Monthly Archives: May 2014

DAMAGE Version Three

When my mum critiqued DAMAGE version one for me last year she didn’t hold back.  It was three pages long and covered everything from small grammatical errors to a whole chapter that was told the wrong way.  That’s when I learned how valuable a critiquing partner can be.  So, despite my Troll rant, I have to admit that all the comments I’ve received are useful, even if some of the ones via social media aren’t always phrased in the nicest way.





So last weekend I started on another edit, taking  out some of the back-story and internal monologue from the beginning section and trying to work in a few more low-key interactions between Cerys and Aiden so that he’s not quite so distant.  I think the aspect of writing I’ve struggled with most is what scenes, or parts of scenes, to put in and what to leave out or summarize.

But I’ve had two critiques now that say they don’t think Cerys is a well-rounded character and that stumps me, to be honest, as I thought characterisation was my strong point.  The story’s told in the first person specifically so that the reader can get right inside her head and Cery’s personality is carefully developed throughout the book so that she changes and grows in confidence in response to the things that happen to her and the way Aiden helps her.  Her internal monologue is necessary because she’s hiding so much from other people.  If you don’t hear what she’s thinking you wouldn’t know when she’s lying or being evasive.  So the idea of reducing that internal monologue is hard, but it’s obviously putting some readers off.

I need to go back and re-read All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry which has been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal this year.  In that book the main character has had her tongue cut out and also can’t read or write, so her story involves a lot of her internal thoughts.  So how does Julie Berry do that successfully?  I’ll have to re-read it this weekend and figure it out.

all the truth that's in me


Always More to Learn ………or ‘Don’t Murder the Trolls’!

So there I was, one week before the good people at Swoon Reads decide which manuscript(s) to publish and it had all been going well on the site.  My ratings were great and my reviews had all been pretty positive.  Then today I got a bad one.  It was bad and it was long!! Jeez,  it was long; possibly the single longest paragraph I’ve ever read in fact.  She didn’t hold back either. It was like being repeatedly hit over the head with your own hardback!

And so, as I sat at my computer feeling a tiny bit tearful I realised I’ve learned a few more things about the process of writing.  Here are the things I learned today in the order they went through my head.

1: I am the worst writer ever and I was only kidding myself that I was any good.

2: What right does this upstart have to criticise my book when she’s never tried writing one herself.  I bet hers would be so much worse.

3: Most people who read a book will not have written their own one. These are the people we are writing for, not other sympathetic authors.  Other authors are probably more likely to pick up on the themes and subtext of your story or at least see what you were trying to do.  Your average reader may just not get it at all.

4: Everyone is entitled to their honest opinion and criticism is ‘constructive and helpful’.

5: Even though I’d love to reply with an equally long and detailed response in the same acerbic tone as hers, I am (deep breath) a professional and will reply in a professional way even if what I actually want to ask her is Why in God’s name did you read the whole book if you were hating it so much?!   I will always try my best to suck it up and be nice, no matter how hard that may be.

6: Even best-selling authors who’ve sold millions get slated.  Not everyone will love (or even understand) what you’ve written. I know this when I go to my book groups and give them a book I’ve totally loved and half of them hate it – or the other way around.

7: But I’m not a best-selling author and maybe my book really is complete rubbish after all…

…and finally…

8: It could be worse.  If this was the X Factor I’d have to deal with the rejection on live TV!!

Anyway, this time next week I expect we’ll all find out what the Swoon Read staff really think and which ones they loved.  It’s their opinion that counts in the end.  I wonder if they know how strung-out we’re all feeling right now.  I hope so.








DISTANCE isn’t finished yet but I took some time off to play around with a cover idea.  I wanted something that matched the cover art for DAMAGE a little bit.

Now, obviously, in a perfect world, I’d just arrange a photo shoot with Vinnie Woolston on a scenic stretch of motorway somewhere with a bike and a guitar.  Sadly, back in the real world, I’m limited to photos from Shutterstock, so this is what I came up with.  It’s not perfect but it’s OK.  But comments are always welcome!























Losing the Plot

don't keep calmI’m about a third of the way through writing DISTANCE, which is the sequal to DAMAGE, and I’ve had to stop and go back and revise my timeline.  The plot’s working out well but, just like the first draft of DAMAGE, there’s something missing.

DAMAGE is essentially a story about two people who meet in the right place but at completely the wrong time in their lives.  During version one Aiden and Cerys gradually find out about each other’s past by searching for the truth underneath the web of of misunderstandings, secrets and lies that they have each carefully constructed to avoid facing up to the past.  But it lacked some major physical drama.

muskateer fight




..and what’s a story without drama?

boring people





…Just people standing around talking!

So that’s when I added the idea that Cerys’s past (in other words Paulo), comes back to hunt her down.  Looking back now I genuinely can’t believe that whole major plot strand was an aftethought!

So now I’m having the same issues with DISTANCE.  I’m much clearer where I’m going with this one and there is a lot of drama throughout, but I can’t help feeling it would be better if there was a second whole plot strand woven into it.  So this week’s homework is to work out what that could be.  I think it needs to be some kind of guy on guy action.  Drew lets Aiden down badly in this story and I think something needs to happen where Drew has to pull out all the stops to help him in a crisis,  maybe even putting his own life on the line for him somehow.

luke pasqualini





This week I also came up with a good way to check whether the plot has any boring bits where a reader might just zone out and go and do something more interesting.  It’s a traffic light system where you colour each chapter in your plot-plan like this.

traffic lightGreen: The story is moving along but with no major new action.

Amber: The story develops a new element of threat, suspence or danger

Red: Full on dramerama – car chases, explosions, meltdowns, kidnaps etc

It’s a quick way of checking where your story lacks that page-turning quality.  Any section that has more than three ‘green’ chapters in a row clearly needs to be looked at.  Currently that happens twice in DISTANCE, which is why I’m thinking that another plot strand woven into those areas might be a good idea.

Anyway, this whole blog post has basically just been a shameless attempt on my part to post as many pictures of the BBC Muskateers as possible, hasn’t it? Of course it has!

Damn, those guys are an inspiration!!



How to take over the world!


Hey Brain, What do you want to do tonight?

Same thing we do every night Pinkey..try to take over the world!

Sorry,  I think I may be a bit sleep deprived.  I was up till 1am last night trying to get my head around the difference between a @ and # on Twitter.  And why was I doing this?  Because it’s a beautiful thing that lets you get you in touch with lots of helpful, wonderful people – and I’m particularly  interested in meeting all the helpful, wonderful people who might like to read Damage.  So here’s a big shout out to Oban High School, The Script Family, Sarah Alderson, Amanda Preston and Jennifer di Giovanni!  I’m loving your enthusiasm xx  Also to the SwoonReads team for retweeting my tweets to 980 other people!

So, why the sudden passion for social media? Well if you write a book you need to promote it.  That’s another thing I love about Swoon Reads.  This whole crowd-sourcing idea prepares you for the sharp-end of actual book selling.  Getting votes is a bit like getting sales I guess.  I’m not saying I love promoting myself.  I’d rather stick needles in my eyes! But I could never in a million years tweet complete strangers and ask them to read my book unless I really, truly believed it was worth their precious time.

Meanwhile my job-share partner and secret weapon Vanessa is on the case. (Hi, V I know you’re reading this!)  She has this awesome talent for managing big-scale author events so we’re good to go any time Swoon reads would like to publish Damage.  She can fill the 400 seat theatre with kids from all the local secondary schools.  She can arrange book sales on an industrial scale.  We can do all that stuff.  We do it for living.  We’ve watched enough author event to know what goes down well.  But first I have to master the ancient art of the Tweet.  Wish me luck xx