About Nell

Language confusion

If you’re a Swedish person who writes in English every day (and on top of that lives in Malaysia), this might happen:

20161026_101306I started a list of revisions I’m going to do when I resume working on The Locked Room, and without realizing I wrote half the note in Swedish and the other half in English 😀

I consider myself a proficient English speaker, but there are some things that trip me up. The Oxford Comma, for example. In Swedish, we don’t add a final comma when we write a list of things. I wouldn’t write Bring me an eraser, a pencil, and a notebook, I would write Bring me an eraser, a pencil and a notebook. The “and” replaces the comma, and an Oxford Comma is grammatically incorrect.

That rule is so hardwired in me I use it when writing in English too. I’m sure my poor critique partners and beta readers are really tired of adding missing commas to my text. (Sorry ladies!)

There’s more. We learn British English in school in Sweden (at least back in the day when I went to school), which is why I always write towards instead of toward. (Sorry again!)

I love languages and I’m one of those weird people who honest to goodness love grammar. So while I’m frustrated that I can’t learn to use toward, I think the reason is interesting. The comments from beta readers and critique partners do more than help me with my writing, they help me become a better English speaker too. Isn’t that awesome?

I’m sorry for the high geekiness level in this post. Please don’t abandon me! 🙂

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Nell's WIP

Back from beta

Yesterday I got The Locked Room back from the final beta reader, but I am not ready to start round two of edits yet. I need more distance to be able to do it justice and make it as good as I possibly can. I have promised myself not to touch it at all this week or next. After that, we’ll see if I’m ready.

I suppose I could sit down and get to work now, my beta readers have given me invaluable feedback and lots to think about. But I’ve decided I don’t want to rush it. I want to give it my all, and that requires time enough for me to stop hating everything about it like I do at the moment. Not even Zach’s super cute freckles help right now. 🙂

So there will be no talk about The Locked Room this week.

Instead, I want to tell you about the best decision I ever made where my writing is concerned: I joined a critique group. As I was writing I had two fabulous people reading along, commenting and critiquing. And I had two equally fabulous betas reading the whole thing after I edited-edited-and-edited the first time.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you how helpful they’ve been. They’ve been great—the first time I submitted something for them to read, I crawled into bed and hid under the covers because I was so afraid they’d absolutely hate it. Thankfully they didn’t.

But critiquing and beta-reading their stories have been just as helpful and beneficial for me. To be a part of someone else’s process, to read text with a critical eye and discuss my opinions with the others, has taught me about myself and my own writing.

It’s also made reading for pleasure a little harder. I can’t turn off my brain, so I notice typos, repeated words, and grammar mistakes much more than I did before. 🙂

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On a final note: someone very close to me also beta-read my book, but not for the same purpose as the ladies in my critique group. No, she’s probably going to design the cover for me and read it to get a feel for the story. Her comments are completely different from the ones from my other betas, and what she enjoyed most are the little references to my own life that only someone close to me will notice. Like the highlighted sentence in the picture above. I own that blanket, and she immediately noticed. 🙂

Have a great week, folks!

About Nell

How to get away with having the flu

Guys, having the flu sucks!

I’ve been under the weather with a fever, muscle pains, and all the usual suspects since Saturday evening. On Monday morning I sat down at my desk like a dutiful writer, but I was more zombie than human and couldn’t even spell the simplest word. It felt like my brain was filled with cotton balls, despite having taken flu medicine. My husband found me staring blankly at the computer screen and forbade me to work. He told me to concentrate on getting well, led me to the couch and hooked me up with Netflix.

So I’ve spent this week binge watching TV, and eating ice cream — because everybody knows ice cream is good for you when you’ve got the flu, right?

But I’ve also felt really guilty—guiltier than when I was a teenager and skipped class to play video games with my friends. Because the most common advice for writers is: Write every day (go ahead and google it, you’ll get millions of hits) and how do you do that when your brain doesn’t work and you feel like crap?

The answer is: I couldn’t. So far this week I haven’t written a word. There was a blog post on Monday only because I’d prepared it in advance. I’ve barely even had the energy to text my darling daughter in Sweden—that’s how crappy I’ve felt.

But to soothe my guilty conscience I tried to approach it like a writer and treat it like research. One of the main characters in my WIP currently has the flu. So as I was lying there on the couch—trying to decide whether I like or dislike How to get away with murderI was doing my best to take note of how I felt. How could I describe how my head felt with a fever? How my muscles ached when I shuffled out to the kitchen to make more tea? What words would I use to convey the bone-deep fatigue I felt, and how I didn’t even have the energy to laugh at my husband’s jokes?

It actually worked. I felt less guilty for being sick and doing nothing. But it also got me thinking: do authors ever have a vacation? Or will I end up under an umbrella on a lovely tropical beach, with my laptop in my knee, declining a sweet, fruity drink because I have to be able to think straight? Ugh—I hope not.

Anyway, I feel a lot better now. So today’s agenda consists of WRITE ALL THE WORDS. Let’s see if I can make my poor main character suffer from my newfound knowledge. Poor guy, he won’t know what hit him 🙂

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Nell's WIP

When I wrote “The End”

My fabulous betas still have custody of The Locked Room, so today I thought I’d share a text I wrote when I finished the first draft. It’s written August 11, 2016. 


Today I finished my first book. Exactly one month before my 44th birthday, I finally wrote the words “The End”, preceded by 55217 other words making up my very first book.

There are no words to express what this means to me.

I’ve dreamt of becoming a writer as long as I can remember, but I never thought I was good enough. I spent years doubting myself, burying this dream so deep I almost forgot about it myself. And I never spoke to anyone about it.

But one day this spring my husband said: I think you should write a book. I immediately told him all the reasons why I shouldn’t, but he shot down every excuse I came up with, until all I was left with was But…but…

So in March I sat down in front of my computer, thinking it was time to start this book-writing-business. And five months later it’s done.

I don’t know if it’ll ever get published. I don’t know if anyone will like it. I don’t know if anyone will buy it if I manage to publish it. And if I think about it too much, I get scared to death to let other people read it. What if they think it’s crap? This is months of work, months of my blood, sweat and tears, and having someone say they hate it would be like someone saying they hate my baby.

But do you know what? Right this minute I don’t give a damn. Right this minute I’m busy being so extremely proud of myself for seeing this project through from start to finish. There was a couple of times I thought I wouldn’t finish, but I persevered. I soldiered on. I got the job done.

I finished my first book today.

Excuse me while I go cry. But don’t worry. They’re happy tears.


The Locked Room

Book Recommendations

Books that changed my life

I saw a blogpost on Goodreads awhile back about life-changing books. The people at Goodreads had asked users about what books’d had a huge impact on their lives. Lots of people answered, and in the blog post Goodreads told us about the top 28 titles. I can honestly say I’ve only read two of the books on that list (“Eat, pray, love” and “Siddharta“), and neither qualifies as life changing for me.

But it got me thinking. Which books I would my list of life-changing books?

Pippi Långstrum by Astrid Lindgren

(that’s Pippi Longstocking for you non-Swedes)

I daresay there’s not a single Swedish girl that hasn’t been influenced by Pippi in some way or other since the 1940s when the book first was released. Pippi is quirky, independent and fiercely loyal to her friends. She’s also the strongest girl in the world, but even though she can literally lift her own horse I think the strength is more metaphorical than physical. She makes up her own rules to live by, and more often than not they’re not according to society’s standards. She has the strength and courage to stand her ground, and not conform or give in when various authority figures are trying to make her.

She believes she can do anything — my favorite quote is “I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that”. When do we lose that belief? We all should take a leaf out of Pippi’s book and believe in ourselves more. When my daughter was little I bought her all the Pippi books I could find, and read them aloud to her. I don’t think a girl can have a better role model to be honest.

And Astrid Lindgren is sort of our national treasure. When she died at 94, the King and Queen of Sweden attended her funeral. Astrid not only wrote many of the best children’s books I’ve ever read, but she also advocated children’s rights. She’s the mother of so many interesting and beloved characters, and she made me believe it was okay to be different.

This is why Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Långstrump is number one on my list.

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Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

I loved Anne Shirley —with an E— fiercely when I was a kid. I loved her romantic spirit and imagination, and even the words she used. Just taste expressions like bosom friend or kindred spirit — they are words I want to use in my everyday vocabulary.

I loved her loyalty, her quick temper and most of all I loved that she was smart. She was one of the best in her class and that was totally fine, encouraged even.

She influenced me profoundly, and I identified with her, in the sense that I too was a romantic who didn’t much appreciate the mundane things in life. Like her I wanted great adventures and even greater love.

But at the same time: one of the things I loved most is that she found what she was looking for at her beloved Green Gables in the end. And I loved her relationship with Matthew and Marilla, and how she slowly melted the ice around Marilla’s heart. Can you imagine how lonely Matthew and Marilla would have been if Anne hadn’t shown up in their lives?

I cry big, sad tears every time I read the book and Matthew dies. It’s like I’m holding out hope that maybe this time—this time he won’t die. It still hasn’t happened, but you never know…

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Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen.

A friend introduced me to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in my teen years, and I will be forever grateful to her for that. It was love at first read.

Elizabeth is such a great character and I love to follow along on her journey from someone who is quick to judge, to someone more thoughtful and open to alternatives. I love that she’s witty and intelligent, and that she’s determined not to marry for any other reason than love. It was probably foolish considering the times, and what opportunities a young woman like her had, but it makes for great reading.

And Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy…well, what’s there to say about him other than…*swoon*?

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And I just realized something: a third book where the protagonist is a strong, fiercely loyal and intelligent woman – I think I sense a theme 🙂 

Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan

This is the odd duck out, compared to the others on my list. It’s the first MM Romance book I read (I had read a MMF before, but no “pure” MM) and to say it has changed my life is an understatement. If it wasn’t for this book I wouldn’t have found this genre I love so much.

Who knows if I’d ever gotten around to giving writing a try if it wasn’t for MM Romance?

This book is still to this day one of my favorites. I love the juxtaposition between the extreme kinkiness and the soft romance Cullinan writes so well. I love the characters, I love broken heroes like Roe, and to follow them along on their journey to a better life.

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Well, that was my list of books that changed my life and influenced me as a person in one way or another. What books would be on your list?