When viewing our blog, you may have noticed ‘The Nitpicker’ at the foot of a couple of posts. I thought it was time to tell you who she is if you have a mind to read on.

From an early age, the origin of words and complexity of the English language gripped me. Small wonder that writing, editing, and proofreading became a passion and one that has never waned. The roots of my voyage – founded as a teenager in writing groups –blossomed into years of editing and proofreading in the legal sector as I navigated many tributaries honing my craft.

I’ve now acquired 27 years’ experience in writing, correcting, changing, and condensing, therefore, penning an epic extolling my ability contradicts my work ethic. I have an amorous affinity with the written word and love what I do.

I’m proud to be a nitpicker and word nerd, proficient in achieving the seven Cs: clear, coherent, complete, concise, consistent, correct, credible content. I’ve achieved success in editing/proofreading a range of projects from political flyers, legal and environmental science dissertations, legal documentation, medical works, websites, blogs, and magazine/newspaper articles through to every genre of short story, novella or novel. I’ve also embraced non-fiction work and composed style guides, often overlooked by many writers but an essential tool in the publishing and literary world. I have written several short stories, magazine articles, blog posts, and web content, collaborated on chick lit, dark satire, and horror works, and am now penning the first in a series of eight YA fantasy novels.

My meticulous attention to detail, no-nonsense approach and extensive lexicon ensures any completed material delivers quality results. I use both UK and US English, engaging with clients to accommodate core goals to produce outstanding work. When you hire me, you get a sociable, skilled professional, not a CV.

When not writing or picking nits, I enjoy reading, yoga, music, walking, cooking, museums, comedy clubs, quiz shows, dining out, and travel. I am animal qwackers, a wine (especially red) connoisseur, have a zany sense of humour, and relish spending time exploring the great outdoors or basking in the company of family and friends. Oh, and as part of my insatiable hunger for words, I endeavour to add a new gem to my repertoire every day. Now, that’s what I call a devoted word nerd!

Until next time…

The Nitpicker




Oxymoron: a word I simply adore.

Also known as a paradox, the word – itself an oxymoron of Greek origin (oxus ‘sharp’ & mōros ‘foolish’) – refers to apparently contradictory, juxtaposed terms that bring out irony, satire, humour, or sarcasm. Many literary giants have used oxymora to show the gnarled, unfathomable curiosity that is the English language and many satirists or stand-ups have used them to deliver that killer punchline. Whatever the reason for their use, I love their absurdity, their sheer stupidity.

So, here is my own take on this wonderfully moronic figure of speech.

Yesterday, my morning began in orderly chaos. After munching on granola drizzled with yoghurt and slugging three cups of Java’s finest for that dizzying hit, I began an editing job comprising 25,000 words.

Enveloped in deafening silence, I trawled through the text, occasionally speaking with the author who clearly misunderstood the questions I posed and whose long brief was noticeably foggy. I was miffed at repeated requests to give an exact estimate of when the job would be completed, bearing in mind I was working blind and factual accuracy and intellectual property law were two important factors.

Whilst embroiled in several definite maybe type conversations, I had to act naturally, though did find it difficult not to launch a defensive strike of words. I had to remember calculated risks were taken when accepting jobs. Despite the essence of the powwow being meaningful nonsense, I valiantly turned it around and got to grips with what first appeared to be a waking nightmare.

Fuzzy logic isn’t how I roll. Snaking my way through content without a style guide or lucid instructions and/or dealing with positive negativity leaves me somewhat deflated. It’s no surprise that many in the same vocation end up with passive aggression. The client was clearly confused and didn’t know what he wanted. Gourmet fast food or a haircut? Hard to tell.

I finished the job (yes, surprise, surprise, it did take longer than anticipated) with the client waiting patiently at the other end, who, after checking and rechecking, came back with a rapturous, ‘Excellent’ followed by a somewhat bittersweet request. ‘Could I do more in a couple of weeks?’ Following a tense calm, my reply was, ‘Yes… of course,’ as I silently screamed. Oh, sweet sorrow. What have I done?

Hopefully, next time, the work will be more of an effortless task. Bearing in mind I have stated my preference regarding clear instructions, surely any future brief will be awfully good. I don’t fancy the balanced insanity ambiguity brings. Far better to say your piece than angrily bristle and inwardly curse with unspoken suggestions. Having said that, I remain the cheerful pessimist.

Yours goofily,

The Nitpicker

(How many oxymorons did you spot?)


Author's Tips


You’ve written what you consider to be a decent novel and now comes the hard part – finding a publisher or agent.


You search online for publishers/agents accepting submissions and one item they all want is a synopsis conveying your story from beginning to end in a brief, engaging fashion. This summary of your masterpiece needs to triumph.

So, how do you do it?

Here are 6 tips on how to write a synopsis 

1. Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start!


Most publishers and agents receive dozens of submissions per week and I know from personal experience that:

Dear Sir,

My name is Blah and I have written a book about blah blah blah… 

is not a great start.

Why not try? 

Dear Sir,

I am an NY Times bestselling author… or I will be one day.


Dear Sir,

I have just completed the most terrifying book you’ll ever read.

These immediately catch the eye and make the publisher want to see what comes next.

2.  Show your skills, tell your story

Publishers and agents are looking for writers with good writing skills. Use active voice, the third person and check your grammar and spelling. Remember, this is not the time to get clever with your prose. Forget flowery, poetic descriptions. The synopsis is the place where you need to tell not show.

Think of a synopsis as your shop window; no one will enter if it looks sloppy and unprofessional. If not well written, this doesn’t bode well for the manuscript.

3. The narrative arc

This is a summary of the plot, not the back cover blurb.

The synopsis should give the publisher/agent the bare bones of your story and must reveal the ending. It should not:

  • Include twists or unnecessary detail
  • Mention insignificant characters or embrace character backstory
  • Contain flashbacks
  • Ask rhetorical/unanswered questions
  • Give detailed explanations about themes
  • Lack emotion or feeling. Wooden is not advisable
  • Include dialogue (unless done so sparingly)
  • Be padded with fancy prose in an effort to impress

Make the first couple of paragraphs strong. Introduce the setting, the main character(s) and any problems they need to overcome.

The next paragraphs should include any plot twists, characters who need mentioning to enable the story to make sense, and any conflicts.

The final part should explain how these conflicts are resolved and must disclose the ending.

The easiest way to do this is to skim through the chapters of your novel noting the important events, pare these down then string them together in a standard synopsis format. (There are handy templates online.)

4. Be unique

Publishers and agents looking to sign new authors want something fresh and unique so it’s important to make your writing stand out. If you have a story that includes a love triangle (and many do) what elements does yours have that make it different?

‘Cliché’ and ‘predictable’ are words that should never cross the mind of a publisher or agent. Avoid them both like the plague. (See what I did there!)

5. Make a connection

If you want the reader to connect with the characters in your novel, you use emotions and feelings. This should also be true of your synopsis. Any publisher or agent is unlikely to take on a book if they dislike the main character (unless they are supposed to).

Beware!  Unnecessary detail is exactly that. Don’t babble.

6. Keep it brief

Publishers and agents are busy people. As mentioned above, keep your synopsis brief. If you need 26 pages to explain what happens in your novel it isn’t going to be the next bestseller.

A good guide is to spend 300-400 words outlining the plot and 200-300 words giving information about the characters, their story arc and emotional development.

Final note

Writing a synopsis can be a daunting task, but breaking it down and following our tips should help to make it easier.

Remember… you’ve done the hard part. Now all you have to do is get someone to believe in your story the way you do.

We can help 

Many authors find getting published the most difficult part of the writing process. Every month we provide tips and articles, including:

  • The importance of grammar and punctuation
  • Writing for the reader
  • Developing characters
  • How to write different scenes
  • Preparing your manuscript
  • Finding agents
  • Writing a cover letter
  • Press releases
  • The truth about royalties

For anyone wishing to embrace the literary world, we also run writing competitions.

To keep up with what’s happening at Whisper Publishing, sign up for our monthly newsletter. (No spam. We promise).


Donna Hepburn (Published Author)





Author's Tips


I am an advocate in the belief that humour is wonderful medicine. While medication and I aren’t BFFs, the best things in life are free and I am happy to swallow a healthy dollop of laughter, giggles and guffaws to ease the stresses and strains of modern life. With that in mind, I’d like to share an anecdote about the cliché, that sneaky little play on words that continues to grow and rise in popularity quicker than you can blink an eye. These little blighters are not a flash in the pan nor are they a fly by night. These little cutie pies are the best thing since sliced bread and miles better than a kick in the teeth! So, roll out your buzzwords, roast those old chestnuts and be as trite as you like. Clichés ain’t a drop in the ocean; believe you me, they are here to stay.

Love them or hate them, we can’t deny that clichés are all over the map and all that jazz. Come on, who wants to beat around the bush, bite off more than they can chew or struggle to find a good phrase to use in conversation? When in Rome, do as the Romans do… use a cliché. It’s a walk in the park!

Make no bones about it, we all use them, so milk it for all it’s worth. Admittedly, some people have a string of clichés as long as their arm. For others, they’re few and far between and I don’t wish to make a mountain out of a molehill or a song and dance about it… at the end of the day, everyone has their own preference. Sometimes the cliché can serve a purpose. To cut a long story short… they work in certain circumstances. When copywriting, brevity is essential. Clean, concise, crisp copy works wonders, but platitudes, waffle, verbosity and rabbiting can be a copywriter‘s Achilles’ heel, going down like a lead balloon.

The cliché is a Godsend for padding out a novel or introducing a witty quip. Some clichés are extremely amusing when used in the right context. As long as every page is not filled to the brim with them, you’re cooking on gas!

The cliché could be regarded as a necessary evil. Does anyone really know how many they say or write in any one day? Does anyone know how many they have in the pipeline? Does anyone care? Yes, I do when I’m burning the midnight oil as an editor and proofreader. I must cut the clichés and pawn the platitudes. Most of the time it’s a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees. Are you getting the message? Do you know which way the wind’s blowing?

So, I’ll get off my soapbox and cut to the chase. Using a cliché is a piece of cake if you can’t find the right words. If you’re stuck, don’t let someone rain on your parade. Give them a run for their money and don’t walk on eggshells. Think outside the box. Come on, folks, it’s not rocket science! Roll out a cliché! We all love them… don’t we?

Personally, I avoid clichés like the plague and if you believe that it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee!


The Nitpicker