Tag Archives: getting published

Some Writerly Advice

Last week, the wonderful Elizabeth Rose Murray wrote this fantastic post on her blog. It was a compendium of her most popular posts on writing – the art, craft, graft and ‘secret’ of it – gathered from her experience as a successful writer, blogger and social media professional. Elizabeth is much further down the road to success (if there is such a thing) than I am, but she nevertheless asked if I’d be interested in compiling an advice post of my own, gathering together in one place some of my most read posts on writing.

I thought it was a fantastic idea.

Image: nickis.yourmarketingsystem.net

Image: nickis.yourmarketingsystem.net

When I checked my readership stats, however, a funny thing emerged. It turns out that my most read – sometimes, also, my most commented-upon and liked posts, though not always – were the ones which dealt with failure, disappointment, and how to carry on when it seems like a task too far. In a strange way, I am quite proud of this. I like to think that my musings on how to keep going when things get tough were an inspiration for others.

So, without further ado, here are some of my most read posts, grouped loosely by theme. I hope that they are helpful (some of them are quite old, so even if you’ve been following this blog for a while, they might seem fresh), and a reminder of how far a person can come. Just so you know: most of the stuff I worried about when I wrote these posts never came to pass, some of the stories I recount struggling with have subsequently been published, and every hard-won lesson I learned about editing, drafting and submitting has been vital in my journey so far.

When you feel like you’re not good enough, and the self-doubt is building up inside you:

Try this post, about how to distinguish between good and bad self-criticism, or this one about slaying the dragon of self-doubt.

When you feel like you’re running out of things to say, or you’ll never have a good idea again:

Try this post about how to respect your own idea-getting process (because you do have one, no matter what you might think). You could also give this one a go when you feel like your ideas are going to dry up forever – remember, ideas are everywhere you look.

When you feel afraid – of being read, of not being read, of being successful, of failing – or when you’re wondering if you’re doing the right thing:

Try this post, which takes you through the fear I used to have about being read, back at the beginning of my writing career when I hadn’t published a single story. I have published several since then, and with every one the fear drains away a little more. You could also try this more recent post about how, sometimes, we feel like frauds, and how the fear of success can be a crippling thing. Or perhaps try this one when you feel unworthy, whether it’s unworthy of following your dream or of succeeding at it.

I can't resist using this image again...  Image: teamliquid.net

I can’t resist using this image again…
Image: teamliquid.net

When you do decide you’re going to start submitting, and you’re wondering how to go about it:

This post is about the importance of having a polished opening to the book you’re submitting to agents and/or publishers, and how it’s important not to overlook your first 10,000 words. You can check out this one, this one and this one when it’s time to write your pitches, synopses and cover letters, and the very best of luck to you. You can try this post here if you think you know better than the agents to whom you’re submitting, and when you’re tempted to chuck their advice in the bin and go for broke (not usually a good idea). You can check out this one when you’re wondering what the flippin’ point of editing is, and why you need to go over your work again and again and again. (Tip: everyone has to do this).

And when you’re dealing with rejection and disappointment – for, sadly, this is something that happens to us all – and you’re wondering how to keep on going:

Try this post, which – because it was written before I’d really experienced any disappointment – is a good way of mentally preparing yourself for the inevitability of rejection, and how to separate yourself from your work. You could also look at this post if you’re wondering why you’re bothering, and whether your voice, and your words, have any role to play in the larger picture. (Hint: they do). Finally, try this one when you’re a little further down the road of rejection and the ‘No thank yous’ have started to get a little more encouraging – for that will happen, too. Try to take the good out of every bad situation and the advice out of every ‘no’; it’s there. You just have to look for it.

And always remember the most vital advice of all: Get your butt in the chair, get the words on the page, and finish your work. Never give up. Tell the story you need to tell.

And when the world is ready, it will listen.

Image: lyndasgrainsofsand.blogspot.com

Image: lyndasgrainsofsand.blogspot.com



Pick Me! Pick Me!

Writing, as a professional activity, is a funny thing. Your ‘competitors’ aren’t really that; they’re more like collaborators. It’s not like other jobs, where there’s one position and twenty applicants – when you send in your work to an agent or a publisher, you’re only in competition with yourself, really. Your work is – or should be – judged on its own merit, and not in comparison with the strengths of another writer’s work; if your writing is a good fit for a particular agency, or the market, chances are you’ll attract interest. This is not to say that there are endless reams of opportunity in writing – it’s not like there’s a tree that grows publishing contracts, after all – but whatever is there, it’s there for everyone, and everyone has a fair crack at success.

At least this is what I choose to believe. Perhaps I’m being unrealistic, but this has been my experience so far.

My, doesn't the world look pretty today! Image: joystiq.com

My, doesn’t the world look pretty today!
Image: joystiq.com

The flipside to all this, of course, is that there are a lot of collaborators out there. So many people write, or want to. So many people are talented. So many people are trying, so hard, with everything they have. The market will only bear so many of us before there’s a glut, and nobody wants that. So, how do you get your work to stand out? How do you give yourself the best edge?

Well. When you make a submission, anywhere, the only thing an agent or publisher has to go on is the strength of your synopsis, your cover letter, and/or your pitch – some submissions will require a pitch, and some won’t. Over the past year or so, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing submissions, and how to handle their main elements. In total awareness of the fact that I haven’t actually managed to secure an agent’s approval yet (though it’s only a matter of time, darnit!), I thought I might share some of my hard-earned knowledge.

(Disclaimer: the following is based entirely on my own experience, so it may not suit everyone. There’s plenty of advice out there if you’re preparing a submission; this is designed to complement, not replace, other guidelines.)

Firstly – writing a synopsis is no picnic

Writing a synopsis is hard, and it takes work. I have to get that out there, straight away. They need almost as many drafts as the book itself does, and it’s not worth cutting corners.

Image: eclipseawards.com

Image: eclipseawards.com

You’d think it would be easy to write a synopsis of your own book, but it’s really not. The closer you are to a piece of writing, the harder it is for you to boil it down to its essentials and actually express what it’s about. You, as the author, are aware of a much bigger picture than is a person who comes to your work cold; it’s hard to let some of the tasty little details that (let’s face it) only matter to you go unmentioned. It’s important, of course, to give a true and accurate reflection of the book – including how it ends, as an agent will need to know whether you’ve created a fully-realised story by the time they’ve finished reading your synopsis – but you do need to keep it brief and clear. It helps to make chapter-by-chapter (or page-by-page) summaries of your book, and use these when structuring your synopsis. I usually limit my summary to the size of a single Post-It note, which I then stick on the edge of the page. Hey presto – a handy reference guide! If you’ve summarised your work, you can see things like themes, character arcs, and all the important bits at a glance.

Essentially, your synopsis needs to mention all the main players, their roles in the unfolding of the plot, and where the characters interact or clash. It needs to show the progression of the story, the essential conflicts within it and how they are resolved, and the development of your main characters. It should be interesting, and engaging, and it should make your book sound like the kind of thing that’s worth spending money to read.

There is a school of thought which says you should write your synopsis in a similar style to that of the book you’re submitting. So, if you’ve written an uproariously funny story, your synopsis should be humorous or, at the least, light-hearted, in order to give a flavour of what’s to come. I think there’s a lot to be said for that approach. Just – you know. Use common sense. Don’t use foul language. Make sure everything is work-appropriate. Remember you are not a professional comedian.

In general, a synopsis needs to be:

– Written in focused, succint paragraphs, in a clear font such as Times New Roman, 12-point, and usually double or 1.5 spaced – but always check with the agency to which you’re submitting for their specific requirements;
– Printed in black ink on white paper (if printed);
– As short as possible (again, check if the agency/publisher has guidelines, but about 500 words should do);
– A step-by-step walkthrough of the plot, including how it all unfolds, your main characters and their motivations/conflicts with other characters, all the while remembering that not every tiny detail needs to be mentioned;
– Completely free of rhetorical questions (what if I told you how irritating they are?) and ellipses…;
– Utterly scrupulous in its grammar, punctuation, spelling and presentation – no agent wants to read a synopsis that makes them wince;
– Inclusive of a total word-count for your completed book, and its genre (though sometimes it’s best to put this in your cover letter. The agency’s guidelines may state which they prefer, so check.)


– Describing your work as ‘genius’ (even if it is);
– Describing your work as ‘Fifty Shades meets Gone Girl meets Bring Up the Bodies‘, just in order to name-drop. Some guidelines say that agents like you to site your work in relation to other writers’, but if you want to do this I’d say your cover letter is a better place to mention it. Oh, and keep it simple, and err on the side of humble;
– Blathering on about how your book could easily be made into a movie or a TV show or a theme-park or including sketches of your vision for the ‘merch’ which should be put into production immediately so as to be on sale by the time the book is published;
– Telling the agent how to do their job, and that they’d be ‘crazy’ not to pick you up.

Remember: paragraphs, clarity, professionalism. This is, essentially, a job application.

Secondly – a ‘synopsis’ and a ‘pitch’ are not the same thing

A synopsis needs to be a document that an agent can read and know, when they’ve finished reading it, what sort of book you’ve written, how it wraps up, whether the plot holds together and whether it’s the sort of thing they’d be interested in. If you’ve made wise choices regarding the agents you’re submitting to, and you’ve written a decent synopsis, hopefully the answer to the last aspect will be a resounding ‘yes.’

A pitch, however, is different.

Image: dailyleadership12.blogspot.com

Image: dailyleadership12.blogspot.com

A pitch is short, tight, and ‘hooky’ – by which I mean, you don’t need to explain everything that happens in the book. They’re a bit like the blurb you get on the back of a published book, which explains everything and nothing, and is designed to intrigue you into parting with your cash to find out how it all ends. If you read a few of those, you’ll get a good idea how to write a pitch. Basically, make it snappy, short, and mention as many of the cool details in your book as you can without giving too much away. Some people talk about the ‘elevator pitch’ – as in, imagine you’re stepping into an elevator with your dream agent, and you have ninety seconds, or until she reaches her floor, to convince her to sign you – so, basically, you need to sell her your book in no time flat by making it sound unmissable.

So, yeah. You can see how things can get complicated, fast.

Getting some feedback on your synopses/pitches is a good idea; practice is another. Take movies or books and write synopses/pitches for them as though you were the author, and then see if your friends and/or significant other can figure out which book or movie it is. Get other people to tell you where your writing is punchy, and where it sags. It’s a vital thing to get good at, because one thing’s for sure: if you’re planning a career as a writer, creating pitches and synopses are going to be a big part of your future.

I’ll look a little more at this topic, including cover letters, in another blog post. In the meantime, I hope this has been useful. Write on!

Image: screencrush.com

Image: screencrush.com

A Matter of Opinion

Monday is creaking itself into position once again, and another chain of days is about to start careering down the slippery slope we call a ‘week’. I hope you had a restful weekend and you’re primed and ready for it.

Good woman, Barbara. Image: funkmysoul.gr

Good woman, Barbara.
Image: funkmysoul.gr

This past weekend was full of bad news. I’m trying not to even think about some of the news stories that made me sad, or angry, over the last few days – and there were many. I’m not ignoring the fact that things happened in the world which made my red mist descend, and which upset me greatly, but this blog post is all about the positive. Right? Right.

So, let’s not talk about the sad stuff. Not today.

In the spirit of focusing on the non-enraging, one of the more interesting stories over the weekend centred on the kerfuffle surrounding ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling‘, a book which was published to no great acclaim in April. Purporting to be the debut novel of a former soldier and military policeman named Robert Galbraith, the book was receiving good reviews, but had not sold in any huge numbers – reports vary between 500 and 1,500 copies sold – but those who had read it, by all accounts, liked it. Robert Galbraith, the mysterious author, had admitted to writing under a pseudonym to, I suppose, protect his former colleagues and avoid any sort of security issues surrounding his foray into crime writing, but that was far from being the biggest secret Mr. Galbraith was sitting on.

Over the weekend, ‘Mr Galbraith’ was unmasked. Not an ex-military police officer, nor even a man, ‘Galbraith’ is, in fact, J.K. Rowling.

The most interesting thing about the whole situation, I think, is the fact that the manuscript of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ was, apparently, submitted to at least one publisher (under its pseudonym, of course), and was turned down as being ‘not marketable’; it didn’t stand out from the crowd enough, apparently. It wasn’t head and shoulders above any of the other promising submissions received, and so it wasn’t picked up. I have great respect for the editor of the publishing company who turned the book down purely on its merits, and who is now brave enough to admit it, and to give her reasons for her decision; she could have tried to wash her hands of responsibility, or pretend the decision to turn the book down was a tortuous one. She could have fawned all over J.K. Rowling. She could (horror of horrors!) have apologised for her decision. Instead, she simply explained how she felt the book was solid, decent, well written – but nothing amazing.

I thought this was remarkable. Not only because the editor in question is a brave and principled person, but because it made me feel a whole lot better about the rejections I get which are worded along much the same lines: ‘Thank you for your submission; your work is perfectly fine, but just not marketable in the current publishing climate’, or ‘Your work is not suitable for us – but our opinion is not exhaustive, so don’t give up.’ Whatever your opinion of ‘Harry Potter’ is – whether you believe the books are good, or not – it’s beyond question that J.K. Rowling is the publishing sensation of our time. Anything with her name on it is a foregone conclusion, in terms of publication. It turned out that ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ was eventually published by an imprint of the publisher who handled her book ‘The Casual Vacancy’ last year, but it seems that she submitted it to other publishers, just like any debut author – but found, apparently, little success. The book has received very positive feedback from readers, so it’s not necessarily that her work was not good; it just wasn’t good enough for a publisher to take a punt on it, particularly in the crowded crime/detective fiction market.

Image: en.wikipedia.org

Image: en.wikipedia.org

This news story has given me a lot to think about, and no mistake. The first conclusion one could draw would be this: what’s the point of anyone trying to get a book published, as an unknown debut author, if a writer with the ability of J.K. Rowling can’t get picked up? Well – yes and no. That’s an insidious and dangerous way to think; it erodes hope and chips away at the future, and should be avoided. There are always exceptions; there are always chances worth jumping at. You’ve got to have faith in your own work, and keep on going with the submissions even if there seems to be no light on the horizon. Rowling herself was turned down by twelve publishers before she placed ‘Harry Potter’ with Bloomsbury. It can happen. People get published every day. They can’t all be world-defining geniuses. Sometimes, a submission will be good enough – not the best submission in the history of writing, but good enough for a particular agent or publisher, and that’s all you need.

So, instead of being disheartened by the saga of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ (in hindsight, rather an apt title), I’m choosing to be encouraged by it. A submission is never going to hit the mark with everyone who reads it; not every publisher is going to like, or even tolerate, some of the work you produce – and that’s not a personal thing, despite how hard it can be to separate yourself from your creative work. It doesn’t mean that if you get knocked back by two, or five, or ten agents or publishers, that you should give up the search – there will, hopefully, be an appreciative ear out there for what you’re writing, and what a shame it would be to give up before you find it.

Of course, if every person to whom you submit your work says something along the lines of: ‘In our opinion, a novel about interstellar time-travelling leprechauns written in rhyming couplets which can, due to the fact you’ve written it in disappearing ink, only be read on the first Tuesday of every month in full moonlight is not exactly the most market-friendly thing; perhaps you should consider submitting something else, or reworking this entirely,’ then maybe it’s time to start thinking: it’s not them. It’s me.

Until then, keep the faith.

The Dry Season

Friday greetings, my people.

I hope everyone is well, and looking forward to the weekend, and remembering to always keep focusing on the good stuff. Not an easy thing to do in today’s world, especially if you make a habit of watching the news, but we’ve got to do our best.

Words of wisdom, Hannah... Image: healthandphysicaleducation.wordpress.com

Words of wisdom, Hannah…
Image: healthandphysicaleducation.wordpress.com


This morning, my most recent story was published. If you click here, you’ll be able to read it. It’s called ‘ShipShipShip’, and I’m very proud of it, and if you take the time to have a look, I hope you like it.

As well as being my most recent piece, though, ‘ShipShipShip’ also marks a sort of story-boundary for me; it’s like a roadside inn on the rocky mountain path that has been my writing career to date. It’s a little uncomfortable to admit, but it’s the truth, so here we go: I don’t have anything else, in terms of upcoming publications, in the pipeline at the moment. That’s not because I haven’t been writing, or sending work away, or anything like that; I’ve submitted plenty of stories over the past few months, but I’ve had a lot of work rejected. That’s absolutely fine – it’s par for the course, and completely normal, and something for which I prepared myself many months back. Those of you who have been following me for a while (thank you, by the way) will, perhaps, remember me gearing myself up to be knocked back, over and over and over again, right here on the blog. I’m dealing with it, and it’s surprisingly okay.

But now I’m in a position where I’ve pretty much exhausted my submission opportunities, and there’s a yawning gap of nothing between now and the end of June, when my next major deadline starts to kick up. That’s a frightening feeling, in a way. I’m looking into the next few weeks and all I’m seeing is a dry riverbed, with the odd tumbleweed drifting on through, and I don’t like it.

I’m trying (as I am wont, though I don’t always succeed) to see the positive in this – I have a lot to focus on at the moment, and so going through a fallow period where I have time to regroup and make some plans for the future may not, in truth, be the worst that could happen. But, having said that, it’s an amazing thing to have a story published, and it’s a little disheartening to know I won’t have that experience again for a long while. I love the feeling of receiving that elusive ‘yes’ from someone to whom you’ve entrusted your work, looking forward to seeing it appear, and finally (if you’re me) proudly adding a new link to your ‘Writing’ page.

It is, of course, also a little scary: ‘What if people hate it? What if I offend someone? What if this is the absolute worst piece of writing that anyone has ever read?’ So far, though, I’ve managed not to enrage anyone or cause an international incident, which is a relief.

Image: blog.propertyhawk.co.uk

Image: blog.propertyhawk.co.uk

So, where to from here? Well, I’m always on the lookout for more places to submit work. I do have a few on the far horizon, and if I’m lucky I’ll unearth a few more. I have some short stories that have been bubbling away for the past few weeks; they’re eager to find a home, so I’ll be revisiting those and polishing them up, straightening their collars and wiping their sticky little faces, and hoping for the best.

Oh, and yes. There’s also the small matter of the fact that it’s now time, finally, to start contacting agents. I am, I hasten to assure you, all over it.

So, like I said. I have plenty with which to be occupying my mind. Perhaps the distraction – a pleasant one, but a distraction nonetheless – of having stories published is something I can do without over these next few weeks; to everything there is a season, after all. I’m in a preparation phase, a planting phase, and I’m hoping for a strong rainy season a few weeks down the line.

Happy Friday, happy weekend, see you tomorrow for a review of Emma Pass’ fantastic novel ‘ACID’, and until then, take care.

The First 10,000 Words

I’m almost finished with my edits for ‘Eldritch’. I thought, yesterday, that I was completely done and dusted, but then I remembered that there was another important job to do.

That job? Polish the book’s beginning with such vigour and vim that it shines.

Now, of course, the whole novel has to be written as well as I can write it, and the entire story has to shine as much as possible. This, without doubt, I know. But I think it’s worthwhile going back over the manuscript and focusing on the opening sections, the first few chapters, the source from which the river of the story flows. The reason I’m focusing on ‘the first 10,000 words’ is because those words are the ones which will be looked at by agents and/or publishers during the querying process; those are the words that really need to be catchy, compelling, interesting and fresh. Those are the words, in short, which have the power to sell, make or break your book. For some obscene and devilish reason, they’re also often the hardest words to produce. They’re easy to write, first time round – you’re enthusiastic for your story, and you want to get stuck into it, so you dive right in and get going – but they’re hard, very hard, to come back to and spruce up.

At least, that’s what I’m finding at the moment.

Not all agents are the same, of course; they don’t all request the same things from prospective clients. But, from the research I’ve been doing over the past few days, one thing seems to be fairly common among them, which is that they like to receive 10,000 words, or three chapters, whichever comes first, from querying authors. This puts me in mind of a job interview, or meeting a new person for the first time, and how important it is to put the best of yourself forward; it also reminds me how socially awkward I am. I am that person who goes in for a cheek kiss and ends up giving a smacker on the lips instead. I am the person who laughs at all the wrong moments. I’m the person who puts their hand out to shake at just the wrong angle and ends up whacking someone across the face. So my 10,000 words – my equivalent of a first meeting – is really going to take some work.

Sometimes, I remind myself of this guy. Image: suchsmallportions.com

Sometimes, I remind myself of this guy.
Image: suchsmallportions.com

I’m a nice person when you get to know me. But I hate to think of the amount of people who’ve come away from their first meeting with me wondering what on earth just happened. I’m sure there are plenty. I hope the same isn’t true of ‘Eldritch’ – in other words, everything from Chapter 4 onwards is fine, but the opening sections are completely off the wall.

It’s hard to find a ‘hook’ – something which will hint at the wonderful story to come, which sounds different (but not too different), fresh (but not completely out of left field) and interesting (not in that raised-eyebrow way, the one which is just ‘weird’ in a fancy coat). It’s hard to know whether your idea is flabbergastingly good, one which will make an agent’s heart start to beat a little faster, and one which will make them start sending you an email to request the rest of your manuscript before they’ve even finished reading your query, or whether it’s just plain crazy. Or, worse than these – perhaps your idea is so bland, so boring, so porridge-y that it makes the agent stop reading before they’ve even reached the end of the first page. The first 10,000 words have a lot of hurdles to leap over, and a lot of sinkholes to avoid.

I’ve made a choice with the narration style of ‘Eldritch’ and the structure of the story that I’ve never come across before in any book I’ve read – certainly not one aimed at this age group – so this might explain my trepidation. I’m not sure if I’ve taken a sensible risk, or if I’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater altogether.

And this is important to me because, of course, I’m hoping to start making query submissions within the week. Within the week.

Image: buzzle.com

Image: buzzle.com

I reckon the only thing I can do is have the courage to stick to my convictions, and have faith in my choices. There’s no point being half-hearted about it; if you make a choice with regard to narrative style, then go for it one hundred percent. Make it snappy, fast-moving, interesting, fun and exciting; make it new, unique and ‘you’. Make it good. Write it well.

So, no problem then.

Monday Musings

It’s ‘that day’ again. Let’s not speak of it. I’ll draw a veil over it, shall I, and we can move on with the rest of the post? Marvellous.

If I may begin with an observation – weekends never seem to last long enough, do they? I’m still not fully convinced time behaves the way it’s supposed to. When nobody’s looking, I think it speeds up or slows down as much as it wants to, just for the fun of it. There’s no other explanation for why it seems to take so long to do the housework, say, or work your way through your manuscript, or whatever it is you might need to do between Monday and Friday, and then the weekend comes and you don’t even have time to take your shoes off before it’s Monday morning again.


Despite the fact that it was so brief that I barely knew it was there at all, I managed to have a nice weekend. We didn’t do a whole lot – in fact, I can hardly remember Saturday, which is probably not a good sign – but I’m pretty sure it was a good (if mentally vacant) day. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t get my manuscript edited. My aim for the weekend was to get the first edit of ‘Eldritch’ completed, and be ready to begin the second run-through this morning, but my brain had other ideas.

This is literally what the inside of my brain looked like this weekend. Image: artsandcatsmovement.wordpress.com

This is literally what the inside of my brain looked like this weekend.
Image: artsandcatsmovement.wordpress.com

I’m sure this is a ‘fail-safe’ mechanism, built into the brain; a ‘Do Not Edit’ function which kicks in when fatigue would make it dangerous to approach your WiP. It’s not just an excuse to let your brain ramble off down the highways and byways, gathering berries and singing to itself (though there’s nothing wrong with that, of course.) I felt the need to read this weekend, which I did – I got through ‘Eight Days of Luke’ by the majestic Diana Wynne Jones, and I started ‘Mortal Engines’ by Philip Reeve, which has been on my ‘To Read’ list for months. This takes the books I’ve read this week (if you count last weekend, too) to 3.36 approximately, which is a point of pride for me. Last weekend, I enjoyed ‘Robopocalypse’ by Daniel H. Wilson, and ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki, which is one of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read. My imagination feels fat and sleek at the moment, pulsing with inspiration and life. It’s just a shame my brain feels like a piece of lint.

Sometimes I feel that a change of scenery can be a very helpful thing to do if you’re feeling a little bit unmotivated. I spent a lot of Friday in Dublin city, which was great – the weather was wonderful, and it was refreshing to be among people and the hustle and bustle of a city again. I have a feeling, however, that I enjoyed it so much because I knew I’d be going home at the end of the day to my sleepy little one-horse village, where three people on the pavement at the same time constitutes a crowd – but in any case, it was great. I really enjoyed feeling like a pretentious auteur, sitting at a café table with my WiP spread neatly around me, being held down by coffee cups and milk jugs and random pieces of detritus, hoping someone would walk by and be stunned into awed silence by the sheer brilliance of my words. That last part didn’t happen, of course, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. So, in an attempt to recreate that feeling of hipster-inspiration, I’m going to take myself off to our one and only coffee shop here in Countryville, order the most complicated coffee on their menu, and break out the red pen. I’m just over two-thirds of the way through ‘Eldritch’, so I am hopeful I’ll see the end of Edit One before the week is out.

So far, the editing has been going reasonably well. I’ve run into a few difficulties with regard to the book’s structure and its central narrative conceit, but I hope I’ve smoothed those over – that’s what I spent a lot of Friday doing. I am planning at least one more read-through before I start the query process (don’t worry about that noise you’re probably hearing right now – it’s just me, hyperventilating), and once ‘Eldritch’ is out of my hair, it’ll be time to go back and tackle the almighty mess that is ‘Tider’. I’m hoping my memory has made a bigger mess out of it than is actually the case in reality, and that I’ll be pleasantly surprised when I get back to it.

I guess it’s good to be an optimist.

Image: acceler8or.com

Image: acceler8or.com

So, I’m off to pack up my manuscript, my editing pens, and my wizened motivation, and hit the café. I’ll try not to wear black, or a beret, or sigh heavily at random intervals, but I can’t make any promises. Fingers crossed I’ll get the work done before I keel over from a caffeine overdose, or run out of money.

Whatever you find yourself doing this wet and miserable morning, good luck with it.


So, yesterday evening, something momentous happened.



I’m almost too excited to tell you about it. But I will, of course.

Yesterday evening, a lifelong dream was realised when my first published story went live, on the (frankly, incredibly beautiful) website of Number Eleven Magazine. The magazine has just launched, so I have the double honour of being published, and also being published in a magazine’s inaugural issue. How cool is that?

Here is a link to my story ‘Animal Farm’ – but please bear in mind that it is a story with dark themes and dystopian imagery, and may not be suitable for younger readers. The magazine’s homepage can be found here if you’d rather just browse around the whole thing. I heartily recommend you do just that, in fact. The other writers published in Number Eleven are highly accomplished and talented, and their stories are all worth reading; as well as that there’s artwork to peruse and the sheer gorgeousness of the site itself. Waiting for the site to unveil was so exciting; we were promised something beautiful, and the editorial/design team behind it certainly did a marvellous job.

It’s a funny thing, when you finally get to see something you’ve written in print. Funny because you can’t quite believe it’s there after all these years of dreaming about it, and also because, if you’re anything like me, you read over your piece and think ‘Man, I should’ve changed that bit… and this bit… and what was I thinking here?’ Clearly, the story was judged good enough, and it was chosen out of a lot of submissions, so it has merit. But I also think that it’s in the nature of a writer to never be quite satisfied with anything they create. It may be a safety-valve thing, a guarantee that they’ll keep trying and keep striving, and never stop creating.

(I’d rather think that than the alternative, which is writers are all a bunch of neurotic self-obsessives. But feel free to make of it what you will!)

This is the first small step on a long journey. My husband felt the need to remind me last night that I am not in a race; this thing is lifelong, and so the steps taken will, almost by necessity, be small, and my progress will be irregular. But the only thing to do, of course, is keep going. Each success is worth so much in terms of confidence, and each one lays down a building block for the next. My efforts are by no means over now, though. I’m still submitting stories, of course, everywhere I can find a place to send them; if even one of them finds a home somewhere outside my computer hard-drive I will feel satisfied with my efforts. With every word I write, with every idea that strikes me, with every effort I make to write a story to a particular theme or to take inspiration from a prompt (if I’m entering a competition), I will come up against fear and self-doubt and regret and the old killer ‘I’m not sure about this…’; all of those things will have to be dodged, stepped over, walked around and ignored if my journey is to continue.

And I want it to continue.

Thank you to all those who read this blog, who comment on my posts, who encourage me when obstacles block the road and when the way is clear, who have supported me all these long months. I hope you’ll take the time to read not only my story but also those of the other contributors, and that you’ll continue to keep an eye on Number Eleven Magazine. And, of course, if you’d like to let me know what you think of ‘Animal Farm’, I would be very glad to hear your opinions.

Happy Tuesday! I hope you, too, have something to celebrate today.