So How’s That Novel Coming Along?

I recently finished the seventh (seventh!) draft of my steampunk book.

cat falls over.gif

Yeah, a kitten lying down and falling off the pavement pretty much sums up my feelings on that.  I loved writing that book and I’m loathe to let go of my precious characters … but when your entire day’s editing consists of adding a semi-colon, then removing it, then adding it back, then cutting it out again, you know it’s time to stop.

So now it’s time for the scary part: hoping Actual Professionals like my writing.  After months of furious editing, it’s pretty weird to just sit back and twiddle my thumbs, waiting for a response.  And by weird I mean agonising.


So instead of twiddling my thumbs, I’ve started planning my next book.  And man I forgot how tough planning is.  At this stage, I suddenly understand all those people who write by the seat of their pants – the urge to just go and fix all the problems later is about as tempting as an open box of Thorntons left unattended in an empty kitchen.  You shouldn’t.  You know you’ll regret it later.  But oh god I’ll just have one, no one will miss it.

The point of this post, essentially, is me asking for strength.  Or rather, patience.  The patience to wait nicely while wonderful, clever professionals decide what to do with my novel.  The patience to actually plan out my next novel properly, so I don’t have to do seven drafts again.  Wish me luck!

Christmas Time is Busy, Who Knew?

It’s one of those ironies of life that, after making a post apologising for a week without updates, I immediately go another ten days without updates.  Oops.

My frantic editing came to a close, and my steampunk novel is now in the hands of good, reliable friends who can point out all the typos, run-on sentences and plot holes I completely missed.

Handing your writing over to other people is simultaneously exciting and horrible.  My writing is my baby, and sometimes I just want to cradle it to my chest and show no one, ever, because they might not like it and then I’d cry.  You’d think four years of workshopping at uni would beat that feeling out of me, but instead it just installed this angry voice in my head that shouts at me if I start getting too precious.  “You want it to be the best writing you can do right?  Right?  Don’t you?  Then hand it over, you wuss!

I hope everyone is looking at this next week to Christmas with an air of relaxed confidence, because your Christmas shopping is all done and your turkey is ordered and your family somehow got the decorations up without breaking anything.

But realistically?  Good luck running around screaming trying to get everything ready.  It may look like I’m sleeping off six months editing on the sofa, but don’t be fooled.  I’m with you.  Spiritually.

No Updates for a Week? HOW DARE!

My blog’s been a little quiet this last week, but in my defence, I’ve been working super hard on my novel.  Technically, I’m always working hard on my novel, but recently it’s been more of a ‘literally don’t do anything except work and write for six days straight’.

The reason for this is that I’m closing in on an ending, and also on my birthday and Christmas – two events I’d rather not spend bent over my laptop, frantically editing.

In fact, I ought to be editing now.  Back to work!

New Writing Extract

Honestly, I promise that post about Books I Thought Would Be Awful But Were Actually Great is coming soon!  But first–

I’ve changed my Writing Extract page, because I am a terrible, fickle creature.  Well, no.  Actually, the extract I originally put up there (a chapter from Erebus, a book I’ve been working on for over a decade and which has seen so many drafts it’s basically unrecognisable at this point) is not the best example of my writing.  It’s out of date, and smelly, and boring, and wanted it gone.

So, instead, I’ve put up a fairy tale I wrote in my first year at university, and took the time to polish up earlier this year: The Other Swan Queen.  It was featured in Vortex, Winchester University’s competitive student writing anthology, which I hope is a mark that it’s pretty good.  Right?  Right.  Definitely.  I’m the best.

So, if you like Swan Lake, or you like modern interventions fairy tales, or if you just want to know what my writing is like when I’m not ranting on my blog, please do click that shiny tab up there and check it out!

Kill Your Darlings (Editing Woes)

I’m doing a sixth rewrite/edit on my manuscript (never let anybody tell you writing comes easy) and so far I’ve cut 5,600 words.  This would seem pretty good, except I’m aiming to cut at least 25,000 words in total.  Meaning, almost halfway through the manuscript, I’ve only cut a fifth of what I need to.  Meaning there is probably (okay, undoubtedly) going to be a seventh draft.


There are two things to learn here.  The first one is, plan your novel better than I did, and then you will not fall into all the terrible and ridiculous pitfalls that I did, especially if you’re able to check your own continuity and make sure a revolver with six shots doesn’t somehow fire endlessly without running out of bullets.

Okay no, wait.  Three things.  There are three things to learn here.

The second thing is that nothing is ever perfect first time.  If you’re writing the first draft of your novel or script or poem or, I don’t know, dumb blog post about how tough editing is (HEY-O!), and you’re worried that it’s kind of rubbish … don’t.  Of course it’s rubbish.  All first drafts of rubbish.  It’s allowed to be; that’s the point.  You are the only person that ever has to read your first draft.  So plan as much and as carefully as you can (or don’t, if you’re one of those crazy pantsing types) and then just enjoy the ride.

The third thing is that editing is pain.


Okay, no, I’ll get a hold of myself.

Editing is tough, but you can get through it using this handy mantra.  Kill your darlings.

A wonderful lecturer at Winchester Uni taught me that one (if you’re reading this, hi Ness!), and it’s stuck.  The toughest thing about editing isn’t knowing what to cut.  A writing buddy can help with that, or one of a million online guides to editing, or just plain common sense.  What’s bleeding hard about editing is summoning the willpower to cut the words out.

Those words are your darlings.  You love them.  You worked hard on them.  Every single one of them is a precious, shining diamond and it must be protected.  How dare anyone suggest you throw them away?

(I may be projecting a little here.)

But the thing is, hoarding unecessary words is like hoarding those weird little china animals.  One or two don’t seem so overbearing, but if you keep hoarding eventually your windowsills are cluttered with creepy, dead-eyed kittens, and your writing is cluttered with pointless, annoying words you don’t need.

Also chapters.  Have I mentioned sometimes you have to cut whole chapters, or characters?  When you put your editing hat on, you become an evil dictator, willing to execute anything that stands in the way of your manuscript becoming the best manuscript ever.

Kill your darlings.

Chant it to yourself before you start editing.

Kill your darlings.

And also … pray for me.  I’m about to dive into Chapter 16.

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Just Glue Some Gears On It and Call It Steampunk

What is steampunk?  Take it away, Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esquire:

There a million blogs out there discuss what steampunk is, and I don’t want to linger on the point too long – so, to paraphrase Sir Reginald, ‘Steampunk refers to a type of science fiction about alternate pasts (not future prediction), often set in Victorian Britain but the history of technology is being rewritten.’

Some of the most famous examples of steampunk are books that were written during the Victorian times: H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, for example, or Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Some more modern examples are Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve and Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

I’d heard of steampunk before I got to uni, but it was only when I was at uni that my boyfriend, Mike, was able to take me over to Southampton every other weekend to meet with Krakensoc (short for Kraken Society), the steampunk group he’d helped put together.

The first time we met, Mike and I had ridden over on his motorbike.  We had normal clothes on under our leathers, but we were the only ones: we were greeted with hat tips and salutes by a group of lads (the girls took longer to join up) in top hats, shiny brass goggles and military coats.  After that, I remember a lot of bike trips with my leather trousers digging corset bones into my hips.

Krakensoc was mostly run by engineering students back then, like Mike, and several members also had a background in the sea cadets or similar.  This meant our events, on top of the general film nights and trips to antique fairs, had a leaning towards Victorian invention.  We visited HMS Great Britain to look at Brunel’s work, among other things.

Group ye olde(I’m at the front on the left: at the far right is Mike, back when he still had long hair)

There were also plenty of events to keep a girly English dork happy: a masquerade ball featuring lessons in Regency dance and tea duelling sticks out in my mind.

tea duelling(Tea duelling such serious business I removed my mask, if not my tiny top hat.)

Over the last few years of going to Krakensoc – and going less recently, since Mike graduated and is no longer able to cart me over on the bike whenever we please – I’ve wanted to write a steampunk book.  I’ve been hoarding ideas (‘What about steampunk assassins!’) for years and just letting them fester without touching them.  Sometimes that’s what you have to do!  Eventually, all of the little ideas and short stories can come together into a novel.

And that is exactly what I’m writing right now: a steampunk book that took a month to plan out and will probably take another three or four to write and edit, but which took years to slowly grow in my mind, at the same time as my corset collection slowly grew in my wardrobe.

Basically, this whole post is a giant thank you note to Krakensoc, for letting me trail along looking baffled at all the techie talk, even as I frantically scribbled down the few bits and bobs I did understand.  And for that one time you all explained Schrödinger’s cat to me and I didn’t sleep all night.

Erebus Extract

I’ve put up an extract of my book series, Erebus, on this site.  It’s the first chapter, and it’s sitting under the Writing Extract tab at the top of the page.  Here, have a map I painted from when I was doing world building a while ago:


Erebus has been my pet project for so long now I can’t imagine not writing it.  When I finally finished the first draft in November 2012, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Eventually I managed to distract mysef with other projects, and for a while I was happy imagining my Erebus characters sitting on a beach somewhere in Mauritius, sipping cocktails out of coconuts and patting themselves on the back for surviving seven years of my writing.

After a year or so, though, my characters seemed to get bored of all the sunshine and relaxation and decided to start tapping me on the shoulder again.  Rather insistently.  With sledgehammers.  So I’ve gone right back to the beginning and started to re-write Erebus all over again, with a view to having a much more polished draft for potential agents to look at.

Please do read the first chapter.  I hope you like it!