Thursday, March 3, 2016

Debut Author, Olivia Levez, guest blogs about editing her novel, The Island

As part of my involvement with SCBWI-BI, I host a series called the Debut Author Interviews over on Words and Pictures, the region's blogzine.  This month's interview is with Olivia Levez, so when Olivia contacted me to ask if I'd be willing to host her on Absolute Vanilla, I was happy to agree - after all, writers need to support each other and there's nothing better than seeing a new author entering the world - and learning a thing or two in the process.  
One of the things that struck me in Olivia's responses to my interview with her, was her answer to the question about editing, so I suggested that perhaps she write a guest blog post about how she edited her novel, The Island.  Go and get yourself a cup of a tea (and perhaps a slice of cake) and read about Olivia Levez's creative and editing process.

(Please click on images to enlarge them.)

How I edited The Island 

Writing a novel is ever so messy.

When planning a novel, I range from carefully organised grids to curling Post-it notes that eventually flutter off the back of the wardrobe door and pick up carpet fluff. I’ve tried the Snowflake method, and the Save the Cat method and the Hero’s Journey method, and, to be honest, my method’s probably just the Messy method. Crit groupers often ask nicely, ‘well, we weren’t really sure if this was, um…pause…from the opening? Or, what was actually happening here, but…’

So here I’ve tried to pin down just how I wrote The Island.


Early Scribblings
The Island came to me in little scenes. I’d be lying in bed in the morning, and a scene would play itself like a movie in my mind, a bit like when you feel compelled to finish off a really good dream before you get up. (Does anybody else do that?)

 It got so I’d write them down in Fran’s voice, this spiky, cross girl narrator that wants to be alone because everyone in her life has betrayed her.

 Soon my notebook was filled with random scenes and scribbles, in no particular order, but maybe they had that mysterious thing known as ‘voice’. I hoped they might have that.

Tentatively (because I was supposed to be writing something else, a horror idea, at the time) I sent them to my agent, Clare Wallace. I called them ‘thumbnails’ because they did just seem like experimental sketches. I called the book ‘Blue’, and secretly imagined it to be a huge blockbuster-ish book, possibly with blue edged pages!

I’ve said elsewhere that the first time I wrote in Fran’s voice was in a letter from a desert island, raging because she was trying to make berry trifle  from foraged berries and survival biscuits. She couldn’t open the coconuts and the berries turn out to be poisonous. So I had this letter as a starting point.

The first time I heard Fran's voice
A lot of the ‘thumbnails’  were just lists of ingredients – different foods she finds on the island, wishlists of what she wants to do once she gets off. There was a scene between Fran and another survivor, and a scene where she is doing a bridge in the shallows, and one where she’s lifting her mouth to the rain after weeks of drought.

There were also some scenes which seemed to be set in London. She was living with someone called Cassie, and this person was mostly found sitting on the sofa drinking lager out of a can and watching black and white movies. Later, I realised that Cassie was Fran’s mother.

I typed up all these random scenes in no particular order and sent them with a pitch to Clare, feeling a little foolish. Then I carried on with trying to write the horror.

Some of the "thumbnails" I first sent to Claire

The plan

The funny thing is, none of these scenes made it into the final version. Not one. And the pitch changed too. Fran though, stayed pretty much the same, although I toned her down a bit. She was very sweary.

But I had my setting. And I had my character, who seemed to be speaking to me in her voice.

What to do next? I remembered going on an excellent SCBWI plotting and planning session led by Sara Grant (author of YA Dark Parties  and MG Magic Trix). As senior editor for Working Partners, Sara knows a thing or two ablout plotting children’s fiction. So I dug out my notes from the course and tried to wrestle with the basics. What exactly did my main character most want, and what was stopping her getting it? As always, this seemingly simple question is excruciatingly difficult to answer when you’re still in the baby stage of writing your novel. My early ideas of what on earth Fran most wanted ranged from ‘a proper education’ to ‘escape her life’ to ‘a glass of water’.

This last idea was influenced by Kurt Vonnegut, who famously said: ‘Every character should want something, even if it is a glass of water.’  Well, Fran was  on a desert island, right?
Notes from "Finding the Plot" workshop, Sara Grant

Slowly, I was edging towards my controlling idea, what was at the ‘heart of my story’. Some of these themes and ideas in my book changed quite a lot in later edits, but one central idea remained the same:

‘No girl is an island.’  Whoop! I had it. I had pinned it down at last.

Relieved, I immediately shoved it as a header at the top of my new manuscript to remind me. From  now on, the only scenes I would keep in my book would be those linked to this controlling idea.

Putting the "heart of your story" at the top of each page can help focus (although I later cut this opening)

The first draft

After submerging myself in islands and true-life accounts of castaways and other research, I was ready to write the first draft. I realised that it was a book of two stories – Fran’s present day experience on the desert island, but also the back story of what brought her there.

But how to write? I’d never tackled two plots at once before.

I decided to write the front story first, from the moment she sets foot inside the plane. I made a pledge on Facebook, telling everyone that I was going to write 1000 words a day, and each time I finished, I posted my current wordcount and my killer line. This was great for motivation, although I had to abandon it once I  holed myself up in my caravan, as there’s no internet.

I galloped through the island story, not bothering to stop and correct or re-read anything, ever, because I knew this would get me bogged down in line edits, and I wanted to just shove the story down, a bit like sketching out a picture. I think I got this idea from reading a Will Self interview about his writing process, and it works for me.

Then I wrote the back story-the scenes which were set in London- separately, chronologically.

Many of these scenes were written staying at my brother’s flat in Brixton, and I’d scribbled them in various notebooks: scenes written in McDonalds, descriptions of Brockwell Park, people-watching in Brixton Village. I’m not at all organised when it comes to notebooks, and usually have to root through two or three of them before I find the scene I want, that I’m sure I remember writing.

Putting it all together

So now I had two complete, if somewhat sketchy, manuscripts: a desert island one, and a Brixton one. Now came the fun part. I spent days experimenting, playing around with the chapters, seeing how I could fit them all together. Sometimes, there was an obvious link, like where Fran’s about to go into the jungle for the first time, and then I jumpcut to a past memory of her walking round the Horniman Museum, staring at howler monkeys. I love the serendipity of links like that. The fact that the reader’s not quite sure where exactly in time they are, in the present, or in Fran’s memory; presenting them  both as the ‘real’ experience, mirrors what it’s like to be in her mind: a castaway grown half crazy by being alone with only her thoughts and memories to keep her company.

Structural edits-taking it all apart again

I am lucky in that my agent, Clare, (and also the then editorial assistant, Vicky leFeuvre) gives wonderful support editorially at Darley Anderson, and we worked hard to polish up the manuscript before sending it on submission.

When the manuscript (which had gone from being called ‘Blue’ to ‘Scribbles in the Sand’, ‘And Then’ to ‘Island Girl’) eventually found a home with Oneworld’s new children’s imprint, Rock the Boat, it was time for the serious business of structural edits.

My then editor, Sarah Odedina, sent me an email detailing her vision for the story, and one of the main changes she suggested was shifting focus much more onto the idea of Fran’s retribution and redemption. She thought that I’d revealed too much too early in the back story, and wanted there to be much more build-up to what Fran had actually done to get herself onto the island.

I’d met Sarah in person to discuss possible edits, and loved her ideas, so got straight to work, dismantling completely all those scenes I’d spent so long putting together, and storing them in separate labelled files. I separated my YA novel into desert island front story, London back story, ‘teacher’ back story and ‘redemption plot’. One of the main structural changes was that Sarah O wanted me to develop the ‘teacher’ back story (which was almost non-existent) so rather than getting confused trying to weave in all the pieces into my polished manuscript (that I was scared to touch, it was so clean and shiny), I took the whole thing apart and took a deep breath.

Oh god. It was like taking apart a clock. All these scenes, old and newly written, all over the place. I remember sitting in my caravan, staring at the rows of new files at the bottom of the screen. What to do with them all? Where should they go?
Restructuring is like dismantling a clock

I ended up making lists, and planning grids and trying not to panic.

Somehow, I built up the scenes again, and Sarah was right; it was so much stronger. Fran’s internal journey made much more sense now. And her suggestions had solved the problem of the ‘flabby middle’, where nothing much happened apart from Fran making a pretty shelter and staring out at sea.

Luckily, Sarah was happy with my efforts with restructuring, and a few tweaks later, it was time for…

Copy edits

I’d never really done these before, so found it fascinating. You have to shift completely from thinking about the ‘big picture’ to considering each tiny word or phrase, whether it’s clear, or pulls the reader out of the story. This is where inconsistencies are thrown up, or errors in grammar, or questions about research.

My copy editor, Madeleine Stevens, was amazing in how much she understood Fran’s voice, and many of her suggestions were about getting the style pitch perfect. I loved it. It made me want to be a copy editor. 

Proof reading

It was exciting, getting the proofs, as it was the first line I’d seen the design of the layont and font. I thought it would be a breeze, reading through the book again, and correcting a few typos. After all, I’m a teacher, I mark students’ books for a living. How hard could it be?

But I found that staring at the screen so closely, re-reading for errors, made me actually nauseous. And I was so fed up of reading my book by that point! So this was my least favourite part of the process.

Finally, a real book!

All was worth it though, when, sipping tea and waiting to meet Juliet Mabey and her fab team at Oneworld publishers, I saw my book for the very first time…

You can connect with and find out more about Olivia in the following places:
Olivia Levez's Website        

Buy The Island on Amazon   

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Author Interview - Kathryn Evans and her debut YA novel, More of Me.

Of all the author interviews I’ve done over the years, none will be dearer to my heart than this one.  Kathryn Evans has been a friend and critique partner for many years, and I have watched her storytelling develop and grow over that time.  I remember reading an early draft of More of Me and thinking, “What on earth has got into Kathy’s head this time?!”  The idea was so totally whacky, the pulling and holding together of the threads of the story while maintaining credibility seemed insurmountable, that while I loved the idea, I couldn’t see how Kathryn would pull it off.  And yet she has done so with remarkable style, and on 1 February 2016, and after many years of writing and waiting (not always patiently!) for a deal, Kathryn Evans’ debut, More of Me, was released.  Let’s find out more about Kathryn Evans’ journey and her remarkable novel, More of Me.
Teva seems normal. But at home she hides an impossible secret: 11 other Tevas. Because once a year, Teva splits into two, leaving a younger version of herself stuck at the same age, forced to watch the new Teva taking over her life. But at 16, Teva’s had enough. She’s going to fight for her future - even if that means fighting herself.
Imagine all your friends growing up, moving on, and you being stuck in one year of your life... More of Me is an incredible, unforgettable story of identity, friendship, love and sacrifice.

Kathy – I’ve waited a long time to say this… Welcome to Absolute Vanilla!  Sit down, have a glass of one of the Cape's nicest Methode Cap Classique bubbles, a slice of chocolate torte - and tell me how it feels now that you’re finally here?
Author, Kathryn Evans
Yum, thank you, this is delicious! Honestly, it feels wonderful. I’ve had the best year, I should think I’ve become a bit of a book bore and am trying to curtail all the excitement and happiness that are constantly bubbling away but keep failing. I mean it’s great. So completely great. It’s all the things you expect and more. It does also feel like I’m still on a journey though. Other writers have warned me of this – you haven’t made it because you have one book in print – that book has to succeed and then you need to write the next one but I am determined to enjoy the feeling of having got this far. And I am. Immensely. The only down side is that I’m conscious of other brilliant writers who haven’t yet made it, I know that however pleased they are for me, they will be a little bit pinched by me getting a deal while they’re still waiting. Trust me, I know this feeling.

Yours in a long story, so let’s start at the beginning.  When did you first start writing and how did you manage to keep yourself motivated over the years?  Were there any keypoints in that journey?
I started seriously writing books, with a view to being published, at least fifteen years ago. In all honesty, it was probably more. I’d always loved writing but once I started making up stories it was an unstoppable thing – something clicked in my head and I was constantly seeking the story in everything.  There were so many points along the way that gave me an upward nudge. When my daughter was about four years old, she was terrible at going to bed so I made up a few stories to try and encourage her – one of those I thought was so great, I sent it to an editor at Random House. Ah ha ha. Ooops. Luckily for me, that editor was Natascha Biebow, she suggested I join SCBWI and learn how to write properly. It was about that time I first contacted my agent, Sophie Hicks, who politely turned me down. Anyway, I got on with practicing and the rejections kept rolling in and eventually, instead of writing picture books, I wrote a novel and I sent it to Beverley Birch. It was the first request for a full manuscript I ever had. I sent it off, so excited. Back it came - a no - but with a detailed critique of my work. I wrote another novel and thought I’d try Sophie again – this time she rang me and said she really liked it but it needed work. If she still liked it, after I’d done the work, she’d like to represent me.  She took me on but the novel she’d loved never sold. I wrote another one but I lost confidence in it and withdrew it from submissions. I also wrote a middle grade series that I actually still really love but again felt it needed more work. A lot of time had passed and a lot of words when I had the idea for More of ME. You’re so right about its complexity – what is wrong with me? Honestly, find a plot, make it impossible, write the book…but I did it and Sophie loved it and it sold really quickly.

Your head, I know from personal experience, is full of brilliant and utterly mad ideas.  What inspires you, where do the ideas drift in from – in other words, where do you think all the crazy amazingness originates?
I have a theory about this. I’ve read a lot throughout my life. When I was younger, I basically worked my way through the library. As a youngster I loved Mrs Pepperpot and Flat Stanley – odd books about odd people then as I got older I read pretty  much anything and everything  Dickens, Hardy, the Bronte sisters, Jilly Cooper (oh yes) , Dick Francis, Mary Hooper, Isaac Asimov, Alduous Huxley, HG Wells, Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard – I absorbed it ALL. I feel like my books are the result of my seeing the world through the perspective of those stories – I genuinely think what we read informs how we write.

So given that, let’s focus on More of Me.  The idea of multiple selves is not a new one, and yet you’ve approached the concept from a very unusual angle.  What would you say lies at the root of this story and why is it a story you felt you needed to tell?
I think a lot of teenagers are afraid of the future – so much is expected of them and they have no idea what kind of person they’ll be or what they might want to do or even if they can. It’s stressful and difficult and I wanted to write a story that would say look, it’s okay, no matter how bad it feels now, you will be okay. Even if the most devastating thing happens, life goes on, you’ll go on and, it might take a while, but almost always,  you’ll be fine.

Teva’s story is very much one of growing up, not growing up, letting go and holding on.  It’s about friendship, challenges, secrets, first love and above all the quest for identity.  It is, in many ways, a bundle of contradictions, and yet accurately reflects what it’s like to be teenager. How did you tap into all of these aspects and draw them together?  To what extent did your own teen years influence you and were you influenced by watching your own children grow up?
Oh hugely, on both counts. I so clearly remember breaking up with my first boyfriend and feeling like the world had ended.  Of standing on the brink of my adult life and having no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to do it. The one thing I held on to was that I wanted to act – and it turned out I didn’t really. Way too nerve wracking. And of course, the book is dedicated to my daughter’s school friends – such a warm and wonderful group of people but boy did they have their ups and downs! Thank goodness they were there for each other – that’s why Teva’s relationship with Maddy is so important in the book – when you’re young, boyfriends and girlfriends come and go but your good friends are constant. Wonderfully so.

The one stand out thing for me has always been your remarkable ability to capture “voice”.  Your stories are always told in a voice that is truthful, vivid and powerfully alive.  Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird: “We write to expose the unexposed.  If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must.”  The writer’s job, she says, is to see behind the door where the monsters – anger, grief, damage - may be, adding that you can never discover your true voice without peering behind the door even if your parents are reading over your shoulder.  How did you find your voice? How hard was it, and, having found it, as you unquestionably have, what do you feel it gives you in creating your stories? 
Kathy and her critique group
Okay, this is hard to answer. I think, when I first started to write, I mimicked people whose writing I really enjoyed. As I matured as a writer, which you can only do by writing and writing and writing, I gained confidence in my own voice.  Our crit group helped with that. I began to see that the way I talk in life, the way I chat and listen, was what needed to go in the books. But there’s another layer to this. Even thinking about it is hard, my heart squeezes and the tears come. You have to let yourself into the horrid places. If you want your books to have depth, you’ve got to be prepared to dive. Writing about Six, even thinking about her now, was painful. When I pictured that little girl on the stairs, I was remembering how torn I was by the death of my own mother. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone but it’s true for me. There are scenes in the book that made me cry when I was writing them, and they still make me cry. There are fun scenes too, that make me really laugh.
To pin it down, I think you just need to free yourself to be you – I’ve said this before on Notes from the Slushpile – Your voice is your voice. Don’t pretend, let it out.

What, above everything else, would you like readers to take away from this story?
Lean on your friends, your first love most likely won’t be your only love, and that almost always, no matter how bad things seem, most likely, you are going to be OK. Better than OK.

Kathy, I wish you all the very best with More of Me and your writing career.  If there is anyone who deserves untold success, it is most certainly you!

You can read my Debut Author Interview with Kathryn Evans on SCBWI's Words and Pictures, and you can find out more about Kathryn Evans and More of me in the following places:
Twitter @mrsbung
Instagram Kathrynevansauthor
More of Me can be bought and/or ordered from:  ANYWHERE! Including Amazon.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Creating a sense of place

Several years ago I attended an SCBWI-BI conference at which Marcus Sedgwick was a keynote speaker.  In one of his talks he spoke about creating a sense of place, and using place as character, saying that where a book is set can generate so many other aspects of a story. He has been quoted as saying, “a sense of place tends to come before anything else” in his stories.  The potential power of place as a fundamental shaper of story, fascinated me. I went home and read several of Sedgwick’s books, which revealed just how powerfully place can work for a story.   As an example, Sharon Jones, in a review of Sedgwick’s Dark Horse, described his creation of place in the following way: “It is a tale that smells of the raw fish and animal skins of pre-history and yet is timeless in the telling; a tale that evokes barren landscapes, crashing waves, and the cruelty of winter. The cold seeps through every page, held at bay only by the light of the campfire and the skill of the storyteller.

The idea of creating a story with a strong sense of place has drawn me ever since - and aside from the inspiration gained from the talk, it probably also owes much to my passion for photography.  Looking through the lens of a camera, one sees the world differently.  Not only that, one can take a moment in time and preserve it. Or one can take that moment and edit it to reflect a particular mood or emotion, a train of thought or flight of imagination.  Place, caught on camera and viewed later, takes on a new meaning – melding the real with the imaginary – to create something uniquely evocative.

My early writing reflected either made-up places (fantasy), places which I’d visited only briefly, or places that I’d researched intensely online (Google Earth and Google Images are so very much a writer’s friend).  But the novel I’ve recently finished and the one I’m currently working on are both set in places in which I’ve spent time, allowing myself the opportunity to absorb their essence, or their essence as I chose to see, feel and depict it. Photography has helped enormously in the process – allowing me to return to the place again and again, to relive – and reimagine - it. Focusing on place in this way helped to create an extra dimension to the story. It helped to drive the plot and to influence character creation, impacting on those who lived there and those who visited there. Both stories became bound by place to grow into what they are.  As the stories unfolded, place went beyond just a setting; it became character.  The multiple aspects of the South African landscape, weather and history helped to personify place, bringing it to life in very specific ways.   The sense of place infiltrated the stories with moods, threats, dreams and hopes, evoking the particular appeal required by the stories. 

Pat Walsh, one of my beloved critique partners, in reading a pre-submission draft of one novel, said, “I LOVED the SA setting - I've never read anything set there before. You know it so deeply, and clearly love it, and that comes across in your writing. I think this is a huge strength of this book.”

Having created fantasy worlds, having used the internet for research of real places, having had fleeting visits - or memories of visits - to a particular place, I can safely say that there is no match for soaking up a place over a period of time to make it truly come alive in a story. Place as it appears in a story will likely not be represented exactly as it is; it will – and should– be enlivened by the imagination of the writer, and may be a combination of several places brought together for the purpose of the story. But the essence of the real place(s) will always be there. Setting my stories in my home country - a first for me - and using a personally experienced sense of place, has added a depth and dimension to my writing I’ve not been able to achieve before.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"How can you write for children if you don't have any?!" Actually, it's easy.

The Catchpole Agency (@peachjamcloset) recently tweeted Maile Meloy’s article in the New York Times, entitled, “Whose Side Are You On?”.  Meloy’s article discusses writing for children and teens as a non-parent, and it set me to thinking about my own writing, and what it would be like if I had children.

Like Meloy, I get the same surprised looks when I say I write for children – or Young Adults in my case – but don’t have children.  There’s this shocked, “Well, how can you possibly write for children if you don’t have any?” response, as though writing for children is the exclusive preserve of parents. (Note:  lots of great children’s authors didn’t/don't have children!)

But here’s the thing, as Meloy recognises, I may not have children, but I have a lot of experience of being a child and a teenager – and I still have the notebooks, full of reams of depressing, angsty – and thoroughly ghastly - poetry to prove my struggles as a teen trying to find myself, my way and place in the world.

I was unquestionably not one of the in-crowd.  In fact, I was the teen who spent my lunch breaks in the school library, sitting in the window seat that overlooked the tennis courts and courtyard, my nose in a book, one eye occasionally observing my peers.  I remember my teenage years well, and it’s that perspective that informs what and how I write, and the creation of my characters.

I don’t write about my own experiences, but I write from the place of being a Young Adult – with all the questions and tumultuous emotions that entails.  I remember vividly pushing the boundaries, rebelling against imposed restrictions, doing things I clearly wasn’t supposed to – and dealing with the consequences.  My characters, I suppose, are all made up of bits of teenage me and the teenager I wanted to be.  They are not informed by parental mores and responsibilities, and a bunch of should or shouldn’ts. Though I hasten to add, that having been a part-time step-parent, I’m also deeply conscious of being a responsible adult writer.  And to that end, while my stories are usually without parents – they’re there, in the background - writing about orphans is not my bag – I inevitably seem to have a “wise elder”.  A wise one, note, not a stuffy, finger-wagging one.  Can’t be doing with that.

I’m the sort of writer – and adult – who retains, courtesy of not being a parent, a huge chunk of childhood and childhood memories.  There are ways in which I’ve never had to grow up, ways in which my perspective hasn’t had to change, as it inevitably does with having children.  It’s the part of me which my friends’ kids seem to think is “so cool” – and which annoys my friends no end.  I relate to my friends’ children as people, not as children or teenagers.  I engage with them as I would with any adult (and occasionally manage to mind my language!). I’m not bound by having to be the responsible one, I get away with being a little outrageous, I take their side, I understand the need for secrecy and to push the boundaries, and I feel, along with them, the indignation and frustration at parental infringements.  I remember what it was like to be a teen.

I retweeted the Catchpole Agency tweet saying I totally related to Meloy’s article, and Catriona Gunn of @catdownunder instantly replied, “So do I! You also need to be rid of the parents! :)”

I responded to Cat, “Can’t imagine how I’d write if I was a parent.  Probably all uptight!”

In fact, I’d hazard a guess that if I was a parent, I’d probably be writing adult fiction, and not having half as much fun as I do!

I leave you with one of my favourite songs - all about teenage rebellion - from my early tweens. (Yep, I know, I'm dating myself horribly, but I still love it.)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mea extremely culpa

I know, I know, you thought I’d died and gone to join the choir invisible.  I don’t blame you.  Even I can’t believe it has been that long since I last posted.  In my defence, I have been blogging but in a different way - doing a series of Debut Author Interviews over at SCBWI’s Words & Pictures blogzine.  It has been enormous fun and fascinating to see how the same questions all result in such different stories even though the journey is by and large the same,  It’s the same curve, the desire to write, the fear of rejection, the conviction that the writer will never get it right, the OMG! moment when he/she does – and lands a contract, and the learning curve that comes with going from writer to author – a different ball game entirely.  And while it is always the passion for words and storytelling that stands out, every journey is personal and every author interviewed offers a completely different set of insights – from which every aspiring author can learn.  If you’ve not been following the Debut Author Interview series, I suggest you do – because there is a lot to be learned.

As for my other excuses *cough* I have in fact been writing, in fact I think I may have been birthing a whale.  I have never experienced such a protracted gestation period for anything I’ve written.  Perhaps it’s no small surprise that the WIP features whales…

In the past I’ve managed to rattle off a first draft in a month and then spent another year honing the manuscript.  But this story (which I first blogged about a year and a half ago), oh no, it has brewed, composted, cogitated, fought back, snarled, caused me to lose the will to live (and a rather marvellous secret group of writers have to be thanked for maintaining encouragement while their imaginary St Bernards fed me virtual gin).  And while the WIP behaved monstrously it nevertheless made sure it held me by the throat, refusing to let go.  Darlings have been murdered, paragraphs have been slashed.  Characters - who have consistently started arguing in my head at 3am - have been developed and redeveloped, scenes have been “slowed down” courtesy of the input of my wonderful critique partners and clarity has been developed.

I would like to think it is finished  - Dog knows, I wrote “The End” for the seventy-eleventh time months ago.  But I also know that it will never be “good enough” because the one thing I’ve learned is that when you think it is “good enough” it probably isn’t.  What it needs at this stage is the eyes of a professional.  So once it’s had another dusting and polishing it will go out into the world – and while it does that, I will attend to the “new thing” which has reared its head and demanded urgent attention.  The “other thing”, which is also stirring, has been shoved into the compost heap where it can do whatever it is that ideas do in compost heaps – you know ferment, bubble, gurgle and start to grow - or, if I'm really lucky, turn into gin...

Too many ideas.  Not enough time.  And probably a reasonable excuse for being such a rubbish blogger. My apologies - sort of.