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!