A big milestone for me today – I have submitted the draft of novel number three, the progress of which many years of you have been following on this blog. It’s a strange feeling, because on the one hand, it’s immensely satisfying to have juggled and plotted the lives of a number of characters and reached a point where I have a completed story. But on the other, I know that this is only a milestone; it’s by no means the end of the journey.

I’m looking forward to receiving feedback from my agent and editor, both of whom have immense skill and insight when it comes to the finer points of storytelling. I am of course very nervous, too. I want them to love it – I want everyone to love it! I don’t mean I want them to say it’s perfect, because it won’t be – beginner writers take note: by the time you take a novel off the shelves in a bookshop, it will have been redrafted more times than you can begin to imagine. But I’m just hoping that they’ll share my passion for these characters and what happens to them, even if I have to rewrite, rethink and re-order whole chunks of the text.

So, what has the process of getting this manuscript ready for submission involved in the last couple of weeks? Well, it’s amazing how you can think you’ve done all you can and then find SOOOO much more to do! You may remember I made myself a novel “to do” list, which initially had about 65 things on it. It was wonderful to cross off several of those items each day, but I think the number probably doubled. They varied from bigger things like, ‘write an epilogue’ to smaller technical things, such as: ‘show character getting dressed’ (I noticed that the character was naked in one paragraph, and then he was opening the door and stepping outside – he wasn’t meant to still be in the buff!)

Then, when I thought I’d done all the ‘story’ things, I read it through again looking for typos, punctuation errors, extra spaces etc – it seemed like there were millions. Then I read it through again, and found a million more.

I’d written most of this draft in Scrivener, so I then had to compile it as a word document, which was really easy, except that Scrivener refused to accept that my prologue wasn’t chapter 1 (even though I put it in a separate folder. Anyone??) Anyway, I ended up having to manually change the chapter numbers – all 50-odd of them! And then I realised I still hadn’t written the sodding epilogue. It may be that the epilogue isn’t needed, but I thought I needed to know what happened to the characters after the ‘ending’, so I sat in my favourite coffee shop and bashed out an epilogue of sorts. That will be the most first-draft-y bit of the whole thing!

It’s been a lot of hard work, and I know there will be a lot more hard work to come, but I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to hit ‘send’ earlier this afternoon (despite sitting here looking at the screen for a few minutes before plucking up the courage to actually make that click!)

And so now I’m going to have a break for a few days, catch up on some reading, and maybe even let my thoughts roam over a few ideas for novel number four. The immediate plan, though, is to sit and drink a glass of bubbly in celebration. There’s still a long way to go, but at least I’ve reached this significant point in the process. Hubby is having a glass, too – after listening for hours on end to me moaning about how difficult it all is, he deserves it!

Things may go a little quiet on the blog now for a while, but I’ll still be blogging about the writing life at least every three or four weeks. In the meantime, cheers!

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 @sewelliot


So, another two weeks of working on my novel in a really focused way, often for quite long hours. I feel like a real, proper author, rather than someone who’s masquerading as a real author and is likely to get found out at any moment!

I mentioned in my last post that I had one more decision to make about one of the characters before I could really move on and I’ve made that decision now, and written the necessary scene. I now have three more scenes to re-write, and out of an original 65 things on my novel ‘to do ‘list, there are 14 remaining, although of course, more will emerge as I continue to edit. Some of these are simply a question of going back and adding in references to something. For example, I realised that a character who smokes heavily at the start hasn’t had a fag for about five chapters! I also need to fill in some location details, but that’s going to require another research trip, so may have to wait until the second draft.

I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to cross things off the ‘to do’ list. I find that making such a list really helps me to organise my thoughts, but even if you don’t need to do that, it’s worth making a list if just for the pleasure of crossing things off it!

So satisfying!

One of the reasons I enjoy setting part of my novels in a different time period is that I love researching a particular decade. There’s a scene in this book where one of the characters is reading a copy of Woman’s Realm in 1967. What better way to research that than to read a copy of Woman’s Realm from 1967? I have to say, I found some of the advice on the problem page to be, well, shall we just say less than supportive of married women! These magazines make fascinating reading.

Woman’s Realm, 1967

I’ve been slightly better at scribbling notes in my journal over this last two weeks, but still haven’t got back into the habit of morning pages, something I fully intend to resume in the New Year. But I have kept some notes, and a quick flick through tells me that other writerly activities since my last post include a feedback session with a fellow writer, a coffee shop writing session with a (different) fellow writer, a boozy Christmas lunch with two (different again) fellow writers, and a signing session at WH Smith’s – not for my own book, but for the Watch and Wait anthology, which I’ve mentioned in this blog several times. Here’s a review.

As well as these more obvious writerly pursuits, I’ve prepared and taught my evening class, had tutorials with my MA students and read the opening chunk of a psychological thriller in readiness for preparing a critique. I love my job!

In addition to all that, I think I’ve made a fair dent in the Christmas shopping, and I’ve managed to knock up a few mince pies and nibbly things which are now in the freezer ready to be heated up later in the week when I’ll have some friends round for festive drinkies. So, all in all, I’m feeling reasonably productive and pleased with myself – and it’s not often you hear me say that!

I think I’m going to leave it there this time, because I’m itching to get back to my novel, which I plan to deliver on 5th of January. I’ve no doubt there will still be quite a lot of work to do, but although I could tweak and twiddle until the cows come home, I’m now at the stage where I need the insightful and experienced opinions of my agent and editor, who both seem to understand what I am trying to do and are able to point out how I could do it more effectively. I’m so looking forward to receiving their feedback – although it’ll be a nailbiting time while I wait to hear what they think!

I usually post fortnightly, but as that takes us to just after Christmas, I’ll be extending it to three weeks this time, so my next post will be on 5th January – the day I submit this draft!!

In the meantime, check out Simon & Schuster’s books and the city page, where you can read features entitled My Perfect Christmas Morning by the following authors: myself, Jane Costello, Rachel Hore, Isabel Broom, Kate Long, Patricia Scanlan, and Andy Jones.

I hope you all have a fabulous time over the festive period, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

By the way, Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas? Discuss! (My vote is for Merry!)

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 @sewelliot


Well, I hope the tone of this post conveys the excitement I’m feeling at the moment. Regular readers will know that I am one of those writers who finds the first draft (or “zero draft”, as I’ve been calling it) absolutely torturous to write. I am happy to report that the zero draft is more or less complete, and I feel I am now a good way into what I can confidently call the first draft. This is the bit I love! I can now see the shape of the whole thing. I know what happens, to whom, and when; I know how they feel about it, and I know what the consequences are. I still have to rewrite most of it to add more texture, more nuance, more sense of place. But this story is now living and breathing, and I’m excited about it.

I should make an effort to record how I feel now, in detail, so that the next time I’m at that difficult ‘this will never work’ stage, I can look back on it and remind myself that there is a way through, and that even if it takes a long time to find it, it’s truly wonderful and worth the hard work when you get there. Unfortunately, this stage is a relatively short one. Writing a novel is a bit like doing a basic jigsaw with no picture to guide you. The incredibly difficult stage of trying to fit the pieces together has taken over a year; painting the picture on the front is the fun part, and will be a quicker process. (Of course, I’m saying all this with the assumption that my agent and editor will like the results, and I won’t have to go back and rewrite the entire thing!)

Writing retreats have helped enormously – I’ve been on two recently. I talked about the first one in my last blog post. The second retreat was with Arvon, at the beautiful Lumb Bank writing house, near Hebden Bridge.

I’ve been to Lumb Bank several times before, both on taught courses and on retreats. There’s something about the place that I find incredibly inspiring, and every time I go there, it feels like going home. In fact, when I was shown to my room this time, I suddenly felt quite emotional. Maybe it’s because when I started  my first Arvon course back in 2002, I felt like someone whose hobby was writing; by the end of that week, I felt like a writer.

Or maybe it was the beautiful surroundings that caused the lump in my throat; or being in the company of so many lovely writers, old friends and new. It was probably all of those things combined.

So, the long and the short of it is, during those few days at Arvon, I wrote three complete new scenes (my ‘scenes’ may end up as short chapters, but I prefer to think in scenes at this stage in case I need to juggle things around.) I also rewrote two early scenes that I needed to keep but which now required a complete overhaul.

After talking with fellow writer, the lovely Rosie Garland, I also came away with a new morning routine. We’ve discussed ‘warm-ups’ before in this blog, Rosie tries never to miss a single day. ‘I’m about to run a marathon,’ she told me. ‘I’m not going to do it without warming up first.’ Every morning, Rosie writes six images – just a couple of sentences on each; then a haiku, the subject of which often arises from one of the images. Then she does the classic ‘morning pages’ – three pages of freewriting. Only then is she ready to start her work on her novel.

I’ve been doing my own version of this warm-up, which is exactly the same as Rosie’s, except that as long as I’ve done six images and a haiku, I allow myself to write two pages of freewriting rather than three. If I miss out the haiku or one of the images – I usually describe something I can see, but sometimes it’s something I remember – then I do the full three pages. It feels good.

Whether the morning routine has made a difference, I don’t know, but I find I’m starting work much more easily each morning, and since Arvon I haven’t missed a single day. Nor has there been a day where I haven’t worked on the novel, even if only for half an hour. It’s usually for much longer, though – at the moment, I’m working until my eyes hurt!

So, all in all, it’s going well. I am, at this particular moment, a Very Happy Writer!

In other news:
Last time, I reported that Apple iBooks had picked up The Secrets We Left Behind for a special promotion. Well, it looks like Amazon has followed suit and so  the Kindle version is now £1.99 on Amazon, too (although I don’t know for how long). UPDATE 18th Nov: damn! seems to have finished already.

Signing event:
If you’re in or near Sheffield on Saturday 29th of November and you’d like to buy a signed copy of either of my books, or a copy of the Watch & Wait anthology – Christmas presents, perhaps? (God, I hate the self-promotion, but here I am, trying to self-promote!) Or even if you just fancy a chat, please come and say hello. I’ll be upstairs at WH Smith, Fargate, Sheffield, S1 from 1.30 until about 3.30. There may well be chocolate involved.

New Amazon reviews:
The Secrets We Left Behind: no new reviews (OMG! No new reviews! I did get a lovely reader email about this one, though)
The Things We Never Said: Two 5-star and one 4-star

If you’d like to keep an eye on what I’m up to, follow me on Twitter @sewelliot or ‘like’ my  Facebook page. You can visit my website here


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


Well, not really final, but still. When I started this blog 10 weeks ago, my word count was 36,594. I ended up dividing the 10 weeks into a block of six, during which I was writing new material and discovering the story, and a block of four, during which I was focusing more on rewriting and looking at structure. So for the first six weeks, I kept track of the word count, and for the last four, I focused more on the time spent at my desk. So here’s how it added up:
In the first six weeks, I wrote just over 41,000 ‘new’ words. This total doesn’t include words added while editing/rewriting. But I also cut around 16,000 words. Again, this total doesn’t include smaller cuts. The current word count is 68, 252.
Over the last four weeks, during which I’ve been measuring time spent working on the novel (that’s time spent actually at my desk, so not counting the hours I think about it while cooking meals, walking the dog, etc) I’ve spent at least 74 hours at my desk, working on my novel.
As every author knows, an important part of the working day is the point, usually before coffee but after checking emails, watching funny videos on Facebook and chatting on Twitter, when you look up your latest Amazon reviews. No? You mean it’s just me? Sorry, don’t believe you. Over the 10 weeks, The Things We Never Said received a total of 29 reviews, of which 17 were 5-star, seven were 4-star three were 3-star and two were 2-star. The Secrets We Left Behind received 32 reviews; 19 were 5-star, eight were 4-star, three were 3-star, and (gutted) one was 1-star and one was 2-star.
I also received 13 lovely reader emails (and four more that I haven’t included in this total because they’re from people I know)

I’ve just realised I have no pretty pictures for this post, so just to break it up a bit, here’s a photo of the new sofa in my study. Can’t think how I managed without one – it makes for a damn good sit down!

Has keeping this blog affected my work?

In order to write the blog post at the end of each week, I’ve kept a daily record of what I’ve been doing, so it’s been quite time-consuming. But it’s made me much more aware of how I spend my time. I wanted to write a completely honest account of my working week, so it’s felt a little bit like working in a goldfish bowl in that, if I’ve wasted a whole morning faffing about on Twitter, or bunking off to meet a friend for coffee, that’s fine, but I know I then have to confess it on the blog. I think this may have helped to keep me on the straight and narrow a little more than I might otherwise have been.
It’s also shown me just how much my teaching and domestic/family commitments impinge on my writing. One thing I discovered through the blog is that when I have a family commitment later in the day, it really affects my ability to get started on the novel. What I should do about this is to start on the novel first thing in the morning and leave emails/admin/social media, stuff until later. But I really struggle to do that. I have this feeling that I should ‘get things out of the way’ first. Anyone else have that problem?
The other thing that’s happened is that I now know what the novel is about. This may or may not have anything to do with writing the blog, but I suspect it’s helped because it’s made me think more closely about the decisions I’m making and why am making them.

Where I’m up to now

I’d say I’m virtually at the end of what I’ve been calling the ‘zero’ draft – I now know what the novel is about, I know the characters, I know how the novel ends, and I know most of the things that happen to the characters along the way, although I still have ideas for a couple more scenes I want to add in. I’ve also come to the conclusion, having tried various other options, that telling the story in a linear way, possibly in five parts, may be the best way option.
I’ve had lots of positive feedback on these posts, so as I said last week, I am going to continue posting about my progress with this book right up until publication. I’ll probably post every two weeks or so while I’m still working on the draft. Then there will be gaps while my agent and editor read the manuscript and give me their feedback, then I’ll post again while doing the rewrites, and eventually we’ll get to the point where there will be infrequent but hopefully exciting bits of news, such as a decision on the title, the unveiling of the cover, etc etc. By that stage, though, I’ll be starting to work on book four…

If you’ve missed any of the posts, you can find them through the archives. To find out more about me and my work, visit my website It would also be great if you would ‘like’ my Facebook author page and follow me on Twitter @sewelliot


I said at the end of last week’s post that I knew this would be a fairly light week work-wise, because my son has been up from London for a few days so obviously I wanted to spend time with him. However, that’s my excuse for the first part of the week – he went home on Thursday evening, so…
Tuesday 20th, Wednesday 21st, Thursday 22nd August
As above, not much work done on the novel during these three days, although I have been thinking about it a lot, particularly in terms of structure. At the moment, the story is told chronologically from two third person viewpoints, but with quite big jumps in time. I’m now wondering whether the time jumps might be better handled by a slightly different form of narrative, and I’m considering incorporating the diary of one character to cover part of the story. Obviously this would mean part of the narrative would be first person, which would allow me to get right into the character’s head. I can think of novels that have been written entirely in diary form, or in letter and diary form, but I couldn’t think of any in the form I’m thinking of.
When I’m considering a particular structure for the novel, the first thing I do is to try and find out if anyone else has tried it, how they did it and how well it works. So I got onto Twitter and asked the wonderfully supportive and generous network of writers (who regularly keep me from my writing because they’re all being so witty and interesting) if they could help.  I love twitter! My request was retweeted 30+ times and I ended up with a few suggestions, although many of them turned out to be straight first person narratives. There were one or two that might be helpful though, so I’ve ordered those. Interestingly, three other authors were in the process of writing their own novels in a similar form – all were finding it rather challenging! Anyway, no decisions yet.
Time spent on the novel over these three days: Not much, but I am going to allow myself to count some of the time I spent online in pursuit of helpful titles: two hours
Friday 23rd August
First proper day back at my desk since Monday. Got up early, raring to go, determined to get stuck in again. Failed. First, I dealt with emails. I always have this idea that I should get emails ‘out of the way’, but the reality is that my replies often generate yet more emails, so this ends up taking most of the morning. Why, I ask myself, do I do this first thing in the morning when I know full well what’ll happen? Does anyone else have a pathological need to sabotage their writing day like this? Honestly, I do my head in sometimes, I really do. Pause while I kick myself sharply on the shin. Anyway, then I opened up the document with the full intention of being pleasantly drawn into it again by rereading the most recent scene while eating cake and drinking coffee. During this cake-eating and coffee-drinking phase I came down with a terrible bout of procrastination so faffed about on Twitter and Facebook for most of the morning. While having lunch, I read a few blog posts, and that took me neatly up to the time I had to leave the house in order to meet a friend for tea and, um, more cake. Time spent: 0
Saturday 24th August
Late start today – heating engineer here this morning installing a bigger radiator in my study. This unseasonably chilly weather has reminded me how bone-achingly cold it can get up here in the winter, so I thought I’d sort that out now or, knowing me, come January I’ll be whinging about the cold and using it as an excuse for not writing. Up until now I’ve been using a little halogen heater, but the dog manages to soak up most of the heat from that.
Not sure I’ve moved forward today, but I spent some time reading parts of the novel to get myself back into it. Ended up doing a little editing, too, although I’m trying to avoid doing too much at this stage, because I don’t even know if those scenes will end up staying in the final version. Also divided up the two characters’ narratives and put them into separate documents then printed them out. This will be useful for me to look at in the context of a possible new structure. So, while I’m not exactly thrilled with my afternoon’s work, I’m not too unhappy.  Time spent: three hours.
Sunday 25th August
Okay, I’m not going to go into the excuses, but suffice to say the day ran away with me. Time spent: 0
Monday 26th August
Determined to make up for yesterday, so at my desk for 9.30. As someone on Twitter said, ‘Bank Holiday Monday, or, as we freelancers call it, Monday…’ I’m still very aware that I need to take apart what I’ve written so far and put it back together in a different order, and I’m also aware that I’m putting that off! Not indefinitely, you understand, but we’re going away for a week soon, and I’m planning to tackle it then. At the moment, with the distractions and responsibilities of domestic life, I’m finding it really had to dive into what could be a mammoth task. On holiday, away from the pressures of home, I might find myself actually enjoying the challenge! Anyway, used today to rewrite couple of scenes and I’m fairly happy with what I’ve got done. Time spent: 6.5 hours
Tuesday 27th of August

I don’t usually include Tuesday, but as I’m going on holiday on Friday, next week’s post is going to be at least three days late, so I’m extending this week a little. And it’s just as well, because today was a good day. I met a writing friend for coffee and wrote a complete new scene. What still isn’t clear to me, though, is why, when I’m sure we both spent an equal amount of time looking out of the window, he managed 4000 words in the time it took me to write 2000 words! Ah well. Maybe my words are better. (Fat chance!) Time spent: 3.5 hours
Just realised that having said last week I would set a modest target, I didn’t actually set one at all. It’s been a short working week, But even taking that into account, I still didn’t do very well with a grand total of 15 hours. Having said that, this is time, actually spent at my desk, whereas I’m thinking about the novel most of the time. In fact, as I write this, I’m nodding with tiredness having been awake half the night because the novel was buzzing around in my head.

Nice things this week
Lovely email from a reader who grew up in the same area as me and who said very nice things about both books.
The coming week
I’m going on holiday for a week on Friday to sunny Scarborough – it’s all glamour here, you know! Actually, sunny or otherwise, I don’t care as long as I can see the sea. Although it’s a holiday, I’ll be working on the novel most days and I hope to at least make a start on trying out a possible new structure. Because of the holiday, next week’s post will be three or four days late and will cover a longer period. It’ll be the final post in the series of 10 (in this particular form, anyway – I intend to continue charting this novel’s progress in shorter posts right up to publication) and will contain a summing up of the 10 weeks. I’m not going to set a target for the coming week, but I’ll report my progress faithfully when I post, either on Friday 5th or Monday 8th September.
New Amazon reviews:
The Secrets We Left Behind: Three new ones – one 5-star, two 4-star
The Things We Never Said: Only one new one this week – a 5-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


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.
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


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

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


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

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


I’m writing a series of 10 blog posts in which I record my writing process and the progress I’m making on my third novel. This is week three. If you’d like to follow the whole thing, here’s week one and here’s week two 

Tuesday 8th July
Babysitting again this morning from 8 until 1.30, then off to a meeting until 3.30, then reading students’ work for tonight’s short story tutorials. My aim for this week is to do something on the novel every day, but today has just disappeared. However, desperate to meet that modest aim, I managed to scrawl 150 words of a scene when I got back from class tonight. Too tired now to do any more, though, except to write up this entry for today. That’s the other thing I’m finding helpful about writing this blog – even if I’m not working on the novel, I’m committed to doing some writing every day so that I have a record to turn into a blog post at the end of the week. It’s also helping me to get a perspective on what I’m doing each day in terms of what holds up my writing and what helps it. For example, I’ve realised that when I have a commitment later in the day, I find it difficult to get started once it gets within a few hours of that commitment. The solution, obviously, is to start writing earlier! Word count:150

Wednesday 9th July
Spent an hour on Twitter  this morning – didn’t mean to, but there’s so much interesting stuff out there! Also, I felt compelled to tweet about the wonderful book I’ve just finished – We Are Called to Rise, by Laura McBride – highly recommended! Anyway, must work now – mother arriving in a few hours and then it’s going to be difficult to get anything done. Today’s word count: 520
Thursday 10th July
Look what arrived in the post today:

I’d like to keep one of these, but wasn’t sure what to do with the other two copies, but after posting this on my FB page, I now have ‘good cause’ homes for two of them. My mum has arrived from London, staying until Saturday. Normally, I’d take a few days off while she’s here, but I’m really struggling with this novel and feel that I dare not take a day away from it. My line of thinking is that if do something on it every day, even if it’s only reading over what I’ve written and doing a little editing, the story will be bubbling away in my subconscious and I’m more likely to find a way through. So, I’ve explained to mum that I need to work for an hour each day. I’m at the tail end of my hour now, but at least I’ve done something. Chipping away, chipping away…  Word count: 339
Friday 11th July
Again, I have snuck up to my study for an hour and have written a small chunk. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s still moving forward. A good haul of research materials have now arrived and I’m really enjoying flicking through these – Woman’s Realm and Woman’s Weekly from the early 60s and mid-70s, and copies of Spare Rib from the early 80s. 

Fascinating stuff! Today’s word count: 284

Saturday 12thJuly
Went to visit friends for the weekend and managed to do a little work on the train. Usually, I love working on trains because there are no distractions, but on this particular journey we had an extremely annoying train manager who:   welcomed us aboard and asked us to take a moment to read the safety information; reminded us that smoking was not permitted anywhere on the train (including the toilets and vestibules); listed the stops we would be calling at; told us the names of the on-board staff; informed us of the location of the buffet car (“carriage ‘C’ for Charlie, that’s carriage ‘C’ for Charlie…”), listing the items available from said buffet; warned us that if we had purchased “an advance ticket – that’s an advance ticket…” that we should make sure we were on the correct train. In case we hadn’t quite got that, she added, “If your ticket has the word advance printed on it, and you are not on the correct train, you will be required to pay the full fare.” She announced all of this loudly, longly, and after every single sodding stop. Nevertheless, I managed to write the start of a new scene without turning it into a ‘train passenger murders train manager’ story. Word count: 422

Sunday 13th July
The return train journey was blissfully peaceful in comparison to the outward trip, but was considerably longer (travelling for almost 6 hours on three different trains). Tired, at a difficult stage in the novel and perhaps just a little hungover, I struggled to work properly, but managed to squeeze out 360 words which is, as they say here in Sheffield, better than nowt. Word count: 360

Monday 14th July
Frantically busy today catching up with everything that’s fallen behind over the last few days, So lots of emails, lots of reading and annotating students work for short story class tomorrow, and a fair bit of household stuff. I need to be on top of things before heading off on a writing retreat on Wednesday. I’ve not written anything today, but did spend half an hour doing some editing. Word Count: 0

Nice things this week:
Audiobooks arrived! Haven’t listened yet. I wonder what it’ll be like to hear my own words read to me?

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

It’s been an incredibly busy week, and I’ve not done as much on the novel as I’d have liked, but I still made some progress, and have just about hit my modest target of 2000 words (wrote 2075). Total wordcount: 40,436 BUT I am about to cut a section that I absolutely know I won’t use so, here goes…there! Total wordcount  now 37,945. Gutted.

The coming week:
Off on a writing retreat tomorrow until next Tuesday, so am hoping to make seriously good progress this week. There will fewer distractions, no babysitting, no cooking, no shopping! All that can hold me up is the novel itself. I’m at a difficult point, moving to a different character/time period and storyline. So far, I’ve not had much luck with this character. I’m hoping that by focusing closely on her over the next five days, I can make a breakthrough. This may involve simply writing and writing to try and ‘uncover’ the character and story. I’ve tried planning, and that hasn’t worked, so I’m going to try just steaming in. On that basis, I’m going to set a more ambitious target of 10,000 words for this coming week! If I don’t make it, I shall be honest about it, as I have promised to be right through these 10 weeks. Yikes!

 If you’d like to know more about me and my work, please visit My website Also, you can follow me on Facebook by ‘liking’ my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter