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


Another busy couple of weeks, but probably a bit more writerly activity than I reported last time – including actual writing! Reading back over my writing journal. I see that I didn’t touch the novel from 13th to the 25th of October. This is quite a long break when you’re working on a first draft, because you lose momentum and it becomes increasingly difficult to re-enter the ‘zone’. Fortunately, I’d booked a one day urban writing retreat for the 25th, so that forced me back into it. More of that in a moment. First, a quick roundup of my other writerly activities.

On Tuesday 21st  saw the launch of Watch & Wait, (Cybermouse multimedia). The proceeds from the sale of the book and from the launch are gifted to the Lymphoma Association – just over £1000 so far. My short story Day Tripper  appears in the anthology, which also contains stories from 19 other authors, including Marina Lewycka, Rony Robinson, Danuta Reah, Bryony Doran and Berlie Doherty to name but a few. The launch was a huge success. The room was packed, and it was such a pleasure to hear these wonderful authors reading from their work and talking about their writing lives. The evening continued with live music, drinking and chatting.

Saturday 25th started with the aforementioned retreat. I could only stay for the morning but just those three hours sitting in a room working quietly with other writers was enough to reacquaint me with my novel, so although I only wrote about 600 words, I felt so much better.

In the afternoon, I joined Danuta Reah for a book-signing at WH Smith in Fargate, Sheffield. This was mainly Danuta’s signing – I was the ‘support act’.  Danuta is a crime writer, and much of her work is set in Sheffield – I can highly recommend Bleak Water, which is set the around the canals. I’ll definitely be reading more of her work. We’ll be at WH Smith’s again on 29th of November, and this time, I’ll be the ‘main attraction’ with Danuta supporting me. So if you’d like a signed copy of one of my books, one of Danuta’s, or the Watch & Wait anthology – all great Christmas presents – pop along for a chat on the 29th.

On Saturday evening, I met up with six writer friends for one of our regular ‘writers dinners’. Writing is a solitary business, and you can feel very much alone when you’re wrestling with problems in your work, so it’s always great to reconnect with people who understand. My lovely friend Ruby, who I met 12 years ago on an Arvon course, stayed overnight and so we had lots of time on Sunday to chat talk about our novels (and to ‘do lunch’, of course.)

Some writers prefer not to discuss their work in progress, but I find it incredibly useful to talk about ideas and problems with other writers. This almost always helps to clarify things. After chatting with Ruby, I felt clearer about the problems, and I had a few ideas about how to move forward. On Monday, a phone chat with my lovely editor helped to complete the process and put me right back on track. Sometimes, the solution to a problem is staring you in the face, but you’re just too close to the work to see it. Discussing it with someone who knows what they’re talking about can really set you free!

This was all great timing, because on Tuesday, I headed off to the Forest of Dean for a few days’ retreat with the wonderful and inspiring Annie McKie. I went on a retreat with Annie in July and had a terrific breakthrough in my work. I find that being away from the distractions of home and not having to think about shopping and cooking – Annie is a fabulous vegetarian cook –  means I can really focus on my work in a way that’s impossible at other times.

I ate with Annie and her husband on my last evening, and these gorgeous roasted vegetables were part of the meal

‘My’ room – it has its own back door, an en-suite shower & loo and the most wonderful view

Annie is the perfect host – she leaves you to concentrate on  your work, bringing food when you need it, and she’s on hand with helpful ideas for when you get stuck. The retreat room opens out onto a balcony overlooking the Forest of Dean.

I’m really pleased with what I achieved in those few days – I wrote three completely new scenes and rewrote two others. I came back on Saturday – did more writing on the train – and now, as if the loveliness will never end, I’m off to Lumb Bank near Hebden Bridge for an Arvon retreat. I’m really hoping to build on the good work I did at Annie’s and come back next Saturday feeling significantly further forward with my novel.

In other news: Apple ibooks have picked up The Secrets We Left Behind For a special promotion, so for the next two weeks (from midnight 3rd Nov) the e-book will be £1.99 on iBooks.

A cheeky request
If you’ve enjoyed this post, I’d be so grateful if you’d Tweet the link. I never usually ask for RTs of my blog posts, but as I’m off to Arvon in a couple of hours, I won’t have time to do much Tweeting myself, and my poor little blog that I’ve worked on the morning will lie unread. Thanks in advance!

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


In my last post, I mentioned I was a bit stuck again. Well, two weeks on, I’m still a bit stuck, although I have made some progress. I’m sure this isn’t an insurmountable ‘stuck’, but there are so many distractions at the moment!
The last couple of weeks have been quite busy with teaching-related work. I’m supervising some MA students, so there’s been a lot of reading before tutorials as well as the usual preparation for my weekly class, and some extra work preparing for a one-day class, which I taught alongside my friend and fellow author James Russell. I’m really enjoying the co-tutoring, and it’s making life a little easier for me. The one-day class went off very well – we had lovely feedback from students and came away buzzing. 
A few days ago, I did an Off-The-Shelf event with four other authors, talking about our experience of writing MAs and what they can lead to. We were a bit worried about the turnout because, not only did the printed brochure list the wrong venue, but it was pouring with rain and there was other good stuff on the same night. At 7.30, there was just one audience member and the pub cat. As we filed into the room, the cat turned to look at us, then stalked off, tail flicking. I’m not sure what he was expecting! But then people began to drift in, having been redirected from the other venue, and by 7.45 most of the seats were full. It turned into a really good evening, with lots of questions from a lovely, lively audience.
To celebrate the success of the evening, we had a few drinks afterwards. Well, you do, don’t you? This resulted in me managing to leave a rucksack with five copies of The Secrets We Left Behind, and one of The Things We Never Said in the pub or the taxi home – not sure which. I was certain that when I phoned the pub and taxi firm, someone would have handed in the bag, after all, who’d want five copies of the same book? But no, five days on, and they still haven’t turned up. I’m just hoping I don’t see them chucked on a skip somewhere…
So, that’s a roundup of recent distractions (not including emails,domestic duties etc). The little progress I have made may be due to the discovery that my favourite coffee shop offers hot drinks for a pound before 10am on weekdays. So almost every morning, I’ve been heading over there as soon as I’ve walked the dog, and it makes me feel like I’m going to work. I usually manage a couple of hours most days, so even if I don’t write anything else for the rest the day, at least I’ve done something.
I often go walking when I’m trying to solve a problem with my novel, but everything is so gorgeous at the moment that even that is distracting. Sunny silvery mornings and golden afternoons; crunchy leaves and conkers underfoot; sycamore helicopters spinning through the air all around you; isn’t autumn the most beautiful season? Here’s one of my daily walks:
I met with my writer’s group this week and got some encouraging feedback on my work. The main criticism was that the scenes needed trimming. I’m not doing much editing until I get to the end of this draft, but given that I’m stuck at the moment, I really enjoyed spending some time trimming/editing these sections. I always overwrite, and it’s one of the things I often pick up on in the work of others. I think we all do it to a certain extent, and you really need fresh eyes to spot it.

I’ve not worked on the novel at all over the weekend, but I’ve done writerly things, including going to an event where three crime writers talked about their writing process, having lunch with a writer friend, and taking yesterday off to spend most of the day reading. 
Coming up
Tomorrow (Tuesday 21st Oct) is the launch of Watch and Wait, a short story anthology to which I’ve contributed.If you’re in Sheffield, do  pop along. Details here There will be readings, live music and general merriment – should be a great evening! Tickets available on the door, proceeds to the Lymphoma Association.

The next blog post will be on 3rd November, when I will have just returned from a three-day writing retreat here and will be about to set off on another one (this time for 4 days), here. So really, the next two blog posts should show considerable signs of progress!

New Amazon reviews:
The Secrets We Left Behind – two 5-star and one 2-star
The Things We Never Said – two 5-star, two 4-star and one 3-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
And my website is here


If you’d like to catch up with this series, here are: WEEK 1 WEEK 2 and  WEEK 3

Tuesday 15th July
Busy day. Finished reading and annotating students’ work for short story tutorials tonight. Finished working on the ‘week three’ post, which I published at lunchtime, then edited after spotting errors. Spent time on Twitter and Facebook, replied to emails. I knew I probably wouldn’t get any writing done today because I’m busy finishing things off before I go on a writing retreat tomorrow. Typed up summaries of scenes I’ve already written to take to the retreat with me. I thought having an overview might help me decide how to move forward (if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll  know I’m really struggling at the moment.) Email from my editor, asking if I could send over a para or two about the main storyline so she can discuss it at a meeting next week. Ooh ‘eck. Sent a garbled reply, admitting that I was feeling pretty stuck, then crossed my fingers and headed off to teach the evening class. So impressed with the progress students have made over the last few weeks!  Word count 0
Wednesday 16thJuly
Lovely reassuring email from my editor, offering to meet up and chat through the problems. So pleased – talking it though is bound to be useful. Did some emails, updated my website and Facebook page with events coming up in September and October, then packed for the retreat. By the time I’d arrived and unpacked, there wasn’t much time before dinner, so I just wrote up this account of the day so far. This being my first night, I had dinner with my host, the writer and former Radio 4 newsreader Annie Mckie, who also offers writing support for those staying on the retreat. Annie cooked a lovely vegetarian meal over which we shared a bottle of wine while talking nineteen to the dozen about our novels. A thoroughly entertaining evening, but today’s word count? 0 (keep reading – it gets better!)
Thursday 17thJuly
Started the day with breakfast on the balcony, which overlooks the Forest of Dean.
I’d told Annie last night that I felt sick when I thought about my novel, so this morning, we had a brainstorming session. Annie’s insightful comments and suggestions have set me thinking along a different route. Went for a walk and found ideas kept popping into my head.  I actually feel quite excited about it again. Of course, this could all change by tomorrow, but at the moment, I’m feeling happy about my decision to lose a character and concentrate on the remaining viewpoint characters. The order in which to tell the story is far from clear yet – structure’s always tricky. I plan to do a bit more thinking now (lunchtime), then maybe start writing some of the scenes I’ve planned and see how it feels. 9pm – wrote over 1000 words of notes today, and started a new scene. Word count: 865
Friday 18thJuly
Good chat with Annie this morning about my new ideas. She was positive and encouraging and came up with a few useful suggestions. I‘m feeling I have a clearer idea of the story now. Worked on the balcony in the sunshine. Word count this morning 876, and wrote more after lunch. It’s so hot today I feel like going to sleep, but the ideas are bubbling now – this is the bit I love about being a writer! Went for a walk down to the village, triggering more ideas. The walk back – uphill in blistering heat – was more challenging. Wrote again when I got back, plus notes. After dinner, I stayed out on the balcony making notes, drinking wine and totting up the day’s word count: 3307 – that’s more like it!
Saturday 19thJuly
Spectacular thunderstorms overnight but at least it’s a little cooler this morning.  Got up at 6.30 to make tea and get started, but we’d had a power cut! Fortunately, laptop was charged, so I got cracking and wrote 653 words before breakfast, plus some notes. I feel ridiculously excited and energised. Heavy rain first thing and now there is a lovely mist rising from the trees and frequent rumbles of thunder in the distance.
Power back at lunchtime, then it went again. Arghh! Did some writing with a strange, stick-like object that bleeds blue when you press it on paper…
Word count for the day 4035 – now we’re cooking!
Sunday 20thJuly
After doing so well yesterday, I hit another problem last night. It’s structural mainly – I always find it difficult to know where to start and leave a narrative. A couple of other minor issues, too – writing a novel really is a bit like a Rubik’s cube in that every change you make affects something else. But I went for another walk, and had another long chat with Annie. Think I may have at least partially solved these problems. Knuckled down again, and ended up with a word count of 3034
Monday 21stJuly
I won’t bother going into detail today, but knowing it was my last day here on the retreat, I really got on with it, working in chunks of about 90 minutes with breaks of varying lengths, depending on how tired I was. As it was my last night here, I joined Annie and her husband for dinner – lovely, lovely evening, justified (I reckon) by my word count for today: 4040
Total for week(actually five days, because I didn’t write anything on Tuesday or Wednesday): 15,281

Nice things that have happened this week: see above!
I am incredibly pleased with what I’ve achieved, particularly as I was feeling so bad about the novel this time last week. Of course it’s helped being on a retreat, away from the responsibilities and distractions of home, but it’s also been so useful having brainstorming sessions with Annie, who is incredibly good at stimulating ideas and making insightful suggestions. I’m not out of the woods with this novel yet – I can already see new problems looming – but I feel excited about it again, and that’s a wonderful feeling. If you think you might benefit from a retreat, check out Annie’s website
The coming week
Real-life will no doubt get in the way again, but for the moment at least, I feel I know where I’m going, so I’m going to aim for 7000 words this week.
New Amazon reviews 
The Things We Never Said: Bumper crop! Four 5 star, one 4, one 3 and one 2 star

The Secrets We Left Behind: Two 5 star and one 4 star


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 


For me, writing the first draft of a novel is a difficult, sometimes tortuous process, and I find myself desperate to hear how other writers work. Do they find it as hard as I do? What are the bits they enjoy? How do they manage? I want to hoover up every morsel of advice and information I can find, leap on any little tip that’ll make things easier. I want to know what helps other writers keep their motivation, whether it’s little treats like a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine, or whether it’s a more visual, writing-focused reward, like a graph showing the word count going up.  I want to know what other writers do when they get stuck; do they go for a walk, read a book, visit an art gallery? Cry? Get drunk?

The point of all this is that most writers I know are fascinated by the working processes of other writers. So I thought I’d try a weekly blog about my own working life, with its ups and downs, for an initial period of ten weeks. The summer is a good time for me to write because I don’t have so many teaching commitments, so I have high hopes for the next ten weeks, and it’ll be interesting to see how I’ve progressed by then (or not…)

Where I am now:
I’m working on the first draft of my third novel, which is due to be published in 2015. The part of the story I’m working on at the moment is set in the past, and I’ve written about 35,000 words. I have another 10,000 words of a storyline set in the present day, but that part really isn’t working yet, so I’m discounting those 10,000 words for now.

Here’s an overview of the week up to 30th of June (I’ll write this blog on Mondays to post on Tuesdays)

Tuesday 24th Wrote nothing, here’s the excuse: babysitting 8.30am to 2pm, followed by lunch, then reading students’ work for evening class. Walked the dog (thought about novel while walking) then a quick cuppa before heading off to teach in the evening.

Wednesday 25th Faffed about doing emails and on Twitter all morning. Eventually managed to squeeze out 500 words before babysitting again at 3.30. Finished reading The Slaves of Solitude – brilliant. Love the way he zooms in close to the characters, then comes out again to give an overview. Wonder if I could use this more in my own writing?

Thursday 26th  A ‘bitty’ day. Needed to sort out car insurance and various boring household things. Lots of emails to answer and things to post. Should have started writing first, but wanted to get the boring stuff out of the way. Never works. Started writing, but quickly got stuck. A Twitter pal suggested I go for a walk. This does often work and so I should have taken the advice, but I felt too despondent. Not a good day.

Friday 27th  Woke up feeling determined to make up for rotten day yesterday. Straight to my desk in the morning and wrote 400 words of a new scene. Then did some admin stuff, then more work on the scene. Pleased with what I’d written by lunchtime, so, recalling the habit of one of the characters in The Slaves of Solitude, I poured myself a cheeky little sherry. (I am so suggestible!) Finished that scene and wrote the first line of the next scene. Happy enough with the day’s work – just over 1000 words. Why can’t I do this every day?

Sat 28th  Urban writing retreat Good day – inspiring to be working in the same room as other writers, candles flickering away down the centre of the table, coffee and biscuits arriving at regular intervals. Finished the scene I started on Thursday (just under 2000 words) and did some editing. Treats count bit high today – cheese panini, cake, wine…

Sun 29th I try to take one day a week off to read, chill out, spend time with the Other Half etc, so I didn’t think I’d write anything today, but thought I’d just open up the document and have a look. Ended up writing just over 500 words, so fairly happy with that.

Monday 30th Met a writer friend for lunch, so low expectations, but managed 300 words on the train there. Wrote 250 words on the train back, though this was after half a bottle of wine, so is probably rubbish. Spent most of the evening reading about the rituals of other writers and artists: 

Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey

Nice things this week:  
Two lovely emails, one about The Things We Never Said and one about The Secrets We Left Behind. Love receiving (and replying to) emails from readers – they really make my day!

New Amazon reviews this week:
The Secrets We Left Behind: two 5-star and one 4-star. And one 3-star, which says it was ‘good but full of typos and proofreading errors’! Am wondering if this was only on the Kindle version? (Though I did spot one in the print version – my fault!)
The Things We Never Said: three 5-star reviews with some really lovely comments. And one 3-star with a ‘hmm,’ Oh well…

So, at the end of week one of this blog, my word count for the week is approximately 4500 words. Total word count (though this includes a few notes) 36,594

The coming week:
I have a couple of babysitting commitments again, but have also planned two coffee shop writing sessions with a friend, so no excuse really. See you back here next Tuesday. I hope to have written at least another 4000 words by then. How about you?
For more about me and my work, visit my website or ‘like’ my Facebook page (and of course, you can follow me on twitter: @sewelliot )

Urban Writers’ Retreats

I’ve long been a fan of writing retreats and have been on several run by the Arvon Foundation. These usually take place in a rambling old house, nestling in the heart of glorious countryside. They run from Monday evening until Saturday morning, so there are four clear days in which to write, and five evenings in which you can write if you wish, but which are often spent chatting with other writers  over a glass of wine or three. It’s an incredibly supportive and encouraging environment, and the total immersion in what you’re doing, together with the creative energy created by a group of writers living and working together, is extremely productive.
But how would it work, I wondered, with an urban retreat, which usually lasts for just one day and takes place in a busy town or city?  When I heard that there was to be an urban retreat here in Sheffield, I signed up pretty quickly. I’m finishing the first draft of my second novel and I thought some focused time away from the distractions of home – the Internet, the dog, the laundry – could be just what I needed. But there would be no beautiful countryside in which to walk when I got stuck, no evening round the fire with a big glass of wine. Could it possibly be as conducive to work as the residential retreats have been?
Reader, it could. It was; it is! The day started at ten, and the first fifteen minutes or so were spent talking with the other writers. The words of a sceptical friend rang in my ear, “I don’t think you’ll get much done,” he said. “I think you’ll all just chat.” But then the organiser led a brief introductory session so that we all knew who was who and what we all hoped to achieve, and then we settled down to work at our laptops, and for the next few hours, nothing was heard but the soothing tap of fingers on keyboards.
Throughout the morning, cups of tea and coffee with an accompanying tin of biscuits magically appeared at my side. At lunchtime, there was a general clicking of necks and stretching of legs. We ate the light lunch provided, talked about how we were all getting on, and quickly got back to work. The afternoon progressed much the same as the morning, only perhaps with a renewed intensity as everyone seemed aware of the time running out.
The retreat was due to finish at five, and as the time approached the clattering of the keys got louder and faster as we all tried desperately to get just that little bit further before we had to leave.
By the end of the day, I had got more work done than on any other single day that I can remember. I finished a scene I’d been struggling with, wrote a new short scene, and did a significant amount of rewriting and editing.
I staggered home stiff and aching, jittery from the coffee, half-blind from staring at the keyboard, and slightly dazed from the sheer intensity of it all. But the overwhelming feeling was a sense of exhilaration at the amount of work I’d  achieved.
This particular urban retreat cost £30, including all refreshments. I couldn’t afford to do it very often, but in my opinion, it was £30 well-spent, and I’ll be booking another one in the very near future. For details of this one (Sheffield Writers) and others around the country, see links below:
In the West Country: Retreat West
To find out more about me and my work, including my debut novel which is being published in a few weeks by Simon & Schuster, have a look at my  website