What does it mean?

Many of us recognise the Verbatim as the name of a company which produces memory and media storage products. The term act719083ually means ‘word for word,’ or ‘direct quotation.’


Verbatim comes from Medieval Latin, with its earliest recorded use in the late 15th century. It comes from the Latin ‘verbum,’ which, in the singular, means ‘word.’ In the plural, it refers to general speech.

Improper use

‘Verbatim’ is perhaps not as common in everyday speech as some of the other Latin terms we have covered. It is more often used in a formal, scholarly or legal context, therefore improper everyday use is rare.

Proper use

It can be used in any sentence when describing a situation where speech has been copied word for word. It can also be used to describe a person who is able to copy speech or the written word perfectly. Some examples of its use would be:

‘I typed up his dictation verbatim, as requested.’
‘He copied her essay verbatim because he couldn’t write his own.’
‘He can remember and repeat everything you say verbatim. How clever!’

Stay tuned for more Latin expressions in modern use.

Self-publishing: how to get an ISBN number in the UK and the US

ISBNWhat is an ISBN number?                                  

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and every book has one. It is a 13 digit number which uniquely identifies the title, edition and format.

So, how do I get one?

The answer to this question depends on whether you want to register a book in the UK or the United States. To register in the UK, you will need to register with a company called Nielsens. In the US, Bowker are the company you’ll need to approach.

Bowker will sell you a single ISBN number for $125. This sounds pricey, but you can also buy a collection of ISBN numbers in bulk for a lot less. If you do this, the price can go down to less than $1 dollar per number.

Nielsens in the UK will not sell you less than 10 ISBN numbers at a time. It will cost you 125 GBP for ten numbers, which compares very well with a single number in the States! Again, buying ISBN numbers in bulk will save you money, and some packages will bring the price down to less then 1 GBP per book. If you produce a paperback in the UK, you will need to file six library copies with various ISBN agencies around the UK, so bear this in mind when buying.

Buying in bulk sounds like the best option. Would it be wise to have more than one ISBN number?

Yes, for two reasons – 1. if you have self-published or are planning to self publish several books, or 2. if your book(s) are going to be available in more than one format. Each format of your book will need a new ISBN number, whether that be mobipocket, hardback, paperback etc – if it’s a new edition, it will need a new IBSN number. Simple.

We hope this advice was helpful to anybody who may be looking to self-publish. Remember, we ourselves offer a range of services for self-publishers that may be useful. For more information on this, return to our homepage:

How to write a good villain

625063A villain is important to the plot of many stories. This might be a supernatural entity, or a seemingly average Joe with sociopathic tendencies. Which is right for your story? What will give your readers chills? Is your villain charismatic and charming alongside their evilness, or just downright detestable? And most importantly: how can you write these characters effectively?

Here are 4 tips to keep in mind when creating your villain.

What kind of villain are you portraying?

Is your villain ‘serial killer evil,’ or evil in the sense that they quietly manipulate and slowly destroy everyone around them? Remember, sometimes the most frightening people in our lives are right under our nose. Shakespeare’s Iago, Lionel Shriver’s Kevin Katchadourian, Julia Davies’ Jill Tyrrel; these villains appear charming, kind and relatively typical to the majority of people around them. Is it obvious to your readers that this character is actually a villain or will it be a secret until the very end when their crimes are revealed? Or will only your characters be in the dark, and your reader in the know all along?

Other types of villain make no secret to anybody of their terrible intentions. Think of The Joker. What about him is so successful? Is it the believability of his character or his audacity? Do you want, for lack of a better term, a more ‘in-yer-face’ villain?

Then we have our supernatural villains, such as Anne Rice’s Lestat. Although he is a vampire, he still has many features of the classic villain; charming, manipulative, self-serving, cold, etc. Don’t neglect your villain’s character just because they are not human, or let the ‘supernatural’ label do all the work. They still have to be gripping and effective.

Think about your favourite villains. What can you learn from them?

Who are your favourite villains and why do you love (or indeed, love to hate them) so much? A powerful villain has an effect on the reader like no other type of character. They are memorable, gripping, unpredictable, and have a tendency to haunt you long after you close the book. But why? Think about what it was about your favourite villains that had you so hooked. Was it their smooth, sociopathic charm? Were they so realistic that they made you think twice about some of the people around you? Or did they simply keep you guessing until the very end?

Born this way?

Like with all characters, think about your villain’s motivations. This is not the same as sympathising with them or justifying their actions. Is it an incurable mental illness that makes them behave the way they do? Did they have a troubled or abusive childhood? Did a traumatic event change them and make them evil? Or were they simply born that way? You might want to watch some crime documentaries for help here, particularly ones with a lot of psychology and behavioural analysis. This can help you on your way to building someone very believable and chilling.

And lastly… don’t be shy.

‘I can’t write this, it’s too horrible. People will think I’m sick! Nobody will want to read this!’

Forget about that. People have a natural morbid fascination, and like to be shocked. Why do you think controversial books sell so well? As long as your villain’s abhorrent actions fit with the character and your plot, you’re good to go. Think about it differently:

‘This is really horrible. If it shocks people, it means my work has made an impact, which is what I set out to do.’

Feel better now?

Have fun writing your villain, but don’t forget to take him or her seriously. Ask yourself questions about how realistic he or she is as you go along; make sure you are remaining true to the character you have created. And don’t let them get too far inside your head…

And vice versa…

854060What does it mean?

Vice versa means, quite literally as you’ll hear it used, ‘the other way round.’


Vice versa is a Latin term. It loosely translates to English as ‘position to turn.’ The first recorded use of it as part of the English language was as early as 1601.

Proper Use

The proper use of ‘vice versa’ is to describe something that is ‘the other way around,’ ‘likewise,’ ‘back to front,’ etc. A few examples would be:

‘She dislikes him, and vice versa.’

‘He got her a present for her birthday, and vice versa.’

‘Elephants can’t walk like humans can, and vice versa.’

Improper Use

Vice versa is used within the English language so commonly that it is rare to hear it misused in terms of meaning. The most common improper use of vice versa is the spelling; it is often misspelt, and mispronounced, ‘visa versa.’ It’s a mistake that’s easy to make in your writing, considering how regularly we hear or read it spelt this way. Be wary of it.

Finding time to write

643023In theory, writers love to write. In reality, it’s much more difficult than that.

Let’s face it: Writing is hard. Not only the act itself, but everything that comes with it; the frustration, distractions, dry spells of ideas and, of course, finding the time. This can often be the most difficult thing at all. Writing takes time; and in this world, none of us have very much of it.

Being a writer takes a great deal of commitment. The fact is, if you want the time to write, you have to make that time. If you wait for a ‘good moment’ to come along, you are going to be waiting for some time. The following are some tips on how to get yourself writing regularly, thus being more productive, and more satisfied with your output.

1. Stop procrastinating.

You might be having trouble finding time to write because you are giving other things that can wait priority. When you get a free couple of hours, thinking, ‘I could write now, but I need to rearrange my bookshelf/tidy my desk/vacuum my car’ isn’t good enough. These are things that can probably wait, and do not need to take priority over your valuable writing time. Making the excuse that you are ‘uninspired’ or ‘not in the mood’ isn’t good enough either. Give yourself a push. Sit down at your computer or notebook and just get started. Once you’ve got a couple of word down, you might find you can’t stop. If your apathy does remain, don’t give up on yourself. You can always try again tomorrow.

2. Start writing every day.

Though it’s certainly easier said than done, one sure-fire way to make sure you are more productive is to get into the habit of writing every day. It doesn’t have to be for long; a few words while you’re having a cup of coffee in the morning, or during your lunch break; whenever you find a spare moment. You might think that having such little time means that it isn’t worth writing anything, but only writing little bits and pieces will soon build up. Alternatively, decide that you are going to set aside half an hour, at the same time every day, to write. Stick to it. It might be hard at first, but a little self-discipline and motivation and you’ll find yourself sitting down at your set time every day automatically. Most importantly, enjoy it

3. Read regularly.

The best writers are the best readers. If you are not reading regularly, how do you expect to expand your vocabulary and pick up new techniques from other authors? Reading will always provide you with inspiration, which will make you want to write. It’s much easier to find time for something when you really want to do it.

4. Rearrange your schedule.

If you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, change it. Either go to bed an hour or so later and give yourself that extra time to write, and, if possible, sleep in for an extra hour in the morning. Or vice versa; go earlier and awaken earlier. Whichever works better. Sleep is important, of course, but small sacrifices and changes to your daily routine may need to be made, if you really want that precious time to write.

5. Don’t tell yourself that if you can’t write thousands of words every day, then it’s not worth writing at all.

This is completely untrue. Just 500 words a day will keep your writing skills sharp, and, every day, you will feel a sense of accomplishment at getting something written. Over time, these small amounts will add up. True, it might not be possible for you to be as productive as somebody who has all the time in the world to write; but just remember, few of us are lucky enough to have that time. Most well-known writers, past and present, had or have day jobs. If they found the time to write their masterpieces, then so can you.

Finding time to write is just as much about making yourself write as it is making yourself want to write. If being a successful writer is your dream, you can’t just wait for the right time. You have to make it happen.

Is an Ivory Tower a des res?

Ivory Tower - 1It’s an evocative image, a tower made out of milky white ivory, too high and too slippery to assail and with a distant and distorted view of the world below it. A great many writers have inhabited one or perhaps, more to the point, been accused of inhabiting one. But what effect does residence in an ivory tower have on a writer’s output?

It would be tempting just to look at the negative. A writer in an ivory tower is out of touch with the real world; he or she doesn’t walk the streets and talk the talk; they’re devoid of passion; their work is out of date and ultimately irrelevant.

So what do they actually write about? The answer is: all kinds of things. The human imagination is immensely fertile and some of the best works of literature have very little to do with mundane reality. No writer, not even one whose writing desk is behind ivory crenellations, is devoid of experience, feelings and opinions. If he or she writes about lofty matters it may not be that they’re incapable of understanding the current concerns of fellow humanity.

Writing isn’t necessarily a newspaper. Very often inspiration springs from cold, pure sources and is subsequently crafted to aesthetic perfection. This is particularly true of poetry, one of whose functions is to be uplifting.

It’s probably true to say that the smaller, sharper and least wide-reaching of works are the easiest to produce from an ivory tower. A great sprawling novel, depicting the best and worst of humanity and the setting within which they interact, is of its very essence an excrescence from the world’s surface.

But what about fantasy novels? Inventing a whole world in all its details is a cerebral activity, well suited to a state of isolation. But as soon as it has red-blooded, human characters, the walls of the tower begin to crumble.

Labelling someone as living in an ivory tower is usually an insult. But there is certainly a place, and a hallowed place, for works written in such circumstances. Sometimes writing ought not to reflect reality but instead should imitate the ideals for which we strive with our most exalted faculties.

The joy of being evil


Evenin’ all – those were the days, eh?

I actually got the idea for this post from Kristin Scott Thomas’ interview on BBC News where she revels in the unusual opportunity to turn on her ‘bitch switch’ and play a really bad character. It set me thinking about why we like to pretend to be evil and why we aren’t evil for real (that is, if we aren’t).

I suppose it’s obvious why we aren’t evil: we value the regard and affection of fellow human beings who would shun us if we did them harm, we perhaps have a moral sense that it would be hard to go against anyway, and we prefer to avoid being put in prison for criminal acts.

On the other hand, being evil can give us our own ends: riches, power, the lover with the most beautiful body, etc, which is enormously attractive. Even more attractive is freedom from certain human feelings which make us liveable with. Imagine experiencing no guilt, remorse or pity and not bothering to look after anyone else’s feelings – how liberating that would be!

On a day to day basis, abandoning the fight to be good means you can say what you like to whoever you like, you can lie, steal and cheat, you can trample on other people …

Sure; but it doesn’t make you evil  – just a bad and lawless ingrate. A truly evil person, generally speaking, is fiercely intelligent, patient, good at dissembling, while inside them resides a block of ice.

The vast majority of people wouldn’t have the ability to be evil even if they were to ditch their moral sense. It takes a certain grandeur, a certain stature, to turn bad character and criminal deeds into evil.

This is, I believe, why evil characters are for some actors such a joy to portray. Portraying good characters can be boring; portraying bad characters with individuality can be fun; but portraying evil characters is the most likely of all to be challenging and exhilarating.

Evil characters need to be played by actors who have the subtlety of mannerism and facial expression to convey the negatives to the positives which we expect. For example, demonstrating pleasure in watching violence, or giving us glimpses of a watchful, simulated sympathy instead of compassion.

Similarly, writers who wish to invent or portray evil characters have to be of a certain kind unless their creations are to be mere caricatures. I’m almost tempted to say: such writers need to be a cut above the rest. But there are many specialisms in writing and this is just one of them.

The power of literature to alter your state of mind

Shoes and hand-bag

Not shoes to want to walk a mile in perhaps.

There’s an article on BBC News today discussing the effect of music on people who are grieving or depressed. Which works better, they ask, cheerful music to try to alter your mood, or sad music which reflects your mood? It made me think about literature in the same context.

Reading is a more cerebral and less visceral activity than listening to music. Its influences are more on the conscious level and can be more complete and detailed. It follows that the ways in which it works are more complex.

Let’s think of the medium which is possibly closest to music in the context: poetry. A poem can speak to the inner, quiet, individual mind like nothing else can, throwing up images in a similar way to song lyrics. It can also meet us on an intellectual plane, and sometimes it’s through the intellect that comfort is derived or the spirit is uplifted.

Small volumes and pamphlets of both poetry and prose exist to address the different emotions and situations which people struggle with during their lives. Mostly a rational mind tries, through their pages, to reach another mind which is trying to be rational. But sometimes it isn’t straightforward advice that breaks through to a person but a saying or ‘mantra’ which speaks to them and alters their life, or a desire to imitate a character, or personal identification with a hero or a villain.

“Never criticise a man till you’ve walked a mile in his shoes,” goes the saying. This could in theory change one person’s way of thinking about another. I personally prefer the rebuttal: If you’ve got his shoes and you’re a mile away, you can say what you want!

Literature can present a complete world for immersion and hence distraction of the troubled mind. Stories and novels lighten a humdrum life, relieve boredom or inspire hope. Dark tales of tragedy soothe through harmless schadenfreude.

Music stirs our entrails with irrational feelings but literature introduces us to other realities in which we can live, and heal. I would say that the primary value of much of literature, and certainly of fiction, is its power to alter your state of mind.