Friday, January 09, 2009

86,520 Words

Yep, finished it on New Year's day. Polishing now, but 1st two submissions of opening chaps already sent out. Couldn't wait.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

82,455 Words

I think I might finish the first draft today. There will be some fleshing out to be done afterwards, but I can do that whilst my opening chapters are doing the rounds. I still think it will come out very close to my 90,000 word / 50 chapter target. And it's only taken about four months (not counting school holidays, during which everything stops).

I hope this one will sell but, if it doesn't, I have a firm idea for no.3 to keep me going. And there's still the Norwegian one that I will resurrect at some point, simply because I was enjoying it so much. Not foot-in-the-door material though.

I got a copy of The Golden Notebook for Christmas. I made three attempts at the preface before giving up and moving straight on to the story itself, which is a doddle in comparison. So much repetitive explanation and justification for this and that - how would I react to being attacked as she was? Unlikely, of course, that anything I write will receive enough attention to merit a ten-year anniversary re-print complete with preface by the author, so I doubt I shall ever have to cross that bridge.

(Nearly) two books on from where I started this diary, what has changed? Better to ask what has stayed the same. Same town, same street, same permanently-in-the-red bank balance. Same two kids (although larger), same husband (still utterly lacking in any form of common sense or domestic know-how). I am in paid employment - that has changed. I am a self-employed domestic cleaner, much to my father's disappointment (he keeps asking me when I plan to go back to work, to which I respond: I already have). I still have a cupboard full of trackie bottoms and old woollies, but now I choose to write (in my freezing cold house) wearing a cashmere jumper and a silk scarf which are much, much lighter and more comfortable (I dream of Boden, but accept Tesco). I weigh two stone less, soon (hopefully) to be three. I have fully come to terms with the fact that I will not have a third child. And I suppose the biggest change of all is that I'm actually starting to believe that I can do this - that I have more than just one book inside me - and that I have the willpower to keep plugging away at it until something sells.

Love A x

Friday, November 21, 2008

62,931 Words

This one seems to be rattling along at a fair old pace. The most worrying thing for me this time is false confidence. You see, with the last one, I knew parts of it were okay but deep down I was always aware that other parts were hideously self-indulgent and grossly overwritten. This one feels so much better. It comes onto the page so much more easily. The idea behind it feels cleaner - less cluttered. This book has a lot less baggage.

So, to be brutally honest with myself about its weaknesses, what am I expecting in my rejection letters this time around?
- too domestic
- dialogue-heavy, too little description of settings and characters
- bad language

There isn't much bad language and I'd be loath to take it out, but I know some WF editors just don't stand for it.
I'm going back over the most talky chapters and trying to put some flesh onto their bones but I don't want to make them too flowery.
And I think that the first few chapters need to be quite cosy and domestic, in order to create a contrast when it all goes pear-shaped.
But then I also believe that, if you find yourself having to defend or explain something over and over, your book's simply not working. No point flogging a dead horse.

We'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

56,223 Words

The Companionate vs. the Romantic Marriage

Or civil partnership, or shared mortgage, or co-parenting, whatever.

The companionate relationship is defined as based on friendship and the practical needs of both partners (running a home/family/joint business, etc.) It isn't necessarily celibate or without tenderness, but it's hardly the stuff of Mills & Boon. The romantic marriage, on the other hand, is focussed primarily on the feelings of the couple for each other, and everything else: home, family, etc. springs from that, but the romance between the partners is the root of it all. Both kinds work equally well if the needs of both parties are aligned, but if one or both yearns for the other kind, things can get messy.

It's becoming clear, around the halfway point of my WIP, now that the mystery of the exotic postcards is solved, that the theme of my story is this: can a companionate marriage ever become genuinely romantic? Can the footing be fundamentally changed if one or both parties is unhappy?

Obviously, I'd love the answer to be "yes" because I want my couple to get back together at the end of the book - rejuvenated and more in love than ever. But I also need it to be believable. So, would you believe it? Could you? And how might it happen? Can it be done without feeling like you're just playing a role?

Any thoughts much appreciated.

Friday, September 26, 2008

35,518 Words

I met Denise Mina on Wednesday night (Garnethill, Exile, Resolution, etc. see link.) A fab crime author and a really nice woman too. It's made me wonder if I gave up on Amelia's Body too easily. I think I just got to the point where I really hated it and when J.M. said she didn't want it, I just thought fair enough - neither do I.

So what exactly happened? It's a bit of a blur, probably because I was in the process of thickening my skin and initially pretended the rejections weren't happening. I've been back through the pile so let's look at the stats.

1st lot of submissions: 17. Rejections: 17
Followed by six months of rewriting.

2nd lot of submissions: 8. Rejections: 7, requests for full ms: 1
Followed by six weeks of furious polishing and spell-checking.

March 2008, sent off full ms to agent J.M.
Rejections: 1

Embarrassment at getting full ms returned and discovering it contained two chapters with identical titles: excruciating.

Maybe all is not lost with novel 1? I don't hate it quite as much as I did six months ago.

Friday, July 18, 2008

25,686 Words

J.M. says she's not interested in Pandora's Shoebox (based on the 1st five chapters) because they contain too much domestic detail. She admits that the idea of the mystery postcard-sender is 'intriguing' but makes no offer to re-read.

Have just cut out 2,000 words of domestic detail.

Perhaps I should change the title to Love, Sugar, Pink, Chocolate, Shopping?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pics for WF

Monday, June 16, 2008

14,899 Words

A review I read recently, described Isabel Fonseca's novel Attachment, as a 'midlife' book - and that was a bad thing, apparently. It deals with an established marriage, ageing parents, a breast cancer scare, and other fairly ordinary things. Extraordinary things do happen, of course, but within this 'midlife' context.

Is my book going to be labelled the same way? Might it never become an actual book for that very reason? My female protagonist is younger, at thirty-six, but that might be even more problematic. She's not a naive, career-minded twenty-something, nor is she a worldly-wise, experienced forty-something. Is anyone really interested in the trials and tribulations of my age-group? Are we even interested in ourselves?

There is a section of the population, of which I am a part, who rejected the 'Sex & the City' lifestyle of the aspirational singleton in order to marry young, and have children young. We weren't quite teenage 'pramface' mothers, but we had our babies younger than our mothers or aunts did - straight after university, or even instead of university. I spent my twenties changing nappies, rather than concentrating on my career, and now I have nothing to go back to. I was rising quickly up the career ladder at one point, but I think I got off too early, before I had anything very impressive on my CV.

My protagonist feels as lost as I do. But maybe that's not something anyone wants to read about.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

9,566 Words

Still going well. Still flowing. And my group likes it. So... I'm happy. Just getting on with the job. I think I might send the first five chapters to J.M. Not in expectation of a proper response - just so that she doesn't forget me.
A x

Friday, May 23, 2008

4,141 Words

So I'm three chapters into Pandora's Shoebox. This time I have a grand plan right from the start and it feels good. My writing group seems to like it - one member even described it as 'fun' and another, 'jaunty', which certainly could not be said of Amelia's Body.

Perhaps they're right - the ones who say that books are like pancakes: the first one is for the bin.



Dear A___________

I have now read your complete typescript.

I do think you write really well but I think there is a problem with the over-convoluted structure which makes for a rather disjointed, uninvolving read. I like the initial switches from the crime scene to the other characters but they need to be very focussed and highly plotted, and the timescale needs to be much clearer. After a while they become more confusing and distracting. At the moment it is lacking in narrative drive and tension (and it is also too long - it could be cut by at least 100 pages). There is also too much rather waffly dialogue which does not move the story on. I was left wondering what the point was - and also I was not sure who I was meant to be rooting for. It also sends mixed messages - part police procedural, part suspense, but the two strands are difficult to follow at the same time.

I would be interested to see your next work but I think this needs a massive rethink. I regret it is not something I could successfully handle. Thank you for letting me see your work which I am returning herewith.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely

J_____ M_____


She's totally right, of course. The bright side, I suppose, is it looks like I can take this as an invitation to send her the 'full' of my next WIP (when it's done) without first sending a partial and waiting for her response.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Well, I have nudged. Very gently. And I have also put the first 10,000 words of the book up on the new Harper Collins website -

As for the new WIP, I started writing Pandora in the end. So I suppose I really ought to be keeping a word count.

3,066 words. Fingers crossed for this one.


Monday, May 12, 2008

To nudge, or not to nudge?

It's been two months since I sent my full typescript to the agent. Can I email and ask how it's going? Or will that just annoy her into rejecting me out of hand?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Seaside

Just wanted to share this.

On Friday morning, the weather was so glorious that I had a brainwave: the following day we would go to the seaside! Then a reality-check: the roads would be chocka, the car would be hot, the packing and the early start would be a nightmare, etc, etc. It would all just be too much trouble.

Then, I had another brainwave: why not pack up that night and camp near the coast? So that's what we did. I googled for campsites and found one without any of the following words in the description: games room, bar, Sky TV, organised activities. And found one that allowed children, ball games and camp fires, demanded total quiet after 10.30 at night and only cost £13. I rang up - they had space for our tent - we went straight after work and woke up the next morning 3 miles from a perfect, deserted beach. It was pure heaven, and we were home in time for Dr Who.

So this is my plea - go to the seaside! Paddle. Eat a Mr Whippy ice cream and breathe the sea air. The British seaside is truly wonderful!


P.S. Take extra blankets though - it's still bloody cold at night.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Still hovvering

Still no news on the book.

I missed a flurry of activity from my fellow WWers last week - tagging in each other in their blogs, which I missed! I think I've already tagged all them in the list on the right - if not, I will.

So, what have I been doing with my Fridays since I sent off my 'full'? Well, I spent some time in corrections to my manuscript. Shockingly, I found that the typos got worse and worse towards the end of the book. I'd obviously gone over it less often than I had with the earlier chapters. I had even given two of the later chapters the same heading - unforgivable. It's all fixed now. At least, when JM rejects it, it will be in better shape when I start sending the partials out again.

I wrote a short story (Pandora's Shoebox) for the WOMAG market, which I've sent to Woman's Weekly, in the hope that it might make it into one of their fiction specials. Still waiting to hear.

I wrote a story a while ago (Privet) for The People's Friend, but they said it was "too melancholy". On the bright side, they promised to read a revision, and gave me a direct address so that I could bypass the slush-pile. I haven't done it yet. I've thought about it, but I just can't envisage the story without its melancholy bits. Maybe I should just start from scratch.

No further on with my novel-beginning Stina Trolldatter. Still only three chapters in existence. I think it's because I know it will involve a lot of research, and I'm reluctant to begin when I have no idea whether or not such a thing will sell - the idea got a mixed response from my writing group - very mixed.

I'm still filling index cards with ideas for a follow-up to Amelia's Body, but I haven't started writing it yet. It seems stupid to begin the sequel in earnest when I don't know yet whether or not the first book will find a home. You see? Limbo.

My only other idea, at the moment, is to expand Pandora's Shoebox into a novel for the women's fiction / chicklit market. I deliberately kept the story light and romantic for Woman's Weekly, but I had to go against my instinct, which was for a darker, more emotional tale. As a novel, I think that Pandora's marriage would still survive, but with complications. I don't know whether I should begin it. It is the strongest idea I have at the moment, but I'm dithering...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In limbo

Nothing much to say.

Book is out with J.M.

Utterly mortified at the number of typos I'm still finding in the ms.

Can't seem to get on with book two, although I know that's what I should be using this time for. Catching up on my reading instead.

Unfortunately, I'm reading Possession, which is just making me feel stupid and inadequate and, frankly, rude, for even attempting to write a book myself.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I think I might be moving to Trowbridge.

I'm supposed to be having a writing day - a day all to myself - but all I can think about is Trowbridge. Husband has just been promoted within his company (yay!) and I was really looking forward to being able to fix the house up a bit. It isn't too bad but it needs a new garden fence, a cap putting on one chimney to stop the rain coming down (which requires scaffolding) and -ideally- a new bathroom. Nothing too major, but all things we would expect to have to do if we ever want to get a good price for it when we move. (I had expected to have to move in about three years anyway, because we don't much like the local high school.) Anyway, a while ago he put his CV up on some of those internet job sites and he is currently being hassled by another mobile phone company to come and work for them. It's a VERY good offer. It's a good company. He would be mad not to take it.

BUT: it's even further from our parents than we live now, it's too far to visit our Yorkshire friends more than about once a year, we'd have to down-size our living accommodation at least temporarily because houses cost more down south, and in the current economic climate I'm not sure if our house would sell at all. Plus, with all that upheaval, when would I find any time for writing?

If he could be certain that another position would come up in a couple of years, I'd say wait, but a bird in the hand... and so on.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

My name isn't Amy Winehouse,

but it sounds a lot like Amy Winehouse. I had a horrible thought the other day, that J.M. doesn't in fact think my story is any good at all, but has noticed that I have a very marketable name. Enough people will pick up the book, thinking, 'I didn't know she was a writer too. Well fancy that, she managed to put down the crackpipe for long enough to churn out a novel!' before noticing their mistake, to make it a viable publishing option. A shame really, because I always wanted to be published under a pseudonym.

Hey - perhaps I could select a pen-name that sounds a bit like someone else famous, instead? Like 'Britney Shears', or 'Heather Mills McCaffrey'. What do you think?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Let the wine do the talking...

That's what I obviously did last night, anyway.

I bought a copy of 'Thirty-nothing', by Lisa Jewell, because she is represented by the same J.M. that has asked for my ms. I'm quite enjoying it. Both the story, and the fact that I find it quite non-threatening as a standard to live up to. Then I skimmed the first few pages of 'The Mathematics of LOVE', by Emma Darwin, because I sort of know her and I thought I should. Big Mistake. Now feeling totally inferior and useless.


Friday, February 15, 2008

The Romance

Been thinking a lot about the structure of the book. Now thinking about the basic parts. The ingredients. There is The Hook. There is The Murder. There is The Investigation. The Romance. The Tragedy. And The Happy (for some characters) Ending.

Thinking about D a lot lately. I nearly cut him, until I realised how important his character is to the book. Thinking about what a strange almost-couple we once made. When he reads it, he'll doubtless imagine I'm still pining for him, after all these years. Probably my husband will too. God knows what they'll make of the second book then. But I can't let that hold me back. There are things I want to write about in the second book. Things that will upset my other half. How do you explain that the novel might resemble our life, but it is life to the power 10? It is life, exponentially heightened and dramatised. My life is the kernel of truth - the one percent - at the heart of a 90,000 word novel.

Maybe I just won't let him read it.