How to write 47,000 words in two weeks


The house at Arte Umbria

I increased the length of my manuscript by 47,000 words between the 20th of June and the 4th of July this year.

For me, it’s a massive result, because I’m not the fastest writer in the world. How did I do it? I went on a writing retreat.

Before I began going on retreats I looked askance at other writers going to lovely venues to write. Was this not a thinly-disguised holiday? A bit of a jolly with your mates? I’m the first to admit that I love going to Italy to work on a sunny terrace and also to enjoy the company of other writers at meal times and in the evenings, but it is not a holiday to write approximately half a first draft of a novel in two weeks.


I love the sun so put my laptop into a handy box to enable me to see the screen. Other writers took the more conventional route of writing in the shade.

So how does a retreat work for me?

  • By freeing me from domestic responsibility, gym classes and social engagements and the only timetable being dictated by mealtimes.
  • I took time off to watch the Formula 1 races and their qualifying sessions but, apart from that, I began after breakfast and finished just before dinner every day.
  • Maybe I should have taken more time out to visit nearby Citta della Pieve or Orvieto but I found that having almost no distractions meant my story occupied centre-stage in my mind, allowing each writing session to follow seamlessly from the last. I didn’t want to disrupt that.

In case you’re wondering if the 47,000 words were a fluke, last year I was only on the writing retreat for one week and wrote 23,000 words.


Part of my apartment

I suppose if I stayed at home, cancelled my classes, ignored my family and friends and had meals delivered I might achieve a higher writing output than the norm but somehow I don’t think it would be the same as ‘getting away from it all’ to a peaceful, beautiful venue that inspires as well as frees me.

Pick your spot- sun or shade

I love Arte Umbria. I taught writing courses there for several years but now I’ve moved onto heading up writing retreats instead. In my mind, it’s also the setting for One Summer in Italy, the town of Montelibertà being built around it. My imagination grew the house into Casa Felice, the hotel where Sofia and Amy work, and the view Levi paints in watercolours is the view from the terrace.

OSII bookshotWill I return next year? Absolutely! For one week beginning 26 June 2019.



Filed under Arte Umbria, Authors, Courses, Italy, One Summer in Italy, Plotting, retreat, Umbria, Writers, writing retreat

One Summer in Italy – Sue Moorcroft – 5* Review

Lovely five-star review for ‘One Summer in Italy’! My thanks to Jane Hunt.

Jane Hunt Writer

When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.

So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.

Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off…

Amazon UK


My Thoughts…

Italy, family secrets, realistic characters and a coherent plot make ‘One Summer in Italy…

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One Summer in Italy or how I write a book #OneSummerinItaly #NewBook

Publication Day!

Today’s one of the happiest days of the year – a publication day. One Summer in Italy is sent out into the world … well, it’s sent out to shelves and portable devices, anyway. I hope you like my latest book baby.

The jokey term for a novel ‘book baby’ came into being for a reason, I think. Though a fantastic, joyful event, there’s a lot of hard work involved in giving it life.

Here’s the bullet-point version from my perspective:

  • Get an idea for the premise of the book. For One Summer in Italy this came when I was in Italy at Arte Umbria, where I have taught courses and led retreats for several years. The chef and I happened to be taking a break at the same time, sitting in the sun with our feet in the pool, and she told me about being a seasonal worker. I thought, ‘What a great thing for one of my heroines to do’.
  • Work on characters and planning.
  • Research. Yes, this did involve being in Italy again and taking a host of pictures. ♥ But also a lot of finding and absorbing information on seasonal workers (employees and employers), ex-pat families, the hospitality trade, laws and regulations, web development, homelessness, motorbikes, blood groups, watercolour painting and even Italian cemeteries.
  • Write the first draft. This takes months and is punctuated with constant distractions and interruptions. I was thankful for last year’s writing retreat where I wrote nearly a quarter of the first draft and had the joyful experience of being in the place I was writing about … more or less. My imagination added a town and a hotel.
  • Write another draft or two
  • Send book in
  • Receive structural edit. The structural edit covers all the large changes my editor feels will make help me produce the best book I can. Discuss with editor; make decisions on how many suggestions I’ll take up; perform structural edit.
  • Send structural edit back
  • Receive line edits. Line edits deal with smaller matters, continuity and timeline. I’m timeline-blind so this stage often involves a lot of head scratching whilst wearing a grumpy expression – on my part, anyway. Probably it’s the same for the line editor.
  • Send line edits back.
  • Receive copy edits. Copy edits deal with punctuation, grammar and anything that hasn’t yet been picked up in another edit.
  • Send copy edits back.
  • Receive proofs. To proof a book I have to read the whole thing again and indicate any errors I see.
  • Send proofs back.
  • Write acknowledgments and any dedication.
  • Write any backmatter (bonus material) requested.
  • Breathe a great sigh of relief.
  • Start another book. This usually takes place betwixt and between the above tasks.

I can’t tell you in the same detail what the other side of the process is, carried out by the fab Avon team, but it will include the all-important cover (I LOVE the cover of One Summer in Italy), editing, scheduling, typesetting, promo, marketing and blurb writing. I’m involved in some of those areas too, mainly the promo.

Underpinning the process on both sides is respect, co-operation, negotiation, discussion, and a whole heck of a lot of emails!

But it’s worth it when this is what we end up with:

It_s time for Sophia to live her own life – and to fulfil the promises she made to her father Aldo.Montelibertà in Italy_s Umbrian mountains holds plenty of family secrets waitin


Filed under Arte Umbria, Avon Books UK, Cover, ebook, Italy, Launch, One Summer in Italy, Paperback, Plotting, publication day, reading, retreat, Umbria, Writers, writing

How I created a town in Italy



Arte Umbria


As it’s now only one week until One Summer in Italy is published I thought I’d write about the location.

I love to create settings for my novels, whether it’s a little English village or a town in another country. One Summer in Italy is set in Umbria, a verdant region of Italy, and there I built in my imagination a town called Montelibertà.


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Orvieto; looking towards the amazing cathedral, ‘Il Duomo’.


Where did Montelibertà come from? For the last several years I’ve been lucky enough to run writing courses or retreats for Arte Umbria. The venue is an old stone hunting lodge and it looks out over the rolling Apennines. Their terrace is one of my favourite places and I used it as the basis for Montelibertà, beginning with the view, which my hero, Levi Gunn, is in town to capture in watercolours.

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The building itself grew in my imagination to a small hotel called Casa Felice (Happy House), with a café in front of it – Il Giardino (The Garden, in case you hadn’t guessed). I had to work out how many rooms there would be, where the dining areas were, Reception, back offices, kitchens, even the utility yard. I added in a little marble to the stonework, because that’s what hotels often do.

And I had to create a town for Casa Felice to stand on the edges of. I seemed to have to know a lot about the town too – where the church is and what it looks like; what’s beyond Case Felice; where the cemetery is; the piazzas, the streets, even in which direction the slopes run. I made the town, Montelibertà, a smaller version of the wonderful medieval town of Orvieto, which is only a couple of trains stops, a funicular and a bus ride away. I’ve visited it several times when at Arte Umbria. I spent a wonderful day – and an entire phone-charge – taking photos in Orvieto. Then I took out my trusty big sketch pad and began on the map.


Sorry it’s not a very good pic. I’ve never found the time to ink the map and tidy it up.


I even had to work out transport links, the nearest autostrade or motorway, the railways and the buses. My map is no work of art – slopes marked with the words ‘up’ or ‘down’ are functional rather than pretty – but it works for me. My library of photos from my various trips to Umbria have been mined throughout the writing of the book, so it’s all pretty clear in my mind.

2014-07-05 08.57.57

I called the town ‘Montelibertà’ as it’s set in the mountains and represents what Sofia is seeking when she travels there, her father’s home town – liberty. Does she find it? Welllllll … she finds a whole heck of a lot of things, most of them unexpected.



Writing retreat, Arte Umbria 2017


If you’re interested in joining me on a writing retreat at Arte Umbria this summer (20-17 June 2018 or 27 June-4 July 2018) then you can read more about it on their website. You can also read earlier post, Did the Writing Retreat Work? here. (The answer is ‘yes’, by the way. I wrote almost a quarter of the first draft of One Summer in Italy in one week.

One Summer in Italy will hit portable devices or book shop and supermarket shelves near you on May 17 2018.

Promises, Secrets, Family


Filed under Arte Umbria, Avon Books UK, ebook, Italy, One Summer in Italy, Orvieto, Paperback, reading, retreat, Umbria, Writers, writing

Thanks to @KuoniTravelUK @KuoniDorking – event

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of visiting Kuoni, the travel company, in Dorking to be part of their Books and the Beach event, as they’re providing a GREAT competition for One Summer in Italy. More about that on publication day …

DSC01016It was lovely to meet not just those from Kuoni Dorking and Kuoni‘s head office but so many residents of Dorking and the surrounding area. Even the sunshine joined us as we mingled over prosecco and nibbles.

DSC01023Later, Rachel O’Reilly of Kuoni interviewed me and I answered questions from an attentive and generous audience. It was a pleasure to share the evening with them all.

DSC01049A wonderful lady called Susan even offered to help me with my research for next summer’s book!

My publisher, Avon (HarperCollins), had kindly sent down hot-off-the-press copies of One Summer in Italy to be raffled off, which I was very happy to sign.

My friend Anita Chapman of Neetswriter and Neetsmarketing was able to attend and we rounded out the evening with fish and chips in the dining room of my hotel.

Thanks to Kuoni and all the guests for making me so welcome and sharing the excitement in the run-up to the publication of One Summer in Italy!

OSII bookshot


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Should authors visit the London Book Fair? #LBF18

I attended the London Book Fair at London Olympia for only one day this year, Tuesday, but, as usual, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There have been a few conversations on Facebook about what there is at the Fair for authors so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Would an author’s time be better spent writing? I suppose it depends how much time you have to write. I write full-time and welcome a chance to widen my knowledge. And meet my mates.

Speaking for myself, even if I go for all three days, as I have for several years, I consider it time well spent. I find many of the talks interesting, even if they’re not aimed at authors, because I like to know what I can about publishing (and I like to hear good talks). Sessions on what Brexit might mean for publishing or how to build writing communities catch my eye and I go on in. At Author HQ I listen to the occasional speaker, too, although I feel as if many of these slots are aimed at self-published authors.

My favourite talks by far are those from authors. On Tuesday, it was possible to hear Joanna Trollope, Kit de Waal and David Baldacci, amongst others.  Last year’s stand-out author-speakers for me were Jeffrey Archer, Marian Keyes, Michael Morpurgo and Meg Rossof. I don’t think it’s time badly spent to listen to them! They’re entertaining and informative.

I like to tour the stands, particularly of the big publishers, to see what they’re pushing and what the latest covers look like.

I do a lot of networking with other writers or bloggers too. This year, naughtily, I spent more time socialising than listening to the illustrious guests! But I had been working hard … and somebody said ‘wine’. It may have been me!

Here are a few of my pics from the London Book Fair 2018:



On the train to #LBF18




Bookmark from the Society of Authors (they were also giving out sweets!)



David Baldacci (right, with mic). I couldn’t even get into his talk and had to stand at the back, outside Author HQ



The HarperCollins stand








Just one of the massive halls at London Olympia



Osborne Publishing’s stand. Isn’t that awesome?



Audio books






Filed under London Book Fair

#CoverReveal One Summer in Italy #excited

One Summer Jpeg web

It’s my pleasure to reveal the LOVELY cover for One Summer in Italy! I absolutely adore it and want to rush back to Italy this very minute.

If you buy the book you will find news of a lovely opportunity in the back! Can’t tell you any more right now but … look out for it.

And here’s what happened, one summer in Italy:

When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.

So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.

Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off …

One Summer in Italy will be published on 17 May in paperback, ebook and audio by Avon (HarperCollins)

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THRILLED to announce …

… that Just for the Holidays has been shortlisted for a RoNA!

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The Romantic Novelists’ Association runs the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards every year and they’re currently sponsored by Goldsboro Books. You can read more about this year’s awards on the RNA blog here but, in short, the event will take place on the 5th of March at The Gladstone Library in London. There are seven categories – my shortlisting is in the Contemporary category – and each category has a winner, who’s presented with a trophy sometimes referred to as ‘a RoNA’. Then the winners of the categories go forward for the overall award of £5,000 and a trophy to keep for a year. The latter is usually called ‘The Rose Bowl of Doom’ because everybody dreads dropping it.

This year the awards are to be presented by Rev Richard Coles, who happens to come from the town I live in now, and the judges for the overall award are: Matt Bates, the Fiction Buyer for WH Smith Travel, editor Alex Hammond, writer Elizabeth Buchan and Liz Robinson, book reviewer for

It’s a PHENOMENAL shortlist, but I’m happy to be in such fab company. The shortlist for the Contemporary Romantic Novel:
Together, Julie Cohen, Orion
The Picture House by the Sea, Holly Hepburn, Simon & Schuster
The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan – Two Roads, John Murray Press
The Dangers of Family Secrets, Debby Holt, Accent Press
The Queen of Wishful Thinking, Milly Johnson, Simon & Schuster
Just For The Holidays, Sue Moorcroft, Avon Books
My Summer of Magic Moments, Caroline Roberts, HarperImpulse
Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage, Heidi-Jo Swain, Simon & Schuster

I’ve only been lucky enough to be nominated for a RoNA once before, for Dream a Little Dream, when, unfortunately, somebody fainted in front of me, dumping me hard on my bum, drenched by my wine and that of two other people I crashed into. Richard & Judy were presenting the awards that year and they did ask over the microphone whether we were all OK. I was, apart from a bruise and a bra full of wine. (And I didn’t win.)

DALD_v12.2 revise

I always go into awards with the view that I won’t win, and I’m usually right (though Love & Freedom did win a Readers’ Romantic Read of the Year Award), but to be nominated is just SUCH a pleasure.




LoveAndFreedom:Layout 1


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The 12 Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas

I decided to celebrate Christmas by sharing my top writing tips on social media, culminating in sending out #12 today, Christmas Eve. You can find them all by searching for the hashtag #12WritingTips, but I thought it would also be a nice idea to collect them all on my blog. So here they are:

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #1

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #2

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #3

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #4

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #5

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #6

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #7

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #8

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #9

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #10

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #11

The Twelve Writing Tips of Christmas #12


That’s it! Have a fantastic festive season, everybody. I wish you peace and happiness.


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Why give an experience for Christmas? (Or a book …)

IMG_3431On Sunday morning I joined John Griff, BBC Radio Northampton presenter, for his newspaper roundup. It’s an interesting slot. The guest is given a sofa, the Sunday newspapers and a cup of tea (all good so far) for about three-quarters of an hour before the 10.45am timeslot. All they have to do is find a few stories they’d like to talk about. Then join John in the studio and talk about them.

It was all fairly Christmassy stuff and I was particularly struck by a feature written by Lucy Siegle in The Observer magazine, The Eco Guide to … Not Buying Stuff.

The thrust of the piece is that your Christmas shopping list doesn’t have to consist of material objects. ‘Experiences’ such as balloon flights or a day at a falconry centre are actually good for us. Apparently, researchers at Cornell University have concluded that receiving an experience gift can create more happiness than receiving possessions. The neuroscientists of the University of Pennsylvania link satisfaction to new experiences, especially if they take place outdoors.

I have to say I’m not convinced by “The most rubbish gift of 2017” – a full day of waste collection and recycling in a UK city of their choice. Me, I’d much rather have a few laps of Silverstone in a Ferrari or a glider flight.

A couple of great things about gifting an experience:

  • You can buy right up until the last moment
  • You don’t have to wrap it!

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And you never know where it will lead. It was an experience day at Icarus Falconry at Holdenby House, near Northampton, that led me to put a rescue owl, Barney, in The Little Village Christmas. Then the lovely folk at Icarus invited me back to fly Lillie, the young barn owl I’d based Barney on (except Barney has been injured and Lillie is all in one glorious piece).File 03-10-2017, 21 05 10

Or you could just give books as presents, of course. There your loved one will find all kinds of experiences without ever needing to leave their favourite armchair!

TLVC bookshotThe Little Village Christmas in paperback and ebook.

TLVC 99p Kindle glitter


Filed under christmas, ebook, Experience days, Holdenby House, Icarus Falconry, Paperback, reading, Sunday Times bestseller, The Little Village Christmas, writing