made up a bit this last two days.  I had some holiday I had to take from work before the end of the year and my husband had some too, so we’ve taken some time off to come away, no housework, no kids (except by text and social media), no chores, few distractions.  Hubby’s doing loads of walking, running and geocaching.  I’m doing a load of writing.

Only it hasn’t quite worked out that way.  Yesterday, Thursday, was a little difficult, normally I write in the car, but driving from south to north Wales is always a nightmare.  The road twist and turn like you wouldn’t believe, so half the time was spent just making sure that my laptop didn’t slide off my lap rather than tattooing.  Also, it was pouring when we got here, so hubby couldn’t spend that much time outside, which meant he was quite distracting.  Still managed to get over 3k words done.

Today was better, cleaner weather allowed hubby go for a run this morning, then we had a nice light lunch together.  After that I came back to the hotel and he went out caching.  Great, I could get on – only there was a fire alarm at the hotel, meaning that I lost an hour from Nanoing.  Really I could scream – actually I could have the alarm was that loud the buzzer being just outside our room.  Still, better safe than sorry even if it was just the guys in one of the rooms being renovated using a steamer to get the old wallpaper off.

Now, at the end of day 6, my daily is just over 4k, I’m a little over 11k when the trajectory is for 10k at this point.  So am happier.  That’s also why I’ve allowed myself to stop NaNoing and write this.  And that’s why Thomasina is still gagged, I pulled it back in time.  Yay for me!

Also, I am so stuffed full after the most amazing Indian meal I have ever had.  It was fresh and tasty and every bite was so lovely.  Now I’m so full and happy, I just want to curl up in contentment – an unusual feeling I am going to savour.

So if you’re NaNoing, good luck and look for me to buddy with.

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How Not to Piss Off An Editor – Part 1

I’ve been professionally editing for over two years now, which is stunning, it’s gone so fast. Yet on the other hand it feels like I’ve been doing this forever.  I have to say that editing has taught me a lot as a writer, not least of which is the importance of listening to criticism.

Oddly listening to criticism is not an easy lesson to learn, but good writers learn it and learn from the criticism.  However, there are easy lessons to learn, one of the most basic is professional presentation of your document when submitting for editing (or any other submission for that matter).

I can tell as soon as I open a document what kind of writer I’m dealing with just from the formatting.  Professional formatting does not guarantee a good manuscript, but it will tell me how much of a pain in the butt the editing process is going to be.

If I see good clear formatting I know that even if the story is pants, the edit shouldn’t be overly painful.  Content is easier to comment on when it’s properly presented.

If I see poor formatting I know that even if this is the best story in the world ever, I’m going to have an absolute nightmare editing it.  Poor formatting will make prose unreadable, dialogue won’t make sense, any message or action will be lost in the fog of ‘where the hell did that come from’ confusion because nothing will have the proper impact.

Worst of all is inconsistent formatting.

If a writer always gets something wrong but gets it wrong in a consistent way, the that’s easy to deal with, a mass find and replace will sort it out and a comment will hopefully tell the writer what they need to learn.  If a writer gets things wrong in places and right in others, I can’t tell if they know what they are doing or not, I don’t know if they were so involved in the writing that they just missed the formatting or if they just don’t have any idea and need a slap around the head.

Now I’ve had good writers who can write, but can’t format, initially irritating, but by the second edit you know that they’ve learned something and improved no end (actually have a few repeat customers like this, they’re great to work with).  I’ve had others who can format and can’t write, these are depressing because I have to wade through rubbish and know that there was no pay off at the end – mind you I had one in this category who clearly understood the importance of criticism and when that author came back for the second edit, it was so improved it was fantastic.

Authors who can write and can format – well I and every other editor, we love you.  And yes I have dealt with a few of these.  One was so good I offered to edit his book for free, unfortunately he didn’t take the offer up and when I read the e-book it was a crying shame, the number of typos and inconsistencies really detracted from the fact that it was a fabulous concept.  There’s another hint for you authors – if a professional editor offers an edit for free, take them up on it!

But there is something that really gets the goat, a repeat customer (yes I do have several), who an editor knows can write and can format, who comes again and is suddenly inconsistent.  Have worked on one recently, thankfully I spotted the inconsistency quickly so did a visual check through the whole manuscript and managed to make the format consistent without reading or even skim reading.  So got the formatting right and then read the story – which was great – without the annoying distractions.

Remember that busy commissioning editors (I’m a structural editor – different job) haven’t got time to scrutinize every line to mine for gold, so bad formatting could give them the reason for throwing your manuscript in the rejection pile.  Don’t give them that reason.

So if you don’t want to piss off your editor off, here are a few tips that can help:

  1. Use a fixed width font left aligned.  Personally I like Courier New, but there are other ones.  The reason for using a fixed width font left aligned is that as you read through it, you will notice little problems like inconsistent or missing spacing.  I recently had a document where lack of spaces between words – yes a very basic formatting issue and the one that spurred me on to write this blog – meant that the word count was shy by the best part of 2000 words.  Missing spacing when you’re typing is normal, we authors get so involved with the story we miss the typing, but a professional will go through and find those typos for himself.
  2. Double spacing. This comes from the days when editing was done by hand with a red pen, but there are times when people send me stuff in PDF where I still use a red pen and, therefore, need the space to comment/amend.  These days though when most editing is done on screen it does help reduce eye-strain and the likelihood of losing my place when reading.
  3. Margins. All margins should be a minimum of 1 inch or 2.5 cm.  Again, this is a hangover from red-pen days, but it’s still important, again for space and clarity and keeping your editor on side.  Cram too much into a small space and it will be impossible to read for any sustained period.  Have you tried reading a bible lately?  Regardless of religion it’s physically difficult to read most bibles because the text is so small and cramped, don’t put your editor through that pain, we won’t thank you.
  4. Use indented paragraphs. This is important as it really separates chucks of prose.  Indented paragraphs are the ones that come in on the first line.  In Word this is easy to achieve, (Word 2007 and later) select the Home ribbon, then the full paragraph popup (the little box with the arrow coming out in the bottom right-hand side of the section marked Paragraph) then select Indentation, Special, first line.  DO NOT indent with tabs or multiple spaces, this really mucks up typesetting if you’re lucky enough to get printed. Readers should note that I’ve used block paragraphs here because I can’t find the way to change the settings on WordPress (my bad sorry, but if anyone knows how to make that change, please comment and let me know!).
  5. New chapter new page. This is fairly simple and a lot of people do this, but a lot of them get it wrong.  It’s something that authors will do by using the return key, but that only works with the font and wording that they have used, as soon as there are amendments of font or spacing or changing any wording, then the page position will change.  You get around this my using manual page breaks, the easiest way to achieve this is [Ctrl][Return].
  6. Learn the rules of Dialogue formatting. Have to admit that this isn’t the most basic thing to learn, but it is important if you want the reader to understand what’s going on in a conversation.  Correct formatting can show who says what without the constant use of speech tags, it gives the reader the right emphasis, indicates the tempo of the spoken word and the manner in which it was spoken.
  7. Read the submission guidelines. Again this seems basic, but it’s amazing how many people don’t do it.  There are some general rules, those that I’ve given here, but each editor/agent/publisher will have their own rules, make sure you read them, and make sure you follow them.  For example, I’ve been a short story competition judge, the remit was an anonymous short story between 1500 and 2500 words, so submitting a 1400 word story with the authors by line was instant disqualification, which was a bit of a shame because the story was really quite good and could have been placed or at least commended if the author had only read and followed the guidelines (so I’m told by another judge who apparently had the time to waste).
  8. Read your work before submitting it. This is basic, and hugely important.  If something isn’t clear to the author, how will it ever be clear to the reader?  If you follow the tips above, you’ll be surprised what you pick up yourself.
  9. Be consistent! If you read what came above, you’ll already know the importance of this one.

There are other tips, but these are formatting ones.  Hope it helps those who read it.

Oh, by the way, have no idea what Part 2 will be about, or when, but I suspect it’ll happen the next time I edit something that pees me off.   🙂

Bye bye for now.


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