The Heart of Things


The other day I experienced something entirely new as a writer. I finished writing a book. And by finished, I mean, that’s it. No more editing, no more adding scenes or taking away. Done. Ready to publish.

The book is Oak and Mist, of course. The first in my series of six books about Ambeth, and a girl from this world who finds her life inextricably linked with that magical realm. The story is one I still enjoy reading, no matter how many times I go over it, so I hope other readers will feel the same way.

It’s quite an unusual feeling to be finished, after tinkering away on it for two years now. I must have read and made changes to it close to a hundred times by now, but this final edit, the professional one, is the one that has made the difference. The language is clear, the story flows and I know that if I mess with it any more I’ll just be gilding the lily. So it is done.

In one of my original blogs I wrote about stories emerging from the forest floor, gleaming carapaces of fossilised bone. I had to clear the dirt from them, brushing the crevices, honing and polishing until they were free of the earth. And so now it’s as though I hold one in my hands, unutterably precious and delicate. It’s a wonderful feeling and, now that I’ve experienced it, I’ll be able to access it again for the next five books in the series. (and then all the other non-Ambeth ideas I have waiting after that).

Now I need to get going on book 2. The title is No Quarter, and, when I started reading through it last night I could see immediately there’s a lot to be done before it’s ready to send out for editing.

So that’s another lesson learned, on my journey to Ambeth. That as writers we must keep chipping away until we reach the very heart of things. Extraneous words, extra scenes and fancy description can often detract, rather than add to the story. I still have a way to go, but I do feel as though I have a much better understanding of that now.

And so I keep digging…

8 thoughts on “The Heart of Things

    • Thanks Barbara 🙂 I’ve written the next three books (though they need editing) and am nearly finished Book 5, with book 6 coming along well. I’ve written the very last sentence of book 6, so I do know how it all turns out – I just have to finish writing it!

  1. Hi Helen,

    I would love to read Oak & Mist it sounds like the kind of book I would get lost in. I am happy to hear that you have learned some lessons along the way with the series of Oak & Mist that will benefit you in the future with not just these books but future projects after them. Very best of luck with your writing and publishing I seriously hope it all goes well for you Helen 🙂 x

    • Oh, thanks David – that’s so very kind of you 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading more of your work as well – how is your book coming along? And yes, I’ve learned so so much since I started this journey, and I’m sure I’ve still got a lot to learn too!

  2. Well done for recognising when you are ‘finished’. I’m not at that point, and have had the unsettling recent experience of undoing revisions and returning to an earlier, and dare I say better, draft. Good luck with publication, Helen. xx

    • Hi Louise – oh wow, that does sound unsettling. I feel for you, god know I’ve gone over this draft time and time again and it wasn’t until I had the edit done that I managed to iron out a few things that were bothering me. But yes, having done the final revisions (which are just being edited now) I printed out a copy and, it was the strangest feeling, it felt like a proper book. And that’s how I knew it was done 🙂

  3. That – is – amazing…..well done Dear Helen! The calmness you convey through your words shows how happy you are with the end result. So very excited for you….the journey continues…x

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