Ten ways writers can waste time on the internet

.. while fooling yourself into thinking you’re being productive.

Hide in phone


but instead of a kid, do it yourself and send it out when you’ve hit rock bottom – when friends phone back in a panic tell them the only way to set you free is to buy a copy of your recently released ebook. Don’t forget the amazon link.

Life stalking on Pinterest
The glossy pictures, the shiny teeth, the worn floorboards.. I worry about how much I want those floorboards.. And that chair, I must have that chair.. How can I write without it?

Research.. think you know the basics? Still, you don’t want a comma to come between you and your inevitable greatness

Depress yourself by checking out how good everyone else is

Feel smug at how bad everyone else is

Slushpile Hell

Find out where you sit in the pantheon of genius..

I write like

testing it by scanning in the yellow pages and seeing if Joyce comes up.

Find out who the hell Palahniuk is .. and then just admire Pitts abs..

Search for inspiration

Feng Shui your writing space so that success can find you (its like homing beacons to carrier pigeon only they don’t bring disease they bring Booker Prize nominations) You may need to remove a wall or build a fence, but handily you already have a yellow pages to hand.

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Ten things I’d never have known without the internet

 This peculiar and utterly unique feeling, something akin to permanent chicken pox.

An itch that can never be relieved ….wrong

That penguins are multi skilled as well as illegally cute..


That two people I know had tuna sandwiches for lunch

That knowing two people had tuna for lunch makes me want to eat tuna now

That no matter how boring that might make my life sound, someone out there wishes their life was this interesting


6 That a discussion on that versus which can generate over 300 posts, the last 100 of which consist mostly of one word,  which is neither that nor which..


7 That as a woman I am deeply insecure


8 That the cat has been taking the piss for years


9 That no matter how stupid you think you are someone out there is always worse


10 that I may be broke, unimportant, too polite to ever not let someone cut in front of me with a tight smile and muttered obscenity, that my bikini bod may be a swimsuit and sarong bod, my boss may patronise me on a daily basis but at least I am not this man..


Why editing sucks..

Quite a random post, mostly to allow me to avoid editing, have a good moan – which I can’t put on fb as everyone will tell me to go work 😦

Still there may well be other procrastinating writers out there, desperate for some distraction. It makes me feel like I am still being productive to believe that I am helping them.. so

First – reason editing sucks is because it sucks. Tautological? Apparently but that’s just a big word for people who like showing off. It may be like saying a chore is hard work, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Numero 2 – It requires you admit you suck. The entire enterprise is built around finding everything that doesn’t work, reads like crap and makes no sense. All three in one sentence, and you can treat yourself to some extra sleepless hours tonight contemplating your award speech for Most Delusional Crap.. Ever.. (the ever will hit you just as you think you are about to drift off…)

Sailing in at 3 – there is no good advice for editing out there. There really isn’t. There are useless and oft repeated pieces such as ‘cut unnecessary words’.

Necessary words in the above – no good advice for editing.
succinct? yes
personal? no
Informative? barely
Interesting? no

Necessary in a novel is not an easy thing to determine, you have necessary for voice, for time and place, for character, for tone, for plot…

And no, just getting rid of all the adverbs will not work, because in actual fact the very first, and most important, edit has very little to do with the mechanics of grammar and everything to do with story and character.

4 for those keeping score – no one else can do it but you. This one might be a little controversial. Its certainly not that I don’t believe in beta readers and the importance of an independent proof read, but editing is fundamentally a writers job, to such an extent I would say those writers who work very closely with their editors might actually consider they are working with a co-writer.

Ultimately, it is not only my voice, it is my story, my intent that guides each scene. In my book Bella would not be fainting from shock at his touch, but rather from the overwhelming aroma of the onion garden strung round her neck.

If you can find someone who understands what you are trying to do, can help you home in on the less effective spots then you’ve struck gold, but you’re still the one who has to fix them.

Five and still rising – you must be decisive. I am the least decisive person ever – except under extreme pressure, yet another weird personal contradiction – but to the point, when I write, by and large, I go by the mantra, better in than out – easier to cut than add – even though the things I end up returning to are always the things I questioned as I was writing them. And yet, stilllll, I can’t make up my mind – as though that one line, one word, one little comma might make or break the entire book. Once deleted and added the same word over a hundred times.. if I saw it again today I’d probably delete it, then add it back, then delete it…

Six has to be the last (as I really need to pee) – it never ends. Once you’ve dragged yourself through and emerged clutching the tattered remnants of your once thick story, there is no rest, only the certain knowledge that you must go back in again. And this time you must examine every sentence still standing, every last word that is still propping up your poor wee ego, shrivelled though it may be, and address it from every conceivable angle with the question, Am I sure it isn’t really shit?

So.. I’m off to edit.. 😦

ETA – or maybe I will just go find a nice picture to illustrate this post? Pictures are essential really, its definitely not procrastination…How would anyone understand what I was saying without pictures?

My favourite monsters..

In honour, and sheer top-of-my-lungs delight, at the upcoming Monsters University release, I have decided to create a list of my other favourite monsters. Here is my top five in no particular order of growliness..



No not the big green fellow, the little green fellow. Godzoooooooki! A tumultuous, ingenuous, joyful little snot ball, who melted the ridged thorny heart of any others. Just the way I like my monsters.



Okay, Gizmo ruled. Indisputably, but we can’t really call him a monster, no matter how elastic we make the definitions. So as cool gremlins go, it was a toss up between her, up there, and the punk one. I had to go girl power. We are woefully under represented in the monster oeuvre. So anyone that rocks a leopard print bikini and isn’t running about shrieking loud enough to shatter the cinema projector must be supported..

3. spike3


I had to have one hottie in the list. I was slightly tempted to cheat here, as my favourite was always Xander. That grin, those shirts.. mmmm… and he did get turned in an alternative time line. But..

Anyway, Spike was cool, even after they tried to neuter him, he got all moochy over Buffy, forcing her into a very bad haircut, and he got all souled up.. he was still unrepentantly wrapped in punk rock 80’s attitude and hot as hell.. I may have fancied his coat more than him..



Cause I’m Scottish. Cause its the first monster tale I can remember ever sending a shiver down my spine, even now when I pass by the loch possibly one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit, I find myself looking into those deep calm waters and wondering..

cause I grew up watching this, being deeply irritated by the theme tune while completely unable to stop myself singing it over and over and over…. be thankful its a silent link.


SLOTH.. Hey you guys…!

I feel like I am stretching the definitions to the max here. Who could ever really consider Sloth as anything other than saviour, chocolate lover and superman wannabe .. if that makes a monster then you can throw me in the ring..

Goonies is my favourite film and this is its big, giggling heart. I love you Sloth.

What Sweet Valley High taught me about writing..


If you grew up in the 90’s then you know Jess and Liz Wakefield, the sun soaked beaches of Sweet Valley, you survived slam book fever, sniggered at Chrome Dome and secretly lusted after Winston.. no? Can’t have just been me.. okay I liked Bruce too..

It was a world where boys had broad shoulders and dimpled cheeks but no penis, where girls worried about a zit but no one ever got acne, rather like a Clearasil ad. It introduced me to dorks, geeks, cheerleaders, and hunks,  fiat spiders, gross and geez, sorority pledges and pep rallies, golden lavalieres and halter neck tops, apparently not a medieval torture device used on horses.. . It gave me my first tingly kisses, took me on a wheel spinning trip over the wrong side of the tracks and taught my tummy how to flip.

I never forgot my days at SVH but it’s only recently, during a random conversation with a fellow wannabe, that I realised the legacy it had left me as a writer..

sweetvalleyhigh1. ” Everything about it was terrific – the gently rolling hills, the quaint downtown area and the fantastic white sand beach..”

Sweet Valley pulled no punches. It built the premise right into the title, before you even make your purchase you know it’s gonna be sweet. Where I live they tell you its old, grey, stupid…(Who puts Wally in a place name?) ..occasionally add in a handy direction west, north, probably worried about all those wallies…

For any kid in my rainy side of the world that was a title that was impossible to walk past.

thCA64LOSX2. ..”wicked gleam in the depths of her aquamarine eyes..”

I have blue green eyes. Jess and Liz had blue-green eyes. Theirs were the colour of the Caribbean, mine more closely resemble the north sea; they were tanned, toned and bronze of limb, I am white, jellified and have limbs, but for now and ever more blue-green is the province of the beautiful people. The same thing can be transformed by the words you choose and the choices each writer has made before you will be carried with it. Thus, no character of mine will ever have blue-green eyes, not unless I am feeling particularly ironically perverse

sweetvalleyhigh05allnightlong3. ” Sister and brother stood smiling at each other, enjoying the special bond they shared. Elizabeth’s blonde beauty came from their mother, while Steven’s dark good looks..”

Context is everything. You might think it is never okay to describe your brother as hot, and certainly in an Ian McEwan novel you’d be on the incestuous money.  Nowhere other than in Sweet Valley would this be anything other than creepy..



4. ” Thanks Jess I know you are only trying to help, but you can tell Liz to forget it…I’ll never forgive her for this..”

Never let logic get in the way of plot. There are no precedents in SVH, not when there is circumstantial evidence. This is a series about identical twin girls who have lived in the same town for their entire sixteen years.. twin girls who are worlds apart beneath the skin. Liz the perfect student, sweet, kind, hard working and honest; Jess the scheming cheerleader, the manipulative, selfish, vain popular girl.. and yet in every book when Jess’s wild antics get her in trouble she convinces others she is her twin and everyone believes her.. every time.. Even Liz..

SVH-Book-Cover-sweet-valley-high-6808746-308-5005.  “Liz Wakefield is supposed to good, sweet, kind… do you know what that adds up to, Mom? Boring, boring, boring!”

I think when it comes to who you are reading about, likeable matters. Others disagree, they say relatable, well rounded, realistic.. I waver a lot, what they say makes sense after all, then I remember SVH and the twins..

Likeable in real life may mean he’s a nice guy, pleasant, easy to get along with, but it isn’t quite used in the same way in literature.  I liked Jess and could happily have drop kicked Liz all the way up to rainy Seattle. Likeable simply means I like you, for whatever twisted reason, it has nothing to do with how nice your character is, how much you identify with them ..Jess was rotten to the core, she was spoilt and scheming and beautiful and nothing like me, but I liked her. I wanted her to be a better her, but she was fun and the reason I kept reading..

SVH-Book-Cover-sweet-valley-high-6808597-313-5006. “She slipped on a slinky blue skirt and white seersucker top..”

By the time I got round to reading these books the fashions were already out of date, or seersucker was an American trend that just never caught on over here, but it didn’t matter. Using slinky makes even putting on fluro onsies with rabbit ears sound sexy and also your cellulite-ridden, moustachio-d heroine by default, not that I am saying moustaches were ever a trend even in America. Ms Pascal’s team of hard working ghostwriters may have been considered to have worked without a thesaurus or inbuilt capacity for variation – everything was slinky, lean, silken, golden, dazzling – but the vision of SVH and its perfect residents is still ingrained in my mind as clear as the images on the front covers. Why use a million words when one will paint a million pictures?

SVH-Book-Cover-sweet-valley-high-6808738-308-5007. “Jessica had painted her room the colour of a Hershey chocolate..”

According to SVH painting rooms the colour of poo is a clear sign of psychotic instability and indicator of wanton slaggishness, though mostly I saw it as one more reason why I liked Jess more than Liz with her lily white walls. Small details, even if oft repeated in coma-inducing numbers, can be very revealing. I’d even go as far as to say a story is made in the details. The narrator told me, after all, to hate Jess, they told me she was perfect and awful, but somewhere lost in those details I got hooked; she seemed eager, passionate and fatally unable to see her own flaws… They let the reader make up their own minds..

thCA1EW2TM8. ” Aaron Dallas, the handsome co-captain of the Sweet Valley High soccer team, used to be friendly and likeable.  But suddenly he’s changed..”

Consistency is the hobgoblin of the short series. By the time SVH wrapped up, after over 100 stories, countless spin offs and follow ups, we had seen bitches become sweethearts, heroes fall Jekyll-style and rise like Frankenstein, previous indiscretions overwritten, talents found and lost. Jess goes from dulcet to tone deaf, the goody-two shoes Todd cheats, the bad boy Bruce reforms, then regresses, then reforms.. oh and the twins brother is gay, but only after absolutely no soul searching, questioning or hinting..

So an outstanding series of good writing? …um nah.. but oh I loved them, I love them still and see Mammy, I learnt something. I still want to live there amidst the beaches and bitches.

They have reissued them with a twenty-first century gloss, which somehow sinks to such dire depths of prose that it manages to make the first lot look like fairly decent writing, but they still made me wish I was twelve again. I’m going to release my own Sweet Valley one day.. Just need to find those notes.. mixed in with my primary seven homework most likely..