Junior Doctors: Their Lives in Your Hands

Junior Doctors: Their Lives in Your Hands

When I wrote my New Year post, I was ready to leap into frequent updates, including on the important topic of self-care for writers. Then life happened. As most of you know, in addition to being a screenwriter and novelist, I am also a junior doctor. On 3rd February, I started a new job as an Advanced Trainee in Psychiatry - also known as a Specialist Registrar, or a psychiatrist who is becoming more specialised in one particular field. Medicine is a professional vocation that was once very popular, well thought of, and attractive to bright young things looking to make a difference. In many ways, it is still that - but it's also becoming harder. Let us count the ways: Cuts to NHS funding One of the first things you learn as a newly-qualified doctor is how to use the fax machine. As a twenty-something in 2010, I hadn't the faintest idea why we were addicted to this technology, but we still cling to it....
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#WriteInclusively – We Can All Do Better

Yesterday, the news broke on Twitter that SC had been removed as co-host from Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, popular query competitions designed to help win an agent or editor. The reason? His "passion for the Write Inclusively campaign may be unsettling or umcomfortable for people who don't write from the POV of ethnic characters, or who don't portray ethnic characters as 'honestly' as [he] would like." Okay. I'm not going to talk about the decision, as many articulate people have already commented on Twitter. I am going to talk about my personal struggle to write diverse books and why we should strive to do better. I have written before about my difficulties identifying as a queer woman of colour, and about feeling responsibility for writing diverse books. My first novel Binary Witness is shit on diversity. Despite having a female protagonist, it doesn't even pass the Bechdel Test. One of the only queer characters is a victim. There are no prominent...
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Questions From My Editor

Questions From My Editor

I've been fortunate to work with my excellent editor Deb Nemeth on three Amy Lane novels now. In the course of editing my work, she asks me a lot of questions. Some are to expand her knowledge of my characters' world and some are to challenge me to grow as a writer. I'm going to share a few (spoiler-free!) questions that Deb has asked me during different stages of editing for Binary Witness, Code Runner and Captcha Thief. Welsh life I use a number of Welsh names in my novels, but Jason's sister probably possesses one of the more challenging ones. Cerys is pronounced "keh-ris", not anything like "cerise". Additionally, Owain is less like Owen and more "owe-ein". Sticking with names, abbreviations aren't always universally understood. As Peggy is to Margaret and Betty is to Elizabeth, so Dai is to David in Wales. Slang is obviously also highly-localised. "Butt" is a piece of South Walean slang, most often found around Cardiff and Newport, and it's...
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The Art of Waiting

I am currently in the strange position of waiting on all on my projects. A couple of things are waiting on feedback and decisions, and a novel and a screenplay are in the brewing stage, where I've deliberately left them alone to gain some much-needed perspective. So, what is a writer to do? Here are five dos and don'ts of waiting gracefully. DON'T refresh your email all day and night With most of us having our email literally at our fingertips, it's very tempting to stay glued to your inbox. The very instant that success, rejection or those vital notes arrive, you will know it! I have a weird habit of avoiding my most-wanted email - I will check Gmail's Social and Promotions tags and empty Spam before reading The One. It's either avoidance or saving the best 'til last... DO take a break from devices This is an important point at all writing stages, but it's particularly relevant here. Getting out and experiencing life gives...
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Not Accepted Anywhere? Authenticity and Diversity in Writing

From #WeNeedDiverseBooks to the recent #dontselfneglect, Twitter campaigns to encourage diverse voices in writing are gloriously active right now. This is awesome! I am delighted that there is a push to recognise the value of diverse voices in fiction and the benefits this has for wider tolerance and acceptance of all folks, just being who they are. But I struggle with this recognition in my own writing and, from browsing the #dontselfneglect hashtag, I'm not alone. So, I'm going to tell you a little bit about me - more self-disclosure than I'm usually comfortable with - and I'm going to try to explain why participating in conversations about authenticity and diversity in writing is so difficult for me. Who am I? If I had to describe my identity, I would say I'm a bisexual, Christian, mixed-race, cis woman. However, I would shy away from describing myself as a woman of colour or LGBTQ, even though I am both of those things. Why is that? Woman...
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When Sidekicks Take Centre Stage

In any fictional universe, the world revolves around the protagonist. Any "extras", sidekicks or love interests are very much subservient to the hero - though, if they are well-realised, they all think they're looking out for their own interests. It's only the writer who is leading them on to serve the hero and the narrative. Over at the Crime Readers' Association website, I wrote about Supporting Cast: Breathing Life into Secondary Characters. I even made reference to my favourite Hark, a vagrant webcomic. I mentioned Cerys Carr, who started life as nothing more than a gobby teenage sister to one of my protagonists and ended up playing a major part in Code Runner. She's also prominent in Book #3, and shows no sign of fading away. The beauty of a well-developed supporting cast of "sidekicks" to your hero is that they can leap to the fore at any moment. In television, this may even progress to them gaining their own show - for...
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Writers’ Tools: Scene-by-Scene

As NaNoWriMo drains words from me like a gigantic novel leech, I have to take that tried-and-tested piece of November advice and silence my inner editor. The emphasis of Nano has always been word count above all else, with the idea that we can fix all in the edit - in a similar way that film-makers "fix it in post". If you're an intricate plotter, you probably start any new project, novel or screenplay or other, with a thick wedge of notes and an exact play-by-play of how your finished project is going to look. If, however, you're like me, you probably start with broad brushstrokes and then fill in the finer details as you go on. You may have a beginning, a middle and an end but how exactly those are going to fit together may be a complete mystery. I hold an interesting position in that I am both a screenwriter and a novelist. Screenwriting tends to be much more heavy-handed...
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NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide

The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the supermarkets are full of pumpkins. It is almost that time of year again... For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is simple: write a 50,000-word novella in the 30 days of November. This year will be my fifth NaNoWriMo. I've participated in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2013. 2011 and 2013 birthed my two published novels, Binary Witness and Code Runner. If you are thinking of taking the plunge and participating in your first NaNoWriMo, I have a few words of advice to help get you through... Plot as much or as little as you need You may heard the question "plotter or pantser?" addressed to authors. Basically, do you plot our everything that happens in your novel or do you just write whatever you feel like at the time? I'm somewhere in the middle. I need to know how the novel begins and ends...
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Amy Lane’s Guide to Password Security

With ONE WEEK to go until the Code Runner launch, my agoraphobic hacker Amy Lane lays down the law on password security. Ignore her at your peril! If you're looking for my advice, I'm assuming we've filtered out the first layer of morons. I'm talking about the kind of people who think "password" is a great password or use one of the most common and worst passwords of the year. Or that swapping out letters for numbers in the name of their favourite band is the height of security. (Yes, Jason, I'm looking at you.) I also assume you have something worth guarding. Facebook is a leaking sieve for privacy - your best password is wasted on it. Of course, the best hackers will always bypass your defences, but you don't have to make it easy for them. Memorable data Unless you have a good head for random letter-number strings, you will likely base your password on words in common usage. This improves the...
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Jason Carr’s Guide to Surviving On The Run

Bad day at work? Rent due and short of cash? Framed for murder? My streetwise ex-con Jason Carr, half of the crime-solving team in The Amy Lane Mysteries, shares his practical tips for successfully surviving on the run... I've known my fair share of trouble. More than my share, being honest, but that's my own fault. I mucked about in the past, got nicked by the cops - and rightly so, let's admit it - before being sent down. But this time, it weren't my fault. I got framed for a crime I didn't commit and, despite my boss' best efforts and with some bad guys trying to finish me off, I ended up running from my problems. I don't really recommend it, but if you find yourself in this kind of jam, here are my tips for staying alive and keeping a low profile. Mobile phones are not your friend You know those smartphones we carry about everywhere? My boss is a tech...
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