Familiarity breeds… more familiarity?


I noticed a word last night.

To be precise, I noticed a lot of them and far too many were the same.

Edit Number 4 (I have a far less polite name for it than that in private) of the novel is progressing at the pace of a wounded snail. I’m busily typing up the edits I made long-hand whilst sitting on trains to and from work.

It is tedious in the extreme. Oh boy, oh boy is it tedious. BUT (capitals, ‘cos this is important) it has taught me something fascinating.

I have words and phrases I over-use.

Last night, I discovered 34 instances of the word “familiar”.


3 of them occurred within 3 consecutive paragraphs.

That’s more than familiar, that’s positively intimate.

This realisation subsequently led on to a Sherlock Holmes-style investigation of exactly how such a heinous bludgeoning of the English language could have occurred. I like to think I have a broad vocabulary and I know lots and lots and lots of words. Some of them quite good ones. So why this insistence on one single variant?

I came up with two answers:

1)    I like things that are familiar. I’m not a big fan of change in general… yep, OK, whoa there! That’s true but this is not the place for psychoanalysis.

There’s a second, more writerly, solution:

2)    The novel has been written and edited in chunks over a long period of time. Like a jigsaw, pieces which have been hiding at the outset have been slotted in over the course of its evolution.

“So what, you slovenly abuser of vocab?” I hear you ask.

I’ve never, until now, read the whole book through from end-to-end with no gaps, omissions or chopping-up of the timeline. So I’ve never had the opportunity to hear the repetition until now.

Which means that this agonising 4th edit is actually one of the most important pieces of work I have ever done since I committed the opening sentence to paper all that time ago.

And that, boys and girls, is a massive relief that stops me heading off in search of a chocolate digestive and a duvet at this very moment. Onwards and upwards, to boldly hunt out other flagrant violations of my Mother tongue.

Do you have words or phrases that you find cropping up time and time again without you realising? And how do you write – are you structured or random?

Do tell…


6 Sentence Sunday


OK, let me be the first to point out that it’s not Sunday. Not yet anyway. Although if you’re reading this on Sunday it will be…

I only came across 6 Sentence Sunday recently, but the idea is that you share 6 sentences from your work (whether in progress or completed) which will then go live over at http://www.sixsunday.com on – yep, you guessed it – Sunday.

It’s the first time I’ve taken part in this, so here goes. Please find below, for your delight and delectation, the first 6 sentences of my novel-in-draft. It may be called Dark Energies or it may be called Jumping From Cliffs. I’ll let my audience decide once the time comes. I hope you enjoy them. Please feel free to comment if you do; or even if you don’t.

Edward Stretton somehow knew that neither he, nor anyone else, would ever see his wife again.

He replaced the bottle-green handset in its cradle and ran his hand once again over the empty space on the sideboard. A hazy rectangle of dark walnut stood out feather-edged against the sun-lightened surface surrounding it, the only indication of what no longer stood there. A light residue of polish coated his fingertips as they stroked rhythmically back and forth across the absence, as if he were stroking the hair of a child recently woken from a nightmare. He paused and inspected the powdery coating for a second, his mind a thousand miles away, before wiping it on the sleeve of his suit jacket and picking up the receiver once more.

With a slender forefinger, he turned the clear plastic dial until it stopped against the metal fingerpiece, then listened to the clicking as it ratcheted back to its starting position.

Any readers who have previously perused the post Sneak Peek will recognise these as the start of the Prologue. There’s one subtle difference however: this is from the edited, revised, adjective-light version which entered the world following feedback from all the lovely people who reviewed the original for me.

As soon as the final edit of the MS is complete, I shall be posting more. You have been warned.

In the meantime, I shall leave you in suspense…

Should I?


I have been ‘sort-of’ challenged to take part in NaNoWriMo (you know who you are!)

Anyone who’s read my post It’s About Time will appreciate the combination of excitement and abject fear this causes me.

1200 words a day??

How I’d love to. But there’s also work, cleaning, family, moving house (again), cooking, cleaning, eating, washing, ironing.. aaaaarrrggghhhh!!

I guess I could give up sleeping for 6 hours a night but, hey, everyone’s entitled to one luxury right?

Do I? Or don’t I?