MY WRITING LIFE

As many of you will know, this blog series started as a series of 10 posts following my progress on what I’m now calling the ‘zero draft’ of my third novel. The 10 weeks were up two weeks ago and I published an extra summing up post a few days later. I’ve had such great feedback on the series that I’ve decided to continue posting, although with shorter and less frequent posts right up until this novel is published – hopefully some time in the summer of 2015. While I’m still working on the draft I’ll post fortnightly. So, what’s been happening in the last two weeks? (Apart from eating cake and drinking coffee, that is…)
In the last post I asked whether other writers make a habit of doing ‘morning pages’ or any other warm-up before settling down to their work-in-progress. I was struck by one of the comments by a writer who says she writes for 10 minutes or so every morning as a sort of ‘good morning’ to herself, a way of connecting with the day. I liked this idea, and have taken it up, using it as a way of recording roughly what happened the day before and thinking about what I have to do on the coming day. I’ve found this helpful so far, especially as I’m using it almost as a writing journal where I record ideas I have for scenes I’m working on, or for new scenes that I need to write.
Looking back through that journal, I find that in the last 14 days:
  • There have only been three days where I’ve not worked on the novel at all. Two were because I was babysitting; no excuse for the other day.
  • My  current word count is only about 4000 words higher than it was in my ‘summing up’ post, because much of what I’ve done over the last two weeks has been rewriting.
  • I have written three completely new scenes, rewritten two existing scenes extensively and edited/tweaked two other scenes.
  • I have crossed three things off of my novel ‘to do’list.
  • I have added six things to my novel ‘to do’ list.
  • I had one lunch with a writer friend, one feedback session with three other writers, and two coffee shop writing sessions (alone – not as productive because I gave up sooner)
  • The day after my lunch with a friend, I typed up the 800 words I’d written by hand while on the train to meet her. It transpired that what I’d written was total rubbish. So annoyed that I then wasted an hour watching silly videos on Facebook. 
  • I had one brilliant idea and about 25 crap ones.
  • I did a reading and talked about my writing journey alongside four other writers at the Wakefield Literary Festival. We went out for a meal afterwards. I drank too much wine…

New Amazon reviews:
The Things We Never Said: three 5-star, two 4-star and two 3-star
The Secrets We Left Behind: one 5-star, two 4-star

Nice things that have happened since last time:
I was interviewed by Amanda Saint of Retreat West
I learned that the virtual book club @HelpMyBookClub are doing The Secrets We Left Behind as their September book and save asked me to do a Q&A on Twitter in early October.
I learned that The Secrets We Left Behind, had appeared on this Daily Express list of Best women’s fiction 
Autumn is happening! I couldn’t help myself – I brought these home….
To find out more about me and my work, please visit My website, like my Facebook page or Follow me on Twitter @sewelliot

MY WRITING WEEK – WEEK 10

Been on holiday so posting rather later than usual. This is the last post that will include a daily look at my writing life, but the blog series has been so popular that I’ve decided to keep it going (although in a shorter form) right up until this novel is published – that’s assuming I don’t make a complete and utter cock-up of it, obviously! So for the foreseeable future, I’ll be posting every two weeks or so, and as we get nearer to final draft and publication, the posts will probably be less frequent.
I was going to include a summary of the 10 weeks in this post, but that would make it rather long, so I’m going to do that in a separate post in a few days’ time – look out for it!
Wednesday 27th August
All I’ve done on the novel today is make some notes because I’m suffering from severe lack of sleep which, ironically, it’s the novel’s fault! As you’ll have seen from the last couple of posts, I’m at the point where I’m considering changing the linear structure to something a bit more interesting (and therefore more difficult). Went to bed thinking about this, slept for two hours then woke up with it all buzzing around in my head. Got up for an hour and read something else to take my mind off it, then went back and dozed for another hour, but that was my lot. Gave in and got up at 5am, made lots of notes, because another possibility has occurred to me, although after making the notes, I don’t think that will work. So although it doesn’t feel like I’ve achieved anything (too tired to do anything involving brain work for the rest of the day) the idea was something I had to explore and I had to go to the process of thinking it through on paper in order to discover the pitfalls and rule it out. Time spent: two hours.
Thursday 28th August
Wrote for an hour first thing, trying out another possible angle. Don’t know about it yet – will read later and think about it. Off on holiday for a week tomorrow, so spent most of the day doing laundry and packing for the week, and doing an online shop to be delivered to where we’re staying. What clothes to pack? If the weather here in the last few days have been anything to go by, I’ll need thick jumpers and wellie boots. Still hoping for an Indian summer. Time spent on novel: one hour
Friday 29th August
Long drive to Scarborough, but worth it. Cottage is gorgeous – tastefully decorated and more spacious than our house! Had a lovely walk along the cliff top under dark, brooding clouds with the constant hum of wind coming in off the North Sea, and the haunting cry of seagulls swirling just above us. Lovely. Time spent on novel: 0
Saturday 30th August
Started another scene this morning, writing by hand because the scene started to evolve by accident while doing my ‘morning pages’. I don’t do morning pages every day, but I’m always planning to. Writers who do this on a daily basis seem to find it very useful, as do I when I make the effort, so I really should do it more often. I find it much easier while on holiday, though, because I feel that any writing I do this week is a bonus, whereas at home I feel guilty for writing anything that isn’t the novel. Stupid, because I know just spending 20 or 30 minutes a day ‘warming up’ could really improve my main work. I’m keen to hear others’ views on warming up/morning pages – is this something you do regularly? Occasionally? How does it affect your writing? Time spent: two hours
 
Sunday 31st August
Feeling stuck again in terms of structure. When I look at the overall story, there are big gaps in time when nothing particularly interesting happens. The best way to get over that would normally be to start the story perhaps two thirds of the way through, and then flash back to the episodes that are relevant. But the point at which it would be logical to start doesn’t have enough tension, and I’m not sure my reader, not having seen the buildup to where the characters are now, would know them well enough to stick with them. Spent the morning scan-reading through again to see if any new ideas leap out at me. Already found another chapter that I suspect is a bit of a filler. It may need to go. I seem to be cutting as much as I’m writing at the moment! Time spent: 2.5 hours
Monday 1st September
Rainy day – good for writing! Having failed to come up with anything remotely clever in terms of structure,I’ve realised I need something in place just to help me move on, so I decided to try dividing the narrative up into a rough five-part structure. Having done this, I then made a list of things to do in order to make that work. The list includes writing new scenes, rewriting parts of existing scenes, and writing linking bits to explain time jumps. A paragraph of summary is often better than a whole chapter if the only purpose of that chapter is to  move you over a period of time. I realise I have two such chapters, and I’m afraid they’ve got to go, so today I cut another 3500 words. Started rewriting a scene that takes place a few years later with the aim of trying to give readers the information they need without boring the pants off them. Time spent: three hours
Tuesday 2nd September
Wrote a new scene 1200 words, and started rewriting an old scene. It’s now lunchtime and I’ve been working most of the morning, so feeling that I’ve achieved at least something, I’m going to knock off for the day and be properly ‘on holiday’. Especially as the sun has come out. Glass of wine, Lisa Jewell’s The Third Wife on my Kindle (wonderful!) Sorted! Time spent on novel: two hours 

Overall
Given that a good chunk of this week has been taken up with getting ready for, driving to and being on holiday, I’m fairly happy with having spent at least twelve and a half hours on the novel. I’ve done quite a bit of rewriting and editing, and lots of thinking! I’ve probably written about 2000 new words, but I’ve also cut 3500, which is why I’m focusing on clocking up hours rather than words at this stage. 
Horrible things this week
I know – this is a new one, a one-off, I hope. Horrible review for The Secrets We Left Behind, basically accusing me of ripping off the plot from another novel! I’ve read that novel and there definitely are similarities, but massive differences, too – apart from anything else, it’s a crime/psychological thriller! Wasted a lot of time searching back through my computer files to find Word documents dated 2009 (other novel published 2011) showing that my plot idea was already in place. Resisted the temptation to respond to the reviewer.
Nice things this week
Being on holiday near the sea, obviously! But in writing terms, a couple of days after the review mentioned above, I had a really lovely one which cheered me up enormously. I don’t usually quote my reviews, but can’t resist this time: “It’s a novel I will re-read and savour. Susan Elliot Wright’s storytelling and empathy for her characters is second to none. Her prose style is almost perfect. She has become one of my all-time favourite authors and I can’t wait for her next book.” Isn’t that lovely? Absolutely made my day. I know some authors don’t read their reviews, but when you get one like this it gives you such an enormous boost. Thank you, lovely reviewer!
New Amazon reviews
The Secrets We Left Behind: Four new ones: two 5-star, one 1-star and one 2-star
The Things We Never Said: Two new ones, both 5-star 

Coming soon
Look out for my next post in a few days time, summarising the ups and downs of the last 10 weeks. The next post will be in a couple of weeks from now, and will give an overview of progress. Ooh, And if you’re in or near Wakefield on 20th September, come along and see me at the Orangery. Details on my News and events page
To find out more about me and my work, visit my website Or you can ‘like’ my Facebook page Or follow me on Twitter @sewelliot

How’s everyone else getting on with their New Year’s resolutions?

How’s everyone else getting on with their New Year’s resolutions? Even if you don’t call them ‘resolutions’, it counts if you made any sort of plan of action for the new year.  Last week, I publicly declared my intentions with regard to my plans for my working day in 2012, so how have I done so far? Hmm.
Write for at least two hours every morning: Well, including this one, there have been five mornings since I wrote that post. One was wiped out by a long dental appointment, and I’m taking a chunk out of this one to write the blog. (Really, I should use the afternoon for blog-writing, and I’ll attempt to do so from now on.) That leaves three, and although I hit my target on Thursday and Friday, I confess to spending Saturday morning browsing holiday cottages online. So, given that the only valid excuse was the dental appointment, I’ve had a 50% success rate (and also, of course, a 50% failure rate.)  Mark: C+ -you have made some effort, but not enough -must try harder.
Resume ‘Morning Pages’ – three pages of freewriting, preferably on waking: Oh dear. I have failed dismally here; haven’t done it even  once.  Crazy, because when I was doing this regularly, I found it very useful. Maybe I need to start getting up earlier so I can’t use lack of time as an excuse. Mark: F – dreadful! Appalling! Abominable! Must pull your socks up!
Do all teaching preparation, reading students’ work, writing reports etc in the afternoon: Yes!  Have restrained myself from trying to get these jobs ‘out of the way’ in the mornings and ending up allowing them to stretch into the whole day. This week, I’ve only had  reports to write for a couple of my Open College of the Arts students, and by leaving it until after my writing session to work on them, I’ve felt that I’ve achieved a lot more by the end of the day.  Mark A+ – good girl!
Restrict Twitter activity to two half-hour sessions during the working day: There have been four full days since this post,  I’ve managed to stick to this on three  days. On the other day, I realised that over an hour had passed with me just reading tweets and blogs, retweeting things and ‘chatting’. Twitter is a wonderful resource for writers, and the camaraderie and friendship is hugely supportive, but Twitter can gobble up a lot of time. I really intend to get to grips with this. Mark: B+ – a good effort.
Take one or two days off from writing activities each week. Use these to catch up with household stuff, and to do something nice as well: Well, I took yesterday off, did some laundry, went to the theatre to see a excellent production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company and had a Thai meal in the evening. So I think that counts. Mark: A- – good, but you didn’t do the shopping.  Don’t start relaxing too much; you have a novel to write!
The Reading Bit
Just a thought this week – have you noticed that when you’re reading a novel on a Kindle, it’s quite hard to remember the title of the novel and the name of the author? This is because you’re not looking at the cover every time you pick it up. Love my Kindle, but not sure I like this aspect.
The Food Bit
As promised last week, here is the recipe for Red Kidney Bean Dahl:
1 tin kidney beans
Half a tin chopped tomatoes
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic
2 green chillies
1-2 tsp tomato puree
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
Oil for frying
Spices: 1/2 tsp each of cumin seeds and black mustard seeds, 1 tsp each of  tandoori masala, turmeric, and garam masala. If you like a bit of a kick, 1/2 -1 tsp chilli powder (I’d start with 1/2 tsp!)
Put the tomatoes, chillies and garlic in a blender and whizz into a paste. Heat oil in a pan, then add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for a few seconds, then add the onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the blended paste and all ingredients except the beans. Cook for a minute or so, then add the beans and about half a pint of water. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if needed.  I like mine quite saucy (if you see what I mean). Serve this with some boiled basmati rice and naan bread or chapatis.  There’s enough here for two if it’s the main dish, but we sometimes freeze it in smaller quantities and have it with, perhaps, a spinach and potato or green pepper and potato curry.

For more about me and my work, check out my website: http://www.susanelliotwright.co.uk