Word Count 14: The one where Suw has Covid

by Suw on 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 positive test could not come at a worse time. My much anticipated screen writing course is next Saturday and Sunday, so I have just five days to clear this bollocks virus from my system. If I don’t, and I feel I can’t go, I shall be utterly gutted. With Ada Lovelace Day over, I need to find a new career sharpish, and the boom in TV production here in the UK made me wonder if there might be an opportunity in script editing. This course isn’t just a “Oh, fun thing to do that might improve my storytelling”, it’s more “Is this a potential career move for me?” so there’s a lot riding on it.

I’ve had four vaccinations, thanks to getting my fourth just before leaving the US, so I’m hoping to get off lightly. Apart from the incipient fever, I’ve only got a very mild sore throat, which started yesterday evening. I’ve already learnt not to cough because my lungs do not like that. My out of office is on, and I’m going to spend as much time resting as possible, as everyone says the fastest way through this is to just do nothing.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me!

Stop, look & listen: The Writers Panel with Tony McNamara

Whenever I come across a new writing podcast, I skim through the episode titles to see if there’s one that particularly appeals. The Writers Panel, hosted by Ben Blacker, has so many amazing guests that it was hard to pick an episode. I plumped for the one with Tony McNamara, creator of The Great, because it’s a show I love. And I’m glad I did.

McNamara raises a point about storytelling that I had never considered before: You mustn’t judge your characters if you are to write them effectively.

If you haven’t seen The Great, firstly, go and watch it now because it’s amazing, and secondly, it’s loosely based on Catherine the Great and her marriage to and then coup against Peter III of Russia. Throughout, Peter is a complete dickhead. A barbarous, murderous, cruel dickhead. But he thinks he’s wonderful, a kind, compassionate and generous leader.

McNamara explains that it would be impossible to write Peter if you had already judged him, because then you have no empathy for him and no way to properly get inside his head and see the world as he sees it. Indeed, much of the comedy in The Great comes from the conflict between Peter’s view of himself and Catherine’s (and ergo ours, as viewers) more realistic understanding of his character and behaviour.

“You’ve got to find what’s good about everyone and why they are coming from a place that makes sense to them […] you’ve got to believe that they believe they’re coming from a good place. […] So why is everyone right? Or think they’re right?” says McNamara.

I’ve always struggled to write villainous characters, because I’m a bit conflict averse and I find it difficult to write situations that I personally would avoid or work to de-escalate. I think it will be a bit easier if I focus less on how awful or obnoxious or nasty I think the character is, and more on where they’re coming from and why they think they’re right. Not judging the bad guy is definitely going to be a skill I’ll have to develop.


Read this: Hemingway’s Tough-Love Letter of Advice to F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) features the best bits of a letter from Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald about Tender is the Night (full letter here). Hemmingway has a lot to say, but the best quote is this:

I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.

I mean, I’m not sure I produce anything that could be described as a masterpiece, but I definitely produce ninety one pages of shit.

Read… all these? 18 books about writing

It’s always fascinating to see people listing their favourite books about writing, and I always check off the ones I’ve got and have read (because we all know that owning and reading books are two very different things).

This list from Tor’s Leah Schnelbach includes many books I’ve never heard of, and one that I own and started reading but didn’t finish. At the moment, all my books are in a box, somewhere. Possibly in the loft. Maybe in the garage. Potentially in storage. Perhaps I should borrow one of these from the library and give myself some inspiration.

Bonus listen: Rule of Three, Ep 60: Andrew Hunter-Murray on The Meaning Of Liff

If you love Douglas Adams, John Lloyds or The Meaning of Liff, you need to listen to this episode of Rule of Three with Andrew Hunter-Murray (May 2020) simply because it’s both fascinating and hilarious. QI elf and co-host of the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast, Andrew Hunter-Murray also wrote for John Lloyd’s Afterliff, the most recent book in the Liff series, and gives us a first hand insight into the creation of a Liff.

Obligatory cat photo

At the time of writing, Cici has not yet given birth, though there are signs that she is going into labour. Given that I may well be full of fever by the time photos come through, here are Copurrnicus (left) and Grabbity (right) sitting on an antique red velvet settee we inherited from Kevin’s grandparents.

The throw isn’t that stylish, but given how much they both shed, essential. Since we unpacked the settee and put it in the dining room, they’ve both been glued to it. It’s nice that they have a spot that’s theirs and that they are both happy to share with each other.

Hopefully I’ll see you next week! But if not, don’t worry, I’ll email again as soon as I’m better.

All the best,


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