Monday, 31 October 2016


It's that time of year again when writers all over the world slink away from social media and can be seen scratching their heads, weeping over their laptops and consuming copious quantities of coffee.

Yes it's NaNoWriMo - that's National Novel Writing Month to the uninitiated. It's a writing challenge. All you have to do is write 50,000 words in 30 days and you win! It's as simple as that.

The name is a misnomer as it's actually an International affair now. Last year 351,489 people signed up from countries all over the world. Only 42,423 actually finished with their 50,000 words in the bag by 30th November.

I have entered NaNoWriMo twice and have completed the full word count both times, although there was a week or so in the middle last time when I thought I might have to give up for lack of inspiration.  It's exciting and frustrating and exhausting all at the same time with a vibrant and very supportive community who are all there to help (and/or distract) you with your novel.

The only trouble is that back in September, I decided that I wasn't going to do NaNo this year and promptly stopped thinking about my plot. Then today, October 31st and the day before it starts, I changed my mind. So now I am having to think very fast.....

Anyway, I'll keep you up to date with how it's going and in the meantime, I can show you the cover that I've quickly made. I was going to call it "The Girl in the Lighthouse" to follow current trends but there wasn't room for all those words.

Wish me luck. I'm going in!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


Nobody smiles at me any more.

It's true. Even though I smile at everyone I pass on my walks, almost none of them smile back. Some of them don't even smile when I'm grinning at them like a Cheshire cat.

And they say Yorkshire is friendly!

Actually, I'm not telling you the whole story. I do walk a lot and I smile at everyone. But I am multitasking. I will invariably be listening to a book at the same time as walking which means I am wearing earphones. 

I have decided that it's the earphones that put people off. It's as if, by putting on my earphones, I am telling the world that I no longer want to engage. I have partitioned off my sense of hearing and thus part of my self and as a result shown that I do not want to be disturbed.

But this isn't true. Yes, I am using the time that it takes me to walk to do something else as well - in this case read books that I would otherwise never make time for. What I don't understand is why this means strangers can pass shoulder to shoulder with me and still fail to acknowledge that I am there. This makes me sad.  (Here I am looking sad in my earphones.)

There are a number of explanations for this odd response.

1. They assume I do not want to be disturbed... but I'm not looking for a twenty minute conversation - just a smile.

2. They think that because I'm wearing earphones, I must be the kind of person that will not engage socially, like some kind of thug. I sometimes want to stop them and say 'Honestly! I'm no threat. I'm listening to The Archers' Omnibus!'

3. They are just glad of an excuse not to engage with me because they are naturally anti-social themselves.

I have tried to find earphones that are discreet and won't put people off but I can't get them to stay in my ears so all I can do is continue to smile and hope to surprise them into smiling back. Actually, it's quite disconcerting to be ignored. It's like I'm a ghost or am wearing an invisibility cloak. And also, I think it's a bit rude. But then maybe they think I'm the rude one for listening to books in the street?


Friday, 14 October 2016

WHAT MAKES AN IDEA GOOD? (And other related thoughts)

Are you an ideas person? Do you come up with schemes, congratulate yourself on your ingenuity and spend a small fortune buying the constituent parts only to decide later that you've changed your mind?

I think that's pretty normal. Your idea could be about anything but it'll be the best one you've ever had and it makes your insides fizz just to think about it. It scampers around the back garden of your mind, squealing from time to time and demanding to be let around the front.

So you open the gate.... only to find that your idea has suddenly gone all shy, lost its self-confidence, is skulking in the dark alley and won't come out. Or worse! It appears in your public space in a blaze of noise and fury and then when it's there, centre-lawn so to speak, loses its nerve, like it has suddenly realised that it's dressed in a bikini when everyone else is wearing anoraks.

I'm like that. I have ideas all the time - mainly about how I'm going to become a successful writer, which is my dream. It's a lovely dream. Every day I take it out, huff on it a bit, polish it with my sleeve. But it's not very stable. It shifts about all the time. Just when I think I have hold of it, it wriggles out of my grasp.

And, I have realised, the slipperiness of my dream (and so the validity of my ideas) depends entirely on my levels of self-belief on any given day.
Yesterday : I am great. I can do this. People tell me all the time that they like my stuff. All I have to do is keep working hard.
Today : I don't know why you're wasting your time. It's almost impossible to get an agent. The market for the stuff you write is already flooded and anyway, what makes you think it's any good?

This is normal, I know. Head versus heart. The intellect beating the intuition into a pulp. But what I MUST remember is that how I feel on any given day doesn't alter the validity of the idea. If it was a good idea when I felt positive about it then it probably still is.

This is a picture of the sky over my home town. That's my idea, that is. That orange bit burning bright in the middle of all the grey...