November’s Pot Luck Club

As we come to the end of the month, I bring you another helping from the Pot Luck Club; a round-up of my writerly activities over the past few weeks and a look forward towards December.

NaNoWriMo Update

As we rush towards 30th November, I am delighted to report that for the fifth year in a row, I am on track to achieve the goal of writing fifty thousand words in a month. For the non-writers among you, this might seem like a strange way to spend my time, but the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge is all about stimulating creativity; it is about quantity, not quality.

All around the world, hundreds of thousands of writers are spending the month working on manuscripts that are growing by the day. Some are working on a novel (the classic, official goal); some are working on short stories or other pieces of writing (this is how I achieved my first ‘win’ in 2103). Some have detailed synopses for each chapter before they start (the planners); some just start on day one with a vague idea and see where the story takes them (the pantsers). I tend to fall into the hybrid category (the plantsers). I start off with a detailed plan on 1st November; run out of steam around day 17 and spend the rest of the month inventing random scenarios where two or three of my characters get together and talk/laugh/fight or do anything that helps progress the story. Or I work on the back stories for one or more of my principals.But one way or another, for the past four years, I have used NaNoWriMo to write the first, very rough draft of my next novel.

NaNoWriMo is an exercise in discipline; sitting at the keyboard every day and applying fingers to keyboard, producing at least 1667 new words. (That’s 1667 words of new prose, you understand; I won’t be pestering the Oxford English Dictionary with any new words per se.) I have always been a lark, rather than an owl and this year I’ve been getting up earlier and earlier as the days moved on. This morning, I started writing around 4.45am and had my daily target written well before breakfast.

Most importantly, NaNoWriMo is an exercise in controlling the inner editor who plagues all writers from time to time. I know what I am writing at the moment is garbage. No-one is ever going to read the current version of Corruption! apart from me, when I return to start editing it in a couple of months’ time, and I know I will cringe at some of it. But that’s the point. It is perfectly possible to edit garbage and produce something of which I can be proud. It is not possible to edit a blank page. So for the next three or four days, my inner editor must continue to sit in the corner and behave. I still have a few more thousand words to produce.

Corruption! Cover Reveal

And with the writing of the first draft, the countdown to the launch of Corruption! begins. I am aiming to publish it in August 2018, in time for its debut at the wonderful Writers’ Summer School, in Swanwick. I am currently preparing my marketing plan. Last year, I left the plan for Deception! until too late and didn’t manage to get everything done in time. This time around, I am going to make sure I leave myself with enough days or weeks to get everything done.

So I have great pleasure in officially kicking off the Corruption! publicity with a cover reveal. Designed once again by the talented Berni Stevens, it fits in with the theme established back in 2016 with Counterfeit! and continued this year with Deception! This time the map is of Russia, where much of the action takes place, and the colour is pale blue to signify the weather and atmosphere of that huge country.

I look forward to sharing my  journey into Corruption! with you over the coming months.

Advent Calendars With A Difference

For the past several years, I have marked the approach of the holiday season with a daily reading from The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaardner. A children’s book published more than 20 years ago, it is a story within a story, set out in twenty-four chapters, to be read from 1st December until Christmas Eve. Young Joachim discovers an ancient, home made advent calendar in an old bookshop. As the month progresses we read about Joachim and his family as they work their way through the mystery of the calendar and its maker. But at the same time, we see the story behind each of the little doors, a journey that takes us from snowy Scandinavia to a stable in Bethlehem. This is a delightful retelling of the Christmas story and I am looking forward to starting it on Friday.

But this year, I have another advent calendar to look forward to, courtesy of a group of twenty four indie authors, including friend and fellow member of Chudleigh Writers Circle and Exeter Writers, Angela Wooldridge. Each day, a window opens, presenting a new short story. Each one is less than one thousand words, short enough to read during a coffee break. On Christmas Day, you receive an ebook with all the stories bundled together as a bonus keepsake. It’s completely free and another great calorie-free way to mark the passing of the Advent season. I am certainly going to give it a go; if you would like to join me, you can sign up here: Indie Authors Advent Calendar.

Christmas: A Time for Giving (Books, not Stuff)

At this time of year, many of us struggle with the dreaded Christmas present list. It’s hard to decide what to give friends and family, especially in an age where most of us far too much ‘stuff’ already, where so much on offer is tatty or over-priced (and often both at the same time) and when we are supposed to be looking after the environment and being sustainable. I have got to the stage where most of the presents I buy are consumables (food, drink, environmentally-friendly smellies and so on). But for the readers in my life, I always pick a book. There are so many to choose from; picking the right one shows I have thought carefully about the person and their tastes; and they can always hand them on to a library, a charity shop, or a friend when they are finished if their shelves are full. So join me in giving the gift of a good read this year. (And of course, if you would like to add one of my books to your shopping list, I would be delighted. You can find them all here.) Merry Christmas!

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