Word Count

Plus Hollywood’s death spiral, the DGA deal, and Grabbity’s poorly again.

Hi there,

As I thought it might, my current period of underemployment is drawing to a close and I am soon about to be very, very busy indeed. So this newsletter is going to move to a fortnightly schedule and I’ll be alternating it with Why Aren’t I Writing?.

Alex North webinar, 19:00 BST, this Thursday! 

Don’t forget that bestselling crime writer Alex North is joining me at 19:00 BST this Thursday, 8 June, to talk about the craft of writing, his rollercoaster career, and what happens when he gets the wobbles halfway through writing a book. The webinar’s open to all subscribers, with the recording and transcript available afterwards to paid members.

If you want to join us, bookmark this link! The waiting room will open ahead of our 19:00 BST start time, so feel free to log in before the top of the hour if you wish.

Stop, look, listen: Draft Zero, E100 – Scenes through swords

Draft Zero’s Stuart Willis talks to philosopher swordsperson Damon Young about how they have applied the lessons they’ve learnt from historical European martial arts (HEMA) to screenwriting. It might sound a bit niche if you don’t write about people hitting each other – or in my case, aliens – with swords, but I promise you that it’s a fascinating listen.

I particularly liked the idea of sword fighting techniques as an analogy for how characters relate to one another emotionally, for example, how people behave defensively or offensively and how that affects the dynamics of their interaction. Whether you like sword fighting or not, this really is a great listen (and if you’d rather read, they have a full transcript too).

Stop, look, listen again: Sitcom Geeks, E219 – Fashioning Your Future, And Planning For Ours

I have to admit, listening to this podcast episode was the first time I have ever thought about planning my writing year. James Cary and Dave Cohen’s conversation about how they plan their writing calendar has really made me think that I need to carve out a little quiet time to do the same.

Cohen suggests that the three things you should always be doing are:

  1. Writing to become a better writer
  2. Writing to submit
  3. Networking

Cary says we should all spend time:

  1. Reading widely
  2. Listening. Properly. Not just to podcasts.
  3. Having heroes outside of your niche.

Excellent advice. And so is their broader point about planning your year: Knowing when the open call deadlines are and making sure you’re ready for them, and knowing when key events are so you can get tickets and prepare any pitches you might need to share.

Strike news: Hollywood’s death spiral and the DGA deal

Absolutely fascinating piece by Matt Stoller delving into Hollywood business history and highlighting all the bad decisions, both by studios and regulatory bodies/the US government, that resulted in us reaching a place where eight studio execs made a combined salary of $773 million in 2021, whilst writers often have to get second jobs just to make ends meet.

Stoller also looks at how the US compares to the UK, where the industry is far less unionised but much more creative (though British writers also struggle to make ends meet).

This was a soft break-up of the industry along vertical lines, and it made the U.K a great place to do business. As the CEO of the firm that makes American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent said, “There is no other country where you have these terms of trade. In the UK, it’s brilliant!” In 2010, independents held 50% of the market, beating in-house network programming. Exports of British content exploded.

Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America has reached a tentative deal with the AMPTP, with DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter saying in a statement that the DGA had made “unprecedented gains” on wages, residuals, generative computing (yes, I’m still refusing to call it ‘artificial intelligence’), working hours, safety and more.

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike vote concluded last night, and we await the results with bated breath.

It will be interesting to see how this all affects the WGA strike, not least because the AMPTP don’t yet seem inclined to go back to the negotiating table.

Obligatory cat picture

Well, it’s been quite the week. Poor Grabbity is suffering from corneal ulcers in both of her eyes, along with what might be either lipid or calcium deposits that are making her eyes cloudy. The vet has ordered in some specialist eyedrops, so I’m waiting for those and for the corneal ulcers to clear up before we can work out what the white patches are.

I’m now extremely glad that I bought a pet stroller – basically a double-decker cat carrier on wheels – because we’re going to need to go to the vet fairly regularly until this is all sorted out. Poor lass. She’s hating the gel I’m currently having to put in her eyes, so I’m having to burrito her twice a day. I am not flavour of the month, that’s for sure.

This photo from a couple of weeks ago doesn’t show the problem, because it’s hidden up under her eyelids, but I think you’ll agree that Grabbity has magnificent peepers. Here’s hoping that we can clear this problem up completely over the next few weeks.

See you in a fortnight!



Plus a post on self-promotion, and Cassie & Polly make an appearance.

Hi there,

Last week was a short week, thanks to an extra-long weekend in north Wales! So this week’s newsletter will also be slightly shorter than usual.

It’s also my 50th newsletter, which feels like a nice milestone to mark!

Tip-top tip: Two ways to kickstart your plot

Having been mulling over the upcoming rewrite of Tag for, er, six weeks now, this post from author Cavan Scott is promising to become useful. In it, he shares a great tip from Stark Holborn about getting unstuck when you find yourself unsure of where your story should go next, and then adds his own advice along with copious examples of how it works.

I added my own tip in the comments. To create more agency in my script, I’ve been planning it out in terms of causality: “Because of this, that happened”. My characters were too passive – being acted on by the plot rather than driving it through their own decisions and actions. So to fix that, I’ve started writing out their episode arcs in terms of chains of action and reaction.

Stop, look, listen: Wosson Cornwall

I’ve been getting more interested in radio drama and comedy since listening to Julian Simpson’s Who Killed Aldrich Kemp?, which I did after reading this post from him about sound design (£) which I found utterly fascinating.

So when I saw that Twitter friend James Henry was script editor and part of the writing team for a new radio comedy show coming up, I had to give it a listen.

Wosson Cornwall is an entirely Cornish sketch comedy show starring Dawn French and Edward Rowe and filmed in front of an audience at the Acorn Theatre in Penzance. And it’s hilarious. I laughed so hard at one point that I scared the cat.

Read this: You Don’t Have to Get an A+ in Writing

Reassuring words from agent and author Kate McKean on the fact that you really don’t have to produce the perfect manuscript.

Firstly, perfection doesn’t exist, so you can let that go right off the bat, because as Oliver Burkeman says, you’ve already failed at producing perfection. Secondly, even if you could write a perfect manuscript, It would not guarantee publishing success, because publishing is much more complicated than that. So rather than try to second guess the market, just write what’s in your heart.

Don’t try to get an A+ in writing for the market. Get an A+ in writing the book you want to write.

Suw’s News: Self-promotion and Alex North webinar

Obligatory cat picture

I was looking for something else in Flickr the other day and found this adorable photo from 2006 of Castor and Pollux aka Cassie (in front) and Polly (at the back), my parents’ cats.

Although they look like sisters, they were in fact cousins born three weeks apart. Sadly, both of them lost their mothers young – Polly at a younger age than Cassie. This made Polly a little bit odd at times, as cats who are separated too young from their mothers struggle to learn how to cat.

Polly sadly died of cancer about six years ago, but Cassie is now 17 and still lives with my Mum.

That’s it for this week!

All the best,


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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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Fieldwork: A look at what’s to come

by Suw on May 17, 2023

Who knows where these creative seeds will land.

It’s always good to have a plan so that you can point at it and laugh when reality has other ideas.

I thought I’d go through the rough project plan for Fieldwork so that you can see what’s involved and the sort of things I’m going to write about.

To some extent, this newsletter is as much about me working out how all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together in my own head as it is about updating you on my progress. It’s also about documenting the process and my learning, so that I can come back to check my notes and maybe even see how far I’ve progressed.

I expect to be working on these four aspects of the project, probably simultaneously:

  1. Background research
  2. Comedy research
  3. Script development
  4. Funding for production

Part 1: Background research

I want Fieldwork to be based on reality – particularly real science and real fieldwork experiences. Scientists in TV comedy and drama often end up as caricatures: tweedy, obsessive and lacking in social skills. I know a lot of scientists and none of them are like that. And I have to ask, how are we going to encourage children to take science seriously if we’re portraying scientists so poorly?

The science itself in TV is generally ignored, trivialised or misrepresented, probably because it sci-comms is hard and there are fewer TV writers with experience in sci-comms or science than we need. Thus, it gets reduced to scribbles on a white board in the background which, even if full of in-jokes for physicists (looking at you, Big Bang Theory), doesn’t do much to explain how science actually happens or why it’s important.

So I’m going to be talking to as many ecologists as I can and asking them questions about their work. I want to know what they are studying and why, where they go when they’re doing fieldwork, where they stay and what it’s like, and in particular I want to know about #fieldworkfails, those times when things didn’t go to plan. I’ve already heard about keys getting locked in cars during a thunderstorm, close encounters with bears, and the importance of choosing your tent location carefully. If you’d like to add to that list, find out how here!

Ecology is a good choice in terms of explaining how science happens and why it’s important. Many ecologists are working with species or habitats where the basics are easy to explain, and they’re doing it because they want to better manage that species or habitat, because their work will help us to grow more and better food with fewer chemical inputs, or because they want to understand the impact of climate change.

The way that a lot of ecology fieldwork is done makes it great for comedy: You’re out at a field station or camping somewhere and away from day-to-day life. Plus you’re doing things that can easily go sideways and you don’t have much time or many resources to fix the things that do go wrong. It’s just begging to become a sitcom.

This all sounds very much like I planned it this way, but Fieldwork is a part of an existing project that I’ve been working on with Prof Thorunn Helgason, Dr Pen Holland and Prof Bala Chaudhary since 2019, the International Collaboration on Mycorrhizal Ecological Traits. Our original plan was to run a workshop for about 20 international ecologists at the University of York in order to develop a design for an easy-to-build mycorrhizal spore trap, and for me to do some basic training around mentoring, which was my contribution to the project (not being an ecologist, ’n all). Unfortunately for us, our workshop was due to start the week after the first Covid travel bans came into force. Oops. We had to cancel with just a few days notice.

So Fieldwork is, in essence, our way of finishing off this project with a flourish. And I feel very lucky that the subject is ecology and not, say, nuclear physics.

Part 2: Comedy research

Back when it was “the new Rock ’n Roll”, I performed at open mic stand-up gigs, some of which actually went very well, even though the performance aspect of it terrified me. I’ve written novellas, a full-length novel, a feature film script and a six-part TV series, have trained as a TV script editor, and have a wealth of journalistic experience having written for The Guardian, Forbes, Melody Maker and a bunch of other newspapers and magazines.

What I’m doing now is building on what I already know about writing by adding the specifics of comedy. Although there are similarities between genres, there are also some aspects that are really very different, so rather than dive in and wonder why it’s not working, I’m investing my time in learning as much as I can about the form. Specifically, I’m reading everything I can about:

  1. Sitcom structure
  2. Plot
  3. Character

I find this all absolutely fascinating. I’ve always loved deconstructing everything I’ve watched or read (and thankfully have a husband who enjoys these conversations too), so I’m in my element.

(Just a heads up: My writing and comedy craft posts will very likely be paid posts, and they’ll sit in the Essays subsection of Word Count. All my project update posts will be free, and they’ll sit in the Fieldwork subsection.)

Part 3: Script development

This is the hard bit. But also the fun bit. And the painful bit.

I’ll be writing a script that’s between 10 and 15 minutes long, so that’s between 10 and 15 pages, as usually a page of script equals about a minute of screen time. Within those pages, I need to set the scene and have perhaps two cycles of the main character trying to fix a problem but accidentally making it worse before the final resolution. And I need to cram in as many jokes as possible.



Once I’ve got a draft that’s as good as I can make it, I’ll work with a comedy script editor to hone it further before organising a table read to see how the jokes land when actual actors say them out loud. What works on the page doesn’t always work when spoken, so there will likely be rewrites at this stage.

Part 4: Funding for production

The funding we have doesn’t cover actually filming the script, so whilst all of the above is going on, I need to find a way to pay for filming. This might involve applying for grants or running a crowdfunding campaign, as well as developing the paid tier here on Substack so that I can put more of my time into Fieldwork itself.

To do all that, I’ll have to learn about film production and budgeting. I have been involved in a short film production before (and somewhere on the internet you can see me ‘acting’ in one, and no, I’m not going to link to it), but things have changed a lot since then. Much more can be done much more cheaply these days, but I have an abiding belief that people should be paid for their time, so that’s going to be the cornerstone of my fundraising. I don’t believe in asking people to work for free or “for exposure”, especially not during a financial crush, so raising enough money to pay crew and actors is a hill I am willing to die on.

The future

This project won’t stop once the short has been filmed. My plan then is to develop a script for the pilot of a half-hour ongoing sitcom and see what I can do to get it in front of producers. Because I really believe that this is a great concept and that it’s a show that could be hugely entertaining and successful.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and this is mine. I hope you will join me to see what kind of countryside we pass through. Just make sure you pitch your tent inside the electric fence, in case of moose.

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Plus Sitcom Geeks look back on the Big Comedy Conference, how to sell a book on Substack, showrunner John Rodgers on the WGA strike, king cheetahs, and more!

Hi there,

There’s much to share in this week’s newsletter, so let’s just get on with it!

Opportunity: WFTV Kay Mellor Screenwriters’ Lab 2023

Women in Film & TV (UK) is launching the Kay Mellor Screenwriters’ Lab, a fully funded mentoring and development program for 13 currently un-agented and un-produced female screenwriters. Successful applicants will get to spend five days working on their original scripts, with the aim that by the end of the program, they’ll be ready to find an agent or pitch their project to an independent production company.

The programme will consist of craft writing masterclasses, tutor-led workshops and independent writing time. In addition, across the week there will be evening sessions with special guests from the industry, including Happy Valley creator and writer, Sally Wainwright OBE.

The residential workshop will run from Monday 2 October to Saturday 7 October 2023. Applications close at 17:00 BST on Wednesday 24 May.

Opportunity: Free comedy mentoring

Comedian, writer and presenter Sadia Azmat (right) is offering to mentor six people “who are looking for support in writing and/or stand-up comedy”. Each mentee will be offered a monthly hour-long session for up to six months.

To apply, “simply send a short statement about who you are, what your comedy goals are and why you think you’d benefit from these free sessions with Sadia to pro@comedy.co.uk by 1st June.”

Competition: Virago Press launches Furies short story comp

Virago Press, the feminist book publisher, is launching the Furies short story competition as part of their 50th birthday celebrations. Submissions must be “an original, feminist short story inspired by a synonym for ‘virago’,” and the competition is open to writers from underrepresented backgrounds.

The competition has some pretty specific terms and conditions, so read carefully before you start writing. In particular:

“The story must not be inspired by a synonym for ‘virago’ or any other word which has already been used as inspiration for a story by a contributor to the existing edition of FURIES. These are: siren, virago, churail, termagant, wench, hussy, vituperator, harridan, warrior, she-devil, muckraker, spitfire, fury, tygress and dragon.”

Which, according to my computer’s built-in dictionary, leaves you with shrew, vixen, fishwife, witch, hellcat, tartar, martinet, hag, gorgon, ogress, harpy, nag, trout, battleaxe, old bag, old bat, cow, bitch, targe, scold and Xanthippe.

The deadline is 11.59pm BST on Saturday, 1 July 2023.

Stop, look, listen: Sitcom Geeks, E218 – Conference Calling

If you didn’t get along to the Big Comedy Conference last month, then you can get a taste of what you missed with the Sitcom Geeks podcast. In this latest episode, James Cary and Dave Cohen talk about the first two sessions from the conference which featured commissioners and producers talking about the commissioning process.

Sadly, the Sitcom Geeks podcast will be ending with episode 222 on 6 July, due to both James and Dave getting too busy to continue. I’ve only just discovered the podcast, so I guess I’ll just have to work backwards through the archives.

Read this: How to sell a book on Substack

Substack has written a guide on how to sell a book on Substack, including how to promote via preorders and book launches, and using tactics such as using custom buttons, telling your paid subscribers first, providing behind-the-scenes content, and offering discounts. They also look at how to do ongoing promotion by adding your books to your Substack and using custom banners, and growing your audience at the same time as your sales.

The section that will eventually be of most interest to me is the section on how to pitch one’s newsletter to agents and publishers. Several Substack writers have landed book deals because their newsletter had developed a huge audience with a high open rate. I’m doing well on open rate, but just need another, oh, 59,700 subscribers.

Stop, look, listen: The Writers Panel – Strike Talk with John Rogers

Screenwriter Ben Blacker talks to WGA Board Member and showrunner John Rogers about why writers are on strike plus “what’s at stake, how negotiations broke down, and how long this might last”.

John also makes the really good point that writers aren’t asking for anything outrageous. They’re not being greedy. Fifty per cent of writers are working for the union minimum, and that includes showrunners who’ve been in the business for 20 years. Writers’ pay has dropped real terms, so what they’re asking is just for the last decade’s worth of decline in pay to be reversed.

Meanwhile, as John says, “The companies are averaging between $28 and $30 billion in profit – not revenue, profit – a year. And that’s during COVID when they were afraid they were going to bottom out.” The studios and streams can absolutely afford to pay authors a living wage.

Anyway, give the episode a listen, it’s a great insight into what’s going on and why.

Tweet of the week

From writer, director and producer Justine Bateman:

AI is being used to replace human expression for the sake of greed. The #WGA fight can become a template for other industries. I’ve heard of paralegals being replaced with ChatGPT at a legit law firm, & medical grad student being replaced by ChatGPT for medical research. 1/

Read the rest of the thread.

Suw’s News: What is “easy”?, Substack Notes, and Bluesky

  • When the easiest route becomes the hardest. Sometimes, writing my Why Aren’t I Writing? newsletter turns out to be a much bigger challenge than I have time for, and last week was a prime example. So I wrote about how sometimes, looking for the ‘easiest’ option turns out to be an exercises in making life harder. (Though to be fair to me, it turned out that I was incubating a cold, so no wonder my brain was feeling foggy!)
  • Is the Notes honeymoon over? I wrote an essay for paid subscribers – with graphs! – about my experience of the Substack Notes subscriber bump, and of trying to work out which social media platform is the best for getting word out to potential subscribers.
  • I’m on Bluesky! I know that Bluesky is still invite-only as they try to control their growth, and it’s still an incredibly basic experience, but if you’re there, say hello! (Please note: I don’t have any invite codes.)

Obligatory cat picture

Back in August 2018, just a few months after we first moved to Shaker Heights, my husband and I visited Cleveland Zoo for the first time. It was a stonking hot day, and this sleepy cheetah could only be captured at full zoom. Having raised its head to squint at us, it promptly went back to sleep. Can’t say I blamed it.

Whilst I was just looking up a few cheetah facts, though, I discovered the existence of the rare king cheetah, which has a mutation that results in darker spots and three distinctive stripes down the back. I’d suggest that these were go-faster stripes, but it’s not like the cheetah needs any help with speed.

Anyway, it turns out that the king cheetah has a mutation in the same gene that’s responsible for the variation in coat pattern in domestic tabby cats, specifically the mackerel tabby (eg Copurrnicus) and the blotchy or classic tabby (eg Grabbity). In the case of cheetahs, the mackerel version is the normal spotty cheetah, and the blotchy version is the rare king cheetah.

Two cats cuddle on a bed

You can see the difference between blotchy Grabbity (left) and mackerel Copurrnicus (right) quite clearly. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but Grabbity does have three poorly defined stripes along parts of her spine. Thanks, transmembrane aminopeptidase mutation!

Right, that’s more cat photos than I think any of us bargained for this week!

Ciao bella,


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Plus the importance of the WGA’s AI demands, Fieldwork, The Lacemaker, and opportunity costs.

Hi there,

Happy 1st Birthday to Word Count! It’s about a year since I started this newsletter, and I’m slightly surprised that I’ve stuck to my weekly schedule. I have to be honest, I thought that my initial enthusiasm would wear off a bit, but I am still really enjoying myself, so it looks like this cadence is here to stay!

Lots of thoughts this week on the writer’s strike, and why we should all pay attention to it even if we’re not Writers Guild of America (WGA) members, or even if we’re not writers. Talking of which…

Why is the WGA strike important to those of us outside the US?

The WGA strike is the single most consequential union action that has been taken within the creative industries in recent years, with repercussions for all creative people in all countries, not just American TV and film. The US-based entertainment industry has global reach, and what Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony do in America they will do everywhere else. The cowpaths they pave will be trodden by everyone else, inside and outside the film and TV industries.

Nowhere is this more true than in the area of AI, where the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP, ie the studios listed above) has simply refused to negotiate. Generative computing such as Midjourney or ChatGPT poses a genuine threat to writers and artists now, and that threat only going to become more severe as the technology becomes more sophisticated.

The WGA’s requests on AI are incredibly reasonable (The MBA is the Minimum Basic Agreement, ie the contract under which most WGA writers work.):

“Regulate use of artificial intelligence on MBA-covered projects: AI can’t write or rewrite literary material; can’t be used as source material; and MBA-covered material can’t be used to train AI.”

The WGA says that the AMPTP “Rejected our proposal. Countered by offering annual meetings to discuss advancements in technology.”

Meetings. Right. That’ll work.

The WGA cannot afford to lose on this point. Indeed, I think it’s more important than their requests regarding pay and residuals (ie, what TV writers get paid for repeats), because whilst low pay makes a writing career difficult, allowing studios to use computer generated content could eventually make writers obsolete. And giving in on this point would give a green light to every other creative industry to do the same – games, books, journalism, every company that relies on words and images likely has their eye on the results of this strike.

How the WGA strike affects writers in other countries

Given how interconnected the international TV and film industries are, and how normal Zoom writers’ rooms are these days, it should be no surprise to hear that international writers unions are standing up in very clear support of the WGA’s current strike action.

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), the Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG) and the Writers’ Guild of Canada (WGC) have all said that their members should refuse to write on US shows whilst the strike continues. The WGGB also advises non-members to refrain from scab writing, because they will be refused membership in future:

“The Guild [WGA] does not have the authority to discipline non-members for strikebreaking or scab writing. However, the Guild [WGA] can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership.”

It’s absolutely essential that non-WGA writers don’t cross the (real or virtual) picket lines. All writers will benefit from a favourable end to this strike, so we all have to support those who are taking a hit to their income to stand up for everyone else’s rights. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, this strike will have echoes that we’ll all hear.

The WGA’s AI stand-off is just the first of many

Generative computing (I really hate the term ‘AI’) is posing a risk not just to writers’ jobs. CNN’s coverage of the strike includes this piece about the impact that LLMs (Large Language Models) in particular will have on other industries.

“Goldman Sachs economists estimate that as many as 300 million full-job jobs globally could be automated in some way by the newest wave of AI. White-collar workers, including those in administrative and legal roles, are expected to be the most affected. And the impact may hit sooner than some think: IBM’s CEO recently suggested AI could eliminate the need for thousands of jobs at his company alone in the next five years.”

The article suggests that as well as copywriters and journalists, “digital artists, musicians, engineers, real estate professionals and customer service workers will all feel the impact of generative AI.”

If you’re in any of these industries, maybe now’s the time to join a union.

Other strike reads

There’s been so much good stuff written about the strike in the week since it started, but here are a few articles that have stood out for me:

Suw’s news: Fieldwork launches! Plus The Lacemaker and WAIW?

We finally have ethical approval to begin the research which will underpin Fieldwork, the short comedy film project that I’m working on with Dr Pen Holland and Prof Thorunn Helgason. You probably saw the introductory post pop into your email last week, and you can expect more updates this week as we start our search for participants.

I cannot tell you how excited I am by this. I’ve been quietly laying the groundwork for this project since November last year, after we came up with the idea last June. I absolutely love interviewing people, so I shall be delighted when the first participants pick an interview slot in my diary.

Meanwhile, I’ve had some lovely comments elsewhere about last week’s short story, The Lacemaker. It’s genuinely wonderful when someone says that something one has written has resonated with them, so thank you to those of you who reached out. If you enjoyed it, please do pop over to the Substack website and give it a little heart or leave a comment. It can be quite hard to persuade people to take a punt on an unknown author and every little bit of encouragement helps!

And finally, last week’s post over on Why Aren’t I Writing? was about opportunity costs – the things we lose when we choose not to write. Reframing our choice about whether to write or watch TV in terms of what we lose, and what Future Us would be grateful to Present Us for having done, can help us to find the motivation to sit down and write.

Obligatory cat picture

I can’t resist a silver tabby. This is a random cat that I met whilst out and about on 8 June 2014, just 22 days before I left the UK to move to Sheboygan, WI. My husband had been there since early February, and Grabbity and Sir Izacat Mewton made the trip late May, whilst I couch surfed and waited for my visa to come through.

I can’t quite believe that that was nine years ago, or that I’ve now been back in the UK for more than a year. How does time pass so quickly?!

All the best,


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Introducing Fieldwork

by Suw on May 2, 2023

Everything you need to know about Suw’s latest creative project.

If you’ve ever been on a science field trip, you’ll know that, in amongst the experiments and data gathering, things can go hilariously wrong. The longer you spend in the field, the more likely you are to have had animals carry off your equipment, experienced unexpected malfunctions, or seen creatures other than your target species appearing in your camera traps.

We are collecting examples of #fieldworkfails from ecologists, particularly in the UK, and listening to their experiences of working in the field to inform the development of a comedy drama. The first output will be a short film script, but we may also use data collected as the basis for other outputs, including this newsletter.

Our aims are both to entertain and to increase awareness of ecology as a subject and as a career path. Television and film can have a powerful effect on people’s perceptions of a subject. The X-Files inspired a generation of women to become interested in science, technology, engineering and maths with what is now known as The Scully Effect. Bones encouraged women into science, as has Black Panther’s Shuri.

Can we do the same for ecology?

What will this newsletter cover?

I’m going to be chronicling the entire process of writing and making the Fieldwork short film. I’ll talk about my background research, possibly sharing some snippets from my interviewees, and exploring life in a field station.

I’ll also be sharing my journey into the world of comedy writing, delving into the complexities (or simplicities) of character, structure and joke writing. I dabbled in stand-up comedy many years ago, so this isn’t entirely new to me, and I’m very excited by the idea of re-finding my funny.

If you’re interested in comedy writing, then this newsletter is very definitely for you.

How will this newsletter work?

If you are already subscribed to Word Count, you have been automatically subscribed to Fieldwork, but if you’d rather not receive these emails, just change your settings. Equally, if you only want to receive Fieldwork emails, you can unsubscribe from the other sections in those same settings.

I won’t be publishing on a set schedule – news will arrive when it arrives, though I suspect there’ll be more news in the beginning as I get everything set up.

I’m an ecologist! Can I take part?

Yes, you can! Just drop me a line and I’ll let you know when our online survey and interview schedule is ready.

Fieldwork is part of the International Collaboration on Mycorrhizal Ecological Traits, organised by the University of York, University of Edinburgh, Dartmouth College and Ada Lovelace Day. It is funded by the National Environmental Research Council.

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Plus London Screenwriters Festival 2024, and a new short story on the way.

Hi there,

We just had another long weekend here in the UK, one that was very much needed. Thankfully, we get another one next weekend and then yet another one at the end of May. I do like four-day weeks and as a self-employed person I theoretically have the power to put myself on a four-day week any time I like, but sadly my To Do list says otherwise.

Read this: UK bookshops and publishing industry flourishing

True to its name, Positive News has this story on the increase of indie bookshops in the UK and Ireland, with numbers hitting 1,072 in 2022 – a 10-year high after six consecutive years of growth. Some of these new bookshops are also mission-driven, tackling issues like loneliness, community cohesion, feminism or climate change

The pandemic was good for bookstores and publishers, with 669 million physical books sold in 2022 and industry income reaching an all-time high of £6.9 billion, up 4 per cent from 2021. It should perhaps not be surprising that books would prove so popular with people stuck indoors with little else to do, and that people who got into the habit of reading would continue.

Read this, two: Self-publishing incomes rise

A survey by Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has found that indie authors now earn, on average, more than traditionally published authors and that they took home more in 2022 than 2021. The median income for authors who spent more than half their time writing was $12,749 per year, or £10,229, compared to the median of £7,000 pa that was headline news in the ALCS survey at the end of last year. Some 44 per cent of respondents in the ALLi survey said they were earning over $20,000 (£16,038), with 28 percent earning over $50,000 (£40,096).

The ALLi survey had responses from 2,000 authors, whilst ALCS’s survey received 2,570 responses, so this is just a snapshot, but it’s an interesting one. However, author incomes are still way lower than they frankly should be, given how vibrant the sector is.

Stop, look, listen: Sitcom Geeks, E212 – What a plot is not

I’m likely going to be sharing a lot more stuff about comedy, now that the Fieldwork short film project is getting so close to kicking off properly, starting with a podcast that’s new to me, Sitcom Geeks, with James Cary and Dave Cohen.

Episode 212, What a Plot is Not, includes an interesting dive into four things that are not plots but that are frequently mistaken for them by early career writers. A plot is not:

  • Stuff happening
  • An event
  • A big reveal
  • The premise of the show

Give it a listen – there’s also lots of really good advice about what a plot is that’s relevant regardless of what genre you’re writing in.

And whilst we’re talking about comedy, I’m very much in the market for comedy-related podcasts, newsletters and videos, particularly if they focus on the craft side of things. If you have any recommendations, please leave a comment!

Event: London Screenwriters Festival 2024

If you like planning ahead, put the London Screenwriters Festival 2024 in your diary now. It’s running from 5 April to 7 April 2024, and early bird tickets are already on sale at £349 (going up to £499 in due course). With 100 sessions and 130 speakers, including producer Samantha Horley and script editor Lucy V Hay – as well as pitchfest, scriptlab, and script chat sessions – you do get quite a bit of value for money.

WIAW?: Settle in for the long haul

I love a good, solid extended metaphor, so last week’s issue of Why Aren’t I Writing? explored the idea that a writing career is less like a marathon and more like the almost continuous round-the-world migration undertaken by the Arctic tern. A marathon might take a lot of training, and they might be painful to run (careful of those nipples), but they are relatively short in duration compared to writing a novel.

I think, instead, a writing career is a way of life, it’s something you do because it’s in your nature, it’s something you can’t not do. So it’s important to approach it like that, to think about how you’re going to nourish yourself along the way and how, once you get to where you’re going, you’re only going to have a short rest before taking off again.

Fiction: The Lacemaker

Coming up on Thursday is my short story, The Lacemaker:

When Maude tries to change a stranger’s destiny, she knows there’s only one way she can right her wrong.

The email should appear in your inbox at around 10:30 am (unless you’ve turned off my Fiction emails in your settings, though why would you do that?!).

I’ll also send you Argleton and Queen of the May over coming months. I had a nasty minute when I thought I’d lost all the Queen of the May files, which seem to have been fried when Dropbox’s main folder lost its connection with their servers several years ago. At the time, I didn’t think that I’d lost anything, but it seems that perhaps I have. I found the ebook files at least, buried deep on a previous computer’s hard drive, and then remembered I have the raw text in a draft document on my blog, so phew, disaster averted!

Obligatory cat picture

I had forgotten how much greener Sir Izacat Mewton’s eyes were, compared to Grabbity’s. This photo was taken in 2013, when they were just four.

That’s it for this week.

All the best!



P.S. A few extra things

1. You can pick exactly which emails you would like to receive from me here in your settings.

2. You can look at all the books I’ve ever featured in this newsletter in my Bookshop.org shop. Any purchases through this list do pay me a small commission.

3. If you’d like to support this newsletter, or my writing in general, you can upgrade to paid membership by visiting the Word Count home page and looking for the button in the top righthand corner that says, unsurprisingly, ‘Upgrade to paid’. It’s just £5 a month, or £50 per year, and you’ll get access to my twice-monthly paid essays about writing, screenwriting and publishing as well as all my free posts. Once we’ve got enough paid subscribers, I’ll also start doing joint webinars with my subscribers over at Why Aren’t I Writing?.

4. I’m now officially looking for freelance work after the Ada Lovelace Day rescue bid fell through. I’m available for remote writing, ghostwriting, mentoring, mentor program consulting, and/or gender equality consulting gigs, so if you want to work with me, or know someone who does, please get in touch!

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I’m in there somewhere.

Plus joining the dots, set-ups and payoffs, types of attention, and debut authors struggle with mental health.

Hi there,

I rearranged my office yesterday. I’d been thinking about doing it for ages, because putting my desk right under the window meant that the difference in brightness between my screen and the window was giving me eye ache. I knew when I set this office up that it was a bad idea but, given how much crap I have to fit into this room, I didn’t think I had another choice. I hoped it would just work. It didn’t.

And if there’s a better metaphor for Tag’s pilot episode cold open that I know I need to kill, I don’t know what it is.

Past event: The Big Comedy Conference

I spent last Saturday in London at the Big Comedy Conference (audience picture above), organised by the British Comedy Guide, and it was fabulous. It was organised the way that all the best conferences are, with long breaks between sessions that prioritise quality over quantity.

Panel discussions covered the commissioning process and what producers do, about which I knew nothing, plus comedy characters and plotting, about which I already knew a bit. I learnt a lot, even in the sessions where I thought I already had a decent grounding, and found a lot of new jumping-off points for further reading.

If BCG organise another BCC next year, and you’re into any kind of comedy, I highly recommend going.

Opportunity: BBC Radio 4 open to sketch submissions

BBC Radio 4’s open-door sketch comedy show, DMs Are Open, is indeed open to submissions on a weekly basis.

For this series, DMs Are Open is going NON-TOPICAL. This means that we’re not looking for sketches based around news stories of the week. Instead, each episode will have a theme, and we want your sketches, one-liners and voice notes to fit into that theme. So you no longer have to start from a news story, instead your material should relate to the week’s theme. As long as your material has a connection to the theme, it’s got a chance of getting on the show.

This week’s theme is crime, and one-liners/voice notes submissions end today (sketch submissions closed yesterday), with the same schedule repeated for the next seven weeks. The next round opens today, and the final deadline will be 6 June.

News: US screenwriters vote to strike

I don’t often cover newsy news here, but I thought this story was worth mentioning. The Writers Guild of America’s members have voted by an overwhelming 98 per cent to authorise strike action if the WGA’s negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) don’t go well. The WGA and AMPTP are currently thrashing out the next standard contract for writers and are thus discussing compensation. From Vulture:

“On TV staffs, more writers are working at minimum regardless of experience, often for fewer weeks, or in mini-rooms, while showrunners are left without a writing staff to complete the season,” the report states. “And while series budgets have soared over the past decade, median writer-producer pay has fallen.”

Fingers crossed that the WGA succeeds. Writers everywhere are underpaid and undervalued, so we need organisations like the WGA to stand up for them (us!).

Read this: Joining the dots

Author Michael Marshall Smith writes about how much more satisfying it is for readers/viewers to be left to join the dots in a story rather than have everything spelt out for them.

[W]hat’s interesting is that the audience is not only capable of joining these dots, but the process psychologically involves them far more compellingly in the story than you spelling it out for them would.

If you trust your reader/viewer to fill in the gaps, you give them the chance to “fill it in, in the process investing it with resonance from our own lives. When we do this, we truly feel it and believe it.”

Tweet of the week: Set-ups and pay offs and pay offs

Author and screenwriter David Hines has a great thread on Twitter (yes, the hellsite still produces some gold) on the relevance of magic to writing and in particular to the need to pay off your set-ups, twice if you can.

With regard to the Aliens power loader set-up and payoff, Hines says:

James Cameron’s One Weird Trick is this: when he establishes a set-up, he pays it off *twice.*

This works because once the set-up is paid off, the audience stops looking for the payoff. They don’t think it’s coming back, so when it does, it’s a legitimate surprise again.

Read the whole thread for the full analysis of why that payoff is so good.

Stop, look, listen: London Writers’ Salon, E55 – Dr Gloria Mark on types of attention

I love a good deep dive on the way that our creative brains work, and this episode from the London Writers’ Salon with Dr Gloria Mark, author of Attention Span, provides some fabulous insights into how attention works.

One important point that she makes that focus takes energy, and that after a long period of intense focus, “we have to switch our attentional states[.] We have to do something that doesn’t involve a lot of mental effort.”

That’s something that it’s very, very easy to forget, especially when we feel so much pressure to get stuff finished quickly. Host Matthew Trinetti mentions research done by Mason Currey for his book, Daily Rituals, which found that a lot of creative people – artists, inventors, scientists – only did two to four hours of focused work per day. Mark agrees that for most people, if you get two hours of focused time in the morning and two in the afternoon, you’re doing well.

The whole interview is fascinating, and well worth a listen.

Read this, two: Preorders are a problem

Book publicist Kathleen Schmidt talks about the problems with pre-orders, and how the publishing industry’s reliance on them to “1) determine first printings, 2) plan budgets, and 3) get a better picture of the amount of marketing and publicity a book will need to make sales pop” is horribly flawed, not least because social media’s a shitshow these days.

Publishing currently faces a problem that I’ve yet to see addressed: If the algorithms on Twitter and other platforms are unreliable and an author needs to get preorders for their book, is it fair to say there is a lack of demand for a title if preorders are light?

Read this, three: Brace yourself

A survey by The Bookseller has found that “More than half of authors (54%) responding to a survey by The Bookseller on their experiences of publishing their debut book have said the process negatively affected their mental health.”

Among the majority who said they had a negative experience of debut publication, anxiety, stress, depression and “lowered” self-esteem were cited, with lack of support, guidance or clear and professional communication from their publisher among the factors that contributed.

Publishers can clearly do a better job of supporting debut authors, many of whom don’t yet understand how the industry works or what to expect. But I think it’s also important that authors take the time to learn from others’ experiences so that they can properly moderate their own expectations.

I hate to say it, but as authors we’re increasingly on our own, and it’s up to us to look after ourselves.

Suw’s news: Final chapter of The Gates of Balawat up now

I’m glad that I took a punt on publishing my urban fantasy (with a tiny hint of the romantic) novella here on Substack. It’s had nearly four times more readers there than it has had downloads as an ebook. If you haven’t read any of The Gates of Balawat so far, Chapter 1 is probably the best place to start.

I’ll continue to release my fiction on Substack, so keep an eye out for my next short story, The Lacemaker.

Obligatory cat picture

My repositioned desk has been a huge hit with Grabbity and Copurrnicus, and I’ve had one or the other, or sometimes both (until someone gets jealous), on it for most of the day. Which is lovely, but does make typing a challenge.

That’s it for this week!

All the best,


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Plus major Tag rewrite, introducing paid essays, and how to build a writing habit.

Hi there,

Happy Tuesday! There is, I must warn you, an awful lot of me in this week’s newsletter, but exciting changes are afoot at Substack, so read on to find out more!

Substack news: Introducing Notes

Last week, Substack introduced Notes, a Twitter-like way to chat and meet other writers and readers on Substack itself. I have seen it described as a “Twitter killer” and whilst I wouldn’t go that far, it certainly does remind me of the very early days of Twitter when it was fun and chill and interesting. So far, I’ve found Notes to be a lovely way to discover newsletters and just generally chat with other Substack users.

You don’t have to write a newsletter to use it, but you do need to be logged in. If you use the app you might need to update it, or just visit the website and you’ll find the icon in between Inbox and Chat. There are tabs at the top of the page that let you read everyone’s notes, or just those people whose newsletters you subscribe to.

Try it out and say hi by typing in @suw (and letting the autocomplete do the rest).

Newsletter news: Introducing paid essays

I have so many ideas for essays itching away in my skull that I feel I should take this period of underemployment and do something constructive with them. So, today I am launching a paid tier which will feature two essays per month digging into the craft of writing, the publishing industry, screenwriting and more. The first essay is about the importance of subtext!

Please subscribe – it’s only £5 a month or £50 a year (that’s £10 off!) and every new paid subscriber will help me move towards a sustainable writing career.

If you are a student, unemployed, or for any other reason can’t afford a subscription, drop me a line and I’ll give you a comp – no need to explain your situation, just let me know what email you subscribed with.

Don’t forget, you can also control which emails you get via your Substack subscription management page.

Suw’s News: Major Tag rewrite

I am on the verge of scrapping the current pilot episode of Tag and starting again from scratch. I spent over two hours on a call with my script editor, the fabulous Dan McGrath, going through everything that’s wrong with it and how it can be fixed. And, well, it’s a lot. A lot lot.

Some of it I already knew was destined for the chop, like my wonderful cold open of which I am so very fond. But the very best TV sets up the characters, their wants/needs, the barriers they face, and the stakes within the first five or six minutes. Happy Valley S1E1 establishes Sergeant Carwood’s character literally within the first 30 seconds with just a couple of lines of dialogue, and then sets up the series, Carwood’s backstory and one of the main conflicts within the first 2 minutes 30 seconds, before the credits. It’s fast, effective and compelling.

I, on the other hand, was spending three minutes in an atmospheric but ultimately pointless World War I scene. I think I’ve known for months that it would have to go, but have been resisting because, well, it’s a great cold open. For a completely different TV series.

Chatting with Dan has given me not only the nerve to ditch it, but also a much clearer understanding of what each key character’s goals are, how they play off against one another, and how it all ties in to the series theme. If you are looking for a really smart and perceptive script editor to work with, Dan is definitely your man.

But this isn’t going to be a light edit. I need to strip everything back to its structural bones and start again. Wish me luck!

Event: Will Storr’s Science of Storytelling seminar

I attended Will Storr’s Science of Storytelling seminar in March and got so much out of it, despite having read the book twice already, that I absolutely must recommend it to you. His next seminar is scheduled for 18:00 BST on 14 June and is only £50 for three hours of insights into how and why we tell stories.

The most important things I took away from the seminar were:

  1. The need for cause and effect in a plot. It has be “This caused that”, not “And then happened”.
  2. The usefulness of understanding a character’s Theory of Control (ie how they believe the world works), how that is at odds with the world they inhabit, and how they have to change.

If you’re interested in becoming a better storyteller, whatever your medium, this webinar is an essential.

Stop, look, listen: Confessions of a Debut Novelist, S2E12 – Ch?k?d?l? Emel?mad?, Dazzling

Dazzling book coverI loved listening Chloe Timms talk to Ch?k?d?l? Emel?mad? about her debut novel Dazzling, what it was like to win the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize in 2019, and the battle she had to do with her characters to finish her novel.

“I’m used to telling them what to do,” Emel?mad? says, “and these girls were just not letting me. And it was a lot of grappling. In total, I have about half a million words of different drafts because I counted it up and I put them all inside a folder, because I just had to look at it and think, ‘Wow, thank you so much for wasting my time all these years.’ But I thought, ‘No, you wasted your own time, Ch?k?d?l?, because they were telling you what they wanted, and you wouldn’t listen.’”

I was particularly struck by the point she makes about how we treat Greek and Norse mythology with such reverence, but not Nigerian mythology. Most Westerners know very little of other storytelling traditions, and we’re the poorer for it.

I also think that Emel?mad? makes a really important point that you have to put your all into your novel, not hold things back for a sequel. Using all your best ideas now ensures that you end up with a novel that’s “richer” and “more rounded”, and it doesn’t take away from future works. (They are, after all, only ideas and you’ll have more.)

WAIW? You don’t need willpower to write

Last week’s post on Why Aren’t I Writing? was about how to use habits to help you create a robust writing schedule and really get cracking on your work in progress. It is by far the most popular post I’ve written so far. Take a look!

Obligatory cat picture

Grabbity (left) and Copurrnicus aren’t always this cosy, but every now and again they forget their differences and cuddle up together.

Two cats cuddle on a bed

That’s it for this week. Please do check out the Essays section of Word Count and upgrade to paid if you like!

All the best,


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Word Count 43: British Museum literary events, BBC’s Pilot scheme and Open Call

April 11, 2023

Plus dealing with time paralysis, Amazon kills Book Depository, cat with a feather hat. Hi there, Extremely short newsletter this week because of the delightfully long (and yet not long enough) weekend. Suw’s news: I changed my mind After taking part in a Scribe Lounge chat last week, I learnt that LA Productions give feedback […]

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Word Count 42: New children’s fantasy prize, mentoring scheme for TV writers, and the Afronauts on pre-writing

April 4, 2023

Plus creating internal conflict, the risks of BookTok, British Fantasy Awards news, and much more. Hi there, The sky is a beautiful expanse of blue as I write this and I expect today to be a good day for light aircraft watching out my office window. I particularly love seeing the bright yellow Slingsby Fireflies […]

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Word Count 41: When not to submit, creating well-rounded characters, why do so many action heroes have names that start with J?

March 28, 2023

Plus advice on structuring non-fiction, The Pembrokeshire Murders and a Grabbity burrito. Hi there, I’m now well into the third week of the worst cold I’ve ever had and my brain has been foggy to say the least. But let’s see if I can at least pull together a few coherent sentences for you! Suw’s […]

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Word Count 40: London Book Fair, the liberation of imperfection and binge watching Detectorists

March 21, 2023

Plus how using novel fonts can kickstart creativity, introduce yourself via Substack chat, and the Ambassador’s cat. Hi there, I didn’t get much writing done at all last week. I went to Brussels for the UK Innovation & Tech Show, where I was on a panel about women in tech. I’ve done a lot of […]

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Word Count 39: Opportunity for scriptwriters, Charlie Kaufman on writers, and Max Edwards on non-fiction agenting

March 14, 2023

Plus my first rejection of the  year, Top Gun: Maverick script, going to film school in your 40s, and writing good villains. Hi there, Lots of things to share this week, so let’s crack on with it! Suw’s news: Tag speedbump I’ve had my first rejection of the year, from the All3Media New Writers Collective […]

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