Editing: Phase 1 – Listen!

The Lion Gods has entered the first editing stage. Everyone does things different. My recommendation is to do what feels right for you. Normally, I would read through the story first, making notes as to problem areas such as random sub-plots that go nowhere, scenes that make no sense, and other ‘jump out and smack you in the face’ sections of the story and/or character plots.

This time I thought I’d try something different. I thought I’d use the text to speech function on my laptop and allow the computer-generated voice to narrate my manuscript back to me. I set the voice so it wasn’t too slow as that would be mundane and could easily put me to sleep. 😀 Yes, the voice is monotone and emotionless, but that worked well as it helps make problem areas really stand out. Actually, I was surprised by how well it works. I’d be listening to this expressionless voice just speaking the words at an even pace and suddenly weird stuff would be said and I’d think “Ah, what’s that supposed to be” or if the words were right “that sounds awkward”. I’d make a notation in my notebook and, I must say, I have a (big) list.

I’ve listened to the entire manuscript in this way, making notes. And now I’m ready to go into Phase 2 – Fix Up.


Writing Notebook or Virtual Notebook

In my last post I reported that I have finally finished writing The Lion Gods. That was on 13 February and I have put it aside for two weeks before I start the editing phase.

But what have I been doing in the meantime?

Well, some years ago a friend showed me how to use a wiki for research notes. At the time, I used pbwiki because I was into Linux. However, when I returned to Windows I moved to Tiddlywiki.

Over the last ten or so days I’ve reconnected with wiki note keeping. PBwiki is online and whilst that is great for easy access from anywhere, I now prefer to install Tiddlywiki on my laptop for private use. (It’s amazing how tastes change over the years.)

In the thirteen years since I first started using a wiki, the base wiki system has improved and morphed into something I wasn’t used to working with. So, I downloaded Classic Tiddlywiki, which I believe is the best, but that’s just my opinion. You may feel differently.

I have been using a notebook for my writing research and notes. I have many of them. All of different shapes, sizes, colours and uses. I have them for planning a specific novel, for publishing notes, for writing tips in general and general research. It works fine, but they are bulky and take up room that I really don’t have now that we’ve downsized.

I remembered Tiddlywiki and decided to transfer my writing notebooks into virtual notebooks. I could have one wiki with everything, or I can have several wikis for specific things just like I have actual notebooks. The choice is mine.

And now that I have two screens, I can open the wiki of my choice on one screen and write on the other. I can refer to the wiki when I have a senior moment and can’t remember the character’s favourite thing or what the object was that they found, or what their sibling’s name is. Or I can open my publishing wiki if I want to refer to a checklist when doing edits or special notes when preparing an epub, or whatever. Then I can go to my general research wiki and find out what I discovered about riding a horse or archery or survival in freezing conditions, etc. It’s brilliant.

The other great thing about using a wiki, is that I can keep it up to date. Old notes can be updated easily, incorrect information deleted. I won’t have to flip through heaps of pages trying to find the reference I’m looking for. And I’ll have a neater workspace in general.

I should have done this years ago. How do you keep track of your writing research and notes?

Update from My Writing Desk

It’s the second month of the year already. Time flies when you’re having fun … or just when you’re older. Not sure which is truer these days.

Today, I’m glad to say that during the month of January, I averaged about 800 words per day. It may not sound inspiring to you, but to me that is one hell of a job well done. I am super proud of myself.

I’ve been working on Book 3 of The Land of Miu series, The Lion Gods. And, I might add, I am very close to writing those magic words “The End”. I should finish the first draft by the end of February. In fact, if I continue with my current average, I should finish it by mid-February. Then the editing stage begins. Without putting pressure on myself, I feel as if I will meet my goal.

In other writing news, the consistent writing has also awakened my mind to thinking about other ideas. I’ve written them down, but refuse to allow them to distract me from my goal. However, the ideas are quite vivid and I find myself thinking about how I might expand the ideas into another series for young readers. But this set of ideas will remain just that for the time being. Perhaps I will do something about writing these ideas when I’m in editing mode to give myself a break. I’m not sure yet. All I know for certain is that I do not want to lose the consistency of writing every day. So maybe writing 800 words for this idea and editing for an hour or so each day may be the way for me to go. I’ll see.

Lastly, I’m super excited to say that I purchased a cover for another of my manuscripts, known here as Mirror Image, but will be published with the title “Domino Effect”. The first draft of the manuscript is complete. This one is NOT for kids. It’s a very dark novel for adults. Totally the opposite to the stuff I write for kids. I have done a read through and corrected obvious errors, but that was in 2015 and my plan is to work on this one after The Lion Gods has been published.

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Question: Do you like to write one project while editing another?

Getting Back into The Swing of Writing

Getting back into the swing of writing is a post written by Australian author Alison Tait. The title grabbed my attention and inspired me to write this post. Let me be honest, I haven’t written a thing in three years. Not a single word. In my defence I’ve had a lot on my mind, and I’m told I’ve been through multiple highly stressful situations during this time, however, in the past that’s when I write the most. But not this time.

I’m starting to find my feet and I have discovered over recent weeks I’ve thought about writing. Thinking and doing are two different things, I know that, but for me thinking is a step closer. 

There are five things I really do enjoy. Well, maybe I should say, I used to really enjoy. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Researching my family tree
  4. Playing the PlayStation
  5. Taking long walks with G and our dog.

I’ve never stopped reading. However, I can’t say the same for the other things on my list. Over the last few months though, I’ve restarted four of the five things. The only thing left to restart is the writing. I want to start. I guess this post is the first step. I wrote the post. I acknowledge my desire. I now have to … write.

I’ll get back to you in relation to this.

Writing Course: Self-Editing Your Work

You have written a story – short story or novel, it doesn’t matter. Now it is time to self-edit it. It is easy to find flaws in other people’s work, but quite difficult to recognise them in your own.

There are three components of self-editing:

1. line/copy-editing,
2. sentence editing,
3. content editing.


A point to remember, whilst the spell check in word processors will identify some misspelt words, you should never rely on it when self-editing as they do not pick up words that are correctly spelled but used in the wrong context (such as to, too, two, their, there, would, wood).

However, you should use the ‘find and replace’ function to check the following:

What to Look For What to Do
Words ending with ‘ly’ Adverbs tell rather than show. A lot of the time if you strengthen the verb, you can eliminate the adverb.
and, so, but, however, because Avoid connectives where possible. Try a full stop and make two sentences, or rearrange and shorten the sentence.
that If the sentence reads well without it, delete it.
thing, stuff Don’t be lazy! Be specific.
he, she, him, her, his, hers If you have two or more characters, don’t rely on pronouns as the reader can become confused as to who is doing/saying what.

Sentence Editing

Once you’ve completed the basic line/copy-edit to correct spelling and grammar, you will need to examine your sentences and the words used. Ask yourself these questions:

Is the language specific, strong?
Do your words allow visualisation?
Is the main character well developed, convincing?
Will the reader sympathise with the main character?
Is there jargon or cliches that should be removed?
Are you too wordy or concise?
Is the word choice supportive of the setting?
Is the tone consistent?
Are there shifts in tone, tense, style or voice?
Is the dialogue convincing?
Does the dialogue move the story along?
Does the dialogue reveal character, conflict or emotion?

Content Editing

The course tackles this last but I feel this should be the first thing you do as major changes could result which may mean the work you’ve already completed in the line/copy-edit and sentence edit has been wasted.

Some more questions you should ask yourself:

What is your story about?
Can you sum up, in one sentence, what you story is about?
Are you saying what you want to say?
What does the main character want? Is this clear from the start?
Where is the story set? Is it important?
Will the reader relate to the main character?
Does the story have direction?
Is there a catchy beginning?
Is the conflict clear from the beginning?
Do the characters face interesting obstacles and make difficult decisions?
Does every action have cause and effect?
Is the main character well developed and interesting?
What is the character’s ruling passion or fatal flaw?
Does the character struggle, grow, change, make a stand?
Is the right character telling the story?
Does the setting create the right mood, have a strong sense of time and place, further the theme and plot?
Is there continuance, consistency and credibility?
Has the point of view or tense changed?
Are the characters believable?
Is the narrative voice right for the story?

Professional Presentation

Once the story has been written, rewritten and edited until it is the best it can be, it is time to take steps to ‘present’ your work in a professional manner.

I would recommend you using William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format Website as a guide, but here’s a quick checklist:

  • Use A4 good quality white paper
  • Use no less than 12 point black font
  • Never use colour ink
  • Use double spacing for manuscript content
  • Use a title page, or more often these days, insert the following onto the first page of the manuscript:
      story title
      author’s name
      approximate word count
      full name, address and contact details
  • Insert into top header, except first page, right aligned, in the following format:
      story title/ author’s surname / page number
  • Left justify content.
  • Make sure there is no extra white space between paragraphs and the first line of each paragraph is indented up to five spaces (3 is a good number).
  • Never bind pages.
  • Always keep a backup copy on disk (or, do what I do, email yourself a copy for safe keeping).
  • Most important, always read the publisher guidelines and do as directed. Always!


Writing Course: Fact to Fiction

Before I get started with the course notes, I have to say that this unit is proving to be extremely difficult. Today, I spent two hours attempting to answer vocabulary questions that left me feeling … well, ‘stupid’ is the word that comes to mind. My score left little to be desired and an ‘oh dear’ taste in my mouth. Not good. My notes, however, do not reflect this part of the unit. Really, if you’re having difficulty writing short stories you should consider doing a course as it’s not the same as reading someone else’s notes, it’s far better!

Fact to Fiction

Fiction is fact and imagination put together. You’ll be amazed by how many ideas for your stories come from what you’ve experienced and what you observe happening to other people.

There are two types of short fiction – literary and genre. Genre fiction has its own conventions and rules so we’ll look at literary fiction first. When you know the basics, then you can move on to genre fiction.


Ideas come from everywhere, everyone and every situation. Yet still people have trouble coming up with ideas. Perhaps the simplest way to start fiction is to start with an anecdote.

Example: One day, after work, you are running late and have to run to the station, but it’s raining and slippery so you fall over, flat on your face, but get up and just manage to get to the station on time.

An anecdote is straightforward, often uninteresting and nothing much happens. Next you must insert something interesting.

Example: One day, after work, you are running late and have to run to the station, but it’s raining and slippery so you fall over, flat on your face, knocking yourself out for a few seconds but when you stand up again you can’t remember who you are.

Now you have a situation, a problem. Now the character has to make a decision and the reader will wonder what the person will do. Now you have the beginning of a story.


Words are the writer’s only tool. It is essential to learn to use words effectively as you cannot be there to explain what you mean to the reader.

Writers should be avid readers too. It’s also important to refer to a dictionary whenever you encounter a word that is unfamiliar to you.

Story Length

Stories can vary in length, but often the length will determine where it might be published.

Length What it Means
500 words a short, short story or flash fiction
1000 words a length specified by magazines or some competitions
2000 – 3000 words the average length for literary or mainstream markets
3000 – 5000 words a popular length for anthologies, some of the best short stories fall into this category
5000+ stories over 5,000 words can be difficult to place

Problem Solving

If you experience problems in your writing then read below as there may be a simple solution.

Starting a story – If you cannot seem to start a story, then start wherever you feel comfortable, even if it means writing the final scene first. It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you start.

Showing not telling – This comes with experience. You will find scenes that can be better illustrated with dialogue or more descriptive words. Find beta readers to help flush out these pesky areas.

Continuing beyond the first paragraph – If you can’t seem to write beyond the first paragraph/page then you must learn to let go and simply keep writing. Don’t stop to fix errors, including typos, just write and write for a full 15 minutes. You’ll be surprised how much can be written in a short space of time.

Knowing when to let go – Striving to continue on with an idea that isn’t working for you is not recommended. Let it go and move on to the next idea, preferably one you feel passionate about.

Dialogue – If you feel you cannot write convincing dialogue, try writing a short story without it. It will mean you’ve finished a short story. It will also eliminate the problem area. Of course, you will have to master it eventually, so sit and observe groups of people as they talk. Write down their actions, facial expressions and other movements as you listen to their conversation. This will help you integrate all these things into your short stories.

Writing Course: Elements of Short Story Writing (Part 2)

You might want to read Part 1 first.


A setting doesn’t need to specify a country, it can be confined to a town, house, room, car, park, tunnel or anywhere else. The setting needs to be there but doesn’t need to take on a role. However, some authors manage to make the setting as alive as their characters.

Setting, if used artistically, can help build your characters and strengthen the plot. Think about it, an untidy bedroom tells the reader a lot about your character.


An author must make decisions on how to structure a story. Where does the story start? Where does it end? How will the story be told?

Traditional story telling follows this pattern:

  • introduce a situation
  • the situation becomes complicated, there’s a confrontation
  • the complication/confrontation is resolved


Time Structure

Traditional stories move chronologically through the story from beginning to end. It is often necessary to remind the reader of facts that have already been revealed, or give them other information to help them understand what is happening. There are ways of arranging your story to help you do this.

Foreshadowing helps build suspense and prepare the reader for things that will happen later in the story. For example, if the loss of a pet is going to become an issue in the story it is better to show the relationship with the pet early in the story rather than when the loss occurs.

Flashback is when the character remembers something from their past that is important to the present. It is recommended that flashbacks be used sparingly in short stories under 3000 words in length.

Sequence of Events is a story told from beginning to end but this is not always affective. However, it’s the best way to ensure the reader does not become confused.

Details and Summary

When we tell stories in real life, we gloss over the uninteresting bits and dramatise the exciting bits. This is story manipulation and it’s something writers do when writing a story.

Pace is essential. Some parts of the story might race along while others are slower and more thoughtful. Pace is controlled by word choice, length of sentences and passage content. Pace helps make the story exciting.

Plot is easily recognised in some stories but quite obscure in others. Genre stories aim to keep the reader entertained, thrilled or terrified. The traditional plot is a series of events involving conflict, which lead to a climax and then a resolution. The best planned plot is built around a well developed character.

Some questions you might ask yourself once you have written the first draft are:

Whose story is it? Whom do you most care about? Why?
Is the character’s goal specific enough for the reader to care?
Are there obstacles stopping the character reaching the goal?
What is at stake? If nothing much then the reader will be bored.
Are the events linked? Is it clear the character is in the grip of fate or is the victim of someone or something?
Is the resolution obvious, predictable or inevitable? If so, have you got to this stage in a fresh way? Does the story encourage the reader to think?
Once you get to the climax, is the story quick to end?
Has every scene contributed to the whole and to the development of the character?


Narrative is the section of the story that is not dialogue as well as the whole of the story’s text in terms of elemental construction.

A skilful writer will inject pace into the narrative and will not include unessential details.

Never try to ‘draw the story out’ in the mistaken notion that it creates suspense. It has the opposite effect on the reader who wants the story to ‘move on’. It is also important not to rely too heavily on ‘telling’ a story as the reader will feel important facts are being glossed over and the story becomes shallow.

Elemental Construction refers to the narrative elements within a story that structure it in a particular way. This includes the choice and balanced arrangement of the following:

Location: Why here and not there?
Time: When did or will it happen?
Narrator: Who should tell the story?
Characters: How many, who are they, and how do they interact?
Length: How long should the story be?
Style: What word arrangement will be most effective?
Type of Narrative: Plot or character driven? Present or past tense? Circular or linear in its telling?


Writing is generally about two things — what you write and how you write.

Style is the name given to the manner in which a piece of writing is expressed and the quality of that expression.

Style is a complex topic but here are a few basic styles and their characteristics:

Clear, lucid – simplicity of word and sentence, orderly, coherent.

Strong, virile, vigorous, forceful – exotic or exalted nature, choice of less common words, elaborate sentences.

Graceful, elegant – careful selection of words, mastery of the meanings or words, felicitous expressions, artistic structure of sentences.

Vivacious, animated, racy – concrete and picturesque expressions, spirited flow of sentences, rapid progress in narration, judicious use of dialogue.

The classifications above are not rigid. There are many ways to describe style. For example, simple, curt, crisp, vivid, urbane, lofty, serious, conversational, rambling, strained, illogical, harmonious, consistent, bombastic, quaint, absurd, delicate, light, quirky, ornate, whimsical, sensory.

Poetic concepts are also used by some short story writers. They are devices to enhance style and include things like using words commencing with the same letter, which is called alliteration, or the resemblance of sound between two words, which is called assonance.

A Writer’s Style

Style is your literary fingerprint. It allows you to sound different to other writers. It can, if you manage to develop an individual style, become so well known that readers will not need you to include you name to know something has been written by you.

Writing Course: Elements of Short Story Writing (Part 1)

The elements of short story include:

  • characterisation
  • dialogue
  • point of view
  • setting
  • structure
  • narrative
  • style


Creating Believable Characters

Most mainstream short stories are ‘character driven’ rather than ‘plot driven’. For this reason, it is important for fiction writers to develop their characterisation skills.

The best place to start is by reading short stories written by other writers to see how they bring their characters alive on the page. Creating characters who feel ‘real’ to the reader takes skill. The time frame is brief in short stories and there is not enough space for lengthy physical and physiological descriptions. You must learn to develop a technique that builds the character without spending unnecessary time and words in doing so.

Exercise: Write two short pieces, about 100 words each, using first person. Offer different ‘points of view’ of the same person. For example, husband and wife, brother and sister, two friends. This exercise will show you how we perceive ourselves and how another might see us in a completely different light. This is a way of also showing the reader different aspects of your characters and will give your characters more depth.

Knowing Your Characters

You, the writer, need to know your characters extremely well. You need to know everything about them, even if you don’t use everything you know in your stories.

It is best to know what makes your characters do what they do and why they are motivated to act and react the way they do. This knowledge will reflect in your writing. Most serious writers tackle this in the planning stage, prior to writing a single word.

It is useful to complete a character profile for each major character. The information on the sheet may include the following, but feel free to add what you think is important and remove those that are not.

Character’s name
Physical appearance
Marital status
Diction, accent
Religious beliefs
Political beliefs
Taste in books, music, film
Food likes/dislikes

Remember: If you are writing a real person into your story, you would be wise to disguise the character to avoid libel action being taken against you.

Use of Dialogue

Dialogue is important. It must sound like ‘real’ speech but must not imitate everyday speech at all. The reason for this is that real conversations contains lots of pointless chatter and short stories cannot accommodate anything that does not move the story forward and strengthen the character.

In real life, everything is said. In fiction, everything is condensed.

During dialogue, characters confront each other. This confrontation is a sharing, it is a scene, an event. It is never ideal chatter!

Point of View

Who is telling the story? Whose eyes are we seeing through? This is the point of view. Then we need to decide if the story is best suited to first or third person, although there is also second person (what I tend to write in these posts), but second person is rarely used in short stories.

First Person Subjective Narration is when ‘I’ tells the story.

The advantages of first person is that the telling can be very intimate and brings the reader close to the character. The reader is usually drawn into the story immediately and can often see the irony of situations. They also get to explore the thoughts and feelings of the character, even when the character is wrong in their thinking. First person point of view suits a quirky style of writing.

The disadvantage are that the story can only ‘see’ and ‘hear’ what the character sees and hears. The author cannot show other pieces of information that the reader may need and the reader cannot know what’s in other characters minds except by use of observation and dialogue. For this reason, first person can be limiting. There is also the danger of the story turning into a long complaint, one of self-pity, which may lose the reader’s empathy.

Third Person Limited or Subjective is when ‘he’ or ‘she’ tells the story.

Using third person limited allows the writer to leave the sight of the character to report what’s happening elsewhere. Having said that, the writer is still constrained to the inner thoughts of one character.

The advantages are that the writer can step back a little, which can give more scope. And it is acceptable to do other scenes from the point of view of another character so that the reader understands how the plot is unfolding, even if the characters do not.

The disadvantages is that the reader is not as connected with the characters as with first person. It is also easier for the writer to go off track, and ramble on a bit, and the pace can be a little slower, which means the urgency can be lacking.

Sustained Point of View

It is important for a writer to sustain the point of view they select when they start writing. If not, you will only confuse or distract the reader and that will cause a real danger of losing them. And that may damage your reputation as they may never read your work again.

Go straight to Part 2.

Writing Course: History of the Short Story

A short story is fiction. It should not be confused with true events, which is written as non-fiction. A short story is an account of what if? What might have happened.

It is difficult to determine when the first short story was written. Narratives from The Golden Age of Greece and the New Testament contain principles that are applicable to its present form. However, it is usually conceded that the short story had its beginnings with Washington Irving in the early 19th Century, when he published Rip Van Wrinkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. These stories had their limitations, they progressed slowly and lacked the movement associated with a French school of writers headed by Balzac and Gautier, but they were popular.

During the last 150 years the short story has developed as a type of prose fiction. It is now distinguished from a novel only in its construction and, of course, length. The short story is constructed according to definite artistic principles. A novel permits greater character development and complex plot construction, whereas a short story does not.

Types of Short Story

There are two basic divisions for a short story — realistic and escapist. Both of these are forms of literary fiction. Then there is the “type” of fiction, known as genre. These include children’s stories, fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, adventure, thriller and detective.

Realistic: These are stories where the subject matter is closely related to events and incidents that occur in real life. The author writes details as they see them and does not gloss over events, no matter how gruesome or affronting. The characters may be based on real people, real conversations and real situations.

Escapist: Many readers don’t want to read about every day situations set in the world they live in. They want worlds of fantasy and melodramatic excitement, where they can identify with the characters but experience colourful romances, alternate words and life how we don’t know it. They want to escape their life and project themselves into these other worlds.

Four Early Short Story Writers

Four writers paved the way to what is now expected in short stories. They wrote with conviction, technical brilliance and power of expression. They are:

Edgar Allan Poe: Poe was the first person to set down specific rules relating to the construction of a short story. These rules have been adopted almost universally.

  • It must create one impression.
  • It must be capable of being read in one session.
  • Every word must contribute to the total effect, which has been pre-determined by the author.
  • This effect must be created immediately, and then gradually developed throughout the story.
  • When the effect reaches a climax, the story must end.
  • Only essential characters should be used to gain effect.

The Russian School (Gogol and Turgenev): In the 19th Century two Russian writers, Gogol and Turgenev, emphasised character rather than actions. Between them, they created realistic portrayals of human sufferings, passions and grief of everyday people. Gogol insisted that the short story must attempt to do one thing only, and must allow the plot to develop naturally without being forced into a conventional pattern.

Robert Louis Stevenson: Stevenson claimed a short story could be written in three different ways.

  • You may take a plot and fit characters to it.
  • You may have a character and choose incidents to develop it.
  • You may take a certain atmophere and get actions and persons to realise and express it.

Stevenson set out with the intentions of writing about atmosphere. He would choose a situation or setting, then select a character and start writing.

Other authors have also made big changes to the way we approach writing short stories. O. Henry introduced the surprise ending at the turn of the century. H. G. Wells looked to science and the future in his stories. Hemingway turned to stories of adventure and social conventions.

Your Own Writing

It is important to know the above as it will help you write short stories, but it is important to remember also that you must feel free to always develop your own methods. Rules are helpful, they will get you started, but they are not rigid.

Other skills an aspiring writer will need are:

  • read short stories written by other authors
  • have a good command of the English language and how to construct a sentence
  • strive to broaden your vocabulary
  • be aware of publishing opportunites
  • learn to be professional in presenting yourself and your work
  • attend writers’ workshops and readings
  • accept construction criticism
  • be prepared to rewrite until your story is right
  • persevere despite numerous rejections from publishers
  • study the market carefully

Your Writer’s Journal

It is a good idea to keep a journal of your writing activites. Use a notepad, if you like, or buy a student diary. However you decide to do it, make a pen and paper account of the writing you do including planning, research, networking, submission and anything else you do that is writing related. By doing this, you will see how much time you spend doing each activity and you will also find out how much time you actually dedicate to the craft of writing itself.

Writing – 1 hour
Planning – 2 hours
Submissions – 1/2 hour
Networking – 4 hours

Writing – 1.5 hours
Research – 3 hours
Networking – 6 hours

Most aspiring writers discover they spend more time doing everything else other than actually writing.

Lastly, try writing a diary, by hand. Write about your life, your moods, yours loves and hates, your family, your hobbies and whatever else you feel you want to write about. Don’t be afraid to write about your writing journey also. Write about your aspirations, your disappointments, the methods you employ and disregard. Write your diary whenever the mood takes you and you will find a new perspective open up to you.