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Sitting on my hands, biting the inside of my cheek…

I am floating in wonderful in-between land. My first novel is going through the editing mill with my agent and my second is composting in the far-flung corners of my mind. It’s an odd place to be in the writing spectrum.

But, a pretty wonderful place at the same time. Daydream, reading, jotting little notes with my favourite pen, all the while doing what I love. I’ve been wringing out the knots that need to be addressed in novel 1, researching interesting/disturbing/eye-opening facts for novel 2, planning short stories, non-fiction articles and generally enjoying wordsmithery.

On the surface it all looks rather relaxed

On the surface…

But underneath are the bubbles of something else entirely. Because can a writer ever relax and enjoy the preparations of writing?

Every short story I’ve planned I am desperate to write, though I won’t get a chance for a long while yet (they will be written when novel 2 is submitted) The articles I’ve planned have not actually been requested but are just my dalliance, my desire to write everything, right now. And don’t get me started on the actual novels. I’ve rewritten the first novel six gazillion times in my head, wondering if Kate would like this, or that, or if that twist would work better earlier/later/not at all.

Oh, and that second novel. It’s going to be good. I can feel it in my very bones, my right palm has been itching fire ever since I started the research and characterisation. I am desperate to write it but…but… I also know, from my long history as a person of great impatience, that I should not rush.

It will all get done.

It will be all the better for having had time.

And I also know that, no matter how often I remind myself of the above, my right palm will continue to itch.

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Pitter-patter, pitter-patter, type those troubles away…

Writing has been something of a saviour lately, during a time that has been both emotionally and actually exhausting (I have given up on my children ever sleeping beyond 5.30AM). I often find it difficult to write when I’m tired, or when there are so many things to juggle in life that my head is spinning. But this week, far from being difficult, it has come as something of a god send.

One of the beauties of writing is how it is so all encompassing, swallowing up the minutes until an hour has gone by that you have lived solely in your imagination or engrossed in examining the appropriateness of the words on the page, your page. And when life is busy, or hectic, or when it takes you horribly by surprise and knocks you for six, there is something to be said for having a pastime to lose yourself in, be it professionally or just for the love of the words.

And that’s why this week I am perhaps briefer than normal, keen to escape for a little while in my own stories, in the catharsis of creating characters I can control.

Or maybe I’m just a total workaholic, happy for any excuse to pick up the laptop and tap away.


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Melancholy September

It’s September, ALREADY. I can feel the summer leaching away through the gaps in the grass on our lawn. My skin tone is starting to fade  to its natural pallid state. School (gulp) starts again on Monday. And perhaps that is the biggest wrench.

“Hooray!” One half of me cries, “I get my writing time back! I can actually do some proper work!”


Oh God…

It means my children are that little bit older. One of their summers has been and gone and I want to drag them out of their beds, hold them and tell them to stop right there, at this exact moment, and just be my little ones forever.

The bittersweet start of term.

I wrote a post a while ago on how similar writing is to raising children, but I’ve realised how wrong I was, how very wrong. I want to protect my children, keep them unchanged and out of the way of those who could manipulate, take advantage. I want to keep them, as they are, happy in themselves and the world around them.

But my book is oh so different. I’ve discovered this past week, whilst reflecting on the notes taken during my conversation with my agent (still can’t get used to saying that!) that I’m more than happy for my book to be manipulated and manhandled into something else, something better. I want to take full advantage of its commercial appeal, chop at the freckles or warts that make it unsavoury, to use my ability to delete explicit scenes and make their existence more subconscious. In short, I want to twist it around my little finger and make it work for me, for my agent, for (hopefully) a publisher.

Oh, how very mercenary I must sound.

But the two, I suppose, go hand in hand. I want to make a success of my writing because principally I don’t want to do anything else, I don’t think I can do anything else. But also, I can do this from home (when timing allows) I can create these characters, twist them this way and that, whilst attempting to ensure that no one, EVER, does that to my kiddoes.

Except when they’re at school…

…And I can’t protect them…

…bloody September school panic blues.

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Ill equipped for nonchalance…

This is my sixth attempt at writing this post, because the previous five have been a tad over the top. I’m so used to battling through bouts of self-doubt that, when I have the opportunity to celebrate and show enthusiasm, I can go a little overboard. I am a very excitable person (from the woman who was once told to please be a little less enthusiastic about her job selling coffins. It was, apparently, creepy.)

So what am I so excited about, I hear you ask. Is it that fact that, last weekend, we got two kittens? KITTENS!

Nope. Guess again.

Is it that I’ve had so much delicious cake this week my gut is about to bust? Pflaumenkuchen, coffee and walnut cake with fresh ginger, oozy blueberry muffins, the best banana cake I’ve ever eaten?

Nope, not that either.

It is, in fact, the very thing I have been blogging about for the past…too long to count. I have….drumroll, please… (see what I mean? Slightly over the top to insert a drumroll but I couldn’t help myself.) I have an AGENT.

A real life agent, not one that I have simply made up to cure my own literary fantasies. And not just anny agent, but the wonderful Kate Burke at Diane Banks Associates. A brilliant, intelligent woman who loves the book and has some great ideas on how to make it even better.

It’s so exciting I can hardly contain myself.

There is a lot of work to do, rewriting to get stuck into, character relationships to develop, structural changes to be made, vast quantities of cake and gin to be consumed. My brain is overloaded with ideas for this book and my next.

But before I do any of that I’m going to sit back, hug my children until they squirm for release, kiss my wonderful husband right in his handsome face and enjoy this amazing feeling.

Because that is exactly how it feels: AMAZING. Absolutely bloody amazing!

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2nd novels, hide and seek and unexpected inspiration…

This week I discovered the best hiding place for hide and seek; tucked up and contorted on the window sill, hidden behind the curtains in my children’s bedroom. It took them ages to find me. AGES. And, whilst holding my breath and keeping as still as possible so as not to give the game away (I’m horribly competitive. Even in hide and seek,) I was hit with an unexpected bolt of inspiration.

Outside the window, tucked back from the other plant pots, is a terracotta pot of forgotten soil gone, literally, to grass. The grass itself is the long, thin stemmed variety that needles you in the ankle when you to walk on it. But, lacking attention and water, this grass had dried out, the stem brittle and yellowed, seed head pale brown.

Staring at its sorry blades I pieced together a tricky part of one of my character’s personalities, for my second novel

Because that was what I did next (once I was discovered). I Dug out my shiny new notebook, gained from the Chiltern Open Air Museum, found my lucky pen, and began writing the first tentative plans for novel number two. And how exciting that feels to say. There is no self-doubt at this stage, no panic or worry that anyone won’t like it, just the pure joy of creation as I begin to pluck these people from thin air. Or from blades of dried out grass.

And finally I’ve been able to take my mind off novel number one, away from the anxiety of having it read (another agent asked for the manuscript this week, which is always exciting, and always terrifying) away from the worry that it won’t be liked and, crucially, put those niggling doubts that I won’t be able to write another one firmly to rest.

Let the writing begin. Again.

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What do you want from me?

What do you want from me, now? (Mark Owen taking the lead on, well…you can probably guess the title of this particular Take That number.)


Two separate agents recently advised me that, although they really liked my work, they would want me to change a few key elements to mirror either Gone Girl or The Girl On The Train.

Now, I loved both of these books but I am no Gillian Flynn. And I don’t want to be. I want to be, well, me ideally.

Terribly pig headed, I know.

But, as with all doubts and bouts of self-examination, I wondered if I was being too hasty. Should I change a few of the characters, a few of the plot twists, to mirror something that has proven to be so commercially successful? Do I want to create a more unreliable narrator, or a twist that changes the focus of the whole narrative?

So, I pulled out my notebook, turned to the first page and found just the thing I needed. My agent wish-list, written before I went to Winchester to remind myself of what I need in an agent. It had just two points:

  • An agent who gets it.
  • An agent who doesn’t want me to be anyone else.

I won’t be changing my narrative any time soon.

I’m not saying never, I may well be convinced of its necessity to change by a great agent, but the reasons have to ring true. I don’t want to mimic someone else’s success, I want to make my own and I’m prepared to work damn hard to get there. And I need an agent who believes in me as much as I do, if not more (hopefully more, because let’s face it, sometimes I waiver.)

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The creative leap to happiness

Man, oh man, I forgot how much I love this writing lark. And not just any writing, but shiny new writing.

More specifically still, the initial draft of a short story. The buzz of spewing words onto a page and not having to worry if they’re the right words, the perfect words, because it’s a first draft. The excitement of figuring out the story, the characters, where they fit in the world, knowing you can neaten it all up later.

I’ve been taking some space from my novel recently. I don’t want to tamper whilst agents are reading it, theorising that it’s more beneficial to concentrate on other projects whilst I wait to hear back (like short stories and plotting novel number two.) This has the dual delight of not only giving me distance from the book, the most crucial tool for editing, but also giving me time to take my mind off the fact that real life agents are reading my book.

Yes, I know, I’ll never ever be able to take my mind off it, both the thrill and the utter terror.

But the added benefit, the one I really didn’t see coming, is that I’ve remembered how much I bloody love writing. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything completely new; even just planning the characters for my next novel has been more invigorating than I expected.

My short story, however, has been the biggest delight. A miniature universe written for these characters, a slice of their lives in a few thousand words. Writing without the pressure of its being read.

But perhaps most importantly, its refreshed my confidence. The void between an agent asking to read your work and the moment you hear back feels timeless, agonizing, a stretch when I have questioned myself and my ability as a writer almost constantly.

Not all the agents will like my work, and that’s fine. It is actually, honestly, fine. Literature is hugely subjective, whichever genre you write in. Even if they all come back and say no, that will be ok too (even though I will probably cry ugly tears.)

What matters is that I’m still writing and I’ve remembered why I started in the first place:

The love of the words and the worlds they create.