Hi there,

It’s a bit parky round these parts right now. Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, in fact. The urge to work from actually-in-bed is strong, though I fear that my back wouldn’t like it very much, and it would be a bit tricky to do conference calls. 

Suw’s News: Another rejection

I got my rejection email from the Channel 4 Screenwriting Course 2023 competition on Sunday evening.

I remember when I first started getting interested in screenwriting, just after the turn of the millennium. I had joined the Zoetrope screenwriting community and there I met some really good writers, all of whom were struggling to get a foot in the door. Most failed, despite their talent and perseverance. I won a Zoetrope competition for a feature film script, but seeing what my friends were going through, I decided that the whole endeavour was a hiding to nothing and gave up. 

I’m beginning to feel the same way again. Surely there’s a better way to discover and bring on talent than forcing people to enter an endless stream of oversubscribed competitions from which you, as the entrant, learn absolutely nothing? I find writing screenplays far easier and more enjoyable than writing novels, but at least with a novel you can self-publish if you can’t find an agent. 

WTF is ChatGPT?

There has been a huge amount of talk this week about ChatGPT,   which is a… well, I’ll let ChatGPT tell you itself.

Prompt: What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot powered by OpenAI’s GPT-3 natural language processing engine. It can be used to generate natural language conversations and responses to questions.

Most people have been taken aback by ChatGPT’s fluency, because it really can produce content that sounds like it was written by a human being. For example, I asked it to write a novel synopsis for me and it produced something that would be quite plausible for a children’s book: 

Prompt: Write a novel synopsis about a magical cat who has to save her family from a group of evil ferrets.

In the small town of Maple Grove, a magical cat named Sprinkles is living an ordinary life with her family. But when a group of evil ferrets arrive in town, Sprinkles must use her special powers to save her family from their sinister plot.

The ferrets have come in search of a powerful magical artefact, an ancient stone that is rumoured to be hidden somewhere in Maple Grove. They will stop at nothing to find it and use its power to take over the town.

Sprinkles and her family must race against time to find the stone before the ferrets do. Along the way, Sprinkles discovers her own special powers and meets other magical animals who help her on her quest.

As the ferrets close in, Sprinkles must use all of her courage, strength, and magic to protect her family and save Maple Grove.

Not only has it taken the concepts I gave it in the prompt, it’s added names, places, a MacGuffin and sketched out a basic plot. Whilst its ideas might be a wee bit trite and formulaic, they are functional. You could actually write this book. In fact, with enough patience and the right prompts, ChatGPT could probably write this book for you. 

I think it’s immediately apparent why some people are concerned. One person in a Facebook group for screenwriters that I’m in suggested that it’s only a matter of time before screenwriters are replaced entirely, because scripts are more structural than, say, novels and thus lend themselves to being written by AI. 

Tech luminary Simon Willison had a poke at ChatGPT’s limitations. It can write poetry, jokes and code, and can even explain concepts, but it won’t suggest crimes for you to do. Unless you trick it, which turns out to be quite easy. 

Gary Marcus points out that it’s basically a giant pastiche engine which mashes together things that humans have said and then relies on synonyms for colour, rather than constructing answers from first principles. As plausible as it is, it can’t tell the difference between information and junk. And, like a lot of AI, sexism and racism is baked in, likely along with a lot of other prejudices that are common in human discourse.

Other people, such as Andrew Mayne, novelist and sci comms guy for OpenAI who made ChatGPT, are more excited by the opportunities for it to help with brainstorming and planning. I started playing with it for exactly that purpose last night, and it was interesting, to say the least. But I wouldn’t take its word for anything. Perhaps we need an AI that can factcheck output from AIs, as Charles Arthur tweeted.  

ChatGPT is impressive, and whilst it does have some fairly significant flaws, it’s only going to improve. So what will it mean to be an author in an era, coming soon to an Earth near you, where computers can write as well as humans?

Read these: Why was Top Gun Maverick such a surprise hit?

The internet threw a couple of links in my lap this week about Top Gun: Maverick and why it’s been such a huge hit, particularly given that the 1986 original was a fairly simple, one-note affair. 

The BBC’s Nicholas Barber points to a heady combination of nostalgia and excellent structure, pacing, dialogue and action. But also important is the fact that there has been no sequel, prequel or reboot: 

None of this emotional heft would have been there if other Top Gun sequels and reboots had been made already. The 36-year gap ensured that Top Gun: Maverick was about more than just a nifty fighter pilot with a killer smile. It was about ageing and mortality, memories and regrets, holding on and letting go. It was about time passing – not just for Pete, or for us, but for cinema.

Collider ran a piece by Joshua Bateman earlier in the year listing 6 Things Top Gun: Maverick Does Better Than the Original, which explores the way that Maverick leans on nostalgia, echoing key scenes from the original and using the same music. Hell, even Goose’s son’s callsign of Rooster rhymes (ish) with his dead father’s. 

But the main thing Maverick gets right, which the original failed on, is emotional depth. It’s not just that the characters are more well-rounded, but also that their relationships are deeper and their motivations more fully explored. It’s because of this that the nostalgia works – the relationships evolved over both films, so memory of the original primes us for resolution in the sequel. 

There is, I think, a lot to learn from Top Gun: Maverick. So, out of curiosity, I asked ChatGPT what it thought were the film’s most important lessons: 

Prompt: What can screenwriters learn from the film Top Gun: Maverick?

1. Know your audience: Top Gun: Maverick was made with the same core audience in mind as the original Top Gun, but it also took into account the modern audience and their interests. Screenwriters should always be aware of their target audience when writing, and strive to make sure their stories resonate with them. 

2. Show, don’t tell: Top Gun: Maverick was great at showing the audience the characters and their relationships, rather than just telling them. For screenwriters, this is an important lesson: try to show the audience what is happening, rather than just describing it. 

3. Balance nostalgia and innovation: Top Gun: Maverick was successful in bringing back the nostalgia of the original Top Gun while also introducing new and fresh elements. Screenwriters should strive to strike a balance between the familiar and the new, as it can be a great way to keep their audience engaged. 

4. Use visuals to tell stories: Top Gun: Maverick was full of stunning visuals that told stories and moved the plot along. Screenwriters should take note of this and use visuals as much as possible to help tell their stories.

Spooky.

Or, possibly, generic advice you could give about any sequel. 

Review: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The cover of Naomi Novik's The Last Graduates, which is deep green and features an illustration of a lock and keyI powered through The Last Graduate, the second book in Novik’s Scholomance series, in just four days, though in part that was because I had a fair amount of train time to kill, which helped. But mostly it’s because this is just as much of a page-turner as A Deadly Education (review here). 

El Higgins has survived through to her senior year in the Scholomance and is finally shucking off her reputation as a scary loner and building up not just alliances but a circle of actual friends. As the senior students work towards their final graduation ceremony – which essentially involves running a gauntlet of monsters and trying not to get eaten – she begins to realise that the tradition competitive approach might not be the best way to survive. 

I love this series so much. It’s honestly one of the best I’ve read in ages and I can’t wait to read the finale! 

Meantime, I asked ChatGPT to whip up a review for me. Well, perhaps our jobs aren’t at risk just yet. (Give it time, though.)

Prompt: A review of Naomi Novik’s novel, The Last Graduate.

Naomi Novik’s The Last Graduate is a captivating tale of adventure and fantasy, set in a university on the brink of chaos. The main character, Celeste, is a brilliant young woman who is determined to get her degree and live a life of accomplishment. Along the way, she discovers secrets and mysteries that threaten the very existence of the university and its inhabitants.

Novik’s use of vivid imagery and descriptions of the university and its students brings the world of The Last Graduate to life. The characters are well-developed and the plot is fast-paced and engaging. Celeste’s journey is filled with danger and excitement, as she struggles to uncover the truth and protect her beloved school.

The Last Graduate is a thrilling and engaging read that will leave readers wanting more. Novik’s writing is crisp and engaging, and her characters are three-dimensional and believable. The novel is a great choice for readers of all ages who enjoy fantasy and adventure stories. Novik has created a world that is both thrilling and thought-provoking, and readers will be left wanting more.

Obligatory cat picture

I’m down in Dorset again, so this week’s photo is of Cassie. And I shall give ChatGPT the final word: 

Prompt: A calico cat is curled up on a sofa, tail over her nose. What is she thinking?

She is contentedly dreaming of chasing mice and birds and playing in the grass. She is content in her cozy spot, happy in her own little world.

And in all honesty, she probably is. 

All the best, 

Suw 

Cassie, a calico cat, curled up with her tail over her nose

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Hi there,

This week, I made a commitment to some friends to finish rewriting my six-part TV series script, Tag, by 31 January 2023, and now I’m making the same promise to you. The 31st happens to be a Tuesday, so if I don’t announce in that morning’s newsletter that I’ve finished, you should feel free to harangue me by email or on any social media platform that’s not in flames by then.

Of course, my brain wants nothing to do with the whole endeavour, not least because I came up with a really good idea for a YA novel which feels to me like it has real commercial potential. All my brain wants to do is play with that idea instead. Bad brain.

But there’s no point starting if you don’t finish, so I’m going back to my “do at least five minutes a day” Atomic Habits promise, and will damn well get the thing done.

Win a copy of The Year in Space!

Cover of The Year in Space, featuring a spectacular image of a spiral arm galaxyWould you like to win a copy of The Year In Space, written by Dr Becky Smethurst, Izzie Clarke, Richard Hollingham and Dr Robert Massey, the team behind the Royal Astronomical Society‘s Supermassive Podcast, the No 1 space podcast in the UK?

All you have to do is retweet this tweet from Ada Lovelace Day before 13:00 GMT on Monday 5 December, after which we will draw names from a hat.

The Year in Space highlights the most exciting space news from the past twelve months and looks forward to the year ahead. Packed with features, interviews, in-depth explainers and stunning photography, it covers everything from the deployment of the James Webb telescope to the search for extraterrestrial life and the effort to get astronauts back to the Moon. You’ll also find practical tips on how to get the best results when stargazing and what to look out for in the night sky in 2023.

Event: See Neil Gaiman in conversation, 5 Dec 22

Headshot of Neil Gaiman, wearing his customary black and set against a lurid orange backgroundIf you’re a Neil Gaiman fan, as I am, then you need to hotfoot it over to Eventbrite to pick up a ticket for next Monday’s Guardian Live Book Club event, when Gaiman will talk to Guardian books reporter Alison Flood about The Sandman.

The Sandman comic series launched in 1989 and follows Dream who, after being held captive for 70 years, has to rebuild his now-decayed kingdom. In 2020, it was adapted into an audio drama with parts two and three coming out in 2021 and 2022. And it became a Netflix series this year with a second series now confirmed.

I discovered The Sandman when the graphic novel versions came out, mostly because I was always crap at remembering to buy individual issues of the comics I loved. It was also a time when I was a bit poor, so I ended up only owning issues 1-6 (plus an extra copy of book 6 for some reason), because I didn’t have the money to keep on collecting. Then that specific cover design was retired and I couldn’t bring myself to buy non-matching books. I guess I should just trawl through eBay for second-hand copies until I’ve completed the set.

This is an online event, with tickets starting at £7.92, so you can join from anywhere if you have the internet and are awake.

Tip-top tip: Let Bert’s Books help you find your comps

One of the worst bits, for me, of submitting a book to agents is working out what your ‘comps’, or comparable titles, are. Comps help agents work out where in the shop your book would be shelved and how they can sell it to readers. Whenever you see “If you’re a fan of X,  you’re going to love Y”, that’s a comp.

I find deciding on comps really difficult, because when I’m writing something I avoid reading anything that might be even slightly similar. My comps for Disease X (for which I really need a better title) are:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel which I disliked so much I didn’t even finish it. I was delighted to get rid of it when we moved back to the UK.
  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton which I read as a teen and still think is frankly a bit shit.
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen. The only brilliant book of the bunch, this one’s non-fiction so not a natural shelf-mate for my novel. It is a damn good read though, I highly recommend it.

But now help is at hand! Artist and writer Richard Hall tweeted that Bert’s Books in Swindon will come up with a selection of comps for you.

Querying writers, are you struggling for comps? Contact @bertsbooks  send them your synopsis, then buy a mystery selection of how many you want. The booksperts in store will curate comps for you and ship to the UK or internationally

#WritingCommunity #amquerying #writersoftwitter

I shall be doing this in January, because I clearly need it!

Review: The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

The cover of The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak, featuring a stylised fig tree in amber and blue with purple figsThe Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read in a long time.

Defne, a Turkish Cypriot Muslim, and Kostas, a Greek Cypriot Christian, fall in love. They keep their forbidden relationship a secret throughout the worsening political turbulence with the help of the owners of a tavern in which a fig tree grows. But when violence erupts, Kostas is sent away to the UK, leaving Defne bereft. Many years later, their daughter has to come to terms with her mother’s death and heal the growing distance between her and her father, whilst she tries to understand her dual heritage.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of the fig tree, which observes not just the blossoming love between Defne and Kostas, but the entire history of the island. From the fig tree, as well as Defne and Kostas, we learn about the 1974 conflict between the Turks, Greeks and British (who still had a presence on the island after it gained independence from the UK in 1960).

Shafak treats her multiple storylines and the tragedy of the conflict with thoughtfulness and compassion and the result is a novel shot through with tenderness and poignancy. It’s a love story, but also a political story, a tragedy but also story of hope and reconciliation.

I didn’t know much about the history of Cyprus before I started reading, but Shafak provides enough background to create understanding, though never so much that it turns into a history book. Instead, the detail turns the island and its people into another core character, adding depth and richness to the narrative.

Review: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

The cover of A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, a dark blue background with an illustration of a magical device.The first book in Naomi Novik’s Scholomance trilogy, A Deadly Education introduces us to the kind of heroine I can get right behind. El Higgins is a ridiculously powerful magician, but if she uses her gift to its full extent she could kill everyone trapped in school with her. But if she doesn’t use it at all, then she and a lot of other people will die at the tentacles/claws/maws of ‘mals’ – magical predators that lurk around every corner and under every desk.

El Higgins is a defensive, emotionally bruised loner who doesn’t know how to make friends because she’s never had one. Despite everyone judging her by her cover, it turns out that El’s biggest secret power is not magical, it’s seeing people for who they are and treating them as individuals.

It’s always a joy to read two great books in a row, and I devoured A Deadly Education as fast as maw-mouth can eat a classroom full of tasty teens. It’s a huge amount of fun, a great page-turner, and has some smart stuff to say about how we treat other people and how easy it is to be blind to one’s own privilege because it’s always just been there.

Obligatory cat picture

A friend of mine sent over two cat caves, as his cats had spurned them. Our two were straight in. Copurrnicus seems to have decided that he owns both of them, mind you, but I am sure we will straighten that misunderstanding out in due course!

All the best,

Suw

 

Grabbity's tail extending out of the entrance to her grey felt cat cave.

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Hi there,

As the weather turns cold and wet here in the UK, we are stocking up on hot water bottles and getting all our blankets out of storage. This house would be really cosy if we could afford to have the heating on all the time, but just like everyone else, we’re rationing it as much as we can. I’m generally happy that we moved back to the UK, but this winter would be warmer and cheaper if we were still living in Cleveland. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.

Tip-top tip: Jill Tew on inconvenience

Jill Tew, adult and YA author and Afronauts podcast host, has a great thread on Twitter about how to add richness to your writing.

I’ve been reading a lot this month, and it occurred to me that there’s one simple thing the best writers do that makes their stories feel real and three-dimensional:

Their characters inconvenience each other.

As has been said before, people are more interested in how your characters’ relationships develop than how they change as people, and having one character chuck a spanner in another’s plans, and then seeing how they react, is a great way to develop the depth and richness your readers want.

Read the rest of the thread on Twitter.

Locus Magazine needs support

Locus Magazine, which covers science fiction, fantasy and horror, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help secure their future. Like many publications, they’ve been hit by the advertising downturn and rising costs. They’re looking to raise $75,000 (£63,000) so that they can pay their staff and contributors, continue to publish a print magazine, and cover their core costs. Rewards start at £4, with just over three weeks left to go on the fundraiser.

Read this: How to handle rejection letters

Journalist Alex Johnson, author of The Book Lover’s Joke Book amongst others, talks about dealing with rejection, something every writer needs to do at some point or another.

My personal favourite, one of the few I’ve kept, was the chap who scribbled on the top of the returned manuscript “This is not a book.” He kindly added a coffee ring on the front page, maybe to drive the point home. Nice.

Opportunity: Tor open to article pitches

Contemporary speculative fiction publisher Tor is looking for new book critics and essayists for next year, and is particularly interested in hearing from marginalised voices. Take a look at their submissions guidelines.

Review: She-Hulk finale doesn’t stick the landing [spoilers!]

If you haven’t already seen the finale of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law and you care about spoilers, then you should probably skip ahead because this section is going to be spoiltertastic.

At the end of Episode 8, we saw She-Hulk at a gala dinner, receiving the Female Lawyer of the Year award (along with, seemingly, every other woman in the room – a nice bit of cultural critique about how unwilling society is to reward women’s brilliance without finding a way to undermine them at the same time). But after anti-She-Hulk hate group Intelligencia hack the backdrop screen to show footage of her having sex, she loses control, smashes up the venue, scares the crap out of the crowd and is arrested.

Now, you’d think that this was all to set up some sort of finale where Jennifer Walters tracks down Intelligencia, brings them to justice, redeems herself and proves her worth (as opposed to the worth of She-Hulk). After all, Walters’s fight for recognition as a woman and a lawyer is what the whole series has been about. She is a woman who has to literally change into someone more masculine – bigger, stronger, musclier, more… green – in order to be taken seriously. Walters herself is not viewed as intelligent, capable or attractive and has to subordinate herself to She-Hulk in order to win any success.

Instead, that is all glossed over in favour of a rather meta exploration of Marvel’s historic storytelling weaknesses via the medium of a shattered fourth wall and some annoyingly self-referential in-jokes. The episode ended up bemusing, rather than amusing. In all honesty, it felt like this was a finale written by the writing room for the writing room, with little thought given to how it would actually land with the viewers. I wish that at some point, someone in the room had asked, “Who, exactly, are we writing this for?”

She-Hulk has been a deftly crafted look at sexism in the workplace and the challenges women still face when they want to be taken seriously in male-dominated industries. It is funny, never feels preachy, and presents Walters as a character many women (and probably some men) can relate to. But just as it is about to tackle the impact of toxic masculinity and incel culture via the Intelligencia attack, it shies away, cracking weak jokes to cover the hole where bravery should have been.

Krutika Mallikarjuna has a great analysis of the flaws with She-Hulk’s finale over on BuzzFeed which is worth your time.

Now, I could go on, but here’s the thing: Endings are the most important part of writing. If your ending sucks, you might as well not bother with the beginning and the middle, because the ending is what people will most clearly remember. If there’s a lesson for writers here, it’s that you need to clearly understand the promise that the first third of your work has made to your audience – not the promise you think it’s made, but the promise your audience actually hears – and then come through on that promise in the final third.

Joining Hive Social

Last week I mentioned that I’m experimenting with Mastodon, so this week it seems only fair to say that I’m also experimenting with Hive Social. It’s a very new social network with apps available for iPhone and Android, but no desktop version (bah!).

If you join Hive, I’m @suwca, so please do follow me. Apparently there’s a burgeoning book community there, so we’ll see if it grows into something worth sticking around for.

Christmas is a-coming

If you’re of a mind to buy books for Christmas this year – whether for other people or, you know, sneakily buying a few for yourself – take a look at my bookshop on Bookshop.org! Every time you buy a book from my bookshop, I’ll get a little commission and you’ll be able to sleep peacefully knowing that you’ve avoided the evil behemoth that is Amazon. It’s a win all round, if you ask me!

Obligatory cat picture

It’s always awful when a pet falls ill. I have a sneaking suspicion that Copurrnicus ate a slug or something else that he really shouldn’t have, because last Wednesday he started throwing up and his stomach liquified.

We kept an eye on him throughout Thursday, but Friday it was clear he needed to see the vee-eee-tee. He had a thorough examination and thankfully there was no blockage, which is the important thing as an obstruction in the gut can rapidly become fatal, and he wasn’t dehydrated. He had an antiemetic injection, which perked him up for a bit, but he was still feeling very sorry for himself on Saturday.

We picked up some probiotic kaolin paste to help settle things down, but that stuff smells so grim that he gagged just sniffing it. It was a bit of a fight to get it down him, but with two of us – me holding him down, Kevin squirting the paste into his mouth, or approximately in the mouth area – we managed. He hated it, but it helped.

Sunday he perked up a bit, but was still wanting a lot more snuggles than usual. This morning he’s pretty much back to normal. Phew!

That’s it for this week!

All the best

Suw

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Hi there,

Last week, my husband Kevin and I spent some time with his cousins in Fort Myers, Florida, which was hit badly by category 4 Hurricane Ian at the end of September. The extensive damage is still evident in the heaps of debris waiting to be picked up, the piles of boats along the waterfront, and the vast number of blue tarps covering wrecked roofs. Downtown is still half-closed, though the damage seems almost random – shops and restaurants that have had to be gutted next door to ones that have come through unscathed.

We got a hint of what it must have been like to sit through 30 hours of Hurricane Ian when Hurricane Nicole came through. Thankfully she was only a Category 1 when she hit the east coast and had weakened to a tropical storm by the time she reached us. We had 24 hours of howling wind and rain, but it was a relief that Nicole didn’t seem to do any further damage to Fort Myers.

Being stuck inside did, however, give me a lot of opportunity to read!

Tip-top tips: Nanowrimo fast draft tips from Kyra Nelson

It is Nanowrimo again and Twitter is chock full of writing tips, so here’s a thread from Kyra Nelson about how to get unstuck in the middle of a fast draftThis is a great one, regardless of the speed at which you’re drafting:

The first technique I use is the Set It On Fire trick. The fire isn’t usually literal (although sometimes it is) but if I’m stuck, my next step is usually to ask “How can I make things worse for my main character?”

Read this: The six-hour scene

In his Inneresting newsletter, John August talks about struggling with a single scene that, in the end, took him six hours to write. It’s not always possible to spend so much time on a single scene, but whether you’re a screenwriter or a novelist, you’ll be familiar with those scenes that just refuse to behave.

After writing three comparatively easy scenes, I took another stab at it. I asked some obvious-but-necessary questions:

  • Was I starting at the right place?
  • Was I ending at the right place?
  • Could another character drive the scene?
  • Would changing the location help?
  • Did it need to be two scenes, rather than one?
  • Did the scene even need to exist?

The answers confirmed my frustration: it was the right scene. It was just a beast to write.

Read the newsletter to find out what the solution was!

Read this: The ecology of world-building

J Diane Dotson, author and science writer, talks about how to uses ecology to enhance your genre fiction.

Ecology enriches the worlds you create. By applying principles of ecology to genre (or any) fiction, you can make your world(s) more believable, anchoring even the most fantastical settings with realism.

Other benefits of using ecology in world-building include providing new ways of raising the stakes for your characters. For example, characters faced with hostile environments must deal with their surroundings in addition to other threats.

Read this, too: Clive Thompson on his favourite writing tools

I’m always fascinating by the tools people use to write, whether that’s fiction or non-fiction (for me, the two processes are remarkably similar and I use the same tools for both). Journalist Clive Thompson runs through his “go-tos for reporting, research, and writing”.

Many of Clive’s favourite programs, such as Scrivener, I’m familiar with. I’m writing this in Scrivener, in fact, and I use it for almost everything – I even have a massive Scrivener file with 14 years’ worth of Ada Lovelace Day notes in it.

I also use Dropbox and Google Docs a lot, in part because I spent a year or so working on a Macbook Air that had a tiny hard drive, so had to offload the majority of my files to the cloud. But the rest of Clive’s tools are new to me!

Tip-top tip two: How to stay sane – a writer’s guide

Agent Jonny Geller’s thread on how to maintain your sanity as a writer has some great tips in it, but the one that caught my eye was, “Do not compare your work, your success or your world view to any other writer. Protect yourself from fear of comparison. Every story is different.”

Comparison is the thief of joy, but it can be incredibly hard not to compare your career with that of others, or your manuscript with books you’ve read. Indeed, I fell into a short funk after finishing Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary, which I loved. But then I read two books I hated, one of which had been nominated for a prestigious prize, and that reminded me that it’s all subjective and that comparing my work to that of other authors is a waste of energy.

A quick word about Twitter

If you’re a Twitter user, or even just vaguely online, you’ll have seen that Twitter is turning into a dumpster fire after its acquisition by spoilt billionaire brat, Elon Musk, and that lots of people have fled to Mastodon. I do have a Mastodon account, and if you want to follow me I’m @suw@wandering.shop. I’m not particularly active there, however, and won’t be unless Twitter actually disintegrates and becomes unusable.

I know that Musk’s actions have encouraged arseholes on Twitter, but I value the people I’m connected to there and an active mute/block list plus a bit of self-control means that I don’t have to deal with the trash. I don’t want to cede ground to Musk’s acolytes by leaving, so I’ll stay there until the bitter end. I’m @suw if you don’t follow me on Twitter already.

Obligatory cat picture

Our visit to Fort Myers was made delightful by Stella, our cousins’ eleven year old cat, who welcomed us with cuddles and purrs. She was very friendly, allowing us to pick her up for fusses. Despite having been traumatised by Hurricane Ian, she remained pretty chill throughout Nicole. Brave girl!

That’s it for this week!

All the best,

Suw

 

 

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Hi there,

It’s grey and wet here at Word Count HQ, and we’ve just learnt that the flat roof on our back dormers needs replacing. We’re renting for the moment so it’s not our problem, but it is going to be a pain in the arse. Thankfully the leak isn’t significant, no need for bowls to catch the water, but I’m not excited about having to work through the noise.

Stop, look, listen: London Writers’ Salon, Ep 30 – Harriet Minter

Given that I’m in the middle of a massive career change, Ep 30 of the London Writers’ Salon with author, journalist and working from home expert, Harriet Minter was very well timed. I’ve been working from home for most of the last 24 years, so I’ve got the productivity stuff nailed. But where I found Minter’s conversation interesting was in her tips on networking, which as an introvert I’ve always found extremely difficult.

She talks about splitting networking into three categories: Paid, earned and owned. Paid is subscriptions to communities of like-minded people; earned is when you volunteer in a community; owned is the network you build around yourself by, for example, being very active on social media. It’s an interesting structure, and one I’ll have to think about with respect to my own networking efforts.

Minter also has sage advice about working out what your values are, ways to make writing a non-fiction book easier, how to ask for lots of money (and yes, I struggle with that too) and much more. It’s definitely worth a listen. I might have to get her book, WFH: Working From Home as well!

Read this: The Norwegian library with unreadable books

I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this newsletter loves a good library, but what if the was a library populated with books by some of the world’s greatest authors that you couldn’t read?

The Future Library is a 100-year art project by artists Katie Paterson and Anne Beate Hovind which is collecting new and unread books by writers such as Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Karl Ove Knausgaard, along with “the Icelandic poet Sjón, Turkey’s Elif Shafak, Han Kang from South Korea, Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong” and “Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga”.

The project started in 2013 and every year more books are locked away in Oslo’s main public library, not to be seen until 2113 when they will be printed on paper made from Norwegian trees that are currently barely more than saplings.

It might be a little frustrating to think of all those books that we can’t read, but what an amazing treasure for future generations to look forward to. And, for those of the authors who will be dead long before anyone can read their books, what freedom!

Read this as well: Poisoned book discovered

Poisonous green bookLeeds librarian Rhian Isaac discovered a 1855 copy of My Own Garden: The Young Gardener’s Yearbook, the cover of which was dyed a vivid green with arsenic. Isaac cross-referenced books in the library’s collection with the Poison Book Project, which lists books that are known to have been bound with book cloth or that include paintings coloured by dangerous chemicals. The emerald green colour comes from copper acetoarsenite, which is an extremely toxic pigment.

Oh, and this: Shawshank bible goes under the hammer

The leather-bound Bible, with a hollow for a rock hammer, that was used as a prop in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemptionwent on sale last week.

Poisonous green bookEarly in the film, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is given the Bible and told, “Salvation lies within” by Warden Norton (Bob Gunton). When Norton discovers the Bible after Dufresne’s escape, he finds the inscription “Dear Warden, you were right, salvation lay within” and the hollow where the rock hammer was hidden.

Only one was made, because cutting out so many pages to create the recess for the hammer was so time-consuming. The prop was expected to sell for £100,000-£150,000 and bidding started at £100,000. After just 22 bids, the lot went for an astonishing £387,500.

Tip-top tip: How to write a really fast draft

You’ve heard of a ‘vomit draft’. Well, author Saint Gibson has perfected the projectile vomit draft, writing 23,535 words in just one week. Her Twitter thread details how she approaches this kind of intensive writing, but I think her third tweet is actually the most important:

And fast drafting IS a muscle, so be patient and gracious with yourself as you work to build the muscle.

Speed isn’t everything, but it’s a nice skill to have in your toolbox when you need it, so let’s dive in to some ways you can boost your daily wordcount without burning out.

She also links to a similar post by Jeff Vendermeer about how he wrote a Predator tie-in novel in just two months.

Fast drafting isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you’re a plotter and you love structure, it could be a very productive way to get a novel going.

Obligatory cat picture

TFflwff, a black and white cathis week, I’ve dug back into my archives to find this photo of Fflwff from 2007. She adopted me when I lived in Reading just after the turn of the Millennium.

She hung around in the garden for a week or so, spending much of her time sleeping on my doorstep. I wasn’t supposed to have cats, but one day I opened the door and she hurtled in before I had a chance to stop her. She hid behind the sofa for three days, so obviously I gave in.

Fflwff knew she needed a human to look after her – she had terrible fleas and chronic diarrhoea that took a month of vet visits and drugs to clear up. Had I not adopted her right then, she might not have made it.

She moved back to Dorset with me not long after, and when I headed off to London she stayed with my parents and lived out her days very happily.

That’s it for now!

Suw

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Science fiction vs science in fiction

by Suw on October 31, 2022

Many years ago at a panel discussion featuring some awesome authors, I asked a question along the lines of, “Is there a difference between science fiction and fiction with science in it?” Unfortunately, the panel didn’t grasp the meaning of my question and it wasn’t addressed the way I had hoped.

Recently, as I finished reading Andy Weir’s The Martian and then Project Hail Mary, the question popped back into my head, still unanswered. When is fiction with science in it science fiction, and when is it… something else?

I saw film version of The Martian a while back and loved it. Then I heard a great interview with Weir (see Word Count 5) which reignited my interest in reading the book, so when I finally unpacked it, it shot straight to the top of my TBR list. And it is, indeed, a great book. Weir has a unique voice and the plot is an absolute classic of the ‘get your protagonist up a tree; throw stones at them; then get them down gracefully’* variety.

Project Hail Mary is very much in the same vein. An astronaut finds himself stranded in space, except this time, he’s not just fighting for his own survival but that of humanity. To up the stakes even more, humans aren’t the only species at risk.

What makes both The Martian and Project Hail Mary so fascinating to me, as a massive nerd, is the science. It’s easy to bludgeon people with technical exposition, but I never felt that from Weir. It’s more, “I need to do/stop this thing, and here’s why that’s tricky/important”. For me, it just adds an extra layer of interest that I really enjoy.

But quite a lot of science fiction doesn’t actually have any real science in it. Lots of it is what science could possibly achieve if we could just learn to bend the laws of physics a bit, and much more requires a different universe with completely different physics. But if it features the right tropes – space, aliens, exoplanets, technology, existential threats, etc – no matter how speculative or fundamentally science-free it is, it will still be seen as science fiction.

Some books with science in, The Martian and Project Hail Mary being good examples, feature enough of the right tropes to definitely be science fiction. Other books lack the tropes of science fiction and yet are dependent on science. How should we categorise them?

I’m thinking of books like Richard Doyle’s Flood, which Wikipedia categorises as a ‘disaster thriller’, but which is chock full of science of the meterological and climate varieties, and technical detail about how a major flood of London would actually play out. I remember back in 2002, when the book came out, Doyle had a website that detailed all of the technical specs and science that he’d based his novel on. He’d really done his research and by any definition that research included science. Indeed, Wikipedia says that Doyle ‘was considered an expert on matters related to climate change and the flooding of London. He was invited to the “London Under Water” lecture from the Royal Geographical Society’s “21st Century Challenges” series in June 2008.’

Doyle’s next book, Volcano, was similarly scientific, although this time the topic was more geological in nature. Now, admittedly, the research upon which he based his plot – the idea that La Palma’s Cumbre Vieja volcano has a crack running through it that will result in half the island one day sliding into the sea to create a megatsunami – has since been shown to be wrong. There is no giant crack and half the island will not slide into the sea. But Doyle didn’t know that when he wrote it, just a few years after the theory was posited in the now widely debunked paper by Steven Ward and Simon Day in 2001. Still, despite being science heavy, Volcano is classed as a thriller.

I’m sure a lot of people would argue that it doesn’t matter. Science can cut across genres and that’s a good thing. There are crime novels that feature lots of forensic science, pandemic novels that feature lots of virology and epidemiology, disaster novels that contain a lot of geohazard science.

But perhaps I care because ‘novels with science in’ are the kind of novels I like reading and writing. Argleton, Queen of the May, Disease X, they all have bits of science and tech in, but perhaps not enough to make them science fiction.

Perhaps I care because seeing ‘science’ and therefore ‘science fiction’ as only physics, engineering, technology, astrophysics, cosmology and extraterrestrial sciences restricts the format to male-dominated sciences, cutting women out of the genre by virtue of the sciences they are more likely to have studied and, therefore, the knowledge they are able to bring to the fictional table.

And perhaps I care because as our collective future unfolds, more and more of it is going to require science, and fiction is an amazing way to share knowledge and expertise. We need people to understand how this world works on a fundamental level and if we’re not putting that into our fiction then we’re missing an important sci-comms opportunity. Worse, we’re ceding ground to the misinformationmongers who are filling up people’s heads with antiscientific nonsense that results in actual misery and death (thanks, antivaxxers and climate deniers).

So I’d like to suggest a new genre, one that a book belongs in if it is based in scientific, technical, engineering, mathematical or medical fact, regardless of whether it’s nominally science fiction, thriller, utopian, crime, romance, chick lit, historic or any other genre.

World, please welcome the new genre of Sciency Fiction. I expect to see Amazon updating their categories forthwith.

* Paraphrased from Anonymous, 1897.

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Hi there,

Whilst Ada Lovelace Day itself is over, I still have some last bits of admin to do to tidy everything up. Soon, one way or another, I’ll be having a change of career. I have no idea what that’s going to look like yet, mind you.

I’ve already started doing basic prep for the short film project that’s heaving into view, but there are still a lot of open questions about what my long term career plan is. I am used to some level of uncertainty – you have to be, when you run your own business – but this is rather more than I usually experience. And I have to admit, it is a bit stressful, so please keep your fingers crossed that it all comes out in the wash!

Suw’s news: The Gates of Balawat update

I finally had time to go to the British Museum last week and get some photographs of the replica Gates of Balawat for the cover of my novelette of the same name. The real gates decomposed a long time ago, leaving behind only the bronze bands that tied the wooden planks together. Some of the bands are preserved at the British Museum, but they are behind glass in a very awkward corner and are difficult to photograph. The replicas look a lot more impressive, so they will be on the cover.

All I need to do now is design the cover, proof-read it all again and remind myself how to make an ebook, and then it will be yours to love and cherish!

Stop, look, listen: Draft Zero, Ep 92 – Insightful recognition in powerful endings

I do love discovering a new (to me) podcast and being blown away by the first episode I listen to. Draft Zero is hosted by screenwriters Chas Fisher and Stuart Willis, and like my other favourite writing podcasts it leans heavily into the how of writing.

In Ep 92, they talk about Aristotle’s concept of anagnorisis, that moment when “a character moves from ignorance to knowledge (particularly of self)”. They focus specifically on anagnorisis in film endings, analysing the final scenes of La La Land, Inception, No Country For Old Men and Turning Red.

I particularly liked their analysis of La La Land, which I absolutely loathed when I saw it (128 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back!). But after listening to Fisher and Willis talk about the way that the two main characters, Mia and Seb, each have their moments of anagnorisis, and how the audience also has their own opportunity to experience revelation, I might be persuaded to think differently. Possibly.

But more than that, this is a new concept that I need to think about within my own writing. Am I providing my key characters with anagnorisis? Do they have any opportunities to move from ignorance to self-knowledge? And, more importantly, can I now say anagnorisis?

Book review: The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

Having Covid a couple of months ago reminded me not just how much joy a good book brings, but how fast I can plough through one. Sometimes I’m temped to pick up a book, but think, “Oh, it’ll take too long”, forgetting that I can read stupidly quickly when motivated.

It’s a measure of how good The Midnight Library is that I sped through it in no time at all.

Nora’s life has been going from bad to worse. Then at the stroke of midnight on her last day on earth she finds herself transported to a library. There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out each of the other lives she might have lived. Which raises the ultimate question: with infinite choices, what is the best way to live?

Haig handles what could have been a clumsy premise with delicacy and empathy, exploring the nature of regret and self-forgiveness with genuine emotional depth. It’s a delight to see Nora grow more confident in herself as she confronts her regrets in her quest for a better life. Indeed, she experiences many moments of anagnorisis.

The cast of supporting characters, who could easily have become one-note cameos, develop real depth as we see different aspects of their personalities come to the fore in Nora’s different lives. Rather than being a series of tedious replays, each of Nora’s lives shines a different light on her character and illuminates not just the choices the people around her made, but their impact on her.

There’s a reason this book is a bestseller!

Grabbity in a box Obligatory cat picture

All cats love boxes, big cats and little cats alike. Grabbity adores boxes. She used to love reducing them to a pile of tiny bitesized pieces of cardboard, though she doesn’t bother with such shenanigans anymore. No, sitting in a box is all she needs to make her happy these days.

See you next week,

Suw

 

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Hi there,

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m slightly regretting saying that I’d be back to my normal weekly routine from this week. Ada Lovelace Day went very well last Tuesday and I got all my post-event admin done by lunchtime on Friday at which point I stuck the Out of Office on and kicked back.

Trouble is, I’m still knackered. Worse, I put together a little ‘to do’ list and it rapidly got out of hand and now has more stuff on it than I can feasibly get done in a week, even if I didn’t intend to spend at least a couple of days on the sofa with a good book. I think I might need to prioritise, which doesn’t feel very holiday-like, does it?

Events: Ri Fiction Lab

The Royal Institution has a book club! I’m not sure why this surprises me, but it does. It also looks awesome. November’s book is Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, which sounds like a fabulous read and is going right on my TBR list.

It’s the early 1960s and Chemist Elizabeth Zott is leading an all-male team at Hastings Research Institute who take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show: Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

The Ri Fiction Lab is hosted by cell biologist Prof Jennifer Rohn of LabLit.com, a website curating lists of books, films, plays and TV shows that depict “realistic scientists as central characters” and portray “fairly realistic scientific practice or concepts, typically taking place in a realistic – as opposed to speculative or future – world”. I don’t think I’m ever going to need to ask friends for a book recommendation ever again.

You can join the Ri Fiction Lab discussion either in person or online at 19:00 on Monday 14 November.

Stop, look, listen: Nick Harkaway on making ideas happen

Ever had the germ of an idea but not quite known how to develop it into a Proper Story? In an extremely brief podcast episode, author Nick Harkawaytalks about The Origins Game, his way of starting to put flesh on the bones of an idea. Give it a listen – it will only take you three minutes.

Nick is one of my favourite authors, so if you like twisty books that rearrange the way you think, try Angelmaker, Tigerman, The Gone-Away World, and especially Gnomon (you’ll never look at sharks the same way again), plus the upcoming Titanium Noir. Honestly, it’s the most fun excerebration has ever been.

BBC Writers’ Room Open Call

The next BBC Writers’ Room submission window will open on Wednesday 9th November and close on Wednesday 7th December 2022 at noon.

I don’t have a new script to submit, so I’ll be skipping this one. I had thought about trying to whip something together, but I don’t think that would do me any good. Better to work on what I’m working on and submit when it’s ready than rushing things, especially as it’s not like I can devote much time over the next two months to a spec script.

Obligatory cat picture

Like, I suspect, many cat servants, I regularly wonder what on earth my cats are trying to tell me. Grabbity frequently yells at me and if I don’t give her what she wants, her Demanding Paw of Attention is deployed to smack me round the face or grab my hand to encourage me to pet her. I did start training her to use buttons to communicate when she wants brushing, but she found a shortcut and now just taps the brush with her paw. She knows what she wants and she’s learning how to get it.

Copurrnicus, on the other hand, is more enigmatic. For one, he doesn’t miaow and he doesn’t really use his voice to communicate with us humans – his various squeaks, meeps and prrps are mostly for Grabbity’s benefit (which is, btw, indicative of his feral background).

When he’s hungry, he doesn’t miaow, but resorts to what one might be tempted to call “naughty behaviour”. He’s not being naughty at all, he’s being very rational: He knows with absolutely certainty that scratching at the speaker fronts, the carpet, or the (very new) sofa will get our attention and attention is a requirement if he’s to then get food. I try not to reward those behaviours, and instead have been trying to work out what his precursors are, so that I can cut him off before he does things he shouldn’t.

It turns out that one of his key communications methods of an evening is to sit in front of the TV when he wants dinner. It’s quite smart when you think about it. He’s realised where the focus of our attention is and he’s worked out that if he positions himself between us and it, he can hijack that attention and let us know he’s peckish.

Hopefully, as he gets older and I get better at interpreting the signs, we’ll be able to entirely short-circuit his more damaging habits!

That’s it for this week.

All the best,

 

Suw

 

 

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Hi there,

Today is Ada Lovelace Day and I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work, so this newsletter is another short one. Back to normal next week though!

Suw’s news 1: Thank you for submitting your script!

Despite the vast amounts of prep required for Ada Lovelace Day, I managed to rewrite my pilot script and add in my B and C stories just in time to submit an application to the 2023 Channel 4 screenwriting course. There are only twelve places available, and they must get thousands of scripts, so my chances are low. They’ve said that if applicants don’t hear by 20 December, then we’re to assume we’ve not got in, so for the sake of managing expectations I’m going to skip straight to that assumption and not bother passing Go.

I’m getting quite good at assuming I’ll get a rejection, actually. So far, I’ve been right 100% of the time!

Suw’s news 2: Does that light… look a little greenish to you?

I’ve been working with a couple of friends on an idea for a short film that I’m really excited about. I’m going to spend some time this winter doing background interviews and working up the best ideas into a script. And, quite excitingly, it looks like we’ve secured a little funding!

This is the bit where I have to confess that I feel really quite uncomfortable talking about something that isn’t totally, completely and immovably nailed to the floor. I’ve always felt that talking about projects in their infancy is the kiss of death, because they would invariably fall over and then I’d look either gullible or delusional.

But there’s another way to view this: Whilst much of what we try, especially creatively, does not work out, there are always lessons to be learnt. And sharing our efforts, not just our successes, is an important way to learn about what works, what does not, and what part luck plays in all this.

So I’m swallowing my nerves and I’m going to talk about this project in more detail as we get going.

Obligatory cat picture

With the cooler nights come cuddlier cats. We’ve been snuggling under our fleecy blanket on the sofa with Grabbity and Copurrnicus, who have been curling up quite contentedly. Such scenes don’t often last long because Copurrnicus gets jealous and chase Grabbity off, but the other night they were both happy to share for the entire evening.

Right, that’s it for now! I look forward to getting back to my regular routine next week and getting this newsletter back up to steam!

All the best,

Suw

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Hi there,

This time of year is always flat out. Ada Lovelace Day is just two weeks away, and I have a ton of final preparations still to do. This, of course, is going to be the last year that my summer is dominated by ALD, and I can’t say that I’m sad. It’s been a great thing to do, to create out of whole cloth an entirely new day in the diary. But after 12 years (the first ALD was in March), I am going to be very, very happy to get my summers back and to have a year that is much less like the most tedious rollercoaster you’ve ever been on.

Suw’s news: Script rewrite nearly done

I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks rewriting the pilot of Tag, adding in two new subplots, un-killing someone, creating a new B-story character who’s a bit of an arsehole, and making my protagonist a bit less nice. In fact, she’s now a bit annoying, a bit needy, a bit clingy. Which is good, because that gives her room to grow that she didn’t have before. Or rather, I can make her growth a bit more explicit, rather than it just living in my head as a concept that, in previous drafts, didn’t quite make it on to the page.

I’ve finished the big rewrite, all I have to do now is polish and make sure that Act 1 ends on page 10, which might be easier said than done given the insertion of the new sub-plot. I have to get it submitted to Channel 4 by Friday, as we’re heading down to Dorset on the weekend for my Mum’s 80th birthday. It’s totally doable though.

Book review: The Last Hours and The Turn of Midnight, by Minette Walters

Cover of The Last Hours by Minette Walters.

When I was laid up with Covid, I started reading The Last Hours, by Minette Walters, purely on the basis that it was a book about the impact of the Black Death on a town in Dorset, where I’m from. Historical fiction isn’t usually something I gravitate towards and I found this a little hard to get into at first, but it and its sequel, The Turn of Midnight, were very enjoyable. Get the omnibus.

Once it picks up the pace, The Last Hours is a page-turner, following Lady Anne of Develish as she literally pulls up the drawbridge and isolates her people from contagion. Tensions within the moat are mirrored by threats from without, and Walters deals with both equally dramatically.

In contrast, The Turn of Midnight spends too much time in one spot, dealing predominantly with Lady Anne’s favourite serf, Thaddeus Thurkell, and his arrest in Blandeforde for pretending to be a noble. We see very little of the rest of the characters we’d come to know in The Last Hours, which is to the book’s detriment. There’s also not the same sense of urgency and peril, and the book just sort of stops, rather than concluding. Both books are worth a read, but perhaps with expectations tempered for the sequel.

Read this: Why “microhistories” rock

Clive Thompson talks about why he prefers what he calls “microhistories” – book that are “short, focused on one single subject, and usually historical” – to the big sweeping tomes that try to pull everything together into a unifying theory of whatever, which tend towards being broad and thus shallow.

I have to agree. I love a deep dive. Indeed, I’m thinking about doing one myself, on Ada Lovelace – not a biography, as that’s been done to death, but more of a look at how she’s been portrayed by her biographers. During the 70s and 80s, there were quite a few books that really took a hatchet to her, promulgating myths about her mathematical abilities that were based on a misreading of the documentary evidence. I don’t think she needs another biography, but a historiography could potentially fill a gap.

What do you think? Does this sound like a good idea? Let me know on Twitter!

Cover of What Are You Laughing At? by Dan O'Shannon

What I’m reading: What Are You Laughing At? By Dan O’Shannon

I have a plan in my head to write a comedy drama, but although I had a brief stint of doing stand-up in the mid-90s, I haven’t really focused much on comedy. My favourite TV shows over the last couple of years have been The Good Place, Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso, but enjoying comedy is not the same as writing comedy.

So I’m reading What Are You Laughing At?, by Emmy-winning screenwriter and producer Dan O’Shannon, who worked on Cheers, Frasier and Modern Family, amongst others things. Hopefully it will give me some insights. Or maybe it’ll just be an interesting read. Or a doorstop. We’ll see.

Obligatory cat picture

Grabbity blowing a drool bubble

I don’t want to drool-shame Grabbity, but sometimes I think that her name really ought to be Niagara. After a period of intense suspicion about our new sofa, she has finally decided that it’s a Good Thing and spends every evening sitting on the back behind my head, or on the arm next to me, or on my lap if there’s room. It has made her extremely happy, and when she’s happy she drools.

Here she is, blowing a happy little drool bubble.

The next newsletter is due in two weeks, on Ada Lovelace Day itself, which may have been a bit of a tactical error on my part. If it doesn’t show up on time, bear with me and I’ll get it out as soon as I can. Once ALD is over, though, I’ll be going back to my weekly schedule.

That’s it from me for now!

All the best,

Suw

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Word Count 17: Do you have your stories straight? How to take notes, and Copurrnicus featured on My Cat’s Tail

September 13, 2022

Hi there, Summer is drawing to a close and finally we have rain. We’ve also had our first BBQ of the summer and started to let Copurrnicus explore the garden a little. I’m sure that he and I will have a lot of conversations about my inability to stop it raining in future. Suw’s news […]

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Word Count 16: Script editing, giving feedback, Scriptnotes’ VFX deep dive

August 30, 2022

Hi there, Welcome to this week’s Word Count! I’ve decided to shift this newsletter to a fortnightly schedule in the run up to the final Ada Lovelace Day (and if you like science and tech, get your free tickets here). Much as I love writing this newsletter, I need to make sure that I get […]

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Word Count 15: Recuperation, The Cut, The Appeal, design in screenwriting, John M Ford and Cici’s kittens

August 23, 2022

Hi there, Last week, I took everyone’s advice and did as much of nothing as I possibly could. My four Pfizer jabs, (the US offered a second booster to the over-50s just before I left), have stood me in good stead and my experience of Covid has been no worse than a bad cold, although […]

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Word Count 14: The one where Suw has Covid

August 16, 2022

Hi there, Well, today sucks. I’m writing this Sunday morning because I just tested positive for Covid and I might not feel up to it later. My temperature is also creeping up, so I also have a fever to look forward to later today. When it’s 33C outside. And already 29c in our bedroom. This […]

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Word Count 13: Change of career on the way, Hayley McKenzie on scripts and story editing, how WiPs make you more productive, and the very, very pregnant Cici

August 9, 2022

Hi there, It’s been another week of unpacking, sorting, putting things into storage and, because we clearly do not have enough stuff, visiting my Mum and picking up some of my late Dad’s belongings. You know, the usual stuff you inherit, like a vintage oscilloscope. I have absolutely no idea how it works or what I’m […]

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