Thursday, 12 September 2013

Autumn update: on Allsorts, copyedits, research and my first ever author panel!

Happy September all!

First, some nice author news. The lovely people at Author Allsorts have invited me to join their team (gang? crew?), and so I am now officially An Allsort. Watson even features on their mascot page!

This means that from now on I will also be popping up over on their blog from time to time. Look out for me there!

And, if you want to see me in the actual flesh, you CAN: on November 5th, I will be doing my very first panel, for the SCBWI, as part of their Professional Series. I will be talking with the amazing Non Pratt (by coincidence also an Allsort) and various other excellent people about what it's like to be publishers by day and writers by night (spoiler: quite exhausting but entirely wonderful).

So come along! I will be imparting many words of wisdom (such as: I still can't spell 'submissions' even though they make up about half of my job, and, er - more will come to me in time) and we can all go to the pub afterwards in celebration.

Now, book stuff!

For those of you following the progress of Murder Most Unladylike as it gallops towards bookhood, an exciting update: my last round of edits turns out to have been my last. The plot holes are filled, the timetable clashes have been resolved and the manuscript has been officially handed over to the copy editor.

This is marvelous, and terrible, and terrifying, because it means that the book is essentially done. I can't turn to people any more and say, "Don't worry, it's going to get MUCH better before you read it!" and I don't get to just keep tinkering about with it endlessly.

This is a bit hard to get my head around, because what I've discovered during the all the revisions I've done on this book is how much I LOVE editing. First drafts, for me, are things that have to happen so I can get to the good bit. I know how to make them go more easily (planning), and why they drag when they do (because I haven't planned), but a first draft for me always feels - thin. The characters don't seem as rich as they are in my head, there are sub-plots that I have to leave hanging and the whole world just isn't down on the page yet. But at the editing stage I can take my plodding first draft and start to really play with it.

More and more, I'm seeing the books I write as patterns. They aren't things, rocks that fall out of the sky into my head, they're lots of little strands that I can mix up and weave together any way I want. I can do anything with my story, and that's what the editing process is all about. You take your ideas, and the ideas of your readers, or your agent, or your editor, and spin them together into a newer, better version of your first draft. To me, it feels a bit like advanced-level magic. ABRACADABRA! Now your characters are on a boat! SHAZAM! Now they're speaking French! CRASH! Now they're all women! BANG! Now you've introduced a giant talking ocelot into the middle of a formal dinner party! BOOM! Now everyone's dead!

Rest assured, there are no talking ocelots in Murder Most Unladylike. But it's nice to know that there could be, if I decided that I wanted to. Or at least, there could have been before that final edit. The end of the editing process is the moment when a writer finally has to relinquish control of their pet world, and that's a weird feeling. I can't play with my story any more. I have to hand it over to the copy editor, and then the proofreader, and finally to you. And I miss it!

Which is why I've started to think about writing Book 2.

Yes, I'm back in Hazel and Daisy's world already. I have a title (not that I'm telling you lot what it is yet) and, more importantly, I have a murder weapon. This time around I shall be bumping off my luckless victim with arsenic, and that means that I am currently doing a lot of slightly disturbing research into poisons. So, if you've noticed my Goodreads lately (as one friend did, and messaged me in alarm), be not afraid - I'm just preparing to kill fictional people again.

In the process, I'm learning many fascinating things. For example, I've finally understood, after YEARS of confusion, exactly why you're not supposed to eat green cake in Peter Pan. 

It's because, in the 19th century, bright green (also known as Scheele's green) was made by using ARSENIC. It was put into everything - household goods, toys, clothes and food - because it looked so pretty. But, by the time J. M. Barrie was writing, the public had caught on to its potentially lethal side effects. They had learnt that green things were dangerous, and so they would have instinctively understood why you should never eat green cake - because it was very likely crammed with arsenic. And that's why the Lost Boys get told not to eat green cake. Because it's POISONOUS.

Isn't that interesting? I do love research. My favourite book at the moment is The Arsenic Century by James C. Whorton - basically, it's an amazingly detailed and very interesting guide to everything about arsenic in the 19th century. I'm about half way through, and I have no idea how any Victorian managed to actually stay alive. Arsenic was literally everywhere (and I mean literally ... literally. You could not MOVE without running into some). Look out for an upcoming geeky blogpost about historical poisonings - but for now, I'm going back to my reading. I've got a new book to write!


  1. Haha! this is such a cool blog post. And I didn't know about the green cake. And I can't wait to read your book in its it's-not-going-to-get-any-better form.

    1. I also found out that women's green ball dresses would be impregnated with arsenic, so when they whirled around at a dance ARSENIC WOULD COME OUT AND JUST FLOAT IN THE AIR. Amazing, eh? God bless health and safety.

      And I can't wait for you to read it - I hope you like it though!

  2. My mind is boggling at the idea of a flying ballgown smothering socialites with arsenic. Love your posts. Especially - BOOM now everyone's dead.Must try that at home - at dinnertime - definitely the arsenic hour for every mother.

    1. Isn't that a wonderful fact? Though I don't recommend you try any arsenical experiments at home! Thanks for reading :)