RLF Collected

Following on from my previous post, Progress?, here’s my latest piece for the Royal Literary Fund’s online magazine, Collected: Typeface: in Praise of Typewriters.

You can find my previous Collected-related post here.

I’m a writer, Royal Literary Fund Fellow, and Advisory Fellow.
Find out more, tweet me, or email.



As far as I’m concerned these two devices allow me to do exactly the same thing: write. They’re both portable, admittedly one more so than the other, yet they couldn’t be more different.

One cost me around a thousand pounds, the other fifty. One of them is less than a year old and will probably last me five or six years if I’m lucky. It kinda does the job, but I don’t particularly enjoy it, because the keyboard’s shite and it secretes my words away somewhere within its glass and metal shell, as if they are somehow its property rather than mine. The other is around 60 years old, and if used and not abused will probably last as long again. The keyboard’s fantastic, and it’s a joy to use. There’s even a bell. In return for my efforts the machine gives me sheets of paper with words printed upon them. Words I can annotate, cross out, cut up and paste if necessary. It’s always necessary.

One of them needs electricity to work, and required huge amounts of power to smelt its pretty carcass, and extract the raw materials used in its components. The other needed some energy in its production, but has since enabled years of green creativity. One I’ll leave as an heirloom; the other will have no sentimental value. One is laden with distractions and promises, the other gives out only what you put in. Warts and all.

If you asked me to choose between them, I wouldn’t even have to think about it.

The journey…




Stafford Gatehouse Theatre Residency

Over March-May I’ll be Writer in Residence at Stafford’s Gatehouse Theatre. I’ll be seeking stories to fictionalise from local people regarding the theatre itself, Stafford and the surrounding area, with the possibility of publication on the Gatehouse website.

I’ll also be offering one-to-ones to writers seeking guidance, or those who have always fancied writing but are unsure where to start. There will also be workshops from local writers William Gallagher, Fiona Joseph and Maria Whatton.

For more information visit the Gatehouse website, send an email, or tweet me.


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I’ll be appearing at Birmingham Literature Festival on October 6th, talking about literary entrepreneurship. The panel, called Making Writing Work, will be chaired by Malachi MacIntosh, and also feature Nick Makoha and Crystal Mahey-Morgan.

We are in the midst of a literary revolution. Gone are the days when writers followed just one career path, as now we welcome the rise of the literary entrepreneur. As the boundaries of literature and literary culture become even more blurred, writers are disrupting their once traditional career paths and extending and intertwining their writing to include other artforms, environments, platforms and formats.

By harnessing creative thinking to generate more value and opportunities, is literary entrepreneurship the key to living a more fulfilled and successful life as a writer?

Our panel – poet Nick Makoha, publicist Crystal Mahey-Morgan and writer Martin Sketchley – will share their own experiences of writing and approaches to publishing, and discuss what it means to be a literary entrepreneur.

Then I’ll be at the Royal Television Society Careers Fair on October 7th, representing The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Join us on Monday 7th October to get all the latest tips, tricks and practical advice to help you land that all important first job in TV.

Alongside panel sessions with production teams and talent from the biggest shows and brands, will be bootcamps, CV advice, the opportunity to learn about the different jobs and training schemes that are available and to network with some of the most influential creatives in the business.

It’s UNMISSABLE if you have ever thought about working in telly.

I’m a writer, editor, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
Find out more, tweet me, or email.

Setting Headers and Footers at Compile Stage in Scrivener

It’s easy to get your writing out of Scrivener into another editor for the final polish using the Compile function. In my case, I always compile to Microsoft Word. Something I’ve wrestled with for a while, however, is getting the headers and footers in Word just how I want them. Fortunately, as with most things Scrivener, the developers have made this easy to do at the Compile stage.

  • When you’re ready, go File/Compile.
  • In Section Layouts, rest the cursor over Scene (or whichever), and an edit icon appears to the right.

Screenshot 2019-06-23 at 17.54.25

  • Click this icon, then the Edit “Scene” Layout button. The pane below will appear.

Screenshot 2019-06-23 at 17.55.07

  • Now click Page Settings, and select Header and Footer text.

Screenshot 2019-06-23 at 17.55.51

  • The three boxes indicate the positioning of the headers and footers on the page post-Compile. Insert your header/footer text here. Set font and size in the relevant boxes, but format this text using markdown tags in the header and footer panes.

Screenshot 2019-06-23 at 18.03.23

Use the handy Test button to try out your settings before actually compiling.

I hope this helps.


I’m a writer, editor, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
Find out more, tweet me, or email.

My standout gigs

I’ve been to some great gigs in my time. Here are five of my favourites, in no particular order.

Suede, Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 1 November 1994
I was into Suede from the first moment I heard their music, and really loved the angst in the guitar sound. This was one of the first gigs at which Richard Oakes replaced Bernard Butler, and they rocked. The night is covered in this post.

Ezra Furman and the Boyfriends, Birmingham Glee Club, 16 February 2016
I didn’t really want to go to be honest, but my wife did, having seen them on Later… and they were ace. Maybe it was something in the Birmingham audience, but there was a real buzz in the air and energy in the music. As Furman commented: “We do play quiet songs. But that’s not the mood of the room, I can tell.” The support band, The Big Moon, was later shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize, but looked scared to death throughout their set on this particular night.

Fetch Eddie, Goldwyns, 16 May 1990
The best band in Birmingham to never make it, playing funk pop with a bit of indie, and lyrics sometimes a little too close to home. On this night, which turned out to be their last ever gig, the band integrated The Cure’s A Forest into their classic Too Much to Ask For, and wowed everyone. I married one of them. The good looking one. She still does that shake and sing thing.

Alt-J, Nottingham, 8 December 2015
Our daughter introduced us to this band and was desperate to see them, so we took the drive up to Nottingham on a cold and dark December night. I had no idea what to expect but they were brilliantly inventive, and made the kind of music I’d want to play myself. Support band The Horrors, sadly, lived up to their name.

PJ Harvey & John Parish, Birmingham Town Hall, 23 April 2009
Harvey’s powerful songs and masterful use of some vocal effects doodad that added layers of complexity to already incredible vocals were underpinned by a fine rhythm section and fruity Fender Jazzmaster guitars that bathed the audience in a sound like vintage merlot. The juxtaposition of the music’s heritage against the classical backdrop of this entirely seated venue made for a memorable evening. When they played Pig Will Not, the woman sat next to me went absolutely mental.

What are your standout gigs? Post in the comments.

Screenshot 2019-06-14 at 10.20.23
Ezra Furman (Source: ezrafurman.com)



Punctuation Basics

I know punctuation was one of your favourite things at school, right up there with long division, but there’s often confusion over certain points. I’ve put together the examples below to help clarify some of these, as a misplaced apostrophe or hyphen can cause all manner of problems. At the foot of this post you’ll find a handy PDF to download and print for reference.


Commas are widely misunderstood, and generally underused by those writing in an academic context. Common misconceptions are that they should be used “when you take a breath” and that they “shouldn’t be used before and…”. You should use commas to separate different pieces of information within a sentence. Here’s an example:

There is widespread misunderstand regarding use of commas and apostrophes, and both are important to ensure clarity in writing.

You’ll see that the comma in the above sentence is used before and to separate two distinct pieces of information.


These can be pesky little blighters that can cause all manner of confusion, but they’re essential to clarify meaning. Hopefully the examples below will help you get to grips with them.

The chair’s leg is broken.
Chair’s – this is a possessive: it is the leg of the chair.

Chairs’ legs are often broken.
Chairs’ – again a possessive, but this refers to the legs of multiple chairs; legs does not have an apostrophe as this is simply the plural of leg.

The chair’s got a broken leg.
Chair’s – this is chair has, different from the possessive chair’s above.

The chair’s broken.
Chair’s – the chair is broken.

Someone should really mend these chairs…
No apostrophe for chairs here, as this is simply the plural of chair.

The kids’ bedroom is untidy.
Kids’ – this is the bedroom of more than one kid.

The kid’s bedroom is untidy.
One lazy kid who can’t tidy a room.

The children’s playground…
Children’s – apostrophe-s here, as children is already a plural. Similarly, the people’s champion.

There can be confusion over whether to put an apostrophe before or after the s regarding names, etc. Officially, if there’s an s then the apostrophe goes after, but there’s also a school of thought that this only applies if the s actually has a z sound:

James’ coat was wet.
James ends in a z sound.

Thomas’s coat was wet.
Thomas ends in an s sound.

However, if you’re referring to a brand or company that has an apostrophe, then you have to keep it:

McDonald’s’ burgers are very popular. Similarly, M&M’s’ market share…

ITS, IT’S and ITS’

OK, the easy one first: its’ does not exist. Never has, never will. So, that established…

It’s is only ever it is or it has.

The chair’s broken: it’s one of the legs.

Here we’ve got chair’s for chair is, then it’s because we’re saying it is one of the legs. The colon separates the statement from the reason (more on that later).

The chair’s wobbly; I think its leg is broken.

Chair’s here shortens chair is, but there’s no apostrophe for its, because we’re not saying it is or it has. There’s a semi-colon for the run-on sentence.

If unsure just ask yourself whether you’re saying it is or it has. If not, then its.


Use a colon to indicate a list, reason or example to follow:

There are three primary colours: red, yellow, blue.

Unattended belongings will be removed after 30 minutes: this is a security issue.

Also use semi-colons to separate several longer clauses after a colon:

Today the student asked me about punctuation, and we covered several points in depth: the correct way to use an apostrophe in several contexts; use of a semi-colon in run-on sentences and to separate clauses; the difference between hyphens and dashes.

Also use a semi-colon with a run-on sentence:

Library attendants regularly patrol the building; unattended belongings will be removed after 30 minutes.


Use hyphens to join related words:

Peer-to-peer sharing… / One-to-one tutorials… / This is a long-term trend.

However, examples like the latter can be context-specific, so:

The trend is evident over the long term.

Dashes can be used to indicate text that deviates from the main point:

Apostrophe use needed some explaining – so many variations! – but we got there in the end.

But use brackets for supporting information:

The Cold War (1947-1991) was a state of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies following World War II.

Some spelling mistakes are invisible to the spell-checker, and other words are commonly misused for one reason or another. Here are some to look out for, and a few examples of unnecessary text.

  • form / from – a classic, easily missed.
  • manufactures / manufacturers – a manufacturer manufactures, but the rs at the end can hide an error.
  • program / programme – in British English a program is only ever computer software; for something entertaining on telly, a series of events or a theatrical souvenir, it’s programme.
  • public / pubic – a missing “l” makes all the difference here. You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself in a pubic place now would you.
  • aging / ageing – all over the world populations are ageing. Our American cousins are happy to go with aging, but that reads a bit too much like gagging, so add the e to soften the g.
  • convenient store / convenience store – a convenience store is a small grocery shop; if it’s nearby and sells what you want, when you want it, then it’s also convenient.
  • customer / costumer – here a transposed o and u turn someone buying goods or services into someone who designs pantomime outfits. Oh no it doesn’t! Oh yes it does! etc.
  • loosing / losingloosing indicates untightening (although loosening would be better), while losing is the process of loss: The man was losing patience with punctuation.
  • off of and gotten – both horrible Americanisms; avoid (unless you’re American, writing in America).
  • skyrocketing – widely used, but conjures up a somewhat comical image; soaring is much better.
  • mid-end – you can’t have a “mid-end”, because if it’s in the middle it’s not at the end; try mid-range, mid-price or similar instead.
  • every day / everyday – every day = each day; everyday = ordinary: Every day I write the book; it’s the story of an everyday guy. Every day I go to the supermarket: it has everyday low prices.
  • forecasted – just use forecast, okay?
  • countries around the world – where else would they be? Just countries.
  • going forward – usually completely unnecessary, for example: This could change going forward if the company provides an incentive for consumers. This reads much more concisely as: This could change if the company…
  • continues to remainThe company continues to remain the leader in its market. Much tighter as The company remains…

I’m a writer and Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
Find out more, tweet me, or email.