Most Used Words

words photo

My goodness. I am shocked. Seriously shocked.

Having finished this novel (first in a series), I thought I might run it through an online word counting tool. This one. I was curious to see which words I used the most, and if I needed to tweak my prose.


Yes, I needed to tweak it.

Apart from various important words used for grammar constructs (and, the, etc), and names and pronouns (very high, so high I will probably have to tweak that), I found my most common words were:

Up (!)





Ugh. In one paragraph I had the word ‘now’ three times. Three! How had I never seen this? In some chapters I have a higher than normal usage of certain words like table (lol, table!) and, nerd that I am, I have written down for every single chapter the most used words. I have spent the last three days rooting through and eliminating these words where they are unnecessary, and getting the thesaurus out when they are.

It’s been a fascinating eye-opener to how my subconscious strings sentences together. If you have a novel that is ‘finished’ I highly recommend using this tool. It’s free, and fun, if you like analysing stuff. DO NOT use this if you haven’t finished the novel, else you will never stop editing. Seriously.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?

What's in a Name?

Apparently, as I’ve been finding out, a lot.

As authors, we often like to use a pen name. And this requires a lot of thought, since the name is, or will become, part of your identity, part of who other people think you are and can say a lot about not only where you come from, but also the kind of person you are.

Many of our surnames, as this article in the Daily Mail explains, come from medieval times. For example, if your ancestors made candles, your surname may well reflect that – Chandler. Or consider Smith. Wheelwright. Baker.

Or the surname can reflect some characteristic of that long-gone ancestor – Hart, meaning Stag; Belcher (no, not someone who burps a lot), meaning fair, or lovely face; then there’s Dolittle, meaning lazy …

Do you know the meaning of your own name? If so, do you like it, and does it say anything about you as a person?

My name is Louise. In French, this means “Renowned Warrior”. Not just this but also, according to NameBerry, ‘Louise’ has been regarded as having to do with competency, studiousness and efficiency. These two definitions don’t seem to have much to do with each other, but a renowned warrior must be competent, must be efficient. My other name, my real first name, means something almost completely the opposite. Ha. Though I am not efficient, or consider myself a renowned warrior (!), I find aspects of both my names fit me.

I find, when writing historical, I look for names with deeper meanings. The name of my MMC is Egon, which means Blade/Fire, depending if you’re looking at the Germanic meaning or Celtic. He has a fiery temperament and also used a dagger to kill two people. Egon is also a twin, so I wanted the twin to have the same name, or name meaning, with a difference to show how the twins are similar in some ways and very different in others – so I called him Adin, which means born of fire in Celtic, or handsome and pleasure-bringer in Hebrew. Both of these names fit these guys to a T. It took me a long time, but I couldn’t imagine them having any other name now.

When I’m writing contemporary, I look for names I like. I was thinking about this yesterday. If I just pick a name out of a hat, so to speak, does that mean my contemporary characters are not as deep as my historical ones? It’s something to think about for me.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a name:

Find names that suit the characters. Do you want a male romance lead to be called Bill, or Billy? Hm. Maybe some of you might, but it doesn’t have that ring of ‘tall, dark and handsome’ for me:D

  • Maybe make use of alliteration (E.G. Severus Snape, the repetitive ‘s’ and his surname all sound like snakes and hissing).
  • Make sure your character names are not all using the same letter of the alphabet. (This might sound obvious but I find, when first writing something new, most of my names begin with A, lol).
  • Make sure that a reader can ‘sound’ them properly in their heads, that the name isn’t a tongue twister like Maximillian Fungustosian.
  • Make sure your names have a variety of length and syllables.
  • When choosing a name, research all the different meanings there are in the different languages. Granted, some names have similar meanings in most languages – Alexander, eg – but others have a plethora of meanings and this can be a treasure trove when characterising your leads, especially if some seem to contradict each other.

So there are a few things to think about. Names might come easy to you, but for many, like me, it’s like removing a feather from thick mud.

Good resources for finding names:

Baby names websites (obvious)


Film credits

Friends and family

Your school year list

Non-fiction books – open up a book on architecture, or fashion, for example. Have a look at the names and play around with them, mix and match, change first and last letters of first names, etc.

Look at maps. Many place names, street names, names of rivers can be used etc.

Look at parliamentary records, or church records. These are rich resources for names, especially historical.

A name generator can be lots of fun…

Also, if you look at various genealogy websites, they list, in alphabetical order, thousands of surnames. Pick a letter and off you hunt. I used one recently, worked a treat.

If you are looking for names from other parts of the world (since the world is not just the UK and America), then baby name website have a great many suggestions.

Great resources for historical names that I’ve found:

13th century names

Dictionary of British Feminine names

What’s behind a name?

Anglo-Saxon names

British Surnames

There are loads more out there; if you know any, post a comment with the link, thank you:)

Sentinel of the Seas

lighthouse photo

The day is waning. Along the horizon, below the slate-grey bank of cloud, the sash of fiery orange glows brighter. The light orb appears, its white-hot heat ebbing into the cool evening, like the tide receding before me.

The sun sinks further, drawing a coral path over the sea, painting the smooth wet sand with blood red tones that fade to a slumbering violet on the shaded ridges.

Reverberations echo within. The warm being is climbing the steps. Round and round. He reaches the lantern room and pauses. I feel him become small for a moment, and listen to the panting breaths. If I concentrate, I am able to breathe with him as the air grows tight and cold and the stone dissipates the day’s accumulated warmth.

The being stretches tall and moves around; touching here, polishing there. Sounds burst from him, like the tweeting of a bird.

Do not awaken the dawn. Not yet. I draw in to myself, and hear a crack from the wooden railing.

The tweeting ceases. The door opens and the being comes outside. He sniffs. The wooden rail trembles beneath his hand. “Well, my lady, this is it, huh?”


The paint is peeling from my body and soon I will be useless, left for the birds to besmirch; the glass at first chipped, then slowly shattered as rocks are endlessly hurled by the sea. I am no lady, more a battered, disease-ridden crone.

“I’ll light ’er up then.”

I brace myself but he closes the door gently. I will miss the slam that ricochets to the ground and makes me tremble.

The next moment a stunning beam of light hits the waters. This time it’s me splashing a path over the ocean. I am queen when the king of the day sleeps.

Yet no longer; this is my last eventide as the sentinel of the seas.

The sun slips beyond the day, and darkness flows after the path of the beam, only to flee when my light chases back.

I wish for a crashing storm to mark the passing of my significance, a furious tempest; it would be a more fitting rite than the quiescence my eye beholds.

A light fog condenses just before dawn, but the ray cuts through the mist, strong, faithful. The air changes, softens. Birds awaken, and invite Aurora with their songs.

Below, the old wooden door slams shut. A shudder shakes my body; the light wavers a moment, then returns true. The warm being climbs slower today, his steps discrepant. He has lived long, but I, longer.

And now, after a century of exemplary service, my wide beacon will be extinguished, like a candle in a puff of wind.

Black greys into a muffling mist. He flicks the switch.

The world lives on, yet I am neither alive nor dead. I am nothing. Without a purpose. Invisible.

The being steps out and leans on the railing. Warmth curls around the wood. A finger of smoke lifts and snaps the freshness of the air.

“Hnh. Didn’t expect them so early.” He grinds the hot twig into the stone beneath his foot. “Come to watch the whales. That’s our job now, my lady.”

The sun lifts further. For a moment, the drops of moisture sparkle; iridescent rainbow shimmers that hover in the air until they burst, their colours coalescing into a brilliant white.

Warm beings swarm up inside. They lean on the rail, whispering, pointing. Then a squawk. “Look, a whale! There!”

My stone warms and expands; settles.

So this is who I have become.

Still sentinel of the seas.




“We are not to do evil, that good may come,”

is a line from the Elizabeth Gaskell book ‘Ruth’. I finished it yesterday and this is the line that sticks with me.

The novel is about a young orphan girl, Ruth (working as a dressmaker’s apprentice).

ballroom photo
Photo by State Library of Queensland, Australia


She meets a wealthy aristocratic young man, Mr Bellingham, at a ball where she must mend rips and tears in the dresses of the the young ladies who attend. Her employer, Mrs Mason, is a tough, strict lady, and when Mrs Mason sees Ruth walking with Mr Bellingham she tells the young girl never to return. Cast-off like a cast-off, Ruth allows herself to be persuaded to go away with Mr Bellingham and is, consequently, ruined.

When Bellingham falls ill in a Welsh Inn and his mother arrives to take him home, Ruth is once more cast-off – and pregnant, but this time a Dissident Minister and his sister, Mr and Miss Benson, take pity on her and persuade her to return with them, under the guise of new widow.

Mr Benson is concerned not just with the law of the land, but also with what Jesus would do, and is persuaded by his sister to let the townsfolk believe Ruth is a widowed relation of theirs and thus the deception begins. Once the truth is out, the effects are, at first, devastating for Ruth and her son, Leonard, and the Minister wonders if they should have spoken the truth from the outset.

When politics comes to the town, and one man suggests using the weaknesses of other men to forward their own purposes, Benson says: “We are not to do evil, that good may come,”.

This stuck with me, and reminded me of that saying “You’ve got to be cruel to be kind.” I’ve never liked this saying and believe there is always a way of doing things that does not have to be cruel.

When we shrug and tell ourselves, “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind”, we are justifying the means.

Yet there is the question of the greater good. Should we agree to the bombing of a city to kill lots of militants when we know innocents will be killed?

Can cruel means ever be justified?

“We are not to do evil, that good may come,”.

Can good results ever come from evil deeds?

It’s all to easy to think the end justifies the means sometimes, but does it?

Certainly got me thinking.


‘To Be?’ That is NOT the question…


to be photo

There is usually a lot of discussion on writers’ forums about the use of the verb ‘To Be’.

So often people say, “Don’t use ‘was’.” Why not? Because it’s weak. Well, it’s only a weak verb if used inappropriately. Its function as a verb in the right place is invaluable.

The verb ‘to be’ is a linking verb showing existence, or the condition of the subject (also used as an auxiliary verb when forming the passive, but I’m not going there now!!).

So we get sentences like this:

It is raining.
My mother is a pilot.
The soup is very tasty.

All of these are statements telling us how, or what, something is. Imagine those sentences in a novel.

boring photo

Awful. Unimaginative. Boring.

And this is why so many people want to avoid this verb.


Look at the following as an example of how the verb can be used (scene of a murder):

“There was a thin strip of cloth leading from the belly to the pubis, like an arrow showing the way.

Notice I didn’t write it like this:

“There was a thin strip of cloth leading from the belly to the pubis.”

In the second example we have a statement of what/how something is. In a novel, that doesn’t do much for the reader by itself. It is boring. So what that there’s a thin strip of cloth. So, we add something, a little extra to tease the reader’s imagination.


“….like an arrow showing the way.”

This is the part that (should ) tease the reader’s imagination. An arrow? What does that mean, what does it signify? These are questions you want to raise in the reader’s mind.

Writing is about telling a story, building a picture. In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, his famous beginning repeats the use of ‘It was’ several times, and he intended it this way. Not only does the repetition bring rhythm to the paragraph, he is building a picture using superlatives because that is his point. When you read the paragraph, or say it aloud, the ‘it was’ fades into the background, almost like it’s not there.

And that’s what we need to do with any sentence we have using the verb ‘to be’. The verb needs to point towards something important, something that grabs the reader’s attention so that the verb itself recedes into the background.


The verb ‘to be’ is a telling verb. It tells the reader something. We use it in everyday speech to tell others something about ourselves, someone else, the weather… etc

“I’m so happy!” Clara bounced around the room …

If I just wrote “Clara bounced around the room” the reader would likely need something else, another clue, as to Clara’s state of being. She’s bouncing? Why? Has she been bitten?

We can tell a lot from context, but sometimes it is better to tell the reader immediately so the picture is clear.

Sometimes a tell then a show works much better than just a show.

Sometimes I read sentences and it takes me a minute or two to decipher what the author is telling me because they are showing too much and I just want to be told. Especially with emotions. Someone bites their lip. Are they nervous? Shy? Annoyed? etc. A quick tell can accomplish much, but is better when accompanied by a show. Why? Because that tell disappears. Our brains have absorbed the tell, we know what the state of something/someone is, and now we’re looking at the show.

If you use the verb ‘to be’, make sure it gets lost. Make sure it disappears into the background by what the rest of the sentence is saying.

You don’t want readers to notice words that are there or not there. You want readers to absorb the words so the story is foremost in their mind, so that questions get asked. If a reader persistently trips over words because they are not used well, or not there when they should be, or the sentence is not written in a way that the meaning is communicated instantly, you can lose the reader.

Words are our tools. Know what each word does, know what it does in relation to other words, understand context. This is what I’m learning…