Guest Post: Story Behind ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’


By Guest Blogger, Morgen Bailey from the UK

P.S. Be sure to check out Morgen’s interview! In this guest post, Morgen talks about the story behind her novel, ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’.

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How ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’ came about

I came to writing by spotting an evening workshop at my local college back in late 2004. I enrolled January 2005 and once I’d completed my first short story, I was hooked!

I’d devoured Stephen King novels in my teens (and blame him for me wearing glasses; torch / under the duvet) but loved writing shorts so I started reading, and devouring, them. I was working full-time and running a house so it allowed me to read an entire story in one sitting. It’s still my favourite format.

So speed up three years. I discovered NaNoWriMo – the 50,000 words in a month project started by a San Francisco writing group and now a worldwide hit. I’d previously thought of novels as taking a year to write but when I was encouraged to write one in a month, I thought “I can do this”. So November 2008 produced a 53,000-word Hitman Sam – which is still languishing in a file but I will be revisiting it shortly.


[Image from Discovery Education]

I enjoyed the experience so much I started another novel the following January, After Jessica, which I finished in October 2009, but which I’m back to working on again now.

Having finished After Jessica, it dawned on me that I only had a few days (less than a week, from memory) to come up with an idea for the next so I went to my trusted ‘ideas’ Word document. I had a bundle of weird and wonderful characters I wanted a woman to meet. I wasn’t sure how but came up with the idea of setting it locally – Northampton, England – and having a journalist as
the main character. I started writing (typing mostly) on 1st November and ‘ran with it’.

Thirty days later (including a couple of days off) I’d completed a 117,540-word first draft of ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’ which I subsequently edited four times, sent off to some first readers then re-edited and put it online (having turned down two publishing offers which weren’t for me – and one of The Society of Authors’ lawyers agreed) as a 101,000-word eBook.

I’ve done (and ‘won’) four more NaNos, including my first Camp NaNoWriMo in April 2013, since then, including a crime trilogy. All but ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’ are waiting to be edited, first read, and final edited so that’s my goal for the rest of this year. I’ll be teaching creative writing for my local council from January so a great deadline to have.

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Synopsis of novel ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’

dinner dating

[Image from Speed Dating Reading UK]

31 men in 31 days – what could possibly go wrong?

Isobel MacFarlane is a recently-turned-40 journalist who usually writes a technology column for a newspaper based in Northampton, England, but her somewhat-intimidating boss, William, has set her the task of meeting 31 men, via a local internet dating site, all within a month.

Having an active, though fruitless, social life with her friend and ‘Health & Beauty’ colleague Donna, she knows what she wants in a man, so creates a shopping list of dos and don’ts, and starts ticking them off as she meets Mr Could Be Right Except For, Mr Not Bad, Mr Oh My Goodness and Mr Oh So Very Wrong.

Follow the ups (there are a few) and downs (there are many) of the dating process and intertwined with her experiences, get to know her colleague and family, including her niece Lola who, apart from being an amazing storyteller, can eat ambidextrously whilst wearing a Princess glove puppet on her right hand, and Baby, William’s non-too-healthy African Grey parrot.

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Extract from novel ‘The Serial Dater’s Shopping List’

serial dating

By Morgen Bailey

I shake my head, attempt a smile and watch him clear the plate. Finally, he picks up the chicken bones and I expect him to eat them whole, but he just licks them clean and drops them back on the plate. He issues another belch, this time apologising as he realises it was loud enough to draw attention to himself, as if the devouring of an African family’s monthly intake wasn’t bad enough. Throughout the whole episode, there’s not been a word of proper chat between us. He’s been too busy eating and I’ve been concentrating on keeping my hotpot down.

As the last morsel of food disappears into the black hole, the waitress heads for our table, I assume to clear the platter away, but she’s holding a plate above her left shoulder. I’m relieved it’s not big enough to be another meal for two, although I wouldn’t put it past him, but more like a standard sized dinner plate. I will it to be nothing I would normally eat, but am sorely disappointed
as laid before me is a double helping of, the waitress announces, “homemade Banoffee pie”. I could cry.

I smile less than half-heartedly at the waitress who looks sympathetically at me before retreating to the kitchen, I assume to gossip about Table 14. At the thought of the beautiful dessert being dismembered in such a way, I look at Tim’s eyebrows. I can’t bear to look any further down as his nose is running and it’s close to meeting the barbecue sauce on his upper lip. I’ve finally had
enough and blurt out, “I’m sorry, but I’ve just remembered I’ve left my oven on.” But then I recall Duncan’s battle to lose weight and feel guilty, until Tim’s mouth gapes open revealing a mixture of toffee syrup and pastry, which threaten to spill over the edge like a coin cascade at a fair, and I can’t bear to look at him anymore.

As I get up to leave, he splutters a, “so, do you want to meet again?” and I don’t know what to say without hurting his feelings. I mumble a non-committal, “I’ll message you” and almost do a Usain-Bolt-sprint down the stairs.

Purchase links: | | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | SonyGoodreads

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Author Bio:


Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, tutor, speaker, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), freelance author of numerous short stories, novels, articles, and dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog,, is consumed by all things literary and she loves chatting with other writers and readers. Her email is

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Thanks so much for the guest post, Morgen:)!

P.S. And here’s Morgen’s Q&A with JCS (2011) and her guest post on Crime Writing.

– Jess C Scott / jessINK

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