Comic Timing

The Bandleader blamed the Comic, for adding extra material.  The Comic blamed the Bandleader for coming in too early, drowning out the punchline.

Less than an hour after the end of the show, the Comic stood in a darkened doorway.  He’d arrived early, and removed the light-bulb.

As the musician fumbled with his keys, a voice tickled his ear:

“Laugh this off.”

Puzzled he turned, only to see a figure turning the corner at the end of the street.  His back began to itch as if it were on fire.

He turned and, in extreme discomfort, ran to the shower.

© David Jesson, 2018


A little bit of Flash Fiction, which I submitted to one of Janet Reid’s competitions a few years ago now, but which has kept on getting bumped from FCBF for one reason or another.

There are a number of rules, but the key ones are:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


To compete for the Steve Forti Deft Use of Prompt Words prize (or if you are Steve Forti) you must also use: Fortran

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

Thus: early/pearly is ok, but light/sleight is not. Hours is fine, but grouch is not

(You might have to look twice, but I did manage to get Fortran in there :0) ).

Filling time

Today was the day.  The handover had been completed without a hitch, and Joe sidled out of the rendezvous with the brown paper bag clutched in his hands.  There is an art to being unobtrusive: Joe had watched too many of the wrong sort of films and over-did his nonchalant departure.  Still, if his skitter from the protection of one doorway to another was attracting the attention of the crowds, it was shielding him from the one set of eyes that he was trying to avoid.

He’d spotted his stalker, quite by chance, when he stepped out of the office block on his lunchbreak and had become dizzy with indecision.  Why was his nemesis here now?  Should he abandon his plan?  No!  Audentes fortuna juvat, he muttered under his breath.  Very well.  If fortune favoured the brave, he would be brave.  He strode onwards, away from his destination, attempting to throw his stalker off the scent.  He walked down tiny side streets, aware of eyes on him.  Suddenly he twisted into a department store, zig-zagging amongst shuffling shoppers and exiting from the main doors on the other side of the building.  From there, Joe tried to keep out of sight, moving quickly until he reached his target.

There could be no question of returning to the office to open the bag.  Every one of his colleagues would come sniffing around.  But he had thrown off his pursuer, so perhaps he could risk opening it in the park…?

Joe looked around nervously as he sat on the bench and started to open the paper bag.  He’d lived on lumpy homemade cheese and pickle sandwiches all week so that he could save enough to buy one of the exotic creations from the Café Du Sept Hippocampes.  It would, perhaps, have been safer to eat his lunch in the café itself, but the extra cost was beyond him, and the bohemian nature of the pretentious venue brought him out in hives.  But the sandwiches…he drooled at the merest thought of them, which had led to one or two embarrassing moments when he’d started day-dreaming in long meetings.

He drew in the smell first, the aroma being the first part of the feast.  There was always the temptation to nibble, to take mouse-like bites and so make the sandwich last as long as possible, but he’d discovered that to do so was to miss the point of this culinary sensation.  The only way was to take a deep, hearty bite and so draw in all of the separate ingredients in one mouthful and undertake some gastronomic alchemy and deliver an explosion of taste to the tongue.

Joe bit deeply, and lost himself in an instant of perfection.

His pursuer, that had followed him for just this moment, swooped over his shoulder and took its own bite out of the sandwich.  Landing on the grass in front of Joe, the seagull smirked, and eyed up the sandwich for a second go.

© David Jesson, 2021

#SecondThoughts: Blotto, Twinks and the new kind of book review

I’ve been becoming more disillusioned with ‘star’ reviews as time passes, so I thought I would pilot a new series here on Fiction Can Be Fun, drawing together approaches from several different sources. We’ll see how it goes: please do let me know if there is anything that you particularly like or dislike about the approach with a comment at the end. For the time-being, we’ll stick this under #secondthoughts, but if it looks like it’s a go-er, we’ll think again.

First up, Simon Brett’s Blotto, Twinks, and the Ex-King’s Daughter.

Simon Brett has a whopping 57 mystery books in four different series, plus a few other books (the most famous probably being the thriller A Shock To The System, with Michael Caine starring in the film adaptation). The longest running series is The Charles Paris Mysteries; the first of these was written in the mid-1970s. Bill Nighy plays the louche, alcoholic, shambolic, struggling actor, for whom the series is named, in a series of radio adaptions that were updated for the run that began in 1999. (They also had to make some changes to deal with continuity as the stories ended up being adapted out of order).

As I come to write this review, I realise that my experience of Simon Brett’s writing has mostly come from the radio adaptations with Bill Nighy, and from Brett’s series Foul Play, a panel game played by mystery writers. My only experience of actually reading his work is the first book in his Fethering series, which was a book club read. (Fethering is a fictional village on the south coast of Britain, just down the road from the very real Tarring. This probably tells you everything you need to know about Brett’s sense of humour). Brett has been on my TBR list for some time: I spotted Blotto and Twinks in the library recently, and I thought ‘why not?’

Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter feels a lot like P.G. Wodehouse having a go at a Ruritanian novel, with a splash of Biggles, or something very much like. Blotto is the ‘spare’ in a ducal family, his elder brother Loofah having taken the seat when their father died sometime prior to the start of the book. Whilst Blotto is more athletic than Bertie Wooster, and very much more heroic, they have about the same capacity between the ears. His younger sister, Twinks, is the brains of the family, and in danger of turning into a Mary Sue type character. To Blotto’s relief, she’s more than happy to let him drive the car, even though she’s hopelessly modern and can change a tyre, something Blotto believes should be left to the working classes.

I read a comment recently about Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories which suggested that the mystery was second to the interaction of the characters, particularly the badinage between Wolfe and his leg-man and general factotum Archie Goodwin. This just made me think I need to get back into reading Nero Wolfe stories, because it’s a while since I’ve done so. The reason for mentioning it is that this book is billed as a mystery too, but there’s very little of it, to my mind. Instead we have Blotto and Twinks, a miscellany of characters, including their dreadful mother (who is giving Loofah a hard time because he’s only given her granddaughters so far), and a rather heavy-handed Ruritanian king-in-exile setting.

You’re probably getting the impression that I didn’t like this book very much. There are indeed many things that I found it difficult to engage with, and if you’re selling a book on the one hand as a mystery and on the other on the basis of some loveable eccentric characters, then you want the mystery to be stimulating and the characters to be engaging. There are another nine books, so far, in the series, so maybe I’m being overly harsh in my assessment, or perhaps the books mellow with time, or perhaps you just need to be prepared that the book is not a full blooded (conscious choice of words there) mystery. I find it difficult to recommend this specific book to anyone, but if you enjoy your detective fiction then I would recommend the Fethering books, and I would definitely advise listening out for Bill Nighy as Charles Paris. If I manage to snag a book from that series I’ll keep you updated.

How about you? Have you read any of Simon Brett’s books before? What turns you off a book? What are your expectations for a mystery novel?

#FlashFiction Writing Prompt: Expenses

A long time ago, a bit after dinosaurs ruled the Earth, but long before Google, I was getting used to having an email account, and people were starting to send spam. In those days not all spam was rubbish – for example, one email was a list of alternative answers to “Why did the chicken cross the road?” (Timothy Leary – Because it was the only trip the establishment would let it take). These days, you can google such things and find long lists of answers… I’m carefully not putting a link here.

What has this to do with expenses? Or flash fiction prompts? Well, one of the emails that filled up my inbox, back in the day, was a very clever ‘insurance claim’ which explained how certain injuries were received on the job. (I wish I still had that original). But it occurred to me that it might be quite fun to write something in a similar vein. So: what’s the explanation for the unusual expense claim that’s just hit the Finance Department? Your claim can relate to something pre-Covid, or slap bang in the middle, but needs to be just that little bit…odd. An extra screen for the computer because you’re working at home isn’t what we’re looking for. Similarly, a rock star demanding a bowl of purple skittles only is a bit passe.

Usual rules: keep it clean (which is to say, nothing NSFW)
Word count: 400-1000 words(ish).
Deadline: 8am GMT on Sunday 8th August 2021

Don’t forget, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page.

A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line – you retain the copyright.

One caveat, if you want to go down this route: this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.

#FlashFiction Prompt: Now with Added Sci Fi

A little throw back to James Pailly’s post that kicked off our #NowWithAdded series. A simple enough premise: look around you, think about your life…what would the consequences be if something ordinary became a bit more SciFi?

Word count: Approximately 1,000 words
Deadline: 8am GMT on Sunday 11th July 2021

Don’t forgot, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page

A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line – you retain the copyright.

One caveat, if you want to go down this route: this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.

Whither goest thou?

“Quo vadis?”

It’s a busy day today.  There’s a long line of people struggling up the steep hill to our gate.  Our optio, Marcus, delivers the traditional challenge.  The voice in my head always wants to shout out “It’s bloomin’ obvious, they want to get in, don’t they?”.  But rules are rules, and the optio must challenge the travellers, and the rest of the squad must look smart, two with ceremonial spears blocking the narrow archway into the building, two to pat down the supplicants, and apply the wands that check for illicit chemicals and EM signatures.

That’s me – the spear-holder to the left of the arch, attempting to look impassive, disguising the fact that I’m clenching my buttocks in time to show tunes to keep the blood moving around my body whilst I stand here.  It also helps to alleviate the boredom, a little.

The optio is a twenty-year man.  He’s mulling over whether to stay on for another twenty years or take his land-grant and retire.  He looks good in his uniform.  His skin is leathery from years spent out under suns on myriad worlds, but it contrasts nicely with his body-armour, the chest plate embossed with the traditional abdominal six-pack, the golden emblems indicating his rank, length of service, valour.

Me?  Yeah, I’m the odd one out for sure.  I’m not from Nova Roma.  I’m a refugee.  Military service seemed like the simplest way to gain citizenship, although who knows what that will mean in the long run.  I’ve been lucky though – no off-planet wars to fight in so far.  Instead, gate-duty.

It’s strange how quickly you get institutionalised though.  This guy here, with his super glossy black hair – he’s not a local.  It’ll be subtle, but he’ll get worked over just that little bit more than a home-grown Citizen.  The next senior person in our squad is Francesca, and she really doesn’t like off-worlders.  Yep, there it is, an extra pat down, legs kicked a little further apart.  She’s not going to get promotion though – she’s a good enough soldier, but not leadership material.  Cassie will get promoted before her, but new optios don’t get the squad they came from, so if we lose Marcus and Cassie, there’s a good chance they’ll break us up and ship us to different squads, possibly completely different postings.

Titus is the poet.  That’s him, with Francesca, doing the pat downs.  He won’t do the full twenty.  He’ll probably just do his National Service, get his SPQNR stamp on his docket and…he says he’s going to travel, but I reckon he’ll just end up back in the family bakery.

The guy with the thick black hair is waved on.  Cassie and I stamp to attention, spears to the upright to allow the man to pass.  He glances up at the aquila carved into the archway and makes his way inside the cool marble halls of the Senate building.

The next traveller steps up.

“Quo vadis?”

© David Jesson, 2021

Now with added…Satire

I did not, and still don’t, consider myself to be a creative mind, so when it came to thinking of a story I drew an emphatic blank. Eventually I chose something unusual, something never done in novel form before to the best of my knowledge.

I landed on a Neanderthal comedy.

As with a lot of the writing community on Twitter, I’d be hard pushed to remember exactly when I made contact with John Drake, the focus of last week’s Indie Spotlight here on Fiction Can Be Fun. What I do know is that he has a great eye for the absurd, and great ear for comic dialogue. I’m always incredibly grateful (and amused) when I spot his tweets, and I am beyond chuffed that he’d agreed to give us an insight into the crossover between his life and his writing.

Without further ado, I’ll hand over to John. Give him a big hand guys, that’s right, make him feel welcome!

I didn’t enjoy English lessons in school; I hated that it involved lots of writing. I would have been far happier had I been able to summarise the novel “Of Mice And Men” with a couple of sentences explaining how it was a story of a friendship’s boundaries, and perhaps a nod to the importance of beans. I also dropped history at the first opportunity, aged fourteen, for the same reason. The idea that one day I would write a book, let alone three historical ones, was preposterous.

I never wrote a simple, cute story as a six year old, I never wrote one about playing football for my favourite team as a teenager, and I grew into adulthood without once picking up a pen in anger.

When, as a young twenty-something, I started work in a large sales office in Liverpool, England, colleagues would ask me to write their complaint letters to businesses they felt had wronged them. I enjoyed weaving their situation into a coherent and infallible grievance. But that was it. I still hadn’t written a single word of fiction, despite the gently growing calls from those around me. You should write a book they would say, as they often do. I would nod placatingly and ignore the well-meaning advice.

The tipping point, I think, was when I read the last available Terry Pratchett book a few years ago. I had devoured them in double quick time, along with the works of Douglas Adams, P G Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde and other satirical greats. I could find nothing similar out there for people like me. As the years wore on I began to think more and more that perhaps I could write something to combat this dearth. Almost three years ago, at the age of forty, I decided to give it a go with neither hope nor expectation that anything would come of it.

 I did not, and still don’t, consider myself to be a creative mind, so when it came to thinking of a story I drew an emphatic blank. Eventually I chose something unusual, something never done in novel form before to the best of my knowledge.

I landed on a Neanderthal comedy.

Before writing a single word I concluded only two things about the story; it would be full of wordplay and the Neanderthal main character would be an engineer. It is no exaggeration to say that was the sum total of my planning. I had no idea what the plot was, why he was an engineer (other than it being a humorous juxtaposition), nor how I was going to string out a story for seventy five thousand words with no points of reference other than some trees and perhaps a mountain. This was, literally, the first piece of fiction I had ever written. I opened up a blank MS Word document and stared at it for a while. Then I wrote:

‘The Sun had finally risen, slowly but inevitably, like an almost-too-heavy balloon’

    I must have read over it a dozen times. Yes, I was happy with that. It was thunderously lonely, but I liked it.

Now what?

Inexplicably, I chose to write a one hundred word scene where a goat falls of a rocky outcrop.

Great. Now what?

I had given no thought to the environment within which the story would happen, so I began to describe the scenery, with the main character sitting on the same rocky outcrop (though without the goat) as he scanned the landmarks. I named them in self-explanatory ways; Cave Mountain was a mountain with caves in it. Green Forest was a forest that was green, and so on. It was a natural progression, then, to have the secondary characters as simple, unimaginative Neanderthals in contrast to my engineer. This set the dynamic for the rest of the story and all I did was lay the tracks of the plot in front of me as I wrote. Before I knew it the main character had had enough of his tribe and had left them behind in favour of a hopeless adventure. I was motoring along, adding no more than a few words each day, until I finally wrote ‘The End’.

Terry Pratchett once said that the first draft is just you telling yourself the story, and this is certainly true of my writing journey, since I had no idea what the story was when I started. Come to think of it, the same can be said for when I was more than halfway through it too. I gave it out to family members, who came back with bits and pieces of valuable feedback. Once I had ironed out these issues and checked for continuity errors and typos, I was done.

Without boring you with the intricacies of every writing decision I have ever made, I applied the same logic to book two, a satire set during the Black Death, and book three, a Genghis Khan comedy. All three were chosen because I hadn’t seen anything similar before, and the last two were also subjects I had a general interest in.

You may be reading this and thinking that I have oversimplified the writing process in the same way that I condensed Of Mice And Men, but the honest truth is that I haven’t. That is it; the process that took me from not being an author, to being one.

All you have to do is tell yourself the story.

In the end, I told myself the story and it changed me in more ways than I could have imagined. I’m now a writer with a publisher and have four novels out there in the ether, all of which will outlive me. I no longer spend my days ticking boxes in a boring office job. Instead I travel through my imagination and spend my days turning ‘what if’ ideas into storylines.

I am, literally, living the dream.

Several people in history have noted that “If you do something you love you will never work a day in your life” and this is absolutely true. I love writing, and it seems I have some level of talent for it. Being able to do it and pay the bills at the same time is something for which I will be grateful for as long as it remains sustainable. It started out as a simple hobby, then morphed into a personal legacy for me to be sentimental about when I’m sitting under a tartan blanket in a rocking chair with too many grey hairs and not enough summers. Now it is a way of life. It defines my day to day living as my office job once did, but with more joy and a sense of accomplishment.

Could I imagine doing anything else? Not on your nelly.

© John Drake, 2021 (Main text)

©David Jesson, 2021 (Intro)

Indie Spotlight: John Drake

Have you seen this man? Wanted for writing biting satire.

Indie spotlight is a new feature that we’ve added this year, and for our second issue, I’m delighted to introduce John Drake. I say delighted, but that’s through gritted teeth, because John is not only a brilliant writer, and not only horribly quick at getting his books out, but he’s a terribly nice person. In fact his only real fault is his obsession with Tranmere Rovers. John currently has three books out in the cruel world, with a fourth joining them on June 1st.

John’s first book, Making Man, is a little gem: it’s billed as the world’s first neanderthal comedy novel. Whilst Littlenose might have something to say about that, until further evidence is found, I think we have to support John’s assertion, if only because the Littlenose books are collections of short stories. But I digress.

Making Man follows the adventures of neanderthal engineer Cobble of the village of Boardom (possibly one of the earliest puns in prehistory). Cobble has the kind of dreams that change the world, and sometimes leads to the dreamer being chased out of their home by people with flaming torches and/or a tendency to ask difficult questions about your role in breaking things of inestimable value to the community…Ultimately the book is about family and friendship, particularly the family you choose for yourself, and surviving the family you get born with.

Possibly the first neanderthal comedy novel in the world.

Fans of Douglas Adams and Sir Terry Pratchett may not enjoy Making Man as much as those esteemed authors, there are fewer elephants and no Vogons after all, but they should enjoy and remember it fondly nonetheless.

Making Man, blurb

I’m cautious of comparisons with other authors, but that’s another story. Do not be fooled by the mention of Pratchett and Adams – John Drake does have his own voice. I’d even go so far as to say that this is a much more original work than Pratchett’s Colour of Magic. If you’re unfamiliar with Pratchett’s first Discworld novel, it is a great pastiche, but it wears its inspirations on its sleeve. Making Man is a very different beast. Fans of authors such as Pratchett and Adams will find themselves well-catered for here, but the inspirations are well hidden behind the scenery.

John Drake is a champion of people with all their imperfections: he sees the best in people and how they can achieve so much more when they talk together and work together. Read this book and share in a tale of overcoming adversity.

Finding the funny side in the plague sweeping medieval Europe

In case you haven’t realised yet, John is a man who likes to take his own path… From prehistory, he turned his attention to the medieval period, and then moved from Europe to the Steppes of Asia.

Cheating Death takes as its back drop the Black Death, which is not well known for its humorous potential. A woman seeking revenge by assassinating the pope doesn’t sound like it should add many laughs and nor does a dubious individual known as the Cutler… Still, it doesn’t take two bibidinous English pilgrims to carry the humour – Drake is far too canny a writer to rely on such obviously comic stalwarts.

What’s funny about Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde? Read and find out!

Ghengis Khan is also not well known for his sense of humour, but rather creating an immense empire that stretched all the way to middle Europe. Here we find an older despot, arguably entering a second childhood, which has all sorts of opportunities for comedy in itself. But wait! There’s more! You wouldn’t think that the Golden Horde would need a Human Resources Manager would you? But here he is, up to his neck in it, and sent off on a reconnaissance mission as penance. Whilst Drake’s pun game is always strong, there is a particular satisfaction here with respect to the names of the division leaders. I really wouldn’t recommend turning recognition of these into a drinking game.

And then we come to John’s latest book, which from the title sounds like it’s completely about the current lockdown crisis and working from home, but from the cover and the snippets that I’ve seen I can categorically state that it isn’t… Somewhere it has some Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in its DNA, and perhaps a little Only Fools and Horses (as revised by Simon Pegg), but fundamentally it’s pure John Drake, and it will deserve your complete and undivided attention!

If you’d like to find out more about any of John’s books, then you can find him on Amazon, Goodreads, and his Three Ravens Author Profile.

John has also taken the incredibly brave step of setting up a proofreading and editing service, Cobblestones. We’ll be adding that to our resources page. John offers a discount for independent authors.

© David Jesson, 2021 (New material.  Author picture, book covers etc used with permission of John Drake).

How to edit: Some #SecondThoughts

…today I thought it might be helpful to look at how to edit in terms in deploying various strategies to get into the text and tinker with the nuts and bolts of it.

Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing on which the #WritingCommunity can agree.  I suppose it’s a microcosm of the whole of life – there’ll always be at least two sides to an issue and a spectrum of possible positions which ever side of the fence you sit.  Assuming you’re not sitting on the fence itself of course.

Editing is one of those things that most writers seem to despise: you’ve got the first draft down on paper, it’s an incomplete mess, and now, somehow you’ve got to impose some kind of order.  I have a bad habit of editing on the fly rather than trying just to write and get everything down – but that’s another story…Under the right circumstances (time, quiet, space) I actually quite enjoy editing.  There’s something quite therapeutic about bringing order from chaos.  That said, there are different kinds of editing.  It’s tempting to think that it’s just about catching the typos, the split infinitives, and the fact that you’ve used a particular word three times in two pages (or even two paragraphs).  But editing can also be about making sure that the thread of the story is complete, that the story is well balanced, that you don’t change a character’s name halfway through.

So far, I’ve had three very positive experiences working with editors to revise texts.  The first was with Rachael Ritchie who helped enormously in getting ‘The Cave of Legix’ into shape for inclusion in The Crux Anthology.  The second was working with Cally Worden of Enigma Editorial: Cally was the first professional editor that I have worked with to review a story that I had a particular destination in mind for.  Whilst the story is yet to be published, that’s more down to me as I need to finish some extensive revisions, because Cally helped me to see where there were some significant flaws in the story.  Don’t get me wrong – Cally was incredibly supportive, and made me feel that the story was worthwhile working on.   Most recently, I’ve been working with Jaime and Liz of Cardigan Press to polish a short story for their debut anthology – they’re great at letting the writer’s individuality come through, but absolutely insistent that the writing is top quality.

I’ve previously mentioned that I sometimes use Hemingway Editor as part of an editing strategy, and Debs has done a great comparison of various routes to listening to what you’ve written. But today I thought it might be helpful to look at how to edit in terms in deploying various strategies to get into the text and tinker with the nuts and bolts of it.  In fact, thinking about your text as a piece of machinery is not a bad way to go.  We’re trying to get from the workshop, where there are wires that are the wrong length, redundant bits that were part of an initial concept, important bits that fall off because they’re not fixed down properly, to the sleek, elegant form that’s going to convince people to buy it.

Editing strategies are going to depend a little bit on how long the story is that you are trying to edit. Micro or flash fiction is obviously fairly easy to see what’s going on – your entire story might be less than one screen’s worth of words.  Once you are over a couple of thousand words though, and certainly when you are talking about novella and novel length stories, it’s seldom a good idea to begin with a complete read-through straight off.  Like any exercise, editing requires a warm up – whilst your writing muscles may be lovely and flexible from getting all the words down on the page, you will pull something if you try to dive straight into editing.  You will be using a different set of muscles now.

My warm up exercise for editing comes courtesy of Victoria Griffin and her ‘10 Red Flags‘.  I work through the list sequentially: using ‘find’ I look for every instance of a particular word and delete if it’s unnecessary or revise the text as appropriate.  This is also a handy way of dropping you into the narrative in random places and engaging with what you’ve written previously.  What might have seemed like a lovely piece of text when you wrote it can be shown to be a bit flabby or unhelpful when you look at it again.  Likewise, something that might have felt like you only put it in to fill a gap might be worth a second look.  In either case, seeing it out of immediate context can be helpful in exposing flaws.

An extension of this first step is to check and see if you have any ‘crutch’ words – words that you use repeatedly for whatever reason.  Last year we added Word Cloud to our list of Writer’s Resources, and I talked about how you might use it. It’s easy to generate a list of words and how many times they are used in the text.  Again, find is your friend.

At some point, you will need to read through the whole thing, and you will probably need to do this more than once.  Different people will have different takes on this, but, as an aside, I’m always surprised that people don’t turn on spelling and grammar features in their writing software of choice.  It won’t catch everything, and it might flag things that you need to ignore, but I’ve always found it useful for catching a significant number of issues.  Anyway, back to the read through.  There is a temptation to try and and hack through as much as possible as you can in one go.  This is rarely fruitful.  Like any exercise, no matter how much you train, there is a limit.  Whilst you might get over the finish line, do you really want to be figuratively (or perhaps literally?) vomiting because you’ve over done it?  If you try to do too much, there will come a point at which you’re not doing yourself or your manuscript any favours.  Depending on your style, concentration, and resolve, you might get through 500-1000 words in a session, but it might be better to think in terms of a scene, or even a time-limit.  Twenty minutes is a good session time, and you can always come back to it after a quick brain-break.

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve just noticed that I’ve used the same word five times in one paragraph, so I’m off to do some editing…

But what about you?  What are your top tips for editing?

©David Jesson, 2021


AtoZ: ZotA

From David:
The A-to-Z challenge is old enough to have its own little rituals, and one of these is the reflection post: how was your challenge? Did you win? What went well? What would you do differently? This is my fifth challenge, my third sharing the load with Debs and by most objective standards, to quote the Go Jetters, we aced it. Not only did we have content posted everyday, but we’d pretty much got everything done and dusted before April had started. I’d hoped to post round-up posts on the Sundays, but only managed the first two of these: I’m not too worried about that – they were a nice to have, not essential to the plan. People came by and said hi, which was great: I managed to visit people and say hi, and that was great too. On both counts it was good to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. All in all, it was a good challenge. Some more footfall on the blog would have been nice, but the quality of what we had was top notch.

Looking over what I’ve wriiten above, there is definite lack of sparkle, life and a writing deadline for a nearly missed opportunity have left me without much energy to write this post, and all the words have been used up elsewhere. The road-trip beckons and I’m looking forward to catching up with some of the blogs that I missed during April. Probably best if I leave it at that.

From Debs
April was a funny old month with health challenges limiting the time I could spend at the keyboard, combined with unexpectedly heightened demands from the day job. But… it was absolutely wonderful being transported right back into the world of The November Deadline. I loved being back among the characters, it was joyous researching little bits & pieces of history to weave into the story, but most of all, it was the best experience ever to fully embrace the next book, when I’ve been holding myself back from that luxury as we’ve worked to finish the first one.

There is no doubt that the pressure of a deadline – an external one – really does get the writing juices flowing. Self-imposed deadlines can be useful, but the glare of the outside world works way better. The writing of the first book will always be associated with 2018’s A-to-Z Challenge, and it feels so very right that the second book sprung properly into life during 2021’s Challenge, when we got to embrace our thoughts & ideas and see them turn into words on a page.

My biggest disappointment is not being able to spend much time visiting other blogs, something which provided me with such great pleasure during the early years of my participation. Even acknowledging the limitations on my time, this aspect takes some of the shine off 2021’s participation for me.

In summary, as a writer – 2021’s Challenge was a real win, but as a reader – I think I’d have to give myself a “could do better”.

© Fiction Can Be Fun, 2021