in which I write a book (again)

I should preface this by saying that this afternoon, while I was on a writing break* I googled “how long is a chapter” for the millionth time. And then I got in the car and looked at a copy of one of my books to try and work out what writing looked like, because I seem to forget how to do it inbetween times.

But. I went to Wales and I decided I wanted to write a book with a) horses and beautiful Welsh scenery and b) swoony Hallmark style romance and c) dogs and cups of tea and friendship and all the other stuff that I like writing about. I keep thinking I’ll write something else but they all seem to come out the same way. I tried to write a thriller once, and the characters had all sat down for a nice chat by the end of the third chapter.

Anyway. The reason for this Friday night ramble is because I’m supposed to be blogging every day in November and I forgot yesterday** and also because it’s now A Big Thing to get people to pre-order your books before the come out (actually, it was A Big Thing and then maybe they decided it wasn’t, but anyway). So. If you are an ebook sort of person, you can go here and pre-order Finding Hope at Hillside Farm and on the 27th of December, when you are too full of cheese to do anything else and you don’t have to go anywhere, it’ll turn up on your kindle.

If you’re not, you’ll have to wait until February when it’s out in the actual shops. Which ones we don’t know yet, because it depends on all sorts of things, none of which are anything to do with me. (I just do the writing bit.)

please click here and pre-order Finding Hope if you like that sort of thing

*eating cake in Costa

** I didn’t forget. I was being initiated into the compellingly awful and instantly addictive Naked Attraction on channel 4 by my sister and friend and we were all watching and crying with laughter via a group chat and then it was bedtime. And then today I wrote the first chapter of next year’s book. It has a boa constrictor called Stanley in it, which was slightly unexpected.


what writing looks like today

Sometimes it looks like this. It’s 10.40pm, and I’ve managed to read a bit (Sarah Morgan is one of my favourites, because she writes people who are so fully rounded and real that the second you start reading they’re alive) and write a list, and find some post it notes, and… well. I haven’t written. I have looked at lots of photographs of the house where my new book is set, which funnily enough has just come up for sale (so my Rightmove stalking habit has paid off). And I’m wondering where I can find a spare £650,000 to buy it. And now (having failed to call the orthodontist) I’m going to bed. Tomorrow is another writing day, with no mistakes in it yet, to paraphrase Anne Shirley. Wish me luck.

a ten point guide to procrastination

1. Sit at your desk and go Facebook-Twitter-Facebook-Twitter for at least an hour.
2. Do some Very Important Cleaning
3. Drive to supermarket to buy stuff for dinner because that way you can keep going without having to stop and etc.
4. Stop at McDrivethrough and pick up flat white. Drink in car park whilst going Facebook-Twitter-Instagram like a human pinball.
5. Come home, tidy desk.
6. Complain to writing friends that you’re stuck. Grumble a bit.
7. Get in car and drive to cafe to meet writing friend for inspiration.
8. Come home, full of inspiration but very tired.
9. Have a bath, or a nap, to recover.
10. Wake up. Start process from 1. Repeat.

(Thank you to Alice Broadway, author of Ink and Spark, for rescuing me from myself today. Tomorrow I will definitely write something.)

(Besides this.)


A short letter to Victoria Beckham and the Duchess of Cambridge

Dear Victoria, and Kate (you don’t mind if I call you Kate, but Your Highness seems a bit of a mouthful),

I have some thoughts. I have these thoughts a lot, during my week. They start in the shower. They start when I get into the shower not with a bottle of luxury salt scrub and some moisturising body lotion, but with a bottle of Mr Muscle shower spray. I think about you two as I scrub the tiles with a flannel (sorry, children, but I’ve told you not to leave stuff lying around). I wonder if you ever treat yourself to a luxurious five minutes of cleaning followed by a refreshing hair wash with Sainsury’s tea tree shampoo because that’s the only thing that’s left because someone’s nicked all the nice stuff.

I wonder if you meet other parents in the supermarket, bending down to the bottom shelf of shame where the tea tree shampoo lives. Once (clearly when we didn’t have any tea tree shampoo) I went on a luxury cruise to South America for work. (One glorious week.) Anyway, I was at a meet and greet dinner thing and I noticed a small piece of something on my hair as I was about to meet the Jamaican ambassador. So I pulled it out of my fringe and realised it was waving at me. Does that ever happen to you?

Just wondered. I’m going to carry on writing now, and later today when someone asks why my hair is looking so shiny and soft and asks me what treatment I’ve used, I’ll say Hedrin. Maybe they’ll go into the hairdresser and ask for it.

Much love,

Rachael (yes, I probably should be writing my book.)


Silent Sunday

Long before I was a full time writer, I wrote a blog. Back then – when blogging was something you didn’t mention in public, when Twitter was a place where you could chat to your friends and nobody could find you, there were lots of little blogging traditions. One of them was Silent Sunday, where the premise was one photo, no words. Ahem.

Anyway. I’m blogging every day this month and this was supposed to be a silent post, but there you are. Here’s a photo from Wales, where my new book is set. And now I’m going to stop talking, make Sunday lunch, light a fire, and spend the afternoon doing not very much at all.

why you shouldn’t show people what you’re working on (a lesson)

It was two years ago that I started writing The Horse Book. The weather was wet and wild and wintry. I made my desk beautiful (you may notice a theme here, if you’ve been following along on my #BEDN* adventures) and sat down with a pencil. Not to write, but to draw.

I was writing a book I loved, which was more complex than anything I’d written before, and it was November, which is my favourite writing time. And I was writing about horses, which are one of my favourite things to write about. So I sketched the characters, and I shared my word count progress with my author friends, and daydreamed about my imaginary people. I’d spent half term in a farmhouse halfway up a hill in Wales and the setting was so perfect that I could feel it all as I wrote it into my story. It was all very lovely.

And then I made a mistake.

Sometimes ideas are like tiny little wisps of smoke cupped in your hands. Open them up to show someone, and they just curl away and disappear.

I’m sure it was lovely the someone says. Show me when you’ve got some more.

But they look a bit dubious, and you start to wonder if you perhaps imagined there was a swirl of smoke and actually there was nothing there at all. So you dust your hands off on your jumper, and go back to the desk and try and create some more.

And then it doesn’t happen.

(My therapist would point out that when I started talking about the tough stuff I switched from I to you, distancing myself. I feel I should point this out, because if I was in a therapy session I would say oh look, here I go again. You’re welcome. Bet you wish I’d stick to blogging once a year.)

Anyway. It took me another year to really look at that book again, and then three months after the edit before I could hand it back and feel like I’d done the best I could. It still didn’t feel quite finished. Then we did some more work on it, and now it’s fully grown and ready to go out into the world. (It’s out in February.) And (hi, yes, I have issues) I still haven’t sent the final final last check version back, because I’m a neurotic writer. We are so much fun to live with.

It’s by far the hardest book I’ve had to write**, which is funny because I’ve written about much darker subjects in my YA books. I think it was hard because I showed it to someone when it wasn’t ready, and their comment stuck in my head and kept coming back every time I sat down to write. I’m writing this as a note to self, really, because I’m writing two things right now. And I’m writing this as a note to anyone else out there who has Labrador tendencies*** to remind them that you can trust what you’re doing. Trust your writing. Don’t show it to anyone else until you’re ready.

(And if you think you’re ready, wait a few days.)

*Blog every day in November. Surprisingly good for getting my brain into writing mode.

**Anyone who writes contemporary romantic fiction* will know that in the first week of publication someone will ask me how I churn these books out. With difficulty, I will say. They won’t believe me.

*** You don’t need to gallop up to people with half a book in your mouth, tail wagging furiously, and drop it at their feet, panting, and wait to be patted on the head. If you recognise the signs, visit my incredibly wise friend Natalie Lue – she is brilliant.

*thats what we call it now. Yes, I know you’re thinking isn’t it called something else, but no. We have Moved With The Times. In my next novel there isn’t even a romance, and the woman realises that actually she doesn’t need love to make her happy and she buggers off to Peru to farm goats.

I’m going to stop talking now. More tomorrow. I bet you can’t wait.

PS sorry for the mixed metaphors. It’s my day off.

PPS the goat stuff isn’t true. Yet.

the great writing space clear out

For reasons best known to my subconscious, I have to do an enormous clearout of the house before I start work on a book. I have no idea why, because as soon as I start writing I completely ignore everything and everyone, pausing only to shout “I don’t care what you have for dinner, why don’t you just have pot noodles”. Sometimes there’s swearing in there, depending on how well the book is behaving.

So as I said yesterday (get me, with my two blog posts in the same month – this is blooming miraculous) I’ve been clearing out the study. And today I finished it, and here are the after photos…

Fireplace, complete with Buddha from a trip to Bali when we were moving to Australia when I was little, and a heart shaped stone R found on Polzeath beach on our first family holiday.

Bookshelves which are very much not ordered or organised (despite living with a librarian). If you zoom in you’ll see an entire shelf dedicated to HRH Jilly Cooper, of course.

My desk, which has an in tray the size of a novel (it’s been a busy few months) and a sparkly lava lamp and a wolf (for my next YA novel) and lots of research books for A Secret Thing I’m working on as well as for the adult book, which will be out in 2020.

Enormous reading chair (impossible to get out of) which currently faces the television where they used to play the Xbox. I’m wondering if I should leave it there so I can watch Netflix for, er, research. The Hallmark Channel is research if you’re writing romance, isn’t it?

So that’s my (lovely, tidy, nobody else is allowed except the dogs and only if Martha doesn’t try to eat the guinea pigs) writing room.

Now all I have to do is write the book. I might just have a cup of tea first…

In which I write a blog post

I’m taking part in Nanowrimo this year, which I did for the first time eight years ago. That book became Sealed with a Kiss. I used to love blogging until it felt like – I don’t know, like it wasn’t my space any more. Like I was supposed to be on my best behaviour because I was A Proper Writer with books in the shops and stuff. So I tweeted and rambled on Instagram instead, but those little snippets got lost, and so when I saw T, aka Mummy Barrow, and Jax, aka Liveotherwise, were taking part in a project called BEDN (blog every day in November, run by Elizabeth Dhokia) I thought ooh, I could do that. So here I am.

I’m midway through a massive clear out of my study, because I’ve moved my workspace back home from the little attic above a gallery where I used to write. Theoretically now the children are teenagers (apart from the smallest, who is twelve, unbelievably) I should be able to work here in peace. I’ve bought two different kinds of noise cancelling headphones and downloaded an app that makes pink noise. I can still hear people shouting at Fortnite right now though, so I’m not sure they’re working all that well.

(that’s a note to self I just found on my phone camera)

Once I get the study chaos sorted (have a look over on instagram to see my work in progress) I’m going to sit down at my desk and open up the MacBook and see if I can get some words written… come back tomorrow to find out if I did it. At this rate I might still be here tomorrow morning.