Diary of a novelist – October 2021

Hello!

Welcome to part two of my new diary series. Each month I’m documenting the progress on my new first draft, and sharing a little insight into the life of a full-time writer. If you missed part one you can catch up with it here. Now, it has crossed my mind multiple times to skip this month’s entry and hope that nobody notices because my progress has been shameful, but then I wouldn’t be being entirely honest about my writers’ life and the point of this series is to keep myself on track. I knew October was going to be such a busy month but I didn’t realise my word count would be quite so paltry.


Week One

The first few days were spent frantically checking my emails. I’d sent both my editor and agent the first three chapters of my new idea and, of course, when they didn’t reply in five seconds telling me they loved it, I assumed they hated it.

While I waited I began playing around with the structure, not yet entirely sure how I was going to approach two timelines and at least three points of view. Whether I’d write one complete point of view before switching to another or whether I’d mix it up. One thing I have learned over the years is every book is different and the process I’d used before may not work for this story. After writing a few super short chapters (no more than 500 words) from all three points of view to get a feel for the characters I realised one thing. The structure I’d sent to my agent and editor wasn’t going to work for me. The third chapter was supposed to be from a podcast and although I loved the idea of this I found writing it jarring. The switch really pulled me out of the story as a writer and trying to read it objectively as a reader I felt the same thing might happen. If readers aren’t fully immersed in the story they may give up on it and I don’t want that so back to the drawing board. 

In the meantime, my agent got back to me first with feedback which could have gone  either way as he began with ‘OH MY GOD’ but he loved it saying he felt I’d really moved into new territory.

Interestingly, my editor’s feedback echoed similar thoughts: – 

“Well… What an opening! That prologue gave me chills – and I mean that in a good way. I do like the direction this is moving in, and although it will move you into a slightly different space that could be a good thing by the time we get to this point in your publishing, as it’s important that your storytelling keeps evolving.”

I spent some time pondering what they mean (if pondering can mean excruciatingly examining every word over and over). I hadn’t made a conscious decision to move into a new direction, rather I thought of a story I’d like to tell. I wondered whether I could ask for feedback on their feedback but instead tell myself to JUST BLOODY WRITE.

Week Two

Holiday time – hurrah! It seems like forever since we went away and it was such a treat to have all of my children under one roof (I do only have three – I’m not the old woman who lived in the shoe). But with the eldest having left home and another now working full-time it isn’t always easy to coordinate. Pre-pandemic if we’d gone on holiday I’d have taken my notebook and laptop and squeezed in some writing when I could. This time I didn’t.  We  hired a cottage in the New Forest and spent the week dog walking, eating, drinking, playing games and laughing. I hadn’t realised how mundane life had become until I had a change of routine. It was a JOY.

Week Three

We had such a good time away, my husband and I decide to sneak a long weekend away in while the weather was still reasonable. But first, a few days to focus on my manuscript. Disappointingly, I found that after a break so close to the beginning it wasn’t easy to dive back in. I took into account something my editor and agent both mentioned about being careful not to stray into the horror genre (I fear I might stray into the horror genre…) and as I’d had a vague idea about the (an) end that seemed a good place to start while I figured out genre, points of view and the dreaded middle. I began at part two, there was a new point of view there so I aimed to write all of her parts first.

I was interviewed for a podcast with author John Marrs who it appears has a really similar process to me, start writing and wing it. I found this very reassuring.

I got about 5k words in before I go away, determined that when I came back I’d really knuckle down.

Week Four

Life took an unexpected turn, as life has a habit of doing and much of this week was spent with a friend in need. I had a couple of days to write though and I was becoming clearer on the end. 

It’s dark. Very dark. 

I must not stray into the horror genre.
I must not stray into the horror genre.
I must not stray into the horror genre.

I don’t know if I am – send help!

In November I really need to get my head into this new idea and to write almost every day because I keep losing the story. Also I need to decide whether I’m confident this is a thriller because as well as the (may or may not be) horror strand, I might also have introduced a supernatural element.

Writing under contract means I can’t entirely write what I’d like because it needs to fit with what I’ve promised the publisher, which is a psychological thriller. I fear, that as I’m writing my 9th thriller and with over a million sales, it’s perhaps a little late, and a little embarrassing, to ask for a definition of exactly what a psychological thriller is…


Monthly round up: –
8000k new words written
German publication day for ‘The Stolen Sisters’
US publication day for ‘The Stolen Sisters’
Polish publication day for ‘All For You’
A holiday
A weekend away
A lovely review in ‘Heat’ magazine for the forthcoming ‘All For You’.

High – ‘The Stolen Sisters’ has spent almost a month in the German Kindle top 100 so far.

Low – More time spent not writing than writing

What I’m reading – Sophie Money-Coutts – ‘Did You Miss Me?’

What I’m watching – Good Girls season 4

Join me next month to find out whether I find out what a psychological thriller is, whether I nail the end, and how I approach the dual timeline in the middle. 

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Thanks so much for reading!

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