More famous couterparts and Carina’s first page critique

Well, this is a good start for a Cassandra trying to be cheerful. I spent a day or two reading how to build the right blog post. I learnt that it’s important to use your name in the URL and title and to make sure it looks good on mobile devices (because most people search on those now, not PCs apparently).

So, I’ve done that and I’ve checked how it displays on my phone. It looks great – clean and uncluttered. Then I made the mistake of ‘searching’ for it. The other Sue Cook, the famous one, has got a writing blog too. Will Google find mine, even when I type in really specific search terms like Cassandra, a name harking back to an old blog that I can’t shake off? Will it heck.

It’s enough to make a girl change her name.

Still, onward and upward and all that. No doubt clawing your way to the top of the Google pile is to do with metatags and SEOs and SERPS and other techie stuff I haven’t had time to address yet (for address read ‘understand’). Not sure I ever will, frankly. Money might have to change hands. Meanwhile, I’m desperate to get back to a bit of bodice ripping after a day trying to make sense of customisers and widgets.

But let’s talk about writing. I discovered today in Carina’s blog one of their famous but all too rare first page critiques. Excellent, thinks I. And I read the sample provided. Well, badly written first paragraph, which should have been broken up into oooooh, I don’t know, six, seven mini paras? And there were clumsy and gratuitous bits of physical description dropped in there, too. Do I really want to know how heavy her dog is? But paragraph two, Aha! That’s a bit more like it. Hints of a turbulent past. I’m ready to turn the page.

Let’s see what the editors made of  … Oh…

Sigh. Oh well, I really didn’t expect my first Carina submission to succeed. We’ll see what they made of it when it comes back. All feedback is good feedback.

No, really, it is.

Cheerful Kalmia from my garden. © Sue Cook 2017

Things that made me smile today

In case you need your mind taking off the prospect of nuclear war, here’s a few things that made me smile today.

Susan Calman has made it onto Strictly. I am so happy for her. She has been so wanting to get onto this show for so long. I can’t imagine the diminutive Scot in high heels and dancing skirt though. I might have to start watching.

I have no idea how I came across this video of Thunderstruck on Youtube, but I am so glad I did. Steve’n’Seagulls only have one gig in Britain on their current tour and we missed it. Might have to go to Germany when the Christmas markets are on.

Oh, and the sun is out. Enough of a rarity to make me smile any day.

Pink Heart Society

Just a quick post to say that a friend of mine is on the pink heart society blog this month. I’ve never heard of the pink heart society, if I’m honest. A quick look at their site has revealed all sorts of inspirational stuff, including this post about keeping inspired which strikes a cord at the moment. I know everyone says it’s great to be shortlisted (and it is), but to a glass half empty person it means you lost!

So good luck to Mairibeth – I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your Vikings and your trip to Sweden – and I’m off to work on my conflicts.



Everyone needs a little romance

It’s official. I’m on the short list for the Mills & Boon/Prima #LoveToWrite competition.

I knew this a few months ago and, frankly, it’s been hell not telling anyone. I’ve had all that time for it to fester. Have I won? How many on the shortlist? (eight, I now know).

Now my face is up there with all those smiling young other writers. It’s something to celebrate, right? So why am I thinking, ‘Oh God, look at those wrinkles?’

Because I’m a glass half empty sort of person and that’s what we do! (Plus I take a terrible photo. Why do you think I have a swan as my avatar?).

But onward and upward as this is a positive blog. I don’t know if I’ve won but the point is, they liked my story. My name is worthy of putting up there on their website. This achievement is going on my writing CV. It will definitely be mentioned by me (passive sentence and I don’t care because I’m happy) when I submit my next story.

It just goes to show that you’ve got to be in it to win it. And I would not have come across this competition were it not for social media – a FB friend who writes for M&B flagged it up. So thank you, Kate Hardy, and happy anniversary.

To all you budding writers out there – make connections, keep feelers out and keep writing, no matter how grey your day, no matter how many rejections you’ve had recently.

Online editing

A couple of months ago I submitted a first chapter and synopsis for a national novel-writing competition. I polished that chapter to a high shine. The synopsis, I admit, might have had less of a patina, but I sent the two off thinking they were at least grammatically correct.


Somehow I got shortlisted. That was when I read the synopsis through again so that when I got the call to say I’d won* I could recall the plot. Imagine my horror when, at the end of the first paragraph, I read, “The catch is she’ll should go as his ‘wife‘”

Head in hands time or what?

Unfortunately, I do this all the time. I think my story is perfect, I send it off and next day spot all sorts of howlers. How? You’d think I was semi-literate.

So, I have discovered the world of online ‘editors’. My latest short story was not released to editors until the whole thing had been checked over by Prowriting Aid. This is a free online tool which allows you to check your work for things like grammatical errors, style issues, repetitions and so on. If you pay you get more tools (and get to upload larger texts and don’t have to put 2000 word stories through in 500 word chunks).

I was just looking for bloopers, but I got a whole lot more. In fact, thanks to various features, I effortlessly cut out 30 words and was able to expand the ending so that it was stronger. I wasn’t expecting that.

I hadn’t realised, for example, how often I used the continuous tense in its various guises. So I tend to use ‘I was going to have to’ instead of a simple ‘I could/had to’.

Not all the suggestions are sensible. In fact some of them are downright ludicrous. But you are in control and decide what to accept. I was so impressed with the reduction in word count today, however, I’m thinking of upgrading.

There are other programmes out there which do the same thing. But if you are one of those writers who cannot for the life of you see your own appalling errors, I think it’s worth thinking about using one of them.

*This call has not come Continue reading “Online editing”

So, I had this great idea

As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently lucky enough to spend a week in Italy on a

HOliday luggage
How can a story about winning a holiday turn out so bad? Courtesy of Pixabay

writing retreat. Okay, I spent two days terrified that I would be burned alive and the rest of it feeling like the walking dead due to sharing a room with a consumptive snorer. But hey, it was Umbria, the sun was shining, I was with my sister, her fun friend and Sue Moorcroft. Who’s complaining?

I returned enthused with ideas for short stories, including a character, Sarah, complete with external and internal conflicts. Problem is I’m doing my usual doom and gloom jobbie which will not sell into the women’s fiction market. Who wants to read about a single mum who, having won a dream holiday for two, ends up setting her children against each other? This is hardly a sympathetic character. She’s even making me uncomfortable, and I know there’s a happy ending. Great conflict, definitely going to create an emotional response in the reader, but in terms of cheques in the bank? Nope. Never.

How to rescue the plot and create a feel-good sort of mood?


I tried Googling “how to write an upbeat story”. You know what? There’s not that much out there. Seems we love to wallow in misery. And isn’t one rule of writing good fiction to keep twisting the knife and make things worse for our main character?

I did find one article on making your writing upbeat and fun, but it wasn’t much help. I should try using humour, simple words and sentences (like I’m going to send something Dickensian to a woman’s magazine). Oh and ‘keep your mood upbeat and fun’. Right. ‘Hey, Mum. You know that holiday for two to Hawaii? I don’t have anyone to go with. Should I email Brad Pitt? I hear he’s single again. Do you think he’d be desperate enough?’ Doesn’t really fit with a struggling single mother of two who hasn’t got enough money to get her car through it’s next MOT and is still in love with her ex-husband, does it?

Or does it?