Friday, 31 May 2019

Breaking New Ground


It's been a long, long, loooooong time in the making, but I'm pretty much on my final draft. I've printed out two copies to give to 'beta readers' (aka two friends I trust) and then I'm going to start submitting to agents.

I'm nervous but mostly excited. I've never been at this point before, and I'm aware that there will be many rejections along the way, but even getting to the stage of getting rejections feels like an exciting step forward.

I've bought myself a copy of the Writers' and Artists' year book and have crossed out the agents who don't accept my kind of work, and the ones closed to submissions. I'm researching the others so that I can identify who to put in my first 'batch' of submissions. It's a surprisingly time-consuming task!

One of the things that is very strange is that, looking at their websites, sometimes I get a zing of "I like this one" and sometimes, a "meh" without really knowing why.

So there we go. An upbeat moment, before I enter the maelstrom of Rejectionville! And maybe, just maybe, eventually find someone who likes what I've written.

Monday, 3 September 2018

That's been a long gap in communication!

The little children I've described in the sidebar aren't so little, but nor do they sleep as much.

The book I was working on is still only it's fourth or fifth draft but I had a really positive critique about a year ago and I'm going to get it sent out in the next few months...

Really need to sleep myself now! My brain doesn't work so well when it's sleep deprived...

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Slack Summer

I entered my latest novel in two competitions in spring, with no news from either. I surprised myself with how disappointed I felt, even though I would also have been the first to admit that my submissions were flawed (my first synopsis was terrible!) and that there must be much more talented people out there. But that doesn't stop you dreaming, does it? And then the discouragement hits hard.

I've dusted myself off and am still editing my first draft into a second draft. I might be lapped by a sloth, soon...but I enjoy it when I get going. Time is tricky to find but in September all my children will be at school, which will make a huge difference to my life in every way. I'm looking forward to getting some regular writing time without feeling guilty (as long as the laundry pile doesn't grow to dangerous proportions).

I'm ready, when the second draft is done, to start a few shorter projects. I love having writing to look forward to. May you also have something to look forward to this summer!

Saturday, 13 February 2016


I've started reading a new book (second time around) which I hoped would only taint my style in the best of ways.

It's the wonderful 'Big Little Lies' by Liane Moriarty, which is a masterclass in voice, pace, character, plotting...for me, it has everything I'd love to achieve, including a wonderful feel-good element despite being (essentially) about a murder.

But yesterday I'd edited  my own work in progress  and (I'm a bit ashamed to say it, so I'll whisper it quietly) I was actually pretty impressed with the chapter I was working on. I thought I'd done a good job. I actually got a little fizz in my tummy, because I could imagine it being good enough for someone else to read; I could imagine self-publishing it, or even sending it out to agents.

Aha, I arrogantly thought to myself, I CAN write! Maybe only in flashes, and I let myself down frequently, and there's laziness in there that needs editing out, but if I can get better at plotting and character, I might actually achieve my dream.

I can't tell you how good that felt.

And then I went to bed. And read the first chapter of Big Little Lies.

And realised how far I am from being a decent writer.

Liane Moriarty is incredible; there's no pretension in her work, and her characters are so fascinating and likeable and true-to-life even when they're doing or saying things that really ought to put us off. Important information is drip fed with the lightest touch, so that things she doesn't want us to notice yet aren't registered at all, and all this with a sense of humour that makes her books a true delight.

I'm in awe, and also feel very discouraged. I'm not sure I've even found my voice yet, but the one I have is very bland and dull in comparison.

And now, back to editing...

Friday, 12 February 2016

Impossible settings

When thinking about setting, how carefully do you imagine the buildings you use?

In past pieces, I've often 'borrowed' my own home, or the homes of friends, but in my work in progress, I imagined a house, and thought it was fairly clear in my mind. Now I'm working on editing, with some time between writing and editing, I've found I've messed up a few times. Clearly I was simultaneously holding in my mind certain floor plans that simply won't work as the one house.

Does it matter? Will a reader ever notice? I'm not sure about that. But it matters to me. I want my world to be as real and 'honest' as possible (for a fiction!).

So today's job has been to sit down and sketch out a floor plan, based on what I've edited so far (the first three chapters - please don't mock my slow progress! At least it's progress!). It was surprisingly tricky, but now I have a little floorplan, I can check every time my characters are walking around that the study hasn't switched from the back of the house to the front, and that the party wall needs to be the opposite side of the house, unless the study is going to have no natural light. I hadn't anticipated the little every day details that might rely on knowing this kind of stuff, as deeply as you do know the lay-out of your own home.

Next time, I'm going to 'borrow' houses from Rightmove, and use real floorplans from real houses to fill with my charcters. This has got to save time, and it will be so much better than trying to work it out retrospectively.

Maybe you invent your own floorplans, and do a better job than I have (it wouldn't be hard). But I think it will help to spark my imagination to use real plans that aren't actually my neighbours' houses, or the house I grew up in.

I wonder if there are any more planning problems to find during this edit? So much to learn!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Present Problems

Sadly I'm not talking about gifts, but tenses.

My novel is written in the past tense, although I did experiment with the present tense early on. I've just been reading someone else's present tense novel. It really tainted my work...

Every time I sat down to edit, I found the present tense had crept in. It happened every time, while I was reading that particular book. It made me wonder if I'd made the right decision in the first place, although I think I have. It doesn't take much to make you question yourself, though, does it?

I shall choose my reading material a bit more carefully while I finish editing, though. What drives you mad while you're editing?

Friday, 5 February 2016

Novel competition

Good Housekeeping is running a novel writing competition at the moment, with a closing date of 31st March.
Entrants must be unpublished and never have had an agent. You need to send in a full synopsis, 5,000 words of your novel, which must be crime/thriller or women's fiction, a 100-word mini biography and a completed entry form from the magazine.
First prize is a book deal, though there are also runner-up prizes, so this is one well worth entering if you fit the entry criteria and have a novel ready to go!