Wordcount: Making It Work Coming and Going

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Dragging a reluctant writer back to work after the Christmas lay-off is not helped by fear of the Wordcount dragon. Like many, I use my daily wordcount as a yardstick (1,000 words as a minimum target) so having to spend a few days reading back my work in progress to remember where I got to and immerse myself in the story afresh leaves me feeling dissatisfied – even guilty. That was until I had a bright idea.

Re-reading is also an opportunity to edit. Occasionally this means inserting new text but usually editing equals cutting. And most writing deserves to be cut with ruthless determination. So why not give words subtracted as much weight as words added? This not only helps to reach your wordcount target but will almost inevitably improve the quality of your output.

A word of warning: don’t try this method too often or it will quickly become counter-productive. Once a month or so is about the correct dosage.

Oh, and it works on blog posts as well.

Juliet Stevenson: the best Austen Audiobooks

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Just finished listening to ‘Emma’ in the unabridged version read by Juliet Stevenson. It’s difficult to add value to Jane Austen but Stevenson’s brilliant characterisations and speech rhythms bring new vibrancy to the text. Her readings of the chief comedy characters (Mrs Elton and Miss Bates) are especially strong but there are no real weak spots. ‘Emma’ could perhaps stand the odd edit here and there by today’s standards but with Stevenson’s readings there are no longueurs.

Listening to the audiobook prompted us to watch the film version with Juliet Stevenson as Mrs Elton. She’s very good in that too but Sophie Thompson is magnificent as Miss Bates, capturing all the essential aspects of that character: a study in pathos.

Back Your Story

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Who needs to see a character’s back story? Not the reader, usually, but it is essential that the writer knows the back stories of principal characters, at least. And they must be well written. If the writer can’t take the characters that seriously, how can the reader? Besides, there might be another useful by-product: an illustrative scene from a character’s back story can easily lead to an excellent ‘slice of life’ short story – one which is capable of standing on its own. I have found some of my best stories by this route.

Biting Back

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Although not surprising, it is sad to see the Daily Mail continuing its long history of attacks on the Labour movement and its members (see, for example, the ‘Zinoviev letter’ of 1924). There has been an upside to the Miliband affair, however. Ed Miliband is learning at last to bite the hand that smacks him rather than that which feeds him. Hopefully, he will begin to carry this forward in other contexts (Labour’s relationship with the trade unions, for example – SUPPORT THE FIREFIGHTERS – or its policy on immigration).

Cause for Alarm

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I’m full of admiration for firefighters – especially after we had to call them out for what, thanks to their speed and efficiency, was just a small electrical fire. Their urgency, thoroughness, and dogged sense of purpose called to mind a pack of beagles on a hunt……….the indefatigable in pursuit of the inflammable.


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Now it’s getting serious. On 31st August 2013, I closed my legal consultancy practice to concentrate full-time on my writing. Anyway, 25 years in the law is enough for anybody who wishes to retain even a tenuous hold on their sanity. Luckily, no writers have ever gone gaga, have they?

Meanwhile, a few new short stories have emerged. Please check out the ‘Short Stories’ page.

Welcome to Brian’s Blog!

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This is the website for Brian Crooks, author.

Find out about Brian and his works on the pages that follow. The entries will be updated and extended from time to time.

Please feel free to explore, leave a comment or just leave. It’s up to you!


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