My structural edits for July’s book have left the building! I find the editing process a slog as I thrive in the initial creative flare rather than polishing the details. Actually, correction - the polishing is OK. I dislike the structural edits of cutting scenes, moving important information and realigning the details which truly scrambles my brain! I always explain it as building a three-storey house then afterwards being asked to move the staircase to a different position – the task affects at every connection.
Anyway, the edits are now complete so I’m free to spend my days writing my Christmas book 2024, rather than just the first hour of each day. A habit I adopted a while back enabling me to remain engaged with my current project rather than it coming to a halt, when other tasks are needed. Only possible because I’m a planner so know the next required scene.
The Christmas book 2024 is set in Lakeside Cottage with a brand-new scenario for my new cast of characters. Not a scenario I would wish to find myself in but hey ho, I tend to put my leading ladies in a festive pickle and expect them to cope!
Just a quick reminder should you wish to ‘save your seat’ for my next author talk at Nuneaton library on Monday, 26th February 2024 from 7:30pm. I’ll be chatting about my publication journey, my inspirations, my published books and my current project! There’s a lot to cram in alongside tea and biscuits!
I never know who is in the audience, be it avid readers, library users or aspiring authors so I always bring a selection of items as ‘show and tell’ props for answering a range of questions. I’m happy to share my process for planning, organising and writing a book. I’m honest enough to share the errors I made in the early days of writing which ‘delayed’ my chances of publication.
I’ll happily sign your paperback copies at the end of the session – so please bring them along.
The talk is a free session but spaces are limited, hence the booking system.
Press here: event booking link
My work for the next few weeks focuses upon my ‘structural edits’ for my July publication. I submitted my manuscript in the middle of December which was my editor’s first chance to read the entire story. She has a rough outline of the story from my proposed synopsis but submission is their first meeting. This encounter is my first reader, as I don’t use alpha or beta readers for my work, I know many authors do. So, submitting a completed project is bitter sweet for me; I enjoy the relief that it has been sent but am nagged by the possibility that the story is different to her expectations.
My mind rarely switches off from a project until I receive some snippet of feedback. Hence the reason why my brain throws up little extras, in relation to plot lines and details, which I note down in case I need them at a later date. After which, my brain becomes distracted by a bright sparkly new idea – my Christmas 2024 book!
My July manuscript now returns containing my editor’s queries which appear in a designated column created by the ‘tracking’ feature of a word document. This feature enables questions, amendments and additions to the manuscript to be recorded and dated alongside the original text.
Every author creates their own system for tackling structural edits. I used to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, but now take it in a ‘step by step’ manner much like any other process of writing. My first job is to whiz through the entire manuscript, all 395 pages of this project, and make a note of every query/comment made by my editor. A simple handwritten document that becomes my checklist over the coming weeks. I then create the solution for each of her queries – some queries are repeated throughout the manuscript as they are linked by topic, character or situation. Linked queries are great when they’re answered/corrected by the insertion of a few details which answers every associated comment.
Page number Editor's Query/comment My solution
23 Why doesn’t she read the Because they aren’t her
book club choices? genre choice, she feels
they’re too intellectual for
her, she’s rushed for time.
I always know the answer to each query but clearly, haven't written the scene details as clearly as I could. It’s a slow process, which I try to approach in a methodical manner so as not to muddle or overwhelm my thinking. At this stage in the editing process, I can change details as many times as I wish. It’s amazing how quickly you can tie yourself in knots with minute detail if you need to move entire scenes or address a time frame issue – urgh!
Thanks to the tracking system and its automatic use of various coloured fonts you can spot everything you’ve entered, moved or deleted - which help should you change your mind or make an error that knocks your time frame out of sequence.
I’m not a fan of editing; I like the writing process. I’ve trained myself to find a working system that motivates me to complete my edits. Now, I enjoy seeing the book take shape, via editing, slowly making its way towards being a finished book which my readers are eager to read. It has taken me a long time to reach this stage of appreciation for the editing process but it’s now bearable. I’ve learnt to couple the editing stages with smaller writing projects so I don’t deny myself the joy of writing fresh words each day.
So that’s me, I’ll be working through each page until my deadline nears on 19th February. I usually aim to finish a day or two beforehand, so will reread before delivery back to my editor. After which, I'll return to focus on my Christmas 2024 book.
Nothing kills the enthusiasm for reading than ploughing, dragging, coaxing your way through a book you aren’t enjoying. Each page is hard work. I should know, I’ve encountered two this month. My fresh start to a New Year has been totally marred by two one-star reads! I’m not one for naming names but I can’t even bring myself to record them as completed reading on my Goodreads account. Seriously, what a dire start to my reading year!
Many readers will ask ‘why did you plod on rather than ditching each book at page 100?’ to which my answer always is – I wanted to. I wanted to reach the end of each story and attempt to figure out what I wasn’t enjoying, didn’t like or simply what the attraction might have been for other readers, who clearly enjoyed them. Both books have a plethora of five-star reviews. Sadly, neither were for me. I’ve previously read and enjoyed other books by both authors, to which I’ve given five stars reviews. Was it the topics, the characters, the point of view or the delivery of the story? The truth is - a combination of each.
Experience has taught me that some books switch pace and interest after page 100, and I can name several books where I’d have ‘missed out’ had I shelved them early on. Sadly, not these two. Though it wouldn't do for us all to like the same titles.
I was delighted to reach the final page of each – which isn’t why I read. I’ve spent a life-time reading for pleasure, to relax, for escapism, for entertainment and education. Thankfully, my third reading book of the year is a cracker and yes, I’m in awe of the author’s talent.
I’m a little late to the party but still, ‘Happy New Year’ to you all! I’m hoping you had a great festive holiday, in one way or another. I returned to my desk full of enthusiasm for my current project – book four of my Lakeside cottage series. The characters are doing their own thing and I’m literally capturing their antics upon the page - that’s it, or so I tell myself. It took a few days to get back into the swing of things but I’m continuing with my daily writing pattern.
Last night, in order to aid my own creative streak, I took myself off to Kenilworth to attend an evening of poetry and music at The Tree House bookshop. A monthly meeting of likeminded people, who come together and share their talents in whatever form they wish. It was a delight to sit back and listen to others perform, in a relaxed and welcoming environment. For further details contact: GwynethBox
In recent years, I’ve realised that I’ve surrounded myself with a fairly narrow band of creatives, mainly novelists. So this year, I’m actively trying to expand my circle and return to the creative realms jogging alongside poets, musicians, potters, artists and songwriters as was my tendency a decade ago. Last night, reminded me of previous evenings spent at open mic events held at a local abbey, before I was published.
Here's hoping for a 'happy and healthy' 2024 filled with brand-new sparkling ideas!
In November, a happy little elf whispered Santa Claus’ address to me. The next morning, I sat and wrote my letter to Santa. I was honest. I explained that I was no longer a ‘little one’, but regardless of age, I still believe in the magic of Santa.
The lady at the local post office stared at me when I asked for postage ensuring the quickest delivery. I assume she doesn’t believe in the magic of Santa!
Today, his reply arrived in a colourful envelope. Part of the letter was printed but then he’d written a lengthy message on the reverse. Santa loves the fact that I’m no longer a ‘little one’. He praised me for being ‘young at heart’ and thanked me for the annual offering of a glass of milk and a mince pie on Christmas Eve!
I am a happy little girl!
There's a moment at New Year which every bookworm with a reading app adores ... setting your reading goal! It’s the little things in life which brings me the most pleasure and setting 'this' annual target is one such moment. As I look at my bookcase of ‘to-be-read’ books - yes, I'll admit to having an overflowing bookcase awaiting my attention - I spy the books which have been patiently waiting for many years. I think of it as a wine cellar in book form!
I'm a ‘normal’ reader, by which I mean my annual reading goal is a moderate target of 25. I read for pleasure, just as I did as a tiny child. I religiously spend part of each day within the pages of a book, as a way to escape from this world and its troubles. I'm certainly not a professional reader who can skim read a book in three hours and manage 364 books a year! Instead, I savour the language, the descriptions, the characters' dialogue and lose myself within the plot.
One habit I wish to break this coming year is my tendency to have multiple reading books on the go. I have a poetry book on my desk, a reading book in the lounge and another beside my bed. I always have a non-fiction study book too. I’ll continue with the poetry book and study book being near my desk, as I’m usually early for daily on-line meetings. My reading book simply needs to travel around the house with me. I doubt the annual number of books read will alter but my overall enjoyment might.
This year, my intention is to revert back to my ‘Classic’ reads with the odd smattering of modern books and autobiographies, alongside my treasured Agatha Christie novels.
I also listen to audio books whilst walking, cooking or gardening though I don’t count these in my annual reading book tally.
During 2023, I succumb to several ‘best seller – must reads’ only to be left deflated and utterly baffled by their popularity. Another problem is my insistence that I always finish a reading book – it has to be pretty dire for me to ‘not finish’. I don’t always review a book if I didn’t like it but I do always analyse the contents trying to figure out what the fuss was about? Maybe this issue needs addressing too! Mmmm, one issue at a time my thinks.
P.S. - if you know me in real-life, you probably laughed on seeing the number of pages read! I certainly did!
For me, Christmas officially begins at home on Christmas Eve. All preparations such as gift wrapping, delivery drop-offs to friends, food shopping or last-minute bulk buying of big bottles of Bailey’s liqueur has to be completed by the 23rd. If it hasn’t crossed the doorstep by that date - I can live without it!
Such measures came into play after ‘lockdown’, when I admitted that my love of Christmas was being ruined by the corporate marketing teams and their seasonal guilt-tripping. I refused to buy into their reinvention of my Christmas. I was happy with the tried and trusted family traditions, so I made a stance! I stole back my Christmas from the corporate Grinches – along with one additional tradition especially for Christmas Eve!
Two years ago, I’d learnt about the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod (meaning the Christmas Book Flood) where families present each other with a festive book and spend the evening embracing the ‘togetherness’ of reading whilst cosy and warm, accompanied by lashings of hot chocolate! I have whole heartedly nabbed and extended this tradition to fill the entire day!
Christmas Eve in my house is now a snuggly reading day, of self-care and seasonal pampering, in preparation for the big day. It’s no coincidence that I feast entirely on mince pies, stollen, Turkish delight and the big Bailey’s gets cracked open!
This year, I’ve purchased two Christmas books ready for my ‘Jolabokaflod’ reading fest. Both books are by authors who I trust to deliver the ingredients I need in a true Christmas story. Let’s be honest, some Christmas books are simply ‘December books’ where the setting coincides with Christmas time, and nothing more. I like genuine Christmas books where the story starts a day or two before December 25th and ends at New Year. I need to ‘meet and greet’ a cast of characters who remind me of my own relatives, with their quirky mannerisms, their bizarre yet unfunny jokes and their numerous allergies to turkey, plum pudding or Brussel sprouts.
When I dive into the pages of festive mayhem, I wish for a cosy, idyllic setting, waist-high snow drifts and unfinished arguments from yesteryear simmering beneath the festive smiles and threatening to erupt during the King’s speech. I need secret desires, mountains of chocolate treats and characters who plan to return and exchange their unwanted gifts for store vouchers. I want to read about complicated heart break, New year fears and witness gut-wrenching tears beneath or beside a real Norwegian spruce.
This festive reading confession probably explains the reasoning behind the plot twists and seasonal ingredients crafted within my own Christmas books. My aim is to provide my readers with a traditional family Christmas, as outlined above. Sadly, I always ruin my characters’ festive break by crafting numerous trials and tribulations that ignite conflict and calamities that aren’t welcome anywhere near my own doorstep during my twelve days. Call me ‘festive-selfish’ but I want the best of both worlds! To indulge in a great Christmas book filled with chaos, mayhem and possible romance whilst experiencing a memorable yet peaceful Christmas of the Dickens variety, whilst counting my blessings, albeit with a festive coffee or three!
Wishing each and every reader the Christmas of your dreams overflowing with festive ingredients and traditions of your choosing!
Last night, I took myself off to meet a new writing group. It’s a bit of a jaunt from where I live but easy enough to get to and was definitely worth the trip. I already belong to a local writing group - which I have recently returned to after my many months in isolation but I wanted a little extra, hence this second group.
Most writing groups meet once a month on a particular night, so given these groups meet on the same night but different weeks of the month – they won’t ever clash! The benefit for me is that I get to meet another group of interesting and creative people, with whom I can connect. Which is vital if you wish to stay alert creatively, as routine does affect your mindset and productivity. It's no coincidence that this morning I was full of beans and eager to start writing.
Last night’s writers had me laughing and crying within the space of fifteen minutes but that’s the power of the written word! I had an enjoyable evening listening to their non-fiction pieces of prose and poetry. I’ve paid my quarterly subs and am looking forward to my next visit in January.
Last Monday, I took the day off from work to enjoy a day trip to London. It wasn’t a spur of the moment trip but one I’d been thinking about for a while as I wanted to celebrate the 60th birthday of my aunty, who died as a teenager. I have always recognised her birthday; her name being added to every calendar that I’ve ever owned. Though how do you celebrate a milestone for someone who died so young, when you yourself were even younger? After much thought, I decided to link her birthday to my grandparents' anniversary, so there was only one place for me to visit St. Paul’s cathedral, London.
St. Paul’s cathedral was bombed during the Second World War blitz on the night of Wednesday, 9th October 1940 – the same day my grandparents were married in Delhi, India. It’s not a detail that they’d ever referred to but one which I’ve learnt through my love of history. The only detail continually referred to regarding their wedding date is that it was the day on which the late John Lennon was born! Albeit continents apart, the date unites the events. So, in my mind, my grandparents’ wedding, St. Paul’s Cathedral and John Lennon are united like a strange trinity - welcome to my world, baffling but true!
The last time I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral was as a twelve-year-old on a three-day excursion to London with my secondary school, back in 1983. Ironically, the same year my aunty had died, again making the location a fitting choice. I remember a school playing netball on the pedestrian area beside St. Paul’s graveyard, the checker board floor tiling and the seemingly endless steps climbing towards the delights of the ‘Whispering galley’.
I venture towards London several times a year, usually opting for the underground, which I love. I know others hate the hustle and bustle but I could stand and people watch for hours. This time, I opted to walk the distance from London Euston to St. Paul’s Cathedral - a walk of 45 minutes made easier by the pleasant, warm weather.
I took delight in spotting so much as I strolled through Bloomsbury, Tavistock Square, Russell Square, Chancery Lane, Fleet Street and finally, reaching Ludgate Hill – many of which I’d have missed if I’d taken the underground.
As I approached the great cathedral, a bell was tolling which made me smile - if you know, you know! I won’t bore you with the details of my every step but I did chastise the twelve-year-old me for not remembering the painted ceilings and carved archways. I climbed the 528 steps to the ‘Whispering gallery’, noting the once matt black railings have been repainted in a stunning gold, before circling the gallery time and time again. Partway through my visit the organ player surprised us with a practise session, duly followed by the choir! Everyone sat down and listened to the delights on offer - I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting celebration in memory of my aunty.