petite anglaise

November 23, 2007

working title

Filed under: book stuff — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:07 pm

In between having a final look at the revised proofs for “petite” and fielding emails about things related to the publication/publicity of the same in various territories I’m mostly playing around with lots of ideas related to book two at the moment.

The contracts I signed back in October last year referred to book two simply as “untitled work, 80-100,000 words, fiction or non fiction”. My agent had explained when we first met that it was common for publishers to sign a new writer up for two books, and that this would be a good option to take as long as I didn’t find the prospect too daunting. I did find it daunting, terribly so, but I was also very conscious that I wanted to be seen as more than just “petite anglaise”, so I bit the bullet. There followed many months where I did my very best to bury my head in the sand and put “untitled” out of my mind completely. The December 2008 deadline seemed an awfully long way away, and I had more pressing matters to attend to, such as writing book one.

Luckily the germ of an idea was born while I was working on my memoir, and began quietly taking shape in my mind while I was occupied doing other things. So when I sat down to start defining book two in September, I realised I was in possession of a fairly clear idea of the overarching story and that I had an awful lot I wanted to say. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt when I started noting down scores of possible scenes and wore my pencil down to a stub.

So, here I am, after several months of editing and proofing (and holidays), back in the writing saddle again. Back to counting words obsessively and calculating how much they represent as a fraction of the Whole Thing. Back to printing out the work so far so that I can see that the stack of papers is slowly growing thicker, and looking more manuscript-like. Back to scribbling fragments of sentences in my notebook and on post it notes when I think of something I desperately want to use somehow.

In some ways it’s easier because I’ve done it once before. I know what normal is, for me. I know that there will be days when I’ll spew out a thousand words, others where I’ll manage only half that amount, and others still where I’ll find myself obsessively re-writing a previous section, losing all track of time and agonising over a single sentence for half an hour or more. I know that there will be phrases that float to the front of my mind and make me laugh out loud with glee when I think of them, but that these may or may not seem good by the time I get to the final draft, and may not even make the final cut.

What I don’t have, as yet, is a title for book two, 80-100,000 words, fiction.

So in the interests of making the little yellow folder on my desktop seem a non-threatening place, I’ve given it the working title of “motherfucker”, or “MF”, for short. My sincere apologies if this language offends anyone, but personally, it brings a smile to my lips every time I see it. I should hasten to add that this title shouldn’t be taken as an indication that I intend to encroach on OneTrack territory. Not at all. I’m quite happy to leave the sex writing to the sexperts. The only clue to be gleaned from this title, if any, is that the protagonist may just be a mother.

This codename makes me smile because it calls to mind an exchange I had with The Boy a couple of weeks after we first met. We were talking about our respective families, and it transpired that his mother and I had several things in common. A shared Christian name. A shared profession. Single parenthood.

“Motherfucker,” I said with a snigger, without giving any explanation whatsoever.

The Boy frowned at first, unsure of just what he had done to deserve such an insult, but then in a blinding flash he suddenly grasped my meaning. Oddly, before I pointed it out to him, he hadn’t joined the dots himself; hadn’t realised that he appeared to have selected a mate who rather resembled his mother.

He retorted by calling me his MILF, a term which required a degree of explanation, given that I am something of a porn philistine.


  1. And MILF is well deserved, as I’m sure the boy was at pains to point out! Wear that particular badge with pride.

    Comment by mac_kix_windoze — November 23, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  2. You made me laugh so hard…. Not such a bad title:MF! Why not?

    Comment by Zeina — November 23, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  3. Had to laugh over your ending … one can only imagine, writes one porn philistine to another.

    Congrats on getting into the second book and over the ‘daunting’ hurdle.

    Comment by Di — November 23, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  4. Does it work as FILF too? I’m in love with a single dad, you know.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — November 23, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

  5. MILF would make a great t-shirt slogan, no?

    Comment by JonnyB — November 23, 2007 @ 1:44 pm

  6. Very classy. Calling your book ‘motherfucker’ is a class move, even though it is just the working title.

    And MILF is great, although you’re more likely to find me using the ‘DILF’ version….

    Comment by travelling but not in love — November 23, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

  7. Why does it seem like titles are always either the first or last thing to happen to a book? My first book was titled before I even knew what it was about, but my current novel probably won’t have one until a least a few drafts in… In the meanwhile, I’ll have to start using dirty words for my file names.

    Comment by amy, la petite americaine — November 23, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  8. This reminded me of Pulp Fiction and the fantastic Jules Winnfield. aka Samuel L. Jackson.

    If ever there was a bad motherfucker, then Jules was your man. Imagine for a second, your book being titled ‘bad motherfucker’ of ‘BMF’, that would make you the mother of the bad motherfucker!

    You could even have your own wallet like Jules


    Comment by Steve... — November 23, 2007 @ 4:40 pm

  9. Hahaha – now if he’s your MF, and you’re his MILF, then maybe the two of you should read this man page? (The page’s title contains another pr0n synonym, and while we’re at it: I know you like xkcd; maybe you’d also consider to use one of these fine cartoons?)

    Great working title! I would consider and discuss the use with my publisher if I were you…


    Comment by wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) — November 23, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  10. LOL – the boy is gorgeous!

    Comment by tinylondon — November 23, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

  11. yummy mummy?

    Comment by chris — November 23, 2007 @ 5:38 pm

  12. That is fabulous! I hope we get an equally big laugh when the book is published :)

    Comment by Caffienated Cowgirl — November 23, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

  13. I am sure that the prospective title bodes well for the future work! Happy writing.

    Comment by Lost in France — November 23, 2007 @ 11:46 pm

  14. Hilarious!!
    Oh, and I love to hear the process of writers writing… especially while working on a book deal.

    Comment by desireenb — November 24, 2007 @ 3:40 am

  15. Hum…. porn on the web seems to be rather sophisticated sometimes.

    Comment by Parisian Cowboy — November 24, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

  16. You make me laugh! I love the idea of referring to a project as MF. And it’s really cute (and maybe just a little creepy) how you related that to The Boy. Plus you, a MILF? Oh definitely!

    Comment by ~Tim — November 24, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

  17. I hope my man does not see him a a mother fucker as my stepmom did not know the meaning of the word tender.

    Comment by Marie-Hélène — November 24, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  18. Excellent

    You make me laugh :-)

    Comment by courti — November 25, 2007 @ 12:30 am

  19. I take it you haven’t seen ‘American Pie?’ Or at least if you have you aren’t admitting to seeing it. And I probably shouldn’t be either. It was on a plane with nothing else to watch, I swear.

    Comment by Jamila — November 25, 2007 @ 2:54 am

  20. Hey there, been following you for a while…had finally gathered up the courage/energy/desire to comment on your last post only to find it “closed because of spam” or something – surely now you are only posting every 10 days or so (something about writing a book?) this limit is a bit “tight” – no? I know I know, *your* blog and all that. Anyway. shame. All I wanted to say really was : nice to see you haven’t let fame go to your head. (comment No 22 previous post)….

    Comment by P. — November 25, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

  21. Perhaps Tadpole thinks the Boy is a motherfucker?

    Comment by gonzales — November 25, 2007 @ 11:18 pm

  22. Check this out for cheesy chat up lines including “That was my mother’s name”

    Comment by parkin pig — November 26, 2007 @ 11:43 am

  23. Why don’t you name it just :
    Untitled work (80-100,000 words)
    Fiction …
    Simple, classy, descriptive, and probably more easy to sell than Motherfucker :)

    Comment by Azed — November 26, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

  24. Petite
    I had to google MILF to find out what you were talking about..
    I gather you are not a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front!

    Comment by running thread — November 26, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  25. Will you please stop using ‘risque’ words – every time you do, I can’t access your blog from work as it is blocked because it contains words of an ‘adult nature’. Thankfully, I can catch up with you when I get home!

    Comment by John — November 26, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  26. Thank you ‘running thread’. I was wondering – but not wanting to show my ignorance (lack of imagination) by having to ask what it meant. Now I’ve googled and found out. Surprisingly enough Petiteanglaise doesn’t come up at the top of the results – yet.

    Comment by sablonneuse — November 26, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

  27. MF? You can also call it that every time it frustrates you…quite handy, I should say.

    Comment by Drusilla — November 26, 2007 @ 11:03 pm

  28. As an image of you Petite, MILF, in my mind, is perfect. Me jealous of The Boy, no… ;-)

    Comment by Jeremy — November 27, 2007 @ 1:28 am

  29. If you are going to use the word “motherfucker” correctly, then it is imperative that you rent either “Pulp Fiction,” or “Jackie Brown,” as both have the master of that word, Samuel L. Jackson. No one the planet uses that epithet with such style and grace as does Tarantino’s favorite muse.

    A title for the new book? How about, “Petite – Part Deux – The Girl, The Boy, And Everything.”

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — November 27, 2007 @ 2:41 am

  30. Look, he’s a French Parisian boy. Of course he loves his mother. A Lot.

    Perhaps Boy ‘MILF’ has a thing about Mothers-in-Law too?

    Now do I get another ban?

    Comment by andrew — November 27, 2007 @ 3:39 am

  31. My eldest daughter told me about 6th form boys at school using the term “MILF”…..

    It amused me then…

    And re:The bold Soul’s comment…. why not?

    Comment by Sally Lomax — November 27, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  32. Is there any chance that either book will be released as an e-book? As often as possible, I read new books on my PalmPilot instead of in paper.
    (yes I still read lots of paper, but the palm has a backlight built in and will happily carry 50 books on vacation with me)

    Comment by Alice — November 28, 2007 @ 1:51 am

  33. MILF ? This post reminds me of the plot line of About a Boy.

    As indeed it is.

    Comment by Roads — November 28, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

  34. I just noticed that this month’s Grazia magazine has an article on DILF’s.

    Comment by Jamila — November 29, 2007 @ 11:37 am

  35. I am going to spend my commute home with the Ezekiel speech from Pulp Fiction in my head now.

    Comment by Jonathan — November 29, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  36. “A shared Christian name. A shared profession.”

    So his mother is a writer named Petite?

    Who’d a thunk it?!

    Comment by Damian — December 5, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  37. there is something deeply nasty about this entry.

    Comment by anon — December 11, 2007 @ 11:07 am

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