Editing your finished book

So you’ve written your book. Congratulations on coming this far. All those hours of research, planning, plotting, jabbing away at that keyboard with a cold coffee at your side and it’s now over. But wait. What about editing? Have you edited it thoroughly or are you rushing to click publish?

There is so much competition out there. Hundreds of books are uploaded to Amazon every five minutes. Your book isn’t such a great achievement. In the past writing a book was an amazing accomplishment. Charles Dicken was a rare fella and in his day there wasn’t much competition and literacy levels were much lower. People were too busy grafting to have time in the evening to relax with pen and paper. But now it seems as if every Tom, Dick and Harry is writing a book.

In Iceland the figures are astounding. There are more writers per head of the population than anywhere else in the world. Maybe with the lack of daylight there’s not much else to do. Since the year 1400 book authorship has grown worldwide by tenfold a year. In the USA literary agents receive 5000 manuscripts a year. These are just a few of the statistics I came across on the internet. It’s like winning the lottery. The odds are stacked against you of getting traditionally published which is why Amazon is littered with indie books. Except it’s not quite like a lottery. The lottery is random. You are in control and if you polish your book well you have a better chance.

With the odds stacked so heavily against you, you need to ask yourself and your friends is this a story people are really going to want to read? Using a manuscript evaluator can be a good idea. I used one when I wrote ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ and ‘Every Family Has One’ and she made lots of suggestions about restructuring the story, tightening the plot, cutting areas, adding to other areas. An evaluation cost me £250.

However once I had made the changes she suggested and made a further proofread I still needed to consult with an editor. Costs started to mount, as you can see. Proofreaders don’t come cheap. I have seen quotes ranging from £581 to £1500 for a 100k novel. I decided against it and kept editing and editing and editing until I thought it was perfect. One useful book is called ‘The First Five Pages’ by Noah Lukeman. I would also suggest you look at books and articles about  common mistakes writers make. It was a huge learning curve for me. I have a degree in History and I was a secondary school teacher. I thought I had a good grasp of the English language. I was wrong. There were mistakes regarding dialogue and grammar. I made as many changes as I could, then hastily pressed publish. If you are in the same situation DON’T press that button. Stop. You must invest money in your book otherwise you’ve wasted your time. You need to employ a good professional proofreader/editor because there will be mistakes that you cannot see yourself.

I learned all of this when it was too late. I’d already clicked publish because I was too damn eager to get my book out there.It’s the worst thing you can do. My books are selling; 20 a week or more but then I got my first 1 star review and I was, naturally gutted. The review said ‘This was a great read but the editing was poor.’ I hunted for a proofreader and another author recommended someone. She was fantastic and I can’t praise her more highly. The price was very reasonable too.

I’m still selling books and getting great reviews but am working through my errors and will republish at some point. Unless your book is edited well, you will lose credibility as an author. Editing is the single most important part of writing providing your plot is good and it’s a book people want to read. I have come across some terrible mistakes made by other authors. The worse was mixing past and present tense in one paragraph and calling a chest of drawers a chester drawers!

Here are the links to my books which readers are enjoying and most will see beyond a few errors but I’m striving for excellence and so they will be error free within the next couple of months:



The Deferential culture and sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse isimages in the news again today. Hardly a day goes by without a discussion about historic sexual abuse. A leaked draft of a report into cases of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile linked to the BBC is set to criticise the corporation’s culture. The culture within the BBC has been described as a ‘deferential culture.’ Deference to stars and celebrities. Jimmy Saville was one of the ‘untouchables.’ Because of his celebrity status, the aura surrounding him nobody would speak out. People were afraid to speak out. They didn’t want to spoil the show and the charitable work he was doing. He had a certain reverence and enormous respect and no one could crush that.


This deferential culture can be seen in many institutions: the Scouting Movement, the Church, schools and even in the home. In any institution there is a hierarchical structure. People fear for their jobs, they fear they won’t be believed if they speak out. Those in authority cannot be challenged because of who they are, what they represent, from the priest to the stern dad it is easier to stay quiet.


My book ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying’ is about a man, now middle aged looking back to the terrors of his past. He was abused by the family priest and has never spoken of it to a soul until he reveals all to his girlfriend Faye. How has the abuse affected him? Why has he never spoken of it? Why didn’t he report it? Why doesn’t he report it years later? Several readers have commented that I deal with the tough issue of child abuse in a very sensitive, yet also humorous way and that they could get right into his mindset and see how the past was affecting his present life and in particular his sex life.


Sadly sexual abuse will always happen. We can put measures into places, we can change the culture within institutions but we will never get rid of deference to those in power. Power means control and those in power, it seems can do what the hell they like because of the hold they have over those lower down the pecking order. After all no one wants to lose their job if they snitch, or be denied treats, or outgoings or whatever it is those in power can provide.


Here is a link to my book:



Death issues: the shocking truth about stillbirth

logoAs a funeral celebrant occasionally I get the call I dread the most. The death of a baby at birth: a pointless loss of life, an innocent life who hasn’t even taken its first breath and inevitably the parents are devastated. I consider part of my job to console, to listen, to offer words of comfort but my title is ‘celebrant’…. but how can we possibly celebrate in the midst of such tragedy?


According to a recent Radio 4 File on 4 investigation into stillbirth ten babies a day in the UK die after 24 weeks gestation. A further seven a day die during the first 4 weeks. (cot death). These rates have remained the same over the last 10 years. There has been no reduction despite falling mortality among other groups.


When I visit bereaved parents the pain they endure is etched across their faces; the type of pain I have never seen before and I usually drive home in tears, carrying their pain. I never forget these couples and carry the memory with me. Their pain is so raw and tangible and I’m no medic I have only poetry and words of comfort to soothe their pain but I don’t have the answers they need.


Time and again the parents are confused, they haven’t been given the answers they so desperately need and I get the impression that every avenue hasn’t been explored, the full picture of events hasn’t been looked at and investigated properly by the medical teams. In the weeks after a stillbirth all the parents can do is live in a fog of confusion, day to day trying to adjust to a life that wasn’t supposed to be this way. They have spent nine months anticipating, looking forward, making plans. A new baby is a life changer and mentally they have prepared for this, then suddenly it’s all snatched away. The house is full of equipment – a cot, pram, toys, clothing and now they don’t know what to do. Do they get rid of it all? But they might have another? What if the same thing happens and they lose the next one? What caused this? Mothers ask into the open space between me and them. I don’t know anymore than they do. I’m a helpless bystander. Could this have been prevented? My answer is usually the clichéd answer ‘I guess it’s just one of those things…’ ‘you mustn’t blame yourself’ but I don’t like pedaling cliches I want to know answers as much as they do. Only with answers can grieving couples move on. They just don’t know and it’s heartbreaking for the whole family from grandparents to siblings.


File on 4 reported a patchy system of inquests across the country. Only 4:10 stillbirths have a post mortem. Parents need to know what has happened and why and an inquest should be routine, every time it happens.


The figure for stillbirths is even higher among incarcerated women – those in prisons for instance. In my book ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ Kathleen, incarcerated in a Magdalene laundry in 1975 suffered an agonizing stillbirth. What caused her stillbirth? Was it the poor care she received from the callous nuns who had no regard for human life if the mother was unmarried? Or was it caused by the hardened labour endured toiling in the laundries every day from dawn until dusk? Justice for Magdalenes is still fighting for compensation for the wrongs inflicted upon these women by the Catholic Church.

My heart goes out to all parents facing such a loss.

To read Kathleen’s story, based on my extensive research of the Magdalene laundries and stillbirth click this link to my books:




Useful article on stillbirth in the UK:



Link to Justice for Magdalenes:






Divorce: a funeral celebrant’s look at marriage in the past

Unknown-3This is the busiest week of the year for divorce lawyers. Maybe you are one of the many couples booking an appointment for legal advice. Divorce is a modern phenomenon. In England & Wales there are 13 divorces an hour and we have the highest rate of divorce in the EU. (See links below). In the past, for various reasons couples stuck the course. The law has made divorce easier, women’s lives have changed giving them more financial independence and the state is more financially supportive of one – parent families. Attitudes are vastly different. What can we learn from the past or do we just accept that things were different back then?


Through my work as a funeral celebrant I meet many people in their 70s and 80s who have been married for 50 and 60 years. I ask lots of questions in order to go away and write a eulogy for their loved one. These are some common answers to the questions I ask:


  1. Where did you meet?


Most people in the 30s and 40s met in dance halls. ‘I noticed him from across the hall and we caught each other’s eye.’ Streatham & Lewisham dance halls are frequently mentioned. But across Sussex every village held dances and in those days this was where couples met.

‘Several of us were waiting for a taxi and we got chatting in the taxi,’ one lady told me.

A favourite one of mine: ‘we arranged to go on a date but I chickened out at the last minute so my brother went instead. She preferred him and then got engaged after 3 dates.’ And another ‘we arranged to go to the cinema in Brighton but then one of us cancelled. Luckily we didn’t go. The cinema was hit by a bomb that evening.’ Many couples met in the war. Sussex had Italian prisoners of war working on the land. Some English women married them. There were also Canadians stationed in Sussex and several women Ive spoken to faced a terrible dilemma of whether to marry and live in Canada. Many said no because they didn’t want to leave their mothers.


  1. What’s your secret of a good marriage?


Many have told me ‘I let him get on with what he wanted to do and he let me get on with what I wanted to do.’ A different sort of partnership to the one we expect today when couples expect to share interests and put high expectations on the other person to do what they want to do. One lady said ‘to make a marriage work you need a sense of humour. Let the small things go. Laugh when things go wrong and above all put not 100% effort and commitment into your marriage, put 120% into it. Some marriages seemed insufferable. One woman put up with accompanying her husband on fishing trips on cold windy beaches in desolate places every weekend and the kids hated it but ‘it was dad’s hobby and we all went along,’ she told me. Another person told me ‘we were very different as people but we never gave up on each other. He would have done anything for me and I would have done anything for him.’


  1. Tell me how you proposed.


So many men proposed on the second or third date and certainly very early into the relationship. I reckon it was because they couldn’t have any nooky until they got wed! So they rushed into marriage. Social norms were different in those days. ‘We daren’t do anything,’ one lady told me. ‘Our parents would have killed us.’

The best answer to this question was: ‘I took her for a walk and proposed by a gate. I promptly fell into a cow pat but she said yes!’


In my books ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ and ‘Every Family Has One’ are snippets of information and conversations I’ve gleaned along the way through my work as a funeral celebrant. Little things have been carefully and sensitively woven into the plot. If you like reading about love, relationships and families you may like my books!


The links to my books about family and relationships:






Useful links:





Divorce and the impact on children

images-3This week sees the largest number of couples making initial contact with a lawyer for advice about divorce. Maybe you are one of them. In this blog I want to discuss the impact of divorce on children.


Divorce doesn’t just affect the couple concerned. It has a massive emotional impact on children, grandparents and close friends. It’s upsetting to the whole equilibrium of family and social lives. Before you embark upon this route think of how it will impact upon other people.


Twelve years ago I journeyed through the divorce maze. It’s a lonely journey through brambles, blindfolded. One friend described it to me. ‘It’s like looking through a kaleidoscope. It’s blurry and you don’t know what will happen.’ Divorce is one of those unknown entities and until you begin that process you really don’t know whether, long run it will be a good or a bad thing to do. My advice is if you are in any doubt stay put. Staying put for the children’s sake these days is considered a bit old fashioned. But actually it still remains the best reason to stay put. I’ve seen many children end up messed up after divorce experiencing nervous break downs, problems at school, personality change and so on. Children don’t understand what’s going on. Don’t put them through it if you possibly can. (Of course if there is violence in your household you must leave.)


You may be under the illusion that children are strong creatures. Well actually they aren’t as strong as we think. Look at half the adults walking the earth. So many of us are fucked up because of our childhood. My own parents divorced and the impact on me has been massive, particularly in terms of the relationships I’ve formed. There is a pattern. Often divorced people come from divorced families, though there are exceptions. Over the years it would have been lovely to visit both parents, together, in the same house at Christmas time and at weekends and see them happy and united. But even though you can see two parents they are living separate lives and somehow they’ve become more selfish. They don’t ask about the other parent. There’s a sense of disunity to the whole family and that can feel very isolating.


When I was thinking of divorce a Christian friend invited me out for coffee and gave me what I considered, at the time to be a lecture. Walking away that day I was cross, felt she was being smug and self righteous in her happy little unit that never seemed to have any problems. But what she said was right. I’ll never forget her words and I now thank her now for putting the case against divorce on the basis that it’s the worst thing to happen in a child’s life. She warned me about bringing a new man into the children’s lives. ‘No man can ever truly love another man’s children in the same way the father does,’ she said. He may find it hard to be patient, he could become aggressive, violent under the stress of being around your children, he may not be that interested in your child’s homework issues, he may prefer to go on holiday with you but not the kids. Of course you will be saying to me ‘if he loves me then he’ll love my children too.’ That’s not always the case. To put it bluntly most men, in my experience want you, but they don’t want the ‘baggage’ you come with. They won’t show reveal that initially. They’ll impress you by making a massive effort with your kids but in my experience and in the experience of countless other women I’ve spoken to it doesn’t last.


My two books give an insight into the fallout from relationship breakdown:






So if you are seriously thinking about divorce why not give your marriage another chance. You made promises to each other after all. Countless studies have shown that children on balance are better off with two unhappy parents together than parents apart and their lives disrupted by the constant toing and froing between two houses and two parents squabbling about access arrangements, maintenance and other issues that arise.


Divorce: A new year a new you?

This week has been dubbed ‘divorce week’ because of the spike in the number of couples seeking legal advice after a fraught Christmas at home. Maybe you are one of the thousands of unhappy couples who waited to see how Christmas panned out but now want to start the new year afresh. A new you? A new life? A clean break? Along with your other new year’s resolutions (to lose a stone, to drink less, spend less) divorce is up there in the top 5. You want an end to the constant bickering and strife in a household that was once filled with unending love and the sweet smell of roses.


But make no mistake. Divorce isn’t always the best course of action. You carry yourself and your own problems into a new life. The problems and issues that have dogged you for so long don’t instantly or miraculously go away after divorce. All you will be doing is carrying them into the next relationship and the next and the next until you finally wake up to the realization that YOU are the problem.


I’ll tell you why YOU are the problem. I realized this myself a long time ago when it was all too late to save my own marriage. Like me you’ve failed to a great extent to understand how he/she ticks. You haven’t grasped the fundamentals.

‘I just don’t understand women’ is a phase we often here. Or ‘Men. What is it with them?’


Instead of reaching for the phone this week to book an appointment with a lawyer do yourself a big favour. It won’t cost much. You’ll need a day at least to read the book that every couple should be reading and digesting:


‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ by John Gray.




You’ve probably heard of the book. You may even have read it. But you may have forgotten much of the advice contained within it. You may have dismissed it as poppycock. It really isn’t. It’s brilliant. It’s spot on. Men and women are fundamentally different in the way they think and until you truly understand why the opposite sex behaves as they do for a reason you will go on blaming them and being upset by their actions. It’s all about appreciating our differences and devising ways to accommodate these differences in the way you live.


Hang on in there. Don’t be another divorce statistic. It’s not the easy route out. Reviving your love can be one of the most exciting new year’s resolutions you can make.


And if you like reading relationship sagas you may like my novel. It was an Amazon bestseller over the Christmas period:


‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ Here’s the link:



Divorce Advice and avoiding lawyers

Today is the first day back at work for many following the Christmas break. But it’s also been dubbed ‘divorce day:’ the busiest day of the year for divorce lawyers as couples, hoping to salvage their marriages over tinsel and twinkly lights realise that their relationships are in fact dead in the water and reach for the phone on that first working day after Christmas, to make that initial call to a legal firm for advice. But you can avoid lawyers. Read on!


But is that the best thing to do? I got divorced 12 years ago. I’ve had plenty of time, over the years to think about what went wrong and why. I’ve chatted with many others who have either been through divorce or who have been through a very happy 60 year marriage. I hope I might be able to help you by telling you some of the things I’ve learned along the way. My book ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ (reformed from my first book ‘The D Word’) is partly about my own experiences and the things that have gone wrong in my own relationships and some readers have told me it has helped them understand their partner better. I have tried to get right into the mindset of men. It’s taken a lot of first hand research and note taking to achieve this! Here’s the link:




12 years on from divorce this is what I fundamentally believe.


  1. People don’t change. You  remain the same people. For example one of you promised the other that you wanted children. Now you are telling him/her you don’t. You haven’t changed. All you did was con them in order to win them over. If you’d been honest in the first place they would never have married you. When I met my husband he spent every evening in the pub. I didn’t like the pub. It was a smoking dive in Bognor Regis. Every Sunday they held pub quizzes. He sat there talking about computers with a friend. There was nothing for me in that pub. I wanted to spend time in Brighton instead – dancing, walking round the Lanes, putting coins in slot machines on the pier, trying different restaurants. But I was a classic ‘putter upper.’ I wasn’t assertive. I was a passive mouse that wanted to please her man, keep him happy and so I suppressed what I truly wanted from the relationship. As the years went by he began to drink more and more. I let him. I put up with it until I couldn’t anymore. This is where I went wrong: I should have been upfront, more communicative and we should have tried together to develop some interests we both enjoyed. So instead of booking to see a lawyer why not distract yourselves by joining something together, taking up a new interest that you would both enjoy.


  1. Don’t rush into marriage. Get to know somebody over four seasons. Don’t make any decisions in those heady, romantic early days. Did you rush into getting married? I did. We got engaged after 3 months, married after 10 months of meeting and the first child arrived 13 months later. That is where I went wrong. I wasn’t using my head. He wasn’t right for me but I was wrapped up in the romance of it all and acted from the pulse in my knickers and the throb in my heart. Use your head. Act on your gut. Feel your gut churning? It’s trying to tell you something? If however you are telling me that you didn’t rush into getting married. You waited. You dated for a year, two years, five years even then you were wise, you are mature and you do know your own mind. You still loved that person after five years of dating so you got married. Well that’s great. There is every hope that you can revive what you had and return to how you felt in those early days. You’re an adult! You made careful decisions. Trust that decision. It was the right what then and it is the right one now. All that has happened is that you’ve both lost your way. You need to find each other again. You can be happy again. Step back. Take some time apart. But don’t make any decisions you’ll later regret. Believe me divorce is a massive decision. I cannot begin to underestimate the pain that is involved for everyone concerned.


  1. Read this book now. It helped me and it continues to help me in my relationships when I feel uncertain about a new partner:


‘Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay’ by Mira Kirshenbaum.


The book goes through a series of questions for you to answer as honestly as you can. By the end of the book you will know the answer and if you don’t then your gut will tell you. Your relationship is either too good to leave or too bad to stay in. Which is it?


  1. Please please don’t waste your money on lawyers. They will bleed you dry. Their sole interest is making money, lots of it. For goodness sake it’s your children’s inheritance! You can sit down and work things out with your husband/wife. There isn’t much to work out. If you argue about a few thousand pounds the lawyers will take the same again. My divorce settlement was worked out over the kitchen sink. It is possible. We weren’t amicable at the end but we acted like adults over the settlement. Our divorce cost us £36. My dad clapped when I told him!


I’ll be back again tomorrow with more advice on divorce and avoiding lawyers and more snippets from my own experience. Hold back from making that call until you’ve heard everything I have to tell you.