The Road to NaNo

It’s that time of year when the National Novel Writing Month is upon me once again.

This will be my third year of trying. I’m not sure what I like about it the most – the target driven days of writing, the close-knit community of creatives urging me on or the sense of achievement when midnight strikes on the last day of the month and I’ve actually written something rather than procrastinating. I think it’s a bit of everything.

Writing 1,667 words every day for 30 days in a row is not an easy task. No matter how fast I type or how well planned-out my plot is, there is always something that happens to stall me. However, NaNo is what urges me on when the blank page becomes the size of the room and every word is paid with a drop of a blood to the Creative God of Vomit Drafts.

This year, I have opted to try something a bit different.

My own target.

I’m on Day 10 and my word count is erratic to say the least, it seems I manage a totally different amount each day. My aim, this year, is to write at least 250 words a day. That’s not a lot, I hear you cry.  Believe me, when I get home from work dealing with spreadsheets all day, the last thing I want to do is open the laptop up and start on another document. But, and it’s a huge but, that’s the beauty of being a writer, no matter how bad a day I’ve had or how busy the rugrats are, I want to write. I need to write. It’s part of my DNA. My genetic make-up has been created with nouns and verbs.

Most of the time I quadruple my daily count but on the days I manage 250 at least I can say I have achieved something. I think psychologically I am deluding myself as I will never reach the 50k target of the full NaNo but never say never – I don’t know what’s around the corner, for all I know it could be the deal I’ve been waiting for, the literary light at the end of the NaNo tunnel.

I’m not going to get there if I don’t have anything completed and ready to share.

There’s just the small matter of finishing this draft.

Maybe I should count the number of cuppas I have while doing this? I’m concerned they might outweigh the number of words and that would be very, very wrong. Maybe.

Do you take milk in your tea? Biscuit? Marvellous.

Let’s write.

 

 

What If What?

Me: OK, I think it’s ready.

Inner me: Are you sure?

Me: Well, I could maybe have another look just to be on the safe side.

Inner me: How many edits have you done? Done a line edit yet? Dialogue check, grammar, POV…?

Me: Eleventy billion on my last count, give or take.

Inner me: oh well, one more won’t hurt will it?

Me: No, I’m pressing send.

Inner me: You are? Right. Well, if you’re sure?

Me: No, of course I’m not sure. Do you think it’s ready? I mean you’re always telling me to go for it, so that’s what I’m doing. Going for it.

Inner me: Yes, of course. I’m just here to mess with your head. Don’t mind me.

Me: But what if…

Inner me: What if what?

Me: Nothing, There is no what if. It’s gone. I’ve pressed send. I feel a bit sick now.

Inner me: Go and lie down for a bit. I’ll annoy you with nonsense chatter in your brain while you rest. It’s the least I can do.

Me: *smiles with relief that the BBOD (Big Button of Destiny) has FINALLY been pressed, ignores ramblings of mind about the what ifs that could possibly happen now that it’s been sent*

 

 

Reminiscing about my Summer reads

There are two things I love about being on holiday somewhere that doesn’t have Scottish weather:

  1. The heat. The dip of a roasty toasty me in a cooling sea and the cold beers at the end of a water-sports filled day.
  2. I get time to read a lot of books.

This Summer was no different. As much as I prefer to hold an actual book in my hand, the flying gods have other ideas when it comes to how heavy my suitcase can be so I dust off my first-gen kindle and I download books until my heart’s content. Here’s my thoughts on the pages that joined me in the sun this year:

Marnie Riches – Book 4 of The George McKenzie series ‘The Girl Who Had No Fear. I’m a huge fan of Marnie Riches crime novels and the amazing characters she creates, so I was delighted that another of George’s stories was being published this year.

George McKenzie finds herself caught up in the world of crime once again. It seems wherever she goes, trouble is not far behind. The volatile relationship she has with her partner, who is also the Chief Inspector of the cases she seems to unwillingly get herself involved in, leaves me sitting on the edge of my seat as they both travel the literary globe dicing with death and everything that is thrown their way. From bodies afloat in the canals of Amsterdam to the humid cartel-driven lands of Central America searching for her father, when I open a Riches book, I know I am about to go on a wild adventure filled with blood, gore and a huge dollop of suspense. There may be the odd sleepless night because I don’t want the story to end but a few cups of tea can easily sort that out. Read them all though, not just book 4, her story is amazing and I hope there will be more to come.

Natalie Fergie – The Sewing Machine

For many years I used to watch my granny push the iron pedal on her Singer sewing machine. I’m the youngest of five so she made a lot of our clothes to help out my mum and dad. I was delighted to hear that Natalie was writing this novel and meeting her in person this year just confirmed exactly what I had hoped. A wonderful author who loves the old machines as much as I do.

What I love about this book, is the attention to detail. Spanning generations across the families of Jean, Connie and Fred, I was slowly but surely shown their connections along the way. Natalie has a brilliant knack of making sure little nuggets of info leave you guessing right to the very end. I loved the historical nod to the actual Singer factory and how, over the years, one machine saw so many events and predicaments its owners would face – some sad and some overwhelming with joy. An absolute belter of a book.

Ross Sayers – Mary’s The Name 

There aren’t many books with my mum’s name in the title so this debut immediately grabbed my attention. I also smiled to myself when I realised it’s set in Skye, a place I have visited many times and loved.

This book will amaze you as it’s told from the point of view of 8 year-old Mary. How Ross managed to do this, I will never know but as soon as I read the first page, her voice jumped out at me and took me by the hand, leading me on the tumultuous journey she made with her grandad.

Ross manages to capture the innocence of Mary and the relationship she has with her grandad as if I had known them all my life, not just mere characters in a book. I nodded a lot while I read this book as it made me reminisce about the ‘gone but not forgotten’ relatives I was fortunate to grow up with and love. I’m not going to lie, it made me cry but it also made me belly laugh too in equal measures. I really felt for Mary as she was taken from the city she knew to live in the rural landscape of Skye and its unforgiving weather. Her feisty character shines through and her naivety along with her grandad’s sense of humour and optimistic outlook on life after everything has gone a little awry, are a match made in heaven, A must for everyone out there who craves adventure with the ones you love, against all odds. Family is the heart of this story and I can’t wait to read whatever comes next from him. I am not surprised Mary’s the Name has been shortlisted for the Saltire Society First Book Award 2017. Good luck, Ross!

Moira McPartlin – Wants of the Silent

If you’d asked me a few years ago which Young Adult stories I liked, I would probably have struggled to name them as it’s not a genre I read a lot of. Until now.  I was introduced to Moira’s writing through her award-winning debut The Incomers – one of my all time favourite reads. Moira has since turned me into a fan of dystopian novels that Hunger Games and the like failed to do. The imagery and language used in her story transports me to another world set in the not so distant future and its remaining inhabitants are running out of time to survive. Flood waters have risen, governments have been overturned and replaced with dictatorships that are not that dissimilar to what we are experiencing at the moment. Those that are left, survive on sheer determination and guts alone.

The second in her Sun Song trilogy, ‘Wants of the Silent’ took me on the next stage of the story of Sorlie and his vagabond friends and the miscreants that he seems to collect along the way.  They try to uncover the mystery of the Prince and save their own skin at the same time. Warning!!! – there is no getting away from holding your breath at the underwater scene, just fantastic! Sorlie’s adventure only brings death, unrelenting longing for his family as Moira creates it all wrapped up in a superb coming-of-age tale that will leave you wanting to know when the third part of this epic trilogy will be released! Hurry up Moira (in a nice way).

Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

There’s something about a quirky title that really catches my eye. I knew the moment I saw the burnt-tipped matches and the wording on the cover that I was going to enjoy this book. As ever, the blurb on the back just drew me in even more and I read the first three chapters as I walked home from the book shop. It’s been years since a book has held my attention in that way.

Eleanor is not like everyone else. And I’m glad about that. I think the world would be a very dull place if we were all the same. I’d like to think Eleanor would allow me to be her friend but only if I followed her rules of life, a path I’d be willing to take as a refreshing change to the cruel and heartless society we live in and which is portrayed so well in this novel. Eleanor’s views of the world are taken one step further as there is no limit to the uncensored literal dialogue that comes out of her, to surprise and sometimes shock, those she meets. Emotional and psychological damage from a horrific childhood event left me wondering whether she was going to make it and I rooted for her with every step she took and every page I turned. Outstanding book. Go and buy it now, in fact run and buy it and start it on the way home, you’ll miss your stop on the bus but it will be worth it. There should be more Eleanor’s in the world, it would be a much happier place. And yes, I got the ending I wanted. Thank you, Gail.

**********

I leave you with the literary memories of my Summer. The words from these books are with me still, echoing around me as I write and read. Whether you’re a George, an Eleanor, a Sorlie, a Jean, Fred or Connie or a Mary – there’s a story out there for you somewhere.

One tomato, two tomato, three tomato, four

It appears that most of my posts have the word procrastination in them. It seems I may have an issue with trying to find a way to JUST GET ON WITH IT.

Not to panic though, help is at hand. Every week I meet up with my fellow writers and we eat cake, write, eat more cake, write some more and then I head home feeling heavier round the waist and lighter in my pocket but most importantly I can hold my head high because I achieved something. I wrote. Words in a draft that may or may not make sense to anyone else but they are perfect to me.

What’s my secret? Do I have a ghost-writer who jots down my every word as I sip hot chocolate, alas no, I’m not famously busy enough for any of that. Maybe I talk into my phone Fox Mulder style and eat cherry pie. No. So, what do I do?

I count tomatoes.

And no I haven’t suddenly lost it, it’s called the Pomodoro technique. There are different aspects to it which you can change to suit your needs but if you have a deadline or just want to STOP FAFFING then this is your guy/gal. Your saviour of the continual head-banging on the table in frustration, your knight in shiny red fruity/veg armour. You get the picture.

Using an egg timer/clock/app/watch/fancy technical doo daa – set an alarm for 25 minutes. Now write. Just write. No distractions, no internet, no social media, just write. No grammar, no punctuation. Just write.

Try not to jump out of your seat when the alarm goes (yes, I have done that in the past)  instead, get up from your seat and get a drink of water, whatever you need to clear your mind a little and away from the screen. Once five minutes are up, do the same – set alarm for 25 mins and repeat.

Each 25 minute slot is 1 tomato. So, how many tomatoes do you want to achieve today? Me? I was a 1 tomato day today.

Please note that as they are all fictitious tomatoes, they can be any colour, size or gender you like. Maybe you could doodle them on your page while you decide what to do next.

Perfetto.

P.S tomatoes were not harmed in the making of this post.

 

Run… and become?

Wheezing my way around Arthur’s Seat on Saturday 27th May, I ponder why I am doing this. Six miles across unseasonably scorching tarmac, with admittedly tremendous views, I run as fast as my wee legs can carry me. The cheerful tone of my running app lady tells me I’m doing not too bad considering, my beetroot face says otherwise though.

Amy Ford from ECHC in the house!

The excitement in the air as the starting countdown begins, reaches my section towards the back (easy now) and fills me with even more determination. As we begin there’s a new-found sense of camaraderie among the fellow smiley strangers that urge each other on, especially when ‘that’ hill appears at the 2k mark. It’s infectious.

The lull of laughter eats into the croon of Paolo Nutini as he waxes lyrical about growing up beside me. He didn’t grow up beside me but his chocolate voice calms my nerves and lets me find my pace. I chuckle as the oohs and aahs from those taking part that are new to my city, filter in through my ear phones as they remark at my taken-for-granted skyline in the blazing sun.

I’m lucky, I nearly shout. I get to live here and see this everyday!

Buzz Lightyear runs past me smiling as he gathers pace, never stopping even when he needs to raise the mask he’s wearing for some cool air to help him along. I salute you my fine out-of-this-world friend. I then spot what I can only describe as a nutter in a cow onesie, the spotty pattern makes no meals of how perhaps another non-fleecy outfit choice should’ve been made. But then we don’t normally get weather like this in Edinburgh.These amazing humans I’ve met along the radical road are what this is all about.

Sue and Aby #TeamECHC

Toto, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.

It’s roasting. I’m a bit emotional, as I always am when I do something like this, but it’s all for a good cause, right?

Right! It certainly is.

I’m raising money for kids, so I channelled my inner-child (not difficult because I can be very silly) and wore a tutu. I have to admit, in that heat, I was glad I was a fleece and acrylic-free zone. An assortment of netting, ribbon and colours of the rainbow caught my eye every time I raised a knee and why not.

It was light enough to not wear me down and it brought a smile to the championing crowd as I ran/wheezed past them – a win in my eyes. Donna Summer crooning in my ear, I smile and wave back enjoying the cheery faces urging me on. ‘You can do it’ I lip read over the 80’s mix of nonsense blasting in my ears.

I want to thank the MacMillan guys at the mini roundabout on the last 1k, you have no idea how much I needed your ‘high five this board if you need more power’, the finishing line was just ahead and the magic of cardboard certainly bestowed its powers on me. I owe you a debt of gratitude and a cold beer.

I can’t complain about the fracture in my elbow or my recovery from a trapped nerve when I’m running for the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity. When I just can’t take one more step, I think of the Clown Doctors making their way around the wards cheering up all the children, the famous panto guys taking time out of their schedules to visit toddlers and babies on beeping machines who just need something else to think about for a minute or two, or the visits to Edinburgh Castle for patients and their families to enjoy – a respite from their daily life of looking after their seriously ill children. I might be biased because I work for ECHC but the effort and unrelenting passion the staff have for the cause is just fantastic. 

That’s what I think about when I run.

I think about what else I can raise funds for to make these children still feel like children even when the sun is shining but they can’t go outside the wards they call home.

Words can’t really express what I want to say to everyone who donated towards my run. The generosity and enthusiasm for my mad dash around my beloved city has been emotionally overwhelming and slightly surreal. A mere thank you just doesn’t really do it justice but that’s all I have right now.

I just want to make a difference, no matter how small. And you can too. Run and become that person that gives a little back.

Child first. Patient second.