Life Cycle of a Writer: When is Enough Enough?

When is Enough Enough?


The Good Fight, as it was known, (ironic, now I think of it), never got beyond 20,000 words. The entire story was mapped out in my head, but for a variety of reasons, the last 80,000 words never made it onto the page. Ill health caused a delay, with debilitating headaches stopping me from sitting at the computer, but even on good days, I struggled to get the words onto paper. I loved the setting, the characters and the overall idea, but it just wasn’t working. Even now, I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with it. All I know is it doesn’t have the spark, the electricity it needs to keep the reader gripped.

Many times I considered setting it aside and starting something new, but I was concerned I was being wooed by the sparkly new ideas, and if I let that happen once, there was a chance I’d never finish another novel.

Thank goodness for my wonderful Romaniac friends. They guided, advised, consoled, energised and supported me. And in the last few months, The Romaniacs have enjoyed some amazing successes – a number 1 in  the UK Kindle chart, agent representation, paperback releases, competition wins, superb reviews – and each one has spurred me on.

They inspired me into action.

So, after a year of slogging away on book 4, I’ve decided The Good Fight has fought its final battle and I’m allowing myself to be wined and dined by the new, sparkly ideas.

I’m in that exciting phase of discovering new characters, researching new issues, and opening a new Word document. I have a title, which Catherine, Sue and I work-shopped last week – a fabulous session over tapas and cocktails, or in my case, soda and lime – and I know how I want the story to evolve. I can feel it. I realise that is an element missing from The Good Fight. I cannot feel it. It hasn’t hit me in the stomach or made its presence felt. The new story arrived as a mass of feelings and emotions which I could not ignore, which is how I know it is right for me to move on.

The Good Fight may come into its own one day, but for now I’m going with my gut instinct.

Enough is enough.

And yes, I am singing along to Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer.

Laura xx


All Work & No Play …

All Work & No Play …

Penrith 2012

Penrith 2012


This coming weekend, 8th – 10th July is the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Conference.

It’s a weekend of workshops, panels, interviews and one-to-ones with industry professionals.

And socialising.

Lots of socialising, catching up with writerly friends from all over the country, sometimes from other continents.

If Jack was attending, he’d need not worry about being a dull boy.

Gretna Green

This will be my fifth conference, my first being held in Penrith, not far from the Scottish border. On that occasion, Celia and I took the opportunity to visit Gretna Green. At the conference, I had one-to-ones with an editor from Samhain and an editor from Mira, both requesting to see the full manuscript of Follow Me, now titled, Follow Me Follow You. I recall returning home on the Monday and talking to Gajitman about the amazing experience that was the 2012 RNA Conference, and casually mentioning two editors had requested the full manuscript, which wasn’t complete as it was the year I lost my lovely mum and I was struggling to concentrate on work. I explained this to the editors, who were very kind and understanding. It was later that week, on the Thursday, when I was sitting at my desk in the kitchen and Gajitman was over by the kettle, making hot drinks, when it hit me: This is serious. Two publishers want to see my work.

I had been taking writing seriously for a number of years, but the 2012 Conference, which included a fabulous talk given by Miranda Dickinson, who said if you write, you are a writer, gave me the confidence to say exactly that: ‘I am a writer.’

Before I’d completed Follow Me, I submitted Truth or Dare? to Choc Lit, which became my debut novel, published in October 2013, with Follow Me Follow You making its way into paperback in 2014.

Photo courtesy of the RNA.

Photo courtesy of the RNA.

I’m attending Conference this year with three books under my belt, the third, What Doesn’t Kill You, racking up the most reviews soIMG_1620 far. I also have a number of short stories appearing in anthologies for the RNA and Choc Lit.

I can’t believe how much has happened since Penrith, and not only for me, but for all The Romaniacs. Between us we’ve had five debuts (and subsequent books) published, a healthy number of competition shortlists and wins, lovely reviews, for which we are always grateful, and agent success. And last year, we won the RNA Industry Media Stars Award, which actually left us speechless. We hope you enjoyed the quiet while it lasted.

This year at Conference, we are hosting a panel entitled, Pals, Pens and Pompoms. Or: How to feel empowered and finding people to cheer you along the way. It promises to be lively, fun, informative, and as ever, open and honest. It’s an event to which we are very much looking forward, and we shall report back once we are refreshed and clear from the Prosecco haze which often accompanies such wonderful gatherings.

Right, I’m off to check my list: Pals: Check. Pens. Check, check. Pompoms: Check, check, check.😀

Laura x







Roving Romaniacs, Wimborne, Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke

Lisa Jewell & Lucy Clarke

Lisa Jewell & Lucy Clarke

Roving Romaniacs, Sue and Laura, headed out to Wimborne Literary Festival last week to attend a talk given by Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke. Here’s a few words and pictures.

Sue : Despite the awful rain, it didn’t take me too long to get down to Wimborne and after an Anneka Rice moment, managed to find the library.  Both Lisa and Lucy were lovely to listen to, very natural and engaging. It was interesting hearing how different their approaches to writing were and how they carried out research.

booksI’m a big fan of Lucy Clarke’s books and having already stocked up on her books, took one with me for her to sign. I haven’t read any of Lisa’s at this point, but her latest novel ‘The Girls’ had been on my wish list for some time. I was delighted to be able to purchased a copy and get that signed too.

After the talk, Laura and I dodged more rain and headed for The Kings Head for lunch. I encountered more rain driving home, but it didn’t matter as I had a really good day out.

Laura: Wasn’t it a great day? Wimborne is a forty-five minute drive for me, which I consider local, so I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to meet and listen to Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke, both very lovely people. I met up in the first instance with another writing friend, Kathy Morgan, we found a quaint café in which we sheltered from the rain and chatted horses, cats and books. We then went onto to the library, where we met with Sue.

This was the first author talk I’ve attended where the two authors interview each other, and I loved it – what a great idea. It’s a format I would consider using the next time The Romaniacs go on tour. It worked so well; it was relaxed, humorous, interesting and warm, and Lisa and Lucy shared information about their books, writing processes and how they initially got into writing.

I had a lightbulb moment, courtesy of Lisa Jewell, who explained she takes herself away from distractions and writes a thousand words a day, no matter how long those words take to write. Due to recent health problems, I’ve returned to writing longhand, and I sit in my conservatory, away from technology, and it’s then when I am most productive. It dawned on me it’s probably because I am more than a click away from social media or Words For Friends. It’s not that I didn’t realise technology, housework or making coffee are distractions, but I think I was in denial and hearing an established, successful and very down to earth author telling it as it is, helped the message get through.

And I will sit in my conservatory until I write a thousand words, or in the case of the next fortnight, with a deadline looming, two thousand words.

Lunch with Sue was excellent. It’s amazing how many topics of conversation we can get through in an hour.

A wonderful day, well spent.

Laura, Lucy, Lisa & Sue

Laura, Lucy, Lisa & Sue


Life Cycle of a Writer: When Life gets In the Way

IMG_6365For over two years I’ve struggled with symptoms of ill health which I’d put down to being a woman in her late forties and my rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve experienced headaches that floor me, limbs that can’t support me because they’ve turned to jelly or they’re weighed down with concrete blocks, interrupted sleep, dizziness, nausea, the usual sore and painful joints, and starting each day convinced someone has concertinaed my feet into my shoulders overnight. Every morning I would say to my husband that my pillow was made of rocks.

My focus was shot to pieces and my memory was full of holes. There were times when I struggled to recall people’s names, which I found highly embarrassing as I’ve always been good with people and places. I was fatigued – more so than my usual fatigue that comes with RA – there were days when I couldn’t be bothered to change the channel on the TV because it took too much energy. Thank goodness for my friends and family, who never questioned my actions, or inactions, and who never pushed me to be or do more than that which I felt able.

The symptoms increased – the pain was worse, the headaches lasted longer, the waking up feeling like I’d been in a car crash happened every single day, and I was exhausted. The thing is, I’ve lived with pain for over thirty years. My mind set is that some days are better than others, the bad times will pass, and tomorrow is another day. I’ve always tried to focus on the positive. I never put much emphasis on not being able to run around with the children, choosing instead to enjoy the wonderful times I spent reading to them or listening to them read, watching Barbie or Thomas the Tank Engine videos with them, or simply chatting.

My children are older now, extremely capable and have strong independent streaks. Thank goodness, as this recent bout of poor health knocked me so flat, I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t concentrate for any length of time, and I couldn’t think straight.

And I couldn’t write.

I had book four planned. I knew the characters, the plots and subplots, the issues, the romance, the first twenty thousand words – I had it all, ready to go, but I couldn’t muster the energy to do anything. If I managed to get myself to the computer, headaches would kick in within fifteen minutes and that was me neutralised for the next few hours. I resorted to sitting in a comfy chair in the living room, intending to write longhand, but even that was beyond me, partly down to the lack of focus and headaches, and partly due to my dodgy hands and fingers. I tinkered about a bit on my laptop and it seemed the change of position and the distance of the screen helped for a brief time, but still I wasn’t writing. I was putting together promo pieces for my existing books – creating ads and images to use as pinned tweets. I felt I was doing something positive. Something other than nothing.WDKY Twitter Evie Quote

But I should have been writing.

It became my mantra. I should be writing. I should be writing.

I should be writing.

I’ve always managed to write through the bad times. Always. Why was this so different?

I think I’ve just worked it out; quite literally this minute, as I write this post with hindsight: I didn’t fully understand what had changed and it was hard to see an end to the constant cycle of lack of sleep, fatigue, pain and brain fogginess. At that point there was no promise of a better day, the bad time appeared to have no intention of passing, and tomorrow was another day of much the same. Or worse.

In October 2015, in a regular, scheduled RA appointment, when I explained to my rheumatologist that I lived each day feeling as if I’d walked into a brick wall, that my knees and hips hurt more than normal, that I suspected my jaw was the culprit of the severe headaches, he checked my medical records, gently pressed on a few pressure points around my body, which had me hitting the ceiling, and asked if I experienced other symptoms such as dizziness, lack of sleep and confusion, all to which I said yes. His conclusion surprised me but at the same time, I felt validated.

‘Mrs James,’ he said, ‘it’s fibromyalgia.’

I recall returning home with a sheet of paper which contained addresses of FM websites, in my hand, walking into the living room and my husband asking me if I was all right.

‘Yes’, I replied. ‘But this explains the last few years.’ I handed him the paper, his brow went up, and he nodded.

I hadn’t gone to that appointment seeking answers. I’d gone for my regular RA consultation, but thank goodness for my marvellous doctor and his team. I’ve been again since and between the rheumatology department and my wonderful GP, we are finding a way to move forward with the FM.

The best bit? I’ve managed some serious blocks of sleep and within the last week, I’ve got back the writing bug.

Before finishing, I wanted to thank my publisher for their patience and understanding, and say thank you to all my friends and family for the support, care and space they’ve provided.

I realise this has the potential to be a long and winding road, but today, the sun is shining, my pillow is soft, and I’m excited at the prospect of an empty page.

And tomorrow could be even better.

Take care.

Laura x









Roving Romaniacs – Life Cycle of a Writer goes to Chichester

The Life Cycle of A Writer has been a popular feature here on the blog for over a year now where we all take it in turns to update what’s been going on in our writerly worlds. Last week saw the first live date, when The Life Cycle of a Writer went to Chichester library. It went really well and we are hoping to book some further dates at other libraries along the south coast. Here are a few photos and words from Catherine, Laura and Sue to sum up the evening.

sue laura catherine chi library

Sue: It was a great evening and although I was nervous to start with, once we got chatting I felt much more relaxed. It was good to see some familiar faces in the audience and we received some really positive feedback. Thank you to Chichester Library who were fantastic hosts.

sue laura chi library

Laura: I agree with Sue. It was a great evening. The audience was attentive and engaged and asked interesting questions, the library was a superb venue with lovely staff, and going on tour with Sue and Catherine was fun. I was chairing the panel, although that involved little input from me as the discussion flowed naturally and all three Romaniacs kept the conversation moving forward. I was in my element. I was ‘on stage’, and chatting about writing and books. I’m very much looking forward to taking the talk to more venues, and would love to return to Chichester library. So pleased we were able to encourage and help new writers.


Catherine: I’m the one that talks with my hands. As I waved through my parts of our talk, it was great to have an audience to engage with (us writers normally have to chat to ourselves) and the Q&A session provided some excellent questions. Thanks to everyone who joined us and hopefully they’ll be another one soon. 


SFTW: What Doesn’t Kill You.

What Doesn't Kill You Laura E James_FRONT_150dpi

I am excited, thrilled and nervous today, as my third novel for Choc Lit is released. What Doesn’t Kill You is published under Choc Lit’s new imprint, Dark Choc Lit – compelling, emotional, hard-hitting novels. Not your typical romance story.

Released on NetGalley for early reviews, I am delighted to say the novel has been warmly received, and I thank everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on the story.

Told from three perspectives, WDKY is set in and around the Jurassic Coast, making it the third in the Chesil Beach series. We meet our hero, Griff Hendry, as he stands on Portland Bill, watching the stormy sea. His life is as turbulent as the English Channel, with secrets and past torments threatening to drown everything he knows and loves. His wife, Evie, has pushed him away; he’s at odds with his fifteen-year-old step-daughter, Tess, and he struggles to understand his father’s past actions. Sometimes it seems as if his Old English sheepdog, Ozzy, is the only one he truly gets.

Waterlogue 1.1.4 (1.1.4) Preset Style = Soaked Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Blurry Water Bleed = Intense Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Wide Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

Griff asks the question: Where did it all go wrong?

Here’s my book trailer teaser …

For an alternative version with a different feel and atmosphere provided by the music, please hop over to my blog.

I hope you love the story of Griff, Evie and Tess, and thank you so much for downloading.

Take care.

Laura x

Life Cycle of A Writer: Bananarama, Broken Bones and Back To School

I have an ear- worm, and the best way I know to rid oneself of an ear-worm is to share, so here it is: Bananarama’s Cruel Summer.

The six-week school holiday mostly passed by in a blur of grey skies, grizzly, drizzly and occasionally torrential rain, and dim light.

My children didn’t seem to mind. The damp days were an excellent reason to stay home and play computer games, draw, and read, and, bless them, they didn’t object to me spending some of that time in the edits cave with What Doesn’t Kill You.

Not upgrading until the edits are complete ...

Not upgrading until the edits are complete …

With the years whizzing by, I’m keen to spend as much down-time with my children as possible – their adulthood is lurking around the next corner – so I kept my daylight editing hours to the minimum. I saw 3:00 am a number of times, and worked right through until 5:30 am on the last night/day to ensure I returned my work on time. This is no reflection on my editor – she is lovely and actively encouraged me to spend time with my children over the holidays, but once I get stuck into edits, it’s better if I keep going, so I can keep a mental track of the changes. Last year I explained the process to my youngest in this way: Imagine you are calculating a sum with lots of different actions – brackets, additions, subtractions, equations – working out each sum as you go along, trying to hold all that information in your head so you can give a final answer – that is what editing is like for me, except with words, plot and structure.

Beach Shack

There were a few sunny days when we managed to nip out for a spot of fresh air and exercise. We live five minutes away from the beach, and although we’d hoped to make more use of it this year, it was not to be. Thankfully, I took lots of photos of our trips out – days that earned the hashtag #summerholidaysinoneday. (I now have another ear-worm going on – Crowded House – Four Seasons In One Day, which, by the way, we experienced in one morning.)

IMG_0674 IMG_0685 IMG_0599 IMG_0663

I purposely did no other writing during the holidays as I find it difficult to swap from edits and characters in one novel to the characters and plot of the work-in-progress, so book 4, as yet untitled, remained untouched. I’m panicking a little, as I’m only 15,000 words in, and I have six months to complete and revise. So far, a year is the shortest time I’ve taken to write a novel …


The plan was to return to book 4 once the children were back at school, but those plans have been put on hold a little longer, as my daughter fractured a bone and tore a ligament in her knee in a Tae Kwondo accident, three days into the new term. We have come through the first week, so it’s onwards and upwards now.

Such is the life cycle of a writer …

Take care,

Laura x