Word on a Whim

Archive for the category “Writing”

Writing under the alfluence of incohol

I have always been unusually attracted to alcohol to the extent that I must discipline myself to abstain for a while when guilt starts to override the pleasure.  I buy ‘Every Day’ vodka and, whilst I realise that’s a brand and not a prescription or a recommendation, I do find it’s the best thing for easing aches and pains or picking me up when I come home knackered and still have stuff to do. Most people I know would only have a drink with a companion, to be sociable.  I have never had a problem with drinking alone. I have been on the wagon for seventeen days and I look forward to starting to drink again at some point in the future, but with a little more reverence, and certainly not Every Day.  I don’t particularly feel healthier for not drinking … there are still days of feeling tired and crappy, which I might have put down to having one too many the night before, except I haven’t had any the night before.  Not that I do very often have a hangover these days – I am careful to get the ‘dosage’ right since ageing makes hangovers worse and longer lasting, and during the week I am conscious of early morning driving.  Maybe the aspartame and sucralose in the soft drinks I knock back to quash the cravings at my habitual drinking time are doing more harm than the alcohol?

So, where is the connection with writing?  I’m getting there but you can see how fixated I am!

Last weekend I was looking forward to starting to write my new novel.  It was the Jubilee weekend so I had two extra days off work to get stuck in and expected to have it well underway by the end of Tuesday … only it didn’t happen.  I spent hours staring at the laptop screen and then wandering off; finding no end of distractions to avoid writing.  I would rather have scrubbed the kitchen floor (it needs it) than start the new novel – but I didn’t do that either (maybe tomorrow).

Now, I’m not saying I write well when drunk – the reverse is true – but at least I would have written something. Alcohol loosens up my keyboard like it loosens some people’s tongues, and my fingers would not have been able to keep up with the flow of narrative – and I would have felt good for being on a roll and for getting so much done.  Then the next day, sober, I would have tightened it up by deleting a fair portion of superfluous waffle but at least I’d be much further on than I am now.

At least I’ve written this, on a Saturday night, without booze … so I have written something.  Hopefully I will make better progress with the book tomorrow.  I might even clean the kitchen floor.


A new mission

I have rejected the idea of rewriting my old novels in favour of starting something new.  Freshening up the old stuff would be a much quicker way of getting some more titles on my list but I really don’t feel like going back over old ground.  A lot of it was written during dark times and, although the subject matter is not a reflection of the ‘darkness’, looking back at it stirs up memories and feelings that are unwelcome now that I am happier than ever before.  Whilst not all the chapters of ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ are entirely cheerful, I hope that the light tone of the narrative keeps the sad parts from being too heavy.

I am still at the research stage – making sure that the new story is plausible before I start writing it.  This makes me appreciate how lucky we are to have the internet with so much information so readily available.  Past projects involved Saturday morning visits to the library in a bid to get my facts right and I can still remember the satisfaction of coming home with a book that had a page or two on the subject I was researching.  Now I have too many pages than I have time to read; about any subject under the sun.  The sun is still shining.  Pity about all the flies that come with it ;<)

Writing a good Sex Scene

This is something that I struggle with – writing about it without including gratuitous details or off-putting graphic references to body parts.  Here are couple of snippets from books I have read that really don’t do it for me:

“maintaining his erection against her thigh, he lubricated her with his hand”

Sorry but Yuck!

“she felt the length of his shaft”

They were down a mine, right?

If I am reading a love scene, I feel cheated if the couple go off to bed and shut the door on me, but yet it can be cringe-making to be allowed behind the door.

As a teenager I loved the work of DH Lawrence and must have read just about everything he ever wrote – and how sensitively he wrote it!  Yes, he could be graphic, but then the ‘C’ word in his day sounded okay.  DH Lawrence also describes human emotions as they are, sometimes forsaking delicacy.  His characters feel anxiety in their bowels rather than as a butterfly fluttering in the chest.

Many years ago I read Roald Dahl’s ‘My Uncle Oswald’ (and I might quote this wrong as my copy got passed on along with all the Lawrence books) but I still recall a scene where he is looking through a window and he narrates something like this;

“I am not a voyeur.  The act of copulation is like that of picking your nose.  It is okay to be doing it yourself but to witness someone else doing it is a singularly unpleasant spectacle.”

That cracked me up when I read it and has stuck in my mind since about 1990, and probably explains why I struggle with sex scenes and why I will never be entirely at ease with writing them.  But I hope to keep practising …


Now available as a Paperback

Sorry to change back the subject, but ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ is now available as a Paperback (368 pages), in addition to Amazon Kindle format!

Dean’s book cover looks superb and Imprint Digital’s printing and binding is excellent.  I really hope that what’s written on the pages is of similar quality – and I hope that you will read it and let me know what you think, either by commenting on this blog or by filling in the contact form on the top of this page or by writing a review on Amazon.

To link to the Amazon Kindle version (on Amazon.co.uk) click on the book cover image.  It can also be purchased in USD from Amazon.com.

To order a copy of the paperback using PayPal -UK only please (owing to postage cost) click the ‘PayPal click here to buy’ button, beneath the cover image.

I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thank you,


What shall I do next?

I have finally submitted the PDF file to the printers, and the paperbacks are in the process of being printed.  Whilst I’m looking forward to receiving them I am dreading discovering a typo the minute I look inside.  Not that I ever want to read my BF book again – after all that proof-reading.

There are some books I wrote years ago that I could dig up and re-write; all of them completely different from the one I have just finished, and different from each other – or maybe I should try something new?

An issue I have with writing in my spare time is that it doesn’t leave much time for reading other people’s work, but when I decided to read something instead of jumping into a new project, I found I was still in proof-reading mode and was checking out the punctuation instead of enjoying the story.

I will be glad to get my teeth into something new!


Still proof reading ‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’

I thought I had been through it with a fine tooth comb but, randomly dipping into it, I spotted a typo that sent me back to the beginning to read the whole damn thing yet again … slowly … looking at the individual words rather than combining them into something I recognised, and yes, I am picking up one or two errors that I missed the previous time, and finding it hard to believe that I missed them.  Other people’s mistakes in prose jump straight out at me!

Yesterday I found one of my characters stoking a dog instead of stroking it.  Oops!  I can’t blame the spell-checker for that one – but I do get cross with it for arguing with me all the time about apostrophe use, to the extent that I begin to doubt myself.  In the book I have frequently used it’s as an abbreviation for it is and the spell-checker keeps trying to persuade me to remove the apostrophe.  That is just one example of the spell-checker being annoying, which prompts me to be a bit too click-happy on the Ignore button, so I end up skipping some of its valid corrections.  See, I do know how to use the apostrophe!   I also know this story so well by now that I have no idea whether it’s any good or not.  I believed it was good when I had just finished writing it, but I am too close to it now to judge it – it has turned into a grammar and spelling challenge.

I only hope that when it is eventually published, people will read it and tell me honestly what they think.

My duff cover design

Duff cover design

I thought I’d exhibit this here, since it will never be used.  If it makes anyone laugh then the time it took me to create it hasn’t been wasted!  I know it looks uninspired, but I probably would have used it if the print on the back had been okay.  The flask and champagne glass are supposed to represent Serge and Leo.  Serge has an attachment to thermos flasks and keeps one with him at all times, and Leo has had a life of celebrated success until his world falls apart.  A shattered champagne glass would have been more appropriate but I was not prepared to break the glass for the sake of my art. Well, I did consider it, but was worried about the dog’s paws – and it would probably have broken all wrong; either shattering beyond recognition or just snapping off at the stem.  I expect anyone who knew what they were doing with Photoshop would have used separate images of the flask and champagne glass and overlaid the glass over the flask at a more dramatic angle.  I simply put a coaster under the edge of the glass to tilt it as far as possible without it falling over!

I emailed the jpeg file to my chosen printing firm, Imprint Digital, asking is they could print it off on paper to see if the small print looked readable and they were good enough to print in on card and post it to me the same day.  I was most impressed with the quick and helpful response from Imprint Digital, but it confirmed the doubts I had about the quality of my file, as the writing was still blurry and pixelated despite the high-spec printer.  I was no longer able to blame my tools. Now I am glad that the print is blurred, otherwise I would have made do with it, and it’s really not very good, is it?

Loving my characters

‘The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo’ took me a long time to write, and I gradually grew to love Serge and Leo as if they were family. I would plan future chapters of the story whilst awake at night, or washing up, or stuck in traffic, and I missed them when the book was finished and they were no longer part of my daily life. The project had been shelved for months when real life events took over; resulting in some continuity issues which had to be resolved. And then, when it was all over, I wrote the synopsis!

The final proof reading is still ongoing but I’m finding I want to change things, which is annoying, as it introduces more scope for errors and I don’t want to have to go through it all again.  Particularly in the early chapters, I keep thinking Serge wouldn’t react like that, or that’s not a word that Leo would use.  I guess it’s because their personalities have developed and characteristics reinforced over the course of time, and I now know exactly what they would say or do in any situation.  Only they’re not with me any more …

Who judges a book by its cover?

A short time spent researching the subject suggests that people do judge books by their covers – but the majority of these were selling their book cover design services.

Having access to a PC with Photoshop CS3 installed, I decided to try saving a few bob by making my own book cover.  I had never used Photoshop and mistakenly thought that when I opened the package it would be obvious what I was supposed to do with it.  It wasn’t.  Not to me, anyway. Fortunately, people have taken the trouble to put helpful tutorials on the internet, and after chipping away at my project over the last few weeks, I have a book cover that looks okayish on the screen.  But it has taken me far longer than I expected and has eaten into my precious writing time.  And I couldn’t reproduce it – I have no idea really how I got it to this stage.

There are in fact two covers, one for the Kindle version, which is just the front cover, and one for the paperback, which from left to right, has the back cover with the ‘blurb’, followed by the spine, followed by the front cover.

I decided to print a copy of the paperback version, and now I have a dilemma.  The small print on the back cover, which looks fine when viewed on the screen, is quite blurry on the paper.  I googled and found that other people had the same issue, and took advice on using the sharpening tools and so on, but it still looks rubbish on paper.

Could it simply be that our little inkjet printer isn’t up to the job, or is this how the cover will look when the books are delivered from the printers? Perhaps I could email my image to a printing firm and get them to print a copy on a decent printer. If this is as good as it gets my book will have a very ‘home made’ look. I would expect anyone to judge the book negatively by this cover.  I do hope I haven’t wasted my time.

Proof reading my own work

It is not ideal.  I am very quick to spot other people’s typos, but I look at a paragraph of my own words and only see what I intended to write.  It does help that I finished the book a while ago, so there is a sense of re-visiting it.  The closer I am to it, the less likely I am to spot the mistakes.

I am not only checking for mistakes but also for consistencies.  Sometimes I have written ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’ with a full-stop after it and sometimes without, and there are places where the word processor has inverted the speech marks the wrong way; normally in dialogue, where the speaker’s words are interrupted, represented by a dash – or else when their words trail off … and this is more noticeable with Times New Roman than with Arial, owing to TNR being more curvy.  (Hmm.  Okay, don’t worry, I’m done with fonts!)

There are also times when I am eluded by the common name that everyone else uses for something.  I had one of my characters turning off the main road and into a ‘business complex’, which didn’t sound right.  I asked my partner, “What do you call those places with a huge car park surrounded by shops like Argos, Next, Boots and PC World and there is always a McDonald’s?”

‘Retail Park,’ he instantly replied.

Of course!  ‘Business complex’, I ask you!

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