The writing process


…and something else.

I want to tell you a story, starting at the end. The lovely, kind, patient, funny, talented author, David W. Robinson, interviewed me here. David has written lots of books, the latest being The Anagramist, which you can read about here.

The Anagramist

Where does the story begin? It could start with my relationship with interviews, although I think that’s really backstory. In my previous life, my experience of face-to-face interviews was with job interviews. Frankly, the fact that I did get accepted for some jobs was probably despite those interviews.

I think the story should begin last Sunday, when David sent me the interview questions, but then I need to add a bit more backstory. Of course, if I were writing the story properly, I would begin at the beginning of the story itself and seamlessly weave in the backstory. As I’m not telling it properly, I’ll fill you in now. David originally told us authors that those who wanted to take part would create a video with our answers and he would add his part of the chat afterwards. I thought, I can do that; it’s like creating any video. And I volunteered. It was a bad decision, it turned out.

I’m still in the backstory, because at some point David realised it would be much easier for him to just record an online chat, using Skype or Zoom. This is when I should definitely have backed down, but I didn’t. I thought, I’ll work out the answers in advance, so surely it can’t be that hard. That’s me. I’ve never had that pre-event anxiety that’s supposed to be part of social anxiety. That’s not necessarily a positive trait.

Right. Finally, I can begin the story. David sent me the questions, I sent him my answers and we arranged a time for the interview on Zoom. I decided to use my mobile phone, because the camera on my laptop is too low down, and makes me look cross-eyed. But the phone, it turned out, created more problems than it solved. We weren’t synchronised, we had problems understanding each other and that wasn’t just because of David’s hearing difficulties and my lack of familiarity with the Yorkshire accent.

So we went back to the previously suggested method. I made my video (videos, actually, but let’s not get into that) and sent it to David. But he discovered that he couldn’t add his part without taking over the whole screen, rather than having us side by side all the time. So we eventually scrapped the video idea and David put the interview out as a written one. End of story?

Creating Videos

Yes, but I’ve missed something out. Although David was super kind and blamed everything on the technical problems on both sides, it must have been clear to him, as it was to me when I watched the videos, that my performance left a lot to be desired. While his part was polished and flowed easily, mine was hesitant and unnatural, as it used to be in job interviews, as I often sound when simply chatting. I’ve decided before that I don’t want to do video interviews because of that. Why did I let myself volunteer to be interviewed yet again? Because this is part of being an author in the 21st century. Because I think I need to crack this and always imagine that next time it’ll work better.

And how do I manage to give presentations? By practising beforehand and learning whole texts off by heart. Or by reading passages from the page. A presentation isn’t a chat; sometimes you can get away with that.

The imaginary pets? All part of David’s wonderful humour in our numerous emails. He made up cats and dogs, which led me to think of the rain we probably won’t see in Israel for five months, which led him to talk of droughts. And then there was a budgie (or there wasn’t). Maybe I should give up on being an author and open a pet shop with imaginary pets.

It’s time for a change.

I’ve changed my profile photo over social media. I’ve also changed various cover photos.

Miriam Drori

I have news, but I can’t divulge it yet.

And, in conjunction with the featuring of me on Crooked Cat’s website from tomorrow, 7th March, this post is the one you should use to ask me questions. You can ask me anything at all. I don’t promise to answer everything, but I’ll do my best!

So, do watch the (possibly unusual) video and read the extra stuff, all on Crooked Cat’s home page. And then come back here to ask about me, my life, my books, my writing, even… Shock   …my poetry.

OK, your turn, go to the comments
OK, your turn, go to the comments
OK, your turn, go to the comments

Important: My Kindle titles are reduced for this week. That’s CULTIVATING A FUJI and SOCIAL ANXIETY REVEALED.

Two Books On Sale

OK, your turn, go to the comments
OK, your turn, go to the comments me page, you have to click Comments at the top
(But if you’re reading this from the Home page, you have to click Comments at the top )

I hadn’t thought of that momentous day for ages, but when Lorraine Mace included this in her interview of me: “Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know“, I was reminded of something good that happened to me when I was twelve.

I won a bicycle!

There was a competition in my girls’ magazine. I had to answer questions on the rules of riding on roads. I even asked my mother whether she thought I should send in my answers and she said yes, never expecting me to win, but I did.

I had asked for a bike before. My parents hadn’t agreed. They said it was too dangerous. Yet my brother had always ridden a bike. I remembered the story of how my dad had taught him, running with him. I never saw my dad run and he didn’t teach me. (I learned to ride on the bike of a friend’s little brother. It was so low to the ground that I wasn’t afraid of falling off.)

“That was different,” they said in answer to my pleas. “We lived in the country, then.”

It was always different for him. The country, the boarding school, being a boy.

But I won a bicycle and so my parents couldn’t stop me from getting one. I remember we ordered a bike suitable for my height, but the one that arrived was adult-sized and so it lasted for years.

Bicycles

Cycling in Devon, UK

I don’t have a bike in hilly Jerusalem, but I’ve enjoyed some good times riding, over the years.

I admit it. For the first time, I cheated  this year at NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo? You know – that month when crazy people all over the world try to write a novel in a month?

True, I typed every word, but they weren’t all new words. I was rewriting my debut novel, changing third person to first and past tense to present, adding more thoughts and new scenes. I love the way it turned out, although it still needs more work.

The Rewrite Process

In NaNoWriMo terms, I “won” easily. I reached the target of 50,000 words on 19th November. Then I continued to the end of the story, and even found time to go back and add things that were left out.

I’m clearly not the only cheat. The NaNoWriMo site even has a name for cheats: NaNo Rebel. Yay!

I'm a NaNo Rebel

Despite cheating, or maybe because of it, I learned new things.

What I learned

  • I have plenty of time to devote to writing. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to “win” every year.
  • I write best and fastest on my own at home.
  • I still love write-ins, where we discuss our novels and also write together.
  • I can write with background noise, but get distracted by songs I know and love.
  • I need a detailed plan. It takes me too long to create new scenes as I write, if I haven’t planned properly.
  • I love NaNoWriMo. Yeah, I knew that before.

For those who still don’t get it, don’t be put off by the words “write a novel in a month.” We all know we won’t end up with a completed novel. It’s only a first draft, and even that won’t be complete, as most novels are longer than 50,000 words. But, even if you don’t “win,” you end the month with something to work on. It’s much better than a blank page.

It’s the beginning of October. That means it’s less than a month to…

NaNoWriMo Writer

…NaNoWriMo! (That month when people all over the world go a bit crazy, trying to write 50,000 words, all in November.)

The question, this year, was never whether I was going to join in. I didn’t even consider missing out on all the fun (and hard work). It was what I was going to write.

NaNo2Small.jpg

At a NaNoWriMo Meetup in Jerusalem, 2018

I decided on something. I created the book on the new NaNoWriMo website, complete with cover, description, Pinterest board and playlist.

Then I changed my mind. I’m going to rewrite my novel, Neither Here Nor There. When I’ve reached the end, at a date that hopefully will coincide with the end of November, I’ll examine the two versions and decide which parts to keep and which to discard.

Now I have to do some plotting. I’ve already made one decision: the title is going to change. The current title is One Foot. But I might have second thoughts about that. Or third thoughts. The cover will definitely change.

OneFootCover

Temporary cover for a probably temporary title

Microsoft Word Tips for Authors

Welcome to the next in a series of tips on using Microsoft Word, geared towards authors.
Most Word advice is rather complicated and full of things you’ll never need to know.
I shall do my best to keep it simple, because you’re not stupid… just busy.
Please note: 
– Not all versions of Word are the same, but most are near enough.
– There are different ways of doing the same thing. I shall demonstrate just one (or two).

I expect you all know about Ctrl/C, Ctrl/X, Ctrl/V and Ctrl/S. But do you know about Ctrl/B – bold, Ctrl/I – italics and Ctrl/U – underline?

To see lists of all the keyboard shortcuts, search for keyboard shortcuts in Help.

There are other ways of performing these actions, but if you know the keyboard shortcut, it can save time.

Here’s one that I’ve found very useful: Shift/F3. Select a string and press Shift/F3. It has three modes: lower case, UPPER CASE and Title Case.

Links to Previous Word Tips

  • Tip 1: A Matter of Style
    About heading styles.
  • Tip 2: Make Your Novel a Trampoline
    How to jump swiftly and gracefully between chapters.
  • Tip 3: That’s Not What I Wrote
    How to stop Word making changes you don’t want.
  • Tip 4: How Not to Jump to a New Page
    Press Enter until a new page appears? Please don’t.
  • Tip 5: How Not to Indent a Line
    The space bar is not for indentation.
  • Tip 6: Track and Compare
    About Track Changes, Compare and Combine.
  • Tip 7: Replacement Operation
    Pitfalls of find and replace.
  • Tip 8: Automatic Saves
    The different ways of saving a document
  • Tip 9: Accents / Diacritic Marks and Apostrophes
    Inserting acutes, graves, umlauts and the rest. Also, getting apostrophes the right way round.

What next? Is there anything else you’d like me to explain about Microsoft Word?

Microsoft Word Tips for Authors

Welcome to the next in a series of tips on using Microsoft Word, geared towards authors.
Most Word advice is rather complicated and full of things you’ll never need to know.
I shall do my best to keep it simple, because you’re not stupid… just busy.
Please note: 
– Not all versions of Word are the same, but most are near enough.
– There are different ways of doing the same thing. I shall demonstrate just one (or two).

How do you write the word café? Or über? Or soupçon? Or Señor?

Word has a list showing how to write each diacritic mark. It’s the sort of list you can remember because it’s really quite guessable. Here it is: (I accessed this by clicking Help, searching for ‘diacritic’ and choosing Keyboard shortcuts for international characters.)

To insert this Press
à, è, ì, ò, ù,
À, È, Ì, Ò, Ù
CTRL+` (ACCENT GRAVE), the letter
á, é, í, ó, ú, ý
Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú, Ý
CTRL+’ (APOSTROPHE), the letter
â, ê, î, ô, û
Â, Ê, Î, Ô, Û
CTRL+SHIFT+^ (CARET), the letter
ã, ñ, õ
Ã, Ñ, Õ
CTRL+SHIFT+~ (TILDE), the letter
ä, ë, ï, ö, ü, ÿ,
Ä, Ë, Ï, Ö, Ü, Ÿ
CTRL+SHIFT+: (COLON), the letter
å, Å CTRL+SHIFT+@, a or A
æ, Æ CTRL+SHIFT+&, a or A
œ, Œ CTRL+SHIFT+&, o or O
ç, Ç CTRL+, (COMMA), c or C
ð, Ð CTRL+’ (APOSTROPHE), d or D
ø, Ø CTRL+/, o or O
¿ ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+?
¡ ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+!
ß CTRL+SHIFT+&, s

So, for example, to type the word café, type c a f, hold down Ctrl and press  (apostrophe), then release the Ctrl button and press e. Voila!

While we’re on the subject of apostrophes, have you noticed how apostophes at the beginning of words in novels and other writing often appear the wrong way round?

That’s because… I should backtrack. You probably have smart quotes set up. That’s the feature that makes quotation marks at the beginning and end of a quote mirror each other.  To see whether you have smart quotes set up, and to change the setting:

FileOptionsProofingAutoCorrect OptionsAutoFormat As You Type

Under Replace as you type, the option “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” should be ticked (checked).

That brings us back to the problem of words that start with apostrophes.

Microsoft Word Apostrophe Problem

Well, I happen to think it is. But it’s easily fixed. Word got it wrong because it thinks your apostrophe is a quote mark. All you need to do is a simple copy and paste, using an apostrophe that’s the right way round.

Next week… ooh, I’ve reached the end of the posts I planned, but there must be more possibilities. What did you always want to do with Word but didn’t know how? What would you like to be able to do in Word? You might find the option exists, but you didn’t know about it. Now is the time to ask me. Really – don’t be shy!

Links to Previous Word Tips

  • Tip 1: A Matter of Style
    About heading styles.
  • Tip 2: Make Your Novel a Trampoline
    How to jump swiftly and gracefully between chapters.
  • Tip 3: That’s Not What I Wrote
    How to stop Word making changes you don’t want.
  • Tip 4: How Not to Jump to a New Page
    Press Enter until a new page appears? Please don’t.
  • Tip 5: How Not to Indent a Line
    The space bar is not for indentation.
  • Tip 6: Track and Compare
    About Track Changes, Compare and Combine.
  • Tip 7: Replacement Operation
    Pitfalls of find and replace.
  • Tip 8: Automatic Saves
    The different ways of saving a document

 

Microsoft Word Tips for AuthorsWelcome to the next in a series of tips on using Microsoft Word, geared towards authors.
Most Word advice is rather complicated and full of things you’ll never need to know.
I shall do my best to keep it simple, because you’re not stupid… just busy.
Please note: 
– Not all versions of Word are the same, but most are near enough.
– There are different ways of doing the same thing. I shall demonstrate just one (or two).

I was all ready to save you from automatic saves, today, but it turns out you don’t need saving, although your document does!

Once upon a time, Word’s default was to automatically save documents regularly. This meant that if you messed up your document by, for example, replacing a word that appears within other words (see Word Tip 7), you coudn’t return to the saved version because it had been automatically saved in the meantime.

But that is no longer the case. Now, if you look at:

FileOptionsSave

you’ll see something called AutoRecover, which is probably set to jump into action every 10 minutes. This is good, I think. AutoRecover doesn’t affect your document; it saves its own version. If you close your computer without saving, if an update happens while you’re away from the computer, you will be offered the option of using the AutoRecover version.

However, as Microsoft says:

Important: AutoRecover does not replace the Save command. You must still save your document when you finish working on it.

Not just when you finish, in my opinion. Get into the habit of pressing Ctrl/S frequently. This is the best way of making sure you don’t lose a large chunk of work. And don’t forget to do backups.

Next week: about diacritic marks and apostrophes.

Links to Previous Word Tips

  • Tip 1: A Matter of Style
    About heading styles.
  • Tip 2: Make Your Novel a Trampoline
    How to jump swiftly and gracefully between chapters.
  • Tip 3: That’s Not What I Wrote
    How to stop Word making changes you don’t want.
  • Tip 4: How Not to Jump to a New Page
    Press Enter until a new page appears? Please don’t.
  • Tip 5: How Not to Indent a Line
    The space bar is not for indentation.
  • Tip 6: Track and Compare
    About Track Changes, Compare and Combine.
  • Tip 7: Replacement Operation
    Pitfalls of find and replace.

 

Microsoft Word Tips for AuthorsWelcome to the next in a series of tips on using Microsoft Word, geared towards authors.
Most Word advice is rather complicated and full of things you’ll never need to know.
I shall do my best to keep it simple, because you’re not stupid… just busy.
Please note: 
– Not all versions of Word are the same, but most are near enough.
– There are different ways of doing the same thing. I shall demonstrate just one (or two).

You have a character called Jo. But there’s also a character called John. Someone tells you that’s confusing for them when reading, because the names are too similar.

“No problem,” you say. “I’ll change her name to… Cynthia. It was my great-great-grandmother’s name. I’ve always wanted a chance to use it in one of my stories.”

Then you open your Word document, click Replace, put ‘Jo’ in the Find what box, ‘Cynthia’ in the Replace with box, and click Replace All. Simple.

However, when you scroll through your document, you realise all is not well. John has become Cynthiahn and the banjo he likes to play is now a bancynthia. You think I’m joking? No, I’m Cynthiaking. But I’m also very serious.

Never perform a global replace without considering what else is going to be replaced.

The correct way to replace all instances of the name Jo is this. You see those options at the bottom of the Find and Replace window? If you don’t, click More>> and they’ll appear. Make sure Match case and Find whole words only are ticked (US: checked). That way Word will only replace the instances with a capital J and a small o, and it won’t replace any instances that are part of a longer word.

Here’s another useful tip: Before you begin any big change to your document, make a copy of the whole document. Then you’ll always have a version to return to if the operation doesn’t quite work the way you expected.

Next week: Do you need saving?

Links to Previous Word Tips

  • Tip 1: A Matter of Style
    About heading styles.
  • Tip 2: Make Your Novel a Trampoline
    How to jump swiftly and gracefully between chapters.
  • Tip 3: That’s Not What I Wrote
    How to stop Word making changes you don’t want.
  • Tip 4: How Not to Jump to a New Page
    Press Enter until a new page appears? Please don’t.
  • Tip 5: How Not to Indent a Line
    The space bar is not for indentation.
  • Tip 6: Track and Compare
    About Track Changes, Compare and Combine.

Microsoft Word Tips for Authors

Welcome to the next in a series of tips on using Microsoft Word, geared towards authors.
Most Word advice is rather complicated and full of things you’ll never need to know.
I shall do my best to keep it simple, because you’re not stupid… just busy.
Please note: 
– Not all versions of Word are the same, but most are near enough.
– There are different ways of doing the same thing. I shall demonstrate just one (or two).

When you work with an editor, any changes you make to the document you’re working on must be seen by both of you. The usual way to do this is to use the feature called Track Changes.

Before you start, turn on Track Changes, which you’ll find in the Review tab. When it’s turned on, the rectangle is highlighted in grey.

Word Track Changes Feature

Then everything you type or delete shows up as a change, with different colours to indicate the different people working on the document. You can also select a portion of text and click New Comment to add a comment about that text.

When working on a document that has been edited by someone else, you should step through the changes by clicking Next in the Changes box. This will show you the text changes as well as the comments. If you click Next in the Comments box, you will see the comments only and not the text changes.

For each change you jump to, you’ll probably want to either accept it or reject it, either by using the options in the Changes box or by right clicking and choosing Accept or Reject. If you reject the change, you might want to add a comment (explained above) to let the editor know why you’ve rejected it. It’s probably better to leave the change in place and just add a comment.

What if someone has changed a document without using Track Changes? That’s what Compare is for. And along with Compare, if you click the litle arrow, is a function called Combine, which is useful when two or more people are working on a document at the same time.

If you have any questions about Track Changes, Compare, Combine or any of the features mentioned in this series of posts, please ask.

Next week, think before you replace.

Links to Previous Word Tips

  • Tip 1: A Matter of Style
    About heading styles.
  • Tip 2: Make Your Novel a Trampoline
    How to jump swiftly and gracefully between chapters.
  • Tip 3: That’s Not What I Wrote
    How to stop Word making changes you don’t want.
  • Tip 4: How Not to Jump to a New Page
    Press Enter until a new page appears? Please don’t.
  • Tip 5: How Not to Indent a Line
    The space bar is not for indentation.

 

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