Friday 24 March 2023

New Sample: Are You Ready for EU GMP Annex 1?

'It’s Almost Here: August 25th, 2023 - Are You Ready for EU GMP Annex 1?'

An article concerning EU GMP Annex 1 “Manufacture of Sterile Medicinal Products” and the approaching deadline for compliance. Written for PNR Pharma.

You can find it on our samples page or download the PDF by clicking on the PNR logo on the right.

Friday 3 March 2023

Choosing an Editor - It’s Not a One-Size-Fits-All Kinda Thing

There are a number of things to consider when choosing an editor, and I'll go through a few of them here, but the thing to remember is that all editors are different, just as all writers and manuscripts are different. Whilst you should be looking for a professional with the right credentials or background, you also need to find one that you can work with. After all, if you can't tolerate the briefest exchange with a person and don't trust a word that comes out of their mouth (or pen), you're not likely to create a written masterpiece with them, no matter how many qualifications and recommendations they have under their belt. So, while you're checking their social media profiles, consider whether or not you're going to like them enough to work with them. Consider whether or not they're likely to be the right fit for you. 

And remember, you're not buying a take-out pizza from them; it's not a ten-minute wait, two-minute exchange, instant gratification kind of transaction. You're starting a journey with them. If you don't travel well together, the journey will be an uncomfortable one; in fact, you may never reach your destination. So, keep this in mind when you're perusing each editor's wares.

Look for an Editor Who Works on Books Like Yours

There's no point in finding the most accomplished editor who ever existed, then sending off your science fiction novel, only to receive a response informing you that Mr Such-and-Such only edits cookery books. Look for an editor who works with your kind of book. Better still, find one who reads your kind of book too. It might sound odd, but not all editors read a lot (just as - and this is a fact that never ceases to amaze me - not all writers read a lot). If you have a horror novel that needs editing, look for an editor who reads the right kind of horror novels. Find out if they have a Goodreads profile, then go through their bookshelves. Check their social media accounts to see if they discuss their reading habits. Bookish people tend to post online about bookish things. Take me, for example; I'm all over the Internet... a veritable open book.

Look for Relevant Experience

Experience is good, but it has to be relevant. When an editor tells you they've enjoyed thirty years in the business, dig a little. 'Did you always edit romance novels?' you ask them. 'Well, in all honesty, no. I began doing that last Tuesday,' they reply. 'I used to edit books about gardening, and before that I worked for a scientific journal.' In the same way that no writer can write every kind of book, no editor can edit every kind. 

Understand Your Own Requirements

Familiarise yourself with the various types of editing and choose the one that's right for you. You may need a proofreader to go through a finished manuscript to check for typos and punctuation errors just prior to publication. Alternatively, you may need a developmental editor to help with the plot, character development, dialogue, and to check for consistency. Some editors offer one service, while others offer multiple services, and it's best to make sure you understand exactly what is included in the service you choose before going ahead. 

Some editors are more expensive than others, and the amount you pay will depend on the specific project; work within your budget. If hiring the editor you like most will leave you destitute, keep on looking until you find one you can afford. And some editors are booked up for months in advance. There's no point hiring an editor who can't begin work on your project for six months if you need it to be completed in a fortnight. Be honest and realistic about your requirements and expectations from the outset, and make sure that you and your editor are on the same page before commencing work.

Ask for a Sample

Most editors will offer a sample of their work to help you evaluate whether or not they are the right fit for you. Some may suggest sending you a sample from a previous editing job. The better option would be for them to produce a sample edit of your work: you send them a page or two from your project, and they edit it and return it to you. That way, you'll be able to gauge whether or not you like their editing style. Do their comments make you want to grab your pen (or laptop) and get right down to work on revisions without delay, or do they make you feel like rushing off to hide in a cupboard until you're ninety? If it's the latter, go back to your editor list and try out the next one on it.

Without wishing to make the process sound too mysterious, and beyond the understanding of all but the odd mystic who lives atop a snow-covered mountain, there is a certain, indefinable something that exists between a writer and editor when the mix is just right. You'll feel it in your bones (or your water) when you meet the right editor, as will he or she. They will get what you're trying to achieve, and you will recognise that fact.

One last thing before I go. The editing process can be a lengthy one - it depends on the project and how far you've already gone with it - and it can involve a lot of work, but it should also be an extremely rewarding experience. So, what are you waiting for. Go out there and find yourself an editor!

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Would I Lie to You? - ChatGPT's Tenuous Relationship with Facts

After writing my last post about ChatGPT, I vowed to myself that I would never use it again. Today, I broke my vow. 'Oh, Gina, why did you do it?' I hear you cry. Well, in my defence, it's in my nature as a researcher to keep on tugging at a loose bit of string until whatever it's part of unravels; that's how I get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately, when dealing with ChatGPT, it's also a good way to lose your mind.

When you have a chat with the bot, a record of the conversation is stored. You can go back and continue the dialogue at any time. Today, rather than starting from scratch, I picked up where I left off. If you're just joining us and don't know what I'm talking about, you can read all about my earlier encounter with the bot in my post ChatGPT Is Set to Get a Heck of a Lot More Stupid. Alternatively, here's a quick recap: the bot gave me a quote by Jack Hillier, claimed it came from a specific book ('Utamaro: Prints and Drawings'), then suggested it didn't come from any book, warned that the quote was most likely fabricated, admitted that it came from a previous user (who'd found it in an online forum), and finally agreed that the book it originally cited never existed.

Anyway, given that the bot is a slippery customer with a penchant for making stuff up, I began to wonder if the 'previous user' story was even remotely true. So, off I went, back into the abyss. I wouldn't normally simply paste the entire dialogue here, but there's no better way to demonstrate the nonsensical nature of the bot's responses. It's important to remember that, at the point where my conversation with ChatGPT was paused (and I wrote my last post about my experiences), it had been established (and the bot had accepted) that:

The quotation cited by the bot was probably fabricated.
The cited quotation was not contained in any book.
The cited quotation was given to the bot by a previous user (who'd found it in an online forum).
The cited book 'Utamaro: Prints and Drawings' by Jack Hillier does not exist

With all of that as a starting point, I returned to the conversation today, and this is what ensued:

If you come away from reading that without reaching the conclusion that the bot spews fictitious nonsense, I suggest you get yourself off to a brain specialist at speed to have that fluff between your ears tested. 

It's bad enough that it can't generate a halfway accurate response from whatever data it's been trained on previously. But it's also incapable of providing an accurate response using information that it's already generated and received within an active chat session. Trying to get consistent, accurate responses out of the bot is like trying to get the truth out of a compulsive liar; it's an exercise in futility.

That said, I did persevere for a while. The bot had repeated several times that the quote came from a previous user, but was that even a possibility? I mean, the bot had to know its own programming and capabilities, so asking about that was bound to get me a straight answer, right? Nope. I asked if it was possible for the bot to access a quotation given by a previous user and repeat it in an answer to a future user's question. I received seven different answers: 

So, it can't retain or access information from previous user interactions, but it can, and it can't access a specific quotation given by a previous user, but it can, and it can't pass a quotation from a previous user to a future one, but it can, in which case, well... I'm not really sure where that leaves us. 

I can't help but conclude that ChatGPT was programmed to mimic a competent, accurate, credible writer or source rather than to be one. If the goal is to impress rather than inform - and it's not hard to imagine why its developers would be more concerned with the former - it would explain the bot's penchant for padding a poor response - for attempting to 'polish a turd', as they say. In its initial response to your question or command, it will produce a few respectable (if uninspiring) paragraphs for you to gawp at in awe. But, as accuracy and reliability don't appear to feature in what's 'impressive', any factual elements will most likely be utter tosh. As it reminded me several times, it checks nothing and is dependent on the calibre of the information fed to it. Well, they do say that we are what we eat.

If you ask, the bot will state that it cannot lie; it has no personal intent, so it cannot intend to deceive. However, when I asked it to explain further, it did confirm that, whilst it is 'not capable of lying in the same way that humans are', it can 'generate responses that are not true or accurate if [it is] programmed or trained to do so', and that its 'responses may sometimes include linguistic patterns that could be considered persuasive'. If there were to be such a thing as a dishonest human being who, with access to this or some other comparable AI bot, wanted to spread credible-sounding lies at high speed... Well, I'll leave that one with you to contemplate.