Four Green Squares

the tiny little blog no-one will ever read

Longlisting News April 10, 2018

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 3:03 pm

I am amazed and pleased to announce that a draft of my novel-in-progress Until Guilty has been longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize.  Congrats to everyone who made the longlist. It’s very inspiring company to keep!

This is the second longlisting for Until Guilty, along with the Exeter Prize.  2018 is shaping up to be a good year!


Believe it or not October 26, 2017

Filed under: the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 5:39 pm

They are not actually as much help as they think they are…

And in other news, my story “Lost Memories of Air” won the Silver Pen Association’s annual award! Maybe they are inspiration after all?


Time for some news? November 28, 2016

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:09 pm

After a long silence, some news….

First, my story “Lost Memories of Air” is out in Liquid Imagination. I love the teaser line (which is also the first line of the story): “I like Grandma better dead. Even when she does things like this.”

How can you NOT want to read it now?

Also, since I’m here, I’ll add a very late promo announcement for the third annual Clarion

Get your Yellow Volume now! (art by the amazing E.G. Cosh)

Get your Yellow Volume now! (art by the amazing E.G. Cosh)

2012 Awkward Robots fundraiser anthology. Titled the Yellow Volume, its available on pay-what-you-want, with all proceeds going to the Clarion Foundation to support the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop.

My story is called “Half the World is Night” and its about making ice and killing monsters in the desert…


Belated Celebrations: Goodbye, 3rd draft!! (And now 4th too!!) September 21, 2016

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:11 pm

A/N: I wrote this back in April, but was so busy with beta reader crits and getting the 4th draft done that I forgot I wrote this until now. Oops.

=>Finished the third draft today. Holy, holy f**k. It feels amazing to have reached this point. At so many times, over so many years, I truly doubted I could make it (okay, today I might have cried as I hit save. The YA-writer angst is in my blood, I suppose). But every time I went in a bookstore, I kept chiding myself: did I really think all those people could do something I couldn’t?

It feels really strange to be done. The thought of starting something new is…daunting. But intoxicating. That rush of inspiration. But now I know how long and twisting the road is…

Fine, fine. I’ve already started something else. Don’t judge.

And that makes it seem strange to look back on Nothing and Forever (though I’m thinking of changing the title to The Flip Side) in hindsight. I call it my 2014 NaNoWriMo project, though pure coincidence that I started it then and I never actually NaNoed. I finished the first draft in early 2015 then let it rest until Easter, when I broke my foot and had to skip EasterCon. My consolation prize: a long weekend to begin to make sense of my messy, messy first draft—and realising I had no idea how to apply my Clarion short story editing skills to novels. With short stories, it’s easy to keep the whole thing in my head even as I chop and change. I can keep a mental flipchart of what I had, what I want, what I cut, what disarray I’ve currently created. But novels are so freakin’ big…

So major heartfelt thanks (again) to all my Clarion instructors for sharing their wisdom, to all my writing friends who read snippets, listened to me blather on about my imaginary friends and how evil to them I planned to be. But in the end, just like writing the damn beast in the first place, editing is a forged-by-fire type deal. You gotta get down there knowing you *will* get burned.

So I backed off the second draft for a bit, thinking what story I really wanted to tell, what the arcs should be, etc, etc. Poking at it now and then. Then came summer 2015. My daughter spent 6 weeks with my parents, and I spent 6 weeks of 12–18 hour days with my novel. The closest I could get, I suppose, to applying my short-story/total-immersion method. The story came alive as I broke down scenes and acts, reconstituted them around the right emotional cores. I got the second draft done in those 6 weeks—but sprained my brain so much I couldn’t really look at it again until November. Which, at least, gave my first amazing beta time to tackle the beast.

During which time, of course, I had a major crisis of confidence about the new arcs etc. I went back to outlining, came up with a new structure, tore into the book, intent on imposing that vision. Got about halfway, found myself trudging through growing unease that although I was making things *different*, they weren’t necessarily *better*, and ultimately realised that nope, my original structure and arc were right. So then I had to revert-but-keep-those-few-nifty-plot-twists, plus finish edits to my original vision, which was now Draft 3. That took until April (A/N: When I originally wrote this). I remember I sold my house, finished the book, and was re-elected Chairperson of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio all in the same week—on top of full-time freelancing and being a single parent.

I gave it one more read through and a tinker, and shipped it out to betas. Went through it again and gave myself 8 pages of continuity notes. Nearly fainted at the Draft 3 wordcount: 123,786. Yikes. I knew it was still a kitchen-sink draft, but wanted beta-reader input as to where pacing really flagged to get a better idea of where I needed to cut.

So that’s how 3 drafts took 18 months. Way too slow, but I know I can get through edits faster now that I know the process. In fact, Draft 4 took only about a month or so, and yeah, I know I wasn’t making major changes, but then again, I got it down to around 109,000 so definitely some major surgery going on.

I can also already see in the new book how having gone through the editing process is letting me make better choices in the first draft. I understand the implications—the promises and payoffs—of my choices so much better now so—hopefully!!—I’ll get away with less time during edits spent wandering in circles, trying to figure out which segment should be my character arc.

And so it’s done, draft 4 done too as of last week. I swear, finishing a book turns me into Ned Flanders, because once again, I keep wanting to say, “it’s done diddly-un, done-diddly-un” over and over. Post-book-brain. Hell of a thing.

Perfect frame of mind for figuring out my query, right?

UPDATE: my 4th-draft beta sent me this as a teaser to let me know she’d finished reading. Trust a fellow writer to know how to hang a cliff…



The next stage July 12, 2016

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:53 pm

Offering a printed-out (nearly final) draft of your novel to a beta reader is like handing over a still-bleeding hunk of your soul. 


The Flip Side December 21, 2015

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:32 pm

So the year of the edit draws to a close. I feel like I’ve been three rounds with this story and been KO’d each time.  



This is how you learn your opponent, no? Their head tilt before a low kick. The way they favour their left leg. The feint before a jab. The weaknesses. The tells that reveal who they are, who they really want to be.

I see you, story, so much better than I ever would have thought at the end of that stream of consciousness draft that poured out of me too fast to breathe. I see your feints, your fumbles, fancy footwork meant to dazzle but really distracting attention away from that unprotected flank.

And I also see those moments when the words peel themselves back up off the page and make magic, all on their own.

So, yeah. Editing.

It’s been… strange. I put the book away for a few months after finishing the second draft in August, filled with this grand idea that I’d pound out a quick first draft of something else. First drafts are not usually a problem for me, remember? The opposite, in fact. But this time…

Ahem. Who are these strangers and what the hell do they want? Normally, I love figuring all this out but now, for the first time I was aware—stub your toe in the dark type of shocking, total, instant knowledge that your inner map does not overlay the real world accurately—of how much longer and wider the road is.

How dirty my opponent is prepared to fight.

Because for the first time, I couldn’t do it. For the first time, I sat down to write and couldn’t simply dip the battered tin cup into the well of the subconscious, haul up wriggling words that couldn’t wait to fling themselves on the page.

Not writer’s block, though. No. Plenty of ideas, no problem there. More like this book, this goddamn book that I still love so much, this slippery just-one-more-draft-where-I-show-you-the-tricks-up-my-sleeve book. It’s gone and got itself more. More depth. More layers. More nuanced, conflicted characters. More painful choices for them to make. So much bigger than it was at the end of the first draft that my brain doesn’t have room for a new story at the moment.

And how strange it felt to sit down to do something, to want to do something, and realise that your brain won’t cooperate. Yeah, I could have forced it, but not the best choice. That would have been more like scurrying back to shore after finally battling out past the breakers.

Plus, I trust my subconscious when I write my books, so I supposed I should trust it when it tells me it still needs the brain-space for this holy-hell-ain’t-you-done-yet book. That working on something else would mean letting go of some of the pressure building, gelling, fermenting for this final draft.

The book is stronger, but somehow, to my utter surprise, so am I.

Round 4, here I come.

See you on the flip side.


Awkbot Anthology time again–and this time, it’s Orange! October 27, 2015

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 2:41 pm

The Awkbot Clarion Class of 2012 is once again releasing an anthology to fundraise for the Clarion Foundation–and you can grab it now for pre-order from our homepage on a pay-what-you-can basis. All money raised goes to the  Clarion Foundation.

Available now (art by E.G. Cosh)

Available now
(art by E.G. Cosh)

Just in time for Halloween, this year’s theme is Orange, and the anthology contains plenty of shivers, scares and spooky goings-on to make it the perfect thing to curl up with as the nights draw in. Curious to learn more? See what BoingBoing has to say.

Last year, we raised $1500 for Clarion, the marvel-mazing place that brought us together and gave us so much.

Hope you enjoy the stories!

Oh–right. My story.

How’s this for a teaser: In LOST MEMORIES OF AIR, the Festival for the Revered Dead draws to a close, and a young girl has to face what makes life–and the afterlife–worthwhile.

Not enough? I’ll even give you the first line:

I like Grandma better dead. Even when she does things like this.

C’mon, you know you want to find out what happens next, so grab a copy, enjoy some amazing fiction, and help support a great cause. The Orange Volume goes live on Oct. 31.


Four scenes to go until it’s not a WIP anymore August 5, 2015

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 2:46 pm

In honour of reaching the highly elusive stage of omg-I’m-nearly-at-the-end-of-this-draft, I present my fave line from today’s edits: 

“You realise that if the plan fails, you’ll have framed yourself for murder?” 

(And no, the next line is NOT “Guess we’d better not fail”)…


Write-a-Thon time again July 28, 2015

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 4:26 pm
Tags: ,

Oops. Very late this year, this being the last week and all of the Clarion Write-a-Thon.

Still not too late to sponsor me or indeed any of the other amazing writers participating. All money raised goes to the Clarion workshop in the form of scholarships for students. Anything helps, srsly.

I did have a big long blog post written for the occasion, but I’m sosososo close to finishing the novel that it has simply sucked up my entire life. I will get it up here soon. Thought it’s as good a testament to Clarion as any that I’m too busy writing the novel to post on my blog, instead of the other way around…

But until then, another excerpt from Nothing and Forever below the cut.



An Extremely Useful Editing Method for People who Hate Editing May 22, 2015

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:04 pm

So I’m about 6 months into novel-editing hell.

Accordingly, I’m slowly honing an Extremely Useful Editing Method for People who Hate Editing, which I present herewith for any like-minded parties.

  1. Yes. I can do this. Or rather, I MUST do this.
  2. Preferably with minimum tears.
  3. But first, tea. Everything starts with tea. I am in England, after all.
  4. Maybe I should, yanno, open the manuscript?
  5. Ditto actually open my eyes when I look at it?
  6. Ditto take my hands away from my eyes?
  7. Note I didn’t say “no tears” earlier.
  8. Lets really open up this file this time and—
  9. A spelling mistake. First line.
  10. Spelling mistake fixed.
  11. Hey, look at me, I’m editing!
  13. Maybe.
  14. So give up. Because it’s piss-or-get-off-the-pot time.
  15. Think of all those books on Amazon, in bookstores. All those people could do it. Do you really want to admit they can do something you can’t? You’ve already written the blasted thing. This is the home stretch.
  16. The dream of the perfect first draft will never die.
  17. Maybe I just have to dive in there and—
  18. Wait, I wrote this?
  19. Why do I not remember any of this?
  20. Okay, this bit I remember. It sucks.
  21. Figures.
  22. You know what else sucks? Romance subplots. I’m simply not a romantic at heart.
  23. On to the next scene and see what I have to work with.
  24. The Cut File is my new best friend.
  25. Maybe this would be better set at the beach.
  26. I want to marry my cut file.
  27. Make that a threesome with my ergonomic mouse.
  28. If I move this scene to later and add in a new one here, then that means—
  29. OMG OMG EPIPHANY: Your job as a writer is not to solve your characters’ problems for them. That’s their job over the course of the book. Your job as a writer is to give your characters the right problems to solve. What are the right problems? The ones that move them along their arc or force them to deal with the situation that, deep down, they are avoiding.
  30. It seems so clear. Wow.
  31. Stare out the window and marvel at this clarity. Wonderous.
  32. Except—how does that work in practice?
  33. Maybe if I merge these two characters…
  34. The dream of the perfect first draft is dead, and my cut file is its elegy.
  35. New mantra: Is it Scene? Is it Arc?
  36. Yes, no, yes, yes, no.
  37. I still think my cut file is a better book than what I have left.
  38. BUT IS IT ARC?
  39. Time for more tea.
  40. Not green tea either. High-octane tea.
  41. Halfway? When did that happen?

I’m now at the point where I have to read it all straight through. I know that Holly Lisle and Chuck Wendig both recommend reading it through as a first stage, but c’mon, I didn’t get in this mess in the first place by listening to wisdom from the trenches, did I? Besides, everyone needs a hobby. Mine is reinventing the wheel.


But here it is. Yes, humungous but I do the “comment” thing in Word, which means the actual page gets shrunk when you print it. To compensate, I upped the font to 14 pt. So between that and the ridiculously large margins due to comments, it was 435 pages printed out. I think it could kill a cat if dropped from waist height.

I shall keep you updated as and when…