Tag Archives: nanowrimo

Stretching the Truth

Halloween and I have a strange relationship. All Hallow’s Eve falls on the day before my birthday. Last year, on a family get together in a Scottish faux castle, (the brochure had stretched the truth a little in declaring it an old Castle. It is a downsized replica of Warwick Castle, apparently,) my birthday was preceded by a big Halloween party. Who had the energy for another the following night?
Mind you, it was an excellent party though I say so myself.
My adult children had all surpassed themselves with their costumes/decorations and planning. Our grandchildren were only too happy to put on their costumes though the younger ones had little idea why they were dressed so outlandishly.
The suits of armour (the castle was decked out perfectly) provided hours of entertainment and lent themselves well to scary stories about headless Knights. When my eldest son donned one of the helmets, he frightened the life out of the three year olds. I was a little concerned as well – would he ever be able to get it off?
I am just pleased that I had the good sense to stay put and avoid being born on the 31st. I am so much better suited to All Saints Day!

Florence not sure if she likes it or not…

Possibly William…who knows?…

An almost real Scottish Castle

Leon…spookily angelic

We are not sure…

A less scary Uncle opens the door…

A Family meal

Meanwhile, I have been working on my latest novel, Once Upon a Christmas Eve. It has been read, it has been edited and now I am having a cover designed by a professional designer (who happens to be my daughter). I can’t wait to start promoting it as an e-book. Well, why wait?
My book stretches the imagination every bit as much as Halloween. It is a tale of two families whose paths cross in a ghostly fashion, with disastrous results for both. Can a tragedy be undone? That is the question facing Beatrice as her life changes, perhaps for ever.

This one has beaten it to the finish line as other Works in Progress wait in the wings but they are not forgotten. In fact, the release of one will herald my release to work on the others.

This will be the first year in a long while, that I have not joined NaNoWriMo. My reasons are simple. Personal circumstances in November will not allow the dedication to writing that NaNoWriMo demands and deserves. Last year I re-wrote Once Upon a Christmas Eve, from start to finish and have been fine tuning it ever since. I can heartily recommend NaNoWriMo to anyone thinking of trying it. One gets 30 days in which to write 50,000 words but in reality, that 30 days dwindles to almost half when you factor in the unexpected and in my case, elderly mothers coming to stay or childcare responsibilities being thrust upon one. Sometimes, it is hard to find the time to commit words to paper or screen but it is worth it, believe me, if you can. I almost wish I could.

Next year, I may well take up the challenge again but for now, NaNoWriMo is a NoNo. As for the cover design and the ebook – I will keep you posted!

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Sweeping away the Cobwebs

‘tis a wonderous thing, writing.

I am now, perhaps, three fifths of the way towards the completion of my latest novel. This is the novel written entirely in November under the strict, “no edit” instructions of NaNoWriMo.

December arrived in a flurry of festivities, the New Year with more of the same (including the unfortunate incident with the sausage). There was barely time to sit back and ponder the niceties of sentence structure or plot continuity and no time at all to contemplate denouement. So, with unfinished chapters and unanswered questions, ringing in my ears, I put the novel to one side and concentrated on family and friends.

A break from routine, even if that routine has been more of a challenge than most, gives one clarity of purpose. So, as January closed in with its threat of snow and cold North winds, a friend and I and two of my daughters, headed West to Cornwall and to Fowey for a long, “girlie” weekend. Daughter number three, about to present us with our third grandson, was unable to join us, this time.

Here we are, on the cold but sunny beach near our holiday home, enjoying the moment. The air was sharp and the light, as always, amazing.

IMG_1900

There were plenty of people wandering across Readymoney Cove (Once a haunt for smugglers!) enjoying this break in winter routine. No wonder so many writers have enjoyed Fowey in the past, (Daphne du Maurier for one and of course, Dawn French). It really is an inspiring place to be.

So, refreshed and relaxed, we returned to face the snow and the ice that have plagued us this past week in Hampshire.

This week, I am back at home with snow all around me and inspiration at my fingertips. I have rediscovered the pleasure that going back to a first draft can have. As I pick my way through the chapters, I am struck by how the characters refuse to do exactly as I had planned. Today, one of the most minor characters in the book, if not the most minor, took on a major role. It is a pivotal role and I had not seen it coming.

I am excited by this turn of events even though it has meant re-writing an entire chapter and giving the character his legs. In the same breath I fear I will be losing a couple of characters who seem to have nothing to contribute beyond prettying up the stage. They crept in when I was throwing everything at the plot and will doubtless slide away without fuss.

With this momentous development under my belt, I took time off to do a bit of housework. This is not my favourite activity but I noticed a cobweb above my computer and felt a stab of guilt for leaving it hanging there for so long.

So, equipped with trusty vacuum cleaner slung over one shoulder (by the removal of said vacuum cleaner’s handle and footplate, it is transformed into something akin to the machine used in Ghostbusters) I set forth to hunt the rest of those cobwebs down.

True, the light in the house is not too good today. The brightness of the day has dimmed, rain is replacing snow and the artificial light shining forth from indoor lamp and spotlights, has yet to impact on the shadows. Nevertheless, I am hard put to find any cobwebs, even though I know they are there.

I remember my mother observing when she was about my age, that she could not see those cobwebs that I spotted so easily as I walked into her house. Alas, I seem to have reached that stage when eyesight is not as good as it once was. I have worn glasses for TV and driving for years. I have never had perfect sight but until recently, cobwebs did not elude me.

So, I set off round the house peering into crannies and corners, squinting at what could be a crack in the plaster or a strand of dust. I put on my glasses—this did not help, despite them being for the sole purpose of seeing. I climbed on a chair, ah, yes, that’s a cobweb!—oh, no it isn’t, it’s a dirty mark left over from when the Christmas tree was dragged across the room, too tall to stand upright until it had had its top chopped off.

After several attempts to sweep blindly at the corners with the elongated hose, I became frustrated at my apparent inability to focus on anything more than a couple of feet from my nose.

Thus, it was that I found myself holding my husband’s nifty, wind-up torch and shining it into the far corners of the rooms. Having identified more cobwebs than I care to count, I then attacked them with the vacuum hose. Since I could not both shine the torch and aim the hose, it took me some time and was still a bit of a hit and miss affair but I think I got most of them.

I can now empathise with my mother who apparently preferred to leave the cobwebs be rather than do battle blindly with them. I suppose it is just one of the signs of ageing that we must all face but, if you don’t mind, I wont be facing it again for a while—I will be asking someone else to do the de-cobwebbing in future!

Denouement, here I come…

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Winning words

“I am a winner!”

NaNoWriMo Winner!

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Yes, I went to 50,000 words and beyond in November. I surprised myself with my appreciation of this challenge. Hitherto I had heard about it from others but not felt the inclination to enter into its spirit. Now I feel I could do this every month, well, maybe every other month because I really do need some time to edit. I do not quite know the ending of this story – whose characters have taken me on twists and turns that I could never have imagined back on 1st November when I started writing it. I am sure it will reveal itself to me during the edit. I am sure the typos and grammatical errors will also reveal themselves to me during the edit!

Continuity errors will abound but it was strangely liberating to just write and let the story take me where it would.

On 29th of November my novel gave birth to a new title and the new title excites me because it embraces everything in the novel – writers among you, do you ever get that feeling when writing? I bet you do! It’s that moment when suddenly, the title is set in stone and nothing, will persuade you to change it. Well, nothing for the time being at least!

I am particularly pleased to have managed this task during a busy month when my two daughters moved house, one out of this one and into a new one, the other into this one temporarily while her new house has work done on it. My youngest grandson Leon has been as good as gold, as I tap away on the keys for a lot of the time. He has played by my side as my own children used to. Still, he is not yet 20 months old and not always as obliging. He has had colds and tantrums that have kept me away from the keyboard in equal measure.

I have still cooked and cleaned and shopped and worked. In days gone by I could sit up until 2am and write while the children slept. Alas, I can no longer do that and get up in the morning but I can fit writing a few hundred words at a time, into all sorts of pockets of the day.

So, what is the biggest lesson taken from this experience?

I have learnt that one can still find the time to write and should find the time to write, whatever else is happening around one. I have been reminded that there is an exquisite pleasure to be had from letting your characters surprise you and lead you. There is a sense of enormous excitement to be had from finding that the plot has thickened, the course has altered without you lifting a finger. I have learnt that this exercise is worthwhile and highly beneficial whether you have been published or not, whether you have written previous novels or not.

All in all it has been quite an eye opening experience and I am very glad I chose to take part.

I say quite proudly, that I am a winner!

So, what else has been happening in the big wide world of ‘family’ while I have been slaving over the keyboard? Well, last night we were out celebrating. Zoe turns 30 soon and she invited friends and family to a Christmas themed, “Hollywood” event at a local Golf Club. Ours was the only birthday celebration, the other guests were on Company Christmas outings. We were seated in a private room off the main venue so had a bird’s eye view of the other guests. The DJ had a limited repertoire of music and a faulty microphone that distorted what he said so that none of us understood it half the time.  Mid-way through the evening, when the food was eaten and the guests had taken to the dance floor, Zoe was chatting to friends when the DJ called out (or so we thought)

Zoe Barker, where is Zoe Barker? Can Zoe Barker come forward please?”

“Zoe, go on, it’s you!” we all urged. The Dj called out again.

“It’s not me!” Zoe insisted but we were all adamant. We had clearly heard the DJ call her name.

“He said Sally,” she insisted,

“No, it’s you!” we were convinced.

How nice, we thought, the Golf Club has recognized it is her birthday and are calling her up for something.

Reluctantly, Zoe pushed through the throng and made it to the DJ’s stage.

A second person had also made it through to the DJ’s stage. The second person was very tall. Zoe is very small. The DJ looked from one to another,

“Are there two Sally Barber’s?” he asked, confused, “Which one of you is Sally Barber?”

“I am,” said the tall, larger than life lady,

“Then this is for you,” he smiled, handing her a bottle of wine.

“So, who are you?” asked the DJ, turning to Zoe.

“Zoe Barker,” said Zoe.

Oh dear. Zoe was understandably cross with us, her friends and family, for sending her on this false errand and not a little embarrassed to boot.

When the hysterical laughter had died down and we had wiped the tears from our eyes and Zoe had plucked up courage to go back on the dance floor, fortunately, seeing the funny side, we did the decent thing and made amends. We organized a bottle of champagne to be on hand and asked the DJ to call her name later in the evening to wish her a happy birthday. He was only too happy to do this. The trouble was, when her name was called out, Zoe was not keen to make the same mistake twice. It took a lot of cajoling to get her to go back to the DJ who handed her the bottle of champagne and said,

“This time it is for you Zoe Barker! Three cheers for Zoe!”

The room erupted into cheers and thankfully, Sally Barber was nowhere to be seen.

We are still laughing about the mix-up of course and images of Zoe, 5 foot one, with her long blonde hair and Sally, exceptionally tall and larger than life, standing side by side in front of the DJ remind us all of Miranda and her side-kick Stevie – you get the picture?

Oh dear, better get back to editing and stretch this novel to 80,000 words by Christmas!

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A Little Magic

I am stealing some writing time to pen this post. We are on day thirteen of the NaNoWriMo task. So, how am I doing with my daily word count?

I can tell you that I was very good for the first three or four days. I beat my target each day. Then I got the dreaded virus (the human kind, not the computer kind) and sitting at the keyboard was hard. Between coughing and wheezing, I managed to pen something each day but when I validated it (one validates one’s work as one pleases) the projected finish date was getting later and later. However, I was not going to let this deter me.

I also had that weekend in the Cotswolds – oh, magical it was! I love the Cotswolds, perhaps, partly because it was the place we made our home for three wonderful years, when we first got married.

Thirty three years ago, we bought an idyllic country mill cottage, 20 feet from the river. Cows looked in at our windows in the morning. In winter, we saw snow drifts 12 feet deep, in the lane and 6 foot drifts in our garden. The windows rattled and froze over and we often found snowdrifts piled up on the inside of the windows on the stone sills. We went to bed wearing woolly hats and socks. Our noses froze if we dared to poke them out from under the covers. We had no car, but sturdy wellingtons. We had no heating except for one open coal fire to heat the entire house (it didn’t of course, it heated the immediate hearth) yet I cannot remember being more content either before or since.

Rose tinted specs perhaps? Yes of course but that’s what makes memories so great, we filter them and keep the best bits. I wont dwell on the time the river flooded its banks and ducks swam up to our front door. After all, someone opened the sluice gates in the nick of time and saved us from the worst although we had piled our furniture up and taken what we could upstairs, just in case.

Last weekend, we stayed in another beautiful cottage in the Cotswolds. This one was fully heated and had a roaring log fire to boot. It reminded me of the picturesque cottage used in my late sister’s favourite film “The Holiday” starring Cameron Diaz. It was even situated down just such a lane. It would probably become impassable in the snow.

This cottage was far superior to the little two up, two down affair we had bought all those years ago but just as pretty and appealing in its own way.

We walked round the nearest town, Stow-On-The-Wold, and, as if by some invisible magic, it started to snow. Snow in early November? It does happen here I remembered. The shops were lit up although it was only 10 am. The snow fell thick and fast, though was never likely to lay. We crossed the square to a delightful department store that beckoned us with twinkling lights and open doors.

Stepping in out of the snow, we realised the store was already set out for Christmas. A table laden with Christmas china greeted us, and festive goods were all around. Who could resist purchasing some Christmas gifts as we browsed? Not I!

Since the snow showed no sign of stopping, we took ourselves into a cosy tea shop where we sat in a window seat, sipped tea and ate toasted tea cakes. We looked out at the thick, white flakes. I took a few photographs but no photographs could capture it well enough or hope to convey the magic that the snow lent the place for that one brief hour.

By the time we got back to the cottage, the snow had stopped and a wintery sun had shown itself. In the photo, it looks quite summery. In reality, temperatures had barely risen above freezing.

Cottage in the Cotswolds Nothing could have bettered that moment for me, the snow, the shop, the sudden transportation into an unexpected world of magic. It made my weekend.

I kept up my word count in the cottage, typing in front of the roaring log fire. The virus that greeted my return, slowed my progress somewhat, I must admit, but I tried not to let the fact that NaNoWriMo believed I would finished on December 7th, get to me.

On day thirteen I am back on target. I have the beginnings of a novel. More than that, I have a grasp of the middle and the end too. I cannot say I have not done any editing but I have compromised, inserting notes here and there where I know I should be editing and filling out scenes. I may even have time to do this within the month, who knows? One glorious bonus to not being allowed to edit is that when I have an idea, I write it, there and then, I don’t stop to think whether something else should be changed, I just write. My imagination is being given free reign.

It is a marvelous freedom this exercise has given me, though in my head, I imagine the entire thing will be miraculously pulled together by an invisible hand. Just to help this process, I have inserted little reminders here and there in the text.

On the 1st of December, I will be looking at these helpful notes and doubtless wondering what half of them mean but they are there – little signposts to what I want to evolve.

I have manufactured a mechanism for getting the story out that had not occurred to me when I started it. I am actually very excited about it all. The story has legs – it just needs wings.

I know that December will be a time for editing and pulling my hair out over scenes that aren’t working but with a little magic, it will all come together and after that snow-filled hour spent in Stow, I am definitely in the mood for a little magic…

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30 Days has November

Today is my birthday. I do not ask for birthday messages, I only mention it because it gives me a reason to be a little selfish for a while. Don’t we all need to be just that at times?

Today, I have the house to myself and time to write. I am excited because I have just begun a new novel. I didn’t know I had begun it until I read back my notes from the other month and thought,

“That’s it! That’s the one!”

It was that “Eureka” moment that writers long for.

Life since my middle sister died has been busy to say the least. If we are not driving back and forth on the M25 between Hampshire and Essex, we are making telephone calls, writing letters and emails, arranging meetings. It is a tiring job to be honest, not that we would complain. My sister entrusted the well-being of her son to us and as readers of my blog will know, it does have its humorous side. Along the way though, we have learnt so much about the care system in this country. We have learnt what it is like to be disabled and have viewed life from our nephew’s perspective as well as from our own.

It is hardly surprising then, that the subject matter of my new novel should be tied to Asperger’s Syndrome, nor should it be a surprise that it will be full of humour. I am drawing on every bit of experience gained over the past year and much from the past, based on my sister’s experiences when James was growing up. This book is not about James. That would not be fair. This book is about a fictitious 14 year old boy and his family. I have the first chapter, the outline of the plot, the main characters and the sub plots building. I have a title and I have the entire story in my head. Now I need to get it on paper.

Since caring for James, not to mention the dog – did I mention the dog?- there has not been time to breathe. Not only have we had to deal with cases of bullying and financial abuse of James, we have recently had to find a foster home for the dog at short notice and get him ferried down to Hampshire for emergency veterinary treatment. This was a result of neglect and the failure of the support team to step in. Theo is now living on a farm near us and is recovering well. A new care company have been engaged for James and we are hopeful of better things to come.

As I was saying, since caring for our nephew, we have had little time to think about much else.

Today though, I actually logged on to nanowrimo (the “write a novel in November” website.) I have heard of it in previous years but have never quite seen its use. The idea of nanowrimo, is that one writes at least 50,000 words in 30 days and ends up with an unedited and possibly quite horrific novel.

The unediting bit is the hardest pill to swallow. I tend to edit as I write and no amount of telling myself not to will stop me. However, I can see the sense of not agonising over a sentence or a paragraph that is not written quite as one would like and not bothering to spell check every five seconds.

What this might to do continuity I do not know as I tend to write scenes as they flash into my head if in free fall mode. I must adopt that, “get it down at all costs first and consider later,” attitude. This is not my usual way of doing things though fits well with my current way of life I have to admit. I have been throwing random words at the computer for months giving rise to several half-baked novels along the way. Why not actually challenge myself to finish something?

So, I signed up and decided that, as today is my birthday, (have I already mentioned that?) it is a good day to start.

I already have 2,080 words logged on the site and if I wasn’t writing this post, I’d be adding to that. According to the site, at this rate I will finish my novel of 50,000 on 24th November. I smile as I say that. I can write enough words but finish the novel? I am not so sure.

However, this year I have signed up as a personal challenge. There are apparently, some wonderful people to meet and swap information with but where would I find the time? So, if I do not speak to another soul during the process, even if I find that on 30th November, I am nowhere near done, it will be a personal triumph if I manage to actually write on each and every one of these coming November days. It will be a triumph if I can look back on 1st December and say, “By golly, I have the entire story here – I can go and edit!”

If all else fails, I can still say, I tried!

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