Monthly Archives: January 2013


Obviously anything we put out to the world has to be properly edited, but which is the best way to ensure that your work is the best it can be?

My twitter feed normally contains a message or two from professional proof readers – now at this point in my writing career, I cannot afford a professional service (and considering that the majority of my current published work is strictly for charity, it sort of defeats the point a little). I am interested in what qualifications/experiences these people actual have. If you are an editor/proof reader please add a comment so that people can understand how you came to be offering your services – I mean can anyone become a proof reader? (That isn’t a disrespectful comment, just an honest question!)

My work is currently edited by a couple of fellow writers who are happy to offer their opinion. Having spoken to a number of authors, the use of beta readers appears to be a popular avenue to use when trying to edit your work and it not cost you. But I would offer a warning here, my first submission to a publisher was proof read by an english teacher friend of mine. She helpfully pointed out grammar mistakes (all very helpful and not something to expect the spell check to rectify!) and suggested alternative words to give the piece more emphasis, but my submission was rejected. Thankfully the publisher included a list of points and the story was rectified and resubmitted (and accepted!). The point being using people who also write gives you access to knowledge that a non writer perhaps doesn’t have. Obviously these people will want you to return the favour at some point, which brings me onto my final point.

As the publication date for the Short Story groups latest collection (this time the stories all have a romance theme) looms – I am finding myself involved in the editing of other people’s work. I have found this an invaluable experience. Once I have made a good stab at ironing out the obvious mistakes (names changing half way through a scene or the colour of a dress changing etc – which are all things I have seen in publications from ‘proper’ publishers with paid proof readers – so it is easy to miss) I drill deeper into the text and give it a real critical read. This has made a massive difference to my own writing as I am almost constantly asking myself – is this likely? One imprinted example was with a fellow writers story where they said the main character held up his left hand and the other character (who was several metres away) could clearly see the indentation left by a wedding ring long since removed – I removed mine and couldn’t tell it had been there with my hand several centimetres from my face when it had been removed seconds before.

Sometimes we are so proud of our writing, we become blind to the mistakes. I would recommend that you build up a bank of critical readers – family always say nice things in my experience – who can offer you critical advice, but are also happy to let you analyse their words. Providing its done in a supportive manner, both parties benefit and it won’t cost you – or at least it will help make your professional proof reading experience a little more pleasant.

Now before my comments box fills with complaints from proof readers – I am not saying these services are unnecessary, but suggesting methods to help improve the initial product you receive. Editing short stories is one thing, but whole novels needs someone with the time to give them the care and attention they need (can I stop digging now?)

PS – all mistakes in this blog are deliberate (yeah right!)



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Read, watch and play

Many author interviews (both bestsellers and indie) offer the advice ‘if you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader.’

Obviously this is true for a number of reasons (construction of the plot, use of language, read my work (that’s cynical but writers do need readers so encouraging people to read is good for business) etc etc) and I would encourage anyone to read. But as my writing journey continues I am also being drawn to other media sources as learning tools.

Several years ago my middle son was at a book reading/signing event. The author asked the assembled children what they loved about reading. My son (and I wish I had thought of this) stated that he loved reading because ‘it was like having a TV in your head.’

As I become more experienced at writing, I find myself analysing the TV programs and movies I watch. In the first instance you are looking at how the writers introduce plot lines, develop characters and build tension. But perhaps the most enlightening moment occurred last night after watching the film ‘The Grey’ with my wife.

Now I am not going to offer an opinion on the film, but my wife said something which will stick with me for the rest of my writing career (if I ever get to refer to it as a career!). One scene involves a plane crashing and the main character is observed fastening his seat belt and preparing for impact. Five minutes later he is alone on a snow blasted mountainside – naturally completely unharmed and his chair is nowhere to be seen. My wife asked a simple question – how did he get thrown clear, when other characters were found trapped in their seats? My response was simple – he is Liam Neeson and so has to survive. But the point she was making was that the writers/directors/whoever made a big thing about Liam fastening his seatbelt, what followed expected the audience to ignore this or just accept that fastening a seatbelt will save you by not keeping you strapped into your seat. Whilst we debated this minor plot point back and forth (we aren’t actually this boring!) I had my ‘penny drop’ moment. The sequence of events was unrealistic and at that point lost my wives attention. So – keep it real (or as real as your self-created world allows) your readers are not idiots.

The final point in this post concerns video games (I can hear the eyes rolling from here). Many of the pointers that can be gleaned from reading and watching also apply to video games – many of them tell stories. Many of them are part of a long franchise, played by millions of people around the world – so they must be doing something right to hold their audience’s attention.

However, video games do offer another element – experience. Hands up all those people who have killed a real life zombie, fought in the trenches or bought down a dragon using a bow and arrow – not even the most celebrated authors have actually done these things, but through video games you can experience them (OK from the comfort of your sofa and without the threat of death). Let me illustrate the point.

I studied the First World War at school, I know the dates; the political reasons for the conflict; the effect it had on ordinary people; the conditions in the trenches etc etc. I have visited battlefield cemeteries, walked the fields where thousands died, visited the Imperial War Museum and walked through life size models of the trenches complete with smells and noises (within strict health and safety audio parameters) of the frontline. But I (thankfully) wasn’t actually there.

I have, however, due to a bestselling video game franchise, inched my way across no mans land, zig zagging from blast crater to blast crater in an attempt to not end up dead. I could hear the shouts of my fellow soldiers, the boom of the shelling and gunfire, but I couldn’t see it as my virtual face was in the mud as I crawled across the ground. I have no way of knowing if the relief I felt reaching the enemy trenches was anything like the relief the real soldiers felt, but I know I had an experience I would not have gained from a book or a movie.

So read, watch and if possible play. I think your readers will thank you for it.


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Short story managed

I have finally completed my contribution for the Short Story Groups upcoming Valentines themed collection. The working title has stuck and I am delighted to say that ‘Relationship Building’ will be available (alongside contributions from other aspiring/established authors) via Amazon on the 8th Feb.

I have also downloaded (or uploaded not sure which) the first 700 ish words of the story to the Work In Progress section of this blog. Hope you enjoy.

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Harmless self promotion?

Whilst filling the recycling bin tonight I noticed the tag line on our local newspaper. Proudly announcing that this was the areas ‘leading weekly newspaper’ I was forced to point out to the world (OK no-one was actually by the bins, but if they had been I am sure that they would have been delighted to hear my logical reasoning!) that this publication was the areas ONLY weekly newspaper.

This got me thinking about the messages sent out by indie writers concerning their work on a regular basis. I remember over the christmas period receiving tweets about a novella which was ‘critically acclaimed’ – the reality being that the work had received 9 reviews (at that time), many of which rated it 3 or 4 stars. Hardly acclaim – critical or otherwise.

Now I am sure that the author will claim that it was meant as a joke, just a bit of harmless self promotion, an attempt to tweet a little louder than the millions of others – but does the strategy of enlarging the truth have a negative impact on everyone else?

Perhaps this is the scientist in me coming out. I have spent years dealing in facts – some may find that boring, but I am sure you’d agree that in the case of scientific developments it is better to be overly cautious rather than over exaggerate. But of course – novellas are not scientific developments.

I guess my worry is that, as people try to shout/tweet/blog louder than all the others, the use of words/phrases which promise more than is on offer will become so common we actually end up downgrading their meaning.

Surely as writers we should be protecting these words/phrases – rather than abusing them to push for one more sale?


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The story so far…

Short, short history lesson.

I joined twitter over the summer (having read in various magazines and websites that it was the right thing to do for aspiring authors) and quickly made friends with another author – Vanessa Wester.

We decided to set up a Short Story group who would produce a collections of seasonal short stories and publish them to raise money for charity. is the Short Story Groups blog – worth a look.

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My first blog post

Hello and welcome to my writing blog.

I have to be honest that, whilst a number of themes to blog (rant) about have come to me whilst I have been setting up this blog, I haven’t really given much thought to the contents of this first post – so apologies.

I have been inspired by a number of blogs since becoming ‘serious’ about my writing and it is my hope that I will be able to inspire/assist others during my writing adventure – failing that it gives me somewhere to vent my spleen.

I have read guides and spoken to a number of people about blogging the the ‘rules’ sound overly complicated so I’m just going to see what happens.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy the journey with me.


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