My course is over for the summer and so, instead of spending my time reading other people’s books, it’s time to turn my attention to my own. I began book two in flurry of enthusiasm about this time last year and rattled off the first thirty thousand words or so pretty much without drawing breath. Then along came the holidays and the children and the course and work and suddenly my time was diminished and my muse took a cheeky sabbatical.

But my dream remains very much intact and so I decided to lock myself away in my metaphorical garret (the playroom) and continue. When I reread what I’d written I wasn’t too disheartened. I was still interested in my story which was a good start and found the things that I had hidden in the plot to be rediscovered later. However, it quickly became apparent why I had put it to one side last September. I was stuck!

From my huge novel writing experience, I have learned that it is not enough to have a story that you wish to tell. In some ways that is the easy bit. I dream up an idea and some characters and it all seems hunky dory. But then comes the realisation that you can’t just take them from A to B. That does not a novel make. You need the twisty turn bits, the parts that the reader is intrigued by and which stop him or her from guessing the outcome unsatisfactorily early. You need sub plots.

So then I struck upon a fabulous idea. I was about to go to France for a long weekend with a friend whose opinion I trusted so I sent her the draft. She read it as we reclined in the Mediterranean sunshine. From behind my kindle I searched her face for clues as she turned the pages. Was it ok so far? Was she engaged or just going through the motions to please her deluded mate? After what seemed like an age she sat back and closed her iPad. “So?” she said with a smile. “What happens next?”

And thus began a highly entertaining couple of days. We picked at my characters, testing their motivation  and the strength of their relationships. We challenged my themes, hunting for the inconsistent and the glib. And then we played ‘what if?’ coming up with numerous plot turns with varying degrees of ludicrousness. I baulked at ideas that might involve major plot shifts – we can save that for the rewrites – and some ideas didn’t match with things that are in my head but not yet on paper. But by the time we’d finished I had some decent kernels to work with to get me to my denouement. And, more to the point, we had a laugh.

I have promised her that when my novel published, I will put her and our trip in my Acknowledgments so the world can know of our time in France. I also warned her that we may have to have a repeat trip should my muse desert me again!  In reality this book will no doubt end up in a virtual drawer like its predecessor but I’ll never succeed if I don’t keep trying and I’m nothing if not determined!