Saturday 8 December 2007

My MS has gone back to the editor... and it's gone from my head. Over. Done with. History.
As soon as it left my hands, I paid two (only slightly overdue) bills, sorted out my phone, checked my post (tax disc due up shortly on my car) and bought a completely impractical pair of purple boots... I feel like a zombie returned to life!

I wonder if all writers have another project in mind when they finish a MS? What must Tolstoy have felt like when he put the final full stop to War and Peace if I feel so strange after finishing my little scribbles?

How do other writers cope with reaching the end of a book? Is it a cause for celebration or a sense of loss?

Of course, it's not quite done. There are still the next lot of edits to deal with, but I'm not thinking about that now... (although there is a little voice in my head asking whether I won't be disappointed if there isn't any more work to do on the MS. Can it really be finished? Is that it?)

Thank goodness I'm writing a series. Yes, I've already started rewriting the next book...

Wednesday 5 December 2007

People commonly compare writing a book to giving birth. I never really understood the parallel, until now... After complications with my first pregnancy, I was told my second wouldn't be allowed to go beyond term. On my due date, I packed my overnight bag and dutifully went into hospital where the consultant decided everything was fine and we should let nature take its course. I picked up my bag and went home to wait.

Over the next two weeks, I received phone calls from almost everyone I knew:

"Hello, you're home!"
"What did you have?" and "How's the baby?"
"Er... I haven't had it yet... I'm still waiting."

Now that I've told everyone I know that my first book will be published in April, (as it appears on Amazon), my publisher has postponed publication until the summer. Apparently this happens all the time: delays with the designer, the editor, clashes with other publications, and goodness knows what else besides.

Coincidentally, the current publication date is... my second child's birthday!

Thursday 29 November 2007

I blogged a lot recently about my experience of being edited. Having fought my way through this temporary but necessary obsession, I've decided to move on to another topic. I suspect you're growing bored of reading about my editor's cuts. If you want to hear, more, please let me know and I'll oblige (or find another excuse to delay revealing the extent of my ignominy.)

Now that my MS is all but complete (I daren't say complete yet, after my earlier debacle, before I hear the editor's judgement) and I've not been thinking about it to the exclusion of all else, I find my plot and characters popping into my head at random times.

Ideas seem to appear in my head when it's impossible to write them down. Today, for example, I had several flashes of inspiration ("Sounds great!" you might think) at these times: in the shower, driving my car, walking from one building to another in a cold drizzle, and sitting in a meeting (obviously). (Not so great now.) I also usually have crucial ideas just as I'm going to bed, exhausted by the double life I've been leading (working all day, then writing from 6pm till 1 or 2am).

My question is this: Do some writers have ideas while sitting sensibly in front of paper or screen, a pot of fresh coffee to hand, and no distractions? Is it possible to be sensibly creative? Does creativity require a certain amount of chaos from which to spring, or am I just trying to justify my scatty approach to writing?

Friday 23 November 2007

I cracked on, and I'm on top of the edits. Why did I ever glibly say, "Writing's easy"? Thank you, those of you who've experienced the process, for not laughing at my naivety. (Not in my hearing, anyway.)

I am really enjoying blogging again. I've received so many supportive comments from my blogbuddies. It has really made a difference and kept my spirits up. (I know I should say 'kept me sane' but...) Seriously, we hear so much about all the evils in the world, it's comforting to know the world is full of goodhearted people being kind.

I've been edited and I have to say that, painful as it sounds, I loved the experience. I've been on an amazing journey of discovery, learning to control my creative talent. I'm not skilled yet, but I'm on my way. I won't reveal how many of my 80,000 words I cut, but my title, Cut Short, took on a rather ironic significance . I'm not sure I can admit where I went off the rails. Perhaps it was inevitable, as I've churned out 6 books in a year, without much thought. "Can it really be this easy?" I thought. Guess what: it isn't.

Yes, I've been edited, and I loved every minute of it. I've had the cut, and been initiated: I am now a writer. Of course, I've said that before, and I'll have to wait and see what my brilliant editor says to the revised MS...

Thursday 15 November 2007

"I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write." (P.G.Wodehouse)

I'll return to my blog next week but for a few days I have to focus on Cut Short. There are revisions in the pipeline. The eagle-eyed among you may notice a change from the cover design here and the final cover on the book, behind which lies a story in itself.

In short, I've received THE dreaded letter from my editor, and I have to do some WORK on my MS. Enough of all this writing for fun, it's time to sort my MS out. I promise to blog all about it when I recover from my insane writing fest... if I recover. It's a ... sorry, no time to think of a word ... got to crack on or crack up (or both).

Wednesday 14 November 2007

There I was, feeling - well, clever - because my book is on Amazon, when my computer silently announced it was configuring and shut itself down. I waited, outwardly calm, for what seemed a long time. At last a little white arrow appeared, hovering in the centre of the darkness, like the finger of God: Let there be icons.... I waited. No icons, but a little flag appeared. I waited for other shapes to emerge from the blue haze on my screen. My computer sent me another message. Tablets of stone? Configuring updates. "Fine," I thought, "configure all you like. I'm not worried." I was aware of my fingers, tapping wildly on the desk top. (That's the top of a desk, to me.)

I sat, staring at the ocean blue of a screen teeming with life, whirring invisibly beneath its surface, until a tiny revolving circle appeared; a spinning planet had emerged.

I was late for work but couldn't tear myself away until my screen was restored. So I sat suspended, a fly in amber from a vanished universe, clinging to a world I will never understand. I was thrilled when my computer made a small beep. Something was happening within its hidden depths. I glanced at the green light for reassurance and it gave me hope.

Is this the equivalent of some religious mystery, I wondered, this unholy trinity of hard drive, mother board and screen that reveals its meanings to us? Its high priests are technicians who can fix malfunctions (which happen when I've done something wrong)? I'm an enforced devotee, at heart a heretic.
I thought I really would be late for work, when a familiar icon appeared. Click. My screen was back. A small box appeared, ghostlike in the corner of the screen. Click here to see the solutions found for your computer. I didn't want to know, didn't dare click any more keys, but I heard myself murmur, "Thank you."

E.M. Forster set a story in a future where mankind has become entirely dependent on technology. People's limbs have withered through lack of use and they can barely move. There is no need; machines do everything for them.
The story is called 'The Machine Stops'.

Friday 9 November 2007

A little voice has been clamouring in my head since I signed the publisher's contract, telling me this is all a dream. That voice has now been silenced. Cut Short by Leigh Russell has appeared on Amazon.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Remembering my original claim that I was going to share something of my experience as a new writer on this blog, I thought I should say something about that, as well as asking questions about life, society, writing - and important matters like how to use italics in a blog!

I write murder stories that seem to develop in one of two ways. I don't start at the beginning of a story and work chronologically (or any sort of logically) through to the end but begin by writing the exciting, dramatic scenes first. They're the most fun! Then I go back and fill in everything else, like plot and characters.

I may start writing with a murder scene. This raises questions. Who was the victim? Why was this person killed? Who was the killer? The story spins off from there.

Alternatively, I might begin with a discovery. A body is found. Who found it? Who was the victim? Why were they killed? Who was the killer? And I'm away.

It becomes a question of problem solving, like a kind of jigsaw to fit characters, motivation and opportunity together into a plausible story. I love the challenge of solving the difficulties this raises and am in the middle of one right now. A body has been found in an unlikely place. How did it get there? who is it? why? - I'm stumped for a plausible plot line, and having enormous fun trying to work out something good.

I love the idea that I need never ever be bored again, for the rest of my life, because there's always some problem to resolve.

So if you see someone with a faraway, slightly deranged look in their eyes, muttering to themselves, it could be me, working out how the body got there..... Best not say hello, it might be someone else who is demented, talking to themselves and gazing wildly round not seeing what's in front of them, lost in another world altogether.

I'd hate to have to do this to a deadline! Oh, and it beats doing crosswords. I was never any good at them anyway.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

I foolishly undertook to write a new post every Wednesday so here goes.

Casting about for an idea, paradoxically gives me an idea, because I've been wondering l about this very subject lately: where do ideas come from? I mean the ideas that spark creative endeavour. Did Shakespeare have any problem, with his licence to use existing plots? We insist on originality in art. Encouraged by a tireless media assault to aspire to size zero figures, perfect teeth, etc. why should we yearn to be clones outwardly yet insist on originality in art? Is art the last refuge of the individual in our society?

I'll focus on characters. My publisher advised me to keep reading, for ideas, but I find my inspiration in life. No offence to the human race intended, but I can't sit long in any cafe, stand in a station, or walk along the street, before I realise that the peculiar characters I create as a writer, my odd little works of fiction, are no stranger than many real people. Life is bursting with possibilities.

Sometimes a character just pops into my head or develops on the page in front of me without intention on my part. I suppose I've had the idea unconsciously working iself out for a while, but it seems to just appear from nowhere, ready formed.

So my question this week is this: where do ideas come from? I wonder where other people find theirs .

Wednesday 31 October 2007

to bloggers who've asked -
Cut Short will be available in the USA and Canada

Before I launch on today's topic, I'd like to thank all bloggers who contributed to the discussion arising from my last post.

This week's post is about my experience as a new writer.

My book is going to be published - how can I be reluctant for it to be seen? Until yesterday, the only two people who had read my work were my publisher and editor, apart from my accounts of dead bodies which I read to a retired doctor to check that my flights of fancy were plausible. Yesterday I went to a seminar offering tips to authors on how to give a reading, where we were invited to read a short extract of our work aloud. My reading is fluent and I have faith in my writing. Why did I feel so nervous in front of an audience whom I knew, rationally, to be sympathetic?

This led me to wonder: does everyone expect to be judged, or is it just me? Is it human nature, or do we live in a society that is becoming increasingly judgemental? Pupils at my school assume they're in trouble if a teacher wants to see them, staff summoned by the headmaster expect problems.

So my question is: have we developed a culture of complaint not appreciation? How often do we grumble when things fail to go our way? We resent having to queue, we grow impatient with slow service, we feel aggrieved when machines break down. We expect everything to work efficiently, and are angry when it doesn't. But are we happy when things work normally? Do we thank people when they do a satisfactory job? Or do we expect it? That's their job after all. I was once so happy with an IT technician for fixing some slight problem on my computer that I emailed him and and he told me that in twenty years of doing his job, I was the second person to thank him. That shocked me. I don't claim to be any better than other people - if I'm honest, I'm generally more impatient and curt than most. I just wonder whether, in a general way, the lack of support we show to strangers is changing our expectation of how they will treat us and we're spinning into a downward spiral of mutual distrust and social unease.

Or am I just feeling paranoid that no one will like my book?

Monday 29 October 2007

A few people have asked me why I started writing. This is a question I find difficult to answer but I think, ultimately, I'd have to say I began to write because I was bored. Let me explain, before you storm off, shocked by this apparent denigration of the art of writing. I reached a point in my life when, after years of hectic occupation, I had time on my hands. "Great," I remember thinking, "I can put my feet up." I did but after a couple of weeks, I grew bored and found myself wanting to fill my time. I began to scribble down a random idea that occurred to me in an idle moment. It was one of those "what if" trains of thought that is the starting point for all my writing. Once I put pen to paper, words just flowed onto the page and I haven't been able to stop writing since. I'm completely hooked. It's a gloriously compulsive, exhilerating addiction and I love it! I was fortunate to find a publisher straight away, but as anyone who writes knows, the real buzz is in the writing.
My question is this:
If I hadn't felt bored, I would probably never have discovered an outlet for a creative passion I never even knew I had. It answers some inner need I've lived with all my life and I've never felt more comfortable with myself. What sort of disservice are we doing to children today by offering them access to constant entertainment? If we don't allow children to be bored, how will they find time to explore their own resources and discover their own hidden talents?
To all the bloggers who've dropped by to have a look at the design of my cover : your comments have been really helpful. Thank you VERY much.

I'll try to start my Wednesday posts in earnest this week, about life, the universe and writing . Hopefully my experience will encourage other writers to try and find a publisher. You never know... the next submission could be the one that changes your life.

Friday 26 October 2007

Sublime to ridiculous in one "post"

This week I handed the typescript of my first book to my editor. It was a special moment for me. She pointed out that she's only the editor and I don't have to agree with her suggestions. As a newcomer to writing, I feel lucky to have an experienced editor who's worked with successful authors. So I'm not going to be 'precious' about my writing; I'm on a journey and learning all the time.

I wrote another few pages as soon as I got home. My editor asked me to send hard copy which I duly took to the post office. The woman there said my letter 'might' arrive by Monday (three working days from the date of posting) but there was no guarantee. (This was first class post.) My only alternative was to spend an additional £4 or so to send it 'special' delivery which required a signature at the other end. So if my recipient was out at point of delivery, the letter wouldn't arrive and I would have spent £4 for nothing! I decided to risk the normal postal service. Did this woman realise she was talking herself out of a job, I wonder?

Monday 22 October 2007

Cover design for Cut Short by Leigh Russell

I would appreciate your comments on the cover design of my book .

I tried to copy the design here but, as with most of my forays into IT, I failed miserably. I can only invite you to visit my publisher's website, where you will find details of my book, Cut Short. Alternatively, a search for Cut Short Leigh Russell takes you there.

Sunday 21 October 2007

I included this comment on my first post; it should have been a separate post, but I didn't know how to do that until today! I intend to write a new post each Wednesday, a weekly comment on my experiences in becoming a published author.

At the beginning of the year I started scribbling. It sounds trite to say my first book wrote itself, but a story unfolded as I wrote. Stephen King said writing a book is like conducting an archaeological dig. He chips away to discover a story. That's how it was. One episode led to another. I'll give you an example. I had to write an incident where a man is beaten up by two young lads who nick his brief case, just for a laugh. That led me to wonder: what was in the brief case? The question led to a whole new plot line which involved - well, I won't give too much away, but several people met untimely ends because of that question!! I became addicted, writing about 2,000 words every day, although at this point, I had no expectations of becoming a published author.... I was just having fun! I couldn't stop writing! Have you ever been so absorbed in a book, you can't put it down? It's like that.
OK. Now I get it. I create a post under the tab marked 'posting'. No wonder it took me so long to work out how to do it.... I think I'd better get back to my creative writing - as I spoke to my EDITOR today for the first time and am feeling hectically inspired! I have an editor!! More on Wednesday's post (if I can remember how create a new post by then!)

Saturday 25 August 2007


I'd like to share with you something about the process of creating my character GERALDINE STEEL, a police DI in the Serious Crime Squad.