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Editing is Hard



The stream of consciousness writing, the word dump, is the easiest bit of the writing, for me anyway. I like to scribble when I’m half-awake in the early hours of the morning. Ideally, I’ll then drift back to sleep with the opportunity for a second go around when I wake again around seven.

But the editing is hard. Why? Because I have to chip away at a crudely shaped draft stuffed with telling and formal dialogue and turn it into something that is engaging and beautiful. Well, that’s the aim, but I haven’t hit there yet.

Of course I’m talking about self- editing, before it goes to professional editors, such as the wonderful women at Global Wordsmiths, who spare no punches but will turn a raw manuscript into a crafted piece of work. They also run some great courses and I’m hoping that next year we’ll be able to go back to Spain, rather than zoom.

So, what has helped?

  1. I’ve just bought the program Pro Writing Aid to help with the grammar, but it won’t tell me when I am going off on a tangent, or have major plot holes (and there have been a number!).
  2. To help with the readability I’ve put my manuscript in Word, under the review section there is “read aloud” which converts text to speech. It’s very helpful to listen to what is working and what is not. Despite the monotonous tone and some strange pronunciations (sake being read like the Japanese drink rather than rhyming with rake for example) it’s been great for picking up pacing errors. And I make lots of those.
  3. I’ve read lots of books about editing. Perhaps my favourites have been the Jodie Renner books and those of James Scott Bell. But if you have recommendations, I’d love to know them.
  4. I’m also a member of a critique group, a group of like-minded readers and writers who meet monthly (on zoom) and critique writing uploaded onto Google drive. We are lucky in our group that we have some professional writers who give of their time to challenge and query, and we also have fun.
  5. And finally, knowing I have a professional editor who will challenge hard, but also support and encourage.

And it’s all in the name of better writing.


So why have I been struggling? I was told I needed to go deeper and show more emotion. In other words, be more vulnerable.

As I private person I find this tricky, I’ll be honest. I don’t like “to wear my heart on my sleeve for daws to peck at,” as Iago would have it. The fact that I’ve spent a career’s worth of report writing, trying to obliterate anything emotional from my writing or working life, it’s difficult now to prise open the shell and uncover what’s in there. But I’m still seeking the pearl.

And even when I have gone deep and retrieved a feeling, it’s how to express it that isn’t already cliched or elicits the response in the reader that isn’t a yawn.

As pearls are formed as a protection of the oyster against an irritant, like grit, maybe I should just accept the irritant and learn to dive deep and see what I can uncover.

But still, I shall dive deep, prise open the oysters and seek that elusive pearl.

Anyone else struggle with this?

How Was Nanowrimo For You?

Nanowrimo Congratulations Banner

This was the first time of attempting National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) in November. I had written and rewritten the first scenes a couple of times, and after a bit of prodding and support from Global Wordsmiths plotted the book, scene by scene.

I’m so glad I did.

By having something concrete to complete each day, meant I just checked what needed to be done the night before, ready for the onslaught. I had the Global Wordsmiths intermediate (online) writing course half way through November, so had to work around that and they provided a writing lounge on zoom in the evenings to hold us all to account, and to support each other. With the result that I completed 88,000 words in 38 days. And finished the first draft of the novel, with the working title of Gammy’s story, but that will change!

So, the things that made the difference for me were:

  1. Support of others, being held to account and chat/ work in the evenings. Hopefully next year we can all meet up in person. Perhaps with a glass of wine and cookies?
  2. Planning as much as possible beforehand.
  3. Not being distracted by researching down too many rabbit holes. Did they really use the word ‘clit’ around 1941 in the UK, if they knew what it was of course?
  4. Not doing the scenes in order, but what I felt in the mood to write. Feeling angry? Write a scene with lots of conflict.
  5. Writing something everyday, even if it meant getting up at 5:30am.
  6. Using my best time to write for the more creative aspect. For me that’s first thing in the morning, so I’d do the stream of consciousness thing using notes on my phone. Then attempted to decipher the predictive text later in the day and write it in some semblance of order.

Anything else that helped you?

If you’ve done Nano this year, well done, and if you tried but didn’t reach the 50,000 words, you still got more words down than you started.

Pet Peeves of a Pedant

Okay, I confess. I hate it when something is factually incorrect in a story or song. It just throws me out of the alternative world and drags me kicking and questioning into the mundane, and reaching for Google (other search engines are available).

I’ve recently been working on a short story for the Lesfic Eclectic Second Volume.  Worth checking out when it’s released, as it is a wonderful mix of fresh writing of wlw.


I based my story on the Big Island in Hawaii. Well, why not? I’ve been there a few times in the past and it really is as beautiful as it looks. It’s a shame we can’t go there at the moment, as it would have been ideal to visit again, for research purposes only, of course. It might have been difficult to claim against taxes though!

Anyway, to get into the mood and vibe of the place when I was writing, I would listen to a collection of Hawaiian songs on Spotify or YouTube.

One of my favourites is Pixar’s short film, Lava. There is nothing like a male falsetto voice singing with a ukulele. I realise that isn’t everyone’s cup of iced tea, but it definitely conjures up the warm breezes and lapping ocean for me.

Unfortunately, near the beginning on the soundtrack is the cry of a seagull.

Every time I hear it, I get thrown out of the song because you don’t get gulls in Hawaii.  I’m sure a few may have hitchhiked on a passing ship, but they don’t breed there. Another reason to love Hawaii, I guess. 

The trouble with being a pedant is I have this urge to go and doublecheck the facts. Sometimes I get drawn the rabbit hole and don’t return to the original story, which is a disaster for the writer.

So as authors it is essential we have editors or beta readers to sense check what’s been written. My daughter is like a bull dog at sniffing out inaccuracies, so I think of her as my alpha reader. Although we have had a few “intense discussions” about certain issues, but that’s another story.

Even with editors and beta readers, some items slip through, and I’ve come across a few other irritations that have thrown me out of what I was reading.

One was referring to pinot noir as being a white wine. The book is by one of my favourite authors, but it completely threw me out of the story and I had to go and doublecheck.  In case you are interested, although pinot noir is typically a red wine and the pinot grigio (or pinot gris) is white, it seems as though a few vineyards have been trying to produce a white pinot noir. Yes, I know, Captain Pedant.

Another I came across, which really goes against the grain for me, was referring to “the bottom line of the balance sheet”. As an accountant (read ‘pedant with numbers’) that made me suck in my teeth. The ‘bottom line’ refers to the profit and loss account not the balance sheet, which should always balance.

Are there pet hates you have that throw you out of the story?


Hello, Reader World!

I think I got into reading as it was something in which I could beat my brother. He was severely dyslexic, and they didn’t get support in those days. He was three years older than me, brilliant at cricket and everything else, and I idolised him. But reading was my thing.

As a child, I lived in Zambia and school finished at 1:30 p.m. In the afternoons, we were free. The dust tickled our noses, and we were serenaded by cicadas. It was so hot we would intersperse splashes in a friend’s pool with bouts of reading to dry off. We read anything and everything we could get hold of, from the Times of Zambia to classic children’s books, and we swapped with each other. We even picked up a copy of The Thoughts of Chairman Mao.

Television schedules were indicative rather than actual, so I’d read and tell stories to my brother’s Action Man and Eeyore while we waited for the one children’s programme to appear. I started to write the stories down. If I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say, “a writer.”

At eleven I fell in love…with Shakespeare. On a trip back to London we went to a magical outdoor Shakespeare performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Regent’s Park, and I was hooked. From then on I started to write poetry and study performance. 

Established back in the UK, I was lucky enough to attend the same girls grammar school as Carol Ann Duffy (although some years later!), and was taught by the same English department and by the wonderful Mr Walker who inspired and encouraged her so much.

I continued to write poetry but moved into economics and accountancy for a full career’s worth of numbers and report writing, which slowly stifled my creativity. In my very limited spare time, I tried to write a novel but struggled with the plot and having enough headspace and energy to explore and play.

I was determined to retire from full time employment as soon as I’d paid off my mortgage, and I saw an advertisement for Global Wordsmith’s course in Spain—to begin the day after my retirement date. It was fate.

The course was much more than I hoped, Robyn and Brey being the perfect balance of ultimate professionals and welcoming hosts. I soon realised how much I didn’t know, and that writing a novel is not like a glorified work report or indeed an extended poem. Within a day, the plot I’d been billowing around with for months formed into a parabolic arch locked with a keystone of midpoint crisis. 

I shall always be grateful for their wisdom and encouragement. So when I was approached to see if I would submit a short story for the upcoming anthology, LesFic Eclectic, I leapt at the chance, and I feel very honoured that it was accepted.

In the meantime, I’m working on my first novel, Cider, which is a great excuse to go around and sample different ciders in the name of research. For details about the novel, please see my website tab, Scribbling. So I hope you enjoy my short story, and I look forward to years of creativity and connection with you all. I’ve got a lot to catch up on…