Writing is going so badly I’m soaking my whites!

Writing is going so badly I’m soaking my whites!

The maths: second novel; chapter three of twenty-nine; draft two of who knows how many. Last time, I had no idea how long these things took. Now I do. Ignorance made everything so much easier.

Yesterday I thought I’d made great progress with a scene. I then counted: 72 words in three hours.

I love the idea of a long project, something to get my teeth into. But you can tell how well it’s going today by the sudden appearance of this blog post and the amount of housework I’ve done. My whites are soaking in the bath, days before I run out of clean shirts.


Just think how much better this chapter will look when I see it on draft three.

Anybody else in the same position?

After the snow

After the snow

Goodness! Is it that long since I wrote a post? Admittedly, it was March, but my last post featured the snow. Now I’m worried about finding water bottles and sun lotion.

So why have I been doing a Greta Garbo? Do I have any reasonable excuses?

April was the CampNanowrimo challenge. This time, egged on by Rachel my critique partner, I put 30 hours of editing into my second novel. That doesn’t sound very much, but I was meticulous — deep work counted — staring out of the window thinking about writing didn’t. And there were Easter Holidays to navigate and articles to finish at the same time. Convert the hours into minutes (30 x 60 = 1800) and it sounds a lot better.

I cut 20,000 words, so the novel is almost novella at the moment. I’m happy with the characters and plot. I now need to work on my setting — make sure I imagine it properly and not leave a white backdrop. As I do that, I’m beginning to see the book take shape and look a little more like I want it to do.

I’ve called the new novel Exile. I have days I like what I’ve written and days I don’t, but I’m always pleased with that title.




There’s snow business like publishing

There’s snow business like publishing

It’s Bournemouth, UK. We have a couple of millimetres of snow and the primary and senior schools have shut. Plus point: I don’t have to get out of bed yet. Negative: I’m going to have to take my two youngest to my hairdressing appointment.

I’m not sleeping well; I am too excited about Saturday. My writing mate Rachel and I are going up to London for the Writer’s Workshop ‘Getting Published’ Day.

There’s the going up to the Capital thing- on a train- without children. That would be quite thrilling enough for two mums usually sandwiched between school runs. But we’re going to meet with other people like us — obsessed by their novels and worried they’re delusional. And receive face-to-face objective advice on our work. And that’s before the seminars and insider tips.

I must be growing a thicker hide, looking forward to the critique. But the book doctor I’ve been assigned has an excellent reputation, for kindness as well as helpful comments. And our appointment is early on in the day. By 10 o’clock, I’ll know what she thinks is working and what is not. I can then enjoy the rest of the event.

As a bonus, I’ve discovered I’ve been selected for ‘Slushpile Live’. In my case, I read my synopsis aloud in front of an industry panel and listen to their reactions with the rest of the audience. I practised it last night in front of my husband, (along with listening graciously to criticism.) I’ll try to remember it’s only a synopsis. These things can be reworked much more easily than 80,000 words of a novel.

And if they don’t jump up and down demanding to see my full manuscript, I’m hoping they’ll like my hair.









Thoughts from the tired

Thoughts from the tired

I don’t remember learning much at primary school other than reading, writing and how a mung bean grows. Today, my seven-year-old started up a conversation about the trials of finding a publisher. He’d been given JK Rowling’s struggle as an example. I was in my thirties before anyone told me this stuff.

After a hiatus, I’ve turned back to editing my second novel. It’s rough of course, but to my surprise, readable, at least up to page 60. One scene follows on from the next. Unlike my first novel at this stage, there are no scenes just there for the word count.

This time, I’m using third-person with its pitfalls and opportunities. Telling the same tale from different points of view is a lot of fun. But I miss my old narrator. Like any relationship, it took time to get to know her.

I’ve received word of a commission from a new client – a magazine I’ve wanted to work for, for some time. So I’m pleased if a little bogged down in new contributor paperwork.




Scheduling, writing and fun.

Scheduling, writing and fun.

It was my friend, Sarah, who introduced me to the idea of scheduling things I wanted to do, like writing, into my week. It seemed incredibly indulgent at a time when my youngest was still at home (and awake). My strategy then was to get through my tasks as quickly as possible and then write. It was a dumb one. I never got through everything, and when I did abandon housework for creativity, felt too guilty to be inspired. Getting up half an hour before everyone else worked beautifully: no guilt – I was using time that belonged to me; I was fresh and, having written, felt much less grumpy for the rest of the day.

Anyway, I am now in the luxurious position of writing if not for a living, at least for my lattes. Most of the time, I prioritise finding and fulfilling feature commissions. However, in the midst of this, I have two, no three, novel-related events in my calendar: writing group every month, joining my friend Rachel once a week to write in the library, and now, she and I have signed up to a writer’s conference in March.

I am so excited! Even if it teaches us nothing, and we’re in great hopes it will, we’ll get the opportunity to meet other writers and industry professionals. All day, listening and talking about writing. I’m hoping it’ll be like freshers’ week at University and everybody will be looking for friends.

I think I’m even ready for the book doctor – I’ll send my novel’s first three chapters, a synopsis and covering letter ahead of time. When I’m at the conference, someone in the industry will give me feedback. I think I can now take the criticism and use it, rather than allowing negative comments to crush me like they did ten years ago. In one group, I read out an autobiographical piece of “flash fiction”. The organiser’s response was, “It’s good. Clearly, this woman is a psychopath!” If I survived that…

Clean feet, interviews and 100 years of the vote.

Clean feet, interviews and 100 years of the vote.

I have different kinds of love for each type of writing I do. Developing a novel is like parenting: you’re bringing something into being that wouldn’t otherwise exist, but there are moments of deep embarrassment and fear it’s going to turn out wrong. Whereas, feature writing offers the steady contentment of happy marriage.

One of the most rewarding parts of it is interviewing people. I’m always nervous beforehand, would always give the job to someone else if I could, but I always come away satisfied, feeling I understand a little more about life.

Today, I interviewed Rosemarie, someone who knows Bournemouth’s homeless better than most people.

She told me of a boy she’d first known when he was sixteen and had left home to get away from an abusive stepfather. He’d ended up a heroin addict, forced into male prostitution to feed his habit, get a shower and a bed for the night. Now twenty-five, he is “going rapidly downhill”, too weak to solicit anyone. “If he’d had access to shelter, he could be living a normal life now,” she said.

But she’s doing something about it. Every Monday night, she turns up to St Peter’s Church with the Sally Army to washes the feet of rough sleepers. This keeps infection at bay, helps people feel more presentable, and gives them a chance to open up.

Different subject, a feature I’ve written on British women’s fight for the vote has just been published in the new 2018 London Guide from BRITAIN magazine.

Whenever there’s an upcoming election, the conversation among my friends is pretty much the same: because of the “first past the post system”, Bournemouth East and West will probably return Conservative MPs; votes for any of the parties are highly unlikely to affect the results; however, we know other women fought tooth and nail for our rights, so we must make a choice and hope we’ve not helped usher in disaster.

Finally,  I understand, people didn’t fight so my candidate won the election, but so that my needs and opinions are considered equal to any man’s by the country’s decision makers. I need to continue voting to maintain that situation.





Index cards, school-runs and leaving an over-worked first page to rest.

Index cards, school-runs and leaving an over-worked first page to rest.

Happy New Year!

Two of my children went back to school yesterday, relatives left and my husband went back to work. I went straight to Office World to buy some index cards.

I’d call my relationship with routine “passionate”, rather than “happy”.  I rail against it when it’s here, but goodness! am I glad to see it after a long absence? School drop-offs that force me to start my day by half past seven. The sense of purpose I get just writing an invoice.  The freedom to catch up with my emails, rather than eating another mince pie.

And not having time to look at the first page of my novel, again!

Last month, I showed my first three chapters to my writing group. After two hours of critique, I was as grateful as I was exhausted.  They were supportive, encouraging, but rigorous and my first page received most of their rigour.

There’s so much it has to do: introduce a setting and two characters from one person’s POV; keep to the ground rules of grammar, and interest someone long enough to make them read on.

Whining won’t get it written, but I don’t think working on it at the moment will help either. Like cooks and elves after Christmas, it needs a rest.




Where have all the helpful geeks gone? And a new reason to judge me on my viewing habits.

Where have all the helpful geeks gone? And a new reason to judge me on my viewing habits.

I don’t understand the choices my computer keeps offering me. The more updates it has, the slower it gets. Surely, they should improve its performance? I still miss being in halls of residence with people who knew about this stuff and importantly, would help me for free.

We started watching Motherland last night on BBC iPlayer. Everything resonated- the spurious temporary traffic lights on the school run; the child throwing up seconds before other children arrive for a party; the phone call about a child’s forgotten swimming things (parent to teacher on phone- “Just a question- did you try my husband?”and eventually,”You and I both know he’s going to end up sitting at the side!”); envying other women with parents round the corner, ever-present husbands and childcare sewn up for all but one Thursday afternoon a month, and so on and so on. (Husband to wife over phone: “remember when you drop one of those balls I’ll be here to pick it up and hand it to you so you can keep juggling!”)

Apologies to the BBC for the paraphrasing, but you have commissioned something brilliant. I wish I’d written it.

Fantasy: (while having perfectly balanced and secure children) to be part of a comedy team that develops fabulous characters and nails a section of life like that.






The sweet spot

The sweet spot

Three hours of undiluted housework. It doesn’t matter how many hugs I give my children, how many times they’ve been in bed within half an hour of their bedtimes, that they start the day with clean school clothes, or that I’ve attended two parents’ evenings in a week, and come up with tech solutions for my son, if the house is in chaos (untidy is a given), I get crosser and crosser with myself, sure under those piles of papers there are permission slips I’ve not returned or incomplete homework sheets.

Work-life balance isn’t the issue. As a mum-freelancer hybrid, life is work and vice versa. I need to find the writing-housework sweet spot where I’m producing as many words and doing as little tidying-up as I can without any Nixon-like guilt.

Today, I have a sofa full of clean washing (albeit none of it in its right place) and clear surfaces in my kitchen. I’m just about to pick my children up from school feeling like Mother Theresa.


Pumpkin latte, crisp air and efficiency.

Pumpkin latte, crisp air and efficiency.

I’ve said this before, but it’s so much easier to blog when you’re having a good day.  It’s sunny, the air is clean, and I achieved almost unprecedented efficiency with my pitches this morning. So much so, I rewarded myself with a pumpkin latte. And just as I was sitting down, an email came in asking me to do an article I hadn’t pitched, but would really enjoy writing.

If it makes me any less obnoxious, Friday was a real stinker.

Anyway, onwards and upwards with a little more momentum than usual.