The First Reader

What a first reader looks like

What a first reader looks like

When the first proof copies of Cuckoo were distributed, I likened the feeling to taking my knickers off in public.**

But I have found something in this writing process far more challenging even than that, and two weeks ago, on holiday on France, I had to go through it again.

The most difficult part is the very first read.

Well, not the very first read – I do that myself, obviously (and god knows, that’s hard enough).… read more

Best Laid Plans

CUCKOO paperback – in a bookshop near you, at a nice price

So, I didn’t keep up my resolution to post here three times a week during NaNovember. Man, it’s hard, writing 50,000 words in a month. Even when it’s the day job. Nearly there, though. Just 1500 to do tomorrow before midnight. Might just about do it.

Hats off to everyone who has managed to get their novel written this month. Especially if you’ve had to fit it around work, children, aged parents, ill pets, whatever.… read more

A Great Book for Writers


I’ve just been reading this: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, and it’s kind of helping with the first draft of Bad Jean, although I know it will come into its own when I’m editing it. I’m definitely what he calls a NOP (No Outline Person), but I really like his analysis of structure and how it can work just by keeping it in the back of  your mind while writing.

My one problem is that, after reading this, I am having to work double hard at pushing my internal editors away as I write, and that tends to hinder the free flow of the story.… read more

Poised, ready to dive in

Yesterday I lugged all 450 pages of the Every Vow You Break manuscript – with line-edits and my own final alterations – up to London to hand over to Leah, my editor at Headline. Tomorrow, I start on Bad Jean. Although character, place and story are pretty well formed in my head, I have not yet written one single word. Eek.

Looking back over this blog, I realise, with a little frisson of horror, that by November 24 2010 I was printing out the first draft of Every Vow You Break.… read more

What I Learned While Editing…

3 am, San Francisco Hotel bathroom

I’ve not been around for a while because, among other things, I have had my head down on draft 2 of novel #2. I had some fantastic notes from EditorLeah, AgentSimon and AsstAgentAriella, and have been working on them, weaving new plotlines back and forth, making sure the little boy doesn’t age rather too rapidly to serve the story (!) and cutting out one of the two prologues and one of the secret rooms.… read more

And Back to Work

What I did in my holidays. Come and see this if you fancy 'a rather tiresome sight gag involving leopard-print underpants' (Independent)

I just got my editor’s notes through, and I’m very excited. It has been a long wait, with me alternating between telling myself that a) she is very busy and has lots of notes to write for lots of novels and b) that the novel has revealed itself to be so full of problems and loopholes and red herrings and, just, well, shite writing, that it is taking her far longer than she anticipated.… read more

But is the husband me?

So, the verdict on the first draft of novel #2 is out.

AgentSimon: “Fucking hellfire, that’s a good book.” Followed by lots of suggestions for improvement, ending with the wonderful words “You aren’t a one-hit wonder”. Which is what a second-time novelist needs to hear from her agent. AssistantAriella has since got back to me with a list of wonderful notes, that are all going into the second draft.

OldMan: “It’s great. But is Marcus-the-husband me?” Me: “No, of course not**.… read more

Editing for geeks

I have been a bit quiet of late because I am deep in editing mode, with a lot of Christmas and new year stuff on the side. But I have  got my story mapped out now, so I thought I’d stick my head above the parapet and share what I’m up to.

I have filled in all my real-world index cards, colour-coded them and shuffled them around, and I have transcribed all that information onto virtual index cards in Scrivener, which I have already banged on enough about.… read more

Finally, at last, etc.

I have finally stopped myself procrastinating and started the read through of draft one, novel #2.

Before starting, I:

  • Made a nice wall-chart of juicy quotes from Macbeth
  • Studied Penelope Leach to make sure my addled parenting memory isn’t confusing what a three year old child can and can’t do
  • Printed out research photos and stuck them up on my wall
  • Caught up on emails
  • Have been very quick to respond to requests from Sam Eades, my powerhouse publicist at Headline (who is sending out proof copies of CUCKOO as I write this)
  • Made up some Ikea cardboard boxes I bought last week…
  • …Boxed up old drafts of CUCKOO, taking time to look at my annotated first draft to see how much I altered (almost all of it)
  • Cleared some space on my bookshelves
  • Bought yet more index cards, stickers and stars
  • Put Draft One in another lever arch file because the one it was in had got squashed.
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Weightlifting for weedy writers

Note the spaces around the words. Not empty for long...

I have printed out my first draft of novel #2, and it comes to nearly 500 pages, and used up a whole black inkjet. This environmental abomination is going to be my constant companion for the next six weeks or so. I’m going to read it, scribble on it, cross out great chunks, add bits and make lists from it and fill in a pile of index cards.… read more