What Are You Doing Now?

Half-way into January, so more than a month and a half after NaNoWriMo finished. So, how did you do? Did you manage to reach your goal? To win NaNoWriMo you have to write 50,000 in the month of November, a really good amount for a first draft of a novel. Did you make it? If you did, kudos to you because although thousands of writers start hopefully on the 1st of November, a great many of them give up part way through the month.

National Novel Writing Month started in 1999 with only 21 participants, and offered the daunting challenge of having to write at least 50,000 words of a new novel during the month of November. NaNoWriMo is now a non-profit organisation that believes your story matters. They offer a wealth of advice and encouragement before, during and even after November each year. The organisation seems to want its members to succeed. And many do.

According to one source, in 2018, there were about 450,000 participants
of whom 53,000 completed the 50,000 words during November
That’s approximately 11%, which is about the average percentage each year.
So, what about you? Were you one of the elite 11%? As I said, kudos if you were and I hope you celebrated. 

I certainly did!

Whether you ended the month with 5,000 words or 5,000 words, you started a novel, so what are you doing now? Whether you wrote the first draft of your novel or the first chapter, you have started something amazing. Let’s get it finished.

January could be the month you pick up momentum again, get back into your story and develop your characters. There is a reader out there waiting for your novel.
So what will that involve?
Firstly, you need to finish writing the first draft, then the editing starts. 
Having given yourself permission to write a dreadful first draft, you now need to give yourself permission to make it better: to change what doesn’t work; to correct mistakes; fill plot holes; develop scenes and characters, and make your story stronger.

Next, it’s time to get outside help. 
If you belong to a writing club, online or off, it’s time to ask someone to beta read your work, tell you if it works, what is wrong if it doesn’t, and how to make it more appealing to your potential readers.
Caution is needed at this step.
You want to choose beta readers who enjoy books in your genre, and who will be honest with you. This is not the time to be looking for praise and wonder, this is the time to seek help. Help comes in honest, non-judgemental critique. Note: critique – not criticism. We are not seeking discouragement, we are seeking help to make our novels better.

What’s after that?
Well, back to the computer for another round or two of editing, followed by a round or two of proofreading.
Yes, you can do the first round of proofreading, indeed you should, but then you need to let someone, preferably a professional proofreader, have a look at your manuscript because you will have done your best, but the brain can trick you into reading what you meant to write, what you thought you’d written, rather than what your fingers typed.

So where are you at in the process?
Me?
Well, I finished that all-important first draft, a round of editing to make it better and sent it out to beta readers. So far, I’ve had one helpful critique back and have done most of the editing that required. I say, ‘most of’ because there is one scene I would like to rewrite after reading the feedback and I don’t want to rush it.
After all, the goal is not just to make it different, but to make it better.

I’d love to hear where you are in the process.
And, if you’re a reader rather than a writer, I’d love to hear your views on whether you’ve ever read a book you wish had gone through these processes, but had been rushed to publication too soon.

Do You NaNo?

Well, we’re more than halfway through November, so, if you joined in this amazing writing fest, are you over halfway through the 50,000 words needed to win NaNoWriMo?

Thankfully, I’m over halfway. Phew!

When I decided to do it again this year my reasons were not pure. I have written a first draft of a novel every November since 2013 and I have published each one in due course the following year. Although I can usually write that first draft no problem in the month, it takes me many more months to edit, polish and publish each one.

This year, I didn’t think I could manage to do another novel, what with one thing and another, but I did have last year’s rough first draft hanging around, so I decided my challenge this year was to write the second draft.

The reason I decided to go for NaNoWriMo at all this year was because I couldn’t bring myself not to. The thought of breaking my seven year run was too much for me. So here I am, just over halfway through the month and more than halfway through the second draft. Yipee!

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November. It’s far from ‘National’ now. People from all over the world join in these days, tens of thousands of them. Many of them ‘win’. And that’s the thing about NaNoWriMo, everyone who completes the 50,000 word count is a winner. And can I tell you, that’s a great feeling.

Write every day, no matter the distractions!

The reason I do it every year is the motivation it provides to stick in and write every day. Before 2013, it could take me years to write the first draft of a novel, let alone the years that then went into editing and polishing it. By the third novel I wrote and published, I’d gotten it down to months, but still too many months, to write a first draft. And the reason it took me so long was simple. I didn’t write every day.

When you don’t write every day, in my experience, you lose the flow of the piece and each time you open the manuscript, you have to look back, sometimes all the way to the beginning and read yourself back into it. That takes time, sometimes a lot of time.

Writing every day, your story never quite leaves your consciousness and it is much easier to pick up where you left off. Especially if you stop in mid-flow, which is a trick I learned somewhere along my writing career.

Of course, NaNoWriMo has its critics. What doesn’t? There are those who say it’s not possible to write a book in a month, and I actually agree, with one proviso. I don’t believe it is possible to write a GOOD book in a month. It’s perfectly possible to write a good first draft in that time. In fact most of the first drafts I have written during that month have been well over the 50,000 word count. It’s possible to write over 100,000 words in a month if you have the time, a good outline, good planning, and the health and energy to write at least 3,334 words every single day. I know some writers can do that and more in a day. I’m afraid I can’t.

But it’s not the volume of words that make a good novel. It’s the quality. The quality choice of words, of sentence structure, and the quality of the story telling. And I doubt there are many writers who have published a GOOD first draft. I know far too many who have published a poor one. And that, unfortunately is what draws the criticism.

Again, I can only speak from my own experience but for me writing the first draft is the easy part. Taking on board the critique of Alpha readers, Beta readers, rewriting, editing, proofreading, these are the time consuming and work intensive parts of writing a novel. And I don’t believe they should be skipped. Even books published by mainstream publishers go through that process, so I don’t believe it’s a process that should ever be neglected. Not if you want to truly WIN NaNoWriMo.

But I’d welcome your thoughts on the subject.

All my novels are available on Amazon Kindle or as Paperbacks.

Awareness

I’m sharing this blog post as much for myself as for you. How’s that for self-awareness 😀 There are some great insights in it that I’d like to look at again from time to time as my perspectives change.
This is a beautifully written post that I feel sure you’ll enjoy.

read on

When I read some books about meditation or mindfulness earlier. I often come across a key word – awareness. I’m curious to know what exactly awareness is. Does awareness mean knowing what I’m doing or how I feel at the moment? Is awareness a state that only guru like Yoda can get there? Am I ever aware for a nanosecond?

I find a simple answer from the book Awareness by Anthony de Mello. In Anthony’s spiritual point of view, awareness is suddenly you get another perspective on life. Wow, that sounds effortless and all of a sudden. My follow up question is: how to get there SUDDENLY?

Anthony’s 4 steps to wisdom might be the pathway to get there. From his book Awareness, he said “Put this program into action, a thousand times: (a) identify the negative feelings in you; (b) understand that they are in you, not in…

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The Things that we Love

❤️ I was recently gifted one of my favourite things – a brand new notebook ❤️

It’s always fun to have a new notebook, especially one with such gorgeously smooth, snowy-white paper as this one.

It’s always fun to have a new notebook.

There’s always that moment of possibilities. What shall I use this one for? It could be a journal, a jotting-things-down-so-I-don’t-forget-them type notebook, the place I write my next novel, a book for composing poetry ~ oh, so many ways I can use a new notebook. There is so much joy in the anticipation.

This particular notebook has a quotation on the bottom of each right-hand page, so I feel this one may be a journal where the quotations act as writing prompts, getting me thinking about what they mean and their relevance or significance.

On the first right-hand page, Thomas Aquinas is credited with having written, “The things that we love tell us what we are.”

Do you think that’s true?

I got to thinking about all the different people and things that I love and the list was long, the double page spread was going to be no where near enough for me to explore them all in journal form, never mind explore the concept as it relates to each one, deciding if the saying fits or not.

There are some where it doesn’t quite fit if you take it literally. For instance, I love flowers, but I’m not a flower, or even a gardener. I love music but I’m no musician, fruit but I’m not a fruitarian.

Taken literally, does the act that I love books tell me I’m a book? Of course not, but it might reflect that I’m a reader.

That I love writing certainly tells me I’m a writer. Quite apart from the fact I have written novels, and can see them sitting on my bookshelf, the evidence became clearer to see as, day after day, I filled two pages of the notebook with no trouble at all.

I love stories, and in some ways it could be said we’re all stories still being written, I suppose, if you want to interpret it that way. What I am is a story-teller. I love taking words and crafting them into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into pages; building stories. So, in that respect, it’s true that what I love tells me what I am. I love stories, and I am a writer of stories.

The more I wrote in my new journal, the more instances I found where the saying proved true in my case, with lots of other things I love. I love cooking: one of the ‘hats’ I’ve worn as a wife and a mother is my cook’s ‘hat’. I love walking: I’m a walker. You get the picture, I’m sure.

So what about you? Does the saying hold true for you? Did Thomas Aquinas get it right in your case when he said, “The things that we love tell us what we are.”? How would you interpret the saying? I’d really value your thoughts if you’d care to share them in the comments.

What do you Listen to?

Sleep does not come easily to me. It’s been that way for a long time but as I get older I crave it more, so I am making a concentrated effort to do something about the situation. Working with a terrific Brain Health coach, Andrea Wilkinson, I am making progress. I have enrolled for Andrea’s Brain Vitality Blueprint course and am over half-way through. I can highly recommend it for anyone who wants to live Phase 2 of their lives with maximum vibrancy and energy.

I didn’t do the course to sort out my sleep pattern, but that’s just one of the benefits I’m finding from following the blueprint. It’s challenging my mindset to cope with an alternative reality: one where I manage stressful situations with more ease, and have more energy and motivation to work on my aspirations and goals.

While helping me find ways to sort out my sleep pattern, Dr Andrea said it was important to turn off all screens – mobile phone, tablet, computer or laptop in good time before getting ready for bed – and certainly no screens in the bedroom!

Surprisingly, this was something I very quickly got used to and I am coping fine without checking my email, Facebook, etc, last thing at night. In fact, I feel good about it. And I get to sleep earlier, so it was well worth heeding that advice. It works – as does having a morning routine, getting more exercise, drinking more water – all things Dr Andrea encouraged me to pay attention to.

Another suggestion was to listen to an audiobook while trying to get to sleep. I know a lot of people find that a helpful thing to do, but it didn’t work for me. I found it kept me awake. I didn’t want to miss anything. One way I tried to get round that was to listen to something boring, but that just irritated me. Then I hit on the idea of listening to one of my own books – not boring, but familiar, so I thought I wouldn’t mind falling asleep while it was playing. After all, I knew what happened next at any given point.

There was a rather pleasing reason why that didn’t work to send me to sleep – I found, to my delight, that I was enjoying my own writing too much. Please, don’t think me immodest when I say that, but truly, if I don’t enjoy reading my novels, how can I expect you to?

A huge, unexpected compensation for not being sent to sleep by my latest book is that it keeps giving me more ideas for the sequel I’m currently writing. Just little points that I can follow through on in the second book. It’s really helpful.

Now I don’t listen to be sent to sleep, I listen to be inspired. It’s great. I’ve written before about where my inspiration comes from, and here’s another to add to the list.

What do I listen to to get to sleep?

I listen to the silence.

Perfect.

What about you? Do you listen to audiobooks or music to help you fall asleep? Do you find inspiration in the things you listen to, whether books, podcasts, music or whatever else is out there to delight and tickle the ears?

You can find all my books as paperbacks or on Amazon Kindle.

Inspiration, is it a Relative Thing?

On digging through my blog archives, I recently came upon a post I wrote about inspiration. In particular, what inspired the first five of my novels up to, and including, Searching for Summer. I decided to update the post to include the rest of the Reluctant Detective Series since I had written and published two more novels to complete the series. So, that post ended up being about seven books.

Having written a further four, it’s time for a second inspiration ’round up’. You can read the first here, keeping in mind these posts are not about the books’ plots and content, but rather, what inspired me to write them. To find out more about each novel they’re all here as ebooks and here as paperbacks plus, there is even more information and photographs about their locations in my Facebook readers’ group, which you may request to join here.

After I finished writing the Reluctant Detective Series, I found some of the characters lingered in my mind, demanding I write their stories too. In particular, Mirabelle’s sister, Yvonne and her husband, Hugh. They hadn’t played a large part in Mirabelle’s story, especially Hugh, who hardly got any attention at all, yet their story was there in my mind to be written. I had done the background profiles. I knew the characters pretty well.

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Hugh is different from any character I’d written before. His ‘voice’ was strong in my head. He had been sadly neglected in the series, so I decided to develop his story in For What it’s Worth, along with the story of his marriage to Yvonne, making the inspiration for that book an internal one, an offshoot from the series, but not part of it, available as ebook and paperback.

The next novel I published was Gold Plated, the story of one couple’s Golden Wedding Anniversary party and all that it raked up. The idea came to me when my husband and I were thinking about our own approaching Golden Wedding Anniversary. We were reminiscing on our fifty years together and I got to thinking whether it would be possible for a couple to have reached such a milestone without their marriage being a happy one. You can find out more about this one here for ebook and here for paperback.

Then came A Mountain of Memories, the first of my novels to contain a historic strand woven into the contemporary story. We were returning from vacationing in the north of Scotland and, as we drove through The Pass of Glencoe, I mentioned to my husband that I’d like to set my next novel on one of the mountains we were passing. He suggested that I should set it on one we had climbed over fifty years ago. Seemed like a good idea, so that’s what I did, and the book is now available in ebook and paperback formats.

The most recent novel I have published is Rose & Laurie, set partly on the Island of Arran. It’s inspiration came from a long-ago conversation I had with a lady on a train. She told me her story, which in turn inspired a new story in my mind. Rose & Laurie is also available as ebook and paperback.

So there you have it, the different ways I come to write a novel.

And the ‘Relative’ in the blog title? Well it applies to Jessica Norrie, the cousin I never knew I had (see my last post here) and who is also a published author. She explained the inspiration for her first novel in a post over on her blog and you can see it here.

Goodness, what a lot of links I’ve given you to follow. Don’t say I’m not good to you. 😀 Enjoy your online adventure 😀

As a reader, do you like to know the genesis of a story? Let me know in the comments.

Is There a Writing Gene?

I’ve often wondered where I got my love of writing. My mother and my sister, my cousins and my aunts, none of them seem to have that particular passon. My mother and my sister read a lot, especially my sister. I remember when we were growing up, how hard it was to rouse her from a good story; she really did typify the saying, ‘lost in a book’. As far as I know, she’s still the same.

I loved reading too – and can still get lost in a good book – but I very quickly realised the stories I enjoyed reading had to be written by someone. Why not me? So, much as I loved reading, I loved writing my own stories even more, winning essay prizes at school and going on to write and publish short stories, and newspaper and magazine articles, before finally finding my true passion – writing novels, published on Amazon Kindle and as paperbacks.

One of my daughters has been helping me trace my family tree. Having not known my birth father until I traced him when I was nearly forty years old, I knew nothing of the paternal side of my family, and he didn’t share his family history with me before he died.

But now, suddenly, it all makes sense.

There were writers in my father’s family. His cousin was a published journalist who later edited an anthology of letters, published after her death. And her husband was a ‘bookman’ working in the book trade, owning a bookshop, publishing fiction and non-fiction. Their daughter has published books too, and is still writing and publishing.

What joy! If there is such a thing as a writing gene, I now know where mine came from. And, when I contacted my second cousin, Jessica Norrie, she generously shared her bountiful supply of family history, stories and anecdotes with me, and it seems the storytelling gene stretches back yet another generation because her grandmother, my Great-Aunt Ivy (after whom I was given my middle name) was an entertaining story-teller too.

Jessica Norrie, my second cousin, at a book signing for her debut novel,

The Infinity Pool

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Check it out. See if you think there are any similarities in our writing style.

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My Flask

a fun and interesting post. Good to know what’s good on food 😀

Flippy Red Blog

Don’t get upset. I’m not a drinker. I do occasionally carry a flask, but it isn’t filled with liquor. Let me explain.

I am a well-behaved diabetic. I generally eat well, and I exercise regularly. On May 8, 2014, I attended the first session of Living Healthy Workshop with my friend and coach, Patty Pavey. That opening session changed my life. The topic was sugar detox. I figured I had this covered. Boy, was I wrong. The upshot was that I realized I needed to purge artificial sweeteners from my life. I began reading every label looking for artificial sweeteners in all their forms. This included sugar alcohols (e.g. sorbitol and mannitol), which technically aren’t artificial but aren’t recognized as natural by your body. There were even artificial sweeteners in my multi-vitamin!

Even eating well, I do occasionally indulge in French toast, pancakes, or waffles. In the past I had…

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Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist O’ Stories

I’ve copied this post from my private FaceBook group, ‘Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist O’ Stories’, to illustrate the type of post I offer those interested in finding out more about my novels and their settings and inspiration. I’m always happy to welcome new members to the group, so please do request to join here, if you’re interested.


This beautiful photograph is of the West Bow/Victoria Street in Edinburgh, only 150 metres from the entrance to Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile, in the heart of the World Heritage site of the Old Town of Edinburgh. Here is the photographer, Dale Kelly’s, link if you’d like to have one of the limited run of prints he’s doing.
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In my novel, Searching for Summer (Click here for kindle, here for paperback) Mirabelle would have walked this street many times, and often at night. In daytime, a busy street, with many tourists trying to capture its essence on camera, seeking treasures in its interesting shops, easy for someone to mingle and get lost among them. At night, a place for the lost and lonely to wander in search of a quiet close or stairwell in which to sleep.
Perhaps you can picture Mirabelle, searching here during the night, peeping in every hidden nook and cranny, searching for Summer.
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Excerpt

She never tired of the secrets hidden in the Royal Mile, high above the gardens, its cobbles leading from Castle Esplanade to Holyrood House. Sometimes its secrets were the colour of Summer.

One day, she was halfway down the Mile when a girl caught her eye. A young, flame-haired woman who quickly looked away, head bent, and increased her pace.The colour of Summer.Mirabelle felt her heartbeat stutter. “Excuse me!” she called, boldly following her through one of the archways into a tiny, paved courtyard, bumbling out in embarrassed confusion when the person turned a stranger’s face in enquiry

“Can I help you? Are you looking for someone?

Mirabelle shook her head in apology, tumbled back into the High Street and continued down the mile of history: the Via Regis.From Lawnmarket to Cannongate, the Royal Mile buzzed with visitors, students and lovers.

She barely noticed the tourists; studied the students and lovers. As she searched their faces, looking for that one special one, they’d sometimes turn, a smile warm in their eyes, happy to share their glow with someone they must have imagined a tourist herself, her colouring declaring her part-Jamaican, her loose, colourful clothing more suited to the Caribbean than Edinburgh’s austere Calvinism

Should she walk its length every day of her life, she reckoned she’d uncover something she’d missed before: wynds snaking behind old buildings, ancient doors leading who knew where, tiny stairways spiralling up into special places. Tourist shops and museums served those without time or inclination to wander from the street, tiny theatres and history rewarded those who did.

And shades of Summer that failed to yield her daughter.

🌺🌸🌺

Searching for Summer is available on Amazon Kindle or as a paperback.

RSVP

Delightful post about etiquette.

Flippy Red Blog

Mention etiquette, and many people roll their eyes. They picture some stuffy old woman sniffing her nose at someone using the wrong fork. But that’s not what etiquette is at all. I’m a fan of Awesome Etiquette, the podcast by The Emily Post Institute. It’s hosted by the great-grandchildren of Emily Post. They point out that the watchwords of etiquette are consideration, respect, and honesty. It’s about engaging the world in a way that is helpful to you and those around you. The “rules” of etiquette change over time, but the basics remain the same.

They had a question recently about RSVPs. It’s not unusual for them to get questions about RSVPing. Since my main job involves parties, I’m familiar with the problems of RSVPs. I’ve heard people say that they thought RSVP meant to call if they were coming. I’ve heard people say that they thought it meant…

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