Should My Book Have An Epilogue?

Read time: 2 mins

An epilogue – the final section of a story – brings closure and ties in loose ends. It can be an essential part of a narrative, helping to connect different elements of a story and give the reader some sense of resolution. But is an epilogue needed? There are pros and cons of including an epilogue in your story and you’ll need to consider whether it’s right for your story.

Pros of an epilogue

  • Closure: An epilogue can provide closure, and resolution to a tale. This can be especially important in a longer story, where the reader has invested more time following the narrative and its characters.
  • Future insight: An epilogue can give the reader a glimpse into the future, showing what happens to the characters after the main events have taken place. As well as closure this can provide a deeper understanding of the characters and their experiences.
  • Aesthetic appeal: An epilogue can be a beautiful and moving way to end a story. It can provide a sense of nostalgia and evoke emotions, helping the story and its characters be remembered long into the future.

Cons of an epilogue

  • Unnecessary information: Wrongly applied an epilogue may introduce information that seems unnecessary or irrelevant to the main story. This can reduce the impact of the narrative and detract from the reader’s experience.
  • Predictable: An epilogue can be predictable and formulaic, which gives a stereotypical ending to a story. This could be disappointing for readers who expect a more original and creative conclusion.
  • Detachment from the main story: An epilogue can sometimes feel detached from the main story, as if it separate and unrelated. This can be distracting and detract from the overall flow and cohesiveness of the narrative. It could appear to be a clumsy trail for a follow-on story to come.

Good examples

Here are some examples of stories with well-crafted epilogues and what they add to the book:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – here the epilogue provides a glimpse into the future of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy showing how the author sees their relationship would develop.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – this epilogue gives a view of where Scout, the narrator, gets to beyond the story, this adds interest and serves as a strong conclusion.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – this epilogue unites different elements of the story and gives the reader an idea of what the characters go on to do after their main adventure.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald – here the epilogue again shows the future of the characters and allows the readers to gain a deeper understanding of the story themes, including wealth, love and decadence.


Whether or not you include an epilogue in your story depends on your narrative. It can provide closure, more information on the characters and evoke emotions in the reader, but it can also be unnecessary, predictable and detached from the main story – lots to consider.

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    The Joy of Stories

    Read time: 2 mins

    Stories have been a part of human culture for as long as we can remember. From ancient cave paintings to modern day novels, storytelling has how we have preserved and passed on our cultural traditions, beliefs, and values between one another and from one generation to the next. But why do we find so much joy in stories? The answer lies in the power of imagination and empathy.

    The power of imagination and empathy

    Imagination is a crucial feature of the human experience. It allows us to escape a mundane reality and enter into new worlds filled with endless possibilities. When we read a good book our minds become completely absorbed in the story. We visualize the characters, their surroundings, and the events that unfold, allowing us to experience the story in a way that feels real to us. This form of escapism is enjoyable and may also be therapeutic. It allows us to take a break from the stresses of our daily life and experience emotions and situations that we may never encounter in our own lives.

    Increased compassion

    Stories also have the power to evoke empathy. When we read or hear a story, we become emotionally invested in the characters and their experiences. We may laugh, cry or become angry along with them, allowing us to better understand and relate to the emotions they are feeling. This form of emotional connection helps us develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the complexities of human experience, and can even lead to increased compassion and understanding for others.

    Another aspect of the joy of stories is their ability to provide comfort and solace. Many of us have memories of being read to as children, or of losing ourselves in a good book during difficult times. The familiarity of a well-loved story can bring us comfort and a sense of security. The themes of hope, perseverance and triumph over adversity that are often found in stories can provide inspiration and encouragement, reminding us that no matter how difficult life may seem, there is always the possibility of a hopeful outcome.

    Encouraging critical thinking

    Stories also have the ability to challenge us, pushing us to think critically and expand our perspectives. They can introduce us to new ideas and experiences and challenge our preconceived notions about the world. For example, a story set in a different time period or culture can help us better understand and appreciate the experiences of others, and can broaden our understanding of what it means to be human.

    In conclusion, the joy of stories lies in their ability to transport us to new worlds, evoke empathy, provide comfort, and challenge us to think more critically. Whether we are reading a book, hearing an audiobook or listening to a friend’s tale, stories have the power to captivate and inspire us – they bring us closer together as human beings. So next time you find yourself lost in a good book, whether as a reader or as a writer, you’re sharing the joy of stories and the power they have to enrich our lives.

    Click for How to Write Speech In a Story

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    Interview with Peter Howard

    Read time: < 1 min

    Acclaimed published thriller writer, Peter Howard, describes his writing, shares where he finds inspiration and compares the challenge of writing novels to that of running a business with around a hundred staff. Peter includes generous tips on his writing process and insights into projects which are in the pipeline. Click the button to start the video (run time 23 mins).

    For another author interview click here.

    For How to Write a Great Character click here.

    Interview with Steve Schatz

    Read time: < 1 min

    Seashell Virgin was nominated in the short list of books published by Indiana authors between 2020 and 2022.

    In this interview the author talks (18mins) about his experience of traditional publishing and self publishing and shares what he values as the greatest freedom of a writer.

    Seashell Virgin is the third book in the Nacho Mama’s Patio Café series. Set in a small Indiana college town it tells the story of an eclectic group of LGBT friends who gather once a week at the bar to gossip and watch TiaRa del Fuego’s Parade of Gowns drag show.

    In Seashell Virgin, crooks, politicos and scoundrels scheme to close the bar, rape a forest and get rich in the process. Break-ins, kidnapping, blackmail and the world’s most spectacular drag show thrill and delight as the friends once more answer the call to set things straight … as it were.

    All the Nacho Mama’s books are available through online retailers, on the website and at favourite local bookshops who can order them through Ingram.

    Click here for another author interview.

    For When to Find an Editorial Professional click here.

    Words and a Phrase Editing Is Very Likely to Cut

    Read time: 2 mins

    Beyond the very first draft of a manuscript (where a writer is getting down the ideas in as flowing a manner as possible) there are certain words which are almost always be better substituted out. When these are swapped for a more precise, descriptive and interesting terms the writing quality improves. Here I point out half a dozen of the ripest for replacement.


    This must go because it is standing in for words which will give the reader a context for what is about to be described, whether that be events or feelings. It is not necessary because if something happens suddenly telling us this will be slowing the pace down at just the time the action is happening and the pace has sped up.


    This term is okay in a first draft with the excuse that the writer is in their flow and will replace it later. By the second draft this term should usually be replaced by a more descriptive term, as it is vague to the point of almost meaningless.  Substitute with a more precise term which will make the writing more interesting, more rhythmical and more enjoyable to read.


    Anything which is really obvious does not need mentioning and even if it is mentioned it does not need signposting. If the term is left in it can come across as unnecessary telling no reader is likely to appreciate. Any sentence which is obvious can be removed and improve the writing, making it more relevant and more punchy.


    There are so many word to choose from to convey what the writer wants the reader to know and including actually is often irrelevant and belittles the rest of the sentence it is put with. In editing a term is one I often cull.

    Thought to herself

    Thought alone says it there is no need to add the to himself/their self etc. How do you think to anyone else? No is is just thought.


    Well sometimes this has something to add but more often than not it would be best left out. It often points out the obvious or the actual so it is, for the same reasons those words get smoothed out in a second draft, best removed.

    Trim this lot and editors will prefer yto see these switched for any more interesting and fresher word choice. The second draft will be livelier and tighter. Readers will find your writing more engaging – what’s not to like?

    To see how I can help with your fiction or creative nonfiction do get in touch.

    How to Write a Great Character

    Read time: 4 mins

    Writers place characters in stories to have an impression on their readers.

    “As I don’t write characters that leave no impression on me.”

    – Lauren DeStefano

    Creating characters

    When creating main characters in your writing they need to be make an impact on the reader and should be believable and engaging. Main characters are more believable and arguably more interesting if they are multifaceted and show identifiable personality with motivation to pull them through the events of the story.

    Memorable main characters

    Unlike side characters the main characters in most novels will have memorable names which clearly distinguish them from other people. The main characters will also be developed through the story and undergo some degree of change, this process is often described as the character arc. This arc is most pronounced with the main character, especially the protagonist.

    Your main character is so important that they are likely to be introduced within the opening section of the novel where they will be introduced in an active scene making them relatable for the reader who will witness the character making a decision or reacting to something rather than reflecting on events in their backstory.

    What makes a character different from everyone else, is characterization. Describing direct characterisation Janet Burroway highlights a character’s qualities as speech, action, appearance and thought and to these Matthew Salesses adds that we should think about our character’s attitude. In this we develop understanding of their actions and decisions. He suggests an exercise a writer can carry out to focus on the character’s attitude by considering as broad as possible ‘They [the character] were the kind of person who … ’  by answering this question repeatedly about the character, the writer focuses on what attitudes the character holds. The significant features will be the basis of what makes that individual different from others and it is that which will make them interesting and engaging.

    For the protagonist this attitude is likely to include some of several positive and appealing features.

    Orson Scott Card reminds us that some characters are drawn as relatively flat characters which was pointed out by E.M. Forster, who suggests that, in fiction flat characters can be just as important as rounded characters. An example of a flat character would be Mrs Micawber who never deviates from supporting her husband.

    Craft complex protagonists

    The delight in a complex character can be their unpredictability. It is this ability to surprise which intrigues and engages as Mary Kole points out the best characters are those readers either love dearly or that intensely. For igniting of this passion within the reader comes from the same passion for the character in the writer. The level of care the writer has about their character can be increased by them getting to know that character in detail perhaps by listing answers to questions about the individual to build up a clear picture of what the character looks like, what food they like, what the main events were in their life, who they mix with and where they live and are they in love. From this bank of information some detail will be used in the writing but rather like the tip of an iceberg most will just inform the writer so they can build up a more rounded personality to set in action within their story to carry out the events of the plot and interact with other characters through the story.   

    Another technique for developing character is to decide on a character and in a scene then, as an exercise, write what that character would be thinking – their internal monologue. By doing this for several different characters you begin to hone in on the differences between those characters which will help to find those you are most passionate about and most interested in writing about. Awareness of the internal monologue could also be the basis for incorporating some of that thought within the novel. This can increase how the reader relates to that character allowing them to witness internal conflict and personality closely.

    Often characters are made to stand out by having a memorable quality or quirk and this can be used to differentiate individuals, to surprise and bring both interest and uniqueness.

    Make marvellous antagonists

    To bring conflict to a story the protagonist is likely to be up against antagonistic forces and most often this will be in the form of an antagonist. This character will be interesting if they are much more than one dimensional. The stronger or more objectionable your antagonist the more powerfully they can work against your protagonist. This will lead to more extreme measures being required by to overcome the conflict the protagonist will find themselves in.

    Antagonists are more satisfying if they possess their own morality which the reader can see playing out this may be part of their backstory or a feature of their personality but it needs to make them seem rounded and believable with their own consistent objectives and motivation.

    The same questions could be used to build up a bank of information on this character or you could develop a specific set for these. Such a set could include, what their weakness is, what they secretly enjoy and what are they like most about themselves.

    Whatever the conflict and struggle between the two main characters readers do not want the protagonist to succeed easily so the villain must have skills and allies to work to mount a convincing and enduring challenge to sustain the story. The stakes of your story can increase where the two main characters are pitching against each other strong opposing forces lead to higher stakes and greater reader engagement.

    Authors seek to make their main characters lifelike but as David Morrell points out there is a paradox here as we have never known any living person in the way we can feel we know a written character. In fiction we can access someone’s innermost thoughts and emotions, an experience which he describes as ‘…totally unrealistic, however magical.’ He also cites Forster saying one of the central appeals of fiction is that novels suggest a more comprehensible and thus more manageable human race.


    Morrell, D. 2008 The Successful Novelist, Sourcebooks Inc. Naperville, Illinois

    Boulter, A. 2007, Writing fiction, Palgrave, Hampshire

    Forster, E.M. 1956 Aspects of the Novel, Mariner Books,New York

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    How Long Should My Book Be?

    Read time: 3 mins

    Often writers will ask me variations of the question ‘how many words make a proper book?’ This question suggests the questioner is probably a new writer. They may not have spent long looking at the type of books they are writing or aspire to write.

    As with many questions about writing, my immediate thought is, it will depend. Although some will say that a creative should let their writing flow and produce the manuscript which tells their story and writing should not be constrained by a set wordcount, this is not going to help a new writer. In the early stage of getting a first draft written, flowing creativity is most helpful and story is paramount. The beginning, middle and the end need to be crafted. At some point in the writing process, perhaps still at first draft or when self-editing and editing, manuscript length is worth considering.

    When does it NOT matter how long a book is?

    When the words are precisely as the author wants and the intention is to self-publish, the wordcount does not matter. Some books may be made in this way, for example where a poet has invested a great deal of time crafting their lines and verses and has a group of themed poems to go into a volume. The author is the final arbiter and if this is their process the reader could be presented with any wordcount in a book. Once an author has become established and has a loyal following, they can be less concerned about the wordcount of their manuscripts.

    When DOES it matter how long a book is?

    With digital publishing typesetting constraints are not what they once were but physical books still have the same issues.

    Picture books are typically thirty-two pages long, as they need to be in page count multiples of eight. The words need to fit within this construction.

    Most books are not tied to a fixed page count, and equally most are not entirely free from an expected wordcount norm.

    At any stage in the writing and publication process the word count of a manuscript comes with implications.

    • Getting it written – if you know the wordcount you are aiming to write for a project (whether book, blog post or article) you can use it as a gauge for how far remains to completion. The wordcount can be helpful to break the writing down into chunks which are more manageable to consider as chapters, scenes or acts to help bring a balance or pace to the narrative. Grouping wordcounts within a long-form manuscript can help outline and plan.

    • Managing the project – wordcount can be used to monitor progress. Awareness of wordcount helps with scheduling dependent activities such as self-editing, copyediting, proofreading, beta readers, publication and marketing.

    • Meeting genre expectations – book genres come with standards for the number of words they require which is based on traditional publishing. Staying within the recognised wordcount appropriate to genre will prevent frustrating the expectations of others.

    • Wordcount will have a bearing on editing and proofreading costs; production costs and perceptions of value. Books which seem short may appear as poor value for money and books that are longer than readers expect may be perceived as drawn out or demanding.

    What are standard traditional publishing wordcount guidelines?

    These are benchmarks wordcounts and come from various sources including Hill (2016), and the Writers and Artists Yearbook (2020):

    Children’s Picture Books: up to 500 (absolute maximum 1,000)

    Short Stories: 1,000 to 8,000

    Children’s Chapter Books: 6,000 to 10,000

    Novellas: 20,000 to 50,000 (some recommend a maximum of 40,000)

    Novels: between 40,000 and 100,000 but typically 90,000

    Young Adult: 50,000 to 80,000

    New Adult Novel: 60,000 to 85,000

    Horror, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller: 70,000 to 90,000

    Mainstream Romance: 70,000 to 100,000

    Literary Fiction: 80,000 to 110,000

    Women’s Fiction: 80,000 to 110,000

    Crime: 90,000 to 100,000

    Science Fiction: 90,000 to 125,000

    For a new writer it is advisable to keep within wordcount guidelines as it is less likely to succeed as an exception than by conforming, although there will always be some exceptions.

    To see how I can help with your fiction or creative nonfiction do get in touch.


    Hill, B. (2016). The Magic of Fiction: Crafting Words into Story: The Writer’s Guide to Writing and Editing. Atlanta: Title Page Books

    Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook (2020). Writer’s and Artist Yearbook 2020 113th ed. London Bloomsbury Yearbooks

    How to Write Speech in a Story

    Read time: 8 mins

    Being confident about a few style choices and applying them consistently can make all the difference to writing speech clearly. Even though it should not be a main priority for the first draft, it is good to try to standardise these decisions and aim for consistency in the second and subsequent versions of a manuscript.

    Done right, speech will add to your writing and make for a better reader experience. Here I set out detailed advice with examples for:

    • Reported and direct speech
    • Quote mark styles
    • Choosing speech tags
    • Punctuating speech tags
    • Broken speech
    • Action beats
    • Refining dialogue.

    Reported and direct speech

    Reported speech within narrative is not set out with speech marks (also called quote marks):

    • He said that they were under arrest.
    • She told Dad to climb the wall.
    • He asked where I went.

    Conventionally, direct speech will include a vocative word or phrase (which indicates, or evokes, the speaker) and is set apart from narrative using quote marks and dialogue tags (also called speech tags).

    Style of quote marks

    The usual style for quote marks in UK fiction is single, as in this from Leonard and Hungry Paul (2019) by Rónán Hession, p19:

    ‘Indeed. And sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you want to scream or block out a scream,’ said Leonard.

    Whereas in the US double quote marks are the convention, as in this from Room (2010) by Emma Donoghue, p127:

    “Look,” she says, “a flamingo flying by.”

    “Look, a zombie all drooling.”

    “Jack!” That makes her smile for half a second.

    Nested quotes

    In both UK and US styles nested quotes (quotes within quotes) take the opposite form of quote mark to that used for the outer quote mark. Thus, the UK convention would be to use double quotes within single; an example would be this from Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, p48:

    ‘I was very agitated at the conference … and to look out at the South China Sea in the afternoon. Are those not beautiful words … “South China Sea”?’

    Whereas, the US convention would be to use single quotes within double, as in this from The Lives of Animals (1999) by J.M. Coetzee and in my 2016 edition, p86:

    “Didn’t you write a book the first chapter of which was called ‘All Animals are Equal?’”

    Smart quotes versus straight quotes

    With UK and US styles the quote marks, and any apostrophes, are smart ones (sometimes called intelligent or curly). They are favoured over straight ones (which typically came from typewriter use, where they were adopted due to space and mechanical constraints).

    To make a single smart quote in MS Word for PC use ALT +0145 for left and ALT +0146 for right, and for MS Word on a MAC use Option+] for left and Shift+Option +] for right.

    If you do want to enforce the use of straight quotes in a document within MS Word on a PC select the file tab and click options.

    Select Proofing and the AutoCorrect Options button.

    Click the AutoFormat tab and in the Replace section untick the box next to “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes”, click OK, OK.

     Conversely to enforce smart quotes leave this box ticked.

    Speech tags

    In these examples I have added bold to indicate the words that indicate speech (which is the tag). They come from What You Wish For (2014) by Mark Edwards:

    • ‘Who do you mean by “this lot”?’ I asked softly. (p130)
    • ‘I take it you’ve had no word from Cherry?’ I said. (p138)
    • ‘A friend,’ I said. ‘Someone else who loves visitors.’ (p168)

    These clarify that the section is different to narrative, clue the reader as to who is talking and help create pace and rhythm. To guide your use and selection of dialogue tags think of them as supportive of speech so:

    • only there if necessary
    • secondary to the dialogue
    • speech based.

    Only tag where needed

    Think of dialogue tags as traffic lights at a minor road junction, the sort which only operate at peak times. When there are lots of vehicles they are needed but when the there is little traffic, they would hold things up unnecessarily so stay off.

    In sections of direct speech when many people are talking together the tags save confusion but if there are as few as two people in a scene tags can often be dispensed with. This avoids slowing the pace as the conversation is already easy to follow.

    Dialogue is superior to its tag

    Conventionally when there is a new speaker one would open a new paragraph. There are times when this is not followed, such as when those speaking only say a few words to one another.

    This works as a rule of thumb, and is what most readers expect. Avoid over flamboyant speech tags as these take the limelight from where it needs to be for the storytelling.

    Sadly, I can remember being set a class exercise in school which was to create chunks of writing with as many different tags in as we could dream up. We were encouraged to flip through a thesaurus in an effort to add obscure and flowery terms.  I shudder to think of it now and want my school-child self to march to the front of the class and say, ‘I have an urgent message from my editor-to-be self, “No! please don’t.”’

    Mostly ‘said’ works, as does ‘asked’ with a question. These are transparent to the reader and have the subtlety of a gentle nod from a parent, leaving the dialogue front and centre.

    Keep it about speech

    Occasionally you will decide it is appropriate to use other tags and, properly considered, this can be a good choice. However, if you do, remember to keep the tag relevant to the speech.

    These examples from Smith (1967) by Leon Garfield all work well and do not dominate:

    • ‘And who, miss, would you ask?’ queried Miss Bridget irritably. (p17)
    • ‘And so say all of us,’ murmured Miss Fanny, as she might have said, Amen! (p35)
    • ‘Oh, Smith!’ she whispered, and turned away. (p105)

    Used less well, tags can be distracting and annoying and can put readers off. I have created the following examples of how not to do it:

    • ‘Climb the wall,’ fantasised the prince.
    • ‘This one is for me,’ gobbled the child greedily.
    • ‘I can’t speak through this mask,’ muffled Sarah.


    • ‘I did not know that,’ laughed Tony.
    • ‘Here take an ice cream,’ she smiled generously.
    • ‘Catch the bus home,’ he pointed.

    Speech tags must present the possible otherwise they pose a puzzle.

    These are not so much firm rules as guidelines to consider when seeking to engage readers in your story. Ignore them, however, and you risk spinning readers out of the story, wondering how they would have written that sentence differently had they been the writer.  

    As with so much about writing, once you are aware of the conventions you may decide to go against them but with knowledge, foresight and intention.

    Punctuating the speech tag

    A speech tag can be placed before, in the middle of or after a piece of speech and, in most cases, is set out with a comma (although a question mark or exclamation mark might be used instead where appropriate).

    These examples all come from Me Before You (2012) by Jojo Moyes.

    • Granddad called out something that may well have been, ‘Hear, hear.’ (p229)
    • ‘Let’s get some lunch,’ I said to Nathan. (p187)
    • ‘Yiss,’ he said, and broke out a smile. ‘Yes, it is let’s head for the gee-gees.’ (p181)

    Where there is a long passage of speech which crosses into a new paragraph the convention is to place an opening quote mark at the start of the new paragraph within the speech but not to close the preceding paragraph with a quote mark.

    An example of this can be seen in The Lives of Animals (1999) by J.M. Coetzee, which in the 2016 edition is on p56:

    “Let me now turn to Gulliver’s Travels.

    “On the one hand you have the Yahoos, who are associated …”

    Broken speech

    Not all speech will be neatly complete sentences, especially when a speaker is interrupted or distracted. To present this an ellipsis is used.

    Trailing off speech

    Where a character’s speech either dries up or is interrupted is indicated by an ellipsis. In a part sentence an ellipsis is placed after the last word uttered and is followed by the closing speech mark.

    This example is from The Comfort of Strangers (1981) by Ian McEwan – 2006 edition p35:

    ‘Yes, two of those,’ Colin said eagerly, ‘and …’

    Faltering speech

    Hesitant, uncertain or tentative speech is indicated by a spaced ellipsis. There is no need to indicate this further – inspead respect the reader’s ability to understand the pauses, stumbles or breaks.

    This example is from Cold Sunflowers (2018) by Mark Sippings p160:

    ‘It’s a book about the First World War. I got it from the club – It was only two bob, well, ten pence. You wouldn’t believe what those soldiers went through; they were only youngsters. Some were even shot for desertion. It was terrible … terrible, the conditions … goodness me.’

    Action beats

    An action beat is a short section of writing which is attached to dialogue and indicates who is speaking. The use of an action beat can add to the pace of writing and can help show a character’s voice or give insight into their emotions and perhaps their movement in a scene.

    These examples from The Snow Child (2012) Eowyn Ivey:

    ‘It’s her.’ She turned her hand at her throat. (In the 2016 edition p86.)

    ‘So you do have some fight in you, my girl.’ Esther hugged her waist. ‘You’ll need every bit of that to survive around here.’ (In the 2016 edition p140.)

    And from The Crow Trap (1999) Ann Cleeves, p323:

    ‘This is all I could find.’ She grinned so they would know she was lying.

    ‘That’s very kind.’ Anne took the letter and added, ‘Do you know where Edmund Fulwell is?’

    Refining dialogue

    Good advice to an aspiring writer would be to read their dialogue out loud as this helps to bring authenticity. It is also a good idea to look at a selection of titles and see how speech is presented, as some authors make unconventional approaches work well.

    Some prefer not to use speech marks at all, seeing them as an interruption, distraction or perhaps slowing the pace too much. Not using speech marks seems especially popular for writing in the present tense or over a restricted timespan.

    Some genres and target readerships may lend themselves to less conventional approaches; some recent books which present speech unconventionally include Normal People (2019) by Sally Rooney and Summer (2020) by Ali Smith.

    There is a great deal to writing well and, as the communication medium, writing needs to convey the writer’s message to the reader. The writer decides on what the message is, and the extent to which conventional approaches are used is their choice.

    Where editorial assistance is sought the author needs to consider their style decisions and present these within their project brief to enable an efficient collaboration.

    These points should help you to consider what is involved in writing engaging dialogue and presenting it clearly.  Get it right and it will give your story variety, interest and pace.

    If your question has not been answered do get in touch.

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    Click here to read a book review

    Get in touch if you’d like to discuss editing


    Bailey, M. (2020). Editing Fiction, UK: August Publishing

    New Hart’s Rules: New Oxford Style Manual (2012). Oxford: Oxford University Press

    Quoted books (in quoted order)

    Hession, R. (2019). Leonard and Hungry Paul. Hebden Bridge: Bluemoose Books Ltd

    Donaghue, E. (2010). Room. London: Picador

    Levy, D. (2016) Hot Milk. UK: Penguin Random House

    Coetzee, JM. (1999) The Lives of Animals. Princetown: Princetown University Press

    McEwan, I. (1981) The Comfort of Strangers. 2006 edition. London: Vintage

    Sippings, M. (2018) Cold Sunflowers. Amazon

    Ivey, E. (2016) The Snow Child. Second edition. London: Tinder Press

    Edwards, M. (2014) What You Wish For. Seattle: Thomas & Mercer

    Garfield, L. (1967) Smith. 2004 Edition. London: Puffin Modern Classics

    Moyes, J. (2012) Me Before You. London: Penguin Books

    Honesty About Perfect Writing

    Read time: 2 mins

    I think honesty from the outset about the quality of writing is important. Clients sometimes ask for their manuscript to be edited to be perfect, but quality in writing has a subjective component. There will be improvement but perfection is an elusive aim.

    Every writer decides at some point that a piece of writing is finished and ready. However, they know that if they leave their document for a while, then go back to it and read it again, they are likely to tweak and improve what they have written – to improve the clarity or the pace of the story or the words which are used.  Redrafting and editing are all iterative processes; many writers produce multiple versions before they feel that their work is complete. What writers aim for, and what readers seek, is good writing but it is difficult to pin down exactly what that is.

    Perfection v. improvement

    Editorial professionals, be they developmental editors, copy-editors or proofreaders, work to improve the content they are presented with. Ask a dozen copyeditors to work on the same manuscript and give them all the same reference books (such as Butcher’s Copy-editing, The New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, New Hart’s Rules or Merriam-Webster and The Chicago Manual of Style), then read the twelve edited versions. You will find that no two versions will be exactly the same. Why is this?

    They will have spotted a great many of the same changes needed in spelling, grammar, capitalization, consistency and the use of language. But their individual suggestions will differ, if only slightly, and across the manuscript there will be a number of variations. Each edited version will be an improvement but no two versions will be exactly the same improvement.

    As an editorial professional I aim at perfection, but writing is subjective and each revision of a text will find further improvements to make. There are constraints on everything and deadlines need to be met so, at a point, the work must stop and the improvement be deemed sufficient.

    I work to lift your text and voice to the next level. Realistically, perfection is the aim and improvement is the reality.

    To see how I can help with your fiction or creative nonfiction do get in touch.

    For How to Present Your Manuscript click here.

    When to Find an Editorial Professional?

    Read time: 3 mins

    There isn’t an easy answer to when an author should find an editorial professional, be that for developmental editing, copyediting, line-editing or proofreading. However, it is best to give a collaboration of this sort some time for consideration. It is good to be clear what the different services provide and to approach suitable candidates with enough time to find a good match to achieve the best outcomes for yourself and your manuscript.

    It would be an understatement to say that how writers write varies. The amount of planning which different writers undertake ranges from the highly detailed plotters like John Grisham who feels that the longer he spends preparing a detailed outline the easier the book is to write. Through to writers like Steven King who plans very little, preferring to work things out as he writes. To him very outlined books have a somewhat stale quality.

    Some writers use a Pomodoro approach, with disciplined daily word count goals and others will take a cabin in the woods with the aim of not resurfacing without a completing manuscript. Bashing out a first draft and not looking back is the advice of many how to write books and some writers edit as they go along.

    As a writer you will know how writing a book is a major accomplishment and the culmination of a great deal of time, discipline, perseverance and not a little emotion. Many will be unable to say the number of hours it took to reach that stage and will frequently answer with the number of years since the first idea came to them.

    Redrafting and editing choices

    However, it is arrived at the completed manuscript it is a good idea for the writer to distance themselves from the manuscript, at least for a while before embarking on the next stage. Self-publishing writers will not have the same set up as a publishing house with the team focused to ensure all the necessary stages of the production process are carried out in a coordinated way so that deadlines are met and all the preparations are carried out smoothly.

    If you are thinking of using the services of an editorial professional you may want to involve them at any stage. Once the manuscript is written you may request a developmental edit or ask for a manuscript critique. This would be to help you identify where there may be difficulties of plot or with the structure of the writing. Perhaps you do not want to change any of the big picture features of your manuscript and you have time to rework the manuscript through some rounds of redrafting. After this you may decide to collaborate with a professional copyeditor. It could be that you feel you have reached the point where your latest draft would benefit from being looked at with fresh pair of eyes. Even if you set aside time and decide that you are going to rely on your self-editing skills you may seek the reassurance of a proofreader for a last check before it goes in front of a reader, be that publisher, agent or beta readers. 

    Some authors feel their time is best spent creating the next title and may already be preoccupied with that. From an editor’s standpoint schedules get filled up and earlier approaches are easier to accommodate.

    If a publisher is already interested in the manuscript planning for editorial services will help get the manuscript to be as good it can be for the publisher. Experienced authors appreciate the value of booking their editorial collaborations to meet their deadlines and aspirations.

    To see how I can help with your fiction or creative nonfiction do get in touch.

    For What is Likely To be Cut in Editing click here.