My tic, my editor and me


I have a couple of new story ideas brewing, so I’ve begun making notes.

Over the past few days I’ve been fleshing out plots, writing snippets of narrative, describing locations…and at all costs, avoiding the word “now”. I use it too often in my writing, you see. My editor cut about eleventy billion of them from Over The Edge. 

I remember getting the email from Shay after she’d read an early draft. The email said, “I’ve found your tic!” Of course, the first thing I thought of was an engorged, blood sucking insect.

That’s not what she meant. Fortunately.

Turns out a tic, in this case, is “a frequent quirk in the narrative”. For some writers, their tic might be a particular word or phrase. Maybe a too-oft repeated character trait. Whatever it is, it’s usually small, but its repetition can be enough to drive a reader crazy.

For me, it’s the word “now”.  And, apparently, “that” isn’t far behind it. My narrative was peppered with them both. I hadn’t noticed the overuse when I’d read through the draft, but as I sat back and looked at the document Shay had returned to me, with all the little yellow highlighted bits glowing in track-changes, I couldn’t believe how I’d not seen it before. “Now” and “that” were everywhere. I’d been throwing them around and dropping them like frisbees at the dog park.

This is why we have editors 🙂

All writers have tics, Shay said. She also said when I wrote my next story I’d be so hyper aware, I’d probably cut out plenty of “now”s and “that”s myself, before I even sent in the manuscript.

She was right. See the last sentence about being hyper aware? I just cut two “that”s out of it. Yep. Two. I had one before “when” and one after “aware”, but I caught them. Go me!

But I’m wondering if I’ll replace my old tic with a new one (I sooo wanted to write “now” after “wondering”, but I resisted). Maybe in this next manuscript it’ll be a phrase I overuse and don’t notice. Or I’ll unwittingly give all my characters red hair and a lisp. Even the cat.

Actually, a lisping cat could be interesting 🙂

So there you have it. My writer’s tic, all exposed. What do you think of that, now?

Imagine this…

Sue - Book

I saw my book, in the flesh, for the first time yesterday.  And it didn’t happen quite how I’d expected.

Over the past year I’ve sometimes imagined that moment when my book and I make contact for the first time.  The moment when I would finally hold the finished piece, the end result of months of work.  A lifetime goal.

I always saw it happening at my letter box.  Beside the driveway, beneath the magnolia tree that always blossoms at the wrong time of year. I’d tear the brown paper and string from the package that bore my publisher’s logo (yes, I know it’s 2013, not 1913, and the wrapping is more likely to be a plastic padded postbag, but, you know, I like the classics).  The brown paper would flutter to the ground, the string would snag on a shrub, and I’d see my novel for the first time.   Such a big moment.  Then I’d run down the path to the house, waving the book in the air and calling for my family to come and see.

That big moment happened yesterday  🙂

Though it wasn’t quite like that.  It was much more real.  And a lot of fun.

For a start, I was in the office, not at home.  There wasn’t a magnolia tree in sight.  Or a letterbox – unless you count the departmental pigeon holes for internal mail.

It was about ten o’clock, and my friend (and co-worker) Robyn, called me from her office and said she had something for me to sign.  I assumed it was a work thing, though I did wonder why she sounded so excited.  And almost giggly.   The conversation went something like…

“I have something for you to sign.”
“Oh?  What is it?”

“Your book.”

“What book?”

“Your book.

There was a confused pause from me and Robyn had to explain that she’d pre-ordered my book, given the office address for delivery, and received it this morning with her mail.  I’ll add that, at work, only Robyn, and two others know about my writing.

“Oh!  My book!”


“You have it here?”



So I dropped the phone, ran into the corridor and waited, practically hopping from foot to foot, like a kid that needs the loo.  Robyn appeared a moment later, grinning and holding out her copy.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here it was, my book.  That first contact.

It was sooo beautiful.  All glossy and shiny and real. And there were words inside.  My words.  I was speechless.

There were hugs and laughs and Robyn asked me again to sign.  “Write something,” she said.  “I’ll leave it with you if you like and you can bring it down when you’ve finished.”

So then it was just me and my book.  I decided to take a photo (that’s it up above).  I thought I’d text it to my husband.  It was the closest I could get to running down the front path yelling “Look! Look!”  But my hands were shaking and I’m not good at selfies, so that’s why the bottom of the book is cut off in the picture.  I figured he’d get the idea, though.

Once the photo was done and sent, I grabbed a pen and wrote inside the front cover.  But my hands were still shaking so the message looked like a chicken had stepped in ink and then danced the Macarena across the page.  I sat there,staring at the scrawl, grinning and just soaking up the moment.

A big, fabulous moment.  Unexpected and fun and real.  And shared with a good friend.

And when I got home yesterday, my copies were waiting for me in the letterbox  🙂

Just thought I’d share 🙂