Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Posts Tagged ‘WIP update

Writers’ Group – 1; Panster – 0

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At last month’s Writers’ Group we discussed submission letters, reading ours to the group and taking comments. The three sentences in my letter describing my novel elicited a question about what it is about my character that makes her choose to stop having chemotherapy treatment. My colleague said, ‘I suppose that’s in the synopsis.’ Well, no, I thought, but didn’t let on.

Being the panster I am, it was only when he made this comment that I realised my character is a control freak. As I looked from a distance at the emails she writes, and her behaviour though the timeframe of the book, this is blindingly obvious. I have been too close to see before, worrying more about the grammar of the writing than the purpose of my characters.

I did not change my submission letter, but I did re-work my synopsis. I introduced the newly identified, but always there, key personality trait and did a little tweaking while I was at it, removing redundancy, re-ordering events. I sent both out, with the first three chapters of the book, as I have been throughout the year, expecting nothing in return. But, hey presto, at the beginning of this week I received an email inviting me to pitch my novel. I am flabbergasted, over the moon, and completely unprepared. Thankfully I have a couple of weeks to learn ‘how to pitch a novel,’ as well as get it written and rehearsed. I am going to make sure I don’t trip over my shoes and waste this opportunity.


Written by Sarah Ann

November 11, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Oh those poor agents – #amwriting, #amediting

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I am not sure what I was on in March when I thought that my has-been-going-on-forever book was publishable as it was. Perhaps I made too much use of my friend’s Nespresso machine and excess caffeine caused delusions. On the advice of my new writing friend Lou, who said the book was almost there but not quite, I have been re-reading and re-editing. Chapters 1-3 haven’t been covered in so much scribble since a major re-write two years ago. And when I found a typo in Chapter 2, I wanted to jump up and down and pull my hair out. A train pulls away, not ‘as the trained pulled away.’ How did I miss it? As I paced my friend’s kitchen, coffee in hand reading aloud, how did I not stumble over this mistake? I don’t know, but I did, and it makes me unhappy to know I sent out a manuscript that wasn’t just not perfect but also contained errors.

I have worked on Chapter 3 today, which was previously chapter 4, and found yet another mistake – a we instead of a with, as in ‘take a walk we me.’ Again, how is it only now I am seeing it? I want to boil my head for my stupidity/ poor eyesight. Instead I will plod on. It has taken me three weeks to get this far (p. 21), slotting in reading and editing between appointments, typing in changes while hubby watches TV. I just hope I can keep the same mood and frame of mind until I reach the end of p. 212, as the changes need to be uniform and the feel of the book consistent.

As for the eight agents I submitted to in April, one replied the book was a near miss for her, three others said, no thanks in the current market, and after the passage of time, I imagine I will not be hearing from the remaining four. I will be working on my re-submission next week.


Written by Sarah Ann

June 7, 2017 at 1:30 pm

#amwriting – Agents, here I come.

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My novel to pitch is now with eight agents. While I hoped this would take a day, it took two, as submissions were adjusted to meet agency specific requirements. Some require a query letter instead of a cover letter and synopsis. Most want the first three chapters as attachments, although one preferred the first chapter pasted into the body of an email. And there are agents who want submissions via hardcopy only, which I will approach once I have a new toner cartridge for my printer.

I realise submitting to agents should be an ongoing process until I find representation. However, it has been an energy-sapping couple of days and I am looking forward to writing again without strictures.


Priorities for the next fortnight: edit and write short stories based on friend’s picture prompts; prepare more agent submissions.

Ongoing projects successfully met: novel has been submitted; Friday Fictioneer stories have been posted regularly; piano practice has taken place; crochet projects have been completed.

Ongoing projects partially met: blog posts about writing and progress have been sporadic; blog reading is improving.

Ongoing project fails: learning Italian has taken a back seat.



Written by Sarah Ann

April 22, 2017 at 11:35 am

And she’s off

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This morning I wrote 1000 words of a new short story. The incentive is a competition with a deadline of 13th February 2017. There is no theme and no chance of me winning. However, I am still committed to writing upto 2000 words and sending them off. Procrastination is my greatest problem, ideas float around in my head and there is always some reason, usually something inconsequential like housework, that prevents me writing. In this instance I had a vague idea on Monday, scribbled on some paper on Tuesday, and sat at my laptop this morning turning those two initial paragraphs into my character’s background. I haven’t quite worked out how sinister she is, or whether she is at all. The story hasn’t ended, there are two deaths and a visit to A&E to describe, so with only 1000 words left, I suspect the story will grow quite a bit before I do some much needed paring. But the point is, I have started and could be halfway through. More importantly, I didn’t want to stop writing, but also didn’t want to run out of words or get to a point where I couldn’t see which way to go, got bored, or didn’t like the character any more. Instead, I noted down some possible plot developments that I can pick up when I go back to it.

I am not someone who can carry too much at a time. I take on too many tasks, spread myself too thinly, and end up getting nothing done, so while there is a list of things I want to get done, I am starting small. As well as the competition story, I want to write one inspired by a friend’s print. Many moons ago a visual artist friend, Janice Hume, and I decided to collaborate on a joint project – I’d give her some stories to illustrate; she’d give me some pictures to write stories about. We both made the exchange, and I worked up a story to one of her pictures, although I wasn’t happy with it. At the moment I am working on the picture below and have two character names – Elena and Pavel – and a comment about it always raining in the UK, and that’s it, but I know it’s going somewhere. There is something about the angle of the shoulders, or the way the men are sitting, that tells me there is a story here waiting to be written. The other things on the list can wait until these two pieces are done and dusted, or at least have each reached their fourth drafts.


Copyright Janice Hume

Written by Sarah Ann

January 12, 2017 at 8:01 pm

WIP Update – Jan 2015

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It has been a while since my last work in progress update. That’s because, although I have been writing, I have nothing to report.


On short stories:

All short story competition entries last year resulted in nothing. No magazines accepted any stories either, although I received letters from a few editors, saying, ‘We look forward to reading more of your work.’ I expect they say that to everyone. How many times do you approach the same magazine before giving up?


On the manuscript I thought was ready:

Having learnt that submission to more than one agent at a time is assumed and expected, I sent my book to be perused by three at the start of November. I had planned to send the manuscript on a rolling basis, maybe to three agents a month, until someone said they wanted to read more.

I also sent the first three chapters to a couple of fellow writers who I met at a conference in September. Their comments prevented me sending the manuscript to anyone else. There isn’t enough oomph in my story. I knew from talking with an agent at the same September conference that my story didn’t have a USP. With the help of my new writer friends, both of whose opening chapters are far better than mine, I might have found the book’s quite-interesting selling point. I need to start back at the beginning. I think the middle and end will stay much as they are, but the outset needs beefing up.


On new ideas:

There are far too many of those. I wrote 51000-words during November as part of NaNoWriMo. This was my first attempt and I didn’t expect to be able to write that much. It was an interesting process to put everything else aside and concentrate on one thing. I learnt I’m a pantser rather than a planner. I have 51000-words of a story about a therapist who counsels young people and suffers burnout because of the things he hears. It’s his story of recovery as well as those of the students he sees. It is a framework from which to build, and needs a lot of cladding as well as the incorporation of research.

Since the beginning of the year I have been working on another new character’s story, which I drafted during two nights of insomnia over the Christmas break. I have a real feel for this one, but that might be just because it’s fresh and new.


On self-publishing:

I will publish the writings based on the diaries written when I first moved onto a boat many years ago. This was in the process of being edited towards the end of last year and was ¾ of the way completed before NaNoWriMo happened and then 1st December crashed into Christmas. I’m not saying when, because I’m useless with deadlines, but it will happen this year.

Written by Sarah Ann

January 19, 2015 at 11:31 am

WIP Update July 2014 – Fingers and Pies

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There isn’t much to report but, even without news, work continues and this post is a series of disjointed goings-on.

Having read Jennifer Pendergast’s post regarding sagging in the middle, I have attempted some longer short stories – both from scratch and revisiting some old pieces that have been languishing on my laptop for a while. This has been possible because my completed book manuscript is away being perused by agent Number 2. (I have to chase early next week as the allotted six-weeks to wait are almost up. I’m not feeling overly optimistic by the lack of response to date. To prevent any delay in sending my rejected manuscript to agent Number 3, I have finally compiled a list of half a dozen agents and know (when I check the list) whom I wish to approach next. I will, of course, increase the length of the list as the rejections pile up.)

Returning to write short stories has flagged up that I don’t seem to be able to write long and short pieces at the same time. I don’t know why, but I wonder whether holding the thread of a book-length story in my head squashes other ideas. I know I have been surprised by the amount of time it takes to write, read, edit, re-write, re-read, re-edit, and perfect (although nothing is ever perfect) a 2-3000 word story. However, thanks to Jennifer’s post, I have started submitting short stories again to competitions and publications. I had limited success when I did the same five or six years ago and I am hopeful something concrete will come of it this time too. If not, then maybe that’s an indication I really should give up this writing lark.


Which brings me to fingers in pies – I have the normal number of fingers, but probably have them stuck in too many pies. I never said I wasn’t greedy.

I am working (very slowly) on another book, but don’t want to rush into it until the first one has found a publisher.

I am busy editing and polishing diary entries from 20-years ago when hubby and I first moved onto a boat. I hope to self-publish the tale of what a pair of naïve idiots we were by Christmas. (Yes, that was a flying pig flashing past the window).

The illustrated short story collection to be undertaken with Janice Hume is resting as she has a proper job. We will be meeting and discussing illustrations based on my stories and stories based on her illustrations next month.


Before my temporary separation from my blog towards the end of last year, I had become slightly obsessed with flash fiction challenges. Whilst encouraging the muse to perform and keeping her front of house, this resulted in guilt and procrastination. Guilt that I wasn’t contributing enough to the blogs of others in terms of reading and commenting, and procrastination, in that I could avoid doing my own writing by entering challenges and reading other blogs. To wit, I have reduced the number flash fiction challenges I undertake. During a recent comment conversation with Janna T, we agreed to stop beating ourselves up if the muse and time just don’t allow us to submit. So I will be participating, sporadically.


I need to adjust my focus, re-assign my time. Not living a structured life is an excuse. I thrive on routine and its opposite, but always seem to be caught in the middle with a bit of both and can never get the balance right. Hubby has finished his studies so writing-Thursdays are a thing of the past. One day down and I’m trying to fit more in. I need someone to beat me into being organised and sticking to the plans I write.


Written by Sarah Ann

July 16, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Sarah Ann’s Shorts Falls Short – WIP Update

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I think it’s safe to say that the optimism and energy of last August dissipated toward the end of the year. My plans to self-publish my short stories faltered when I read advice that said it was dangerous – a badly written, badly edited self-published book can end a career as well as launch one. I worried, I wobbled, and decided against. But since then I’ve re-read some of my stories, had a rethink, and decided to try again. It’s too easy to be a writer who writes but isn’t read.

Russell over at What’s So Funny had the same idea as me for a cover design. It must have me been discussing it with hubby that created enough morphic resonance for the thought to carry across the ocean. Or maybe, great minds just think alike. I have recovered from Russell getting there first and Plan B is to create an illustrated book with friend and creative colleague Janice Hume. (And I’m not copying kz either.)  Jan has read the first crop of stories I plucked from my hard drive and not gone off the idea of entangling herself with me. So I must continue editing and collating, and wait until she has a gap in her schedule of photography shoots and design assignments, before we put our heads together. Of course, Sarah Ann’s Shorts has had to go as a title and a concept. It’s Hall and Hume now, and we need a new title.



For more info on books to which I refer above, click the links:

Russell Gayer’s The Perils of Heavy Thinking

KZ Morano’s 100 Nightmares


Written by Sarah Ann

April 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm

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