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.

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.

The A-G-E of Reading and Writing

We all learn the A-B-C of reading and writing at an early age. And what joy it can bring. Once we have learned to read, we can be transported to far-away lands, meet giants and goblins, princes and kings — all through the written word. We can learn about orthinology, quantum physics, gardening, trams or trains — whatever interests us, we can find out more about it because we have learned how to decipher the A-B-C of the written word.

For many, the joy of reading leads us to want to be the ones who write the stories others may want to read. And, again, whatever it is we are passionate about or wish to communicate, we can convey through the A-B-C of the written word.

So what about the A-G-E of reading and writing?

Well, let me just say, I am delighted to be included in the BFOR BLOG BLITZ though my offering for today is more about writing BFOR than reading them. And if this is your introduction to BFOR, I’ll tell you what it stands for:

BFOR is the acronym for Books for Older Readers and Books for Older Readers is a website and a Facebook group established in October 2017 by author Claire Baldry to promote books with older protagonists or themes such as ‘second chances’, which can particularly appeal to readers in mid-life or beyond. If you haven’t yet discovered the website or the Facebook group, I’d really urge you to take a look.

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I’d particularly like to write about Books for Older Readers – Written by Older Writers.

We all know authors come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and genders, as do their readers. An older writer will not only read or write about older people.
But is there any advantage in writing the A-G-E of your generation? Does it add authenticity to the writer’s ‘voice’ to write about a generation they have experienced?

Do older writers have an advantage over their younger colleagues when writing about older protagonists?

Younger authors must write from observation. Older authors, from experience.

An older writer has experiencing each stage of human life, from being a child, a teenager, a young adult, possibly a spouse and a parent, all the way to the later years of life, when the goalposts have been shifted so many times they are almost out of sight.

As an older writer myself – I think being 72 qualifies me to call myself ‘older’ – I have lived through all those stages, and have found, not only new goalposts, but a whole new pitch.

The journey from child to adult

planning a future, setting goals

college

work

marriage

children

homeschooling

weddings

empty nest syndrome

grandchildren

loss of loved ones

declining health

the vicissitudes of ageing

The things I have not experienced myself – like divorce, continuing singleness, and childlessness – I have experienced second hand while supporting friends and family who are/have lived them.

And this is where I get to my main point:

That is a lot of life experience to draw on when writing a novel.

It involves a lot of worry, a lot of pain, a lot of joy – a lot of life!

Surely the older writer must benefit from that when writing about older protagonists?

I can’t speak for other writers, but I know I go through every emotion with my characters. When they laugh, I laugh, when they cry, I cry, in the hopes my readers identify with the characters and the situations. I still feel passion, and I certainly feel pain in my daily life.

So, what do you think – is that an advantage when writing books that might particularly appeal to older readers?

I hope so because I’m about to publish yet another book with older protagonists, some of whom get their second chances.

😀  📚 😀 📚  😀 📚

If you want to find out more about any of my books, you can find them, ebooks here and paperbacks here.

Gold Plated Review

What a boost I received this morning to find that Anne Williams, a lady I have never met, but would really like to one day, had read and reviewed my latest novel, Gold Plated. It was an excellent review for several reasons.

For one thing, it was an example of how to write a review. there were no plot spoilers in it, and she didn’t retell the story, both things that are unnecessary and annoying in a review. What Anne Williams did, was to share what she liked and didn’t like about the book, and why she liked or didn’t like these things.

She commented on the story and the quality of writing, which is what a potential reader wants to know about.

Gold Plated, along with all of my novels, is available as an ebook or a paperback here

And the review is available on Anne Williams website, here

Apart from anything else, it’s well worth reading as a model of how to review a book.

https://beinganne.com/2018/12/review-gold-plated-by-christine-campbell-campbama-womensfiction-olderreaders/

 

 

 

Focusing on Vividness

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I found this quotation on Facebook the other day and have been mulling it over in my mind ever since. As a reader, I realise it is what I look for in a book too. I want to be able to identify with the characters, to see what they see, hear what they hear, smell what they smell, and so on through the senses. And yes, the authors who can help me do that are the ones I go back to time and again until I’ve read all the books they have produced.

They are the authors who achieve that vividness in their writing.

As a writer, I analyse as I read. I analyse how they achieve vividness, and try to emulate their methods in my own writing.

The readers among you might enjoy my findings and look for how the authors you read achieve that vividness, and the writers among you might enjoy to put my findings into practice as you work.

In simple terms, I found it is necessary to find and use appropriate descriptive words. As the quotation says, “Focus on trying to be good with vividness.” Remember, your goal is to help your reader see, hear, taste, smell and feel what your characters see, hear, taste, smell and feel. 

Music is one of the most evocative of mediums. It can be calming, relaxing, energising, make you feel elated, happy, miserable or sad. It can get you up on your feet to dance, or settle you to sleep in your bed. The beat can have you tapping your foot or clapping your hands. So how can a writer convey that in words?

When describing music or other sounds, I find it helps if I listen carefully with my eyes closed, and pay attention to how it makes me feel. I know that if I can’t feel it, it will be impossible to help my readers feel it.

What have you found helpful?

As a writer, what words would you use to convey a heavy beat – pounding, thumping, or drumming? Does it make you think of heavy rain? Hailstones? A gentle shower? Is it rhythmic or discordant? How are you going to describe that to your readers? What about the sound of water running? Will it whoosh, drip or dribble. You’ll want to find words to convey that.

How about this for an example of using the sound of hailstones? It’s from Makeshift Memories, my work in progress:

She had seen the hammers. Muckle great beasts. Not as the one her father uses to thump fence posts into hard earth, nor less as the one she uses to fix the wood to the stave when she aids in the work. What she saw as she sat beside Sheamus up at the waterworks were long, thick shafts with great iron heads the like of which she never did set eye upon afore. Having the picture of him sitting astride the rock with four strong men raining heavy blows on the tiny drill he held atween his legs was fearsome. Lying in her cot of a night of winter hail, listening to it heavy on the roof, coming down with a fierce speed, she sees in her dreams four hammers raining down to its tempo and she squirms and sweats in her covers.

Sometimes it’s good to start by describing a sound. Use onomatopoeia, not just to describe the actual sound. Use words that sound like it in your narrative. Let your readers hear what you hear. Let the sound take them on a journey.

Let me share another excerpt from Makeshift Memories, as an example:

Matt knows the route I like to take through the park and we walk through the reed beds on the squiggly boardwalk, built to traverse them like a long wiggly bridge. The wind swishes through the reeds, making them sing with a magical sound. “Listen,” I encourage him, stopping on the bridge. “Wh-o-o-sh! Who-o-o-sh!” I mimic the susurration, my voice hushed, soft and gentle as the air.

Close my eyes and I’m in Africa, standing in the back of a truck in savannah land, watching lemon grass sway, smelling it on the warm breeze. I’ve never been to Africa, but it doesn’t stop me imagining the scene. With little effort, Edinburgh’s dark, damp night turns to blazing African sunshine, clear blue skies stretch for miles, and I’m a million miles away enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back, allowing the breeze to whisk away the remnants of my earlier discomforts.

Do you see how, even before the sound is introduced, a word that sounds like it is used – the wind swishes. Then after the sound is described – Wh-o-o-sh! Wh-o-o-sh! – susurration, hushed, savannah, sway, whisk – all words that are reminiscent of the sound of the rushes. So many ‘s’ sounds! Try them out. Say them slowly in a hushed, drawn-out voice. Isn’t that fun? Can you ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the rushes sway in the wind? The sound transported Caitlin to the African savannah. Can you follow her? She was helped in that she and Matt were on their way home after watching the classic film, Out of Africa, but perhaps the sound helped you see, hear and smell something similar.

When wanting to describe something visual, imagine your pen as a paintbrush. Stroke words out of your keyboard. Coax them till they form the picture. Use words that are vivid, graphic, colourful, evocative.

When describing a yellow dress, it’s not enough to say it’s yellow. There are so many shades of yellow. Is it citrus lemon, sunshine gold, daffodil yellow, yellow neon? Each one is different, each one will show up in your reader’s mind when they read your description.

Here is an example:

The dress I’m going to wear tonight is hidden in the wardrobe till later. I want it to be a surprise for Paul. He hasn’t seen it yet and has no idea of the peaceful hours I’ve spent sewing while he’s been out and about. It makes me smile every time I open the wardrobe door, push aside the things it hides behind, and see my handiwork hanging there. Inspired by the pale, creamy-yellow, woodland primroses that bloom in our garden every spring, designed and fashioned over the summer months after their faded beauty folded and faded further, it has been such a delight to make. Impossible to improve on nature, all I could do was allow the delicate flowers to inform my eye and guide my hand as I sketched and painted, desiring to capture the essence of their beauty in the spring to infuse into my work in the summer.

The georgette material I sought out is gossamer thin and beautiful, the colour soft as sunshine on a misty day, and the dress slips over my still-trim figure in flattering, floaty, fluted layers to just below my knees.

Being so fine, it is one of the most difficult materials I have ever worked with, but worth every painstaking moment of the hours and days it took to cut and sew. Even the buttery silk lining had to be handled gently. Never have I worked so slowly and never have I been so rewarded for my care.

My fingers melt with pleasure as they linger on the fabric, and I long to feel my creation slip over my body to caress my skin. ~~~ Rosanna from Gold Plated by Christine Campbell

Can you picture Rosanna’s dress? Pale, creamy-yellow, woodland primrose – their faded beauty – delicate – the colour soft as sunshine on a misty day – the buttery silk lining. Can you see the delicate colour it is? Can you feel the lightness of the material? Georgette material – gossamer thin – floaty, fluted layers. Can you almost feel the dress slip over your body to caress your skin?

We’ve referenced two of the senses we want to evoke in our readers – three, when you consider how Caitlin feels the sun on her back and the breeze on her skin, and how Rosanna’s dress feels as she touches it and as she slips it over her body.

Perhaps we can talk in the comments about the words we might use to convey the other senses – and perhaps in another blogpost at another time. 🙂

 

If you’d like to read how Rosanna vividly describes some of the other dresses she creates for herself and her friends, you can buy Gold Plated as paperback or ebook here.

And you can find eight other novels by Christine Campbell here.

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Gold Plated Reading

Looking for a book to take to the beach? To read on the plane? Or to cosy on the couch with? Do you prefer a paperback copy? Something you can see in the sunshine, something that feels good in your hands?

Well, Gold Plated is now available in both paperback and ebook format. And according to the early readers of the ebook, it’s a great read. Perfect for summer or winter reading, whichever way you prefer to read.

 Rosanna and Paul are celebrating fifty years of marriage. Their daughter, Heather, has helped plan their Golden Wedding Anniversary party, and it looks like being a wonderful night: sixties music, friends and family present, and Rosanna has bought the perfect golden gift for Paul. What could possibly go wrong?

When an uninvited guest shows up, Rosanna’s world is shaken and she is forced to look back over their fifty golden years and see them as they were.

Were they golden? Or just gold-plated?

Is this the kind of book you’re looking for? A love story that spans five decades, but is under threat and may not survive any longer. One with this sort of recommendation? —

“An excellent story.”

“I was hooked from the first line.”

“I started reading Gold Plated at this at 7 am this morning. And finished it late this evening. First book I’ve read from beginning to end in a single day in quite some time. I simply had to devour it!!! Thank you for an exquisitely entertaining read! A beautiful treatment of love, betrayal, and resolve where self-love triumphs ultimately.”

“Loved it! What an enjoyable read!”

“Through life’s ups and downs this story was very enjoyable to read. I loved the different settings and how clearly I could see them along with the characters from the descriptive writing. Gold Plated is a perfect title and this book took me on a lovely journey into Rosanna’s life which is inspirational… I believe it’s never too late to start again, I will also now think differently when I hear something is gold plated. I highly recommend this to anyone wanting a good read.”

“I have just finished reading Gold Plated, and thoroughly enjoyed it.”

N.B. If, when you go to Amazon, you read that this book is ‘out of stock’, don’t worry. It’s never ‘in stock’. Amazon don’t ever store a stock of POD books. They are what the acronym indicates. They are Printed On Demand. So do go ahead and order the book. It shouldn’t take long to pop through your letterbox.

It is also possible to order Gold Plated through Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, FeedaRead or any good bookstore.

Enjoy!

 

The Death of an Inspiration

From time to time, I’m asked if my work is inspired by other writers, and I usually list several authors whose work I admire. Anita Shreve is high on that list. I love her books and was saddened by her death on 29 March from the cancer she’d been fighting for a while. So sad to lose such a fine novelist so young, only 71 – not old these days.

She was a wife, a mother and a grandmother as well as a teacher, journalist, non-fiction writer, and a novelist. She may have worn other hats for all I know, but these are the ones I know of. She was a reclusive writer though there are a few radio, tv and newspaper interviews you could delve into.

Anita Shreve wrote eighteen novels, most of which I have had the pleasure of reading. I am sad that there will be no more because her books are all so beautifully written, so well plotted and crafted. I learned a lot about how to write a novel from reading hers.

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Being a Reader

When asked the question, “Is reading important in your life?” my experience is that many people say they enjoy reading but it doesn’t play that big a part in their day to day life. Some only find time to read when they are on holiday, some while travelling. And there are those who derive little or no pleasure from reading. I’ve even come across people who profess they’d love to write a novel but they’ve rarely or never read one!

I’m aghast at this latter category because it’s a bit like saying you want to bake a cake without ever having tasted one and without a recipe to follow. “But I have this great idea for a wedding cake. I mean, how hard can it be to throw a few ingredients in a bowl, give them a bit of a mix, pour the mixture in a tin and pop it in the oven for ten minutes or so?” Aaaaargh!!! I’m sure there will be bakers all over the world throwing their recipe books in the air at the thought.

Yet there are books being produced by the dozens with less preparation and by people who it would seem have never read a book in their lives, if the grammar, spelling and construction are anything to go by. “But I have this great idea for a story. I mean, how hard can it be to scribble it down, type it up, slap a cover on it and upload it on the net.”

Like the potential wedding cake maker, who’s seen the end result, can measure, mix and heat things in the oven – has even had a nibble of a finished cake – our potential novelist has seen books on the shelves in the supermarket, learned how to put pen to paper in school, can even type with one finger, may even have read the blurb on the back of the book of the film of…

I say again, “Aaaaarrrrgh!!!”

So, to rephrase the question, how important is reading in a writer’s life?

I’d like to put it to you, that reading widely is the first step of many in learning how to write and how to write better.

Hills of the Dead End – Remembering Patrick MacGill

When researching for the historic strand of the contemporary novel I am writing, I came upon this blog post and found it very interesting and beautifully written by Cameron McNeish. It gives a great taste of the subject matter I will be exploring in my novel. Having also read Patrick MacGill’s novel, Children of the Dead End, as part of my research, I find myself deeply respecting the men who built the Blackwater Dam, for their bravery and courage and incredible ability to work in the conditions they endured.

CAMERON McNEISH, Writer & Television Presenter

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The poignant Blackwater Dam graveyard

IT was one of the most poignant destinations of any route I’ve walked. We had tramped from the Kinlochleven side of the dramatically named Devil’s Staircase and then dropped down alongside a water pipeline that ran from the Blackwater Reservoir high above the birch banks of the River Leven. There was a sheen of newly minted green on the trees and the sky was blue. Spring was turning to summer and birdsong, especially that of the ebullient skylark, filled the air. It was hard to imagine the desolation, the strife and the sheer pathos of the industrial scene that dominated this landscape a hundred years before.

In the distance a long, low wall ran across the horizon, the line of the Blackwater Dam, and as we approached it a dumpy, drumlin-like hillock took our attention. Fifty metres from the track and pipeline a wooden fence…

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