Line edit love

Line edit love image by Tim Marshall at Unsplash

The art of writing is telepathic, communication in absentia. We can’t see the author’s facial expressions, we can’t hear their inflections as they tell their tale, feel their trembling excitement, smell their fear, nor taste their triumph. The mute shape of words are all that remain, modified by punctuation then stamped onto the page for …

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(Net)working hard

You can be a smashing writer, smoothly running your business from the comforts of your home, but if you lack connections it’s damned hard to make a success of it. Fear not! Opportunities to meet people in the industry abound if you have the courage and the will to push yourself forward. We’re coming into …

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Facing fears

Facing fears

Fear leers at us through the cracked lens of time; a thousand different forms threaten to reach through, clawing at our stomachs, crushing our throats, spearing our hearts with electric jolts. The present is not the problem, you understand. In the here-and-now we need only face what is and respond accordingly, but our minds… our …

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Shush – flash fiction

Shush - flash fiction

As previously discussed, writing is hard, but I feel a responsibility as an editor to keep myself at the sharp end of it, my own skills to better empathise with and advise my clients. I picked out an evocative image to inspire me (those big bullies up there), and three key words I’d have to …

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Losing the plot

Losing the plot

Some people have a very clear path in mind when it comes to writing. They’re super-organised: plotting it all in advance, figuring out the twists and turns of action and emotion. It sounds great in principle, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I’m more of a surfer, catching the wave of inspiration as it …

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Just… so

Just... so

It started out with colouring, back when I was little – vast areas of white waiting to be brought to life with wax crayons, coloured pencils or felt-tip pens. The materials were always low quality, of course. We were poor. Crayons snapped under eager hands, pencils tore gashes in cheap paper, which had a habit …

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Rotten Heart – flash fiction

Rotten Heart - flash fiction

As there’s a spare week this month, I thought I’d have another crack at some flash fiction. I was pleased with how last week’s came out, though appalled at my timing in retrospect. I mean, come on, Dion – a visceral piece about a miscarriage that close to Mother’s Day? Oof. My apologies. For this …

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Stilled Life – flash fiction

Stilled Life - flash fiction

Now that I’ve started to charge for my audio work, I’m flipping my Hobby weeks back to writing flash fiction. As previously discussed, writing is hard, but I feel a responsibility as an editor to keep myself at the sharp end of it, honing my own skills to better empathise with and advise my clients. …

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Perspective matters

Perspective matters

Perspective is critical to story. It provides the narrative voice your readers follow, gives us crucial insights and privileged information about characters and events; it even dictates (to a certain degree) how the plot unfolds. Fundamentally, it is the mechanism by which we understand and engage with the narrative. Get it right and you have …

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Making noise

Making noise

What goes into making my performed readings? You know the ones. I’ve recorded a short story every month for the past year to share here at The Fine-toothed Comb. It’s been a hobby, an excuse to work with some new people, and an opportunity to showcase the results. The responses I received were universally warm, …

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Letting go

Letting go

Fear freezes us, very often. We tighten our fingers, clinging on to the known and the settled, but that instinct can be counter-productive. Ask any parent. I’ve got *three kids, and two of them are filling me with fear at the moment. I want to protect them, desperately, but I also know that if I …

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End of year review 2021

End of year review, 2021

The last time I took proper stock of The Fine-toothed Comb was way back in March. It was supposed to be the first of my Quarterly Reviews but, as it turned out, it was also the last. The longer I spent bobbing about in the ocean of self-employment, the harder I found it to tread …

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Stuff is nonsense

Stuff is nonsense

‘What do you want for Christmas?’ I used to have a million answers to that one; these days I’m more likely to say, ‘I don’t need anything.’ Hah! It always drove me mad when my parents said it, but I’ve started to come around to their way of thinking. Perhaps it’s age-related. Perspectives change over …

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Want-to wants

Want-towants

Do you know what you want? Okay, but do you really want it, or do you just ‘want’ to want it? There’s a difference, see, and it took me a long time to understand that. Take writing, for instance. I’ve always had a facility with words, so writing and editing should have been a shoo-in. English Literature was my favourite subject at school, and I followed it right the way through to university, which begs the question…why did it take me so long to get into the industry?

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Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2)

Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2))

I’ve had some difficult conversations with clients (and prospective clients) over the years. People can be…resistant to constructive criticism, despite the fact they’re paying for it—all the more so if there’s an inherent issue to the writing that stains character and plot. Some of the most delicate conversations, I find, are those in which the issues of subconscious misogyny, racism or bigotry must be raised. Writing is intensely personal, after all. But look, horror fiction is my bread and butter; *context matters, so I’m here today to help parse the difference between portraying repugnant things and absorbing them into your writing.

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We, the Remedials – a performed reading

Giant housefly. Text reads: We, the Remedials - a performed reading

Hello! We, the Remedials, welcome you to our humble hotel. We trust you will have a pleasant, comfortable and enlightening stay with us, however long it may last. If you find that you need anything, be sure and ask – that is why we are here, after all!

This is the latest of my performed readings, bringing your writing to life and hopefully helping to find you a few more readers. In this peculiar tale, our unremarkable hero finds himself out of his depth in the big city and trapped in a waking nightmare. Welcome to The Remedial. It’s been waiting for you.

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Geek families (Finding Me, part 3)

Geek families (Finding Me, pt3)

I threw myself into fatherhood with great enthusiasm. We didn’t know what we were doing – who the heck does? – but Clo and I supported each other and figured things out as a team. One of the things we figured out early on was that children are adaptable. So long as she was loved and cared for, Summer-Rose would be perfectly able deal with whatever world she grew up in—and if that happened to include weekends camping in ruined castles while Clover and I got our medieval groove on, then all the better. It provided a change of scene and gave her some childhood magic.

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Le Mort Vivant, pt2 – a performed reading

Image of The Phantom of the Opera, unmasked and burning. Text reads: Le Mort Vivant pt2, by Steven Chapman, performed by Dion Winton-Polak

Welcome to the second part of this month’s performed reading: Le Mort Vivant. Fleeing the hypnotic Violet, our monstrous youth returns to the questionable safety of home. Confronted by a scene of bloody murder, he finds the net closing in on all sides. Can he protect the girl from his mother? Is the mysterious stranger really his father? Can anything be salvaged from the conflagration? This is the conclusion of Steven Chapman’s secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. (Oh, and here’s the link to part 1 in case you missed it.)

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Le Mort Vivant, pt1 – a performed reading

Mask of The Phantom reflected in water and flame

This month’s performed reading is Le Mort Vivant, by Steven Chapman. It’s the tale of a monstrous youth. Hiding in the shadows of the Palais Garnier, a masked figure looks longingly at a world he’s forbidden to touch—until he chances upon a precocious girl at the heart of his lair, and a ghastly family secret. Yes – this is the secret origin of The Phantom of the Opera in all its tragic glory. The story is longer than usual, so I’ve taken the decision to split it in two, breaking off at an appropriate point. Fear not, pt2 will arrive next week, so you won’t have to wait long.

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The Minotaur (Finding Me, part 2)

Minotaur in the labyrinth

It’s a funny old business, life. Some people seem set up, right from the start. They know who they are, what they are, and how to get along. Some folk even seem to know what the future holds for them – or at least they have firm plans. I was a late starter; blinking, dazed, and unsure of myself. University gave me independence and self-confidence, my girlfriend gave me love and companionship, and I thought that was all I’d need. It was stability, but I still hadn’t found ‘me’. Not yet.

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