Word Count 49: Alex North webinar, how to survive new book promo, the LLM-generated shit tsunami continues

by Suw on May 23, 2023

Alex North, my first webinar subject guest.

Plus loads of TV scripts to download, author Madeleine Dore talks about her writing career, and Grabbity does something silly.

Hi there,

I am extremely excited to launch my new webinar series, in which I’ll chat with a variety of writers about the craft of writing, their processes, and how they deal with those moments when the writing isn’t going so smoothly. The live webinar will be free to subscribers of both Word Count and Why Aren’t I Writing?, with the recording and transcript available only to paid member of either newsletter.

I will be creating another section for webinars on both Substacks, so if you’re subscribed to both, you’ll be able to control where you get webinar-related emails by checking your settings and turning off extraneous notifications.

Save the date: Crime writer Alex North in conversation, Thurs 8 June

I am delighted to announce that I’ll be chatting to the award-winning crime writer Alex North (above) on Thursday 8 June at 19:00 BST, and you’re all invited! Alex and I are going to be talking about the craft of writing, his rollercoaster career, and what happens when he gets the wobbles halfway through writing a book.

Alex’s first novel, The Whisper Man, was a Sunday Times, New York Times and international bestseller, a Richard and Judy pick, and is currently being adapted for film. It was followed by The Shadow Friend (The Shadows in the US). His most recent thriller is The Half Burnt House (The Angel Maker). Alex is the pseudonym for an award-winning crime novelist, and he lives in Leeds with his wife and son.

The live webinar will be open to everyone; the recording and transcript will be available for members only. So save the date and if you’re reading this on the Substack site and you’re not already subscribed to Word Count or Why Aren’t I Writing?, sign up now to make sure you don’t miss out on reminders!

Read this: How to survive promotion

Alex Marwood, author of best-selling psychological thriller The Wicked Girls, as well as The Killer Next Door and The Darkest Secret, has a hilarious piece in The Strand Magazine about her experiences doing book promotion that’s a must-read.

There’s a general consensus among writers that the promotional process is less about selling books than it is about reminding one not to get conceited. To be fair, you have to have a pretty robust ego to write more than one book, so promotion probably is some sort of karmic vengeance for all the times we’ve neglected our families’ trouble in favour of the imaginary dramas of our imaginary friends.

Read this, two: The tsunami of LLM-generated shit continues

You might remember a few months ago that SFF magazine Clarkesworld had to close to new submissions because of a flood of computer-generated spam (£). Magazine owner Neil Clarke did find a way to stem the flow, but it appears that just two months later his mitigations efforts failed, and they’ve had to ban 500 in the first 18 days of May.

This graph represents the number of “authors” we’ve had to ban. With very rare exceptions, those are people sending us machine-generated works in violation of our guidelines. All of them are aware of our policy and the consequences should they be caught. It’s right there on the submission form and they check a box acknowledging it.

Our normal workload is about 1100 legitimate submissions each month. The above numbers are in addition to that.

This is such a difficult problem to solve. There’s no reliable tech solution, setting up a fee system would exclude economically marginalised writers, and the human labour required to sort through all the spam is not just cost prohibitive, it would also be incredibly tedious for the humans. Right now, I can’t see an easy answer.

Tip-top tips: TV scripts to download and study

One of the biggest boons of this internet age for the early career TV writer is that it’s now easy to get hold of scripts for TV shows that actually made it on to your screen. Script Reader Pro has gathered together 50 of what they consider to be the best TV scripts across the genres of drama, comedy, action/adventure, thriller and horror. Some of these scripts are classics such as ER, others are much newer, including Stranger Things. All can be can be downloaded for free.

Whilst Script Read Pro leans hard into American TV, if you’re more interested in British TV and radio, then the BBC script library is invaluable. You can download scripts for shows such as Shetland, Detectorists and Keeping Faith/Un Bore Mercher, which is available in both English and Welsh.

It’s always fascinating to read other people’s scripts, especially when you’ve seen the TV show so can compare and contrast. Often, the scripts will include scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor or were rewritten during filming, and there’s a lot to be learnt from asking why that might have happened.

Stop, look, listen: London Writer’s Salon, E059 – Madeleine Dore

I enjoyed this episode of the London Writer’s Salon with Madeleine Dore, author of I Didn’t Do The Thing Today who talked about “rethinking writing routines and ruts and embracing imperfection in the creative process”.

I felt there were a lot of parallels between my experiences and those Madeleine was talking about, especially regarding being an enthusiastic writer as a teen and then that just stopping in my 20s. It’s so easy for us to lose our creative way in our 20s – by that age, we’ve absorbed a lot of very negative stereotypes about the nature of making a living creatively and how impossible it is, but we’ve not yet discovered our own voice or our own levels of determination. (And for some of us, that determination takes a while to make itself known.)

I also related very strongly to the section about how passion projects can take over to an uncomfortable degree, yet it takes external pressure for us to take our foot off the pedal and give ourselves time to reflect and rethink.

Give the episode a listen, and let me know in the comments if it struck any chords for you.

Suw’s News: Patience and Fieldwork plans

In case you missed them:

Obligatory cat picture

Still croaky, but at least she’s come out from under the bed.

We had a little bit of a stressful weekend, cat-wise. On Friday morning, Grabbity went out into the garden to scoff a load of grass, then came back inside to throw it all up again, as is her wont. Unfortunately, either the grass was sharp or she ate something else that was, because she started coughing up bloody sputum. So, off to the vet we went. (My back and shoulders have still not forgiven me – a 25 minute walk carrying a 6kg cat does not a happy Suw make.)

I was worried that she’d got a grass seed or something stuck, but the vet said she’d just scratched her throat. She was given an antiemetic and then I lugged her home again. (I really need to get one of these.)

She neither ate nor drank on Friday, and I was ready to schlep her right back to the vet again on Saturday until she ventured out and had a little pâté. She spent the weekend hidden under the bed, keeping her very croaky miaow to herself. Thankfully, at 5am on Monday morning, she indicated that she was feeling herself again by miaowing very loudly and jumping up and down on my head. It’s good to have her back on top form!

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to put a note in your diary for my conversation with Alex on Thursday 8 June at 19:00 BST, and keep an eye out for the zoom link!

All the best,


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