Category Archives: writing posts

Editing a scene from start to finish – The Quiet at the End of the World

When The Next Together and The Last Beginning were released, I posted the different versions of a scene in the book as it went through editing from first draft to final published book. You can read The Next Together’s here, and The Last Beginning here. I thought I’d do it again for The Quiet at the End of the World, with a scene from near the start of the book.

I’ve chosen a scene from the start of the book, where Lowrie and Shen watch a helicopter crash into Big Ben. You can read the full first chapter with this scene here on Wattpad.

Published version (Oct 2018)

Overhead, a helicopter thrums as it heads downriver. It must be Alexei Wyatt, on his way back from one of the abandoned cities around England, where he goes to pick up scavenged items in an old army helicopter.

I realise there’s something wrong with the helicopter. It’s tilted at an angle, skittering in the sky like a glass about to fall off a table. It looks like it’s been caught in a gust of wind – but the air is still and calm.

“That doesn’t look —” Shen begins, but before he can finish, the helicopter drops out of the sky. The tail rotor catches on a lamppost on Westminster Bridge, and there’s a shrieking explosion of metal.

I take an involuntary step backwards as the helicopter whirls in a tight circle, swung around by the force of its spinning rotors. It’s thrown across the bridge and into a support beam. Sheets of metal pull away from the cockpit, and I think that surely it can’t keep going, that it must come to a stop soon, but it doesn’t. It swings around in another violent arc and collides with the clock tower of Big Ben. I can’t believe what I’m seeing.

The clock tower explodes, the whole front panel sheering off. The ancient clock face crumples as a rotor blade stabs into it. Bricks fly towards us, and we both scramble backwards through the mud, away from the explosion.

Shen’s hand wraps around my elbow. “Run,” he says, and I don’t argue. He’s always so calm in a crisis, but my heart feels like it’s going to hammer out of my chest.

I’m desperate to look back over my shoulder at the rolling fireball, but I know I’ll trip and fall immediately if I do. Something lunges towards me and I stumble back in shock, tripping and scraping my knee on the ground. It’s Mitch. Spindly metal legs have sprouted out of the robot’s rusted spherical body, and he’s bounding along the sand towards us. He scoops Shen and me into his arms, and then start hopping in long, jolting strides away from the explosion.

I give a little cry of surprise, confused until I realise that his lifeguarding protocol must have been activated by the crash. I’m strangely glad about it, and I hold on tightly. He’s running faster than I could have done.

When I risk a glance over the robot’s shoulder, I see that the fire is spreading from the tower to engulf the Palace of Westminster, filling the air with the crack and roar of brickwork collapsing.

I can’t think. My mind is abuzz with the white noise of shock – that a helicopter crashed in Central London; that it crashed into Big Ben; that we were right there to see it happen.

Mitch climbs a staircase embedded into the concrete embankment and comes to a stop at the top. Still clutching us tightly, his head spins as he scans for more trouble. I wriggle, keen to be free now that we’re a safe distance from the crash, and
Mitch releases us, lowering us carefully to the tarmac.

“I can’t believe–” Shen says, staring at Mitch and then at the fire. “Tamade!” He always reverts to Chinese when he gets upset.

“I know.” My lungs can’t seem to remember how to pull in air. I focus on breathing until my chest loosens and the dizziness stops.

“It’s Alexei, isn’t it?” Shen asks quietly.

I nod.

He closes his eyes briefly, grimacing.

Alexei, our friend. Alexei, who gave Shen and I the best tips for mudlarking, from his scavenging experience. Alexei, whose wife died a few years ago. Alexei Wyatt, who we’ve known our whole lives.

“Do you think he’s…?” I can’t even stand to think about what must have happened to him, in that kind of explosion.

A squadron of emergency response drones is already flying to the building, but they look miniscule next to the growing fire. I can’t see how they’ll manage to put it out.

Shen takes a deep breath, and there’s only the slightest wobble in his voice when he speaks.

“Are you hurt?” He braces his palms on either side of my neck, checking my eyes for pupil dilation.

“I’m fine,” I say, but I let him massage the joint at the top of my spine. His touch is comforting. “Are you?”

All the colour has disappeared from his face except for an irritated patch of pink at the corner of his jaw, where he must have hit the ground. I rub away the small curls of white that it scraped from the skin. His stubble catches on my thumb.

Behind us, the fire is blazing higher and hotter, but to my surprise, half of the emergency drones are flying straight past the crash and heading towards us.

“Are they —?” I ask.


I let out a heavy sigh. We’re fine. We’re not even hurt. This isn’t necessary. They should all be trying to help Alexei. The emergency response drones swoop in to land, surrounding us in a neat circle. Their laser scanners flicker down our bodies, searching for injuries.

“We’re OK,” Shen says, but the drones don’t listen. They chitter to each other in binary as they cluster around my leg, where there’s a tear in the wetsuit. It must have happened when I fell.

I can’t feel the cut, but red blood shines bright against the fabric.
A mechanical arm appears from one drone, reaching out to clean
the shallow wound.

“Shouldn’t you be putting out the fire?” I ask. It’s hardly a life-threatening injury. I’m worried the same can’t be said of Alexei.

The final version sets up a lot of action. It establishes the characters – Lowrie, Shen, Mitch – and their relationships to each other. There’s a hint of physical connection between Lowrie and Shen; a confused lack of knowledge of Mitch, the robot’s, actions. There’s also the shock of a helicopter crash – and the fact that they know who must be in it, because there are so few people. Also, the fact that the bots fly to help Lowrie and Shen instead of Alexei.

So, let’s see how much of that I managed in the first draft. Here’s the scene from the first draft, which was called Who Remains (a pun on ‘human remains’. I’ve bolded the sentences which made it into the final book.

First draft (July 2017)

Overhead, a helicopter thrums as it heads downriver.

I become aware that something’s wrong with the helicopter overhead. It’s tilted at an angle, skittering in the sky like a glass about to fall off a table. It looks like it’s been caught in a gust of wind – but the air is still and calm.

I watch it. The helicopter is twisting dangerously close to Westminster Bridge.

“That doesn’t look-” Shen begins, but before he can finish, the tail rotor catches on a lamppost, breaking off with a shrieking explosion of metal.

His hand comes out to me as I take an involuntary step backwards, even though we’re far enough away to be out of danger.

The helicopter starts whirling in a tight circle, swung around by the force of its spinning rotors. It’s thrown across the bridge, tearing a gauge in the tarmac as it goes. Sheets of metal pull away from the cockpit, and I think that surely it can’t keep going, that it must come to a stop soon, but it doesn’t. It swings around in another violent arc and collides with the side of Big Ben.

The clock tower explodes, the whole front panel sheering off in the helicopter’s path. The ancient clock face crumples as a rotor blade stabs into it. Bricks fly towards us, and we both scramble backwards through the mud, away from the explosion.

Shen’s hand wraps around my elbow, pulling me to my feet.

“Run,” he says, and I don’t argue. His voice is calm. He’s always so calm in a crisis.

I’m desperate to look back over my shoulder at the rolling fire ball, but I know I’ll trip and fall immediately if I do. The rocks and debris move under our feet, but somehow, we both keep our balance.

I can hear the crack and roar of brickwork collapsing, even from here. When I risk a glance, the fire is spreading from the tower to engulf the Palace of Westminster.

I can’t think. My mind is abuzz with the white noise of shock – that a helicopter crashed in Central London; that it crashed into Big Ben; that we were right there to see it happen.

We climb the staircase embedded in the concrete embankment, two steps at a time. My calves are screaming by the time we reach the pavement. I turn to watch the fire spreading, leaning on the wrought iron railing.

“I can’t believe–”

“I know.”

“Did you recognise the helicopter?” I ask quietly. We know almost everyone with a helicopter in London. We know everyone in London, full stop.

“No. It all happened too fast.”

I wonder if there’s even a chance that the pilot survived.

A squadron of emergency response drones appears, flying to the building to fight the growing flames. I strain my eyes, trying to make out the path we took along the riverbank, to see how close we were when the explosion hit. The tide has sunk our footprints back into nothing.

To my surprise, the drones fly straight past the crash and head towards us.

“Are they-”


I let out a heavy sigh. We’re fine. We’re not even hurt. This isn’t necessary.

The emergency response drones swoop in to land, surrounding us in a neat circle. Their laser scanners flicker down our bodies, searching for injuries.

“We’re okay,” Shen says, but the drones don’t listen. They surge in on my leg, chittering to each other in binary, and I realise there’s a tear in the wetsuit and my leg has been cut. It must have happened when I fell. I can’t feel it, but the red shines bright against the fabric.

 A mechanical arm appears from one drone, reaching out to clean the shallow wound.

“Shouldn’t you be putting out the fire?” I ask, pushing away the arm. It’s hardly life-threatening. I gesture towards Big Ben, which is leaning dangerously to the side, flames curling up its length.

So, as you can see, a lot of the original phrasing stayed the same. But there are a lot of changes going on in the background. Mitch didn’t even appear in the first scene – his introduction used to happen later on, and it was a lot less dramatic and memorable.

In the first draft, there’s also not much concern for the person flying the helicopter – Lowrie is more worried about Big Ben. They don’t know who might have been inside, which implies the population of London is a lot larger than the small community of the final draft, where they know immediately who it must be.

The nice moment of concern between Lowrie and Shen where she rubs his jaw isn’t here yet, either.

So, how did we get from start to end, here? That’s all down to the power of my editor. Here’s the suggestions she made to the scene. Most of them were accepted, but not all of them.

Line edits (June 2018)





Some minor things changed here which aren’t included – Mitch went from they/them to he/him, Martin changed to Alexei.

Hopefully this was interesting, if you’re a writer!

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.

A writing progress update

I’ve been tracking my writing progress on the fantasy novel I’ve been writing in 2016, and as I’m working on it again now, I think it’s time for an update. Last time I blogged about it was in July, when I had 30,000 words written. I had to put it on the backburner then for a few months while I worked on LONELIEST.


I had some time to work on the draft again. At first I found it really hard to get back into, because I hadn’t really written any of it since May, and it felt very different. I think a lot of this was because I’d had feedback on the partial manuscript from both my agent and editor, and not all of it was positive. I was feeling very unenthusiastic about the whole thing. But I remembered how much I had originally loved the idea, so I fought through the DO NOT WANT feeling. I was really into it again by the end of the month. I wrote 20,000 words – and got to the end of the second arc.

I then had to stop to work on the LONELIEST edits again, and ended up by the start of November with 60,000 words.


As of this week, I’ve finished my edits and I’m back working on the first draft – and I’m so excited to finish it! In my head it was truly awful, but I read through it and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. I even got really mad at myself for leaving the draft at such a cliff-hanger, because I wanted to finish reading it. Damn it, past!Lauren!

I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the year. I’ve done all the hard work laying down the plot arcs, and now I just have the fun stuff to finish it off – battles and kissing. 😉

This is the first time I’ve used myWriteClub to track the writing process for a whole first draft, and it’s really interesting to look back on. Over the course of a year, I’ve written it in 5 pushes, averaging out at 10,000 words a pop.


I have no idea if this is typical for me. It has felt a particularly difficult novel to write – especially the October session – but I have a feeling it’s always hard to write, and I usually just forget how painful it is.

So….I will let you know whether I actually manage to finish this book by 2017. Wish me luck.

For now, here’s my aesthetics for the novel:


My …. writing process. Whatever that means.

So I was sent this ask on tumblr.


I’m about due a blog post, so I thought I’d answer it here. (I owe you a June Favourites too – it’s coming, I promise.)

I don’t think I’d do a vlog like Alice (she’s is a lot better at that stuff than me) but I do give semi-regular writing updates here on my blog, so I thought I’d go back and compile them all and see if it gave any insight into my “writing process”.

A bit of background: I’m currently writing an un-contracted book which I’m tagging ghost house on tumblr. It’s a gamble to write a book out of contract, but I had the time and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, so I’m doing it anyway. My publisher have said they want my books to be high concept sci-fi, so I don’t think they’ll be interested in it (it’s kind of satirical fantasy, or something – I pitched it to my agent as MISFITS meets SPACED.) but you never know! We’ll see what happens when I’ve finished it.

I started #ghost house in January, after I pitched it to my agent and she said she liked the idea. Here’s what I had to say:


January was a month of lots of writing for me, and lots of waiting. In publishing, you have to play the long game, and I’m definitely coming to realise that. I’m full of feelings about stuff I’m working on, but I’m not allowed to share any details about it for at least a few more months. BUT THERE’S LOTS OF EXCITING STUFF COMING UP, GUYS. I can say that, at least.**

(**Some of that exciting stuff was Another Together, my eNovella. Some of it is still to be announced, whooo!)

I started doing some research into early-90s internet use, which I posted about here.


I spent most of February/March writing the first draft of Book 4, and I’ve just hit 25,000 words. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had writing a novel, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Twitter even got involved in naming one of the characters!

However much I love writing novels, though (which I really do) I wish I could pay someone to get the first 20k out of the way for me. It’s always AGONY. It’s so infuriating, because I know exactly what is going to happen, down to the minute, but I haven’t worked out how to TELL it yet. I have to write and rewrite and rewrite trying to adjust it until the right format and structure makes itself known.

It’s like chipping away at marble, then realising what you really need is a shard you chipped off, and having to glue it back together. FOR EVERY WORD. Basically: I’ve spent a lot of this month writing the same scenes five different times over, and I’m probably about to do it again. Wish me luck!

I also made a fancast of the ghost house characters here.cast.PNG


I hit the halfway point in writing my fourth book this week too – hurray! I always get convinced I’ve forgotten how to finish a story about 20k words in, so I’m relieved to have remembered how it all works. It’s (hopefully) all easy going from here.

I’m so into it and it’s so intense and the characters are really being stretched more than any I’ve written before and I’M VERY HAPPY. I went through a couple of weeks where I couldn’t write at all because of stress/anxiety but I’ve got over it finally. Now I’m racing through it!! And I wish I could tell you what its abouuuuuut!

I let a few people read the manuscript when I reached the halfway point (my mum, my brother, and my friends Sarah, Alice and Cat).

I also posted a book playlist here:

  • Red Right Hand – Arctic Monkeys
  • 400 Lux – Lorde
  • Born to die – Lana Del Ray
  • Changing – Paloma Faith
  • Monsters – Ruelle
  • The Whip – Locksley
  • Don’t Lie – Vampire Weekend
  • House Party – Sam Hunt
  • Fantasy – MS MR
  • Conqueror – Aurora
  • Walkashame – Meghan Trainor
  • Renegades – X Ambassadors


Ghost House is going on the backburner for a bit while I work on other projects, like the copyedits for TLB. I’m hoping to get back into it in mid-September.


I got some feedback on Ghost House from my agent, who read the partial manuscript at 40,000 words. She said that the pace is wrong (I’ve focused a lot on character development instead of plot) so in a spare few days between other projects I went back and cut out about 10k, and shifted around a lot of stuff to make it read faster.

It’s now down to 31k, which sounds like backwards progress, but it reads a lot better, so I’m happy. I can’t wait to finish my other projects so I can really put my head down and finish the book! When I actually have some time I think I’ll get it done in a few weeks, because I know exactly what’s going to happen, and I always write the second half of books at about three times the speed of the first half.

And that’s it for now! You can see how I do in the future by following my word count updates on myWriteClub, if you want. Wish me luck.

Mining the depths of the internet

Inspired by Lucy Powrie’s video on Internet books, I thought I’d talk about books featuring the internet too. For me personally, books about internet culture are something I want so much and am never satisfied by. I am 23, and I can’t remember a time without the internet. I’m sure there probably was a time I didn’t use the internet (probably around the time Harry Potter first came into my life), but I don’t remember it.

Despite that, books rarely, if ever, talk about life online. There might be occasional references to Facebook, but they don’t actually talk about the internet. At least not as a vital, relationship defining form of communication, the way I use it. My friendships wouldn’t be the same without the internet. The way I speak to people, and the language and topics we cover, are completely different online to the way we talk in real life. The internet has a language all of its own.

It’s so varied and infinite and interesting and new. There are areas of the internet where things happen which you couldn’t even make up: otherkins, msscribe, 4chan/tumblr raids, the dashcon ballpit, 1D’s rainbow bears, horseebooks, jennicam, swatting, the Marianas web,  detective RedditorsGhostNet – I could go on forever.

The saying goes that all stories have been told hundreds of times before, but how can that be true when the internet is so young? There are so many stories which are beyond belief and which aren’t being told – and if you don’t go online you could live your whole life without knowing they exist.

People are so interesting and bizarre, and that is multiplied tenfold online. If this is how intense reality is, think what internet conspiracy theories writers could dream up!

One of the reasons I hear that the internet isn’t used much in books is because it evolves so fast it’s easy to get dated. References to Myspace in books from 2002 just seem embarrassing now, and I think that’s because those kind of books tend to approach references to the internet all wrong. They try to drop references in to be ‘cool’ and ‘on trend’. That’s all wrong.

The internet is increasingly becoming part of our history as a culture – you wouldn’t think of references to historical events in books as boring or outdated. It’s just a part of life, and talking about it captures that specific point in history. Mentioning Yahoo Groups evokes a very particular memory of the nineties, and just because it’s an obsolete area of the internet now doesn’t make it something which should be ignored.

I have never read a Literary Novel about a character going through a midlife crisis, who happens to have used usenet in his twenties in 1989. Yet that is a huge, important part of our culture. Why doesn’t it exist in fiction?

Give me the historical novels set online. Give me the thrillers set on Tor. Give me the YA coming of age novels where a teen is trying to reconcile who they are in real life with who they are on 4chan or on tumblr (or both). I want these stories, and they aren’t being told.


If you’re now desperate to read books set online, here are some recs:

Kiss me First | Fangirl | Radio Silence | The Girl in 6E | Gena/Finn | Ready Player OneMs. Marvel | Exodus | Counting Stars


In other news:


I’m doing two events at Waterstones Birmingham in April, a historical fiction panel and an In Conversation panel with Alice Oseman! Details on booking tickets at the links.


Write about zombie cats & other writing tips

Over the last few months I’ve done a lot of events, and I always get asked for my top writing tips. I don’t really believe in “writing” tips, because as long as a story is compelling, you can break any rule and it’ll work (there is nothing wrong with adverbs, for example).

Most of the time writing tips can just succeed in scaring new authors, because they’ll be too nervous to actually do any writing in case they do it “wrong”. You can’t learn to write by reading handbooks and writer’s guides and interview after interview of writing tips from your favourite authors (however much we like writing them…) You learn to write by writing.

Outlining is an example of the danger of writing tips. Every time I read an interview with an author, the answer to whether you need to plan everything in advance changes. Some people say that you should plan every chapter, others say that you should just know the beginning, others the beginning and end….basically everyone does this differently. There’s no right answer.

If you don’t know what happens all the way through, I would just start writing it anyway. Your brain is going to be working away thinking about the plot all the time, so you might find that by the time you get there you’ll have the answer without having to do any work.

That’s what I usually do, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of night with the answer, but other times I end up having to postpone writing for a few days while I wrestle with a plothole, even one that I knew that was coming.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all part of writing. Just write, and you’ll get there in the end.

So, since writing works differently for everyone (and sometimes even differently for the same person, when writing different books), these are more rules to just help you get to a place where you can start writing your story. You can write the actual story however you want.


i. Always write about zombie cats.

By which I mean: write the book that only you can write. Don’t chase trends, because by the time you finish, edit, get a book deal, edit again, and finally publish your version of the next dystopian bestseller, the market will be oversaturated with them.

You can’t write with the intention of making money. You won’t enjoy writing the book as much, and you can’t predict what will become a bestseller anyway. Nobody can.

Instead of trying to play the market, just write the quirky, unique idea that only YOU can write, regardless of whether you think it will sell or not. Don’t worry about getting it published. Just write the book you love, and someone else will love it as much as you do. You want to find the editor and agent who loves zombie cats just as much as you do.

Write the book that you can’t sleep for thinking about; the story you want to share with everyone you meet, the one you want to keep just for yourself. Your love for your story will shine through, and that is what publishers are looking for.

ii. Don’t get bogged down in detail. Just get it done.

The most life-changing thing I’ve ever read about writing was the concept of the [TK] note: that instead of stopping writing to fact-check something on google, just leave yourself a [TK] note in the middle of the sentence and come back to it in the next draft, whenever that may be. It doesn’t matter. It will wait. The story is more important than the individual scene.

That changed the entire way I think about first drafts. When you first write a story, you have one goal. It doesn’t have to have perfect grammar, or be completely fact-checked. It doesn’t even have to have every scene or detail. All it has to do is exist. Everything else comes afterwards.

There’s no point spending months editing and re-editing the first two chapters until it’s perfect if you never write the rest of the book. In the second draft, you might decide the book would be better if it started at a different scene, and all of your perfect sentences and months of work will have been wasted. You simply can’t start editing a book until it’s done; until you can see it as a whole, and analyse it.

Just write the book. Leave it full of [TK]s and fix them in three months time. Give yourself permission not to be perfect. You wouldn’t expect yourself to run a marathon perfectly the first time you practised. Why would you expect yourself to be able to write a book? Take breaks to catch your breath. You’ll do better next time around the circuit.

iii. Read your genre. Read other people’s genres. Read every genre.

As a writer, you have to accept that everything has been done before. Many, many times before. There are no original ideas. At least, not if you stick to one genre. Everything that can been done in a detective novel has been done, hundreds of times before. There are no new twists.

If you mix genres, though – if you write about a detective on a spaceship, for example – there are endless things which have never been done before. Old, used tropes suddenly seem familiar and comforting in a new genre.

Read everything and anything. Mix and match. Inspiration strikes in the oddest of places.

iv. Engage critically with what you read.

The best training to learn how to write is not to pay for a Creative Writing course. The best way to learn is to read as much, and as widely, as possible. Think about your favourite books – what do you enjoy about them? What works? What doesn’t? Which sections do you find yourself skipping? Which scenes leave you breathless, unable to stop reading? See what works in books, and use it in your writing. Learn from the best.

v. Don’t live your life at a desk. Then you’ll have nothing to write about except writing.

There’s a reason that literary novels are mocked for always being about middle-aged English professors having affairs. It’s because people tend to write what they know, and what they’ve experienced themselves. So make sure your experiences aren’t all about sitting at a desk, struggling to write.

If you want to be a writer, maybe consider studying something other than English at university. I studied Physics and Chemistry, and it was the best possible thing I could have done to prepare me to become a writer. I learn about things other than books and reading. I spent a year abroad. I became a rounded person, with things to put in books. Your laptop will always be waiting. Go on adventures too.

vi. Finished your story? Hide it away. Leave it there….until you can’t remember how it felt to write it.

Do not start editing a book as soon as you finish writing it. Do not! It will not work! You’ll find yourself knit-picking commas and adverbs instead of looking at the story objectively as a whole. Leave it until you can read it with a bit of perspective. You need to be detached enough to be able to cut out scenes without it hurting. Otherwise it’ll just grow and grow forever without getting any better.

Finally, good luck! I believe in you. Go and write about your zombie cats.

Four Tips on writing a YA Romance book

1) Break with tradition
I’ve always been a huge fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, so when I started writing my first novel I knew I wanted some element of fluffy romance in the story. However, I’m also a huge fan of time travel adventures like Doctor Who, Outlander and The Time Traveller’s Wife, so I wasn’t prepared to just write a simple regency romance! I always try to twist expectations from the traditional outcome – if a scene looks like it’s going to go in one direction, I will take it in the opposite one. I love my twists.

2) Don’t be afraid of tropes
I love using romance tropes in new ways, so when I started writing I made a list of the guilty pleasures that I love in books, and tried to include as many as possible.


My original list

This included things like emotional carriage rides, secret betrayals, being forced to work together for a school project, undercover spies, in-jokes and lots more! It made the book a lot more fun to write. I hope it makes readers go oooh when they find a trope they love.

3) Know your characters
I’m really interested in the idea of Nature versus Nurture. I wanted to explore whether two people who were perfect for each other in one life would still fall in love in another – when they had been raised in different settings and had been through different life experiences. It made for a very interesting variety in how their relationships developed over time, based on their relative social statuses.

Having so many different versions of the characters really allowed me to get to know them, and understand the core of their character traits. At this point I think I know them better than I know myself!

4) Enjoy yourself!
Don’t afraid to embrace the silliness and joy of falling in love. Especially for Young Adult literature, when you’re writing about teenagers falling in love for maybe the first time, there should be a sense of delight and happiness in the characters’ interactions. Love is ridiculous and full of nonsense in-jokes and teasing banter, and capturing that will make a story much more realistic.


If you liked this post then you might also want to check out my list of excuses for not writing, and why they are nonsense.

You can find a rebloggable version of this post here.

Article for The Guardian: Scientific inaccuracies your favourite historical characters definitely believed

From smoking being good for you, to it being possible to turn metal into gold, have you ever wondered what Mr Darcy, Dr Frankenstein and Miss Marple would have accepted as plain fact? Lauren James reveals all here!

Mr Darcy
Mr Darcy (seen here played by Colin Firth in the film of Pride and Prejudice) would have surely believed that metals could be turned into gold if you tried hard enough. Photograph: BBC Photo Library/BBC

My first novel The Next Together uses the concept of reincarnation (and time travel!) to explore whether people intrinsically change just by being born in different time periods. The insurmountable barriers of time and space don’t stop my characters from falling in love with each other. However, being born in different points in history does cause some problems. In particular, they often have wildly differing opinions about technology and medicine, due to the current scientific knowledge of their time periods.

A character born in 1745 will believe different things about the world to one born in 2015 – such as how to treat a headache, or whether it’s possible to travel by flying. The same is true for every character throughout history, even those that are relatively modern. Miss Marple, for example, would have believed that smoking is healthy, something that was only disproved in 1948.

Miss Marple
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (seen here played by Julia McKenzie) would have believed smoking was perfectly healthy. Photograph: ITV Plc

It is inevitable that nearly all of our favourite characters from historical fictional would have accepted some truly terrible scientific inaccuracies as plain fact. Hamlet, born in the fifteenth century, would have insisted that the sun orbits the earth. This was only disproved fully by Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century.

Some of these hypotheses would be considered ridiculous to believe today – such as the idea that a fire element called phlogiston was needed to burn things, which seventeenth-century Don Quixote would have thought to be true. This mysterious element was only discovered to be oxygen over a hundred years later.

Lauren James: the insurmountable barriers of time and space don’t stop my characters from falling in love with each other. Photograph: Pete Bedwell.

It’s impossible to deny that Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy would have believed that metals could be turned into gold if you tried hard enough, but we can still imagine that despite his environment and upbringing, he would have upheld modern moral and ethical standards. We all want to think that our fictional faves secretly supported gender equality and an end to slavery.

Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara fromGone With The Wind, set at about the time that Mr Darcy was probably funding the research of fortune-seeking alchemists, would have believed that it was possible to spontaneously combust. The myth that you had to be constantly on your guard against the possibility of bursting into flames without warning was spread by Charles Dickens, who used it as a plot device in his novel Bleak House. In fact, as recently as the 1970s it was hypothesised that spontaneous combustion was caused by depression.

Mary Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein, despite his creativity with reanimated corpses, would have believed that bloodletting cured illness, something which would horrify modern doctors. It was believed until the mid-nineteenth century that by collecting the blood of a sick patient the imbalance of their humours would be corrected, curing their illness. The existence of humours is another scientific inaccuracy, one that has been believed for millennia, maybe as far back as the time of Achilles and Patroclus.

In the early twentieth century, Sherlock Holmeswould have believed the atom was the smallest possible type of matter, and couldn’t be split further. Protons, neutrons and electrons were only discovered in 1917 by Ernest Rutherford. This atomic breakthough would have been read about with much interest by the detective.

While even the most admirable of fictional creations would have believed some pretty ridiculous things, I think we should be able to find it in our hearts to forgive them for this. After all, they are a product of their time. In future years we might also be mocked for our beliefs.

In February of this year, a new model made by physicists Ahmed Farag Ali and Saurya Das predicted that the Big Bang might not have been the start of the universe after all. The model suggests that the universe had always existed, long before the Big Bang. If this is proven to be accurate, the theory of a giant explosion “creating the universe” could turn out to be one of the scientific blunders of our generation.

The Next Together

Is time travel possible? Should the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park really have been feathery, after all? Is Pluto a planet?

Only time will tell.

Read the rest at The Guardian website!