The End. First draft finished.

The End. Nothing feels better than typing those two little words, knowing you have finally committed a story to the page. First draft finished. If you can believe it, I started writing this book on 31st January 2017. It’s taken me nearly 18 months to get to this point, writing book two on and off, interspersed with essential editing (editing and more editing) for book one, The Dream Wife.

For me, now, this isn’t a draft I would be happy showing to anyone, let alone my agent or editor. It is merely 74,000 words in a word document, but not even 74,000 good words. It still needs a hell of a lot of work. Revision after revision. But it’s a good start.

Things need changing. For example:

  • It’s inconsistent. Characters change names, they gain opinions and actions they weren’t doing at the beginning. Some of them even inexplicably disappear, never to return.
  • The language is awful. I use ‘suddenly’ too much. My characters are always glancing, nodding and shrugging. In one chapter I use the word ‘perpendicular’ four times.
  • The holes! Sentences stop in the middle, mainly because I forgot what I was trying to say and just abandoned it. Entire chapters don’t exist. Plot lines pick up in part 3, without any previous explanation or development.
  • It’s too short. But that’s okay, because of the above.
  • The story is Not Quite Good Enough. But that’s also okay, but inspiration will strike again in draft number 2.

So what’s next?

For me, I need to sit down, old style, with a paper and pen, and write out my character biographies. Who are they, what’s their story, what do they look like? What are all their little quirks that make them people? It may seem odd, doing this now, but they don’t feel fully formed until the end of the first draft: I haven’t seen all their motivations and character traits until this point. But I need to get it down on paper, because in the next draft they need to be consistent, and to feel real and breathing.

Then it’s back to the word document. Re-name with a brand new version 2, and plod on.

Just keep swimming.

On your bike…

So today was the first time out on the bike. Or, more specifically, the first time out clipping into the bike. For those unfamiliar with the world of cycling, ‘clipping in’ is when you take the rather strange decision to attach your new expensive cycling shoes very firmly to the pedals of your bike. It makes it easier to cycle, yes, but it also means if you stop, and can’t unclip, you topple over.

And yes, I did. Once. Yes, it hurt. And yes, it was right next to my own front door.

It also meant I spent the whole cycle ride talking to myself like a patronising air traffic controller: “And we’re coming to a junction now…. prepare to unclip…. and… There! Well done, you!…” 10 miles today, and no excuses for next time.

But it definitely made me remember why I so love running. No faffing about with equipment, no need for co-ordination or even thought. No danger of death from impatient BMWs or arrogant Audis, just put on your trainers, and run. After I’ve done the paddling in a pond bit of the triathlon, and the clipping-in-clipping-out nightmare of cycling, the final run is going to be easy. Well, maybe not ‘easy’, but that’s what this training is for…

Next up – find a local pond, buy a wetsuit….

All this madness is in aid of Cancer Research UK. Too many people I know and love have been affected by cancer, and it’s only through the research of charities like Cancer Research do we stand a chance of beating it. Their groundbreaking discoveries to date mean we know more about different cancers and, vitally, how to treat them, which means over the last 40 years cancer survival rates have doubled. This life saving work relies solely on the donations they receive.

To donate, please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/louisascarrtri

My Books of 2017…

The books I have loved this year, by coincidence, have all been by women and for the same reason: their writing is just incredible. All have an amazing mastery of the English language, showing worlds and characters in such a way that make them feel very true and real. So much so, I wanted to savour every word, then go back and start again once I had finished.

I would whole-heartedly recommend:

  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, by Joanna Cannon.
  • This Must Be The Place, by Maggie O’Farrell.
  • A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson.
  • I Found You, by Lisa Jewell.
  • The Muse, by Jesse Burton.
  • And a classic: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath.

Strangely, I have also discovered an interest in neurosurgery and the brain. Do No Harm by Henry Marsh, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, are all fascinating.

And finally, the women that made me laugh so much tea came out of my nose:

  • How to be Champion, by Sarah Millican.
  • Yes Please, by Amy Poehler.
  • And Moranthology, by Caitlin Moran.

And 2018?

I have way too many books on my bookshelves I haven’t read. I always promise myself I won’t buy anymore until I’ve read the ones I have, but nooooo….

First up: more Maggie O’Farrell, Ragdoll by Daniel Cole that I’ve heard so much about, and I’m going to try a bit of Liane Moriarty, after I loved Big Little Lies. I’ve kind of forgotten about Adele Parks in 2017, so I have some catching up to do there, plus Ian Rankin’s latest. And I love a bit of weird, so Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is definitely the way forward.

And finally, my first novel, a psychological thriller called The Dream Wife, is out in 2018. So I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention that… and more to come on that topic in the future, I’m sure!

Merry Christmas, and happy reading!

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It’s easy because. It’s hard because.

It’s hard because you are different. There’s still so much you can’t do that we have to help you with.

It’s easy because you’re unique. We have no formula to follow, or a list of known symptoms to worry about. We can make it up as we go along and adapt to what you need.

It’s hard because we worry about the future, of what might be and what you might need as you get older.

It’s easy because of your smile, your hugs, your laughter. It’s easy because you live each day at a time, without a care or a worry, and so remind us to do the same.

It’s hard because every form the government produces, every bit of paperwork and documentation they require, means hours of work, and focussing on what you don’t do well and what you can’t yet achieve, when we know you are so much more than what we are forced to write in black and white.

It’s easy because our wonderful friends and family accept you as you are without hesitation, and play with you and make you laugh.

It’s hard because sometimes I feel like the only one.

It’s easy because the NHS provides experts who check and advise and support – all for free.

It’s hard because sometimes we just want to be left alone, without the tick charts or the milestones.

It’s easy because you have just the right Daddy, to be patient and calm and accepting. And just the right Mummy to take it all on and fight for everything you need. And just the right parents, who love you above everything else in the world.

It’s hard because sometimes I can’t help but compare. And wonder what might have been if…

It’s easy because every day we go out and have fun – and you chatter and you laugh and you go to bed happy.

It’s easy because the people around me care, ask questions and listen. And tell me what a wonderful little boy you are.

Because you are. My beautiful little boy. Unique, funny, healthy, happy – and perfect. Despite what your chromosomes say.

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Hurrah!

After an impatient few months, checking my e mails constantly like a lovesick teenager, I am excited to announce I have an agent! The lovely Ed Wilson at Johnson & Alcock loves my book and will be our enthusiastic guide through the tricky world of publishing over the next few months and beyond. I am very much looking forward to working with him.

So, from here, there’s just a wee bit of editing to be done, a few changes to be made and then the massive hope of finding a publisher. Easy, eh? Keep your fingers crossed, we can but dream!

Hurrah

My Books of the Year – 2016

This year I had one big aim – to read more. Logic dictates that if you’re going to become a better writer, you’d better become a better reader, so this year I’ve attacked my bookshelves with abandon.

From non-fiction, to YA, and everything in between, I’ve managed to get through 31– and I’m not quite done with December yet. The less said about the bottom of the list the better: some were novels by usually brilliant authors who churned out stereotypical rubbish, others were overhyped and disappointing. I wasn’t keen on the one YA book I read, perhaps because I’m not a young adult (by any stretch of the imagination), and maybe I read one too many books about psychopaths (research – honestly…)

But there were some real gems. In no particular order, here is my top 10 for 2016:

  • Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. I love all of Kate Atkinson’s books, and this one was no exception. Original, witty, clever and so well written, its sequel, A God in Ruins, is going to be one of my first books for 2017.
  • Quiet, by Susan Cain. When I was on my French exchange, the French mother I was staying with grew quite concerned. We had Wednesdays off, and my activity of choice was to find a quiet corner with a book, and stay there for most of the day. This, to me, was a day well spent; to her it was just plain odd. As an introvert, this book gives you permission to be the person you have always felt most confortable with, and I recommend that everybody on the ‘I’ end of the spectrum, or anyone who knows someone that way inclined, should read it.
  • Still Alice, by Lisa Genova. Early onset Alzheimer’s doesn’t make for the cheeriest of reading material, but this is so well written and sympathetic, I’d recommend it to anyone.
  • Hurting Distance, by Sophie Hannah. Sophie Hannah is the queen of thrillers, and I think this is one of her best. It’s dark, but compelling, and all of the pieces of the story fall together at the end in a very satisfactory way.
  • The Turning Point and The Way Back Home, by Freya North.
  • The House We Grew Up In, by Lisa Jewell.
  • After You, by Jojo Moyes. When a new book by these wonderful authors comes out, I always know that I’m going to love it. The literary equivalent of a bar of Dairy Milk, you know what you’re going to get – characters you care about and feel you’ve known your whole life, a gripping story and maybe a few tears. Time well spent with some of your oldest friends.
  • The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. Sue Monk Kidd wrote ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ and this book was just as good. It’s not an easy read, but worth the time.
  • Us, by David Nichols. King of amazing imagery. My favourite line made it for me in the first few chapters: “…one of my sister’s notorious pasta bakes smouldering in its centre like a meteorite, smelling of toasted cat food.”
  • The Martian, by Andy Weir. I picked this up by chance from a holiday bookshelf and it was probably my most enjoyable wild card. The voice of Mark is funny and engaging, and the sci-fi elements of surviving on Mars, nothing but fascinating.

So my only question is now, what’s next? What were your favourites? Any advice on what to read for 2017?

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I think we’re all doing rather well – A poem for us all

 

So your son did a wee in the hallway,
And your daughter had a tantrum in the road.
You’ve run out of milk, the petrol’s at low,
Your boss is practically speaking in code.

You were late to work, the parking’s a mess,
You’ve had a shit day from hell.
It pissed down with rain from morning until night,
But actually, you’re doing rather well.

“What do you mean?” you curse at the screen,
“I barely have time to take breath!
The washing’s in a heap, the floor’s not clean,
Even the cat’s looking close to death.”

Here look, I say, they have food in their tummies,
They’re happy, they’re not raising hell.
A pat on the back is richly deserved,
Oh yes, we’re all doing rather well.

You got through the day on an hour and a half’s sleep
After being up all night with your son.
That makes you an amazing, albeit baggy-eyed
Bloody fantastic, brilliant Mum.

You forgot the spare nappy, now there’s poo up the wall,
Your life’s a song by Adele.
So what? Sit down, have a nice cup of tea,
I think we’re all doing rather well.

You got them in the car, with their bags and their coats.
You put your mascara on at the lights.
They got to school with five minutes to spare.
I think you’re all getting it right.

So give yourself a round of applause,
A cheer, a shout and a yell,
It’s not all perfect, but who the hell bloody cares?
We’re definitely all doing rather well.

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Originally published on the brilliant Selfish Mother site.

A Letter to my Little Boy

To my perfect little boy,

I am so proud of you. Every morning you wake with a smile on your face and every night you go to bed with a chirrup and a grin. You face the things that scare you with bravery and courage and, over time, you improve and master them.

You love to spend time with other children, even though you can’t hear them very well and they don’t always understand you. You know what you enjoy and you spend your time doing the things you love. Nobody makes me laugh out loud as much as you do. You are cheeky and mischievous but most of all sweet, affectionate and carefree.

So your chromosomes aren’t perfect, but to me you are exactly that: my beautiful little boy. You tolerate the army of medical professionals prodding and poking: the physiotherapist, the paediatrician, the speech therapist, the audiologists and the geneticist. They all write reports and send them to each other in a bizarre spider-web of bureaucracy. The piles of paper, tests and opinions mean nothing to you, and nor should they: we are more than our medical history; we are more than what we can and can’t do.

You are obsessed by dinosaurs. The number five has magically disappeared from your consciousness but you can identify a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus from a mile away. Diggers, lorries, police cars and planes are infinitely exciting and you know the names of all the Thomas trains.

It took me a while to get the hang of you, and I’m sorry about that. I spent too long crying, sulking and generally being angry that the world hadn’t given me the genius child I expected to have. You see, my love, I had a silly notion in my head of what my child would be like and it wasn’t this tiny thing in front of me: who missed all his milestones, refused to walk and bum-shuffled around the living room. You taught me very quickly that children aren’t here to meet the expectations of their parents; you are your own person and do your own things, and my role as a parent is to watch, love and help.

There is a lot I can learn from you. Already I have learnt what the important things are in life: above all to make sure you are happy and healthy and safe. I promise you I will always be on your side. I will make sure you have everything you need and will fight, shout and nag anyone in range to get it for you.

I will always be here for you. My very best person.

All my love, xx

(Originally published on Selfish Mother, 9th May 2016.)

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