Since my last post two weeks ago, my ‘writing life’ has been something of a mix, because I’m still working on book three but I’m also trying to make some headway with book four. So this is where I’m up to as we speak:

I’ve now had my editor’s feedback on the first round of edits and it was all generally positive. There were a few typos, repeated words, and little things along the lines of: ‘this chapter ends rather abruptly, add a sentence or two to round it off?’ All easy to deal with.

There was just one thing that she felt still wasn’t working, and that centred around a character’s motivation, which my editor wasn’t convinced by. She felt that this particular character wouldn’t do the thing I had her doing. I gave this a great deal of thought, and then I re-read the chapter. I could see what she meant – this buttoned-up, emotionally distant character was a little too in touch with her feelings in the scene. However, the reason she does what she does is clear in my head and is not  unconnected to her emotional reticence.  I rewrote the chapter, changing her behaviour and attempting to make her motivation clearer. I hope I’ve succeeded. I’m waiting to hear from my editor who has kindly agreed to look at the rewritten chapter and give me her thoughts before I send back the whole draft.

I’ve worked through all the smaller points now, and if the rewritten chapter is okay, my next step is to read through the whole novel again, but I’ll do that after I’ve heard from the two trusted friends who are now reading it. These are my first readers apart from my husband, who’s just read it, and my editor and my agent – I don’t ask anyone to read the whole draft until it’s nearly ‘there’. One friend is already halfway through and loving it (hoorah!) and she flagged up something that confused her – another case of what was clear in my head not being clear on the page!

If the rewritten chapter is not okay, then it’ll need more of a rethink, but I’m hopeful. Apart from that, the main thing we need to do now is agree on a title. I’ve come up with a list of possibles and my editor is doing the same. Watch this space!

Update on book 4 (no title for that, either!) I haven’t moved very far forward in terms of word count since my last post – only a couple of thousand more words – but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and brainstorming ideas. I’ve also been doing some research for the main part of the story which is set in 1961/62, and I’m having a great deal of fun doing that, especially since I managed to get hold of some copies of Woman Magazine from 1961.

What fascinating social documents these have turned out to be, and invaluable for researching women’s lives at the time. As well as interesting features, there are advertisements providing lots of information on fashion, cosmetics, and furniture and household appliances. There are recipes (none of which I’ll be trying any time soon!) giving an idea of what people were eating in those days, and one of the most interesting sections – readers’ letters. The problem pages tell you so much about day-to-day living, morality, and society in general. And all the letters are great for language – lots of words and expressions used then that we don’t really hear any more.

This feature, which is all about dressing appropriately for what the day has in store – Lorna’s outfit was perfect for work and for an evening with her ‘current boyfriend’ afterwards. “He said, ‘let’s go for a spin in the car and will have dinner out later’ – forgetting to mention a round of golf on the way home. Lorna’s formal suits didn’t quite make the grade!” Poor Lorna. The feature goes on to examine Lorna’s lifestyle in order to give her some fashion advice. In just one paragraph I learned that Lorna, who was a ‘high-powered press and publicity gal’, earned £10 a week, out of which she paid £4 rent for her small flat, 4s 2d on travel, and 2s  on lunches. She also spends 9s 6d (so about a twentieth of her weekly wage) on a ‘professional hairdo’ once a fortnight, 6s 6d on cosmetics and 1s 6d on hand cream because ‘she does her own housework and must care for her hands.’

All fascinating stuff, and so much detail – it’s amazing how just including a few accurate period details can give your story authenticity.

So, that’s been my ‘writing life’ this time. Oh, and one other thing to tell you about – it’s always nice to get emails from readers saying they’ve enjoyed your books, but it’s particularly nice when it’s from someone who isn’t your typical reader. I had a lovely email this week from a man who said he usually reads police dramas and espionage thrillers, but he read the blurb on the back of The Things We Never Said and thought it sounded interesting so he bought it. He said, ‘I could barely put it down, and I will be ordering your second book as soon as I finished typing this.’ so that, as you can imagine, rather made my day!

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8 thoughts on “THE WRITING LIFE – 30 NOVEMBER 2015

  1. Marina Sofia says:

    I love the comment about the handcream – and at least she only paid 40% of her wages on her flat – wonder how much it would be as % of earnings in London nowadays? It was 60% or so when I started out.

  2. Poppy Peacock says:

    Sounds like your making great progress. Fascinating about the 'research'… what comes first with you? A story that 'appears' & percolates or do you intentionally seek to write in an era/place you enjoy researching?

  3. Susan Elliot Wright says:

    Yes, progress does feel quite good at the moment – I should relish this because I know it won't last! As for what comes first, that's a good question. I usually start with the story, but it often suggests it's own era. When it comes to place, so far, I've opted for places I know quite well. I tried to research a different setting ( one I thought I'd enjoy researching!) for book 3, but it just didn't work because I didn't have the 'insider knowledge' of the place to give it a strong enough flavour. Sense of place is very important to me as a reader, so it's something I want to do well as a writer. At the moment, I'm torn between setting future books in those same places that I know I can do well, or trying again with somewhere new. Either that or I have to move house again!

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