Happy New Year! And a (quick) review of 2018

The beautiful Lake District

Happy New Year to you – albeit a bit late, as it’s now 11th January!

It’s been a busy time. We went up to the fabulous Lake District (Haweswater, to be exact) for New Year, which was Bonnie the dog’s holiday, as much as ours and she loved it! She is half-goat, we’ve decided, as she enjoyed the rock-climbing as much as the running around. I’ve re-christened her Bonnie Bonington, in deference to the great mountaineer.

On New Year’s Eve itself, the hotel where we were staying, organised a ‘Murder Mystery Night’. Hmm, we weren’t too sure whether it was going to be our cup of tea but it was really good fun.

The actors (in character) mingled with everyone in the bar, before the dinner started (we were marked down as ‘trouble makers’ immediately by the detective, Noah Deer, as we refused to give him our names) and after that, you could get involved in trying to solve the murder, or just sit back, drink and eat.


Each table had to write a limerick during the course of the evening – from a first line that they gave us – and the one that I came up with was judged the winner! Hurrah. Shame the people we were sharing the table with, nabbed the box of chocolates that we won! But I’m not bitter or anything.

I’d never really thought about it before, but I heard one of the actors (when it was all over) telling someone that he wrote all the scripts and there must be quite a skill to writing a murder mystery, don’t you think? The company was called Highly Suspect and although they’re based ‘up North’ I think they travel all over the country. I can certainly recommend them if you’re looking for a fun night!

Our ritual on New Year’s Day: a walk with a mini bottle of bubbly (chilled in a lake this time!)

We’d only just got back from the Lakes and unpacked our bags, when it was time to pack them again and head North once more.

We had a family funeral to attend in Scotland. We couldn’t get flights, our regular dog sitter couldn’t have Bonnie, so we had to drive (ahem, it’s 500 miles, 11 hours each way…) and take her with us!

Beach huts on Findhorn Beach

It was a very long journey.

Of course, we had a lot of breaks. And the M6 ‘helped’ by being closed 3 times, for accidents and ‘major police incidents’, so that all added to the time taken.

The life-safer was, in fact, an audio book that we listened to for 10 hours – Conclave, by Robert Harris – which is about the election of a new pope and I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but believe me, it was gripping! (And I learned a lot about the Catholic church and popes and cardinals and stuff).

I love Robert Harris books; I think he writes really well. I wasn’t too sure about the ending of this one though. I shall say no more, as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it!

So, I’m back now and hoping that my travels are over for a little while.

I thought I’d have a quick review of 2018:

2018: My Writing/Blogging Year

In February, I reached the heady heights of 800 followers (of this blog, I hasten to add, not of the strange cult that I lead), so I ran one of my ‘random word’ flash fiction competitions, which was eventually won by Jan Halstead. Once I get to 900 followers, I’ll be running another one.

In the summer I accepted an invitation to join the Steering Committee of Evesham Festival of Words. It’s a voluntary role and it’s really interesting (and good experience) to see how a literary festival is put together.
I run the Twitter feed for the Festival, run the odd workshop and my friend Chris and I organise the annual quiz and now I’m also helping to judge this year’s short story competition (closing 22nd March – details here).

In October, my friend and I went to the National Centre for Writing in Wales, Tŷ Newydd, for a fabulous week of ‘Writing Commercial Fiction’.

And here are a few numbers… I wrote 40 blog posts (!) totalling over 23,000 words.

I submitted 58 short stories to magazines (but most of these were oldies/resubmissions – not very many new stories, in other words).

I entered 4 short story competitions (in Writers Forum magazine) and came precisely nowhere with those.

But, to end on a more positive note, at the start of the year, I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (and have rejoined for this year).

On 31st August, with about half an hour to go before the deadline, I submitted my novel manuscript (when you join the scheme, your fee includes a full manuscript critique).

I’ve now had that critique back, plus one that I arranged earlier in the year, from Alison May and they were both pretty positive, so I’ve got no excuse: polish the novel up a bit and see if anyone’s interested in publishing it! (Oh and start writing another one. No pressure!).

How was your writing year? Any resolutions for 2019?

Bonnie on the beach

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16 Responses to Happy New Year! And a (quick) review of 2018

  1. Sorry to hear you had a funeral to go to.:-( I’m rather impressed that Bonnie travels so well. My dog lasts about half a mile before he gets SERIOUSLY anxious in the car, the poor doggy.

    Congrats on the positive critiques for your manuscript. Yes, start querying (or however you do it on your side of the Atlantic) and best of luck!

    I tend to do quarterly goals. This quarter: re-outline and REWRITE my very first novel (from 1st quarter of last year . . . it was an awful attempt, but you gotta start somewhere). Second quarter: edit my NaNoWriMo manuscript. Sometime in the second half of the year, the timing of which depends on beta readers and my critique partner: enter the query trenches.

    I’m excited for this year. I hope you are, too.

    • Thanks for your comments, Priscilla. You sound very organised, with your quarterly goals – good for you! Yes, I am excited about this year too. Good luck with your writing and your goals in 2019!

  2. I managed to get into the RNA (NWS) for the first time, which is exciting. Good luck with your MS!

  3. Bea Charles says:

    Well done on last year’s achievements and all best wishes for the year ahead.
    I love listening to audiobooks when I’m driving, but had a nasty shock on the M25 once while listening to a dramatised Raymond Chandler when someone got shot, really loud bang, and I thought I’d hit something.

    • Woah, that must have been really frightening, Bea! Bet you turned the volume down a bit after that! But it’s a good point. Perhaps I won’t choose anything likely to ‘shock’ when we’re getting our next audiobook!

  4. Alyson Faye says:

    I found the writing review of your year really interesting Helen as it shows the hard work and perseverance needed to keep on writing and the need to do rewrites! I had a pretty good 2018 writing wise and am starting on rewrites for a crime novel (big gulp at prospect) under the mentorship of a crime writer. There are no quick short cuts in this writing game- it ‘s the long game.

    • Alyson thanks for your comment. It certainly is the ‘long game’. Non-writers don’t really how much time and effort goes into it, do they? Good luck with your crime novel and lucky you, having a mentor. I honestly think, when one is writing a novel, you need all the help you can get!

  5. Jocelyn Kaye says:

    I also got on to the NWS so no excuse not to finish my novel. Good luck with yours! Thanks for this blog, so much useful stuff here and very entertaining.

  6. Penelope Alexander says:

    Wishing you a happy new year, Helen! Did lots of carol singing this year, now feeling fair wassailed… in a manner of speaking. Gradually back to routine with the writing.

  7. Kate Hogan says:

    Happy New Year, Helen! Well done on all your achievements and your jolly posts to cheer us all. Good wishes Kate Hogan.

  8. juliathorley says:

    I have a friend who is a member of the Ham It Up Players, who specailise in murder mystery evenings. They’re great fun. As for listening to an audio book in the car, no: I just can’t. I get too involved in the story and forget to look where I’m going.

    • Ooh yes, Julia, that could be dangerous, I agree. My OH was driving while we were listening to the audio book (and some of the time we were actually stationary on the lovely M6!) so it was OK for me.

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