Susan Grossey

Stop start

Goodness, I had forgotten how slow it is writing historical fiction when you’re not already immersed in the time, place and characters.  After six Sam Plank books I was spoilt: I could hear his voice, I knew how his home and workplace and surroundings looked, sounded and smelled, and I had his entire history at my fingertips.  But with Gregory, heavens, what a difference!  I’m back to that painstaking sort of writing where every tiny comment needs checking.  He was an ostler – so what did an ostler wear?  Where did he live?  (Usually in an ostry, thanks for asking.)  In chapter two he walks from his workplace – the Hoop Inn – to visit a friend in Castle End, which meant he had to walk across what we now call Magdalene Bridge.  But in those days it was Great Bridge, and it was often collapsing thanks to poor maintenance, so was there scaffolding?  A toll-booth?  Would it have been busy at that time of day?  Sooooo many questions.

I am now back to my old habit (from the early days of Sam) of trying to keep the flow of the writing, such as it is, and not stopping to check details as I go but instead putting uncertainties in [[double square brackets]] for revisiting.  Chapter [[two]] now looks [[quite a bit]] [[like this]].

On an entirely cheerier and more positive note, I watched an excellent Society of Authors interview with Tracy Chevalier (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”, “A Single Thread”, etc.).  She’s an American living in London and just the most warm and encouraging person – I recommend the interview (and you’ll learn lots about her writing process).


  1. Stuart Danker Avatar
    Stuart Danker

    Haha, I use square brackets too! Though I have to admit, I do feel pretty uneasy leaving a lot of to-dos in my manuscript, and I do get caught up with editing as I go along. I think I really should break that habit. Thanks for sharing!

    1. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

      Hi Stuart, one of the benefits of the “square brackets – leave it until later” approach is that you can write while it’s flowing, and then on the (inevitable) days when you’re just not in the zone, you can fill in the square brackets with research and still feel that you’re getting somewhere. It’s saving the research for the off-writing days – works well for me. Best wishes from Susan

  2. Zoe Grainger Avatar
    Zoe Grainger

    Thank you the tip about the interview with Tracey Chevalier – thoroughly enjoyed it – and will watch other interviews …

    1. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

      I know: isn’t she lovely? The SoA is a great organisation.

  3. Graham Thomas Avatar
    Graham Thomas

    Dear Susan

    Thank you for the latest update. As interesting and entertaining as ever but with a unexpected and shocking twist. I think it contains your first spelling mistake ever, and I’ve been enjoying these blogs for a long while now!

    I know you will now recheck for yourself and, to make life easier, it’s in paragraph two.

    I’m off to lie down in a dark room to recover from the discovery that you’re human after all … but not before I check and recheck my own reply, to try and make sure that I don’t fall into the same trap.

    Best wishes and stay safe


    1. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

      Spelling mistake, Graham – what spelling mistake?! As you predicted, I have rushed back to check and have (in true crime fashion) destroyed the evidence… Sorry to startle you in that way, but it’s good to know that people are actually reading what I write.
      In “What Katy Did at School” (one of my favourite childhood books, about a girl at boarding school), Katy suspected that her teacher was not reading her essays very closely and for a whole term inserted the word “marigold” somewhere randomly in each essay – and it was never mentioned.
      I’ll be more attentive myself next time!
      Best wishes from Susan

  4. Graham Thomas Avatar
    Graham Thomas

    Good to see that you were able to use some virtual tippex to destroy the evidence, much neater than the original tippex as well. That’s a nice extract from the Katy book. Reminds me of the trick my old manager used to check that bank staff were reading the old style paper based training manuals. He used to insert a piece of paper mid way through, saying that the person should come and see him when they read that section. Unsurprisingly, quite a few staff ended up with some explaining to do !!

    1. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

      I may pinch that trick to suggest to Money Laundering Reporting Officers in my day job, as they often have difficulty getting staff to read AML manuals…

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