Life Cycle of a Writer – The Battle and The Spoils

Life Cycle of a Writer – Sue Fortin

Well, it’s been something of a struggle the last couple of months on the writing front. I’ve been working on my structural edits for my next book, The Birthday Girl, which involved cutting out 40k words – very nearly half the book. I had taken a gamble on part of the plot where I introduced a police enquiry and to be blunt, it didn’t pay off. I couldn’t quite capture what I was trying to achieve. At several points, I wasn’t sure cutting so much out was doing the right thing and my confidence took something of a dip. I began to question my wisdom with the big changes I had made but, at the same time, knew not making those changes would produce a book that no-one would be happy with.

I did at one point wish I hadn’t started writing the book at all and that I could shove it in the bottom drawer and never look at it again. However, in reality, that wasn’t an option. I had to work out how I could rewrite it so it was more me and more the sort of book I like to write and read.

I had lots of support from my publishers, editor, agent and not least my family, who have all been very patient and understanding. I worked out how I could bring the focus back onto my main characters and with a certain amount of uncertainty I rewrote 40k words, the outcome being 94k words which I was much happier with. It felt like my book when I sent it back to my editor.

At this point, I’m still waiting for her feedback so I have my fingers crossed that she will like what I’ve done. I think there will be some more work needed on it before we move onto the next round of edits but nothing on the scale of the first round.

There have been lots of brighter moments, of course, not least seeing the Hungarian covers of Sister Sister and The Girl Who Lied and foreign rights for both books selling in six countries. Penguin Germany made an offer and wanted a response by midday, which happened to be the day I was out and about and hadn’t checked my emails. My agent had to text me and tell me to look at my emails – urgently!

I also saw a ‘shelfie’ of Sister Sister in Target stores in America. I knew it was going into the stores but actually seeing a picture made it seem real. So, thank you to the lovely book blogger who took the time to tag me on Instagram for that. Again, through Instagram, I was tagged in a post from a book club based in Houston who read my book and had a great discussion about sisters and families. It’s wonderful when you hear things like that and it’s the biggest thrill I get from writing.

I’m heading off to Italy next week with my lovely Romaniac pals, Laura and Catherine, for a writing retreat headed up by Sue Moorcroft at Arte Umbria. It was my intention to get the first draft of my next book completed but with the way things have gone with the edits, it’s not a realistic ambition but I’m hoping to get a good chunk of it written anyway. I’m very much looking forward to spending time with other writers, which always has a positive impact on my own output. The prosecco and location, well, I’ll have to suffer those for my art!



Life Cycle of a Writer – Feedback

Hello, Sue here, it’s my turn on Life Cycle of a Writer. I’ve recently been going through the editing stages of my new novel, Sister, Sister which is due out 6 January and what I love about the writing process is that it’s constantly evolving and I’m learning new skills and ways to do things all the time.

sister-sister-newThis is my fifth full-length novel to be published and this time I enlisted the help of two writing buddies, or beta readers as they can sometimes be called, for their feedback. It’s the first time I’ve asked for feedback on a whole manuscript from someone other than the RNA NWS, my editor or agent and I have to say, I found their comments invaluable. Not only did they pick up on different points, but they both had issues with some of the same points. The latter being a big red flag to me that those particularly parts of the novel weren’t working as I had intended and definitely needed looking at again.

Every writer has different approaches to their novel writing process and I was interested to find out what works for others. Bestselling authors Sue Moorcroft and Louise Jensen were kind enough to talk about the way they gain feedback and use beta readers.

Sue Moorcroft

tcpI’ve used beta readers for ages. It began with being critique partners with Mark West, who writes chillers and gritty crime and was in the same writers’ group as I. We read all of each other’s stuff, in those days. (As I got a bit wussier and some of Mark’s stuff was scary, this arrangement became more one-sided but now his stuff is a bit less scary I’m sometimes reading for him again.)

I struck up a cyber-friendship with another writer, Roger, who wrote erotica and SF (sometimes in the same story) and we beta-read for each other until he sadly left the world.

I also ask for beta-reading help from anybody who has helped with a significant amount of the research for a particular book and I became friends in this way with Dominic via ‘Dream a Little Dream’. His feedback was so analytical and helpful that I asked if he’d fill Roger’s shoes for the next book, which he has done ever since.

It’s very useful for me to have male beta readers. I write partly from the male point of view and they can tell me when I’m not thinking like a man. I take a lot of notice, especially when they both have issues with the same aspect of a novel. Mark and Dominic send me such pithy, wise, and mickey-taking comments that I always look forward to receiving them.

Louise Jensen

the-giftWhen I decided to write The Sister I was lucky enough to apply for, and gain a place on, The WoMentoring Project, a scheme which provides free mentors for up and coming female authors. I was able to get the first few chapters of my novel looked at and some great feedback as to where I was going wrong. When I felt I had gone as far as I could go with my novel a friend read it for me and suggested some changes, but after I had done these I still didn’t have the confidence to submit my manuscript. I paid for a critique and that was a real turning point for me. Getting professional advice on the market I was entering was enormously helpful as well as an overall view of my plot.

Writing The Gift I have been up against a very tight deadline. The same friend has helped me out again but also a couple of readers who loved The Sister have been happy to give me their opinion on my new story.

Now I am in the infant stages of book 3 I regularly meet up with a couple of writer friends so we can all support each other. I have found that both being critiqued and providing critique have really helped me progress as a writer.

So, now the majority of my edits are complete for Sister, Sister, I’m waiting for the final proof-read and currently working on my next novel for which I shall definitely be calling on the help of my writing buddies and beta readers.



Sue Fortin, Inspired by …

So many things and people have in the past, and continue to, inspire my writing, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

photo (8)Going way back to my childhood, I suppose my first influence was Enid Blyton. I loved her books, especially anything where a mystery was involved, ‘The Secret Seven‘, ‘The Famous Five’ and my favourite series, ‘The Mystery of ….‘ books. Later on, I became a fan of Agatha Christie and more darker authors, such as, Minette Walters or thriller writers like, Chris Kuzneski and James Patterson with his ‘Women’s Murder Club’.  As you can see, mystery and thrillers have been a long held passion of mine.

At the other end of the scale, I do enjoy a good romance and it was through reading Jilly Cooper‘s ‘Riders‘ that I learned how, over a period of time, you could turn a villain into a hero – think Rupert Campbell-Black. Through reading Sue Moorcroft‘s novel ‘Starting Over‘ I discovered the Romantic Novelists’ Association and I was delighted to be able to join under their New Writers’ Scheme. Without the support of the RNA and the wonderful people I have met through it, I’m not sure I would have made it this far in my writing adventure.

Special thanks must also go to Julie Cohen, Sarah Duncan, Sue Moorcroft (again 🙂 ) and Margaret James as I have attended or been enrolled on courses delivered by each of them at some point over the past four or five years. Words of encouragement, advice and general support is much appreciated – they’ve fulfilled their end of the deal  by inspiring me to continue with my writing, now it’s up to me to fulfil mine.

Sheffield Julie Cohen
Julie Cohen, RNA Conference, Sheffiled 2013

It’s not only people who inspire me but the whole world around me, locally, nationally and internationally. Absorbing everything around me, consciously or sub-consciously, it all go into the Ideas and Inspiration Pot.

I couldn’t close without saying that daily, not only do my family and fellow Romaniac girls encourage me to keep writing but readers do too.  Hearing how much someone has enjoyed one of my books both humbles me and inspires my writing.






Roving Romaniacs: Arte Umbria, Italy

This has to be one of the best things I have done this year, alongside taking the family to Florida at Easter.

If you’re considering going abroad to take a creative course, be it painting or in my case, writing, where the sunshine is pretty much guaranteed and the wine flow is…well, pretty much guaranteed, then consider no more. Arte Umbria is the place to go.

I spent a glorious week in the company of other writers, including our Ce, on a course led by Choc Lit author, and respected tutor, Sue Moorcroft.

The setting was beautiful, the weather wonderful, the workshops fun and informative, and the hosts welcoming.

I think it’s fair to say the course participants each took something different away from the course. Sue’s workshops and guidance helped me find a way forward with my work-in-progress, Follow Me.

Private writing time provided the opportunity to finish a draft, edit, or take time to out to simply be inspired.

Why don’t I show you…

The Terrace
The Terrace
Spectacular views from our 'office'
Spectacular views from our ‘office’
The mist soon burned off
The mist soon burned off
Celia, Sadie & Sue. Orvieto
Celia, Sadie & Sue. Orvieto
Orvieto Cathedral or 'Duomo'
Orvieto Cathedral or ‘Duomo’
La Scarzuola. Worth a Google
La Scarzuola. Worth a Google
Industrious Celia. I was working - see my keyboard? I broke off to take the photo. Honest.
Industrious Celia. I was working – see my keyboard to the left? I broke off to take the photo. Honest.
We met a Marquesi and we sampled his wine, all in the name of research
We met a Marquesi and we sampled his wine, all in the name of research
Great company
Great company
Two Roving Romaniacs
Two Roving Romaniacs…
And Umberto.
And Umberto. We all loved Umberto.

What a fantastic experience.

Laura x

Life in a Book

Some stories, whether in novel, song, poem or film, get right beneath my skin. They’re the ones that stay with me.

Paloma Faith
Paloma Faith

I’m obsessed at the moment with songs from Paloma Faith. I made mention of it on my site last week. It’s possible you’ve caught me posting on Facebook too. I’ve listened to both her albums for some time, but it’s now only that I’m relating to the lyrics. Is it that I’m paying proper attention to the words or that the songs are relevant to this point of my life? Or have my life experiences been such that I now understand more?

Recently, I read Sue Moorcroft’s Dream A Little Dream, and aspects of the story resonated within. It was the same with Me Before You, Jojo Moyes.When I read these books, their subject matter was extremely pertinent to what was happening in my life, and their effect on me was made all the more powerful by the skill and care with which the books were written.Sue Moorcroft DALD

The first book to make me cry was Love and Devotion, Erica James. If I remember rightly, I read it not long after I’d had my second child. I won’t give away the plot, but the questions the book raises, and the fact the tragedy that befalls the children in the story is not outside the realms of possibilty, affected me greatly.

Jodi Picoult and Laura.
Jodi Picoult and Laura.

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult, was the second book that made me weep.

I was watching Home Alone with Child Number Two a few days ago, and even though I warned him I would cry at the end of the film, he was still surprised by my emotion. ‘Really, Mum?’ he asked, eyebrows as high as the Empire State. ‘Really,’ I replied, as Gajitman passed across another Kleenex.

Have you ever watched Beaches? Yep. Makes me cry every time. Sound of Music does too. And I know why. It’s because I understand the parents’ point of view, and feel for the children. Since having my two, my tissue expenditure has increased ten-fold.

So, which books, films, songs or poems get beneath your skin? Which make you sob your heart out? Why are we affected so much by stories?

Laura x

Tuesday Chit Chats: The Romaniac Cut

Tuesday Chit Chats: The Romaniac Cut.

The Romaniacs

I have four questions today – instantly The Two Ronnies sketch comes to mind – you know the one? Fork Handles…It’s a bit like that at Romaniac HQ…Anyway, I digress. Mid-February will see the first anniversary of The Romaniac Blog, and that has put me in a reflective mood. Looking back through our Tuesday Chit Chats, I’ve chosen four questions we asked our wonderful guests, whilst they supped wine and ate HobNobs, that I’d like to put to you.

  1. Is there a book you wished you had written?
  2. Who are your top three favourite fictional characters?
  3. How vividly do you recall your dreams and are they in colour?
  4. What are the funniest and most interesting or unusual questions you’ve been asked at a talk or book signing?

 Liz Harris: The Road Back.

Liz Harris

Is there a book out there that you liked so much, you wished you had written it?TRB_revised1

I haven’t read Fifty shades of Grey, but I certainly wish I’d written it. I could have easily got used to lugging sacks of lucre to the bank! As to both parts of your question, though, I’ve loved many novels over the years, but I don’t think that I’ve ever consciously wished that I’d written one of them myself. I have too much fun creating my own fictional world ever to wish that I’d created that of someone else.

Nikki Goodman: NWS Member

Nikki Goodman

Name three favourite fictional heroes?

That’s really hard – I’ve read so many books! I’m going to go for a fictional heroine first. 

1)      Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.

tokillmockingbirdI studied the book for English at school and the empathy and maturity that Scout shows towards Boo Radley, and the journey she goes on in coming to terms with people’s prejudices and realising that both good and evil exist really struck me… and stayed with me.

2)      And then to the other extreme…Rupert Campbell-Black in Riders and sequels

I read the books when I was in my late teens. I know RC-B is supposed to be the ultimate anti-hero but he is so sexy and such a bad boy! He does have some redeeming features though, that start to slowly come out once he meets Taggie, who becomes his wife. I liked the fact that love made him a better man, without it changing him too much; he’s still a bit of a scoundrel!

3)      And slightly predictable; Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice

Just because she is strong minded and witty and is not afraid to say what she thinks, which for the time the novel is set in, was brave.

 Sue Moorcroft: Dream A Little Dream.

Portrait of Sue Moorcroft

Sue Moorcroft DALDWe’re told everybody dreams, even though we don’t always remember. How vividly do you recall your dreams and are they in colour?

Sometimes very vividly, but only in snatches. I’ve never been able to work out if my dreams are in colour or whether I just paint colour in when I’m recalling them. I’m subject to nightmares, which may be a reason why I don’t like reading or watching anything scary – it comes back get me that night!

Jane Lovering: Vampire State of Mind.

Jane Lovering

What are the funniest and most interesting or unusual questions you’ve been asked at a talk or book signing?VSOM_packshot copy

Apart from ‘why have you got your pants on your head?’  People don’t often ask me questions.  They are usually accelerating away too quickly, although a lady did ask, during a recent talk, about the use of the subjunctive in modern novels.  THAT was interesting…  Mostly though, questions are limited to ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ and ‘who is the responsible adult who is currently in charge of you?’

You can link back to the original interviews by clicking on the author’s name.

Now, how would you answer those four questions?

Laura x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Sue Moorcroft

Well, good morning Sue. It is wonderful to see you at Romaniac HQ. We’ve steam-cleaned the place and we have a bottle of Catherine’s lovely granddad’s cherry wine and plenty of Dream Bars in the fridge if you’d care to indulge.

Thank you! But could the wine be white, please? Sorry to be a nuisance …

Of course. I’m sure we have some left…Comfy?

Now I’ve got the white wine. Thank you.

How is your F1 season going?

Hmm. It was going better when the McLarens were doing well. My dream result for any race is Jenson Button followed home by Lewis Hamilton and that’s just not happening. It’s an interesting season, though, with lots of the unexpected, which always excites me. As you’ve given me such an opening for shameless self-promotion … you can read some of my Girlracer columns from the 2012 season here.

You are one of the busiest writers on the planet – what fuels you?

The desire for success. A wish to be professional and hit deadlines. A bank account that needs constant injections of money. The desire not to have to go back to doing ‘a proper job’ to earn that money. A worry that if something’s offered to me and I say ‘no’ I might regret it.

What techniques do you employ to manage your time?

I try and stay off a game called ‘Jewels Rock’ on Facebook …

I measure the success of my day in terms of productivity – have I done anything that has earned money? If it’s not money, is there some other value, such as promo or networking? Promo and networking are important but they can’t be allowed to take over my job as a writer. I often segment my day – work with students/competition entrants in the morning, leaving me free to write in the afternoons. I acknowledge that things that give me pleasure, such as Zumba and yoga and the quick cuppa I snatch with my gym bunny friends afterwards, have the potential to increase my productivity by making me happier. I love Facebook and Twitter but see that they can be time sucks, so I have a bit of a routine, only going on for short times and at certain times. (Mainly.) (Sometimes.) (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

You’ve chosen narcolepsy as a subject for a romance novel in your new book, Dream A Little Dream. What was the thinking behind this? Why were you drawn to this particular condition?

It was whimsical. I was talking to an online friend about titles. Further down the email he commented on some other matter with, ‘Life’s not a dream’. And I said, ‘Dream – that would be a good word to include in one of my titles.’ I knew Dominic Christy would have a condition that he felt reflexology would be unable to help him with (Liza Reece was already a reflexologist as she was a secondary character in All That Mullarkey) and the idea of narcolepsy came to me by association. We’re all familiar with sleep-time dreams (which people with the rare sleep disorder narcolepsy can experience in a particularly vivid form) but we also use the word to refer to goals and aspirations. Both definitions power my book. I became a research junkie on the subject of narcolepsy and can’t quite leave it alone, even now.

What research was involved?

Lots. I began by reading websites and books. I realised that I was reading the same fairly superficial information there and moved on to message boards, where real people with narcolepsy discussed their issues. But I still didn’t feel that I was getting under the skin of a person with narcolepsy so I joined the Narcolepsy UK website message board and asked for someone to help me. I said that my hero was called Dominic Christy, was in his thirties and had narcolepsy. Amongst several replies from people of the wrong gender or age was one that began, ‘I had to write to you because my name is Dominic, I’m in my thirties and have narcolepsy …’ The Real Dominic became my major source of research. He told me early on that he was on board if I told it as it is, as he was pretty sick of stand-up comedians using the disability as a butt to their jokes, and I was happy to comply. As I’ve got to know The Real Dominic I’ve realised how absolutely unfunny narcolepsy can be. His commitment to my project was amazing, considering he has a busy and responsible full time job as well as all the other usual trappings of life to deal with. If he ever covered his eyes and groaned when he saw my e-mails with ‘Quick question …’ in the subject line, he never let me know.

We’re told everybody dreams, even though we don’t always remember. How vividly do you recall your dreams and are they in colour?

Sometimes very vividly, but only in snatches. I’ve never been able to work out if my dreams are in colour or whether I just paint colour in when I’m recalling them. I’m subject to nightmares, which may be a reason why I don’t like reading or watching anything scary – it comes back get me that night!

Have your dreams resolved waking problems or plots?

Not really. I have dreamed about something I’m writing but haven’t been able to recall it in a cogent form.

What are your future dreams and aspirations?

I’d like to sell my novels in greater numbers (and, therefore, be free to spend more time on Zumba and yoga, writing conferences and the associated social stuff). I’d like to travel more, be able to afford first class tickets routinely. And own a helicopter. And a house in Malta. (No harm in dreaming big, is there?)

How did you get into judging and teaching creative writing?

That work seems to come and find me. I rarely pitch for it and have no formal teacher training. I think that I’m a natural communicator (even when people don’t necessarily wish me to share with them) and have little trouble forming opinions (ditto). At a couple of writerly events people asked me stuff – mainly how to sell short stories, in those days, I think. My responses were overheard, became discussions, and I was asked to contribute to panels. Then someone asked me to teach a distance-learning course, then someone else asked me to teach at a residential course. I receive offers frequently. It just happened. It rarely occurs to me that I can’t do these things but I do tell whoever employs me that I don’t have qualifications, just a body of work and the ability to critique.

How much are you looking forward to teaching in Umbria?

LOTS! That work I did kind of pitch for. A friend posted on a forum saying that she knew someone who was putting on residential writing courses and asked for people to give their feedback on what they felt worked or didn’t. I provided feedback and added, ‘And if your contact’s looking for a tutor, do remember me.’ But, as my friend is dyslexic, I honestly thought the courses were in Cumbria. When Arte Umbria contacted me and gave me their URL and I saw their fabulous Italian estate with a country house, a pool, and all those gorgeous walks, I was astounded. And signed up as soon as I was asked to.

Now for a quick-fire round:

Silverstone or Brands Hatch?

Silverstone. Mainly because I’ve never been to Brands Hatch.

Senna or Schumacher?

Which Senna, Ayrton or Bruno? Which Schumacher, Michael or Ralf? Senna, anyway, because I’ve never been much of a Schumacher fan, although I’ve enjoyed Michael more in his comeback career than I did first time around.

Foggy or Rossi?

Foggy. I used to work at Motor Cycle News when he was a big star and drew on his looks a little bit for Justin in All That Mullarkey. But I have huge respect for Valentino Rossi.

Monday, Monday or California Dreaming?

California Dreaming.

Lean or broad?

Leanish, but with muscles.

Home or away?

Depends where away is, but if it’s somewhere nice (and warm), away.

Solid sleep or power naps?

Solid sleep. Power naps tend to disrupt my solid sleep.

Fantasy world or real world?

Fantasy. Real is too painful, sometimes.

Thank you so much for dropping by today, Sue, and for answering these questions and all the other questions The Romaniacs have thrown at you over the last few months.

You’ve been a dream guest.

🙂 Thank you. You’re all lovely and I look forward to lifting a few glasses with you again soon.

Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes for Choc Lit. Her last book, Love & Freedom, won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 at the Festival of Romance and Dream a Little Dream is out now.

Combining writing success with her experience as a creative writing tutor, she’s written a ‘how to’ book, Love Writing – How to Make Money From Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction (Accent Press). Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles and courses and is the head judge for Writers’ Forum fiction competition. She’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.

Check out her website and her blog at for news and writing tips. You’re welcome to befriend Sue on Facebook or Follow Sue on Twitter.