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.

Whatcha Doin’, Papa?

I wonder, do you have a brother or sister, a niece or nephew, or even a son or a daughter, who you love dearly, but they also frustrate you? They’re mischievous and naughty, but endearing too. They’ve found your buttons and know how to press them.

That’s how my relationship with my father-in-law was. He was like a naughty child right into his nineties. I loved him dearly and have a lot of warm, happy memories of him but, there’s no getting away from it, he was a frustrating old rascal sometimes.

Like the time he fixed our roof.

It was forty years ago and he was in his sixties, too old to be climbing onto the roof, too young to resist it.

The house we lived in at that time had been extended by a previous owner, making a large kitchen and eating area. The extension boasted a flat roof.

In Scotland.

Where rain is not a stranger.

A flat roof with poor drainage.

(The correct way to deal with this information is to sigh and shake your head, or even to tut! and question the previous owner’s sanity.)

Above the eating area of this large kitchen, there was a pitched glass roof, surrounded by a moat. I call it a moat with good reason. It was often filled with water and, from time to time, it leaked. It leaked onto the table below and the diners around it.

So, forty years ago, when we were moving house and had insufficient funds to repair the roof, we decided – honesty being the best policy – we would tell any prospective buyers about the problem and leave it to them to decide if they had the funds to fix it.

Enter my dear father-in-law.

He was a very gregarious man and I’m certain he knew everybody in our village – and their business – despite the fact that he lived at some distance and visited infrequently.

Dissatisfied with how we intended to handle the matter of the roof, that dear, kind, lovely man decided to take matters into his own hands.

We were unaware of the road works going on in our village, but Papa, as the children called my dear father-in-law, was not only aware of such, but already on excellent terms with the workmen. 

He returned from the ‘stroll’ he informed us he was taking, carrying a bucket. Before we even knew where he’d procured it and what it contained, he’d carried it through the house and climbed out of our sons’ bedroom window onto the flat roof, where he proceeded to pour the bucket’s contents all around the moat. 

“Whatcha doin’, Papa?” my eldest son asked as he watched the black, treacly stuff being dispensed.

“What are you doing, Dad?” I asked, seeing the steam and hearing the fizz as the hot, gluey liquid hit the cold, wet surface of the moat. 

“Neil! You have no business up there whatever you’re doing,” said his wife, my mother-in-law.

Someone, possibly me, possibly my husband, took a photograph to record what we could hardly believe with our eyes.

“What I’m doing,” Papa said. “Is fixing the roof.”

I think he hoped for thanks.

Just as he traipsed back through the house with his messy bucket, the rain started hammering on the glass roof, and there was a knock on the front door.

A couple of prospective buyers come to view the house.

When we reached the threshold of the kitchen and I was telling these viewers to mind the step down, and they were ooh-ing and aah-ing at how lovely and big and bright the kitchen was, I did wonder what the plopping noise might be.

Plop! Plop! Pl-l-l-op! A slow glutinous plopping sound.

The sound of hot, runny, black-as-black, icky-sticky tar.

You know the stuff. They use it in road-mending.

Tar, which far from ‘fixing’ the leaky roof, was itself leaking through the roof, raining down on the idyllic scene of our children abandoning their snacks on the table and making a run for safety.

The prospective buyers also made a run for it, straight out the front door, followed very closely by Papa’s car disappearing down the driveway from the back door.

He did toot his goodbye as he passed the kitchen window, and indicated he’d left us to return the disgustingly sticky bucket.


You can find all of Christine Campbell’s novels on Amazon Kindle or in Paperback here.


Daisy’s Dilemma

My guest today is Author and Playwright, Anne Stenhouse, who I met when I attended The Edinburgh Writers’ Club a number of years ago.



Christine, thank you so much for inviting me to appear on your lovely blog. I’m honoured.

My pleasure, Anne. Can you tell us where you originally come from and where you live now?
I was born in Pumpherston, in West Lothian, Scotland, and I’ve migrated to Edinburgh. Pumpherston was an industrial village although it was surrounded by farmland and, on a semi-circular loop, agricultural holdings. We could walk out and pass fields of cows, a piggery and a mink farm. I remember very clearly how some of my class had to walk through disinfectant to come to school when there was an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. I came to Edinburgh as a university student and, apart from two training courses in London, I haven’t left. It was a leafy semi-magical place thirty-five years ago. You can still find some of that magic today, but it’s harder as the gap sites have been built on.

A bit about yourself? Including something that might surprise us …

I’ve swum in the sea around Stromboli which, some of you will know, is an active volcano. It was still pretty cold in the water.

100_5738I’ve been lucky enough to do quite a lot of foreign travelling. Most recently I was in India on the Hoogli and in Rajhastan. India is endlessly interesting to any foreign visitor – probably to the Indian visitor as well – because it is vast and populous and so much of life happens on the street in front of you. In addition, it has a long history of superb building. Here’s me at the Taj Mahal. Actually my favourite building in Agra is the Red Fort. Exquisite.

… something you are proud of about yourself …

I stuck with my playwriting long enough to have a couple performed on the main stage at St Andrews’ Byre Theatre. Great moments. Playwriting is my favourite form of writing, but it is so hard to make headway. Once you write the play, it needs a director and actors to bring it to life and an audience to appreciate it. I found eventually that struggling for funding was becoming too much of that equation. So, if any of you want to read a script suitable for the SCDA one act Festivals, get in touch.

… something you’re working on about yourself (and I’m not talking about your WIP)

Getting the hairstyle right. Growing older does so many unexpected things to one’s body and appearance. This is only slightly a flippant answer. We all, if we’re lucky, get older and the things we couldn’t understand about our parents suddenly become all too personal. So, I’m working very hard on accepting invitations I might once have dismissed as being not for me, like ten-pin bowling. Actually, I like ten-pin bowling. Have still to get a strike – if that’s the correct term. I’m working quite hard on not correcting people’s grammar – that’s tough. Since my husband retired, I’m working a lot on not being as untidy as I was. (He may not have noticed this, but I did clear out two folders of redundant paper while he was away recently. Two – I may need to try harder there.) So I suppose, I’m trying to keep changing for the better.

… and what you’re working on (now I am talking about your WIP)

Daisys Dilemmal 333x500
Daisy’s Dilemma is my latest release, June from MuseItUp, and it’s an historical romance.
I take that well known expression, Be careful what you ask for, and weave a tale around that. Daisy Longreach has pursued a particular man since her first steps outside the schoolroom, but – is what she wants, what she needs?
Lady Daisy appears in my debut novel, Mariah’s Marriage, and she’s a sparky younger sister character there. I could hear her voice (the playwriting impulse again) and had to write her story.
Buy Links

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Readers may connect with Anne on Facebook
Twitter @anne_stenhouse
Her blog: Novels Now

Daisy’s Dilemma by Anne Stenhouse order from amazon

Mariah’s Marriage by Anne Stenhouse. Mariah’s Marriage UK Mariah’s Marriage US Mariah’s Marriage Au Mariah’s Marriage Canada Bella’s Betrothal by Anne Stenhouse amazon UK and US

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