• Editing – Where to start?

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    I have been doing some editing. I mentioned it before here. I am implementing a ‘Red Pen’ approach to editing. I have been receiving newsletters from, and attending webinars at, scrivenervirgin.com

    I cannot recommend Red Pen enough. Anne Rainbow is a writer with a broad experience. Her system is logical, methodical and straightforward.

    You can get onto the newsletters free of charge, and in themselves, they are an excellent resource. If, like me, you see the benefit, you can sign up for some webinars. They are far from expensive.

    Anne has given me an approach to editing and an understanding of the process.

    One thing that is immediately apparent is that an eye for detail is a real advantage when editing.

    Regrettably, an eye for detail is something that I lack entirely.

    Fortunately, help is at hand.

    ProWritingAid is editing software. I access it through the web, although I believe there are ‘bolt-ons’ for Word and Google Docs. There is a free version, and then a paid version.

    Without getting into all of the options, I copy and paste text into the webpage, press go and the software does an analysis for me.

    It looks at spelling, grammar, how many adverbs there are, sentence length; the list goes on.

    Put simply, it’s brilliant. In a few seconds, it highlights multiple things that require attention. In some instances, it might suggest alternatives.

    It does not claim to replace the human process, nor should it. It does have an option to have a human look at the work for you (at a cost of course). For me, its value is in automating the ‘eye for detail’. Faced with the highlights, I must still decide how to deal with them, but at least I know that I have made a decision, not simply missed something.

    It costs $35 a year. I will renew.

    One thing that neither the Red Pen process, or Pro Writing Aid have been able to help with is WAS. WAS is my new acronym for Writing Avoidance Strategies.

    It has got to the stage that I have even resorted to writing to avoid writing. I’ll explain what I mean next time…

     

     

  • Sky. Stupid.

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    I have just finished a telephone call.

    A charming-sounding lady called me. The phone indicated that she was calling from Derby and she told me that she was calling from Sky.

    The call was not entirely unexpected, as I have recently informed them that I will no longer be taking their services once my contract expires at the end of April. I daresay that Sky has an entire team dedicated to getting customers to change their minds. Good for them, I say.

    I have no problem with Sky TV, but I have come to the conclusion that we were not getting value for money from it. Essentially, we were watching channels that are free to air, with me occasionally watching some golf.

    In effect, it came down to paying £70 a month for me to sometimes watch some golf.

    Watching golf in the twenty first century is not something to be taken on lightly. Watching a round requires planning and organisation as well as the ability to watch the same adverts over and over again. Professional golf takes an age. We are talking 5 to 6 hours per round. A full day of golf coverage can quite literally be from dawn until dusk.

    Frankly, I can’t be bothered anymore. Too many other things to do. During a day’s coverage, I can walk the dog twice, play a round of golf, write a blog post and eat three meals.

    I digress. I was telling you about my phone call.

    The call was to explain how any transactions (pay per view purchases etc) between now and the termination date would work, I was told.

    The caller and I agreed that my name is Stuart Lennon. The fact that I had answered the phone with the words “Hello, Stuart Lennon speaking” was a pretty big clue, I thought.

    The caller asked me to confirm my address.

    Reluctantly, I did so.

    Then she asked me for my password. I politely declined to do so. I did provide the rationale: “You called me.”

    There may be some asking yourselves, “Why would Sky need to identify a customer to explain that with no contract, he couldn’t buy pay per view events?”

    Well done! They don’t need to identify me for that. They need to identify me just in case the charming lady is able to convince me to change my mind, or to accept a reduced price.

    I got the impression my caller was a little niggled. Nevertheless, she persisted.

    “OK, will you give me your Mother’s maiden name?”

    “No.”

    “If you google the telephone number that came up when I rang, you will see that it is a Sky number.”

    Honestly. That is what she said. All of these warnings about phishing and passwords, all nonsense. All that one needs to do apparently is Google the caller’s number. Then be free and liberal with your personal data and even passwords. Hurrah!

    I’m reasonably certain that it was Sky calling and not some criminal mastermind, but surely companies should not be phoning up their customers asking for personal data?

    I suggested that if my caller was unable to continue the call without my mother’s maiden name or password, she might want to discontinue it.

    We parted as friends, but I have the distinct impression that she was a little miffed.

    I had a quick ten second trawl on Sky’s website.

    I quote from their section on security;

    “Identity theft/Fraud
    A few simple rules could help you guard against criminals stealing your personal details.

    The risks

    •Phishing – being tricked into giving private information, such as bank details, user names and passwords”

    Is it any wonder that people are confused about online and telephone data security, when there are massive multi-national companies being so incredibly stupid and half-witted?

    Stupid, stupid, stupid Sky.

  • In it to win it.

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    This week I honoured a promise made on #writingchat

    #writingchat is weekly meet up on twitter, Wednesday 2000 hours UK time for writerly types. There are some great people there – come along. Just use the hashtag.

    I submitted a short story into a competition for the first time. I am not telling you which one. I will report back once the results are published.

    Actually, I promised to enter and win a writing competition in 2016.

    Although, I am convinced that the story is, in fact, a masterpiece, I am prepared to accept that it is unlikely to win. I can’t win the first competition that I enter, surely?

    Therefore, I am working on several ideas at the moment. Naturally, I am scouring the literary world for competitions with extremely few entrants.

    I have even written a poem.

    No. Really. I have. I am going to enter that into a competition too.

    One thing that has come from the entering of competitions is that I have started to use ‘Red Pen’, an editing system and ProWritingAid, an app. I will post a review here soon.

    Before I go…

    Further to my post about medical studies, I came across another on twitter this morning, courtesy of @lifehacker and @beccacaddy all about people over 65 and sarcasm. The study found that the over 65s don’t get it. Really?

    Most of the over 65s I know can cut me to shreds with sarcasm.

  • Whining on Wine

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    Me again.

    This morning I awoke full of the joys of the New Year. I had resolved how the next few days would be spent.

    I am particularly looking forward to a couple of nights away with the long-suffering wife, Margaret. In a particularly sensitive moment, Nero the dog has gifted us a stay at a very posh hotel in the Cotswolds.

    Walks in the countryside, lounging in the spa, delicious food and fine wine with the love of my life. What could be better?

    Then the Chief Medical Officer (Dame Sally Davies) came on TV to tell me how dangerous drinking was. “Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone…”

    Fortunately, I have recently read “Doctoring Data” by Dr Malcolm Kendrick. If you read only one book this year, read that one. Actually, read two, because I’m going to release a novel too.

    Dr Kendrick very mildly points out that we might want to be a little bit careful about guidance and advice issued by people like the Chief Medical Officer.

    Equipped with the mental tool kit that Dr Kendrick has equipped me with, I was able to note a few things that I might ordinarily have missed from the brief item on the morning news.

    In my head the conversation went a bit like this

    “Have the new findings and recommendations come from a thorough and rigorous test that has recently finished?”

    “Um. No actually. Broadly speaking, we have read a lots of the studies that have already been done and reported on and sort of put them all together.”

    “I see. So every single study?”

    “Well No. Not all of them. Some were a bit dodgy.”

    “Let me guess. The dodgy ones were the ones that suggested that a few glasses of wine with dinner and friends was actually good for your long term health?”

    “Spot on. You are clearly a very perceptive man. Outrageous that a study should suggest something like that isn’t it?”

    “Hmmm…”

    In a nutshell, there is absolutely no new evidence.

    Let me repeat that.

    ABSOLUTELY NO NEW EVIDENCE.

    Some very well meaning folk (all of whom have spent their entire careers telling us that drinking is BAD) have ‘proved’ that drinking any alcohol increases your risk of cancer, and they have proved it by reading a lot of studies already done.

    Dr Kendrick explains it a lot better than I do. Read his book.

    I don’t want to rant, nor do I want to suggest that lots of heavy drinking is good for you. I’m pretty certain that It isn’t.

    I will leave you with this little nugget that appears at the end of the BBC News website coverage of the story.

    “Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, an expert in understanding risk from the University of Cambridge, said it was important to put the 1% risk in context. He said an hour of TV watching or a bacon sandwich a couple of time a week was more dangerous.”

    I was going to have a bacon sandwich for breakfast, but for the sake of my health, I’m going to turn the TV off and have a glass of wine.

    Cheers.

     

  • Books!

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    The image is pinched from the Goodreads website.

    If you have an interest in books, Goodreads is a good place to go and find out what is going on.

    As the year turned, the site sent me an automated mail. It was asking me how many books I was going to read this year. Not something that I have ever thought about before.

    “50” I typed confidently.

    “50?” People were incredulous.

    “Are you counting menus?”

    “You are supposed to read every word, you know.”

    A witty lot my Facebook friends.

    I suspect that I will comfortably get through a hundred in a year. Once I get into a book, I can finish it in a sitting or two. Offer me the TV or a book and I’ll take the book every time.

    Predominantly I read on my Kindle. I had resisted this device, absolutely convinced of my love for the physical manifestation of a book. I still do buy the odd book. Non-fiction especially. The Kindle however is a marvel. On holiday I can have thirty novels, all in my back pocket. Should I run out, I can find some wifi and buy thirty more. Its easy, convenient and cheaper. I am a convert.

    Reading is a double-edged sword for me. I enjoy reading ‘as a writer’, where I am mindful of the craft that the author has put into the words.

    However, I also get intimidated. When I find myself at the end of a novel, taken there on a page-turning rush, I doubt whether I might ever enthuse a reader in quite the same way.

    Now, got to rush, time for a couple of chapters before lunch.

     

  • Happy New Year!

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    2016 is here.

    At midnight, I had a wee Scotch in memory of my Dad, and later today, we will celebrate my Mum’s birthday.

    As always, my gorgeous wife will magically, just make everything happen. How she does it is a mystery to me.

    Off all of the feast days and holidays, New Year is my favourite.

    As the clock strikes midnight, I am filled with a surge of optimism. The old year is gone and done. The new one is, as yet, a blank page, full of opportunity and possibilities.

    Today is all about my Mum’s birthday, but this evening, I will crystallise my goals, hopes and aspirations for 2016. I will start a brand new notebook and start jotting. Writing things down gives them power, doesn’t it?

    By the end of the week, I will be full of energy, raring to go. Eager to tick things off my list, get stuff done. A whole new year to fill.

    Fantastic.

    Will I get them all done? I doubt it. But hey, I might.

    Check back in next year and I’ll let you know if I am four stone lighter, playing golf off a single figure handicap and preparing to publish my third best selling novel.

    Whatever you are doing this year, I wish you every success.

    Do it with enthusiasm, do it with joy.

    Happy New Year.