Don’t Give Up Too Soon


TRUE STORY: Once upon a time, I wrote a book. I was very happy with what I’d written – excited by it, even. I handed it into my publisher feeling elated.

Then I got my editor’s letter.

In summary: she didn’t like what I’d written.

She liked the way I’d written it but not the key storyline, which she asked me to take out.

I was gutted.

But I took out the storyline and delivered Draft Two.

I handed it into my publisher feeling relieved to have completed the rewrite but slightly dejected. It didn’t feel like it was mine any more. It felt flat and uninspired.

Then I got my editor’s second letter.

In summary: she didn’t like what I’d written.

She felt it was lacking in drama.

I agreed.

But by this time I was so disheartened.

I was about to move house. I had another book to deliver. I didn’t have time to do another major rewrite. I didn’t have the energy.

I cried.

I got into a major ‘woe is me‘ strop.

I comfort ate my way through the Cadburys catalogue.

I wondered if I ought to just quit.

Sometimes giving up can seem like such an inviting option.

Especially when you’re wrung out and feel stretched to breaking point.

Quitting = an end to the stress

Quitting = an emotional fire exit

But giving up too soon can lead to a lifetime of ‘what if‘s and disappointment.

Sometimes, when you’re close to giving up, that’s the very time you need to dig in and double down and graft your way through to the other side.

You don’t need to quit, you need shedfuls of grit.

Once I’d taken a couple of days to wallow in self pity I reminded myself that having a book deal – especially nowadays – is a privilege and an honour.

I reminded myself of how hard I’d worked to get to this point.

I reminded myself that sometimes life isn’t easy but it’s the hard times that make you appreciate the good.

I told myself that I’d rather be a grafter than a quitter any day of the week.

And then a very good friend of mine gave me this invaluable piece of advice:

‘You sound as if you’re not coming from your heart any more. You’re too caught up in your head. Forget what’s happened and tune into your heart. Write from your heart. Forget all the rest.’

So I got back into my heart and I got stuck in.

And I approached the story with fresh, rather than jaded eyes.

And I wrote for from the heart and for the love of it – and for the love of my characters and the reader too.

And this time round, the writing experience was an absolute joy.

Everything fell into place.

I laughed and I cried and I hoped and I dreamed along with the characters.

And when I typed THE END I knew that this third version of the book was the best by far.

But if I’d given up after the second version it never would have seen the light of day.

Sometimes we need to push ourselves to the limit to discover what we’re capable of.

We need to push ourselves past the fire exit marked QUIT to find our way to the prize.

Athletes know this.

They train themselves to break through the wall. To keep going no matter what.

Creatives need to do this too.

We need to train ourselves to overcome criticism and rejection and the desire to quit and to keep on creating anyway.

I delivered the third version of the book to my publisher feeling happy and light.

Then I got my editor’s third letter.

In summary: she loved it.

She thanked me for not giving up.

I thanked her for pushing me to do my very best.

Don’t give up too soon. Dig in. Double down. Keep on creating from the heart. Keep on pushing yourself to do your best work.


Need help with your writing…?


If you enjoyed this post you might like my book DARE TO WRITE A NOVEL, available from Amazon here.

You can find out more and download it as a PDF here.

And you can follow my writing-related posts on Instagram here.






Question Everything

‘We’d like you to become a school prefect,’ my Head of Year told me as we stood in the middle of the windswept playground.

He’d just shown me a register of my attendance – or non-attendance. I hadn’t attended school for a full week for most of the term.

It was an unusual choice of punishment.

I’d been skipping school to hang out in my older friends’ flat, listening to The Clash and Linton Kwesi Johnson and talking ’bout a revolution. It was the 1980s – people still believed real change was possible back then.

My Year Head had seen me slip from an A grade student to A grade skiver and his offer of a prefect’s position was meant to entice me back into the fold.

‘Becoming a prefect is an honour,’ he told me. ‘It would look great on your CV.’

Part of becoming a prefect meant standing on duty on the school doors at break time, stopping other students from coming into the school.

I didn’t see this as an honour, I saw it as slave labour – students giving up their breaks to do a job that surely should be the responsibility of the staff.

So I told my Year Head that I wasn’t willing to become a prefect as I didn’t believe in the prefect system. I outlined my reasons why.


Then he nodded and smiled. Instead of bollocking me I saw a flicker of respect in his eyes.

Looking back now I see that I was lucky – another teacher might not have been nearly as understanding.

But I’m so grateful he was because it taught me an important lesson at an early age: Don’t be afraid to question everything.


From the moment we’re born we’re told that we have to accept certain things – the norm, the status quo, our parents’ and society’s rules.


But so often this involves massive compromise – we have to shrink ourselves and our beliefs and passions to fit these rules.

And a shrunken life is a miserable life. Trust me, I know.

In the years since my playground encounter I’ve questioned the norm over and over and over again. And as a result my life has been immeasurably more fulfilling.

When I found myself unhappy and broke at the end of my second year at uni I questioned the commonly held belief that a university education is the golden ticket to life. I left and I got a job and I paid off my debts and I blagged my way into a graduate job and I achieved my dream of becoming a writer … all degree-free.

When I found myself a single mum I questioned society’s belief that single mums are a scourge on society; a bunch of benefit-scroungers bringing up packs of feral kids. I started my own coaching business and I created a happy, vibrant home for my son and my family of friends. I wore my indie mum badge with honour and took an extra portion of pride in my son’s successes.

When I found myself dropped by my publisher seven years ago I questioned the commonly held belief that writers need a traditional book deal to find success. I self-published and achieved more success than I ever could have dreamed of.

When I found myself single again a few years ago I questioned the belief that we all need a partner to make us whole. I decided to swear off dating and men and romance for a while in order to focus on my dreams and goals. This turned out to be one of the best ‘questions’ of my entire life – filling me with a fearless, feisty sense of freedom that I’d always been lacking before. A freedom that led to some of my best adventures.

When I’ve felt stuck in a rut I’ve questioned the belief that we all need to settle down, mortgaged up to the hilt. And I’ve moved to brand new places to keep things fresh and fun. Once I even stuck a pin in a map (or hovered the cursor over a Google map), found a town called Berkhamsted and moved there three weeks later!

When I found myself home alone on Saturday night (I’ve just moved to another new town and don’t know many people here yet)  I questioned the belief that women shouldn’t go out on their own on a Saturday night and I took myself to a local benefit gig. I had a great time – chatting to new people and listening to live music and accidentally getting caught up in a bidding war in an art auction! I also met a couple of local writers who I’ve planned to see again.

FULL DISCLAIMER: Questioning things is not the easy route. It comes with a big old side-helping of fear and doubt and some very dark nights of the soul. All of the times I chose to question above I had to overcome huge amounts of fear and I had moments where I thought I was effing mad to have done what I did. But I hung on in there through the scary times and lived to reap the massive rewards.

Because questioning things leads to a life fully and imaginatively lived.

It blasts your life wide open to exciting possibilities.

Possibilities you would never have believed possible before.

Some questions for you…

What do you need to question in your life right now?

How are you shrinking yourself and your dreams to fit in?

What – if you scratch beneath the responsible, acceptable surface – makes you feel uncomfortable and restricted?

If you want to live a truly happy life, question everything.

And only trust the answer that makes you feel excited to be alive.





How Discipline Will Set You Free

“I’ve learned over the years that freedom is just the other side of discipline.” Jake Gyllenhaal

When you hear or see the word DISCIPLINE how does it make you feel?
It always used to make me squirm, conjuring images of restriction and rules and rigidity.
Discipline seemed to be the opposite of my free-sprited nature, something to be wary of. A crusher of boldness and imagination and dreams.
But not any more.
Now I love the concept of discipline with a passion because I’ve come to realise that discipline enables us to be free.
Let me explain…
Discipline helps me get up each morning at six, to start the day running in the hills as the sun comes up. This in turn sets the tone for the rest of the day. I feel energised, alive, happy and calm. I write more and I write better. Discipline helps me create.
Discipline helps me eat healthily which in turns enables me to get more done to go more places to feel happier and lighter. Discipline fuels my dreams.
Discipline helps me create workable writing schedules which in turn helps me to up my production. I’m currently working on two book series and a script plus some freelance editing. This work load would have made me cry before but discipline keeps me calm in the knowledge that I will get it done.
Discipline helps me to meditate every day which in turn helps keep me sane in this crazy world. It reminds me to not sweat the small stuff and reminds me that Love is all that really matters. Discipline gives my heart wings.
Discipline and freedom are two sides of the same coin.
Discipline is the grounding that allows you to fly free.


If you’re in need of some dream-spiration my new novel, The Moonlight Dreamers is available 

on Amazon here.

A beautiful book about friendship, standing up for what you believe in and finding the courage to be yourself and find your own unique place in the world.’ Lamont Books
Sensational and unforgettable, falling in love with this book came as naturally as breathing. The best book I’ve read all year.Blog of a Bookaholic

The Sweet Creativity of Doing Nothing

This is my bed.

I spent most of last Sunday here, doing nothing.

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Doing nothing but drinking ginger tea and eating fruit cake and DAYDREAMING.

For so long I thought that doing nothing was a waste of time.

In all honesty, doing nothing made me feel afraid.

Afraid of not earning enough money … every self-employed person knows that TIME IS MONEY.

Afraid of missing out … who knows what world shattering hashtag might be trending on Twitter.

Afraid of feeling lonely or bored … surely it would be way more fun to see who wants to come out to play.

But here’s what happens if you never do nothing; if you never let go of all the crutches and succumb to sweet solitude.

Your brain goes into overload, so full of ‘should‘s and ‘have to‘s that there’s no room for the fresh and the new. There’s no room for inspiration. And there’s every chance you’re going to short circuit.

As I lay on my bed, listening to music and watching the tree outside bobbing in the breeze, all the thoughts that had been cluttering my mind for the past week – about the unfinished projects, and the imminent house move, and the frickin’ cupboard that I still haven’t cleared – began filing themselves away.

I felt light and summer breezy.

The only questions that troubled me were which album to listen to next and which side to lie on.

It was blissful.

And then, completely unexpectedly, some brand new dreams began budding into life.

Instead of being plagued by ‘I should‘s I entertained myself with ‘I could‘s.

I could write this. I could create that. I could travel here. I could have an adventure there. 

It was as if inspiration had been waiting patiently for all the din to die down.

When’s the last time you intentionally and deliberately did nothing?

When’s the last time you carved a serious chunk of time out for some serious daydreaming?

When’s the last time you disconnected from the outer world so that you could reconnect with the inner?

Take out your diary now and make an urgent appointment with NOTHING.

Underline it for emphasis.

Don’t break your appointment with nothing for anything.

You’ll thank me for it, I promise.

And so will your dreams.



If you’re in need of some dream-spiration my new novel, The Moonlight Dreamers is available 

on Amazon here.

A beautiful book about friendship, standing up for what you believe in and finding the courage to be yourself and find your own unique place in the world.’ Lamont Books
Sensational and unforgettable, falling in love with this book came as naturally as breathing. The best book I’ve read all year.Blog of a Bookaholic


Forget About Fame – Ask for Wonder

“Never once in my life did I ask for success or wisdom or power. I asked for wonder.”

Abraham Heschel

A few months before my new novel, The Moonlight Dreamers, came out, a friend of mine who works in the book trade said to me, ‘You do realise that the only way you’re going to get UK bookstores to order your book in bulk is if you have an endorsement on the cover from A Celebrity.’
This annoyed me … but I was not surprised.
It annoyed me because I get so frustrated by our celebrity-obsessed culture. In fact, one of the major storylines in The Moonlight Dreamers is an attack on celebrity culture and the shallowness and spitefulness it inspires online and in certain sections of the media.
If I asked a celebrity to endorse this book I’d be being a total hypocrite.
But if book stores don’t order your book in bulk – or at all – what hope have you got for it to succeed?
There’s so much pressure on us in today’s society to ‘succeed’. And here, I’m referring to society’s definition of success, which seems to be measured purely in numbers.
Number of followers. Number of ‘friends’. Number of ‘likes’. Number of hits. 
Financial numbers. Sales numbers. Profit numbers. 
And the temptation to sacrifice your integrity in the pursuit of these numbers can be HUGE.
But I was brought up to practise what I preach – even if that means taking the harder path.
Even if that means missing out on so-called success.
So I didn’t approach any celebrities to endorse The Moonlight Dreamers.
Like the quote from Abraham Heschel at the top of this post, I asked for WONDER instead of fame or success.
I asked and I hoped and I prayed that the book would reach the people who would benefit from the messages contained within it. Free spirits who need a little encouragement in daring to dream.
I asked for the wonder of the written word and the way it is able to connect us, heart to heart and soul to soul.
And an incredible sense of wonder is what I am getting – by the bucket-load.
Wonder that what started out as this random scribbling in a notebook…
Ended up becoming this beautiful book…
Wonder at the messages I’m receiving from readers as far away as Australia, telling me that The Moonlight Dreamers has inspired them to re-ignite their own dreams.
Wonder that, within a few days of its release – and without a celebrity endorsement – it was topping two charts on Amazon and they had selected it as their YA Book of the Month…
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Wonder that Dubray, a chain of book stores in Ireland, had made it their recommended YA book of the month…
Wonder that it was being recommended as far afield as New Zealand too…
Wonder at the pictures of the book popping up on Instagram, from on board boats in New South Wales to beside swimming pools in spas…
Screenshot 2016-07-20 at 11.02.53
Right now, I am awash with wonder.
So, whatever your dreams and goals may be, forget about fame and focus on finding the wonder.
Fame and money and ‘success’ are fragile goals. Numbers can rise. But they can fall away too.
But wonder…
Wonder stays with you forever.

The Moonlight Dreamers is available on Amazon here.

How to Create a Colourful Cast of Characters

What makes a great book for you?

For me, it’s a cast of colourful, believable characters that I come to think of as friends.

The first time I started writing a novel I did very little preparation work on my characters – I was itching to get on with the story and I had a basic idea of what my main characters were like, so what could go wrong?

What went wrong was that, because my characters were only sketchy outlines in my mind, that’s how they appeared on the page.

And because I hadn’t taken the time to really get to know who they were, I didn’t know how they’d truly react in the situations I put them in.

So the writing of the book became very stop start and the actions of the characters inconsistent and unbelievable.

Thankfully, I realised what was wrong and instead of ploughing on regardless, I went back to the drawing board – or rather, the character board.

I decided to spend some time really visualising my characters and I trawled through magazines and websites, looking for images that related to them. Photos of people who looked how I imagined the character to look. And pictures of objects, outfits, phrases and places that I related to them.

And, as I pinned these images to a noticeboard on my wall, my characters finally started coming to life. Actually being able to see them and their world helped them become solid and three-dimensional, rather than sketchy outlines.

Once my character board was complete I sat in front of it with a notebook and jotted down any thoughts or ideas the images gave me for the characters and the plot.

And it was amazing just how many ideas I got.

From that moment on, I’ve always created character boards before I start writing a book.

My new novel, The Moonlight Dreamers, has just come out and it features four very different main characters.

Oscar Wilde fan Amber is an avid blogger and loves vintage clothes and records. Kind-hearted, hopeless romantic Maali is devoted to her Hindu faith and dreams of being able to talk to boys. New Yorker Rose is the daughter of famous and divorced parents and she dreams of owning a Harley Davidson and becoming a patissier. And free-spirit Sky lives on a houseboat with her yoga-teaching dad and dreams of finding the confidence to compete in poetry slams.

You can find character boards for all of them here. Simply click on the character’s name and scroll down the page.

You will see images of clothes and objects and quotes and places that are all in some way linked to the character.

Hopefully by looking at each board, you’ll begin to get a feel for the character and see how creating character boards of your own will help bring your own writing to life.

You can create physical boards in your office / home or you can create them online on Pinterest.

They’re a lot of fun to make and they’ll make the writing of your story so much easier … and the reading of your story so much more rewarding.


The Moonlight Dreamers is out now

… and Amazon have made it their YA Book of the Month.

A beautiful book about friendship, standing up for what you believe in and finding the courage to be yourself and find your own unique place in the world.’ Lamont Books
Sensational and unforgettable, falling in love with this book came as naturally as breathing. The best book I’ve read all year.’ Blog of a Bookaholic
This absorbing tale will inspire you to celebrate your individuality. A great contemporary summer read with a bit of Oscar Wilde thrown in.’ South Wales Evening Post Book of the Week

Find out more and order a copy here.



When You’re Drowning … Start Dreaming

If there’s one thing certain about life it’s that, at some point, things are going to get tough.

At some point, you’re going to feel as if you’re drowning.

The failure of an exam, the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one … or the steady drip-drip of day-to-day stress – any of these can pull you under, leaving all thoughts of achieving your dreams furthermost from your mind.

But it’s at these times that we need our dreams the most.

It’s at these times that our life goals can become life rafts.

One of the nicest things about writing for young adults are the emails I receive from readers.

Six years ago, when my first YA novel was published, a girl emailed me to let me know what she thought of it and to tell me all about her own writing dreams.

Her passion for writing shone through her email and her zest for life was infectious.

We kept up an intermittent email correspondence for the next three years and she kept me up to date on her latest hopes and dreams.

Then it all went quiet.

I found out a couple of years ago that she’d succumbed to an eating disorder and given up on her writing dreams. ‘I’m under too much pressure,’ she told me. ‘I can’t be bothered with writing any more.’

Her words broke my heart.

Because I know better than anyone how important it is to cling to your dreams when the going gets tough.

My own writing dream carried me through and ultimately out of, an abusive relationship. It repaired my shattered self-esteem and brought me happiness beyond my wildest dreams.

And this was the motivation behind my new novel The Moonlight Dreamers – to encourage others to dare to dream, even when the going gets tough. Especially when the going gets tough.


To my absolute delight, it appears to be working: In the weeks running up to publication I started receiving messages from book-sellers and reviewers, telling me how the book had inspired them. Here are a small selection:

‘It has been what I can only describe as a transformative experience. Maybe once every year a book like this comes along to tell me to keep going. I’m definitely a Moonlight Dreamer.’

‘Within the pages of this book I lost myself, but it was within these pages that I found myself too. Sensational and unforgettable, falling in love with this book came as naturally as breathing. The best book I’ve read all year.’

‘The Moonlight Dreamers is the book I had waited to be written for years. Female empowerment, realistic, creative characters with extraordinary ways of looking at the world. We need more of this in the world.

‘This inspirational story about following dreams and the power of female friendship is as rich,warm and cheering as being curled up with a mug of hot chocolate on a bitterly cold day.’


The Moonlight Dreamers officially launched today and you can order a copy from Amazon – who have made it their YA Book of the Month(!)here.

My publisher, Walker Books, have also set up a Moonlight Dreamers – which is crammed to the rafters with videos, posts and other fun resources designed to help you dare to dream. There’s also an Oscar Wilde plot generator – what better reason do you need for stopping by?

I’ll regularly be blogging at the new site and featuring inspirational guest posts from some seriously interesting people, so come on over and check it out. And if you’d like to write for the site, I’d love to hear from you.

Let me leave you with the Oscar Wilde quote that forms the beating heart of The Moonlight Dreamers:

‘Yes, I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees dawn before the rest of the world.’

Here’s to Moonlight Dreamers, the world over!