A quick update…

Life lately, May update Crikey, long time no see. How’s tricks?

It’s been while since I was here, albeit a while where ‘write blog post’ has been a constant fixture on my to-do list. Then again, so has ‘go to the gym’ and ‘replace bathroom sealant’ and those haven’t happened either.

By far the most pressing thing on my list has been ‘finish editing manuscript for prospective agent’ and I’ve still to tick that off. Until I have, I’m having trouble committing to anything else, even writing a blog post. When I’m not editing, I’m distracted because I know I should be.

And why is the editing not completed? After all, I have an agent that I’d really like to be represented by waiting to see it? That’s a great position to be in.

I suppose the problem is that I worry whether the changes I’m making are what’s needed. Some of the chapters I’ve edited have been rewritten three times. I’m getting there and by and large I’m pretty confident that the changes I’m settling on are the right ones. It’s a slow process though.

That’s one of the problems with first novels – to get the agent and the book deal it has to be perfect right off the bat. With subsequent books, you’re able to take soundings from your agent and editor from the start, even when it’s a germ of an idea, but in order to get the agent and the publisher you need to make it as good as it can be with hardly any input from others who know.*

While I’m making excuses, I do have to admit that I’ve lost some time due to family health problems, work happening on the house and The Son’s upcoming exams…

But I do have to get this finished. I’m actually planning how that’s going to happen (at last, I hear you cry – I’m sure everyone else already does that) by actually breaking it down into chunks and putting it into my diary so that it gets done. That also makes it feel like less of a mountain to climb.

I’m off now, but hopefully by the end of the month I’ll be back to tell you that the manuscript is polished up and that I’ve clicked ‘send’ on the email to send it to the prospective agent.

TTFN x

*Word to the wise – join a good critique group. The one I’m part of is amazing – positive and tough and funny and inspiring. If this ever makes it into bookshops it will be partly due to the perceptive comments of those writers.

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Life Lately….

Editing in Henri, Stockbridge - one of my favourite cafes for writing in So far, 2017 has been a curate’s egg of a year – good in parts. I spent most of January recuperating from the vile chest infection that laid me low for much of November and December. I coughed so badly that my neighbour, a doctor, turned up on my doorstep with a stethoscope in her hand to see how I was as she’d heard me hacking away through the wall…

I also heard back from the agents to whom I’d sent Death Will Find Me just before Christmas. They’d both asked to see the full version and one of them in particular I had high hopes of. As is the way of these things, that agent came back and said that she was passing on it. She gave me some useful advice and although I cross and upset for a bit I started to dig in and pay attention. Then – just as I’d given up all hope – the second agent got back to me and said that he liked the book but felt it needed more work. He suggested giving me some editorial notes and seeing how they helped and then: “all being well, we can move forward in a positive way”. Promising no?

So I’ve put on hold the plans I did have and I’m revising the manuscript – I’ve set myself a deadline of the end of March to send it back to him. It’s hard work because what looks like a small tweak in one place requires lots of tiny little tweaks in other places to make it work. Once I’ve sent this back to him I’m going to treat myself to a couple of days of writing – not editing, just writing – because I’m missing that lots at the moment. No idea what that will be although I do have an idea for a contemporary thriller that I’d like to explore.

So that’s all been rather exhausting, mentally and emotionally. In other news, we’re cracking on with the house and the woodburning stove is now installed in the sitting room – it’s a cosy, glowing, toasty thing of joy. Our garden here is a disaster zone still but the walled garden in Fife is a delight and I came away from it last week with lots of ideas for this summer. I’m trying to plan this year properly so that it doesn’t slip past with what feels like little to show for it and my goals for the first quarter are coming together although March is going to be busy if I’m to keep up.

But right now, apart from the pain of editing and the lingering lack of energy, I’m feeling pretty good about things. I hope you are too.

xox

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Shelf Notes – Miss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Miss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser-Sampson. Full review on my website This is the second book in the Hampstead Murders series which kicked off last year with Death In Profile. This time a murder has occurred inside the Burgh House museum and, handily, Detective Sergeant Karen Willis happens to be on the scene with Peter Collins, her psychologist boyfriend. The author has created an intriguing cast of possible suspects and with a neat turn of the plot, another mystery comes to the surface. But could the two deaths be related, even though they happened decades apart? And where does Agatha Christie come in?

Like its predecessor, Miss Christie Regrets is a quick, easy read – Guy Fraser-Sampson certainly knows how to spin a yarn. If I was critical, I would suggest that some of the police procedural elements are a little repetitive and slow the pace down and the psychologist’s Lord Peter Wimsey delusions probably mean that in real life he would be on extended sick leave, but overall, this is a very satisfying contemporary crime novel with echoes of Golden Age detective stories.

You can read my interview with Guy Fraser-Sampson here.

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On deadlines…

Well, at least I met one of the deadlines I set myself this year.

Finally, a couple of days ago, I sent the manuscript for Death Will Find Me off to a couple of agents who had asked to see it following events such as Pitch Perfect and Xpo North. I’d been promising it for months and as regular readers (sorry, I’ve not been here much recently) will know, the likely completion date kept moving further and further away until the book would have been more accurately titled Tessa Kilpatrick and the Mystery of the Missing Deadlines.

But it’s done at last. The Best Beta-Reader in the World (aka my good friend Jane) finished pointing out (fortunately minor) plot holes and my rather casual approach to commas, and I decided that it was time to stop spending my mornings making tiny changes and my afternoons putting them back as they were. Also, Christmas is nearly here and I have done NOTHING. So it’s been sent off to two fabulous agents, both of whom I would love to be represented by, and hopefully one of them will like it. And if not, come January I have a shortlist of agents to send submissions to…

And now, I feel a bit empty. The book that I’ve been working on (or avoiding working on) for so long is out of my hands. There’s no point in carrying on editing until I’ve heard back from these agents. I’ve shredded all the post-its and scraps of paper with unreadable and cryptic notes that were piling up, I’ve tidied my pencil pot, and shelved the piles of books that were stacked all around the area by my desk. After a year of terrible procrastination, I’ve now run out of displacement activity.

So what now? Do I carry on writing, even if no-one wants to publish this book? I think so. Writing is one of the things that makes me happiest and I know that I’m at least competent, so even if Death Will Find Me doesn’t find a home, the next book will be better and may well do. But do I start on the second in the series (nothing written down, but the plot’s in my head) or something completely different? I’m going to mull that over the holidays and hopefully by the new year things will be clearer.

If I’m not back here before January, have a wonderful Christmas and I hope that you have a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2017.

Love Vx

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So. Writing. Where am I up to?

My current writing space Here’s the thing. Writing is important to me. Really, really important. I love that feeling when the words are whizzing out of my head and onto the screen and the story takes on a life of its own. It’s amazing.

Here’s the other thing. Until I sell the novel and am actually earning money from my writing, it has to take a backseat to other jobs, the ones that put food on the table. If there’s pressure to be working on those tasks then I feel guilty about writing and so the words don’t come.

The last few months, when we’ve had a house to refurbish, three lots of new tenants to find (the paperwork is unbelievable), we’ve moved to a house that needs lots of work and where I don’t have an office, and it’s been the school holidays which means that the peace and solitude I need haven’t been possible, have not been a good time for writing. I’ve tried and tried and trust me, Malcolm and The Son have been nothing but supportive, but the words haven’t wanted to come. What I’ve written has been lumpen and dull, all the energy sapped from them by an every growing list of other stuff I need to do.

However, it’s improving. Everything is settling down in terms of food-on-the-table work, The Son is back at school, and even the new puppy is less exhausting and distracting. I had lunch a week ago with an agent friend who gave me a talking to and made me feel excited about writing again, and I’ve actually produced some quite decent work in the last week or so. Maybe I need to forget trying to actually write during July and August and concentrate instead on gathering ideas and inspiration so that when I sit down on the back-to-school morning in September, the words are just waiting to be let loose?

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