Counting the days

It's 10 June, and I'm four days into my English Language coursework. Already feeling like I've gone a bit mad. I keep telling myself it only counts for 12.5% of my overall grade, but it's still enough to put me into 'coursework hibernation' until the deadline. I've been in my room for days, like a tortoise in winter, only venturing out for food and coffee. The question is on the communicative opportunities afforded by 'old' and 'new' media. I'm not entirely sure what I'm arguing for in the essay, but it's probably incoherent. Argh.

Back to the world outside my exam nest. We're going into the eighth week of Trinity Term, meaning most people will be off home for the summer this coming weekend. I'm sad to say that most of my American friends, who were visiting for a year, will be leaving Oxford and returning to their colleges in the States. I'm really going to miss them, especially my friend Rian. I ducked out of my room yesterday to go out for a final meal, during which I sampled "angel spaghetti" spaghetti dyed with squid ink. Possibly the strangest culinary experience I've ever had, but it was a lovely evening.

Work on The Bone Season continues  a little slower than usual for exam-related reasons, but it does continue. Itching to sit down and edit properly. I've done most of the little edits now getting rid of adverbs, touching up syntax, that sort of thing  and am now working on larger structural edits that require a lot more concentration. My deadline is the end of July, so I'll have just over a month to get it done. I think I can do it. Think. Optimism. After the edits have been reviewed, the MS will go to a copy-editor, who will smooth out things like tenses and typos. We should have a bound proof by the end of the year. I'm so excited to see what the cover will look like. I understand David Mann, the Art Director at Bloomsbury, is already cooking up some ideas for it. It's kind of nerve-racking for me, as I've never been sure how I'd pictured the cover, but I've seen some of David's previous designs and I trust him to come up with something brilliant.  

Another book-related question from Steven:

  • Did you get anyone to read your work before you sent it off and was it helpful?  

    When I was writing Aurora, I asked one of my mum's friends to take a look at the MS when it was in its early stages. Fran, a short story writer, was incredibly helpful: she made lots of comments on the document and helped me target one of my initial weaknesses, which was sentence structure. I used to write very convoluted sentences and describe simple actions with a lot of words. Fran helped me combat that weakness early, and I'm now much more economical when I choose my words. It can be very helpful to find someone who's willing to look at your work and see how it reads. If you don't feel you can show your friends, there are many professional services you can use.

    With The Bone Season, I didn't show anyone the manuscript originally. I was a lot more secretive about my writing and I felt I'd ironed out a lot of the problems I'd had with Aurora. I only showed it to someone when an opportunity arose at college to have the MS looked at by a published author. I showed it to Ali Smith, who said she thought I should send it to an agent. I didn't have the MS professionally appraised at any point.

    In general, I'd advise you to trust your instinct. If you're uncomfortable about how the manuscript reads, you're probably right. Show it to someone you trust and get them to see how they find it. If you want to take it further, send a few chapters to a professional. However, I'd advise against getting the entire MS appraised. Not only is it very expensive, but most of the general faults can be picked up in the first few pages. Only seek professional appraisal of the whole MS if you feel there's something wrong with the structure. And remember, don't be afraid to start again. Sometimes you just need a clean slate.


  1. I love your blog's new tagline :)

    Good luck with your exam! You won’t miss those essay questions after you've graduated :)

    It must be so exciting to think that you'll be seeing a bound proof of your book by the end of the year! That’d be a pretty awesome Christmas gift ;-)

    1. No, I certainly won't miss them! And yes, I'm so excited about the proof. My birthday's in November so it'll be a nice 21st/Christmas pressie.

  2. Hi Sam, I have no idea how to post my question or rather where should I post it so I just hope you'll see this. Anyways my question is how does your publisher and agent feel with sequels? You the thing is I am currently plotting out my own series but the way i see it, it would need nine books to finish the story. I am afraid that agents/publishers might only want to represnt or publish one book. thanks

    1. I'll give you a detailed answer to this question in my next blog, but very simply: it's absolutely fine to do a series. Publishers generally prefer it if you plan to write more than one book. I'd advise you to write the first book so that it can be read by itself, but that hints at the possibility of a sequel.

      Samantha x

  3. I can't wait to see what you've written. I see us as being similar people based on what I know about you. I write day and night, as much as i can, and my parents think its a waste but i know they're wrong. If i didn't write I'd go mad. It's a crazy thing, writing, and being able to do it as a career would be amazing.
    As a writer myself, I find it difficult to compliment someone else's work when I'm stemming with jealousy. I wish you luck nonetheless though.


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