The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

Second Book Syndrome

Well Meaning Pal ( WMP) “Hey Kathy, how’s the new book coming along?”

Me: Look at this thing I did on Instagram.


WMP: So the new book..?

Me: Yeah, sorry, I’ve got fencing training, and I don’t want to be late…


WMP: I heard it was much easier to get a second book published.


Thank god for writer friends on Facebook reminding me I am not alone. I love you. You are all fab. And hey, it’s not QUITE that bad (now.)

Last week I wanted to put a brick through my computer.

Now, I’ve just started on the fourth draft, the one where I tweak all the relationships, and you know what?  It’s not rubbish.  I like it. Some of it, I really like.

Of course that’s today. Tomorrow I might be reaching for the brick…



The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas From?

Writers are asked this ALL the time. And the truth is, ideas come from everywhere, you just have to be receptive to them. Listen to conversations for the hidden under tones, read newspaper articles with a writer’s eye – ask:

“What if?”

at every possible situation. I find trying to force ideas quite hard but if I remain open, little seeds sow themselves and start to sprout. Today however, it was not so much a seed as a fully planted tree.

This was passed on to me this morning:

British Pharmocopoeia

This book used to belong to my mother-in-law’s mother, Isabelle Keymer.  Isabelle began training as a pharmacist at a time when young women were not encouraged to go out to work. Unfortunately for her, family circumstances meant she was not able to complete her training – when her mother died she was expected to stay home and look after her father and she did exactly that. I suspect she wasn’t given a great deal of choice.   Male privilege held her back more than once in her life. I’m so glad I got to meet her, though it was just the once shortly before she died. Even then, post a leg amputation, she was  a strong, kind, determined and interesting woman. It’s not hard to see where my daughter has inherited her academic brain and drive from.

Isabelle’s life is an interesting story in itself but then  I opened the book and saw the first page:


Graffiti!!! Joy of joys, look at this page – not only is this a first edition published in 1864 (book swot alert) but someone, judging by the copperplate hand-writing possibly the first owner – has completely defaced it! Isabelle clearly wasn’t the first person to use this book – so who on earth was Rice Forsyth? Page after page is full of Rices’ amendments:



This is pure magic for a writer.

J. K. Rowling uses the device of a hand me down book with just these kind of amendments  in Harry Potter and the Half Blood  Prince! Oh, what a happy hour I’ve just spent looking through the book and wondering…What if?

The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

Eight Ways to Tricks Yourself into Writing

Most of us suffer with procrastinitis. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that you’re reading this blog for precisely that reason.  Maybe you need to trick yourself into writing. Here’s my top  tricks : Continue reading “Eight Ways to Tricks Yourself into Writing”

The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

The Upside of Being An Unpublished Writer

1. Comradeship with other UW’s

2. No deadlines except the ones you set yourself.

3. Ability to write whatever you like.

4. Intact golden dream of life after publication.

5. Urm….

Please add more, I need cheering up…






Book Reviews, The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

Stephen King, Back to Haunt Me.

I love the satisfying structure of circular stories.

Wuthering Heights was my favourite book for years.  Catherine and Hareton coming together at the end turns the book into one of hope. Out of all that ugliness, all that sorrow, come  two people capable of kindness, strength, love.

J K Rowling does a similar thing in Harry Potter.  I know some people don’t like the end – the happy ever after – but I do.  Not the marriages, but how the orphaned Ted Lupin isn’t shoved in a cupboard like Harry was. Ted is surrounded by loving families and treasured.  Hope out of sorrow. Continue reading “Stephen King, Back to Haunt Me.”

The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

The Idea’s Shop. ‘Where do your ideas come from’ and ‘why do writers eat so much cake?’.


‘Where do you get your ideas from?’  Asks Everyman.

Mwah ha ha, we jest hilariously, ‘The Idea’s Shop.’

Idea’s Shop!  Ha.  What a ridiculous idea.

Isn’t it? Continue reading “The Idea’s Shop. ‘Where do your ideas come from’ and ‘why do writers eat so much cake?’.”

Writing Advice

What Makes a Writer?

I’m busy. Really busy. So I decided, until I  had an actual contract, I’d have to ease back on writing time, make way for other stuff,  the stuff  of life: Continue reading “What Makes a Writer?”

Writing Advice

Writing Comedy: Lin Oliver on Humour with Heart

Lin Oliver and her dog Dexter

Lin’s breakout session at this year’s SCBWI British Isles conference in Winchester was inspirational.  I’m grateful and delighted to be able to share her FIVE BIG THOUGHTS and TWELVE SMALL TRICKS on my blog.

Lin began her session with some observations:

  • Graphic funny novels give you pace, speed of reading and entertainment – funny writing needs this
  • Humour often comes out of pathos – when you write something funny you may also be writing something sad.
  • Illustrators can add a comic element to a picture book text.
  • In middle grade  books you can have some character attitude and word play but be aware at 7+ that children are just getting familiar with language – think about comic inventions of plot instead and avoid puns
  • Steve Martin wrote: writing about music is like dancing about architecture, it’s the same for comedy.


  1. Writing comedy involves taking risks – follow your weirdness – kill the side of your brain that’s linear and logical – as long as the world you create is consistent you can do whatever you want. Push boundaries – look for humour coming in from all angles.
  2. Comedy must come from the truth – you have to recognise something in it – feel like ‘that could happen to me’. We are all one banana peel away from disaster. When writing – mime your own embarrassment. What resonates always has a kernel of truth.
  3. Comedy must evoke empathy – your comic villain can be one dimensional but the villains we all love, we have empathy for – Gru from Despicable Me

    Gru – A villain with heart
  4. Don’t try to struggle uphill when you’re writing comedy – invent a situation that has inherent comic potential – a vampire rabbit or a zombie goldfish (you can’t have those, they’ve already been done)
  5. You are only writing for one audience and one purpose to amuse yourself – if you try and write to make kids laugh it will backfire on you. So think, who are you – what makes you laugh? Is it visual comedy;  the victory of the underdog;  contradiction; playing off how people see themselves to how the world see’s them; listening to the things children do? Find out what it is and work with it.


  1. Think of funny titles – set up the expectation of laughter.
  2. Use character names to announce your character but that are also funny use character, quirks or unusual professions Professor Haddock, Fish Doctor.
  3. Use surprise – banana peel – sudden turn of events
  4. Use incongruity – like Kindergarten Cop – either in character or plot
  5. Use discomfort – like getting the giggles at a funeral – works for kids because they’re always expected to behave in a certain way but life can divert their attention
  6. Use reversal of roles – where there’s an expectation of a role and character get them to perform the opposite –e.g. a gourmet chef judging a junk food contest
  7. Exaggerate – language and what happens – e.g. it was so cold sounds froze in winter – so what happens in spring – havoc! This is comic exaggeration – embellish stories with it.
  8. Play with nonsense and comic rhyme e.g. pelican/bellycan – the longer the rhyme the better – and nonsequiters
  9. Be specific – specifics are funnier than the general -e.g.: ‘fish’ is not as funny as  ‘flopping flounder’ or mowing grass is not as funny as drawing an image of someone sitting on a mower with bum hanging over the seat.
  10. Give your characters attitude; very important for teens or tweens – doesn’t work so much for younger kids unless you can write it very clearly – read out loud – act it to make sure it works.
  11. Use funny sounding language – k is funny – pickle is funny – consonants are funnier than vowels because they bang up against each other – it might just be a theory but trust your ear.
  12. Be aware of timing – keep it snappy and pacey – use dialogue and think about language

Will these tricks make you funnier? Try this example

Rowing a boat isn’t funny

Rowing a boat upstream – more interesting

Lose an oar and add some strange characters – mix in the unexpected and you’re starting to be funny.

Good luck – have fun and thank you Lin Oliver!

Poetry, Writing Advice

Writer’s Tricks: Listen to the FunEverse

Thank you so much for  your marvellous  advice last week  on  Getting Started.  I took it. Most of it. And it had an unexpected outcome.

First I had an idea. A little tiny bite size idea for a very silly poem. Chuckling, I wrote it down .  It didn’t hurt at all but I still wasn’t ready to plunge in with a new book so….

I searched my loft for a missing pair of china dogs – as you do – and accidentally found this:

A load of old nonsense from Edward Lear

More silly poems? What a very strange coincidence.

And then….

Radio 4 aired a Bicentenary Celebration of the Birth of Edward Lear. Well goodness, really, what a remarkable coincidence.

And then…..

I got an email from Maureen Lynas.  Could I get to work on my author page  for the brand new funEverse blog?  (funEverse is a group of SCBWI children’s poets who critique each other’s work in private and are very soon about to go PUBLIC – aaaargh)

Could I? Could I ? I HAD to – clearly the world of silly poems was conspiring to get me back to work.   Oh! What fun –  unbridled mucking about with words. And the funny thing is, that’s what made me want to write in the first place. Mucking about with words.

I can not wait to introduce you to the happy band of lunatics that inhabit the FunEverse – watch this space next Friday!

After three years of writing a book

At another I just couldn’t look

I’d had quite enough

Of high hopes and stuff

Not one look at a book could I took.

That’s silly, it doesn’t even make any sense!

I know! Isn’t it fun 🙂 Next time you’re struggling for words, take a bite size nibble at some verse.

Why not give it a go now?

The Publishing Process, Writing Advice

Writer’s Tricks: Getting Started.

I knew this series was ambitious.

Only my second post and I’m stuck – in more ways than one.

I good few days ago I sent my current script to Lovely Agent. Until she sends it back asking what were you thinking? and have you entirely lost your marbles?  (she won’t really say that, she’s far too nice) – I am BETWEEN BOOKS.

I have things to write. Oh yes I do. I have two different ideas for teen novels  – both of which I’ve roughly  sketched out and both of which have fully formed main characters. They even have a couple of chapters written.  And I have an almost plotted 7+ book –  the second in a  series involving an over dramatic mouse and a boy with more money than parents  (books 1 and 3 are already out on submission).

Oh yes. I have plenty to write. And what advice do we  give those waiting to hear ‘news’? Get on with the next book.

And what have I done?

I have painted the bathroom and  the bedroom ceiling. I have made a tentative farm budget and caught up with the washing and the ironing. I’ve  completed all my critiques and competed in the Sussex Open Fencing Championships. I’ve even started Christmas shopping…

I am not Getting Started.  I am having a little snooze on the starting line.  So this post is a cheat – can you wake me up? How do you get started ?