Milestones, Novellas and Ravens

Hello, Everyone! I imagine you were probably expecting another month’s worth of answers to the #AcresofInk Writing Challenge.

Surprise! It’s not… Sorry about that.

I confess I’ve been rather amiss with my blogging of late. It’s my aim to catch up eventually, but these last couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind of activity and, much to my chagrin, June looks even worse. So, without further ado…

I’m just stopping by the officially announce…



Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Yes my friends, it has been A Struggle. After many, many years of trials, tribulations and tears, I finally have done it. I have written A Book. I’m so, so happy.

So what’s next?

Well, for the time being, I’ve put myself on an Enforced Break, fully endorsed by my writing partner K.F. Goodacre. This means I’m not even looking at my novel and actively trying not to think about it… which is much harder than it sounds. In the meantime, K.F. Goodacre has taken my book off my hands and is going to spend the next two months doing an initial edit for me. What a brave soul she is…

RavensTo distract myself, I’ve been catching up on some TV (Black Sails anyone?), reading 18th century books that aren’t mine (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee) and keeping myself away from computer screens as much as possible. A couple of weekends ago my work colleague and friend from Latvia visited, and we went to the Tower of London to see the ravens ♥ This weekend just gone, I pampered myself with various lotions and potions (‘Drops Of Light’ facial peel from The Body Shop), enjoyed the warm weather and spent quality time with my boyfriend and his family. Self-care and socialising was something I seriously neglected during the months of March and April, so it feels good to be connecting with myself and the world again.

I’ve also started outlining a novella about my character, Jonathan Carson, which I’m hoping will inform my writing for Book 2 and also serve as a nice way to blow off steam when I eventually get round to editing my book. It is an absolute monster of a novel, standing at well over 200,000 words. I need to get it down to somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 plus sort out the worldbuilding, plus tighten up the plot, plus build on certain characters, plus cut others completely, plus

What was that? Oh yes, sorry, I’m not meant to be thinking about this stuff at the moment.

Until next time, Lovelies x

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 5: Questions 3, 4 & 5

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

3. Who is the book for and why will they love it?

I don’t want to be a legend. Oh,
Well that’s a God damned lie — I do.
To say I do this for the people
I admit is hardly true.

~ ‘Swallow’ – Emilie Autumn (Opheliac, 2006)

First and foremost The Mayor is for myself. It’s exactly the kind of book I enjoying reading, exploring themes and subjects of great interest to me, filled with characters I love and adore — I’d go crazy if I didn’t write their story down! That’s quite a selfish thing to say, isn’t it? It’s true though.

I haven’t written The Mayor with a particular demographic in mind, but still, one has to be able to market these things…

The Mayor is an adult historical fantasy novel. The story is very character driven and relationship-focused* with a female protagonist, which stereotypically appeals to women more than men (though I’ve had male beta readers and they’ve been very positive!). If you like gritty historical novels with a hint of magical realism, where seemingly small and innocuous actions ripple outwards with violent, often devastating effect, then you’ll find lots to love in my book.

*What ‘relationship’ means in this context: familial, romantic, sexual, political, professional, dysfunctional…

4. Your favourite thing that DIDN’T make it into the book (such as a background story, description or an erased character)

My favourite aspects of The Mayor that won’t make it into the final draft are usually to do with character backstories. One of my favourite backstories is that of Melora’s governess, Miss Lillith. Despite being an incredibly minor character — with one crucial part to play — she’s one of my most developed.

Identity TokenFirst, a history lesson: foundling hospitals were philanthropic institutions set up in the mid-18th century to take in abandoned children left there by desperate mothers, no questions asked. Sometimes the mothers would leave an ‘identity token’, should she one day return to lay claim to the child. These tokens could be anything: a scrap of paper with a message on it; trinkets ranging from pieces of glass and cotton to exquisite embroidery and jewellery. Some of these tokens are on display in the Foundling Museum (click here). I find it desperately sad to look at them. I cannot imagine how heartbreaking it must have been for some of these women to surrender their child for the sake of their reputation or personal safety.

~*~ Warning: Rape ~*~

Foundling Hospital
‘A Mother Depositing Her Child at the Foundling Hospital in Paris’ by Henry Nelson O’Neil (1817-1880)

Ada Lillith was abandoned at birth by her mother, the town’s milliner, Louise Lovelace, on the doorstep of New Hardway’s Foundling Hospital for Deserted Children. Louise was raped by a New Hardway Judicial Officer who invaded her shop one night. She managed to hide the resultant pregnancy right up until the moment of birth, at which point Ada Lillith was born in the storeroom and cut from Louise’s body with a carving knife.

Knowing she could not really afford to keep the child and afraid of losing her fiancé — whom she feared would leave her for being ‘spoiled’ by another man — Louise secretly left baby Ada with the Foundling Hospital along with a ring and a note with the baby’s name on it (Ada and Lillith are actually Miss Lillith’s first and middle names, the latter of which became her last name). Louise had hoped the Foundling Hospital would use the ring to pay for Ada’s welfare, but instead the hospital kept it safe and passed it along to their charge once she left the hospital at the age of fifteen. Having already secured a position as governess to the Winships — taking over from the nursemaid once Melora was old enough to begin her schooling at the age of five — Ada resolved not to sell the ring and kept it instead. It is her dearest and most prized possession, and a source of fascination to the young Melora.

Incidentally, the Judicial Officer who raped Ada’s mother was caught and prosecuted for a separate rape charge and later hanged. Louise Lovelace and her husband had already moved to Hilt at this point. Louise is still running her hat shop in the capital during the events of The Mayor.

5. Chapter 5, Line 5… share 5 lines of your WIP and then invite 5 writers to do the same.

Melora forced a smile, lowering her quill.

“Yes thank you, Jaspher.” Irritation fluttered at the back of her skull for this minor intrusion upon her thoughts. “I am quite well, though I confess my mind was elsewhere.”

The air within the office was oppressively close.

~ The Mayor: Part One (Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018)

I don’t think I even know 5 writers! And those I do know are taking part in this challenge already.

I know Sara Le Tourneau and SarahM follow this blog and sometimes comment. Therefore I nominate the two of you!

Phew! All caught up. See you again in a month, probably.

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 2: Question 2

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

2. Write a paragraph pitching your book and then distil it into no more than 3 sentences (basically, a blurb). Show both:

First of all, let it be known that I despair K.F. Goodacre made this a Week 2 question for this writing challenge. Pitching a book is one of the hardest things authors have to do, even authors who’ve been published for years. I don’t even have a completed first draft of The Mayor yet, let alone a polished synopsis, so please bear this in mind when reading my submission for this week!

The paragraph:

When handsome newcomer William Kale darkens the doorway of Winship and Carson and commissions the construction of a magnificent new sail ship, he instantly captures the attention of Craven Winship’s foolhardy but impressionable young daughter, Melora. Feeling trapped by the expectations of her father, and intimidated by the advances of her hapless colleague Jaspher, Melora is drawn to Kale’s worldliness, fine looks, and ready wit. But who exactly is William Kale and is he all that he claims to be?

Oh look, it’s already 3 sentences. Genius at work here.

I actually hate my blurb. It sounds like the start of a cheesy Mills & Boon romance novel.

~*~Spoiler alert!~*~ It’s not. ~*~ End spoiler ~*~

One day I will rewrite it, but it is not this day.

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 1: Question 1

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

1. Your inspiration/motivation for writing the book:

I think I must have spoken about my main inspiration for The Mayor in previous blog posts, but I’ll just repeat it here for the sake of not having to trawl through them all to find it!

The Mayor was inspired by a Rasputina song of the same name. One day I was listening to the lyrics and was inspired to create the character of William Kale; the “blond-haired boy who brought his mother joy”. He pretty much strode into my head fully-formed along with The Mayor‘s protagonist, Melora Winship (named for Melora Creager who Rasputina’s founder, lead singer and first chair). I created the two of them to play off against each other.

It then took me quite a bit of time to shape the plot and overall setting of the novel (18th century fantasy world with a focus on shipbuilding, pirates and sugar), and for that I had many other inspirations, but certainly Rasputina’s ‘The Mayor’ is the song that started it all.

As for my motivation to write… Whilst it’s true my aim is to eventually hammer The Mayor into an acceptable enough state to query with publishers, it’s not my main motivation to write. I just have this uncontrollable compulsion to write and tell stories. Even if you told me I’d never succeed in getting anything published in my lifetime, I’d still write, because I don’t write because I want to; I write because I have to.

S.E. Berrow

Happy New Year! And a new Writerly Wednesdays Challenge…

Happy New Year, dearest followers! I hope you all had a wonderful festive season and are not too sad about having to go back to work this week.

As briefly explained in my final Writerly Navel-Gazing post (click here), I’m partaking in a new writing quiz this year called ‘The 52 Week Writing Challenge’. Starting from tomorrow, I will be answering one question per week to do with my WIP (although knowing me of course I’ll probably miss a load and bombard you with them at once).

This writing challenge has been crafted by my writing partner K.F. Goodacre (click here to view the original post). Fancy joining in with us too?

All the questions are listed below. I’ll link back to each one as I answer it:

  1. Your inspiration / motivation for writing the book
  2. Write a paragraph pitching your book and then distil it into no more than 3 sentences (basically, a blurb). Show both.
  3. Who is the book for and why will they love it?
  4. Your favourite thing that DIDN’T make it into the book (such as a background story, description or an erased character)
  5. Chapter 5, Line 5… share 5 lines of your WIP and then invite 5 writers to do the same.
  6. An interview with your protagonist (See ‘Hot Seating’ for ideas or create your own)
  7. Favourite relationship in the story
  8. Alternative realities: what could have changed everything, and how?
  9. Your favourite secondary character
  10. Your thoughts on… (writing) Gardeners and Architects
  11. Your favourite minor character
  12. Language: Why a character speaks the way they do / unique slang
  13. Your book is now a film. What will work well? What won’t?
  14. What (if anything) would you like to express through your writing?
  15. Recipes in your book
  16. Your thoughts on… how to get the words down
  17. Unseen Footage: Write a short scene that fits into your book but won’t make the final cut
  18. Your writing habits
  19. Which character is most likely to survive an apocalypse?
  20. Tell us about… religion in your book
  21. An interview with your villain (See ‘Hot Seating’ for ideas or create your own)
  22. What you find easiest / hardest about the writing process
  23. Top 5 quotes from your book
  24. A minor character is now your protagonist. How do they fare?
  25. Illustrations of three of your characters
  26. Your protagonist was born a different sex. Does your story change?
  27. Your favourite location in your novel
  28. Tell us about… sports in your book
  29. Guest post: Get a friend who is familiar with your novel to speak about it
  30. Describe (or show) your book’s ideal cover
  31. Book recommendations | Fans of your book might also enjoy…?
  32. What is your protagonist’s biggest weakness?
  33. Your favourite scene
  34. Your thoughts on… Self-publishing or Traditional publishing?
  35. An interview with a character of your choice (See ‘Hot Seating’ for ideas or create your own)
  36. A day in the life of your protagonist
  37. Which writer would you trust to finish your book if you weren’t able?
  38. What is your villain’s biggest regret?
  39. Your book is now a film. Who is in your Dream Cast?
  40. A day in the life of your villain
  41. Your favourite sub-plot
  42. Your thoughts on… killing your darlings
  43. Your most frustrating character
  44. The character people would introduce to their parents
  45. Tell us about… Travel in your novel
  46. Speak about someone else’s WIP
  47. Your thoughts on… queries and rejection
  48. What are your goals as a writer?
  49. Tell us about… Crime and punishment in your novel
  50. The character you’d least like to meet in a dark alley
  51. Your villain was born a different sex. Does your story change?
  52. Happily Ever After… Is it possible for every character to get what they want?

If you fancy having a go yourself, be sure to tag your post #AcresOfInk so we can all find each other ♥

Good luck!

S.E. Berrow