Month: February 2022

Infer and Imply #WritingTips #AmWriting

Inference:  a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning (Oxford Dictionaries)

Implying: indicate the truth or existence of (something) by suggestion rather than explicit reference (Oxford Dictionaries)

Inference is a device used in writing where a reader reaches conclusions based on the information given in a text, information that implies certain things. As a writer, you don’t need to ‘tell’ a reader everything. You should trust your reader to make inferences using the words, phrases and symbols you have provided. For example:

Jack groaned as he forced his eyes open, rubbing his temples. The screech of his phone made his ears ring. He reached across the rumpled sheets to the cluttered chair that stood next to his bed, searching for the device, his arm catching the half-empty bottle of scotch and sending it clattering to the floor.

So what is the writer implying? And what can the reader infer? We can infer lots about Jack and what he has been up to. The writer is implying that he has a hangover. We haven’t been told this but can infer it from him forcing his eyes open (he is tired – late night?), he is rubbing his temples (sore head?) and that there is a half empty bottle of scotch by the bed (has he polished off the other half?). We can also infer that he is either poor or not very house-proud – he has a chair by the bed rather than a bedside table or nightstand. We even know that he doesn’t have a carpeted floor.

We infer all this without being told, and this information is given in a way that (I hope) is more entertaining than simply listing these facts about Jack. So – trust your reader, give them little snippets of your characters’ lives, in realistic situations that readers recognise and identify with (although I’m not implying for one moment that we’ve all woken up with a half bottle of scotch next to us… but you can infer what you like!) and let them draw their own conclusions.

Happy writing!

I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

Read testimonials from clients.

Find out about my editing services.

Contact me.

Getting Motivated #WritingTips #AmWriting

If, like me, you are a great one for writing lists and setting goals and targets, you will probably, like me, quite often feel deflated at the end of the day when half those things are still on the list. I can calculate exactly how long it will take me to edit a manuscript, write a blog post, write a new chapter of that new book. But the one thing that often stops me getting done what I need to do isn’t that I’m overstretched, have taken on too much or have other, more important things crop up. No, if I’m honest, it’s mostly because I am far too easily distracted. Emails, Facebook, the phone, the dogs, the cat, the chickens, the postman. All these things have the ability to knock me out of my periods of concentration and set me off looking at some new funny cat in a box video or getting cross over the comments left on an article in the Guardian, or just staring into space while the dogs run round the garden. I need to get focussed before another week slips by where I’ve achieved enough but not as much as I could. So, a fresh start, a new leaf – I’m going to start incorporating some of these things into my work routine.

Atmosphere

home office coffee

I can’t work well if I’m hungry, thirsty, too hot, too cold, uncomfortable etc. So, the first thing to do is to make sure you’re sitting comfortably. Make sure you have the right seat so that your hands are resting on the keyboard, you’re not leaning forward to see the screen and you’re nice and straight. Make sure the room is warm (but not warm enough to send you into a stupor) or cool enough if it’s the summer. Have a cup of tea or coffee ready and next to you. And make sure you eat breakfast and lunch – it can be hard to stick to this if you’re working from home, but I waste a lot of time wandering off to the kitchen because I’m a bit peckish, staring into the cupboard arguing with myself whether to have a biscuit or an apple.

I’m very, very distracted by noise, so need to work in silence. This is fine if I’m the only at home. Now more people than ever are working from home, chances are, you’re sharing your working space with someone. Do whatever you need to do. Close the door, use noise-cancelling headphones. If you need music to help you concentrate, choose something that’s not going to take over.

Technology

distraction two

It goes without saying that if you want to work without distraction you need to switch off emails, Facebook, Twitter etc. (ooh, I’ve just taken my own advice – although now I’m wondering what that last email notification that sprang up at the corner of the screen was all about) but I’m saying it again anyway. I do usually do this, and I have honestly found that I get twice as much done. If you can’t bear to be disconnected from the world then set a timer. I tell myself I’ll edit/write for an hour and then I’ll get up, stretch my legs, get another cup of tea or coffee, check my emails, let the dogs out for a wee, and then I’ll close it all off again for another hour. It really works. If you can’t trust yourself, then there is a lot of technology out there that will do it for you; tools that will block emails, websites etc., and that will even restrict the amount of time that you can spend on certain websites. If you need to do that, then do it.

Other tips

As I said before, take breaks. Lots of them. We can only concentrate for short periods of time, so set yourself a timer, focus for that half hour, hour or whatever you can manage and then walk away for a minute or two. It will refresh you, invigorate you and prevent you from banging your head against the keyboard.

head keyboard

Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially if you work from home all the time. I am so guilty of this – feeling bad if I stop to look at the news, or send a few tweets. But if you were in an office, with other people, you wouldn’t be at your desk for the whole seven or eight hours, head down, talking to no one. Working at home can be very isolating – you need to give yourself that time to interact with other people, even if it’s only by email, and to get out in the fresh air at least once a day (get a dog (or three) – it’s a great excuse).

dog walk

Also remember that just because you’re working from home, you are actually working. Just because I might be in my pyjamas, and I’m at home, and the dogs are lying across my feet, I am still working, still earning money. And although more people work from home now, there still seems to be an attitude that, because I work for myself, I can just up and leave everything whenever I feel like it, that I can just leave whatever I’m doing and have great long conversations, or run errands for them. I’ve even been asked to go to someone’s house to wait for a parcel. You wouldn’t ask anyone else to take a day out of work to do that. I AM AT WORK! And, if you are writing, so are you. Be firm. You are not being selfish.

woman work

Happy writing!

I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

Read testimonials from clients.

Find out about my editing services.

Contact me.

Using the Right Word Part 2 #WritingTips #AmWriting

Following on from last week’s post (here), I thought I’d share some more common grammatical errors. Keep these in mind when writing and you’ll find that correct usage becomes second nature.

Have not of!!!

Why the exclamation marks? Because this is one of the things I absolutely hate! And I mean hate. I don’t know why it winds me up as much as it does, but it does. The problem is that when we say ‘could’ve’, ‘should’ve’ or ‘would’ve’ we pronounce that ‘ve’ in the same way we say ‘of’. So then people think it is ‘of’ and when they’re not using the contraction they say and write ‘could of’, ‘should of’ and ‘would of’ instead of ‘could have’, ‘should have’ and ‘would have’. It’s wrong!!!

I should have gone to the toilet before I left. RIGHT!

I should of gone to the toilet before I left. WRONG!

Misplaced modifiers

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase or clause that is separated from, or does not relate clearly to, the word it modifies, or describes. This can mean that the sentence changes its meaning, or doesn’t make sense at all.

For example:

Having taking your advice, my cat will be eating a different type of cat food.

Now, although we know that it isn’t likely that the cat is the one who has taken the advice, the sentence is structured in such a way as to make the meaning confusing and silly. This is much better:

Having taken your advice, I will now be feeding my cat a different type of cat food.

How about:

I served lemonade to the guests in paper cups.

So, the guests are in paper cups then? Although we know that is silly, in this sentence, that’s exactly where they are. Just change it around a little:

I served lemonade in paper cups to the guests.

Possessive nouns

One use of the apostrophe is to show possession. Simple? Well, not always.

If the noun is singular, then the apostrophe goes before the ‘s’:

Brian’s trainers were red.

If the noun is singular and ends in an ‘s’, you have two choices. Either the apostrophe goes after the ‘s’:

James’ car ran out of petrol.

Or you can add an apostrophe and another ‘s’:

James’s car ran out of petrol.

The important thing here is consistency. Always do it the same way.

If the noun is a plural, it probably already ends in ‘s’, so you can just add an apostrophe on the end. So, one dog:

The dog’s bone was buried in the garden.

Two dogs:

The dogs’ bones were buried in the garden.

Just to make it more difficult, some nouns have irregular plural forms. For example – the plural of woman is women. So, one woman:

The woman’s clothes were the height of fashion.

A group of women:

The women’s clothes were the height of fashion.

Happy writing!

I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

Read testimonials from clients.

Find out about my editing services.

Contact me.

Using the Right Word #WritingTip #AmWriting

Writing is a tricky business. There are so many elements to consider – developing wonderful characters that grow as your plot moves forward, writing realistic yet entertaining dialogue that moves your plot along, developing a plot that keeps your reader enthralled and desperate to learn more, penning breathtaking scenes, inventing beautiful metaphors. Oh, and grammar. That last one isn’t that exciting is it? And it’s one of those things that can be a bug-bear for many writers – no matter how wonderful their writing is, many just can’t get a grip on the grammar. After all, grammar has nothing to do with creativity, does it?

Well, I think it does. Grammar is an intrinsic part of writing; without its rules and regulations, that wonderful scene you’ve written detailing someone’s heartfelt passions, their devastating grief, or their soaring joy may very well be for nothing. One incorrectly placed apostrophe, one wrong word, one incomplete comparison or dangling modifier and your reader will be put off, unimpressed, doubtful of your ability or so irritated that they take to Amazon to give you a heart-breaking one star review. And, possibly worse than that, your beautiful, carefully crafted words may very well make no sense.

So grammar is something you need to get your head round. As a writer I have made plenty of grammatical errors in my work – everyone does, and, as an editor, I see them all the time. But the more you read about common errors and the more you work on avoiding them in your work, the easier it becomes to write and to write well.

One of the most common errors people make is to use the wrong word. And I’m not just talking ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there’ here. There are plenty of others. Here are a few  examples I see all the time when I’m editing.

Who and Whom

This is one that I’ve always found particularly annoying and difficult to get my head round. ‘Who’ is a subjective pronoun – it’s used when the pronoun is the subject of a clause. Other examples of subjective pronouns are ‘he’ and ‘they’. ‘Whom’, on the other hand, is an objective pronoun, used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Other examples of objective pronouns are ‘him’ and ‘us’. ‘Whom’ should also be used after a preposition. Confused? Take a look at these examples:
1) Who made the cakes? (Who is the subject of the clause)
2) She asked whom the film was about. (Whom is the object of the object of the clause)
Try substituting different pronouns to see if you need ‘who’ or ‘whom’.
1) Did he make the cakes?
2) She asked if the film was about him.
and
1) Did they make the cakes?
2) She asked if the film was about us.
As for the usage of ‘whom’ after a preposition, here’s an example;
To whom do you wish to speak?

Fewer and Less
This is the one that got Tesco into trouble. They received a bad grammar award for a statement that appeared on their toilet roll packaging proclaiming:
‘Same luxury, less lorries.’
Perhaps they were going for the alliterative qualities of the phrase, but someone in marketing should surely have realised that grammar perfectionists and know-alls, rather than feeling quietly smug (you know you did!), would complain. So what’s the problem?
Less should be reserved for when you are describing hypothetical quantities – something that can’t be counted.
This book was less successful than my last one.
He’s less interested in football than I am.
Fewer is used for things that are quantifiable; things that can be counted.
I sold fewer copies of the book than you did.
He has been to fewer than ten games this season.
So, technically Tesco’s lorries could have been counted, so there were fewer lorries, not less lorries.

Disinterested and uninterested
When I was studying for my master’s in Creative Writing, I once spent hours on what I thought was a wonderful piece about love and romance all set in a beautifully exotic location. I had everything right – my descriptions were evocative, my words beautifully crafted, the dialogue and imagery heavy with meaning. I was actually looking forward to receiving my tutor’s critique, something that usually terrified me. My tutor was a successful, lauded poet and publisher and he was harsh (but fair). He completely tore me to shreds for writing that my hero was ‘disinterested’ rather than ‘uninterested’. I was mortified. In all my years of reading and writing, I’d never known the difference before. But when it was (stringently) pointed out to me, I realised it was completely obvious. ‘Disinterested’ means impartial – like a judge is supposed to be. ‘Uninterested’ means not interested in something. Simple really, isn’t it?

Lead and led


You might not think this is very common, but believe me, it is. The trouble seems to be that the two words can sound the same. But they are very different. When you pronounce ‘lead’ the same way as you pronounce ‘led’, what you are actually referring to is a soft, heavy, ductile bluish-grey metal, the chemical element of atomic number 82, used in roofing, plumbing, ammunition, storage batteries, radiation shields, etc. (according to the dictionary). So:
He lead her to the bed is wrong.
He led her to the bed is right.
Remember lead (rhymes with bead) refers to being in charge or in front, or to what you put around a dog’s neck (in England). Lead (rhymes with bed) is the metal.

Its and it’s
This is one that causes confusion because it goes against normal rules. It’s is the shortened form of it is or it has. Its is the possessive form of it. It’s confusing (see what I did there) because normally we use an apostrophe to show possession:
‘The dog’s birthday was last Tuesday.’

The man’s wife was leaving him.
But:
I gave the dog its birthday present.
Only ever use it’s if you can substitute it has or ‘t is, so:
It’s been raining all week.
It’s ten weeks until Christmas.

These are just a few of the common errors I see every day. In a blog post later this week, I’ll be looking at a few more.

Happy writing!

I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

Read testimonials from clients.

Find out about my editing services.

Contact me.

‘The Hemlock Cure’ by Joanne Burn #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

It is 1665 and the women of Eyam keep many secrets.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about Wulfric, the pious, reclusive apothecary.

Mae, Wulfric’s youngest daughter, dreads her father’s rage if he discovers what she keeps from him. Like her feelings for Rafe, Isabel’s ward, or that she studies from Wulfric’s forbidden books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

When Mae makes a horrifying discovery, Isabel is the only person she can turn to. But helping Mae will place them both in unspeakable peril.

And meanwhile another danger is on its way from London. One that threatens to engulf them all . . .

Based on the real history of an English village during the Great Plague, The Hemlock Cure is an utterly beguiling tale of fear and ambition, betrayal, self-sacrifice and the unbreakable bond between two women.

For an historical novel, The Hemlock Cure feels very topical!

Based on the true story of the Derbyshire village of Eyam during the great plague, this is an absolutely stunning novel, beautifully-written, atmospheric, and impeccably researched. 

After the death of her mother and sister, Mae lives with her father Wulfric, the village apothecary.  With her natural ability for healing, she hopes to become his apprentice, building on all she has learned from him, and from her mother’s close friend, Isabel, the village midwife. But Wulfric despises Isabel, and his feverish religious beliefs make him a very dangerous man.

When the plague comes from London, and people begin to die, the village makes the brave decision to isolate to protect others. This is something that really happened, and the author uses this historical event to weave a narrative that gives a real sense of the way that ordinary people, particularly women, were (and to an extent still are) constrained by circumstances.

Using Mae’s sister Leah as the narrator works really well. She can see what is happening, but feels powerless, in the same position as the reader. I really cared about Mae and Isabel (and the lovely Johan, Isabel’s husband). 

This is wonderful story-telling, drawing you in, making you believe in the characters and the world in which they live, one of those rare books you can get lost in. 

Definitely recommended. 

HOW TO HELP YOUR EDITOR #WRITINGANOVEL #writingtips #amwriting

An honest, professional yet friendly relationship between editor and client is crucial in order to make your manuscript the best it can be. Your editor wants to help you, to guide you, to advise and to encourage you in your writing journey. To do this, there are some things that your editor needs from you.

Read the FAQs

This may be the first time you’ve worked with an editor. You should have lots of questions and most editors will be more than happy to answer any concerns that you have. But before you send a lengthy email, have a look at your editor’s blog or website and see if they have a Frequently Asked Questions page. You will probably find a lot of the answers to your questions here.

Send your manuscript on time

If you have agreed a date with your editor, then do please make sure you send your manuscript on time. Even a morning’s delay can have an impact on your editor’s schedule. It is probably best to send the manuscript the day before, at the latest.

Read payment terms carefully and adhere to them

Editing can be an expensive business. But it is your editor’s job, their livelihood. They may be relying on the fee that you have agreed to pay bills, for example. Please pay on time – just because you have a sudden extra expense, it doesn’t mean that your editor should have to wait to be paid. You have entered into a professional agreement – be professional about it. And do accept that your editor is investing their time. Don’t expect them to edit for nothing, or for a pittance. I’ve seen editors and proofreaders offering their services for next to nothing. As with most things in life, if a deal seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is. Check your editor’s credentials and do bear in mind that old saying – ‘you get what you pay for’.

Be open to advice

You are paying your editor for their expertise and their knowledge. If they offer you advice take it in the spirit it is intended. It is there to help you.

Keep in contact

Let your editor know how things are going. I care very much about my clients and their books. I want to know how you’re doing, how the book’s doing, if you’ve had positive reviews (or not!).

Check if they want to be acknowledged

As an editor working mainly with independent writers, I have no control over what is eventually published. I can only correct, improve and advise. I cannot force a client to take that advice, make those improvements or even accept the spelling or grammatical corrections that I make. I have, on more than one occasion, advised clients, have had that advice ignored, have seen that client publish the book and then seen reviews making the points I have raised. It is excruciating to have a client ignore your advice and then to see a reviewer say that the book could do with a thorough edit. On the other hand, your book is your book and you are perfectly within your rights to ignore my advice and recommendations. But if you do so, then please don’t thank me for my editing in the acknowledgements. While I appreciate the thought, it makes me look like a terrible editor!

Give feedback

You know how lovely it is when your editor says good things about your writing? How it makes you feel wonderful? Well, it’s lovely when you tell an editor how pleased you are with their work, how you appreciate their help and advice. And it’s also really helpful, if not so lovely, to know if something wasn’t quite right.

Recommend them!

The majority of my clients now come from recommendations – something that makes me incredibly happy! It is a minefield out there. I am a member of a certain reading/writing website and I do belong to editors’ groups on that site. Almost every day I see people advertising their editing and proofreading services. Sometimes I have a look at their websites (it’s good to keep an eye on the competition after all!) and, while there are some fabulous editors, there are also people who set themselves up as editors with absolutely no relevant experience, qualifications or knowledge whatsoever. So what does a writer do? Apart from looking at an editor’s blog/site extremely carefully, I do think it’s a great idea to ask for recommendations from your fellow writers. And if you do work with an editor that you feel did a great job, then please tell everyone else!

Happy writing!

I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

Read testimonials from clients.

Find out about my editing services.

Contact me.