Finishing novel number five – a work in progress

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Thursday 23rd June 2011

Jess Barker trudged purposefully up the footpath. It was seven-thirty on a chilly April morning and the new summer term was due to start in less than an hour. But before the frantic onslaught of lessons, meetings and marking, she needed time to think.

At least it was Thursday, so she had 7B, her favourite class, first lesson. Unlike some of the older children, the eleven and twelve year olds she took for English were a pleasure to teach. They still hung on her every word. And handed in their homework on time. In a year or two they’d no doubt be back-chatting, texting under the desk and mumbling “whatever” when she quizzed them about Romeo and Juliet. But right now they were lovely – all bright-eyed and eager to please. As opposed to classes 8D and 9E, who were – and she knew teachers weren’t supposed to say this – a complete and utter pain in the ass.

Jess barely noticed the stunning landscape as she walked. The hike across the fields to majestic Pendle Hill was usually enough to banish all her worries instantly but right now she was too deep in thought to appreciate its beauty.

These are the first three paragraphs of my new novel, which I’m halfway through writing. For the last few years the day job – freelance journalism – has taken precedence, but I’m determined to finish it by the end of the summer.

What really spurred me on was meeting novelist MG Harris – – in Oxford this week. She’s the author of The Joshua Files – the hugely successful children’s series about a boy searching for a lost Mayan codex. With their tightly-plotted storylines and distinctive covers, MG’s books have sold all around the world. The first in the series, Invisible City, was the UK’s fastest-selling children’s fiction debut for 2008. As we chatted I told MG I’d had four novels published but hadn’t finished my fifth. “Why not?” she asked. “You need to get on with it.” So that’s exactly what I’m doing. And if anyone’s got any comments, I’d love to hear.

PS: The first chapter is set in one of my favourite places in the world – Pendle Hill, in the wilds of Lancashire. It looks gorgeous in summer (see above), but in winter it’s windswept and desolate. For three years we lived in a farmhouse on the side of Pendle and were snowed in on a regular basis. There was no central hearing, a temperamental solid fuel stove that went out if we left it for more than a couple of hours and a biting north wind that whistled round the eaves all year round. And yes, I was happy as Larry.

6 comments so far

  • I, for one, am looking forward to it being ready to read – so get writing 🙂


  • Thanks Tom. I’m sort of halfway through. I’ve got a detailed synopsis but my characters keep veering off and doing things I didn’t expect them to!

  • Hi Emma, it was lovely to meet you last week and I’m delighted that you’ve taken my words to heart! Thank you for your kind words re Joshua Files. Re your novel, it’s strange how characters sometimes veer off and do other things. Normally I don’t stand for it, but I’m reminded of something some director says, (can’t remember who!), that if the actors keep stumbling over lines then they must have been wrong and need to be changed.

  • Thanks MG! Your comments about being firm with characters made me laugh. I try and keep mine in order but don’t always succeed!

Leave a Reply