Why I’ve Got My Head Down (and my mouth shut!)

Sorry my posts are few-and-far-between-ish at the moment. It’s not lack of desire, it’s lack of time.

As I’ve probably told you a million times (and I’m starting to bore myself now), I have a deadline of 17th March to deliver the first draft of novel #3 to my publisher (I’m writing the sequel to ‘The Highland Girls at War’) and as usual, I have tied myself in knots with the plot and there is a lot of work to do.

I am slow! I wish I was one of those people who says: ‘Oh, I dash off the first draft as quickly as possible and then I spend all the time polishing it up!’

Sadly, I cannot do that. I need to get each section in pretty good shape before I can move onto the next part.

And although I do quite a lot of planning, it’s only during the writing process, that I discover some of what will happen (eg; the ending!).

I have, however, made myself a lovely spreadsheet with wordcount targets on it for each day and that is helping keep me on track (a bit).

But I am very tired (and heading to bed at 9pm) so I am taking a break to write to you lovely folk!

Good news…

Bonnie’s birthday card – she was very proud.

The Bonnie Bonster (just one of her many nicknames) was TEN years old last Saturday, 11th February.

Here she is with one of her birthday cards (actually her only one but sssh, don’t tell her). She is in need of a haircut (and is having it done on Saturday!), so don’t look too closely.

We took her to the village shop to celebrate with a sausage – something she is never normally allowed – and we reminisced and asked ourselves ‘Where have the years gone?’

If you were following my blog when we got her, in April 2013 here is the post. Anyone remember it?


I’ve had some very nice reviews for ‘The Highland Girls at War’ which always helps when you’re beavering away and wondering why you’re doing this when you could be relaxing on the sofa watching TV.

Mind you, my latest Amazon review says: “Don’t think Inverbervie Castle is in Morayshire though.”

Erm.. I am mystified because there is no such castle in my book! In fact, all the castles (there are 2, plus a house that looks like a little castle) have made-up names (deliberately because then no bright spark can say, ‘Oh, no, she got that wrong, the turrets on the east side are definitely sandstone!’ or whatever).

I can only assume that the reviewer (who liked it otherwise and gave the book 5 stars), got my castles mixed up with someone else’s! And that’s the thing about reviews – it’s not the done thing to respond to them.

So, although I’d like to tell all the people who’ve complained about the ending being a bit ‘open-ended’ that that’s because there’s a sequel, I have to just suck it up and remain silent.

My ‘First Patronage’

Now look at that for a grand title.

Actually, not my words but Sue Ablett’s – chair of Evesham Festival of Words – who asked if I’d like to be one of their patrons.

It turns out I don’t have to do too much more than I’m doing already: support and promote the Festival and judge the odd competition, so of course, I said yes.

What I am Reading

I am listening to Jojo Moyes’ new novel ‘Someone Else’s Shoes’ on audio and I am loving it so much. It’s narrated by Daisy Ridley, who is brilliant and does the accents really well. If you want a feel-good, funny-but-poignant read with some feisty ‘older’ (ie: not 20.. or even 30) female characters, I can highly recommend it.

In fact, I’m going to put this out there now: if were ever to write contemporary novels (and who knows, I may not be a WW2 gal forever!) I would like to be able to write like Jojo Moyes. Her novel ‘Ship of Brides’ was one of my favourite reads/listens of last year. She does female characters so well.

I saw Jojo Moyes at Cheltenham Literary Festival EIGHT (waaah!) years ago and I wrote about it here.

Interesting that she does so much work on the characters! It pays off.

And finally… if you are an ‘emerging writer’ and especially if you live in/around London, this may be of interest:

The London Writers Emerging Writers’ Programme

This is “a unique opportunity which offers writers, in all genres, one year’s free membership of The London Library and includes writing development masterclasses, literary networking opportunities, peer support and guidance in use of the Library’s resources.”

You have to live in the UK to apply and although you don’t have to live in London, they’d expect you to attend the masterclasses (at the London Library) and make use of the library, so it’s probably not going to work for you if you live in Aberdeen, say.

Anyway, if it’s of interest and you’re ‘emerging’ (like a chrysalis!), take a look and read the info. You have until 11am on Thursday 2nd March to apply.

There seem to be quite a lot of places. Last year 950 people applied and 40 were picked.

This entry was posted in Blogging, Bonnie, Books, Finding Time To Write and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Why I’ve Got My Head Down (and my mouth shut!)

  1. Reviews, eh? Someone has just gone to the trouble of emailing me to tell me they’ve spotted a typo in one of my books. Well, gee, thanks. If only we were all so perfect!

    • Yes, gee thanks, as you say. I bet there’s not a book published that doesn’t have at least one tiny error in it, whether it’s a typo or incorrect punctuation, a fact that’s wrong or continuity error. My friend’s just read a book in which a character is mentioned early on in a significant way, so she was waiting for the ‘big reveal’ and then the character was never mentioned again! Clearly they’d decided to delete that character but missed out the first reference to him/her! I think that ‘beats’ your typo, hands down!

  2. Sharon boothroyd says:

    It’d be tempting for me to say ‘Oh yes, I’m a full time writer’, but novel writing wouldn’t be for me. I admire anyone who can write novels under contract, as I wouldn’t be able to cope with the pressure – or the reviews!
    Look at poor TV dramatist Jed M, and how he was slated by viewers and the media for his disappointing ‘Who is H? twist ending for Line of Duty.
    When he wrote the script, he must have thought that he’d done the best he could (and that commissions galore were in the bag) but it seemed that the entire nation felt let down.
    I did feel it was disappointing, but I also realise that it’s hard to please all of the people, all of the time.
    It’s difficult to get it right, no matter what form of writing you choose.

    • Hi Sharon, thanks for your comment. The last series of ‘Line of Duty’ (not sure if it’s the last one ever but the last one that was broadcast) was rather underwhelming, I agree, although I had completely forgotten who ‘H’ turned out to be and had to Google it! Some reviewers liked the ending and yes, you can’t please all the people all the time. I am actually OK with reviews now. I get the odd ‘bad’ one but I just tell myself that person wasn’t my reader and the book wasn’t aimed at them (obvs I’m sorry they wasted their time/money if they didn’t enjoy it, though). But there definitely is pressure! More than I anticipated. I just have to hope that I get faster…!

  3. Penny Alexander says:

    Have only fairly recently discovered Jojo Moyes’ books. They are awesome! No idea what took me so long to find them. I keep promising myself I will read more once my next serial outline resembles something better than a patchwork pie 🙂

    Bonnie looking great! Best writing wishes, Penny.

    • Thanks Penny. I know how difficult it is to carve out time to read when you’re busy writing! I feel guilty if I’m not reading something that’s ‘research’ (ie; set during WW2 or an actual non-fiction research book) and I’m also in a book club, so have a book a month to read for that and that just about takes up all the time I have available for reading. Let me know which Jojo Moyes books you’ve enjoyed. I haven’t read them all yet!

      • Penny Alexander says:

        Hello again!
        I first read ‘Silver Bay’, then ‘The Horse Dancer’ followed by ‘The Giver of Stars.’
        Everyone enjoys a book in their own way, I think. But what struck me most is how powerful yet different they all were. The underwater scene towards the end of Silver Bay was what set me on my quest to read more!
        Will try for ‘Ship of Brides’ next methinks…
        BFN and happy reading, Penny

  4. Tracy Fells says:

    Happy birthday, Bonnie! I remember her arrival & can’t believe that was 10 years ago, eek. Where have the writing years gone. Lovely to know you and Bonnie are still going strong, Helen xx

    • Thanks, Tracy! I know, it’s a bit scary isn’t it, how quickly those years have gone by! Bonnie is still enjoying life and racing around like a youngster. I can’t quite believe she’s ten!

  5. I can’t rattle off a first messy draft and leave it either. I see how it works for some people but there are usually things I’ve changed my mind about which I need to sort out before I move on.
    Good luck with Book 3.

    • I’m glad it’s not just me, Rosemary. I know perceived wisdom is just to plough on through and sort out any changes you want to make later, but I’m like you, I have to sort them out before I can go forward!

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