How to Get the Most out of Google Docs When Writing Your Novel

Use Drive here to get to Docs

I’m using Google Docs to write my novel. When I first sat down to write it, I didn’t consider using any other program. Docs has the basic functions you’d expect from a word processor, plus a few other features and tricks I’ve come across that are very useful for novel writing.  Continue reading


How to Write a Character Biography

Think of your character biographies as entries in a dictionary. Credit Liz West, reused under Creative Commons

In one of my previous posts I talked about how I use character biographies for my book. I skimmed over the details what a character biography is, how to put one together and why they are so useful. Let’s backtrack a bit and discuss this. Continue reading

How to Write Your Novel

Dylan Thomas' writing shed. Copyright Jeremy Bolwell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Dylan Thomas’ writing shed. Copyright Jeremy Bolwell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

When I was younger I used to love the books of Roald Dahl. I remembering borrowing Boy from the school library and keeping it for months. When I got a bit older I learned that the adult Dahl had a very particular writing ritual. He would go down to a shed in his garden and write in longhand on yellow paper, keeping six sharpened pencils on his desk. No more, no fewer. It was an odd ritual, I thought, but it worked for him. Continue reading

The two ways to plan your book


Creative Commons, from user wrobinson (licence)

If you’re planning on writing a book, there are plenty of resources online about how to plan to write. This resource from the Guardian is pretty comprehensive, going into detail about sketching out your characters, setting, plot and so on. There is also this one from the Writers Bureau, which mentions well-known techniques like summarising your book in a sentence. Continue reading

I’m writing a book

Power of Words

How did people write entire novels without a delete button? I’ll never know. Image: InverseHypercube

I’m writing a book.

It’s a project I’ve been working on since late November last year. Like all projects, it started with an idea. I noted the idea down and went back to it later, fleshing it out into more of a story. After a (short and inadequate) planning session, I sat down and wrote the beginning of chapter one. Continue reading

DJA portfolio screenshots


The Daily Mirror, March 26th 2014. The Mirror picked up on my analysis of air quality across Britain in 2013, a full week before pollution became front page news for its rivals.

Mirror pollution

The Daily Mirror, February 11th, 2014. The Mirror also used my data, obtained under Freedom of Information, that showed a sharp rise in the number of police officers taking days of leave for mental health reasons.

Mirror sick days

The Sunday Mercury, February 23rd 2014. Reporting on my analysis of dog attacks in the West Midlands.

Sunday Mercury dangerous dogs Sunday Mercury dangerous dogs2

The Daily Post, February 20th, 2014. I scraped data from the MPs’ register of interests on overseas visits. The Daily Post, based in North Wales, reported on local MP Ian Lucas’s travels. The paper used our map, created with Tripline, retracing his air miles.

Daily Post flying

The Liverpool Echo, February 9th, 2014. The Echo reported on our analysis of the high reoffending rates in Merseyside.

Echo reoffending

Government licenses £300m worth of arms sales to countries that Foreign Office says violate human rights

Night vision: some of the equipment sanctioned to sell by the UK Government. Picture: US Navy

Night vision: some of the equipment sanctioned to be sold abroad by the UK Government. Picture: US Navy

British companies have been allowed to export arms and military hardware worth nearly £300m to countries that the Foreign Office has named as serial human rights violators this year.

China, Russia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among the FCO’s 27 “Countries of Concern” to which the Department for Business Innovation and Skills has sanctioned sales of weapons and other controlled goods.

As the world’s defence industry convenes today for the start of DSEI arms fair at the ExCel centre in London, BIS data, compiled by the Campaign Against Arms Trade, shows the extent of the demand for, and potential British trade in, weapons and other defence products to repressive regimes.

The Government has approved licenses worth £10.2bn so far in 2013. Israel was by far the largest target buyer with £7.8bn of equipment that requires licenses to export.

The FCO lists Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories among its “Countries of Concern”, citing the situation in Gaza and what the FCO believes is Israeli obstruction of the peace process, as well as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority activity in Gaza and the West Bank.

It’s important to stress the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” part of that designation – the FCO says that human rights violations are happening on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, but BIS’s license data only covers Israel. But it seems extremely harsh to group Israel with countries such as North Korea, Syria and Saudi Arabia for human rights, which might explain BIS’s willingness to sanction arms to the country. Freedom House, for example, rates Israel as a “free” country (although Gaza and the West Bank are listed as “not free”).


For the full interactive graphic, click here

This chart drops Israel and focuses on the other 26 countries of concern. China becomes the biggest intended target of arms sales. BIS has approved licenses worth £222.7m to the one-party state so far this year. Another big contract is Russia, which is allied with Syria, a country that last month David Cameron unsuccessfully tried to drum up parliamentary support to bomb. BIS approved £9.4m of weapons and other goods to Pakistan, a country where US intelligence is particularly concerned that weapons may fall into the wrong hands.

The list of countries of concern that aren’t open for business to Britain’s arms manufacturers is a short, sad one. Just five of the 27 had no licenses approved for them at all – they are Cuba, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Syria and Fiji. Last year, with the Syrian civil war raging, BIS granted licenses to export chemicals to Syria that would have been able to be used to make nerve agents.

In this world map, you can see the countries of concern to which BIS has allowed sales in green, and the ones it hasn’t in purple:


For the full interactive map, click here

The map excludes many more countries to which Britain sells arms and about which the FCO has no serious human rights qualms. While much of Britain’s manufacturing base is gone, we are still a world leader at making the things that foreign armies and police forces say they need.

Get the data behind this post here.