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I have found it really, really hard to get going with “Plank 5”.  I keep timetabling my plotting and planning sessions, but I just can’t quite get off the mark.  I thought it might be a lack of enthusiasm caused by slow sales, and so I decided to do what all those people who sell squillions of books on Amazon and Kindle tell you to do: I went into a bookshop and looked at the bestselling books to see what people are reading at the moment, with a view to perhaps giving Sam a break and writing a bestseller (hah!) to fit the current mood.

However, it turns out that bookshops have generally given up on that “wall of bestsellers” that they used to display.  Instead, we have “top history titles” and “recommended reads for romance” and “the ones that got away – unknown books by famous authors”.  The only bookshop I could find that actually displayed in order of selling-ness was WH Smith.  So I gazed long and hard at their top hundred fiction titles, and I saw three trends: modern crime/thrillers generally involving women coming to a nasty end; celebrity stories (yawn-o-rama); and female social history-as-fiction.  In this last category were books trading, I’m guessing, on the popularity of programmes like “Call the Midwife” and “Home Fires”, and on the fact that more women than men read fiction, and telling the stories of, for instance, a nursemaid in Edwardian times, or a ladies’ maid in the 1920s, or a farmer’s wife in the 1950s.  Aha, I thought: I could do something about Martha: a constable’s wife in the 1820s.  I could hide away in the library for months (that’s a big win for me) looking for contemporary accounts of ordinary women living in cities, and then turn it into a sort of diary for Martha…

And when I came home with this idea, I suddenly realised that the solution to my lack of oomph was right there, in my Big Book of Plots.  “Plank 5” is supposed to be about inheritance and all that, but “Plank 6”, waiting in the wings, is all about Martha and her beliefs.  So I have decided that I will simply swap them around: Sam has held sway for the first four books so he can now let Martha take centre-stage for this one, and then he can muscle back in for books six and seven.  Martha is looking rather pleased with herself, and she and I will have a whale of a time together – I can’t wait to get started.

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