THE WRITING LIFE – book 3 cover, book 4 progress

A quick-ish one today, because I’m under pressure from my self-imposed deadline of the end of this month to finish the ‘zero draft’ of book 4, working title When the Bough Breaks. More of this in a moment, but I’ve just realised I haven’t yet shared with you the cover of my new book, What She Lost, which is out on 9th March, so here it is:

Gorgeous, isn’t it? Well done Simon & Schuster – I absolutely love it! Here’s the blurb:

Eleanor and her mother Marjorie have always had a difficult relationship and although they’ve tried, they have somehow just failed to connect. 
    Now Marjorie has Alzheimer’s, and as her memory fades, her grip on what she has kept hidden begins to loosen. When she calls her daughter to say, ‘There’s something I have to tell you’, Eleanor hopes this will be the moment she learns the truth about the terrible secret that has cast a shadow over both their lives. 
    But Marjorie’s memory is failing fast and she can’t recall what she wanted to say. Eleanor knows time is running out, and as she tries to gently uncover the truth before it becomes lost inside her mother’s mind forever, she begins to discover what really happened when she was a child – and why… 

Very excited about this now, especially as it was such an absolute bugger to write. Those of you who follow this blog may remember the agonies I went through with this book. After a dreadful first draft, I completely rewrote around 80% of it. It was a mammoth task, but definitely worth the effort because it resulted in a much better book, and one I now feel proud of. 

So, moving on to book 4. I’m now at 69,000 words, thanks to my two visual incentives. First, there’s the calendar. I gave myself around four months to write this draft, with a target of 1000 words a day and an absolute minimum of 200 words. Every cross on the calendar means I wrote at the very least 200 words on that day, and where there is a dot as well as a cross, it means I hit my 1000 word target.  


As you can see, I now have just 20 days (including today) to finish the draft. I’m guessing I have about another 10 to 15,000 words to write, so it’s just about doable. Somehow, I’ve GOT to do it! My second incentive Works on a visual level, but also promises a tangible reward. I took two glasses and put 90 five pence pieces in one of them. Each coin represents 1000 words of this draft. (It’ll probably be slightly less than that, but who knows.) For each thousand words I write, I take a 5p out of the glass, but I put a one pound coin in the other glass. The idea is that when I finish this draft, there will be enough quids in the pot for myself and himself to celebrate with a nice meal out and a bottle of bubbly. 


Of course, once I’ve got to the end of a zero draft, I need to go back to the beginning and write what I hope will be decent ‘first’ draft, something which, once I’ve spent some time editing and tidying it, will be in a good enough shape to send to my agent.

Right, I’ll leave it there for now – must crack on!

PS A quick plug for the workshops – there’s one coming up on 22nd of October called Bringing Your Characters to Life. Details of that, and the other Writing a Novel workshops can be found on my website

THE WRITING LIFE – half a draft in eight weeks

Last time, I talked about the value of the visual stimulus in helping to get to the end of the first draft, or ‘zero’ draft as I prefer to call it – this is the draft where there are superfluous characters, scenes that simply tread water, plot holes as big as a house, and page upon page of tell-y back story which will eventually (hopefully) form the basis of some useful scenes.

The main visual aid that’s keeping me going is an idea I picked up from the Mslexia Facebook page. Their suggestion was that you print out a calendar and mark a cross in the box for every day you write some words, ‘no matter how many or how few’, with the aim that you never break the chain (cue Fleetwood Mac).

Now that ”no matter how few” could catch me out, because strictly speaking, that means ten words would count, or three! So I decided to set myself a target of 1000 words a day, but with an absolute minimum of 200 words. So if I write 195, no cross on the calendar! If I hit 200, I get a cross, and if I write 1000 words or more, I get across and a little dot. Here’s how I’m doing so far:

As you can see, things slowed down a little after the first few weeks, but in my defence, this summer has been quite busy with family visits, holidays and so on. Also, of course, the further on that you get with a story, the more complicated it becomes, because so many things have been established that there is more chance of problems arising. I’m resisting the temptation to deal with those at this stage, (unless of course the problem is so big it’s preventing me from moving forward) because that can all be dealt with in the next draft.

The other thing I’m using to coax myself to the end of this draft is partly visual, but part reward incentive. I’m assuming this draft will be around 90,000 words, So in the left-hand glass, I put 90 small coins – 1p & 5p. Every time I write another 1000 words, I take one of those small coins and put it back in my purse and I put a pound coin in the right-hand glass. so when I get to the end, I’ll have £90 with which to celebrate before I embark on a decent first draft. That should be a pretty good night out for myself and Mr EW!

Both these methods are working very well for me – I love seeing the level in that right-hand glass go up while the level in the left-hand glass goes down. And with the calendar, my desire to not break the chain has become so strong that I’m now finding myself getting twitchy each day until I’ve got at least 200 words down. The other night after a long and tiring day, it was gone 11.30 when I realised that I hadn’t ‘done my words’. I was so shattered that I almost just climbed into bed, but when I thought about that empty square on the calendar, I just couldn’t do it, so I picked up a pen (too tired to climb the stairs to my study) and managed to drag 230 words from somewhere.

As of today, I’m now at a total of 48,000 words, which, given my usual agonisingly slow pace, I feel is not too shabby.

In other news, What She Lost is progressing nicely and I will very soon be able to reveal the cover, so watch this space! In the meantime, I’m currently reading through the page proofs. This is a lovely stage to get to, because it’s the first time my words start to look like a real book. I’m still finding the odd error, even though the book has been read many, many times, thoroughly edited and copyedited. Still the odd thing creeps through.

That’s about it for this time. I’ll post again in a couple of weeks by which time I hope to be well on my way to 60,000 words. I’m also hoping to reveal the cover for What She Lost.

By the way, if you’re new to this blog, you might like to know that my writing doesn’t always go this smoothly. In fact, until now, it has NEVER gone smoothly. If you fancy trawling back through some of the old posts, you’ll see just what a struggle I had writing my third novel, What She Lost.  I mention this because if you’re struggling with a draft at the moment, it might help you to see how badly I went wrong, and how I managed to eventually turn it into something I’m quite proud of. I almost felt like giving up, but I knew I had a story to tell, so I kept at it. You can, too. No one said this writing lark was going to be easy…

If you’d like to know more about me and my work, or if you’d like to sign up for one of the 1-day Writing a Novel workshops (the next one, Planning and Plotting, is on 24th of September – £45 for the whole day, and it’s a cracking workshop, even though I say so myself information) visit my website You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook

THE WRITING LIFE – attempting a detailed outline

In my last post, I talked about the huge decision to put the novel I was working on aside. I’ve recovered from the trauma now, although I’m still missing my lovely character whose company I’d been enjoying. I’ll go back to her, though, and in the meantime, I’m hoping the deepest parts of my subconscious will be playing around with ideas for her story.

In the meantime, I have a book to write. As I said last time, my agent has long been trying to persuade me to become more of a planner than a pantster. She suggested I write a detailed synopsis – not the one or two page selling synopsis you’d send to an agent, but a much longer document, possibly as much as six pages, showing how the plot develops, what the characters’ motivations are, where the dramatic events occur, and quite importantly, how it ends. I have tried several times to do this in the past and failed. But I promised I’d give it a go and so I settled down to the painful task of trying to wrench an entire story from somewhere deep within the creative part of my brain.

I won’t give away too much about the new book, but suffice to say there will be mention of crows, and this picture  really chimes with me in terms of the atmosphere, at least in the past strand of the novel

The first day yielded but a paragraph or two. It was vague, I didn’t know much about the characters, and nothing much was happening. By the time I forced myself to open the document again a few days later, I had a little more to go on. I’d started to feel pleased with myself when I’d written a whole page, until it dawned on me that everything I’d written up to that point was back story. Which is all well and good, because I do need to know the back story, but I was supposed to be writing about what happens in the book. I tried again over several days, adding little bits here and there, trying to work out what it was that motivated my two female characters.

What was nagging at me was that I was far more interested in one of these women than the other. And then I thought, so why am I not just telling her story from her point of view? Her story is so much stronger, and if I try to force a story on to the other character, it’ll show. Almost at the same point as I made the decision to stick to one viewpoint, I realised that Leah, in whom I’m the most interested, was in fact a character from a short story I wrote some years ago, but she had appeared to me in disguise and so I hadn’t recognised her. The moment I realised who she was and I remembered her tragic and rather frightening back story, everything seemed to fall into place.

I started to look forward to opening the document entitled Synopsis, book 4B, And within a couple of days I had written a 3000 word synopsis with all the major points in place and a possible ending  I read it, I liked it, it seemed to make sense. This has NEVER happened to me before, and so I naturally assumed that I was missing something. But then the OH read it, and he liked it. But he’s not a writer. So then I gave it to a couple of writing mates and they liked it too. And then, oh joy of joy, I sne it to my agent, and she liked it. My editor has yet to see it, but I’m feeling confident, and I’ve made a start, and given that I have the story mapped out, I’ve set myself a target of 1000 words a day which, so far, I’ve stuck to.

I’m so excited about this that I feel I have more to say, but I’ll leave it for another post.

Other things going on in my Writing Life at the moment:

  • Just finished the copy edits for What She Lost, which will be out in January, so that feels a step nearer. 
  • This coming Saturday, 23rd of July, is the last in the current series of How to Write a novel workshops. This one is called Steps to Publication – we’ll be looking at traditional, digital, and self-publishing, we’ll show you how to write a query letter and offer some one-to-one feedback, and we’ll also advise you on writing a synopsis. All for £40 for the day – it really is a bargain! Full details are on the workshops page of My website

That’s about it, I think, but please do follow me on Facebook or say hello on Twitter

THE WRITING LIFE – a great big scary decision!

So, major decision since my last post. After weeks of being stuck, hours upon hours upon hours of thinking so hard I thought my brain might explode, and more importantly, in-depth discussions with my agent, I have decided to put aside the novel I was working on (my fourth) and start something completely new. Arghhhhhhh!

I feel the need for a calming image here…

That’s better. Now, a few deep breaths…

Okay, so yes, that’s what I’ve decided. Altogether, I’d written about 70,000 words, 45,000 of which I really liked, although after chatting with my agent, I can see now that I’ve not quite shown my character on paper as she is in my head. That can be fixed. But what can’t be fixed without extensive rewriting and rethinking, is the story – or lack of it – which is why I’ve decided to put this one side, possibly for a couple of years.

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that What She Lost, my third novel which is out in January, caused me some serious problems and it too, required extensive rewriting – I think I rewrote around 75% to 80%, and it’s now much nearer to the novel I had in my head when I started writing it.

Iris Murdoch said, ‘every book is the wreck of the perfect idea’ and that pretty much sums up my experience lately. It’s so frustrating to have an idea that is close to your heart, to have something to say that you feel is important and not be able to say it in a truthful and engaging way. I’m now pleased with What She Lost, but it did require an enormous amount of work, which I was only able to embark on after my editor and agent read the first draft and we had a long, creative meeting to thrash out some of the difficulties.

This time, my agent has read a sizeable chunk of my draft and confirmed my biggest fear – there wasn’t really enough to keep the reader turning the page. There are other problems too, of course, but I know how to fix those. The bigger issue is that my story just isn’t strong enough at the moment. This is partly to do with the structure, the order in which events occur, but I think I’ve maybe come at the whole thing from the wrong angle.

If I’m honest, what I have is interesting characters and an interesting situation – but that ain’t a story! So I need to do a lot more thinking in order to find a new way of approaching this novel. I’ve created a folder on my desktop into which I’ve put all my existing notes and drafts for that novel, and to which I will add whenever thoughts occur to me. In a couple of years from now, I hope to return to this character I love so much – I’ve called her Eunice Shaw – and create a story around her that I’ll be proud of.

In the meantime, I’m in the very early stages of exploring a new idea. This time, on the advice of my agent, I’m going to attempt to write a detailed synopsis before I start writing. It’s something I’ve tried (and failed) to do before, but now, having had the experience of going so massively wrong with two novels, I’m going to do my level best to find a more efficient approach.

I will, as always, keep you posted on my progress (or otherwise…).

In other news:

  • Both my existing novels, The Things We Never Said, and The Secrets We Left Behind, Are on special e-book promotion for the rest of this month (June 2016). The Things We Never Said is less than a bus fare at 99p, and The Secrets We Left Behind is 1.99 – less than a decent coffee! (Click links to buy) 
  • Workshops: the last in the current series of our How to Write a Novel workshops is on 23rd of July and there are still places available. It’s just £40 for the whole day. This workshop will focus on how to get published – writing a synopsis, approaching agents, etc. We’ll also look at traditional versus self-publishing. These workshops have been so popular that we’ve decided to run the whole programme again starting in September. Full details  here

Also, as I say from time to time, it’s great when a reader takes the trouble to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads – it helps authors enormously, and it really doesn’t have to be very long. In fact, I’ve just received one of the nicest short reviews I’ve ever had:

This book captured the modern day and the 60s beautifully. It captured everything perfectly. I don’t remember many authors names, I will remember Susan Elliot Wright.


Isn’t that lovely? Thank you, dear reader.

The Writing Life – working hard but …

I have to start with a newsflash because both my books are on a special e-book promotion for the whole of June. The Things We Never Said Amazon UK  is just 99p, and
The Secrets We Left Behind Amazon UK is just 1.99. They’ll be back to full whack on 1st of July.

Right, that’s that out of the way. Now, I see that it’s over six weeks since I last blogged. This is because I’ve been thinking of the blog as being about my progress on the current novel (number four, as yet untitled), and as there has been no progress – none, zilch, nada – there has been no blog. But when I thought about it properly, the blog is called The Writing Life, and sometimes, part of the writing life is having to accept that you’re not making any progress, despite still putting in the hours.

So how can I be working hard and not making progress? This novel started well, in that I love my 1960s protagonist and her story and I couldn’t wait to explore her life and its difficulties. The problem came when I tried to write the contemporary strand that I’d originally planned. Every time I tried to explain it – to my agent, to my editor, or to writing friends – they got confused. And yes, I had worried that it was a little complicated. Ultimately, I realised that not only was that strand too complicated, but it didn’t really fit with the 1960s story in a satisfying enough way, so I was going to have to rethink the whole thing.

And that’s where the hard work comes in. My agent impressed upon me the value of planning – something I find very difficult, if not impossible. Usually, I plan a little, write a little, plan a little more, write a little more, and that’s how I discover the story. But this time, I seem to have written myself down a blind alley. I have spent several weeks now trying to plot a second strand that will fit with the first and offer a satisfying conclusion. But I seem to be getting nowhere fast.

My agent has been an amazing and spent almost two hours with me on the phone a couple of weeks ago, trying to get to the heart of it all. With her usual insight, she has, I think, identified the main problem, which is that I’ve been trying to mix two genres – the 1960s story, which is an exploration of an unconventional relationship and the traumas and joys that accompany it, and the contemporary strand, which I was trying to make a bit more ‘plotty’. I’m pleased with the 60s story and think it is perhaps some of my best writing, but then my agent asked the killer question: ‘what is going to make the reader turn the pages?’

And that made me realise that while I hoped that a sheer love of the character and interest in her life would be enough, given that my first three novels (the third, What She Lost, is out in January) have all had some buried secret driving the narrative, a ‘quieter’ book might not go down so well. And yes, I’d love to write a book that does both things – explores the relationship in depth and also has a mystery at its heart, which is why I was going for the dual narrative again. But the secret I’d been relying on turned out to be too complicated, so I’m almost back to square one, and I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking until my brain hurts, but I keep hitting dead ends.

In the worst case scenario, I put this novel aside for another time and I start something new. The idea terrifies me – I’ve written almost 70,000 words, although 25,000 of those were the contemporary strand that I now know doesn’t work. I have around 45,000 words that I like so it seems a lot to give up on. But having said that, I abandoned my very first novel at around 40k words and went on instead to write The Things We Never Said. And regular readers might remember the struggle I had with What She Lost – I ended up rewriting almost 80 per cent. So it’s not something I’m ruling out entirely. (although it really will be ‘putting aside for another time’ rather than dumping altogether.)

So, I’m still in that horrible phase of uncertainty, still trying to find a way through with what I’ve already written while vaguely sketching out other ideas should I have no alternative but to start again. My agent has kindly agreed to read the 1960s strand so that we can discuss it again, and while I hate revealing what I’ve written at this early stage, I don’t want to carry on blindly if it’s clear that it’s just not going to work. We shall see.

Have you ever put a novel aside and written a new one? What do you do when you find you’ve written yourself to a dead end? (Apart from drink gin, obvs)

Ooh, by the way – if you’re in or near Sheffield, there are still a few spaces on the two redrafting workshops coming up on Saturday 11th & Saturday 18th of June. If you book for one, is £40, if you book for both, it’s £70. Have a look at the workshops page of my website for details.

THE WRITING LIFE – UPDATE ON NOVELS 3 & 4, REISSUE OF BOOKS ON EMOTIONAL ABUSE & DEMENTIA

I’m a little behind with blogging at the moment. There’s no good reason, no excuses, I just haven’t made myself sit down and get on with it. It’s certainly not that I don’t have anything to say, and when I leave it this long I end up having too much to say, so I’ll try not to waffle…

My ‘Writing Life’ since my last post has been quite good fun. I’ve given a talk to the Creative Writing MA students at Leeds Trinity, I ran a Planning and Plotting workshop with fellow writer Russell Thomas which, if the evaluation sheets are anything to go by, was a huge success, and I’ve had some very productive coffee shop writing days as well. I’m working on my fourth novel and really enjoying it, despite the fact that there are huge chunks of the story that I haven’t worked out yet. The current word count is 37,000. This hasn’t changed much since I last blogged, but that’s because I’ve done a lot of rethinking and cutting as well as new writing. I’m pushing on now, though, and hope to boast a more impressive word count in a couple of weeks.

As for book 3, which is due for publication in January 2017, I’m waiting for my editor’s final (I hope!) comments. I’m fairly sure there’s not much to do now, just some tweaking here and there. I hope to be able to announce the title very soon!

I focus exclusively on fiction now, but was previously a magazine journalist and in that capacity I wrote a number of books on health-related matters. I’m delighted to announce that new, updated editions of two of those books – the two that I’m most proud of for reasons I’ll come to in a moment – are being published today by Sheldon Press. These are  Overcoming Emotional Abuse and When Someone You Love Has Dementia

Overcoming Emotional Abuse has particular significance for me because I was in an emotionally abusive marriage for 12 years. I should make the point here (as I do in the book) that it’s not only women who suffer this type of abuse. It does seem to affect more women than men, though – or at least, more women have begun to recognise it.Writing the book was cathartic for me. I included some details of my own experience but was quite shocked at the level of response to my request for case studies. So many women who’d experienced this type of abuse came forward that I couldn’t include every story.

Anyone who is following the current Archers storyline will have some idea of what I mean by emotional abuse. Physical abuse is obvious to those being abused, if not to those around them. But emotional and psychological abuse is harder to acknowledge. The abuser wears down the victim by eroding confidence and self-esteem, isolating them from friends and family and controlling every aspect of their lives from where they go to who they see, how they spend their money, what they wear, what they eat and even when they sleep. People suffering this type of abuse will have become convinced that it’s their own fault, that if only they weren’t so stupid, clumsy, lazy, ugly, paranoid, tarty, sexually promiscuous/inhibited, everything would be all right.

When I escaped my abusive marriage in 1990, there was no law against stalking (my ex stalked me for three years after I left). It was good to see anti-stalking legislation introduced in 1997. When the first edition of the book was published in 2007, there was no law against emotional or psychological abuse. You had to wait for physical violence before the perpetrator could be prosecuted. (This type of abuse often progresses to physical violence, and all physical domestic abuse begins with emotional or psychological abuse.) I heartily welcome the new law against controlling and coercive behaviour which came into effect at the end of last year. It’s a shame it was too late for me.

When the book first came out, I received a handful of letters from women who had found it helpful. I hope it will continue to help anyone suffering this type of abuse, and I’m so glad that the new law and the Archers storyline are both helping to raise awareness of this subject.

I don’t have quite such a personal connection with When Someone You Love Has Dementia, although I’m proud of it because it was well reviewed and because it won a ‘highly commended’ in the BMA medical book awards 2010. In 2015, it was also chosen as part of the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme.

So far, I’m happy to say that none of my loved ones has suffered from dementia, but I have a number of friends whose parents have this devastating disease. When writing the book, I interviewed people with dementia and their family members, and I was so affected by what I heard that I decided I wanted to further explore the subject in fiction. My third novel includes a dementia storyline.

Until quite recently, dementia was little talked-about and the research was massively underfunded. There is still a long way to go on both counts, but funding is improving, and we’re certainly talking about the subject more these days, thanks to high profile sufferers like the late Sir Terry Pratchett, and to some fantastic novels, such as Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey, Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, and The Memory Book, by Rowan Coleman.

Told you this might be long…

Final word: I’m running a series of 1-day How to Write a Novel workshops with Russ Thomas in Sheffield. The second one is this Saturday, 20th February – now full. But the others may be of interest! Only £40 for the day – bargain! Full details here

If you’d like to keep an eye on what I’m up to, visit my website, like my Facebook page or follow me on twitter

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

MAY WRITING WEEK – WEEK EIGHT OF 10

Tuesday 12th August
As usual, most of Tuesday morning is taken up with knocking this journal into shape and turning it into a reasonably coherent blog post. I must admit, I spent rather too long on Facebook and Twitter today, reading about the wonderful Robin Williams who, it seems, has taken his own life. Even though we didn’t know him, something about that man seemed to reach out to us all. He was proof that depression can hit anyone, no matter how much talent, fame, money, intelligence, luck, love, or adoration they have. I hate it when people say ‘what has he/she got to be depressed about?’  It’s a stupid question; depression is an illness, and it can be fatal. Anyway, I don’t usually use the blog for this sort of thing, but I feel quite sad. So, blog post, Facebook/Twitter, helped a friend who’s moving, and did some admin. Time spent on the novel: 0
Wed 13th August
Started rewriting a scene that is now set a couple of years later than originally intended. As my character is an adolescent at this point, this means a subtle change in her voice. Quite tricky to get right, but important to address because a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old will have different perspectives. Phone call from my accountant with some queries. I’m almost as afraid of numbers as I am of technology, and tax affairs are a mystery, so having an accountant is essential. Anyway, after some rummaging in the files, I think I’ve got it sorted. Back to the novel for a couple of hours, then off to perform Granny duties. Evening drink with a fellow writer, and while I can’t possibly count that as ‘time spent on the novel‘, we did talk quite a bit about our novels, and about writing in general. Time spent: 2.5 hours
Thurs 14th August
Spent another two hours on the scene I started rewriting yesterday, only to realise that it’s not relevant. This is SO annoying!  Partly because I’ve put in so much work and partly because there’s some good writing in there. But the bare fact is, it’s got to go. If in doubt about a scene, ask yourself: ‘what is this scene achieving in the novel? It is advancing the plot? Telling us something we need to know about the characters? Deepening our sense of the period or location? Ideally, a scene should do two or more of these things, must it must do at least one.I followed my own advice and asked myself what the scene I’d been struggling with was actually achieving. The truthful answer was, none of the above. It was filling, padding; there merely to allow time to pass. So it’s gone. 
Worked for a while on a new scene this morning, then off to London for a meeting with my lovely editor. This meeting was arranged when I was in dire straits – horribly stuck and with no idea of how to move on. I’ve since managed to move on from my stuck phase, but there are still ‘issues’ so I knew it would be helpful to talk things through. Some people don’t like discussing work in progress, but I usually find it incredibly useful, (especially when talking with an experienced editor!) It helps to get a different perspective, to think aloud and bounce ideas off the other person. Came away feeling that I know where I’m going with it, if not entirely sure just yet about exactly how it’s going to work. Sometimes, you just need to suck it and see! Time spent: (some at home, some while on the train) four hours
Friday 15th August
‘Bitty’ day – medical appointments, household stuff etc so didn’t achieve very much. Had a good long chat with a writer friend, though, and that’s always useful. Apart from that, I just tweaked and twiddled rather ineffectively. Rubbish day, so I tidied my desk. Time spent (not including desk tidying) 1.5 hours
No exciting pictures this week, so here’s my workspace…

Saturday 16th August
Intended to settle down for a full day of work today, but the dog’s been throwing up all night so had to take him to the vet. It was lunchtime before I got back, and, having had a couple of days away from my desk, it’s even harder to get settled today. I think it’s beginning to hit me just how much work I have to do on this novel before I can even look at it as an overall shape. I’ve been keeping a list of scenes as I go along – some are roughly drafted, some have been edited, and some are not yet written. I find this useful because it allows me to see the bigger picture. But looking at that list now, it occurs to me that, not only do I have several scenes that are completely irrelevant, but there are quite a few more scenes that I need to write. Started one of those this afternoon, so at least I’m making some progress. Time spent: 2.5 hours
Sunday 17th August
I’ve worked some more on the scene I started yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about the structure. It seems I might need to get rid of yet another large chunk (you may remember, I cut over 11,000 words in week five – I’d made quite a few cuts before, but this was the largest chunk in one go). I suspect more will have to go, but I’m trying to force myself to leave it as it is for now and just keep moving forward, rewriting existing scenes and adding new scenes where I need to. It’s difficult, though, because I know that those sections don’t seem to be working. On the other hand, I’m right in the middle of this draft and very close to it, so it’s difficult to be objective. Also, I’m still making decisions about what I need to show and what can just be referred back to. If I do make these cuts now, might it throw me off course and leave me floundering? I think I’m going to try and just grit my teeth and keep moving forward, safe in the knowledge that it can all be chopped out later if necessary. Ooh, it’s difficult….  Time spent: 4.5 hours
Monday 18th August
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work I have to do. Kept looking at the scene I started on Saturday, and realised it has far too much exposition and not enough action or movement. Having made several attempts to do work out what to do with it, I gave up and did admin that I’ve been putting off. Also, I printed out a list of brief scene summaries, cut them out, stuck them on to post-it notes, and then stuck those onto a piece of card so that move them around if I need to. This may or may not be useful, but it made me feel as though I was doing something. On the other hand, it may just be that I find ‘cutting out and sticking’ a soothing thing to do. (Ahh, fond memories of Blue Peter…) Time spent: about four hours.
Overall
Oh dear. After doing so well last week, and setting myself a slightly more ambitious target for this week, I have only managed 19 hours. Ah well, onwards and upwards!
Nice things this week:
Three reader emails, one about The Things We Never Said, and two about The Secrets We Left Behind. Two of those emails were from the same person – she emailed me after finishing The Things We Never Said, then emailed me again the following evening to say that she’d read The Secrets We Left Behind in one sitting! Was hugely chuffed.
The coming week:
I’m going to set a modest target for the coming week, and you’ll have to believe me that this is not a cop-out because it’s been a bad week! It’s just that my son is up from London for a few days, and so I’m going to enjoy spending some time with him. (And probably bending his ear about my novel!)
New Amazon reviews:
The Secrets We Left Behind: Two new ones – both 5-star
The Things We Never Said: Three new ones – two 5-star, one 4-star

To find out more about me and my work, visit my website Or you can ‘like’ my Facebook page or you can follow me on Twitter, @sewelliot

MY WRITING WEEK – WEEK SEVEN OF 10

If you’ve read last week’s post, you’ll know that my aim this week is for time spent on the novel rather than a word count, because there’s lots of editing/rewriting to do now.
Tuesday 5th August
Spent Tuesday wandering round York, could it be a setting? It’s great if you can make a place really work for your novel in terms of theme or plot, but what’s more important is that the reader can visualise or even, if it’s a real place, recognise it. It’s important to remember that what we as writers notice about a place may be different to what the characters notice. If my characters have lived in York all their lives, they’re unlikely to notice the minster in detail and they probably won’t go on the ghost walk. One of my characters might notice a particular street name, though. Or she might notice her surroundings as she sits quietly looking at the river. I make a mental note to notice sounds and smells, because these can really help to create a sense of place. Time spent: I don’t think today really counts!
Wednesday 6th August
Back from York so lots of emails to catch up on. Published the blog today (usually Tuesdays, but trip to York made it a day late). So, what with that, the Tweeting and Facebooking, then babysitting at 3.30, there wasn’t time to really get stuck in. But I did manage to print out what I’m now preferring to as the ‘Zero draft’. It’s not quite complete in that I haven’t decided on the ending, but this is the basic outline of the story. It’ll need a lot of rewriting because it’s taken me most of this draft to get to know the characters properly and to learn what the story is actually about. Now I know the characters and I’m in story, I’m going to write it properly. Started reading through it tonight. Oh dear, a lot of work, I think… Time spent: one hour
Thursday 7th August
Had some admin stuff to do today, also hairdressers (believe me, not something that can wait any longer!) But have been itching to get on with the rewrites. This is my absolute favourite part of writing a novel, because I know that the redrafting I’m doing now is going to start making the whole thing come together, even if it still needs a lot more work at the end of this draft. Started off with a session in Costa this morning – a Sicilian lemon muffin and a large Americano to get me in the mood. Then home later for a bit of Tweeting and admin, then solid rewriting. Time spent: 4.5 hours
Friday 8th August
Finished rewriting one scene and started completely reworking another. Allowed myself 30 min on Twitter first thing, then emails, then worked on the novel from 10.45 – 12.45, then lunch, then worked from 1.30 – 6.30 pretty solidly. Time spent: 7 hours 
Saturday 9th August
Still rewriting the scene I started working on yesterday – it’s almost become a completely a new scene and is taking me ages. I mention a real event in this scene, so I’m constantly popping back and forth to Google to make sure I’ve got the facts right. Using this real event needs to do more in the story than just help to show the period I’m writing in, so I need to make sure it’s relevant to what the character is going through at the time. Worked all morning, but then knocked off at lunchtime for boozy lunch with a friend. Time spent: 3 hours
 Sunday 10th  August
STILL working on that same scene. Think I’ve got it licked now, though. So I’m moving onto the next scene, which is massively affected by the previous one, and so again, is more or less a complete rewrite. This is hard work, but it’s the bit I most enjoy about writing – I know my characters and I know the story, so the rewriting is much more coherent than the original stuff that I spewed out without really knowing where I was going. As I’m writing this, there is torrential rain outside and howling winds. There is every chance that this weather will make it into the next scene! This being Sunday, I decided to start late (10am) to allow myself a little more reading time – I’m finally reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Then a break at 11.30 to go out with my other half for coffee and cake. Back at my desk at 1pm, but only worked for another couple of hours.
Time spent: 4.5 hours, which includes an hour working on the synopsis – a constantly changing document!
Monday 11th August
 Fairly straightforward day – half an hour on Twitter in the morning and another half an hour at lunchtime, but apart from that, steadily working my way through rewriting these scenes. Working on a scene that needs a fairly substantial rewrite, but really struggling to get it to do what I want it to do, so in the end, I decided to move on and come back to this tricky one later. Time spent today: 7.5 hours

Overall
I’ve changed my aim for the week from a word count target to a ‘time spent on the novel’ target. My aim, I can see, was a fairly modest 15 hours, but I’ve actually worked for almost double that amount of time – a total of 27.5 hours, mainly spent redrafting. I’m happy with that.

Nice things this week:
Lots of very lovely things happened this week, but nothing specifically writing-related. Ooh, except, perhaps, that The Secrets We Left Behind is on a Kindle monthly deal at £1.99, so that might bring in a few new readers, which is always nice.

The coming week:
Let’s up the anti-a bit – I aim to spend 30 hours on the novel this week.

New Amazon reviews:
The Secrets We Left Behind: Three new ones – one 3-star, one 4-star, one 5-star
The Things We Never Said: Also three new ones – two 4-star, one 5-star

To find out more about me and my work, visit My website Or you can ‘like’ my My Facebook page or follow me on twitter, @sewelliot

MY WRITING WEEK – WEEK SIX OF 10

Apologies for posting a day late this week – just got back from York (see entry for Monday 4th August!) If you’d like to see the first five posts in this series, just check out the archives.
Tuesday 29th July
As always, most of Tuesday morning is taken up with editing and publishing the blog post, then tweeting about it. Got some writing done as well, though, but I can feel things slowing down a little, not because I’m stuck again (thank God!) but because I’m reaching the stage where I need to make more decisions before I can decide which direction the next few scenes will take. Been thinking about titles, and actually have a few ideas, which is a bit of a revelation – I can never think of titles! Monthly meeting with three fellow writers this evening to share wine, nibbles and work in progress. Positive feedback on my scenes, a couple of stumbling blocks pointed out, and some good suggestions on how to overcome them. Useful and enjoyable evening! Word count: 1104
Wednesday, 30 July
Sat down to write this morning and realised I can’t keep steaming ahead without doing a bit more work on scenes I’ve already written. I have one chunk that isn’t really scenes at all at the moment, it’s just a lot of ‘telling’; also I have a biggish scene that I know is in the wrong order, and which probably needs to be rearranged, broken down into two scenes and then rewritten. I am also becoming more aware of things I need to feed through the novel so that they make more sense later. Spent some time making a ‘to do’ list for the novel. This is not as exciting as letting the story pour out, but I do have a sense of moving forward. Babysitting from about 4pm, so it’ll be a short day today. Word count: zero
Thursday 31st July
Babysitting until 10 o’clock this morning, so a late start. Why is it when I should really be knuckling down, it takes me so much longer to get into it? Spent ages faffing about on Twitter and Facebook, enjoyable, but it wasn’t getting the novel written! Wrote a new (possible) prologue, and did a little editing on one of the scenes. Word count today: 778
Friday 1st August
Definitely slowing down now, because I’ve got the bulk of the main story down, so I now need to go back and expand some scenes, trim others and strengthen some of the themes that have risen to the surface as I’ve been writing. There’s also quite a bit of telling rather than showing as there always is in an early draft, so I need to address that, too. Did some editing – I’m probably cutting as much as I’m writing at the moment – and did some work on a scene that needs expanding and made a few notes. Word count: 946
Saturday 2nd August
I knew it would be difficult to write today, because we have friends coming tomorrow, so lots of shopping and cooking, but I made sure I wrote something. Grabbed the laptop when I was still half asleep and wrote 500 words. I didn’t have a particular scene in mind, but I know there’s a time in the character’s life that I want to address, so I just started at a point where I know she has some ‘issues’. This scene may make it to the final novel, it may not, but in my experience, some of the best scenes develop from something which has started as an uncertain piece of writing, maybe even something you’ve written just to get you going and if it ends up being a good scene, it feels like a real bonus, because it’s something you haven’t actually planned. Word count today: 505
Sunday, 3rd August
Lovely friends over today. Nice food, great conversation and rather a lot of daytime alcohol. Wrote another 500 or so words after they’d gone, but I’m not holding out much hope as to the quality! Word count:  534
Monday, 4th August
Off to York for a couple of days. This little trip is partly for pleasure, but also because I’m thinking of setting part of the novel there. So far, what I’ve written could be taking place anywhere, but a sense of place is as important to me as a writer as it is as reader. I prefer to write about real places, and I’ve learned that the only way to do this effectively is to go there, look at it, get a feel for it – and take notes! The sense of Sheffield in an early draft of The Secrets We Left Behind didn’t come over strongly enough because I’d made the mistake of thinking that because I live here, I could write the town centre from memory – but I missed things, because living here makes me take them for granted. So before redrafting, I went to the town centre and walked around, observing, taking photographs and making notes. As a result, the sense of place in the finished novel was much stronger, and several readers who live in Sheffield have commented on how vivid and recognisable the location is. Wandered around York, had a look at the river, took some pics and made a few notes, (York is VERY busy at the moment). Also did some writing on the train journey here. Word count: 1367

Overall
Didn’t make my target of 7000, but I feel okay about this because it was largely because of a busy week rather than being stuck, and also because of the stage that I’m at – I’m having to think of the finer points now. 5234
Nice things this week:  
Delighted to receive two more reader emails, both about The Secrets We Left Behind, although one reader said she’d enjoyed The Things We Never Said, as well, and that my books had got her back into reading. How lovely!
The coming week
I think I need to set a different sort of target this week, so rather than a word count target, I’m going to go for a “time spent working on the novel” target of three hours a day on at least five days. Nor sure if I mentioned this before, but I’ve been referring to my current draft as a ‘first draft’, but it’s probably more accurate to call it a ‘zero draft’; it’s the draft where I’m still telling myself the story; the draft before the first draft. Happily, I think I’m almost ready to start writing the actual first draft, the one I’ll share with my agent and editor. 

New Amazon reviews

The Secrets We Left Behind: very pleased – six new reviews, four 5-star and two 4-star!

The Things We Never Said: Only one, but it was a 4-star with the heading, ‘a challenging topic, beautifully written about’. So that’s okay.
To find out more about me and my work, visit my website