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.

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.

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

.

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

~~~

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.
🌺🌸🌺
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.
🌺🌸🌺
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.

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.

~~~

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.

62324389_10157478371358324_7468424871878328320_n

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.

Get it Done

For the past couple of years, I have had an online, weekly Get it Done, session with Lynne Durham, an excellent coach. Often, I would use the session to get done the things I had been procrastinating about, even things I thoroughly enjoy doing. I had no idea why I kept putting these things off, though I suspect part of it was that I get rather engrossed in my Work In Progress and default to that when I have computer time.

What I needed was someone to help me be motivated to Get it Done, to Get Them All Done, those things on my to do list that seldom rose to the top of it. Lynne was that person.

Not only did Lynne help me find my motivation, she also helped me find the causes of my procrastination. Some of them were practical – things I didn’t know how to do, things I needed to find out. Some of them were emotional blocks. When dealing with the practical, she often shared her screen while showing me how to do something, or she guided me through the process of finding out how to do it. It was when dealing with the emotional blocks that Lynne really came into her own. She just seemed to know the right questions to ask to guide me through the discovery and healing process, and helped me see I CAN DO THIS. I even created a file under that name, containing all the methods and steps to do these daunting things I used to put off doing.

So why have I chosen to tell you this today?

Well, I no longer have those sessions because they have helped me understand myself, my goals, and what I need to do to achieve them. They have helped me become self-motivated.

So, if you are struggling to Get Things Done, if you don’t understand why you procrastinate so much, what holds you back, or what your goals are, why not find a coach, online or off, that is right for you.

Lynne was just right for me, and I can recommend her highly.

If you want to see her FaceBook page, click here.

And Go, Get it Done!

 

 

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/