How not to write

Finishing a good book recently, I was left in a quandary how to review it.

The storyline was interesting with a convincing plot and some good characters. There was a nice balance between action, dialogue and narration.

So what was wrong with it?

There weren’t even a lot of spelling errors, although combined with misplaced words, they just hit double figures.

But, one of my usual gripes, punctuation, really really needed an overhaul. We had apostrophes inserted for plurals, eg CFC’s, PhD’s, and various others. Hyphens – were used instead of en – or em — dashes. When using an em dash (or even an incorrect hyphen) for interrupting speech eg ‘I’m going to—’ there was a space left before the em dash. There shouldn’t be spaces around em dashes. And there was confusion about using commas, full points and capital letters in dialogue.

Dialogue was one of the major problem areas. While the dialogue itself was realistic enough, the author fell back on two classic no-nos. One was to avoid using the word said, and secondly, when the author did use said they invariably modified it with an adverb. Too many adverbs detract from the dialogue and weaken it. If you need to convey additional sense of atmosphere it’s better to introduce some action to show what’s happening, rather than say he said sullenly or she said gaily.

Here is a list of some, not all, of the adverbs used:

    loudly, airily, blankly, evenly, firmly, gloomily, slowly, drily, briskly, coldly, quickly, bluntly, hurriedly, affably, slyly, earnestly, nervously, casually, feebly, effusively

And, here is another list of, again some not all, the words used instead of said:

    shouted, added, screamed, stated, answered, moaned, boomed, smiled, gabbled, remarked, mumbled, chuckled, continued, called, snarled, laughed, commented, squeaked, coughed

Please note, my favourite pet hate ‘chuckled‘ is in there.

One style guide for fiction writers picks out chuckled, (quite right too IMO) along with grimaced and smiled, as classic words to avoid using with dialogue. Apart from anything else, it is physically impossible to chuckle, grimace or smile speech. The style guide was somewhat ruder than me, because it described the use of such words as amateur and their work as ‘hack fiction’. I’d add chortled to the list as well.

In one chapter, we had two police officers barking at a suspect. Instead of concentrating on the dialogue I got carried away with a vision of two GSDs in uniform interrogating the said suspect. That’s what happens when you use silly words instead of said. It distracts the reader.

While ‘said’ is the classic word for dialogue in journalism, ‘there’s nowt wrong wi’ said’ as a senior reporter once said to me when I was still a mere trainee, it is currently the word of choice in fiction too.

The reasons are pretty much like the adverbs, the use of other words for variety weaken and distract from the dialogue eg my mental image of two dog police officers barking at the suspect. In combination, throughout the book, the cumulative effect of contrived words creates an artificial and negative effect.

A final point on dialogue is exclamation points. Keep them to a minimum. Overuse devalues them, and unless they are actually relevant, eg, Help! Watch out! they again serve to weaken the actual words. If you need to use them for emphasis try changing your words. Maybe they aren’t strong enough.

And another two of my favourites, repetition and inconsistencies.

Some examples from this book were, two characters murmured (instead of said) within a couple of paragraphs of each other, ‘a few minutes later’ was repeated within a few paragraphs, ‘to his right’ repeated in consecutive pars, and over a longer timescale, a repeated invitation to a party, and repeated information that batteries should be taken out of mobiles so the ‘phones can’t be traced. The reader isn’t stupid. We don’t need to be told twice.

On inconsistencies: There was a wonderful paragraph where a woman was reading a magazine and in the same par she folded up the newspaper. Amazing. Just amazing.

More importantly however, as the story built up to the climax, the day of the planned attack fluctuated between Saturday and Sunday morning. It wasn’t even a confusion about Saturday night and early Sunday morning. It was Sunday at one point, then switched to Saturday, and then back to Sunday.

My dilemma here was that I enjoyed the plot, the pace, the characters and the style. It was a real shame that the accumulation of small errors and amateur use of dialogue tags let the book down. On top of that, I was reviewing it for another site, that is even pickier than me. Yes, there are people out there more picky than roughseas. So it had to be a three star review, much as I would have liked to have given it four stars. It’s probably one of the few books that I have read, littered with errors, where I have been sorry I couldn’t grade it higher.


Meanwhile, a few weeks back the cooker hob stopped working. Not a huge problem as we were off to Spain the next day.

On return I fished out the pathetic owner information booklet. Manual would be a misnomer. A fuse we thought? Oh no. No reference to what to do when hob gives up. The only info was how to change the light bulb in the oven. We’ve never got round to doing that since it went years ago.

I resorted to the Internet. In fact I spent half a day reading up on electric jobs and potential sources of the no power problem. It *could* be a problem with the wiring. It *could* be something else.

Should we call the retailer? Or should we buy a tat two ring burner for £70? I decided to use the oven. After all, when I had a Rayburn, I used the oven for pretty much everything. Much to Partner’s surprise, I produced perfect oven-cooked rice and pasta. He usually cooks both as he considers his skills are vastly superior to mine. So far, so good although we may yet buy a two ring burner from Spain (cheaper and good quality) if the inspiration for oven ready meals fails.

Cauli and broc bake with tomatoes and artichokes
Cauli and broc bake with tomatoes and artichokes


Almost forgot The Ankle. In my enthusiasm to move faster and try to walk properly, I stumbled and twisted my knee five weeks or so ago. Back to hopping and sofa-bound. I’d just got used to putting more weight on my ankle and now I couldn’t put it through my knee.

So we were late in getting back to Spain. I found a load of sad looking lettuces and a rather dry garden. The weather had been hot, hot, hot. In fact it still was pretty warm for late October.

Poor sad lettuces
Poor sad lettuces

We took down the boatshed though as the changing weather meant the veg weren’t getting enough light, the sun is no longer scorching, and the wonderful rain finally made an appearance. In fact we drove up in the rain, and our neighbours accused us of bringing it with us.

The cockerel enjoyed some of the lettuces, the basil had gone basilistic (must buy pine nuts and make pesto), and some, although not all of the infamous peas had germinated. In fact some had started producing tiny pods. One pea per pod per plant doesn’t sound promising though … On the upside, the artichoke that died off after The Ankle seemed to have revived itself and looks rather imposing and statuesque.

Basil takes over
Basil takes over
Tidier bed, with yet more lettuces coming through, breeding like the rabbits they provide food for
Tidier bed, with yet more lettuces coming through, breeding like the rabbits they provide food for

123 comments on “How not to write

  1. I chuckled to myself as I merrily vocalized:

    That should have been “there’s nothing wrong with ‘said’”, as I remembered reading somewhere one should avoid accents in writing. Then again, I ain’t gotz a good mastery of all them rules and reguilations eiditors speak of.

    Oven-cooked rice and pasta sounds interesting, but all I see is a photo of something with broccoli (I nearly threw up as I chuckled).


    • You’re right. There is a rule about accents, eg Mark Twain wouldn’t get away from his deep south black accents these days.

      But a) I’m not writing fiction, b) rules (well some) are made to be broken and c) ‘there’s nothing wrong with said’ really doesn’t capture the flat Yorkshire intonation and accent. Oh and d) it’s my blog.

      I like broccoli. And all my brassicas. I’ve done some pasta tonight but there is broccoli with it so I’ve noted your sensitivities and not taken a photo.

      Rice is basically steamed so the trick is not to add too much water. Pasta is easier. Both cook in about 25 mins.


  2. I can’t comment on your book review dilemma as I’m quite sure I never notice the problems to the degree that you do. I’m fairly sure I probably do mental shrugs to avoid authors that irritate me on reading them.
    I can however comment on the ankle. I’m really sorry you’ve had another mishap with it especially as I know I kept hoping you were getting out and about better. I can only hope now that you ignore me and just get better at your own pace.


    • I know I seem picky. I feel slightly vindicated that the review site is even worse than me though. I feel like Ms Generosity in comparison. I think I’ve just got a built in radar for detecting things after so many years in the business. Having said that I noticed errors and stylistic errors before I even started in print/publishing.

      I’ll get there in the end, it’s just a case of accepting it’s a long slow haul. You get out and about, but the difference is I do hope to be out and walking without crutches next year. Thanks for your thoughts and hugs. Have a cwtch. (Looks like crutch)


  3. 3/4 of the things you mention in the review am sure I would hardly notice. I hope writers are reading so they are not making them.
    Seems there is some improvement on ankle. Good to hear and you should recover sooner, we have a marathon to finish you know.


  4. Apart from anything else, it is physically impossible to chuckle, grimace or smile speech

    Bob smiled then said ‘That roughseas really likes to pick on poor writers, right?’
    ‘Hell yes!’ said Bert, who was throwing darts at a large picture of Gibraltar. He grimaced as the last dart missed the picture and bounced off the wall, removing a chunk of plaster in the process.
    ‘Oops,’ he mumbled
    Bob almost chuckled but thought better of it, thinking; I just know she’s lurking.
    He considered a guffaw as an alternative but gave up on the idea as he wasn’t sure what a guffaw was and as there was no dictionary handy he opted for plain laughter and then went and ordered two pints.


    • Missing full point after mumbled.

      Two too many ‘as’s in last par.

      Roughseas chortled away merrily. So easy to wind up these writer types. Although it didn’t matter how many free lessons she gave, they never seemed to learn anything.

      But still, she was mightily peeved that no-one had bought her a pint. After all, she was only trying to be helpful. She grimaced, shrugged and was glad there was still some San Miguel left in the fridge.

      ‘Poor,’ she thought, as she flipped the tinny. ‘They don’t know the meaning of poor.’ With which she settled into a nostalgic idyll about paper bags on t’ side o’ t’ road …


      • -Of course they learn,” he said. ”Just not as fast as one might like. And bless you, you just provided another lesson.”
        Which, jokes aside, I do appreciate.

        With that, he sighed, bemoaned the fact that he had not dug out a nite nite tune and waved goodbye.
        Oh, look, Its Zebedee, Dougal and Florence.
        That could only mean … Time for bed. Boing!


        • This isn’t a bad book on the mechanics of self-editing, ie the style and the writing rather than glaring errors, it’s the one I mentioned up above:

          Even includes some fun exercises for the reader to depress themselves :D

          There are loads of books out there on how to write/edit etc and they probably all say the same thing.

          I don’t say you have to follow the rules of the day (after all I don’t) but it helps to know what they are before you break them.


          • Knowing the rules is the key. Forearmed is forewarned.

            I also believe that writing style has a lot to do with personal taste.
            But you are correct in your observation that most readers would not generally recognise the obvious ”amateur” mistakes of word usage but only develop a creeping sense of unease about the book until finally it was put aside or finished under duress.
            I reckon any work of fiction, no matter how complicated and technical the language, should be smooth and natural to read. Especially dialogue.
            I am getting better at it … slowly. Okay, very slowly.

            On saying that, your reference to such things as smiled and grimace, while valid, also have to be regarded in context. People understand a sentence such as : Bob smiled; ”And that’s good is it?”
            Or Bob said smiling.
            Such usage is different that finding the word in every third sentence of course.
            And one can smile and talk at the same time. Look in a mirror and try it.

            Elmore Leonard said something about a writer never using adverbs.
            That was certainly a lesson I tried to take to heart and spent a month on one book ripping it to shreds.
            It was better for it too.

            Even includes some fun exercises for the reader to depress themselves :D

            Which is why I avoid such publications like an STD and rather follow the styles of my favorite authors ( when I have become aware of course) and to take baby steps from such sources as nice clever ladies in a T-shirt over in Gibraltar.


          • Except the rules change … and style guides are different.

            I totally agree about personal taste. I’m happy to suggest changes and explain why to authors, but ultimately it’s their decision. There’s a fine line between improving someone’s work, inflicting rigid style rules on them, and changing their work beyond recognition. Rules are a helpful guide, no more no less, as fiction is hardly absolute.

            Dialogue, outside the issues I discussed above, isn’t as easy as we think. It reminds me of acting. To appear realistic it needs to be artificial but done so that it appears realistic. If I wrote what I say most of the time, every sentence would start with ‘Yeah, right,’ or possibly ‘Gooood dog’.

            Starting dialogue with Bob smiled, isn’t the same as using the tag after the words to denote speech. I’d advise against Bob said smiling though if I was being picky.

            And no I can’t smile and speak simultaneously. I am not naturally smiley. Def a grimace in that situation.

            Not sure I’ve ever read Leonard, but I have read some of his advice. The late great Gabriel García Márquez said the same. He went through his MSS getting rid of all ‘–mente’ ending words, the equivalent of ‘–ly’ adverbs, eg absolutamente and absolutely. A lot of the advice is really about tightening up your writing to give it more impact and less padding.

            When you can do that well, then you can try and emulate 19th century classical authors.

            The point about reading good authors is to try and work out how it is successful though. So, why do Tolkien and Pullman work for me and Rowling doesn’t? Why do I like virtually every C19 writer under the sun except for Jane Austen? Is it plot or style? Am I looking at writing skill or my preferences?

            I do so love the way you always manage to get in a sexist comment. Too cute for words.


          • I read quite a number of authors I dont read ( if you catch my meaning) simply to learn about composition. Not for enjoyment.’
            I sometimes sit and scan for adverbs and count how many over a ten page spread. lol . Nuts, I know.

            Some of the classic authors could write loooong sentences.
            When tracking dialogue,I’ll count how many times he said she said appears.
            I have a habit of picking up on words that suffer from more repetition than is ”normal”. Or words that are so standout that they grate – bifurcated is one.
            I try to cut out repetition words in my own writing. It’s bloody hard work!
            I have yet to be enthralled by Wolfe, Orwell, Henry James etc. I am probably a Neanderthal.

            But I love Roald Dahl, Lewis Carrol, Enid Blyton etc.

            Tolkien ( Lord of the Rings) bored me to tears. Especially Bilbo Baggins birthday party.
            What sexist remark? Am I in trouble once more?


          • I read outside what I like too for similar reasons. You don’t want to see some of the notes I take … If I’m sending feedback then it’s helpful anyway, hence my lists on here. I stop at 20 usually.

            He said she said shouldn’t largely be a problem. A lot of the time it can be avoided, or small action included before or after to denote speech attribution (and avoid an adverb).

            The best one in this book was plangent. A plangent crescendo no less. Luckily it didn’t get repeated.

            One that seems to be popular currently is obsidian. Obsidian eyes. I think they have all been reading D H Obsidian Lawrence which was where I think I first read it, but I won’t swear to that.

            Wolfe so-so, Orwell, clever, and I liked James very much. But I also liked Conrad. And … Insert list of long wordy writers …

            I liked Enid too. My bookshelf was full of them. I’ve only read Two Towers, but I thought it was good. Probably because I fell in love with Gollum. Brilliant character, sheer brilliance. (Repetition gives emphasis?)

            You’re always in trouble. ‘Ladies’. A very pet sexist hate of mine.


          • Firstly, I used the word, ‘Lady’ as a gender identifier and in a (albeit) lighthearted way.
            I have, in fact, used the term ‘sales ladies’ as a euphemism in reference to a few characters in one of my books.
            Top tip. Don’t try to get too smart when you know damn well my intention was not to cast any sort of aspersions.


          • You’re opening up the big intent v effect debate. Very thorny. Let’s not go there. It’s a blog post in itself. In fact I’ve probably written one.

            In satire, I can accept it. In everyday conversation, no.


          • Whether you are prepared to accept it or not does not mean my usage was in any way condescending, or sexist.

            ‘That lady over there.’
            ‘That woman over there’
            In ordinary conversation or dialogue both terms simply mean human female.

            There is nothing beyond this, implied or otherwise.

            In our ”blog chat” to have used ‘woman’ would have been incongruous on many levels.

            There was / is no disrespect intended and certainly no sexist undertones.

            While I understand where you pitch tent on this issue,
            context is king. This time I believe you called it wrong.


          • I’m not interested in your intent. Did I say condescending? I thought I said sexist.

            No. In ordinary conversation there are a lot more nuances than you are clearly willing to accept.

            What would be incongruous about a woman wearing a T shirt in Gibraltar? Seriously?

            You don’t think there are because you aren’t aware of them. Just like opening doors. You probably stand up at restaurants when women leave and return to the table. If you aren’t aware of the issues, how can you understand them?

            So no. You don’t understand. Or if you do you are being wilfully provocative. You get excited about calling black people blacks but you won’t accept there is a language issue with sexual discrimination.

            I have spent a lot of years looking at language and how the use of it influences people, hence working in PR, publicity, press offices etc.

            I rarely bother arguing because ‘my lady friends like to be called ladies’ ‘it’s a mark of respect’ ‘it’s for older women’ etc is just so wide of the mark it’s not honestly worth starting with.

            From my perspective context is patriarchy and sexism. But I appreciate being a privileged white male that obviously, you know better. After all, the world is about the white male context.


          • In this instance you were the one who made the initial ”T-shirt” remark.
            I’m not going to trawl through the posts but it mentioned only wearing two items of clothing , one being a T shirt.
            There was an element of fun in this. Being ‘saucy’ as my mother likes to say
            Like me, you’re too long in the tooth not to understand what we mean here. It was harmless, and I never took it in any other way.
            So for you to now get a cobb on and cry sexist once more is just not on.
            You can’t dabble in the ‘play-play’ and then cry wolf. Sorry and all that, it won’t wash. Not with me, at any rate.
            If you do, it smacks of hypocrisy.
            I reckon you called it wrong. And your sarcasm is just silly and petulant.


          • The T shirt is not related to gender specific sexist language. Two different issues.

            Nor was it ‘saucy’, merely a factual statement.

            I’m not sure how much you know about feminism or radical feminism but from your comments (and most other peoples) I’m guessing not a lot.

            Just as I say, I know nada about religion and don’t get involved with the polemics. I know my limitations. And, my life’s too short to bone up on something that I think is garbage. Even though I accept it influences all our lives.

            I don’t discuss feminism any more because it is a waste of my time. Simple as that. It is utterly boring to be patronised by men who ‘think’ they aren’t sexist and then go onto to display it in the next sentence. Look at Greg on violet’s calling Ruth a ‘smart girl’.

            I accept you aren’t interested in feminism. But please don’t tell me you aren’t sexist.

            Nothing was intended as sarcasm. I am sorry for offending you.


          • I am not sexist and you have yet to offer any evidence to the contrary.
            I wasn’t offended. I just thought the remark unnecessary and called it as such.
            Oh, and no, I don’t stand up when a woman leaves the room, ( can’t recall ever doing that) but I will hold the lift door – for everyone – especially if I happen to be first in the queue.
            As a child, I always gave up my seat on the bus to an adult.
            As an adult I often offered my seat to someone that was standing. Irrespective. Odd,but it was an automatic reaction.
            To me the term sexist is derogatory and suggests an inferior status.
            You grew up with a father that was very sexist, based on what you have written. This has bound to have left a negative impression. I did not grow up in such an environment and my current family life is as ”unsexist” as you are likely to find. No stereotypes at The Ark’s spot, I can assure you.
            My work career has involved jobs where women were on an equal footing or,often as not, in charge and certainly independent.
            I am sexyist, yes, but not sexist.


          • That sounds like the religious one. There is/isn’t a god unless you prove otherwise. And as we come at the discussion from a different perspective …

            Yup, I do all that too. Drives me up the wall on the bus when young kids hog all the seats though. The only ones who give up seats are 50+

            Sexist is like anyone who discriminates on grounds of race, disability, age, sexuality, etc, knowingly or unknowingly.

            He was a mix. I write about it to share, like others, to show what discriminatory views are. He was nothing unusual. I worked with people like that too.

            On the other hand he wanted me to go to university, do the books for the family business, and totally trusted me financially.

            His view was skewed. He was racist one minute, and standing up,for Asians the next. Nor did he have a good start in life.

            The impression came with hindsight. Somewhat like religious apostasy. You don’t see it until you have got away from it. And then, it is everywhere.

            We are never going to agree on this or even reach understanding. I’ll leave it alone Ark. You want to think you aren’t sexist, fine. No more from me on that.


          • You want to think you aren’t sexist, fine. No more from me on that.

            That is grossly unfair and what my father calls a back-handed compliment. Like a slap in the face, or folded arms across the chest because you consider I don’t measure up to your terms.
            That isn’t the way the ‘game’ is played, and if you want to reach genuine understanding such a comment just comes across as petulant.


          • It’s not a back-handed compliment, it’s merely a statement of a) my observation and b) my intent.

            I don’t wish to argue with you, nor do I wish to fall out. I save that for the occasional dickhead who wanders over here. Few and far between though.

            I’m neither playing games nor evangelising. For example, if I genuinely wanted to have a discussion about religion, I would bone up on the bible, the torah, the qur’an, and the academic perspective. I’ve been reading and learning about feminism for 30 years, I don’t feel like spending the next 30 years on religion for example. By the same token I don’t expect you to spend your time learning about feminism. I’m not feminism 101 however, which is an adequate site but often somewhat bland, so no, I’m not explaining everything.

            Sure I’ll write on here and on Clouds (when I have time which I haven’t right now) about feminism, animal rights, rescue dogs/animals, people who shoot animals for fun, consumerism, environmentalism, etc. I’m not providing a primer however. If people are interested they can go look it up. If not …

            On the up side, some people have told me they’ve learned something from my posts on the more controversial areas, just as I learn from other blog posts.

            Most of us are inherently prejudiced, whether it is sex, race, disability, age, fat, or whatever. Sexism is an issue because we live in a patriarchal society, and as Victoria constantly reminds me, it stems from religion. Equal rights eg to vote, own property, get paid equally are easy to support. It’s the subliminal issues that get ignored and continue the perpetuation.

            Comments like ‘petulant’ for example …


          • I agree. Otherwise I might be encouraged to write something un-gentlemanly and you may reply with something un-ladylike.

            Sexist? What do you think… ;)


      • I did not know that one could ” chortle away merrily “. I always thought that a chortle was a one or at most a non-verbal two sound expression of well being .
        I would maybe use the word ” chortle ” ( the way I understand it ) in regard to a middle aged, friendly country vet after checking on a horse he spent 7 hours operating . When he discovered that she was going to pull through, he let out a content chortle. On my imaginary planet people under 40, people using well cut suits, having trendy jobs ( that would even include lawyers and surgeons ), being insecure of themselves, or insecure of what they do would not chortle. But then again I feel it might be all wrong.
        And your free lessons are welcome with me ( even though I don’t always get what you say, while understanding each and every word. I have problems with all those abbreviations. It took me 20 seconds to figure out the Meth was probably the Methodist Church and not the local Methodone Clinic. What Broc and Caul stand for was easy, especially because of the visual aid.It took another 4 seconds to figure out that par probably means paragraph, because paralysis, partridge and a few other made no sense ). So yes, I am learning and I am thankful for that, even if it is sometimes just by encreasing the speed of how I figure things out.
        Sorry to hear about your knee. I had hopes for you to be much better around Year’s End. Mobility problems are a very PITA. Get better as soon as you can.
        And what does ” flipping the tinny ” mean…..that has me lost.


        • No. Chortle is more numerous. My English dictionary defines it as: to chuckle, to utter a gurgling, gleeful laugh [coined by Lewis Carroll in 1872].

          Methos is very colloquial. Somewhat like Proddies for Protestants and fish-eaters for Catholics. It does sound like a methadone clinic though, I agree.

          Par is a throwback to journalism. Non-journalists tend to say para, although that could be confused with paratroopers, although unlikely given context. Back when we used to dictate stories over the telephone, we would always denote the ending and start of a paragraph with ‘full point [full stop, period], new par’.

          Thanks for the good wishes. I am improving, I think, but it’s just very slow going.

          Flipping the tinny refers to flipping open a can of beer or soft drink using the ring-pull at the top, ie you flip it open. That ones a throw back to my time in Australia eg ‘Jeez mate, chuck us a tinny out the eski [cool box]’ or ‘Let’s go down the beach with a few tinnies, and she’ll be right mate’ etc etc.


  5. The one thing you mentioned, timescale is one thing that worries me enough to keep checking that the events are happening at the same time… cannot be having a punch up in the morning then breaking off to another part and coming back and still punching in the evening. Bad example but you get the gist I expect… I like your new theme…


    • Yup, timescale is an important one to consider, action and dialogue need to pan out within a credible timescale and everything needs to be double checked for inconsistencies. You doing Nanowrimo this year again?

      I’m ambivalent about the theme but it will do for now, thanks Gerry.


      • I am giving Nano another go,, have managed to read my story so far, and have so far written 2500 words, my mind refreshed with the story line and characters hopefully I can complete it now..
        Your theme is personal choice, I have been through the themes several times but cannot get anything that matches my ideas,, I want two side bars but the ones I found dont work the same.. so stick with the same old same old…


        • I so don’t have time for Nano. I think it focuses the mind, but unless you do anything with the novel afterwards it becomes a slightly pointless exercise. And writing 1666 words every day for a months isn’t difficult. But good luck :)

          All I want is something that looks clean, and stark. Must try it on the computer though, I’ve only looked on iPhone and iPad.


  6. Took me a minute to work out that you now have a two column theme…but I’m never quick on the uptake when it comes to anything on a computer screen.
    I’m so sorry that your recovery has been put back…no wonder you are fitting in so much reading time.


    • I’ve not seen it as two columns but I’m using an iPad. Suppose I should look on the laptop and see how it shows.

      Yeah, I’m pretty much safe bound still apart from when I’m limping around to prepare food, or messing in the garden at the finca. Oh to walk around the beach. It would take me long enough to walk ie limp down our street. And then I’d have to get back up the street again.


    • It self seeds, that’s why there’s so much. I love self-seeding plants, makes the gardener’s life so much easier.

      In terms of using it as an alternative to said, it doesn’t work, you can’t chuckle words. You could say, ‘Ark’s a dickhead.’ She chuckled as she thought it was about time someone used his favourite insult on him.

      But basically it’s just a poor word that adds no value, and it’s distinctive enough to be noticeable and causes a jar in the reading. Nor do people chuckle all the time. Unless you possibly count the Laughing Policeman.


  7. Noticed you didn’t give name of SAID book. Oops did I just say, said. Who said that there was anything wrong with saying someone said something… ok, I’ll let up now… nuff said! :P

    I’ve used chuckled, but we’ve already discussed that so I won’t drone on. It is true that many, newbie writers tend to overdo the adverbs, but getting caps, apostrophes, and generally basic punctuation wrong is literary suicide no matter how good your story, plot or characters are.

    Hot weather… ppht! We’ve had sunny days all week and this is England. Bright sunny day today… went and fed the ducks, geese, swans etc. It has actually felt like the 20’s to me, but it has been lower. I can’t believe how mild it has been. Anyway, it’s a given that you’ll be in the 30’s/40’s in Spain! (raspberries!) :D

    We’re going to Meadowhall tomorrow.


    • I don’t name books/authors if I’m being critical unless they are best selling authors who won’t be interested in my comments anyway, eg JK Rowling.

      The point is not to criticise the book, which I still maintain was a good read, but rather to point out what should be avoided.

      Chuckled is dire. There are no two ways about it. The only use for it would be in a parody/satire of how not to write which I may get round to at some point.

      Bit cooler now. No 30s. Only 20s. Today’s Gib temps are 22 max and 18 min, little difference at this time of year. Still warm. Still T shirts, shorts and just a sheet on the bed, if that, sort of weather.

      Sheffield? Shopping? Rather you than me darling.


      • Fairy Snuf!

        You’re right that isn’t much different temp wise.

        Yes, it’s half a day out for Pat… she likes it since we don’t go very often. I don’t mind it… good eats! ;)


        • I like this time of year, more variation in the weather, some rain (makes for good pix), not hot not cold, the light is softer. All round win.

          Hope you have a good day. Shopping centres are so not me. We used to go to the one in Milton Keynes occasionally. No idea why, rarely bought anything but we did eat at the Mexican restaurant :D


  8. On exclamation points … there seems to be an entire generation of individuals who think exclamation points are part and parcel of everyday writing. (I would chalk it up to social media, but I see people in their 60s doing it, as well.)

    I can’t tell you how many emails I get from co-workers that are full of exclamations points, as if every statement is to be shouted out. These same people will copy me on emails they send to businessmen – often older CEO types – and they to are full of exclamation points. They’ll also have me insert them in brochures, programs, etc.

    I find them incredibly overused and wonder if anyone really thinks about the fact exclamation points are supposed to reflect shock or complete surprise, not that we’re simply thanking a sponsor.


    • It is used a lot in social media, and I thought most people in their sixties used social media. Hell, I’ll be there in a few years time.

      I wouldn’t use them in anything corporate. Only if it was limited circulation, extremely informal, not for publication etc etc. That’s partly the problem with the internet, you need to think ten times as carefully about what you write. Who knows where it will end up?

      I read an extract from a novel earlier today and just groaned. The dialogue was littered with them. Exactly what I was talking about avoiding with this post. But as some commenters say, they wouldn’t notice any of what I’m talking about.


      • Perhaps we’re the exception, but I too always notice exclamation points, partly because in good writing they’re so rare. And, yes, I attribute it to the rise of social media, where every other sentence is punctuated with an exclamation point. Unfortunately.


  9. Writing words in a certain order works or it doesn’t. If it works I doubt if the lack of or profusion of exclamation marks, adverbs or anything else would much affect its readability. Of course, in the extreme it would destroy it totally.
    I don’t think strictly adhering to rules would make much of a difference.
    In any case, basil with other herbs greatly enhances food that no adverb or full stop could ever achieve.


    • It’s really the difference between a book (or any other piece of writing) that goes ‘zing!’ And too many minor errors or too much overly pretentious prose will drag a book down. Plus, you have to take into account current fashion for writing in a certain manner. Can’t say I am a fan of rules, but some aspects of writing are fairly basic and don’t change. And some authors can break rules eg James Joyce and Ulysses.

      As I’ve got so much of the stuff I should use it more. *Note to self* add it to the spaghetti for lunch.


  10. I’ll pass on commenting about the book review, you’ve totally lost me.

    Veggies, have been a disaster this year for me, probably something to do with not been around to tend them.
    I did plant some peas, quite late in the year, and have have quite a few pods, none made it into the cooking pot though ;-)
    The weather looks nice on your phone app, the one thing that stuck out though was your service provider, LOL I just love their team colours in the Tour de France.


    • LOL! It’s really about saying whether a book is technically good or not in the way it has been written, rather than whether or not you enjoyed it. You can recognise a good book without enjoying it, and similarly you can enjoy a mediocre book (eg loads of best sellers) while accepting it isn’t the best. But yes, it can get overly heavy. That’s why I kept it simple :)

      I didn’t know peas grew late in the UK, although I was surprised at the length of the season because they were on sale right through summer at Morries. In my part of Spain we get two pea seasons, late autumn which I’m aiming for and then again in the early part of the year, can’t remember when though, early spring say.

      Hate Movistar but Halphone seems happier being allowed to choose his own provider – Halishly – so I just let him get on with it these days. It’s a nice time of year weather wise though :)


    • I’m talking fiction here. Where people charge money for people to read their books. Not blog posts. Very different.

      Anyway, I wouldn’t read your blog if it was rubbish. It’s not. I think it is really interesting.


      • I realize that, and thanks. I was just trying to be playful which I tend not to do too much in fear that I might be misunderstood or just be understood as silly. I need to develop a ‘whatever’ attitude about that! Lots to learn….Love the photo of the sheep by the way. In our village we are limited to pigs and cows. Too wet I think.


        • Sorry. I’m worried instead of people finding what I write helpful, they might think it’s a sly dig or criticism of others’ writing on their blogs. Or their books if they are authors. Plus I’ve never forgotten your comment about it taking you ages to comment on here. I’ve commented on a few blogs sometimes and received a fairly churlish or disinterested reply, needless to state I don’t revisit those blogs.

          After living there 12 years, I still run outside to look at the sheep/goats. No cows by us, used to be some pigs but they’ve gone :( Cows down in Cadiz province though near Gib. Wetter? Dunno.


  11. Between the ankle and the knee there’s no luck at all in 2014, so it seems. Hopefully 2015 will bring better circumstances. And so, off into the fall, along with all it brings. Here it brings the usual mix of colours along with rain, rain and more rain. The only reprieve, it seems, will be the frost, whenever it comes. For you, one supposes, it means cooler weather and the end of the growing season. It does end, right?
    As for the self-published books, no comment from me is necessary as you probably know where I stand :-)
    Here’s to better luck in the Med!


    • Well, I didn’t break the knee, it just put back the ankle recovery.

      Start of the growing season :D ours stops in summer when it is too hot and dry. Autumn through to spring is prime growing time. And actually mine didn’t end this year, my neighbour kept watering for me, so
      I had salad all year.

      As for books, you are honest enough to say it needs to be a team product with a number of skills needed.

      Thanks :)


  12. I once read a book where someone “sneezed” a dialogue. I think I would prefer them to chuckle their words instead! In return for your cauliflower dish I would offer to fix your cooker hob if I knew what a hob was myself.


  13. I find your writing tips and education and other I have gleaned from bloggers eg Robin Coyle’s Strong vs Weak Words very useful even for my own modest purposes. It may not always appear so but it means I read back over with a more objective eye than with which I rapidly typed my offerings! I add chuckled, chortled to my beware list not that I can recollect ever using them.
    Bugger about the knee setting you back but you seem to be coping well.
    Our TA neighbours normally comment we bring the rain with us but not recently; there’s been no rain at all. It’s fortunate you had some. Your garden looks like it recovered remarkably. I’m amazed at the quantity, quality and variety you grown in the space and pots.
    The oven cooked meals look delicious. I find it’s often simply to bake dinners – one pot to monitor and wash up :)


    • In a way, it’s helpful for me to write it out as writing points on here as I get the chance to gather my thoughts and set down what I need to look for when both editing and reviewing books.

      It’s just a bind it’s taking so long, but there’s no point pushing it.

      We’ve just had rain today and there is more forecast for the weekend so that’s good :) Is your summer starting early? I couldn’t believe it was still in the 30s in late October. I think I’ve learned from the Spanish. What they can do with a small amount of space is amazing. And they will use anything and everything. I guess it’s rubbed off over time.

      Yes, one pot is a distinct advantage, although I used three yesterday :( a front pan for spicy tomatoes and later for spiced olive oil, a pan for steamed rice, and another for lentil dal.


  14. Now I’m chuckling! hahahahaha. I wish I can see your face when you read books like this and take photo’s or even do a video show. Bwhahahahah! Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? LOL! Come to think of it, what you’re mentioning here is mostly the main reason why I stopped reading books and the second reason of course is that I can’t afford them anymore. Movies are easier to watch and if there are spelling mistakes, you will only notice it if there are subtitles. hahaha!

    A great lesson and points for future writers and even experienced writers Kate. Well done! :D

    Now you just went and made me hungry! Shame on you! That looks soooo delicious! I can eat that all day and every day. Makes me think of the lovely veggie soup hubby made for us last night. Great shot of that delicious meal hon! :D

    Oh no! That must suck for sure! I do hope it gets better soon Kate. I am sure you are quite fed up with struggling like that. I know I would be.

    Gosh! It was warm there indeed. Nearly as hot as it was here the past few days. Even the spiders were looking for cool places to hide and the poor birdies couldn’t get enough of the water I leave for them in the garden, during the day.

    I am so glad you got your rains as well. We had ours yesterday and this morning. What a treat! I love the rain. :D

    Wow! The Basil looks gorgeous and so green! Love your garden bed Kate. Best of wishes for it to grow abundant and plenty. :D ♥


    • It was a good story, I’ve read far worse, believe me. If you review books you get to read them for free. Plus when I can walk, our library is across the road. I don’t have the space to buy any more books. I prefer books to films although I did get lured into watching one a couple of nights ago. Mainly because it had Sean Bean in, but it was a good storyline too.

      My luxury in life is buying organic veg when I can’t grow them, or enough of them myself, and the local super does a good line in organic cauli and broc. You can soup them, boil them, put them in salad, or make a bake like this and serve with jacket pots or pasta. Oh and curried cauli is very yum, I have a great recipe for that. I adore veg soups, especially when feeling off colour. Mine does good soup too, he doesn’t always eat them so cooks them for me. 😀

      Not much I can do Sonel. Walk/exercise as much as I can without overdoing it.

      Everyone goes inside when it’s 30s. Us, dogs, neighbours, the streets empty. It will be cooler now, the rain the other day has brought the temps down. I’m no longer sitting in just a T shirt.

      Thank you so much. I’m dubious about the peas, they look spindly, I’m hoping more light will help. Last years beans were great so I was surprised about a 50% germination rate. We’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Hello Kate. My basil has met its demise after an unexpected frost. Dash it! I enjoyed your list of adverbs and clumsy alternatives to “said.” I couldn’t agree more with how distracting this type of writing is with its tendency to jolt the reader back into reality. And your knee!! Good God, woman, you must be developing some fierce thigh muscles with all of this hopping. I hope it is much better now.


    • Frost? What’s that? Seriously we don’t get it although see it occasionally in the dips at the side of the road.

      I think there are two problems. One, is that authors don’t even realise what they are doing, and two, is that when or if they do, they are doing it consciously to try and liven up their writing, make the feelings and emotions felt, and it has the reverse effect.

      My quads have always been rubbish. Back to limping now. Tried to bend down today, ended up sitting on the floor (cleaning) and thought I wasn’t going to get up again. Time, I tell myself, time heals all, even broken ankles.


  16. I found this post useful and entertaining except for the veggie photo :) Not a fan of veggies even though many have tried to persuade me. And don’t bother hiding them in my mashed potatoes. I can spot them even then.


    • Forgot to mention the veg. If I was a meat, fish or fowl eater, no hob would be easy, everything done in the oven, but it’s doing veg, eg frying, blanching, par-boiling, and cooking eggs, rice, pasta that has proved the challenge without eating samey food all the time or it taking forever.

      Do you mean green veg, brassicas, or all veg? Carrots and turnip/swede with mashed potatoes are nice. Peas, onions and mashed are too. Although I’m not a bubble and squeak person. What about veg in casseroles?


    • Not aware of Woods. I tend to notice when authors don’t use said! but never notice when they do. Which probably says it all.

      I do think I’m biased because of it being a classical journalist rule, but I’m also interested it is currently flavour of the month/year/decade in fiction writing guides.

      You can get away with a few alternatives. Not every dialogue tag must be said, but an absolute bran tub of different tags is so jarring. I like mysteries so I will chase him up and see what I think, thanks Cynthia.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. An unbending ankle. Moving like a Barbie doll. That’s the problem with getting injured. While that part is healing, another part gets overloaded or twisted. It just seems to snowball. With the weather moderating, it’s bound to be driving you ( and Pippa and Snowy) nuts.
    A bit behind due to husband in ER and rounds of assorted docs and tests. All down at the “big” med center in Houston which means traffic. Of course the weather will add fierce downpours only during those drives. So far so good, but still in progress/evaluating. (waiting on test results is probably worse)
    That first dish looks yummy. (Our lettuce always looks like that. Gave up on it. The basil and rosemary however are so cooperative.) Pasta in the oven must be quite a challenge. Voting with others for one dish meals and little cleanup. With the outdoor “roof” off and the weather moderating, the patio must be pretty nice this time of year.
    We’re in 50’s a night, but mild during the day warming into 60’s. Molly is thrilled. She’s got a very heavy coat this year. (And probably is sad the AC is off.) Big motorcycle event in Galveston this weekend, so we’ll have to find another place to get outside.
    Now I’l feeling really guilty about punctuation. But pleading “It’s just a blog. I gave up precision and standards when I stopped drawing a paycheck.” But I can’t stand reading books with glaring errors. No excuses accepted.


  18. Gee, I guess I am in trouble. I just paid Ebay for a large bag of -ly adverbs. I got them on sale. But they told me that there was a no-return policy. Oh wise and wonderful editor, what shall I do?

    I must say that I seldom use any punctuation other than commas, periods and question marks. I did poorly in Punctuation School.


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