A belated writing progress update – eight months later

Hi gang,

On this blog I used to do writing progress updates, and enough has been happening recently that I thought it was about time to dust off the old blog and give you an update.

This series is specifically about a speculative, un-contracted manuscript I’m writing under the codename #ghosthouse. You can read parts one and two first, if you wish, which cover January 2016 – December 2016.

So, I haven’t done much work on the story recently. I’ve spent the last four months writing my next contracted book for Walker, #lowrie, on a really tight deadline. It was challenging to write a first draft so fact (the first draft of ghost house took a year, from start to finish) but I’m really proud that I did it in three months. While I’m a bit nervous that my edits will be quite large, I’m overall very happy with the result. It was such a fast and intense drafting process that I didn’t really blog about it, but I might do a discussion post about it when I get my structural edit notes, if that’s something people are interested in.

But now that book is done and with my editors, I can take another look at ghost house!

I sent the first draft to my agent in December, and I haven’t looked at the manuscript since then – eight months ago. Because it’s been so long since I looked at it, and because the reaction to it has been quite muted so far,  I’d kind of accepted that it wasn’t going anywhere. I was kind of thinking that while it was a good writing opportunity, it probably wasn’t going to be published. Walker had said they’d prefer my books to be science fiction, so it didn’t seem like it would fit with them, and I love Walker a lot, so wasn’t really prepared to consider going elsewhere with it.

However, my agent recently read it and said that she really liked it, and thought it was very cinematic, warm and funny. She thought that with some edits we’d have no problem finding a home for it – and she’s really excited to work on it. Hurrah! The manuscript (and this blog series) has been resurrected from the ashes.

She gave me some changes to make, which I’m going to go over in general terms, to show you the kind of things authors might do with their agent before the book gets anywhere near a publisher.

My agent already gave me feedback on the partial 30,000 word manuscript, which I edited with her notes. So technically, this is the second set of edits for this book, even though it’s only the first draft.

She recommended that one of the minor points of view be promoted to a dual protagonist, and become more of a main character. She also wanted me to increase the stakes from the very beginning and make it clear what the dangers and risks of things going wrong are. She wanted a critical scene at the end to be foreshadowed more strongly, so it doesn’t come out of nowhere, and asked for the characters’ individual goals clearer.

So there’s quite a lot to do there – but none of it is really plot things. It’s more about building up the intensity of what’s already there – making subtle things clearer, and trying to make the readers feel the things for the characters which I do, as the author.

I’m really excited to dive back into this book and work on it again. I think the long break will really help in getting a fresh perspective on it – and it’s going to make it so much stronger.

This book was the most fun and enjoyable writing experience I’ve ever had, so I can’t wait to spend more time with my silly ghosts. It was more challenging than anything I’d ever written before too, because it has an ensemble cast who are all point of view characters, and the plot is very complicated and character-driven.

I learnt so much writing it (which is why it took nearly a year!) and it really pushed me as a writer. It has a lot of flaws, but in the eight months since I wrote it, one manuscript later, I think I’ve developed enough as a writer to tackle them and make this the book it is in my head.

My aim as a writer is to always be pushing myself to write new and more difficult things. I don’t want to write lots of similar books in my comfort zone. I want every book to feel like this one did – like I need to work harder and harder to become skilled enough to create the book  I can envision. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it.

This book could so easily have ended up disappearing into a drawer – it nearly was – and I’m so, so glad it has come back out into the light. I can’t wait to get started!

I’m going to be working on it quite slowly, as the priority for the next few months is going to be editing #lowrie for release in 2018. There might not be another update on this book until 2018, depending on how much time I find to work on it. Once I’ve made the changes suggested above, I’ll update you on the next part of the process – getting it published!

In other news:

I’m still offering editorial critiques at the introductory prices here.

I’m thrilled to bits with this stunning SFX magazine review of #theloneliestgirl.
They’ve basically given me the best 25th birthday present ever. 😍
‘Black Mirror-esque’ is truly a blurb to die for.


The Loneliest Girl was also the bestselling title at YALC this year, where it sold out in a few hours (twice!). I am so grateful & overwhelmed & crying a bit. I’ve had the best weekend of my life! Thank you, thank you, thank you, every single one of you at YALC. Here’s some pics of the event:

I finally received the lovely US hardback of The Next Together!

My events schedule is filling up! Over the next few months I’m coming to Edinburgh, Bath, Dublin and LOTS more Northern cities to be announced. I’m so excited to meet more of you!

There’s also been some cool fan stuff come out already:

Moodboard by abookin6pictures

Romy inspired candle by @bookwormcandles (buy here)

Some videos which have gone up recently:

Author Q&A with Alice Oseman

July reads

And that’s (probably) all for now, folks! If you want more #content, you can subscribe to my newsletter here.

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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