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


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


Tuesday 22nd July
Came home from the writing retreat feeling excited and enthused about my novel, more so than I have done in a very long time. I’ve written just over 1500 words today. About 800 words before I left the retreat this morning, the rest on the train on the way back. Now I’m sitting at my desk, I feel slightly worried about the length of my ‘to do’ list, but I’m desperate to keep the momentum. I won’t be able to match last week’s word count (over 15,000) but I’m sure as hell going to meet the target I set myself, which is 7000, so around 1000 words a day. Teaching has finished for the summer, so no lesson preparation today, but it took me a while to edit and publish week four of this series. Too tired to do any more now, but still feel raring to go!
Word count: 1543
Wednesday 23rd July
First day of waking up at home after the retreat. Wrote 200 words before breakfast, just to get the story into my head. I am determined not to lose momentum. Walked the dog without a book or my Kindle in my hand (I know, I know – one of these days I’m going to trip over a tree root, but I can usually read around 30 pages during the average dog walk). Turned out to be a good thing because yet more ideas started popping up. Got back, did emails, coffee and cake with the other half, then out in the afternoon to write with a friend in another coffee shop. Total word count today: 1450

Thursday 24th July
Again, wrote 200 words before breakfast, purely on the basis that it starts me thinking about my characters. Walked the dog and did some Twitter, Facebook and emails, then domestic stuff until lunchtime. I mentioned in a previous post that I’d spent some time summarising the scenes I’d written, and those I knew I wanted to write. I’ve updated that list of scene summaries today, added some, deleted some, and tweaked others. I’m finding this very useful particularly in terms of knowing what I’m going to write next time I sit down at the keyboard. Even if I get stuck at a particular point, I can skip ahead to another scene and come back to the tricky one later. Obviously, these scenes can change as I write them, and some of them may not end up in the novel at all, but it’s all helping me to move forward. I’ve just started using Scrivener (being technically challenged, I can only use it in a very basic way) But I’m finding the ‘virtual corkboard’ very useful in terms of moving things around. Word count: 1256

How Scrivener’s ‘corkboard’ appears on the screen –

Friday 25th July

You may remember that in week one of this series, I mentioned that I had 10,000 words that I wasn’t really counting because that character wasn’t working. Well, I’ve decided I definitely want to lose that character, so here goes ‘cut’! That’s it! She’s gone; Finito; Kaput! It may sound scary to get rid of that many words, but it can be quite liberating. I had a fairly long ‘stuck’ period with The Secrets We Left Behind, and was only able to move on when I identified a problem which meant cutting 20,000 words. Never be afraid to cut! (But always keep what you’ve cut, just in case ….) By lunchtime, I had done the word-cutting but no new words, so headed off to Costa and started a new scene. So, today’s tally: Words cut: 11,203 – but I know that’s a good thing. It’s Friday, I’m feeling good – a glass of fizz, methinks!  Word count: 1257
Saturday 26th July
Lots of thinking, planning and note-making today. I decided to shift the whole thing forward a few years – I can’t for the life of me remember why at the moment, but I know there was a good reason! Anyway, this means changes all the way through. I’m not going to go back and rewrite those sections yet because I want to keep moving forward while I’m on a roll. However, I have gone back and highlighted the sections that need changing.  Did some new writing, though. Word Count: 1094

Sunday 27th July
Wrote before breakfast, walked the dog, spent a couple of hours researching things I can’t tell you about without giving away the plot, then lunch, then more writing. I’m still feeling very excited about this novel and amazed at my output of words. I’m sure many of you fellow writers reading this will think this is no great achievement, but for me, it really is! I’m usually a very slow and steady kind of writer who plods away and have the occasional burst when things are going well. However, that burst never usually lasts for more than a day or two, so this is something special for me. Fingers crossed it lasts! 1804
Monday 28th July
Pretty good writing day again – and so much more productive when I don’t have other commitments. Only non-writing things today were dog walking (which is useful thinking time anyway) and the usual emails, cooking and housey stuff. Making a start before breakfast is definitely helpful for getting into the zone, so I’m going to try and keep that up. Total words today: 1959
 Total for the week: my target for this week was 7000, so I’m pretty pleased with 10,363
Nice things that have happened: Three reader emails this week, two about The Things We Never Said, and one about The Secrets We Left Behind. So lovely to receive these!
Still feeling really ethused about this novel. I can’t wait to get up and get started every morning. There is of course the fear that what I’m writing may be a steaming pile of dung, but we’ll see….
The coming week
I have a few commitments this week, some babysitting, some friends coming for lunch at the weekend, A meeting with some writer friends, and my book club, so pretty busy. But I’m going to set the same target again: 7000 words

New Amazon reviews
The Things We Never Said only got two reviews this week, one 5 star and one 2 star (bummer) but the total number of reviews hit 200!

The Secrets We Left Behind – Five reviews this week – all 5-star! Bingo!

For more about me and my work, visit my website

Or catch up with me on Facebook on my writer’s page or on Twitter @sewelliot