T, TEE or TEA???

As writers we like to add a little flair. Why use 1 word when 3 will do?

“That sentence suits this situation perfectly


“That sentence suits this situation to a T

Sometimes you have the ideal sentence in your head, but your inner perfectionist won’t let you commit until you know it’s spelt and handled correctly. So here it is, the solution to the problem that will hopefully save others from similar searching.

Research shows that the Oxford English Dictionary recognises ‘to a T’, although both T and tee are acceptable, as it is the letter of the alphabet that is referred to.

The most likely etymology for the phrase to a T comes from to a tittle, as shown below.

  • to a tittle, with minute exactness, to the smallest particular, to a T

Can I start a sentence with ‘but’?

The short answer is yes.

Whilst in school it was burnt into my brain to never, under any circumstances, start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. These include the following 7 linking words:

  • and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

Due to this I would cringe every time I would see one at the beginning of a sentence. However, the more I write, the more I realise that sometimes there really is no other option, and it is a particularly useful tool to lend impact or emphasis to a sentence.

When doing a little research online I came across this excellent post by writewithjean.com where she debunks the vilification of ‘but’. According to Fowler’s Modern English Usage, “The widespread public belief that but should not be used at the beginning of a sentence seems to be unshakeable. But it has no foundation.”

So there you have it. Our english teachers were lying to us all along.

Punctuating dialogue

Like many things with writing, punctuating dialogue comes down to personal preference, but consistency is key. Not only that, but it is important to understand that dialogue should flow more conventionally than it does in day to day life. With friends and family we routinely speak over each other, and populate our sentences with ‘ums’, ‘ahs’ and ‘ers’. We also change topics without notice. All of which is fine in person, but won’t read well on the page.

Dialogue in a story is largely used for one of two reasons.

  • To develop character
  • To further plot

Anything else is largely noise.

This post is adapted from an article on Novel Writing Help to cover the basics of how to write dialogue in your text. Simply put, these suggests will allow for consistency throughout your story, and should minimise later editing.

1) Punctuation for speech belongs inside the quotations marks

Such as:

“Good morning,” the man said. “How are you today?”

2) New paragraph for each new speaker

This helps the reader follow longer conversations. The same applies even if a character doesn’t speak.

3) Use dashes and ellipses correctly

Ellipses (…) show a character’s words trailing off, such as if they were distracted or forgot what they were saying. If they were cut off or interrupted, use a dash (-).

4) Choose ether single (‘) or double (“) quotations

This really doesn’t matter as long as you keep the same style.


Making time to write

OK, so I’m almost 3 weeks in and this really isn’t going as well as I thought it would. My main problem…life! Not only have I failed to keep on top of regularly updating my blog, but more importantly, my writing has pretty much ground to a halt. I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses, as I’ve never been an excuses person, and I know its my own fault. I just need to set aside more time dedicated to writing. Case in point: I always find time to go out running; I always find time to go to gigs; and I certainly find time to binge watch pretty much anything on Netflix. So its time to apply the same mentality to this project.

Some ground rules:

  • Write every day – Even if it’s just 20 words, it’ll all add up.
  • Start a writing journal – I’ll carry this around to jot down ideas when I’m away from my computer.
  • Back away from the Netflix – If times get hard I can always cancel the subscription.
  • Leave work at work – Being a teacher this might be hard, but it’s time to stop bringing so much home with me.

Let’s see how this fresh start goes.

Naming characters

I always thought that authors must agonise for hours over naming characters. That every characters name had been carefully considered so as to perfectly fit their individual style and traits. However, the more I write, the more I realise that naming characters can be largely inconvenient to the flow of a story.

Right now I’m writing the opening to my novel, and I know everything about the lead character: his name, age, past relationships, dress size (yes), when he was born and how he will die. Here is an instance where a characters name had to perfectly fit them, not just because they are leading the story, but mostly because they’re a drag queen, and queens are all about the name. I know the exact scenario in which I want to introduce this character, but need four entirely superfluous names to go with these characters in this chapter. Every time I pick something they just seem so hollow. The characters all have personality and a role of their own (however small), but this one details eludes me.

To help I’ve decided to start a new document containing just names that I like. This will provide a resource that I can dip into whenever inspiration strikes and I don’t want to stifle my story and simply use Mr X and Mrs Y. To help compile the list I’ve gone through names of friends and family that I like, even the odd celebrity. Largely however I have used the website below to help generate random names, and picked out any that sound good.

Suddenly, my random American family have become the Chambers. Specifically Leland, Doris, and their kids Amy and Sean.

Planning for the year ahead (time frame)

I’ve just had the fright of my life. After checking my bank account I’ve found that the first payment for this blog has been taken. Not only that, but the whole amount for three years subscription was collected. That’s what you get for not reading the small print, but to be honest it makes it has kind of made this whole project seem much more real. So with this new found motivation (and lack of cash), it is time to plan for the year ahead. Below is a rough overview for how I want things to proceed.

Time Period Acivity
6 months First draft
4 months Editing/Proofreading
2 months Publishing/Printing

Optimistic I know, but for the first few months I’m going to focus solely on writing. By July I want to have a completed story ready for editing. If I manage to do this it’ll be the first time I’ll have completed a full story. I’m still writing every day but if I really want to be successful I’ll have to start getting into more of a routine with my writing goals. More to follow on that soon.

Formatting my manuscript

I’m writing my story on a MacBook Pro using Microsoft Word 2011. I’m no stranger to Word, or in fact writing essays or extended reports. However, this is the first time I’m attempting something quite so literary. I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for formatting so decided to invest a little time researching how best to set out my story from the off. It seems that different publishing houses have a preferred style, but I was looking for something a little more general that could be easily tweaked and that was clear and concise. I came across a blog post on theeditorsblog.net which was exactly what I was looking for. I’ll give a quick summary of the formatting I intend to use below.

Font: 12; Times New Roman
Space: Double space; No extra lines between paragraphs
Indent: Tab (indent) all new paragraphs (including the first paragraph in a chapter)
Align: Left (not justified)
Page numbering: Begin numbering at actual story (do not include title page)
Chapters: New page for each chapter; Centre chapter heading about a third down the page, beginning text below this
Header: Justify to the right, include the following information (Surname/Book title/Page number)
Title page: Include contact details at the top (name, address, phone, email) followed by book title and ‘written by’ below

No doubt I’ll tweak with my styling at some later date, but for the time being this makes for a nice, clear design. Now back to the actual writing.

30th Birthday


It’s my 30th Birthday, and as well as starting back at work properly after the Christmas break, so to does my crazy adventure to write and publish a book in a year. Above you can see a picture of me with the metaphorical ‘blank page’. In a years time that will/should be a novel.

I have a rough plan in my head concerning a time frame for how I want this year to play out, but I see the first six months being allocated solely to writing a first draft of the novel. I’ve done a little digging and the average novel length according to the writersworkshop.co.uk is between 75,000 to 120,000 words for fiction (that is what I intend to write). This means I should be looking to write about 500 words a day. Now I’ll be honest, it’s my birthday, and right now I’m more interested in going out drinking and celebrating with my family, but I have made a start, with a grand total of 180 words. Nothing impressive but I’m no longer just staring at a blank page. I’ve always been good with coming up with ideas, but it is getting it down on the page I find hard. Now that I’m out of the gate I need to get up some momentum.

I’ll no doubt go into more detail about what my story is about further down the line, but for now all I’ll say is its about two things I love. Drag queens and Liverpool.

Last few hours of my twenties

Hello internet world, or whomever it is that may eventually stumble upon this website.

It’s the 4th of January 2016, and I am fast approaching the end of my twenties. Anyone who knows me would vouch for the fact that I’m not a particularly self-indulgent or introspective person, so rather than go off on a tangent to try and summarise these years, I’ll simply say that I had a blast, and now it’s time for the next chapter. Chapter is a rather apt word to use here, as the whole reason for setting up this blog is to give me an excuse and platform to write. I have spent the last decade talking about how I love to write, how I’d love nothing more than to make my hobby my career, or to at least see one of my stories through to completion. So here I find myself, approaching the big 30, and on a somewhat considered whim I have set myself a challenge.

In exactly one years time, on my 31st birthday, I will be holding a completed novel that I have written from scratch, and published online.

Now I’m not expecting to set the literary world on fire, but unless I do something now I’ll reach my forties and still be no closer to my dream. I come up with stories all the time, but most of these become nothing more than notes on my phone. Sometimes I write a few thousand words and then life just takes over. Either that or the PlayStation. The closest I have gotten was completing NaNoWriMo in 2013, but rather that carry the story on, I have a 50,000 word manuscript sat doing nothing on my hard-drive. So, for the next year this is going to become my full time job (in addition to my actual job). If I end up with a pile of garbage, it’ll be my pile of garbage, and at least I tried.

As part of the challenge I’m going to write on this blog everyday if I can. To make sure I do that I’ve already signed up for a three year subscription, so believe me I’m going to get my money’s worth. I need to get over my internal editor and realise that not everything has to be perfect all the time. I think this has held me back from committing anything of considerable length to the page. So from now on I’m just going to write. I figure my ideas are better on the page than just in my head, and I’ll worry about editing at the end. I’ll use this blog to update my progress (word count), and also pull together different resources that are helping to support me. I also intend to post extracts of my work. If for no other reason than to get some of my writing out there for the first time in my life. I’m sure lots of things will get in the way and I’ll have to adapt how I see this playing out, but one way or another I’m going to write a book this year, and even if I upload it for free I’m going to publish it online.

Here goes…

A big thank you to Scott Chow at theblogstarter for his excellent guide on starting a blog. I literally followed it to the letter and was ready to start blogging in a few minutes. There is also a link through his website for a discount with web host service bluehost. Thanks again.