Interview with Author Jane Riddell

My guest today is author Jane Riddell. Hello! Welcome to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you here.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?

My latest book is an editing guide, Words’Worth: a fiction writer’s guide to serious editing, which I published in April 2016. It’s short – 54 pages - and describes a technique for comprehensive editing.

It’s available on Kindle from Amazon.

Wow! That's great!

This looks like something that Writing in the Modern Age viewers can really use. :)

So, is there anything that prompted Words' Worth? Something that inspired you?

Over the years I’ve learned loads about how to edit my work: the myriad things to check for, both in overviewing and line-to-line editing. Each time I’ve edited a novel, however, I’ve thought of new things to check.  This has often been daunting, especially when in the middle of checking one aspect of writing, another one has occurred to me. Eventually I realized I needed checklists to allow me to be systematic and comprehensive. Better still, I wanted to devise an easily understood method of recording what I’d done. I did this and the process worked so well that I found myself describing it to anyone who’d listen. The logical next stage was to write about it and Words’Worth: a fiction writer’s guide to serious editing was conceived. 

Let's try a different question.
When did you know you wanted to write? Or has it always been a pastime of yours?

For many years, writing was a hobby, something I would fit in around work. When we planned to move to France for three years (2006 – 2009), I knew I wouldn’t be able work there with my limited French. A month or so before we left, on a wet Saturday afternoon at the gym, walking on a treadmill and listening to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas singing "Dancing in the Street", I had a defining moment when I thought, ‘I’ll give writing a go.’ And I haven’t looked back. Interestingly, it was only during our second year in Grenoble that I was able to tell people I’m a writer, without that critical demon in my head accusing me of being a fraud.
Oh, I hear you! It's tough getting past that inner critic.

Do you have any favorite authors yourself, Jane?

Ian McEwan, Clare Francis, Anita Shreve, all of whom have a wonderful use of language, the ability to create plausible characters, describe setting, and to tell a story.

So, do you write in a specific place? Time of day?  

At home I have a desk in our sitting room where I write. I’m surrounded by large yuccas and rubber plants which I enjoy looking at.

I also rent desk space at a wonderful social enterprise organization, The Melting Pot, in Edinburgh. Sometimes I go to our local café, aptly named Nom de Plume, which is a lovely venue – cozy in winter, sunny in summer, where they serve delicious cheese scones and chocolate cake. There are also a few quirky places I use. 

If I’m on my exercise bike, I rest my laptop on the handlebars and combine my workout with writing or editing. If we’re traveling and the scenery is boring or darkness has fallen, I sometimes write in the back of our van. 

As for time of day, I don’t have a routine.  It could be any time between 11 am and 2 am. Afternoons tend to be my most productive times for the actual writing/editing part. Mornings I often spend promoting my books. I’m not one of those writers who starts at 6 am and finishes at 10 pm every day.

Oh, good Lord! Me neither! LOL.

The muse just comes when it wants, but I still try to devote myself to my projects as much as possible when I'm focused on one.
So...are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?
I’ve found that the best ways to improve my writing are to read the “how to” books and to read fiction as much as possible to see how other people write and decide on what I think works and what doesn’t. 
                 Receiving feedback on my writing has been useful, but it’s important to be discerning about choosing readers. I was lucky enough to have a mentor for a year, and her feedback was invaluable.
That's awesome! 
And thank you for offering those words of wisdom to our readers. You're so right! 
A good critique partner or beta reader is priceless. ;) 

Thank you so much for stopping by to visit us here today at Writing in the Modern Age. It was wonderful having you!  :)
Readers, here is the blurb for Words' Worth.
This compact and concise handbook will be useful to writers looking at a finished manuscript and wondering how to edit it. There are two sections, one for scene-editing, e.g. considerations of consistency, pace and point of view. The second is for line-editing, e.g. pruning back unnecessary words, avoiding repetition or clumsiness, generally polishing the prose until it is strong and readable. Both beginning and more experienced writers should find this guide helpful.
Here is an excerpt.



Hooking the reader with the opening line


Some readers may give the book several pages to whet their interest. Others will not. Lovers of literary fiction are more likely to tolerate descriptive passages before the protagonist first appears.

Appropriate pace


It is important not to rush from one piece of action to the next. Characters need time to reflect on what has just happened. Readers want to know their reactions. Be particularly careful about not rushing significant parts.




Are you hopping from one storyline to another, or is it clear what the scene/chapter is about?


Scene beginning with action


Beginning a scene with action is more likely to hook the reader than beginning with reflection or description, although this depends on genre. A “quieter” novel will have more reflection than an action story.  Note that in this context dialogue counts as action. Ide­ally every scene should be joined (in the writer’s head) by the word ‘but’ or ‘however’, meaning that the story is driving forward.


Scene ending with action


It’s important to make sure your scene has an ending and doesn’t just stop, to avoid the reader becoming con­fused. The exception to this is the cliffhanger.

Do you have a closing line that will urge the reader to continue reading?

Plot or characterization building to conclusion


Scenes/chapters must drive the plot or reveal more about the personality of one of the key characters, in other words, have purpose. If your scene builds to a conclusion, you will know it achieves a purpose and isn’t simply padding. 

Character interaction


Do characters interact with each other rather than spending large chunks of time in solitary reflection? Over-reflection slows down the pace. However, the proportion of reflection compared with action will vary depending on the type of writing. A literary author such as Anita Brookner may have page after page of intro­spection. Someone writing a comic romp will include little soul-searching.


No excessive foreshadowing


While it’s important to set the stage for what happens, so that when it does, it seems plausible, guard against making it too easy for the reader to guess what lies ahead.

Purchase Links:

This book sounds great! As aforementioned, I think this will really help writers of all stages, part of whom we intend to assist here on Writing in the Modern Age. 

We'll be sure to check it out!


Author Bio

Jane Riddell is a Scottish writer based in Edinburgh. For years she worked for the NHS as a dietitian and health promoter, writing being a hobby. In 2006 she impulsively moved her family to France, and during her three years there writing became a passion.

Jane writes contemporary fiction and her novels Daughters of the Lake and Chergui’s Child can be found on Amazon.

Jane is also the proprietor of an editing business, Choice Words Editing.

Author Links:

Jane's Books:

Featured Post

A Character Interview with Dillon from MOUNTAIN BLAZE, plus a conversation with author Debby Grahl!

Today we're bringing something different to Writing in the Modern Age in the form of a character interview. These character interviews, ...