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

by Suw on 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 going to do with it, but it was something my Dad regularly used and I couldn’t bear the idea of it being thrown away.

Suw’s News: Change of career on the way

As some of you know, I have been running Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, since 2009. In 2015, not long after I moved to the US, I got enough sponsors to turn it into my full-time job. It has been an amazing experience, and we – myself, some freelances and a couple of volunteers – have achieved a lot over the years. But this year I just haven’t been able to get enough funding to carry on.

I’m not sure exactly what is going to happen next. I’m launching a gender equity consulting service and hope to be able to share all that I’ve learnt over the last 13 years with companies that value women’s talents. But I’m also looking for other opportunities that are more in line with my writerly ambitions.

In two weeks’ time I’ll be at the Script Advice script editing course in East Sussex, eagerly learning all that I can about script editing. I’m hoping to improve my own scriptwriting but, also, hoping that there’s some work to be had. TV and streaming are having a bit of a boom at the moment, so maybe there’s an opportunity. I am impatient to find out!

Stop, look and listen: UK Scriptwriters Podcast, Ep 74 – Hayley McKenzie

Staying with the script editing theme, I was fascinated by the UK Scriptwriters Podcast’s conversation with Hayley McKenzie (Dec 2020), who is a screenwriting coach, script editor, and founder of Script Angel. She talked about what a script editor actually does and shared her insights into the industry.

For those of you who aren’t screenwriters, she also gave some great advice on how to approach a story edit when you’ve read it so many times you can’t see the wood for the trees: Don’t try to edit the whole story all in one go, but instead do a number of focused passes. So, for example, you can do one pass to see whether each scene genuinely earns its place, another pass looking at the story just from the protagonist’s point of view, and other passes for other key characters.

Breaking an edit down into manageable chunks like this does make it feel much less intimidating.

Read this: Why a WIP can make you more productive

Every writer has some sort of unfinished work lurking in a drawer or on a hard drive somewhere. It’s part of the job, but it’s often seen quite negatively. Dr Hannah England suggests that a project’s unfinishedness can sometimes be exactly what makes us more productive. She says:

Unfinished tasks can feel overwhelming, leading to procrastination and slowing your progress. On the other hand, the annoyance of having all of these unfinished tasks on your to-do list may motivate you to tackle them at the next opportunity.

The trick is not letting unfinished tasks linger too long. Obviously, for writers, ‘too long’ can be anything from a few months to a few decades, but the key is knowing when something is past its sell-by date and then graciously allowing yourself to abandon it. Perhaps another trick is acknowledging that ideas never really die, and that you can come back to one at any time, should you choose to do so.

If you want to use unfinished tasks to make yourself more productive, just follow the five rules that England suggests in her article.

For popular science writers

Anna Ploszajski is a freelance materials scientist, writer, presenter and podcaster (and ALD alumna), and she’s just launched a new online course called How to Write a Popular Science Book Proposal. If you’re a STEM professional, journalist or science communicator, this course will help you to develop your idea for a popular science book and help you turn it into a proposal you can send out to agents.

Obligatory cat photo

You might remember a few weeks ago that I introduced you to Cici, a stray with three kittens who had already fallen pregnant again. Her vet suggested that she might give birth around 27 July. Well, we’ve been on Kitten Watch for the last two weeks and she’s not giving anything away. Here she is looking somewhat rotund and about ready to pop.

Cici, a cat, is very pregnant

If you’re lucky, next week there’ll be kitten photos. Come on, Cici!

That’s it for this week!

All the best,


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