Life Cycle of a Writer – Learning to be patient…

The last few weeks have been about short story celebrations and learning to be patient when it comes to the novel… I’m in the middle of a major re-write of my work-in-progress, taking out one character’s POV, adding in a whole new character and sub-plot. I had a really good, constructive conversation with my fabulous agent, Juliet Mushens, and embarked on the re-write full of enthusiasm. I sent her the first few re-written chapters and obsessively checked my emails for the next couple of weeks, waiting for her feedback. The feedback, when I rather nervously opened the email, was good – she loved the new chapters. Hurray!

I promptly emailed back saying brilliant-I’ll-give-up-sleep-and-finish-writing-the-book-in-the-next-two-weeks-and-send-it-back-to-you, to which she responded – stop! Slow down! Write it, rest it, then edit it, then send it. Make sure it’s the best you can possibly make it. I’d given myself a deadline – totally self-imposed – of having this book finished and out on submission by the end of the year, so I was racing through the edits to meet a deadline that no one else even knew about. I’m now attempting to be patient – far better for it to go out next spring as a finished, polished book than rush through it now and have to re-edit yet again.

I had a couple of nice surprises on the short story and flash fiction front – my story A Life Lived in Colour made the top twenty shortlist out of a thousand entries in the inaugural Bath Flash Fiction Award and I got to attend a prize-giving event at Wells Festival of Literature when a story made their shortlist.

IMG_3725 IMG_3731

I was also thrilled to make the shortlist for a flash fiction piece in the Hysteria competition, and my story will be in the anthology released at the end of November.

This all helped to remind me, when I get impatient and want to have a book published now now now, that although I don’t yet have a novel published, I’m building up a nice collection of magazines and anthologies with my stories in them.


I think sometimes, as writers, we’re so keen to progress, to move on – win the competition, win a prize, get an agent, get a book deal, get another, bigger, better book deal… – that we forget to congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved. It doesn’t matter whether that’s a shortlisting, a book deal or just finishing a story and being able to say I did it. We’re doing it, we’re writing, and that’s worth celebrating.

Pass the cake, someone, crack open the wine – let’s celebrate!



Life Cycle of a Writer – Jumping in and letting go

I made the decision at the start of the school summer holidays to lock my work-in-progress away and leave it alone for a couple of months. Complicated editing left my brain aching and I was no longer sure if I had something good or the worst thing ever written in the history of the written word. I couldn’t look at it objectively – all I could see was a big, tangled mess. Definitely time to let go and walk away before I deleted the whole thing. So I did think my turn on LCOAW would be a very short and not-so-sweet ‘I’ve done nothing in the last two months’… but sometimes the down times can be productive in other ways.

  1. Progress has been made on the next book – I have a sheet full of post-it notes, a notebook slowly filling with character and plot notes.
  1. My house is tidier. (Not tidy – but tidier…)
  1. My garden has real flowers in it, not just weeds.
  1. I’ve caught up on a lot of reading – all ready to top up the TBR pile with lots of lovely new releases.

And most importantly, I’ve had time to spend with my daughters – trips to the park, the beach, the cinema – picnics and playtime and fun. Sometimes that’s as important for grown-ups as it is for kids!

Last week, I went on holiday – first week away in the sun for many years – and it was total bliss. A wonderful week of relaxing and reading. Mostly there was a lot of this:


But I did also put the work-in-progress on my kindle to take with me. Having rested it, I was ready to read it through again – away from the computer so I couldn’t edit as I went along, but armed with a notebook so I could make brief notes.

The time away from it worked wonders – as did the lack of access to a computer. I read it through in one go and could see right away the problem that’s been bogging me down for ages, and I could see how to resolve it. And as soon as the children go back to school next week, I’m going to sit down, re-edit and finally call the book finished!

On the first day of our holiday, the first thing my daughters did was jump straight in the pool with all their clothes on. I was more cautious – one toe at a time… that’s how it’s been with this book. Changing genre is scary and I’ve been nervous about jumping straight in – it’s definitely been a one toe at a time kind of book, nudged and encouraged along by my agent. Maybe by the time I get stuck into the next one, I’ll be braver – maybe I’ll even jump straight in :-)



Life Cycle of a Writer – Turning to Crime (Writing)

The last couple of months have seen a few changes for me – I’m back to the day-job now as my writing bursary period has come to an end. It was wonderful to have so much time to write and I’m hugely grateful to Literature Wales for awarding me a bursary. I achieved more than I hoped to – my work-in-progress has moved on and been through a whole new re-write and edit and I’m almost ready to press send… and I’m keeping everything crossed that the faith shown in me and this book will be rewarded with some good news.

I also attended Crimefest in Bristol last month – my first ever crime writing conference. I’ve always loved attending the annual RNA conferences but as my current book is a domestic noir / psychological thriller, I was keen to hear other writers in the crime/thriller genre speak about their books and their writing. Each day of the conference began with a debut authors panel and as an unpublished writer, it was interesting to hear about all the journeys to publication.  The conference is for readers as much as writers so I got to discover dozens of new authors I can’t wait to read – and, of course, I ended up spending far too much money at the bookstall! As well as all the interviews, panels and spotlight sessions, there were several drinks receptions hosted by publishers plus a reception to announce the CWA Dagger Shortlists. I didn’t make the pub quiz or gala dinner this year, but I’ll definitely be there next time!



As well as dabbling in crime, I’ve been indulging in a bit of flashing… Flash fiction is my other writing love – when I find myself floundering in a 100,000 word ms, writing something 500 words long – or 300, or 100 – is a breath of fresh air, a pit stop, a power nap. If I write a tiny flash piece, I go back to the novel refreshed. National Flash-Fiction Day is on 27th June and I’m happy to report my story Useless Without The Other Half will be in the upcoming NFFD anthology

Almost more rewarding than any of that was the eureka moment when the fragments of ideas floating around for my next book came together – so my next couple of months are now set: After I’ve sent off The Murder House, I won’t allow myself too much time for obsessive in-box watching because I’ll be straight onto the first draft of the next one! I’ve bought the post-it notes, a new notebook and three new pens. I’m ready!

Happy writing!

Vanessa x

Life Cycle of a Writer: Sparkle Round-Up


As we look forward to warm weather, balmy days, and writing in the garden, we take a look back at the last eight weeks of the Romaniacs Life Cycle of a Writer.

IMG_9177Laura: Having subbed book 3 to my publisher, and following wrist surgery, I took a short break from writing, enjoying the Easter holidays with my family. A major thrill was when I visited the local branch of Waterstones to find Follow Me Follow You on the central table and on the shelf next to one of my favourite authors, Erica James. Although I’ve not been writing, I have been mentally planning book four and am keen to get started. I’m still searching for a title …

Sue: Since having The Half Truth published, I took an extended writing break which I blogged about here. The past two weeks have seen me tentatively dip back into an old WIP that has been kicking around for 3 or 4 years. I think, finally, I can see the end on the horizon.

Jan: Having recently signed with Choc Lit as a result of my novel As Weekends Go winning the Choc Lit and Whole Story Audio Books Search for a Star competition, I had a mild panic upon receiving my first structural edits report … BUT … upon meeting my lovely editor for a coffee and a chat, who brilliantly explained how the suggestions would help strengthen the novel, I feel really excited about cracking on with the revisions.

Debbie: It’s no secret that I’ve been treading treacle for over two years. The only time I seem to get any quality words down is when I’m on holiday, away from domestic chaos!  Determined to get the WIP I’ve been working on for almost four years finished once and for all, I went to Cheshunt for Tamsyn Murray’s, ‘Live, Breathe, LOVE Writing,’ workshop at the middle of April. IMG_1555Julie Cohen and Miranda Dickinson were inspiring and motivational guest speakers (as well as slave drivers!) and I met some lovely kindred spirits including Bernadette O’Dwyer and Helen Walters whom I’ve been acquainted with on-line for several years but never met in person.

IMG_1560The main message was simple. Get it finished! Stop being frightened, stop making excuses, stop procrastinating and stop allowing those crows to peck on my shoulders, telling me I can’t do it! ’ Most important is to keep writing until I type, ‘THE END.

It was just the kick up the butt I needed and, with the spurring on of Bernadette and Helen, I’m now up to 86,364 words and writing four or five days a week to get it off for the RNA NWS before the end of August deadline. Continue reading

Life Cycle of a Writer – Taking A Break From Writing

Sue Fortin

It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was here blogging about receiving my edits for The Half Truth (click HERE to view). Since then my third Harper Impulse novel has flown the nest and is fending for itself out in the big wide world. I will be honest in saying that afterwards I felt quite drained by the whole process. Despite having plenty of writing to get on with, I didn’t feel emotionally or physcially able to do any. At the back of my mind the writing advice of ‘write something every day’ kept plaguing me but try as I might, I couldn’t summon up any enthusiasm.  I was also very much aware my family were well in credit for some of my time, having graciously and lovingly, supported me when I was under deadline pressure.

The Owl & The Pussy Cat

The Owl & The Pussy Cat



So, ignoring the ‘write every day’ advice, I decided I would do anything and everything but that. I must admit I’ve had an excellent six week writing break, which took into account Easter holidays too. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve spent huge amounts of time with my children, my family, celebrating three of our birthdays, catching up with friends, visiting places, pottering around the house, sewing, reading, making cakes (and eating them!); it’s been great.

To begin with I didn’t even feel the urge to do any writing in any shape or form, but gradually over the weeks, my mind has turned to my WIP and I’ve even started toying with ideas for the book after that. However, I’m holding out until next week before I pick up with my WIP. It’s about 71k words in and going well. First though, I’ll probably spend some time plotting out the book after that one before I forget.

I have to say, taking a writing break, as in no writing whatsoever, has been the best thing I’ve done for a long time. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s certainly worked for me. Now I’m feeling revived and enthusiastic and I’m very much looking forward to getting back behind the keyboard.



Life Cycle of a Writer – In the Waiting Room

It’s my turn to give an update for our Life Cycle Of A Writer series this week …

I was due to send a new edit of my work-in-progress off to my agent at the end of January – this has been delayed by a few weeks as I moved house and it’s taken me a while to find my way through the boxes to my desk!  Also delayed by the fact I keep thinking I’ve finished, then waking up in the night with new ideas so I go back to re-edit. But I think I’m nearly there and the latest edit will be going off to Juliet at the end of the week and I’ll be back in the waiting room refreshing my emails every five seconds and biting my nails waiting for feedback.

I think all writers spend time in that waiting room, whether unpublished or published, agented or not. We wait for responses to agent or publisher submissions, we wait for feedback, we wait for editorial notes, we wait for the day our books are finally published, we wait for reviews, we wait for sales figures. We wear out our computer keyboards refreshing that email in-box and we jump every time the post hits the mat.

waiting room

I often fill the waiting time by entering writing competitions – this is also good for my poor agent who, otherwise, would end up getting a squillion needy emails a day from me looking for updates/news/reassurance. Entering writing competitions also adds to that email checking excitement – the next email that comes through might not be spam, it could be news of a shortlisting or even a win!

Last year, I entered a lot of competitions (I’m not very good at waiting) but also had a lot of shortlist success which is another kind of reassurance – I found myself on shortlists of competitions I’ve come nowhere in in previous years: The Harry Bowling Prize, the Yeovil Literary Prize, the Mslexia Novel Competition, the Brighton Prize, the Caledonia Novel Award. For me, it’s a sign I’m heading in the right direction with my writing – a sign I need at the moment as I’ve changed direction and this book is a psychological thriller. Previously, I was writing women’s fiction, but with dark themes and ideas and I could see I was heading for a cliff edge where I needed to decide whether to step back and go lighter or make the commitment and jump. Talking through my ideas with lovely agent Juliet, I could see where this book wanted to go – it wanted me to jump, to fully embrace the dark side. The clue was in the title – my original working title was Hunting the Light, which is maybe what I was doing, nervously standing at the edge of that cliff, but it didn’t work for the book so I’ve re-named it The Murder House, taken a deep breath and jumped off the cliff.

standing on the cliff edge

I was thrilled last week to find The Murder House in the final four of the inaugural Caledonia Novel Award so I think taking that jump was the right move. And I’m also hoping that with The Murder House in its new edited form, this year will be the year the waiting ends.



Editing is Just Like Moving Home

My recent house move has seen me sorting, packing, moving, unpacking and sorting once more, it has seen me happy, miserable, delighted, exhausted, on my knees, pulling my hair out, burying my head in my hands and, at one point, I thought I might go insane – think ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, a pair of pants and two pencils…

A bout of insanity

However, I survived – Yay!

What has this to do with writing? Well, as I rummaged through my possessions and clothing, deciding what should come with me and what should face either the dustbin or the charity shop, I decided this was a bit like editing.

It went something like this…

Moving Destination WIP Editing Result
Funky blouse, worn once to a party but a bit too bright for anything else. Charity shop Eccentric character put into novel just to liven things up, not really doing anything but just liked the look of them. Deleted completely
Beautiful dress, very elegant, bought for a wedding, again worn once but keeping it because there’s bound to be another wedding soon. Keep but with a deadline for wearing it or it goes. Taking up too much room. Descriptive writing, setting the scene but went off at a flowery tangent describing the countryside. A bit too drawn out and not moving story along. Cut the scene down. More concise writing, so it is more in keeping with the genre.
Plenty of t-shirts, of varying ages and wear, mostly black or white. Dustbin. Have definitely seen better days. Secondary characters – too many of them, some of them boring and not earning their keep on the page. Merged two of them into one. Heroine only needs one best-friend.
Favourite trousers but too tight, if only I could get back into them… Keep as inspiration. Pin a photo of them on the fridge in new house as a reminder and incentive. Have a great character that I really like but can’t quite get them to fit into WIP. Deleted but saved in a separate file for future WIP.
Skirt bought in a sale. A bit plain and not very exciting. Up-cycle! Jazz it up with some brightly coloured appliqué. Not enough dialogue or white space. Narrative just goes on and on. Characters given much more to say … Show and don’t tell. Their personalities are shining through better now.

Hard as it was to be ruthless with my packing, it was even harder being ruthless with my WIP but I do feel that both exercises were very worthwhile.  Now I’m in my new home, I just have to do it all again with the unpacking and, no doubt, do it all again with my WIP.


Would love to hear anyone else’s editing tips :-)