Last Friday, I embarked upon an experiment. A writing experiment which I have been meaning to try for many years. It's nothing flash or creative but the simple act of writing a book by hand. My usual style is typing straight into a word document which is the skeleton template which I have adopted over the years. But this new project isn't commissioned for an editor or even known about by my agent; a secret project where I can indulge and take as long as I wish because there are no deadlines.
I grabbed a nice new notebook, a trusty fountain pen and proper ink, and away I went. The purpose is to see if hand writing has a different creative process for me in relation to drafting or editing on a laptop. I've been told over the years that I'll have cleaner 'draft one' as the process of hand writing automatically includes a level of basic editing. Whereas my fast flowing typing fest via a screen is literally word after word flowing with as much urgency as my brain can muster.
So far, in five days, I have found a different level of enjoyment. You forget how good it feels to have the paper glide beneath your writing hand. And, hand ache having held the pen for too long! The story is flowing nicely and I have been lost for periods of time without looking up - it reminds me of being a child when the teacher set a writing task.
I have no idea how many words I've written - which has taken away one of my daily measures, but am conscious of the page turning as I fill each one with scrawly writing.
My intention is to hand write every day from now until the end of the year, including my NaNoWriMo challenge, and see how much I can complete. I have my usual main project on my laptop, but its been nice having an additional secret one too.
I love October; a favourite month due to the autumnal colours, the cosy feels and special days. And, of course, NaNoWriMo prep!
Today, I entered my project details into the official NaNoWriMo.org website which makes it totally live and legit in my head. My goal is 50,000 words, anything more is a bonus! I planned this book a while ago, so I'm literally waiting to start on 1st November. As always, I'll probably do a couple of sessions throughout each day and update my word count each night.
If you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo before the aim is to write 1667 words each day for one month. It's a global challenge which brings writers of all abilities together for four weeks. Press the red font above for a link to the official website.
Personally, I find week three the most challenging. Weeks one and two are fuelled by the enthusiasm for a new writing project and week four has the end in sight. I try to get ahead regarding my word count in the first two weeks allowing myself a slower pace in week three, if needs be.
My countdown has offically begun!
Last Thursday, saw book two of my 'From Shetland' series published in both ebook and audio format*. As always, I made the most of publication day with a revisit to Haworth and the Bronte parsonage before an evening of celebration and bubbles. I always use publication day as a memory making day because you never know how many you'll achieve as an author! I'd hate to let one slip by.
I was inundated with 'congratulations' and 'best wishes' messages from fellow authors, bloggers and readers, plus a beautiful bouquet from my editor at Headline Publishing Group. Though in all honesty, the real publication thrill occurred this morning when I discovered this in 'Women's Contemporary Fiction' chart on Amazon. #ThankYouReaders
*the paperback follows on 11th November
It's Monday morning, the birds are singing and I am totally refreshed having spent the weekend at a writing retreat. If you know me, you know that I love nothing more than packing my car on a Friday afternoon and trundling off to wherever for a weekend of dedicated writing. So having spent the last three days in the delightful company of three other authors - I'm now home to start a fresh week.
I appreciate that some readers might not fully understand the significance or mindset which comes from attending writing retreats. Over the years, I've had many people suggest their costly, their indulgent and possibly, not productive but I believe otherwise. As always, I set a goal: 10,000 words. I managed 8,500 during the retreat and finished off on arriving home with a weekend total of 10,332 words! I can't complain about that.
It wasn't a tutor led retreat but a dedicated writing one, so I set up my writing spot in the dining room and away I worked, thanks to the delightful delivery of tea!
I had a change of scenery, laughed a great deal given that my co-authors are hilariously witty and have eaten some truly delicious meals. What's a girl to do, but enjoy!
And so, begins another week of writing boosted by a weekend away working!
As an aspiring author you don't look much beyond the dream of one day being published. You hanker for that almighty 'yes' from an editor or agent, yet rarely question the world you're entering. It comes as a great surprise to encounter the other elements of a published author's life. There's the in-person library talks, the on-going social media presence, the on-line book groups discussions, the competition giveaways, the advice requests, the mentoring queries and the flow of 'Thank you' messages from grateful readers which fills your week; each provides an interesting and pleasurable aspects outside of writing your book.
Last week, I experienced the ultimate thrill!
As a youngster, I wasn't encouraged to pursuit higher education post 18; my parents were pretty old-school in believing that I needed a full-time job before 'life' followed a set path. At the time I knew no different, so trusted the guidance I had. By the time I hit my twenties, I actually resented that guidance. I may have collected average grades throughout school, but I was nobody's fool! The education system appeared to be behind me, the chance of university and qualifications felt like a missed opportunity, and yet I yearned to learn more. It didn't help that my sibling attended uni for a short time before being kicked out for spending all his time in Pizza Hut!!!
So imagine my delight on discovering The Open University! Boy oh boy, how life changed from that moment. I was able to study two degrees: psychology and English literature before completing teacher training. It wasn't an easy route, but a necessary one for me. Whilst focusing on my OU studies and securing the 'day job', I spent my free time working on the 'dream job'. It'll come as no surprise, that as part of my English Literature degree, I was eager to study the OU's two creative writing courses. I learnt so much about the basic 'tool kit' and creative foundation necessary that I adopted some practises as my own. That was back in 2008 and 2009!
Last week, some 12 years after studying their two creative writing courses, the OU interviewed myself and Shereen Malherbe, a fellow author and OU student, to create a study resource for inclusion as course material for their current Creative Writing course. OMG! This interviewed topped every other event I have undertaken as an author. I was literally blown away to be given the opportunity to share my experiences, publishing route and study journey with other OU students and aspiring authors.
It's quite amazing to think I have literally gone full-circle, 'day job' and 'dream job' thanks to The Open University.
As mid-August draws near my mind has already sprung forward into autumn; my favourite time of the year! Since childhood, I've always aligned September with January in relation to new beginnings and goal setting - this year is no different.
For the forthcoming season, I'm going to focus on reading my 'classics' - something I've let slide in recent months as I've tried to juggle modern fiction alongside. For the remainder of 2021 I'm heading back in time!
Like most bookworms, I plan my reading order, record my completed books and actively seek out specific books to enhance my experience. To a non-reader that must sound crazy but its what us bookworms do. I can get as much enjoyment from selecting a pile of books to fill the next three months as others would from a night out. Seriously, that's simply me being honest!
I currently have a 'book challenge' which I'm partway through but I've come across a stumbling block; I can't remember how three listed books end, so have refused to scribble them from my challenge list. I definitely read them years ago, could discuss them if someone asked, but for the life of me I can't remember the endings. So, my September read, or more specifically 'reread', is to revisit the following three books.
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Wilde
Mrs Dalloway - Woolf
The Catcher In The Rye - Salinger
Each book is a short read, so by 30th September I'll have the satisfaction of crossing them from my book challenge, once and for all.
In October, I'm thinking of tackling an epic read - one of the chunky doorstoppers which litter my book shelves; I'm tempted by Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. November might be claimed by Hardy's Jude The Obscure and December ... well, I haven't got that far in my planning but I can hear Dickens' calling to me!
Today's the day, folks! My final entry for Camp NaNo has been submitted resulting in 55,688 words written for Project A and an full edit of Project B during the month of July. I'm thrilled to bits with my achievement; I'll be honest enough to explain why.
I usually blog regularly during a NaNo month to update you guys on my progress. This year, I opted for weekly Instagram 'lives' because low and behold life threw me an bloody 'big obstacle' on day 9!!!! You know how it is, life is tootling along just lovely and then bang! Out of the blue comes the unexpected pulling the rug from under your feet. The long and the short of it was I experienced a retinal migraine, but initially on attending A&E they thought it was much nastier and life changing (I can't even bring myself to type it).
Me being me, I took to researching all I could on the subject as I needed to understand the hows, whys and wherefores. During that time, I was grateful to have my daily NaNo projects to take my mind away from my health. After 19 days of non-stop research and sleepless nights - I was given the all-clear health wise and a final diagnosis of 'retinal migraine' was awarded on 27th July. Phew, what a relief!
As an author nothing is ever wasted - I've told you that before, haven't I? There was only one thing I could do with my newly gained knowledge. So, I changed a plot line for one character in my Project A and they too suffered a medical emergency, though much, much worse than mine. There is always a silver lining, folks! Always.
Many authors don't read their reviews as negative remarks or ratings affect their creative muse. We've all been there, the one negative remark blots out the 20 compliments you are given. I have always read my reviews, I hope I always will. I find them useful in many ways. Firstly, as the initial reaction to my books - always a relief when my dedicated readers are happy. Secondly, I note the particluar elements which they enjoyed and highlighted; these become the ingredients for future books. My plot ingredients tends to be love, life and laughter with a sprinkling of loss. The settings, locations, character traits are frequently commented on by readers and again, I take note of any helpful snippet.
I'm not saying is doesn't 'sting' when you receive a negative review, but I can't please all readers with my style of story telling. No artist ever can! Monet didn't paint a waterlily which pleased us all, John Lennon didn't pen the perfect song and Rodin couldn't capture the human form - if they can't, I certainly won't!