Out now! Diary of a Scaredy Cat

Some of you have been waiting for this … and today’s the day you can finally get hold of Diary of a Scaredy Cat: a year in the life of a frightened writer.

The writer’s guide, with exercises, is available in paperback, for £5.99, and on Kindle, for £2.99. Overseas markets will follow in a few days. Retail outlets will take a little longer.

But UK readers can order a copy right now!

Diane Wordsworth was struggling to get back into the swing of being a full-time freelance writer. She’d done it very well in the past, thank you very much. But years of editing books for various publishers had taken her out of the discipline of the freelance writing world and she needed to get back in.

When she met her future husband in 2013, he very quickly encouraged her to gradually do more of her own work while he supported her as best he could.

This is Diane’s account of that first year as she tried to get back onto the writing ladder. It was written as part of her blog, Tales from Baggins Bottom. But this anthology includes 165 practical writing exercises not previously published.

See more books by Diane Wordsworth here.

52 books in 52 weeks: Writing for Magazines – the essential guide

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 10.

Writing for Magazines – the essential guide by Diana Cambridge is, I feel, punching above its weight calling itself an essential guide.

Granted, there’s some useful information, but – in my opinion – there are better guides out there, including two of the author’s own: How to Write for Magazines – in one weekend and How to Write Travel Articles – in one weekend.

This essential guide actually reads more like a lecturer’s notes. I can imagine someone standing at the front of a room reciting much of the information, much of which is available in many, many other places too. There is no opportunity to pause and reflect; no opportunity to try out what the reader has just learned.

Ten chapters cover the basics of writing for magazines without actually giving much practical advice, and then the final section is a FAQ section that could have been lifted from several of the author’s help columns in a writing magazine.

If you want good, practical, write-along exercises that get you actually writing for magazines, then choose one of the author’s other books – it’s a pity that neither has been recently updated or included as an ebook. But if you just want to have a read, and then put it down and move on to the next one, it might be useful to you.

Writing for Magazines – the essential guide by Diana Cambridge is available on Kindle for £4.64 (or $5.81) and in paperback for £9.99 (or $12.58).


March has been a bit busy … apologies for going AWOL. Nothing has been wrong, all is well. I’ve just been really, really busy.

The month began with the tail end of an editing job finally delivered on 7 March.  It was followed almost immediately with two new editing jobs from lovely-already-boss, and a proofreading job.

The first of those editing jobs has been completed this morning and sent to the author for review (and, actually, acknowledged just this instant by said author).

Fortunately, there’s no mad rush on the other editing job, so I can whizz through the proofreading job during what’s left of this week.

Editing job #3 (for the month) will also be started later this week.

In between all of that, I started planning work on a new novel, The Fool. And in between that, I’ve tried to keep on top of the 52 books in 52 weeks writers’ guides reviews. We’re currently in week 13, though, and I’m just finishing book 10, so I still have some catching up to do there. Priority goes as usual to the paid jobs and writing work of my own.

The other major job I’ve been working away at has been finalising Diary of a Scaredy Cat. It’s taken me a few attempts to get the font size right and then to remember to put the title fonts back in and make sure all new chapters start on a facing page and update the contents page … But I think it’s there now … it has to be, as I want it released by the end of this week. So yeah, I also published a book.

The word-count meter hasn’t gone up much this month, but I still have a few days left to add to the total. That will all be more planning work on The Fool now, as I take a breather from publishing.

I had a birthday at the beginning of the month too, and one of the poet’s gifts was a lap desk, so I can work in the conservatory when it’s nice in there, or in the living room when it’s too cold at my desk. The picture is in the conservatory, and the books are for The Fool, as well as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, another birthday present from the poet.

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. I hope you didn’t miss me too much, and do please come back later this week for further Scaredy Cat news!

52 books in 52 weeks: Writing Fight Scenes – Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 9.

Writing Fight Scenes: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors by Rayne Hall is the first in a series on writers’ craft* from the same author. It can also be found in the book bundle power pack 1.

First, one of my pet niggles: writers’ guides that claim to be on the craft of writing, yet are riddled with basic typos and editing mistakes. This is one of those – and the words “writer’s [sic] craft” are even part of the series title!

(*** personal opinion alert ***) I don’t know if the authors who continue to produce sloppy material are arrogant, ignorant or just plain lazy, or if perhaps I was just taught to have higher standards and basic pride in my own work. But it really, really narks me that if they can’t or won’t do it themselves, these people could at least be bothered to have someone else check over their work, preferably someone competent in basic English grammar.

Pet niggle over, this is actually quite a useful little book for anyone wanting to write fight scenes. It covers the basics in overview, and those who want to can go on to research their own chosen fight method in further detail elsewhere. The book is a good starting point.

There are no exercises, just easy to read, easy to digest snippets on weapons, words to use, blunders to avoid and historical information.

Throughout the book there are links to videos and pictures further illustrating the points made in the relevant chapters. I didn’t follow all of the links as many were no longer live, and as far as I can see from other reviews, this is largely the case (and the author does warn against this in the intro).

However, I found the words and advice were useful without the added support of the  videos.

Writing Fight Scenes: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors by Rayne Hall is available on Kindle for £3.15 (or $3.90) and in paperback for £7.22 (or $8.99).

*I’m using the term “writers” as plural, i.e. craft for writers, guides for writers. Therefore, the possessive apostrophe is also plural.

52 books in 52 weeks: Writing Your First Novel – a 60-minute masterclass

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 8.

Writing Your First Novel – a 60-minute masterclass by Shelley Weiner bills itself as the first book in the series, but I’m sure I’ve read and reviewed earlier ones, including one I thought was, in fact, the first in the series. But perhaps that was just my own incorrect assumption.

The book took me around 55 minutes to read from start to finish and, I believe, that this is the correct way to read it, doing the exercises at the end of most chapters as you go along.

These exercises are good in that they start with character, work through dialogue, setting, plot, viewpoint, tense and research, and culminate with the bones of a full novel that the reader can work on. The exercises are practical and they aren’t there for exercise sake, which I love.

Like her other book I read, she uses a lot of literary authors as examples, and I couldn’t help but think I should be so good each time she did. But there’s no saying that someone else’s book won’t be the next great literary novel, so perhaps it’s a nice ambition to strive for. It just doesn’t work for me.

The contents, with exercises, are as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Creating Believable Characters
    1. Exercise 1
  3. Making Your Characters Talk
    1. Exercise 2
  4. The Importance of Setting
    1. Exercise 3
    2. Exercise 4
  5. Finding the Plot: Character, Place, Causality and Time
    1. Exercise 5
  6. Who Tells the Story and How?
    1. Exercise 6
  7. Now Settle Down and Make it Happen
  8. Sustaining Your Momentum

There is the usual “the king died and then the queen died” story, but with an added twist that I haven’t seen in a lot of writers’ guides, and then there are notes and guidance on pretty much everything else you might need to know before settling down to write a novel. It’s another useful book to get you started, but I wish there were more modern examples used than the likes of Hardy and Hemmingway.

Writing your First Novel – a 60-minute masterclass by Shelley Weiner  is only available on Kindle for £2.48 (or $3.04) and is another in a series from the Guardian.

52 books in 52 weeks: A Writer’s Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK

07-senior-investigating-police-officers-ukI set myself the goal of reading and reviewing 52 writing guides over the year. Here is book 7.

A Writer’s Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by Kevin N Robinson took me just under an hour to read from start to finish. This really isn’t the best way to read it as it’s designed to be “dipped into” as and when required. So it’s a quick read, and it’s a good reference guide to keep handy.

The book basically guides the writer through what it takes to be a senior investigating police officer in the UK (SIO), the training s/he is required to do, and how and when s/he gets involved in a crime. In fact, it’s another book that does exactly what it says on the cover.

I particularly liked the suggestions throughout of how to take your story forward, and I even thought some ideas might in fact be story starters.

From the off the author suggests that writers really need to learn a little more about how a SIO works before including one in their work, but perhaps the author would benefit himself from learning a little about basic grammar and consistency.

The book is riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes and inconsistencies that even a fair copy editor or proofreader would pick up. This sloppy presentation spoiled the book for me because I kept on getting distracted and reaching for my red editing pen.

My other niggle is that throughout the book the author tells you how you can find out more from such-and-such-a-book (also by him) or later in the book/a later chapter. This is annoying because if the information is important enough to hint at, then it’s important enough to include at the same time without expecting the reader to shell out yet more dosh or time.

Once over both of those gripes, however, it really is a good, useful little book and I shall certainly be keeping it to dip into.

A Writer’s Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by Kevin N Robinson is only available on Kindle for £1.99 (or $2.44).

February round-up


Cribs Exhibition, Wakefield (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

January wasn’t a great start, and that continued into February. This is mostly because much of the time was spent editing other people’s work while the rest of the time was spent eating birthday cake.

The month began with a contribution to a friend’s article on writing plus the return of a lovely job to a lovely new client.

I did a quick catch-up with some book reviews and a couple of short stories. And then I sat down to rework my schedule around work in and time available to do it.

A new feature started on the lifestyle blog, life on the farm. And then I started a new editing job, which pretty much took out the rest of the month.

Preparation work became well underway for the new project, The Fool, which was mainly – and still is – character work and world-building.

Early on in the month I sold a second short story to a magazine I’d been targeting for more than 30 years – they’d already bought a first short story towards the end of last year.

On Valentine’s Day we were invited to a new exhibition in Wakefield via the gig list, and while there we had our Valentine’s meal.

On 18 February we’d also been invited to a concert in Bromsgrove and were assured there would be two tickets on the door for us. When we got there, there was only one ticket on the door and all other seats had sold out. So we came home again.

On 25 February, we were due to go to the Moonraking festival in Slaithwaite, but the weather forecast was really bad and we were both still recovering from lingering colds. So, as it was the poet’s birthday the next day, we went to see Gaslight instead at the Lyceum in Sheffield.

In between work on the editing job, I was able to keep on top of gig list admin and I did manage a few more short blog posts.

Towards the end of the month, I finally pulled my finger out and cracked on with some writing work. I completed draft 2 of one short story and draft 1 of another.  Plus I got some questions off to the author of the editing job I was in the middle of in between finishing the hard-copy edit and starting the electronic-copy edit.

March has started much better, and my work schedule is much clearer and much more achievable.

How was your February?