Editing really, really bad words. Really.

You cannot imagine how useful I found the article, Very and Other Useless Words to Erase Forever from writerscircle.com. The overused words listed in it are:

  1. Very/really
  2. Suddenly
  3. Amazing/awesome
  4. That
  5. Started

This taught me that I really, really have a problem with my manuscript. No, really. I swear, really.


It’s important to realize that the first draft is going to be the worst version of your book. I’m writing a space opera, so it’s got lotsa words in it, but I had no idea how many of them were useless words.

You see, I write a little, read, reflect, then write some more. That’s just my way. I spent 20 years as a technical writer, so I thought my creative writing skills would still follow the rules of best practices. After reading this article, I discovered that I know how to follow editing rules for most technical writing situations, but not so much for the book-writin’. In fact, I went through the list of useless words in this article and was shocked to find out how many times I included them. My worst culprit was really. It really, really was. In fact, I think I should attach a device to my temples that will give me an electric shock every time I write really again. (Really—BUZZZZ!) It’s embarrassing to admit, but really appeared in my unfinished manuscript hundreds of times.

We writers need to remember that [editors] are primarily here to help us and not criticize us.

After I stopped blushing over my atrocious skills, I went through the manuscript and corrected the sentences. You know what? Rewriting them made them so slick. It was just like how editors’ comments back in the day made my technical writing tighter and easier to read. I have the greatest respect for editors. They actually love the written word and want it to look its best. We writers need to remember that they are primarily here to help and to not criticize us.

I still don’t know if I’m going the traditional publishing route or if I’ll forge on as an indie author. I might lean toward the latter option because I’d like to walk through each step of the writing process to keep learning best practices and to understand what makes a professional product. (Yes, my artist’s hat just flew off, replaced by my businesswoman’s fedora.)

Part of my education is to eat humble pie with two forks at once, so I can take constructive advice. I want my chapters to sing. If you don’t like my book, I want it to be because it’s not to your taste, not because it seems amateurish and rushed.

If you’re writing your first novel, or your 20th, take a peek at this article to see how well you score. It’s OK, you don’t have to tell me the results. And if you do, I really, really, really, really, promise not to breathe a word. Not even a useless word. 😉

Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. 


My first reading. Sort of.

“And later, you can give us a reading of your book,” enthusiastically said Almost Author’s husband, much to her terror.

readingI gave my first reading. Sort of. There was only an audience of four, and I was related to them, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. We went to see our parents for Easter, hubster and I, and Bruce suggested that I read the first chapter of my book after supper. I was incredibly nervous. My mother-in-law and my parents are in their 70s, and not really readers of fantasy or bonker-silly fantasy, like I’m writing. You would think that because it was family, I’d be relaxed, but I wasn’t. I was nearly apoplectic.

A little background. I am a singer and musician. I’ve performed in front of hundreds of people, even original songs. I’m comfortable being in front of an audience. This was different. Reading a novel is way different from singing a song I composed. Maybe it’s because I can hide in the comfort of my instrument and melody for a song. Sharing my book was not like being physically stark naked, but like my soul was naked!

The hubster had everyone sit down and I walked into the room and he said, “You’re on. You have a captive audience!” Normally extroverted and expressive, I felt at once like I wanted to hide inside a couch fort. Maybe I am more like my protagonist that I realized. Thanks, Virj, you’ve made me an introvert. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

It was either sink or swim, so I started reading my chapter and metaphorically flapped my limbs in the pool of adventure. Poetic, eh? I like words. To my immense relief, they laughed. Then they laughed some more. In all the right places, they laughed. At the end, my mother-in-law clapped. That was nice. My Ma told me I was imaginative. That’s as great to hear when you’re 45 as when you’re 5. Gosh, where would we be without our mothers? The men in the room, my Da and my hubster, just smiled and looked proud. Even silence done with style lifts the spirit.

Chapter 1 of Life in the ‘Cosm is what I’d previously considered reading in public. I hadn’t spoken any of those words out loud to anyone before last Easter. I learned a few things from that experience, too. I am a performer, and I should use those skills to act out the dialogue. I mean, I know what the characters sound like, so why not?

Funny, you absorb all these tips about inflection and writing notes in the margins, but actually giving a reading, even to an audience of four, brings it all home. And then some. I’m really looking forward to doing it one day in a book store or event.

It should go well.

My Ma thinks I’m cool.


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.


Listen to your book. Literally.

I’ve written about this before, but after going through the exercise several times, I had to say it again. There is nothing like listening to someone else read your writing to you. I find it does the following:

  • Lets you know if your story flows from one chapter to the next.
  • Validates the rhythm of your dialogue.
  • Catches typos you’ve missed a thousand times because your eyes can’t notice them anymore.
  • Gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling when you’re wrapped in a furry blankie.

listentobookSometimes I read my work out loud just after I’ve composed some dialogue or a paragraph I’m unsure of, but when I really want to sanity-check my work, I let Celia read to me. Celia is the nickname I give to the English-accented voice on my Google phone. I convert my MS Word document to an epub format, then use the Read Aloud feature on Google Play Books. Update: I also use ChromeVox on my Chromebook, on the Accessibility menu. 

Listening to a voice that isn’t mine—or doesn’t belong anyone else I know—really forces me to pay attention. I also read along on my Chromebook (yes, I’m googly for Google) and that helps me catch what doesn’t work. I’ll pause, edit a bit, and then let Celia continue on.

Right now, I’m about three chapters away from finishing the rough draft of my 30-chapter novel. I’m listening to the 27 chapters I’ve written so far, before finishing it up. After that, I’ll search for more bad words (See: Editing really, really bad words. Really. ), listen to the old book again, and, squee, hand it off to the beta readers!

I really encourage you to hear what your writing sounds like. This is where technology really comes in handy, if you don’t have a patient friend to do it for you. I am finding this exercise invaluable.

Enjoy the journey and happy listening!


My novel is no longer in its teens!

Yup, just took Life in the ‘Cosm out of its teens and into its 20s. I’ve just drafted Chapter 20 and am headed for Chapter 21. Over 88 000 words now, and counting. I am amazed that a project that started out as a distraction from the symptoms of Fibromyalgia has turned into a story for which I care very deeply.21! Har-har hardy-har-har...

I didn’t realize that this quirky tale would end up turning into a sort of love note for the LGBT people who have been my support system these past 2.5 years. Sure, it’s a fantasy tale of beings from another galaxy, but there are some very real feelings in there that I relay. My characters that are wibbly-wobbly gendery-wendery or gay show a dignity, care, and loyalty to my protagonist that I suppose reflects how I regard my friends in real life. Of course none of the characters are exactly like someone I know, because it is truly a work of fiction, but it’s amazing how I can read something I wrote and trigger off a positive emotion I have for someone I know. Is it a metaphor? Nooo, Cait, it’s a book… (said in a dippy voice).

I am a Christian, so my spiritual life is a big part of me. It’s interesting to see how I express what I love about people of faith and what I detest about religious bullies. That’s something I have to deal with in real life all the time. I fully expect that I’ll be bombarded by Christians who’ll say I’m not a real Christian (if they bother to read this book), but I don’t care about that. I love my Jesus, and I’m doing my best to try and love people the way He does. I cannot deny that there are people from all races, backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations who have been gracious and kind to me. And I pray I can return to them the grace they’ve shown me.

In the meantime, I’m all SQUEEE about heading into chapter 21. This has been an amazing ride, like I keep saying. Onwards I go!


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.

pink watch

Misadventures in smartwatching

My friends on Facebook must be rolling their eyes at me because of the smart watch trials I am currently facing. Oh yes, this is a heightened tragedy of our time, I know…
pink watchBut in my upcoming book, one of my characters has a pink smartwatch and it can do different things, like making annoying sounds that wake people up at night. I decided that I wanted one in real life. I also wanted it to be pink. So, I looked for the Pebble in pink, but they were sold out of their special edition ones. Then I looked at Amazon, and found a really adorable one. It makes calls, has an SMS feature, and even takes photos and videos. It was really cool and it was pink. It wasn’t a known brand, it was inexpensive, and I was excited about getting it.

However, I had no idea how long shipping can take from the other side of the world, but my impatience was probably due to my anticipation. When it arrived after several weeks, I thought it was very cute and it kinda sorta fit my very small-boned wrist.

Then came configuring the thing. God bless the translators, because it isn’t always easy to localize text into English, and I smiled fondly at the use of intelligent phone instead of smart phone. I thought it sounded classier, anyhow. But there were two built-in apps for Bluetooth and I was going mad trying one, then the other, then trying to shut one off, and wondered if I shut it off correctly, and then tried the other. After hours, yes hours, somehow it worked. Yay! I could make phone calls.

So, then the SMS. I just needed to download their app and connect to my watch from my phone. Easy peasy. I saw the device name on the list of Bluetooth devices, clicked it, and then nothing worked. I discovered the SMS feature only went to android 4.0. I am on 5.0. Apparently this was clearly stated on the advert, so I suppose my perimenopausal mind missed that one. Oh well, I still had the phone feature, and the camera feature.

But I started thinking, I’m not really satisfied. I had written the vendor a few times, and they were super friendly, but they couldn’t accept a return about the SMS. (I also felt it was a bit heavy on my wrist. My joints can be sensitive.)

I decided what the hay, I’ll keep it. It’s still adorable. Even if I can’t text with it. Having a watch as a phone and camera is awesome.

So, I decided to charge it and transfer some songs onto it. Oh yeah, it plays songs, too. The moment I plugged in the USB adaptor, the adaptor broke. Yeah, that really happened. It’s not a standard adaptor, so I was screwed.

I wrote the vendor again early this morning. They are probably going to think this Canadian is a bit loopy. But I’m not making any of this up. At the time of writing, I haven’t heard back but that’s probably just a time difference thing. They are typically very responsive.

Lesson learned, though: buy from a local shop. Buy a brand you know.

I really hope I get a new USB adaptor. Stay tuned!

Update: They did send me the adaptor and were great about it. 🙂


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.

We interrupt the writing of this novel to bring you this message

Authors, you know what it’s like when you’re on a roll, writing for months with such zeal that your keyboard catches fire? Then suddenly, WHAM, life gets in your way. Distractions steal your time–other projects, people, work, the neighbour’s kid’s rock band needing a drummer–but never fear! This happens to everyone apparently, and all you have to do is plant your digits on your wee laptop and continue where you left off! Easy as pie. (Mmm…pie.)

I had a nice and steady pace from May to September with writing Life in the ‘Cosm, and then October hit. I started preparing for my first craft show the following November. That’s right, I love playing with paper and running with scissors. Cait Cards is my craft business (caitcards.com). When I wasn’t working for my Web clients or my part-time employer, I was cutting, stamping, gluing, and fretting over the craft show. I had a great time of it in the end, but my writing suffered.

cheeky alien
I really didn’t mean to give this alien such a pervy smile.

And getting back into it has been challenging. Because it’s November, in Ottawa, in Canada, and it’s cold, I’ve had a cold, and I’ve been pooped! All I’ve done is picked at chapter 18 for a few weeks, just a few sentences at a time, mostly in a cab on my cell. Right now I think I have a skeletal draft of it, so I need to look at it this week, clean it up, and have Celia (my British Google voice) read it to me.

I’m starting to realize that I need to think about how to wind down the story. I’ve really been enjoying the ride and I think I’ll feel a little sad when it’s over. I’ve become attached to my characters. Is that a thing?

Because my book is not really mainstream, I think I’ll self-publish, but that’s for another discussion, and months away. I keep saying to myself, “Stop thinking about publishing. You need to complete the story!”

2015 should be a very exciting year. At least I hope so. I already have ideas for another book, so this might be a very cool chapter in my life. Writing really brings me joy. If something makes you feel that, then you gotta keep doing it, right?

We now continue with our regularly scheduled book-scribing.


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.

25 Years Sober!

From chapter 13 of Life in the ‘Cosm, by lil’ ol’ me.

Yesterday on November 10, 2014, I celebrated the 25th anniversary of being sober. I started drinking very heavily at 17, and by 20, I knew I really had a problem. Parents reading this, take note, teens can be alcoholics. Not all of us are “just going through a phase.”

I have no concept of what it means to have a “lovely wine that goes so well with this fish”, or a nice drink in front of the fire while I chat with my best friend. I only drank to get drunk. I only drank to self-medicate. I drank alone. I even hid my drinking by pouring Koolaid into my glass to disguise it. I drank destructively.

On November 10, 1989, I told my then boyfriend (my now husband) and my best lady friend that I had a problem and I needed to stop. And miraculously, I did. I’ve never been to a 12-step program, but somehow, organically, I did the 12 steps. However, knowing what I know now, I would recommend going to a support group. It would have been much easier on me if I did. To this day, I always know where I can get to an AA meeting if I need one. It’s so important to get the help you need. Don’t hesitate!

25yearsIn my upcoming book, Life in the ‘Cosm, I playfully write about two characters accidentally getting drunk. I don’t think I could have done that chapter many years ago, because I only saw booze as EVIL!!! But I understand now that there are many people, including my husband, who drink responsibly and sparingly. I can divorce myself from the ugliness of alcohol to write a very silly chapter. Yet, I do show in ‘Cosm what happens if you just gulp down anything that’s in front of you, especially on an alien world. There are always consequences to a lack of good judgment. Virj finds that out in a hurry.

Sure, I’m proud to have come this far. 25 years is a long time, but I couldn’t get there without remembering that I do have a problem for life, and every single day I need to make the choice not to drink. I admit, it’s much easier not to drink today, but you’d be surprised how temptation can randomly smack me upside the head. Just months before I hit 20 years sober, I had to flee from a restaurant, because I was overwhelmed by the urge. I was so surprised by the craving, but it did pass. It was a sober reminder that addiction never goes away, pun not intended.

Thankfully, I feel very content, mentally and spiritually, and that helps so much. It’s so important to pursue one’s passions. And cupcakes. It’s so important to pursue them, too.  (I’m not kidding, my cupcake timer actually just went off as I typed this sentence.)

To those of you battling addiction, or living with those who are, I salute you. You can come out the other end and live a life of peace. My sincere prayer is that you do. Many blessings upon you!

Thanks for reading!


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.

Help, help, my writing is crap!!!

badwriterSo, a couple of days ago, I went back to the beginning of my manuscript and started to read it again. I got a few chapters in and totally freaked out. I mean, I went into a state of paler-than-white panic and screamed inside myself, “MY WRITING IS CRAP! MY BOOK IS CRAP! I’M A TERRIBLE WRITER!”

Yeah, so I went there. In a Ferrari, with both feet on the gas pedal.

Then yesterday, I returned to the offending chapter, and realized all I had to do was fill out my paragraphs so my style of narrative was consistent. It really wasn’t a big deal at all. Now, I am motivated to continue the story.

But why did I flip my wig?

Apparently, this is a common condition for authors, and even almost-authors like myself. Just growing pains that one goes through when putting a story together. So far, I had been immersed in happy-wordsmith-wonderland and did not experience the lows of writing. After speaking with another author yesterday, it seems I’m a perfectly normal abnormal writer. I breathed a sigh of relief.

And now I have to press on with my mantra:

  1. Write to please myself.
  2. Have fun.
  3. Have fun.
  4. Have fun.

It seems to me that writing a book is like entering a new relationship. There’s the honeymoon phase, the doubting phase, the make-up sex phase, and the comfortable sigh of relief phase, knowing you’re a part of each other.

Now excuse me while I have make-up sex with my book.

What? It’s a metaphor. Sheesh, you people.


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.

17 Chapters, 73 000 words, and counting!

Yes, it’s me, the newbie, all excited to be past 70 000 words now.

I find that I am learning a few things this time around with writing a novel:

  1. Have fun.
  2. After each chapter, have it read aloud.
  3. Keep having fun.

When I was in my 20s, I was so serious about wanting to be a writer. Actually, I am still passionate about publishing my first book, but I am not as serious. I am having a great time! I’m not trying to impress anyone and I think it is making my writing better. I am actually writing this book for me!

It sounds selfish but I think most art should be. When an artists paint from their imagination, they don’t think about who will like the piece, they just create! I want to write something where I am completely unfettered by outline, schedule, or what everyone would think. Yes, I would be an idiot if I didn’t want people to like the book; I’d be ecstatic if they loved it! I just don’t want anyone’s opinion hanging over my shoulder as I develop the story, like some big dark cloud of potential disapproval. I just want to write.

Splot, from how I used to draw him in my cartoon from the 90s.
Splot, from how I used to draw him in my cartoon from the 90s.

I’ve now reached that magic place where I’ve fallen in love with my characters, and will be sad not to write about them when the story ends. It will be like saying goodbye to fast friends I made at summer camp!

At 17 chapters, I find it’s time to sit back and let Celia—what I named the  British voice in my Google phone that reads e-books to me—take me from the beginning of the story until this point. I want to make sure there is a coherence in my style of humorous fantasy, and I hope to catch anything that doesn’t make sense. This very loose way of writing really works for me, because I have to be so structured in my paying jobs. The novel is my unstructured play, and it is so good for my mood and mind as a whole.

However, the biggest lesson I’ve discovered from my story is that I might need a 12-step program for dessert consumption. Yeah, I mean it. I’m starting to call my tummy Virj Belly.

But you know, cupcakes. Exactly.

Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.


Do authors have multiple personalities? Asking for a friend.

“A voluminous litany of curse words spewed from her mouth, all of which would have made hardened criminals on death row blush like nuns.”

~ from, Life in the ‘Cosm, by Cait Gordon

My husband is my first beta-reader. Yeah, I know, you are probably thinking this is as bad as my asking him to teach me how to drive. But because we’ve been musicians together for years, we’re used to criticizing each other to within an inch of our lives artistically, and then snogging it up afterwards as if nothing happened. Not many people have understood that our hot-headedness is just related to the desire to make something better creatively, and it’s not a reflection of what we think of each other.

Bruce is the one of two people who are reading the book as I develop it. My future beta readers can tear the finished manuscript to death afterwards. 🙂 I spent many years as a technical writer, and am used to bullet holes going through my work. However, this will be an interesting challenge, because it’s a book, and not a user guide about how to configure an SSL appliance.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that whenever I have tried to write a story, I cannot represent myself fully through only one character. In LITC,  there is one in particular who my close friends will recognize as embodying my personality: an extroverted, giggly, silly, and hot-tempered person. The quote above is a reaction of hers.

Yet, Virj is my protagonist, who is an introvert. One of my friends nearly had a heart attack when I said my lead character is an introvert. But even though the majority of my friends are introverts, and I have learned to understand their reality, there are certain things about Virj that I get. I, too, just want to be alone to decompress, write, and shut out the world. Maybe in my case I do it to recover, because of fibro, but the feelings are there. There are other things about Virj that resonate with me, too. Like, looking for love in the wrong places and not trusting to embrace the people who really love me. I have insecurities that try to obstruct my friendships, and I have to push through those and celebrate the people in my life, and be grateful for them!

Even  Xax and Viv, Virj’s Dads, who own a high-end hair salon in the Delta Mews Business park–I get their desire to be parents, and how they can love someone who isn’t biologically theirs, with a fierceness, loyalty, and over-protectiveness. (Ooo, I haven’t mentioned them yet, have I? TEASER!)

Obviously, the book is complete fiction, and any resemblance to anyone, anything, anywhere, from any time-space continuum is a coincidence, but I think authors do put their own reactions in their writing from time to time. For example, I have strong feelings about religious bullying, and I found it easier to express them through a scene in the book, rather than writing a standard blog article.  Maybe because I’m a Celt, and we prefer to tell stories; who knows?

In any case, I can see my Cait-isms pop up obviously or subtly all over the place. If I ever did a fantasy fiction truly based on me, I think I would need at least 12 characters to capture me. I’ve always known that my personality was multi-faceted. People have tried to typecast me and label me before, and then I would do something that broke their boxed-in view of me. I suppose I am a very free and fluid spirit, and I like to learn and grow continually.

I hope I never become so narrow as to be that easy to predict. Unless of course you predict that I’ll be unpredictable. Then that’s OK.

Enough about me for today. What do you think of me? 😉


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.