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.

I have exciting news!

In fact I have three pieces of exciting news. The first one is that I will be writing another two adult books for Pan Macmillan – the first is out next October and is the story of Ella, Matthew, and a little girl called Hope. It feels amazing to know that books six and seven will have a home, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

rachael lucas bookseller deal announcement

The second is that my next YA novel, My Box Shaped Heart, is now available for pre-order.

If you want to learn a bit about it, read on…

My Box Shaped Heart

Holly’s mum is a hoarder, and she is fed up with being picked on at school for being weird . . . and having the wrong clothes . . . and sticking out. All she wants is to be invisible. She loves swimming, because in the water everyone is the same.

Ed goes to the swimming pool to escape the horrible house he and his mum have been assigned by the women’s refuge. In his old life he had money; was on the swim team; knew who he was and what he wanted. In his old life his dad hit his mum.

Holly is swimming in one direction and Ed’s swimming in the other. As their worlds collide they find a window into each other’s lives – and learn how to meet in the middle.

 

I love the cover – designed again by Rachel Vale, it’s just perfect!

I’ve got one other bit of news – over the last few years I’ve had so many people saying to me that they’d like to take the leap and write a book, or create a blog, or just start doing something creative. I’ve learned quite a lot along the way about creativity, and courage, and why so many of us have a few chapters of a book in a drawer somewhere, or a dream of trying something new.

Later this year I’m going to be offering a six week e-course called Create Courage where I’ll be tying together my writing, my coaching work, and my training as a mindfulness and meditation teacher. If you’re interested in being one of the first to find out more, you can sign up here. I’d love to have you on board!

 

 

The one where I bin 35,000 words

It’s been a bit quiet round here of late. I’ve been on a mission, you see. I wrote The State of Grace in a whirl last year and it sold just before Bologna Book Fair. So with all that excitement over, I settled down to write my next adult book. 


I did the research. I wrote pages and pages of notes. I plotted and character sketched and doodled pictures of the horses who were a major part of the story. I’ve loved horses all my life, and the book was set in Wales, somewhere I’ve loved and visited many times since childhood. 

This was going to be such an amazing story, I thought. And I started writing and it galloped along until I got to 35,000 words and then I stopped.


It’s nearly Christmas, I told myself. I’ll read some comfort books and let the plot carry on sorting itself out in my head and it’ll be fine. 

“How’s it going?” people started asking.

“Good,” I’d say, and change the subject.

It was a perfectly nice story, but I had this niggling feeling something was missing. And whatever the something was, it didn’t seem to be hiding in the millions of post it notes or the pages of research or the piles of notebooks. It was an intangible thing.

It’s fine, I thought. I’ll fix it in the next draft. Only the thought of the next draft made me feel a bit sick, and I started waking up thinking ugh, I don’t want to do this. And I agonised over what to do and didn’t listen to my own instincts (which were by this point parading around the sitting room on a protest march waving placards).


And then a voice in my head said this is supposed to be fun, remember? 

The missing thing was joy. Happiness. I felt like I was writing it because I was supposed to, and somewhere, right in the very heart of the story, it showed. Because the heart of the story was missing. I didn’t connect with the main character and if I did, how could I expect that from a reader? 

So I put all the notebooks in a little pile and shoved them in a file. And I left my messy desk and decided to stop thinking about books for a bit until my brain stops whirling. The words I’ve written might end up somewhere else, one day, but they might not. And that’s okay. 

It’s my birthday today and I’ve decided this will be a year of doing brave things and saying yes to things that scare me (and no, instead of politely going along with things, too). And getting back to writing here – even if it’s about not writing – is a good start. 

Here’s to blank pages. And all the words and pictures to come. 

Coming Up Roses – my next book!

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? For that I blame the fact that I ended up slightly drowning in rewrites of my next book, which is out on the 21st of May. Turns out I’m not very good at just fixing this and that. I ended up pulling at the written equivalent of a loose thread and unravelling the whole jumper into a woolly mess and having to rewrite the WHOLE thing.

I could lie and say it was easy… but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done (and I’ve run a marathon, and had a 9lb+ baby at home with no pain relief, so I know lots about doing hard things, I think). I cried a lot. I threatened to give up writing. I contemplated breaking limbs or paying back my publishing advance. (Okay, I might be a bit of a drama queen…)

And then it all came together. I really love the story it became, thanks to my lovely agent Amanda and my equally lovely editor Caroline, both of whom could see the story that was lurking underneath, waiting to get out.

And so here we are: in May 2014, Coming Up Roses will be released to the world. Here’s the cover – isn’t it gorgeous?

Coming Up Roses Low Res

What’s it about? Well, here’s the official blurb:

 

Would-be gardening expert Daisy can’t believe her luck when her parents announce they’re off on a midlife crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden, much in need of her expert TLC. And coming just after a break up, some peace and quiet in the countryside is just what she needs. Only, village life turns out to be anything but – with nosey neighbours and greedy developers instantly stirring up trouble.

What Daisy really needs is a good friend, or two. So when she comes across Elaine and Jo, she’s relieved to have multiple shoulders to cry on. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own – a marriage in crisis, a family secret and managing the local gossips.

As Daisy wrestles the garden into something like beautiful order, can she get a grip on her new feelings for handsome Irish rogue George and stop her parents selling up to a developer?

 

You can already pre-order it here (or you can wait and buy a copy in the shops!)

Five Videos for Writing Inspiration

I found myself on YouTube this morning helping my 12 year old with his plans for world domination, and got sidetracked looking at writing videos (it’s research, so it’s not procrastination, right?). I thought I’d share them here for those moments when you’re feeling a bit stuck and need a boost, or in the case of the Nora Roberts interview, a laugh.

five videos for writing inspiration

“Harry Potter gave me freedom”
JK Rowling talks about writing for grown ups.

“Create, through writing, the person you want to be as a writer”
Anne Rice answers the questions she’s most often asked

Ian McEwan’s Advice for Writers:

“By the time I get the first words on the first page, half of the novel is done”
Philippa Gregory on research.

“Discpline, guilt and guilt are really excellent tools for the writer’s toolbox”
A very funny Q&A with Nora Roberts. This is brilliant.

Sealed with a Kiss, my romantic comedy set on a Scottish island is released by Pan Macmillan on May 8th. Keep up to date with my writing, get extracts from my next books and be first to hear about signings, free book giveaways and more –  Just sign up for my newsletter here

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5 things I learned on a writing retreat

writing retreat

With the deadline for my next book looming, I headed to Somerset for a writing retreat at Book Camp. It was a spur of the moment decision, taken when I looked up from the words “The End” on my Christmas sequel to Sealed with a Kiss. It dawned on me why people were giving me That Look when I said airily “oh yes, I’ve ages until the next one’s due, and I’ve written loads already”.

The reality was with 10,000 words done (curse the three chapters and a synopsis method of securing a book deal) and nothing more than a Pinterest board and a theme song in my head, I was a bit lacking in book. So off I went. And here are the five things I learned on writing retreat:

1. Silence is a bit surprising. If you’ve got a busy life/lots of children/lots of children and a busy life (I dunno, some people might have staff or something) you’ll find the sudden drop into the silence of a writing retreat quite disconcerting. I found myself walking around for a bit when I first arrived, saying to myself in a hearty tone of voice “Gosh, well, this is nice, isn’t it?” and “Why don’t we take a walk down here to the end of this field” like I was talking to my seven year old.  By the end of the first evening I’d started to settle into the idea of spending a large amount of time alone with only my thoughts for company.

2. Planning helps. I got there with a synopsis, a set of pretty well-developed (in my head, in any case) characters, and a copy of Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris. We had dinner and a good chat and I headed upstairs, thinking I was off for an early night so I could get straight to writing in the morning. Instead (still not quite knowing what to do with myself) I stayed up until 2am doing this.

20140406-094731.jpg

 

That’s a beat sheet, a basic character development chart for each main character, and the whole novel measured out in post-it notes. And a lot of stationery. Oh, how I love stationery.

3. You have to sit down and write. We were in a beautiful farmhouse, complete with a swimming pool and a sauna, surrounded by the Somerset countryside. The first morning, a bit exhausted from staying up until 2, I ended up ambling around, having a swim, and then finally sitting down to write 1500 words or so before lunch. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my fellow book campers had all got a substantial number of words down already. I felt like a bit of a slacker so I got down to work in the afternoon and hit 4500 words by dinner time – my least productive day. The other days I reached 5000 words. I ended up each day feeling like my brain was a sponge that had been squeezed dry, my eyeballs spinning in my head and my ability to string a sentence together seriously impaired.

But what I did realise was this: setting a one hour timer on the clock and telling myself to just write actually works. And “I only write in the afternoon/when I’m listening to music/when the wind is blowing in the west and the corn is high” and all the other things I’ve told myself over the years – they’re crap. And for that alone, Book Camp was invaluable.

4. When in doubt, insert comedy animal. Talking tactics over one of the gorgeous dinners, we established that the secret to getting the first draft down is to just keep swimming. So my first draft has things like this:

and meaningful phrases like this:

 

and technical detail like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 21.36.20

If I hadn’t put the Self-Control app on my laptop, I’d have disappeared down a Google vortex looking for meaningful gardening quotes I can half-remember, or finding out what the technical name for LANDGRAB THINGOLOGY was. Instead I just kept going and realised that at the end of this first draft, once I’ve told the story, I can fill in the details. And insert monkeys.

5. Spending time with other writers is essential. It felt a bit self-indulgent disappearing off into the countryside on a writing retreat, armed with my laptop and a mountain of stationery, but it has left me inspired and far more productive than I was previously. We gossiped about publishing, we cried (over Saving Mr Banks) and laughed (over Crazy Stupid Love), we told ghost stories and talked politics and thanks to Basia, we ate the most amazing food (and I had no idea that writing huge amounts made you so hungry, but I was permanently ravenous).

book camp

 

Thanks to my new friends Lisa, Julie, Annette, Emily,  Cesca, Kat and Basia for a brilliant week. See you all next time (I’ll definitely be back).

 

Cathy Bramley’s Ivy Lane – book news!

I’m writing madly on my Book Camp writing retreat and hopefully getting lots done, but meanwhile I wanted to grab a moment (and one of the scraps of internet access which are few and far between here, which is a blessing and a curse) to pop up a guest post by my writing friend Cathy, who has a book out today which looks fab.

IvyLane Spring Cathy Bramley

Last summer on a flight back to the UK after our summer holiday I fastened my safety belt, turned on my Kindle and gave a contented sigh. It was hubby’s turn to sit with our daughters; the three of them were in the row on the other side of the aisle and I sat alone. Hurrah.

For two and a half largely uninterrupted hours I read. For those of you who love reading and for those of you who love reading AND have children you will feel my bliss. The book I read was Sealed With A Kiss by Rachael Lucas.

Oh my word! I loved that story so much. I wanted to be on that island, in that cottage with that dog, building those holiday cottages…

Anyway, the flight ended, the holiday ended and it was back to work. I stalked googled Rachael, followed her on Twitter, read her blog etc. Because Rachael was living my dream.

She was following the same path that I hoped to follow and I was desperately keen for her to succeed. Because if she did, then there was a chance I could do the same. Since then obviously Rachael has secured agency representation and signed a book deal with Pan Macmillan and I couldn’t be more pleased for her. She has works incredibly hard and deserves her success.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a pretty decent few months myself. I self-published my first novel Conditional Love in October and it became an Amazon best seller. I now have an agent and most excitingly, a book deal with Transworld.

 

Cathy Bramley MarshAgency

And today Thursday 3rd April is publication day for my new novel Ivy Lane!

Ivy Lane, will be comprised of four individual parts – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – which Transworld will publish as ebooks in their respective seasons (April, July, September, October). Ivy Lane tells the story of Tilly Parker, a young woman who moves to a new town for a fresh start. Tilly signs up for a plot at the local allotment on Ivy Lane and is drawn into the kind-hearted, funny and quirky cast of characters she meets there.

The paperback will follow next year, but the ebook is available from Amazon, iBooks and Kobo today!

Normally I would spend the day checking the Amazon charts, but I’m actually going to be on an aeroplane for six hours. With my Kindle fully-loaded, of course.

A massive thanks to you, Rachael for inviting me onto your blog today!