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…

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.