Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Throw away your crutches!

Every writer has crutch words - words we rely on or are our go-to words. Words we over-use. Words we don't need at all.

Having finished the structural edit, the next stage for me is to tighten up all the writing. I know the foundations of the book are right. Now I need to make the building as good as possible. Once that's sorted, I can fine-tune and add the finishing touches that (hopefully) make it sparkle.

I keep a running list of the words I over-use. Some of them I know I over-use because I've seen them for myself. Some of them have been pointed out to me by my editors. Another way of finding them is doing a word-frequency count. I do this via Scrivener - it gives me a list of all the words used in the book and how often they appear. Obviously "the", "a", "and" and so on come up hundreds of times, but it's in the block after that, that I need to check - words that shouldn't be as common as they are in the book. Some of my worst offenders are "nodded" and "looked", but the list is long. 😐

In my first pass through, while I'm still concentrating on the structure, I do try and flag them up (and kill them off wherever possible). This time I went a step further...

Monday, 19 February 2018

Crime at the Castle

Do you read crime novels?
Do you fancy trying your hand at writing a crime novel?

If the answer to either of those questions is “YES” then Crime at the Castle is a must.

You have a chance to hear the very best Scottish crime writers as they tell you how it is done in a series of talks and writer’s workshops in what must be one of the most inspirational venues imaginable. Glamis castle is holding its very first crime writers festival on Saturday the 24th February 2018.

The cost for the day is £55 and for that, you get to hear four speakers, or hear three speakers and take part in a writers' workshop. Lunch is included in the ticket and there will be book signings between the events.

Speakers include:

Lin Anderson, Chris Brookmyre, Caroline Dunford, Alex Gray, Sandra Ireland, Wendy H. Jones Chris Longmuir, Michael J Malone, Denise Mina, Shona MacLean, Val McDermid, Jackie Mclean, Frank Muir, Caro Ramsay, Craig Robertson, Douglas Skelton

Have you booked your tickets yet? No? Well hurry up because it's selling out! Click on the link below for more details of the event, including how to book.


Tuesday, 13 February 2018


(I wouldn't have a disposable cup OR a straw...
but otherwise this is a fair representation!)
The first round of edits - the structural editing - is done (though history teaches me that my editor will still want to shift several scenes around when she gets her hands on it). This is my least favourite bit of editing. I prefer the next stage: tightening it up and trying to make it sparkle. I enjoy spending time on the words, once the foundations are sorted. Only once a house is built, can you start decorating it. So with writing.

Structural editing starts with The Giant Spreadsheet which helps me to see where things are too long and also where there are gaps. Colour-coding which characters are in each scene shows me that sometimes characters seem to have wandered off, mid-manuscript. Where did they go? They need bringing back into the fold. Or I see that a thread that I thought was well woven in is actually half frayed and sticking out. Or not tied off at the end. Seeing the big picture helps me to make sure that it holds together the way I imagined it would.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Are you gender-biased? Chances are, you are.

The past week has been full of stories about gender bias. There's been the on-going argument at the BBC about the gender pay-gap, and The Guardian had a piece about whether monsters must always be male (you can read it here) and how few female characters in children's books even speak, let alone are the main character. There was also an interesting programme on BBC Radio 4 about women being biased against women. If you didn't hear it, you can listen to it or download it here (and I genuinely recommend listening to it).

You are probably gender biased, even if you don't think you are.

Much of our bias is thought to stem from the brain taking 'short-cuts'. The example given in an analysis of the radio piece (the analysis can be found here) cites burning yourself on a hot pan leading to your brain making a quick association between 'oven', 'hot' and 'pain'.

Likewise, if a person sees disproportionately more men than women in positions of power and leadership, and disproportionately more women in more lowly-ranked jobs, their brains quickly associate men with power and responsibility and women with less powerful, lower value roles.

So, what can we do to try and avoid this bias?