There is No Excuse

When you use your real name as a domain name you’re making yourself something of a public figure. (Possibly in the loosest sense of the word, just go with me for now). When you’re a public figure you have to be very careful how and what you say, so as to not unintentionally offend.

If you want to be a writer of fiction and you haven’t listened to the Writing Excuses podcasts then you’re flat-out crazy.

It needed to be said.

And perhaps you needed to hear it. You’re welcome.

As an amateur writer when I insert a character into a story I’m aware of their motivations and how they’ll interact with the other characters and situations. (At least I try to be).

When one of the Writing Excuses podcasters puts a character into a story their aware of so much more on a fundamentally deeper level. When it comes to constructing stories, while I build a lean-to in a slum they build a Palace fit for a King.

In a recent podcast (s9) Dan Brown talks about how his main character is a sociopath. The problem with sociopaths is they’re not really very likable people. So Brown puts in even more  unlikable characters around the sociopath. Relatively speaking therefore the reader likes the sociopath. He also gives him a healthy dose of gallows humour (pun intentional).

Just a small example of how they’re thinking way beyond the sentence structure. When you have to take some time out from writing, you’d be wise to listen to Writing Excuses. It’s fifteen minutes of informative conversation interspersed with humour that will have you laughing out loud. Probably best not to listen to it at funerals.

Writing Stats Spreadsheet v1

Now available is the spreadsheet that I’ve been using to record my statistics for The Rebel Queen. (It’s free, which means use at your own risk, no liability accepted. Always back up your files :-)). Writing Stats Spreadsheet v1

While it’s highly probable that I’ll make improvements to it later, I don’t envision doing any work on it for the foreseeable future. The spreadsheet is designed to keep track of word count in both draft and revision versions of a story. The Excel spreadsheet contains the following worksheets:


There’s really not much to see here. You can enter the name of your writing project, and it checks that all of your scenes have a point-of-view character assigned.


As the name would suggest, it shows some basic stats about the writing project. One of the cool things that I’ve recently added is the concept of an “estimated reading time”.

While the estimated reading time is of less value here (whole book), the value comes out in the per-chapter analysis. My new-found opinion is that I want chapters ideally to be 15-20 minutes long, ideal length for a commute. (Though it strikes me as I write this; commutes vary).

Basic Stats

While the table on this worksheet could be deemed ‘information overload’, it is important to be able to monitor word count reduction at a scene-by-scene level. Also on the stats page is a way-too-small chart which shows chapter and scene comparisons between revision and draft.

Chapter Summaries

A more useful by-chapter view of the world: scene count, word count, estimated reading time and percentage change between revision and draft.


Draft Scene Info and Revision1 Scene Info

These two worksheets are near identical. They both possess a table where you specify chapter number, scene number, a scene name, a point of view and the word count.


(Ignore the bad scene names; I don’t want this to be a spoiler for The Rebel Queen). The scene names for the same scene must be the same in both draft and revision worksheets, but they can be in a different order (different chapter or scene numbers). Also, the revision worksheet can contain new scenes or absent scenes. (That’s what revision is all about). Filling out the Point of View is easy, with a drop-down list.


This worksheet contains a list, and summary of the characters who get a point of view in your story. (Non point-of-view characters aren’t included).


Characters POV

This worksheet is also a recent addition, which also has the benefit of being aesthetically pleasing. I discussed this in a recent post on character balance.

Draft General Pkar POV

If you have any questions or problems using the spreadsheet, please add a comment below.



Getting Comfortable Indoors

In Editing Lessons #3b I admitted that one of the areas I had to improve on was being more descriptive in scenes. I seldom described a scene – because I didn’t know myself what the scene looked like; no surprise I I couldn’t describe it to my reader. I was too caught up in the plot moving forward that I forgot the where is also valuable in creating a rich story.

So for today’s blog I spent 20 minutes coming up with prompters that would help in constructing a scene (or location) in the writer’s eye.Or more precisely, in all of the writer’s senses. (In this post I am restricting myself to describing an indoor environment, hence the title of the blog). Walking into a room, what can you perceive…

What do you see? (Visual)

  1. Does the room have windows? How big and what type of glass, frosted or transparent? Tinted? Double-glazed?
  2. What time of day is it?
  3. What can you see out of the windows?
  4. What are the light sources in the room? Are they harsh or soft? Revealing or hiding anything in particular?
  5. Are there shadows? Do the shadows conceal anything?
  6. What types of furnishings are in the room? Is the room cluttered or spartan?
  7. What does the rooms appearance and use say about its purpose?
  8. Are the items new or used? What do the furnishing choices and condition tell us about the owner? What other items are in the room? Expensive tastes?
  9. Is it messy or clean? Is there dust? Water damage? Dirt? Are things well-maintained, or tacked together with sticky tape and a prayer?
  10. Are some furnishings or items in contrast to the rest of the room?
  11. Is the room aesthetically pleasing? What are the walls made of? Colour? Covering? What are the furnishings made of? Floor coverings? Fittings?

What do you smell?

  1. Is it antiseptically clean? Lived in? Musty? Moldy? Fresh? Fragrant?
  2. Does the smell tell us about who is/has been in the room (perfume, cologne. body odor)?
  3. Does it tell us about the rooms’ occupants behaviours or habits (cigars, grease, cats)?
  4. Do the belongings in the room smell new?
  5. Does the smell tell us how long it has been since someone was in the room? Strong hint of perfume or stench of spoiled food?
  6. Does the smell tell us what has been happening in the room: cordite, glue, blood?
  7. Does the smell of the room make the character feel hungry or sick?

What do you hear? (Sound)

  1. Do sounds permeate from surrounding rooms / outside?
  2. What kinds of sounds? Constant, intermittent or occasional noises? e.g. yelling, the methodical banging of a blacksmith, birds chirping, waves crashing.
  3. Does the room absorb sound or cause it to echo.
  4. What is making noise inside the room? The steady click of a clock, the intermittent whir of a hard drive?
  5. Does walking around the room make noise? A crunch of dirt or squeak of lino.

What do you feel? (Touch)

  1. Is the room cold or warm in temperature? Can you feel the warmth of the sun or fire?
  2. Is there a discernible airflow? From where?
  3. How do different surfaces in the room feel?
  4. Are the furnishings comfortable? Does the desk have sharp edges or splinters? Is the seat plush or like riding a camel?

What can you Taste?

  1. Is there something so unusual about the room that you can taste it? Garlic? The metallic taste of blood?

The Sixth Sense

  1. Does the room feel evil or welcoming?
  2. Does it remind the character of something?
  3. Does it bore them or excite them?

Conceptual/Dimensional aspects

  1. Placement: Is the room a basement, ground floor or fortieth floor?
  2. How big is the room? Is it spacious or cramped?
  3. What other doors are there and where do they lead?
  4. Are others in the room? Are there insects, rodents or other animals?
  5. Where are the relevant items located inside the room?

Note that you wouldn’t put all of these into the final text, or even answer all of them. Some will be more applicable, depending on stories, but it is important for the author to know what a scene or location looks like.

Got any other great ones I can add to the list?