My NaNoWriMo Word Count Widgets!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve and my house is smelling rather lovely.  The Day will be spent at my Dad and Step-mum's and I'm taking my own main course, being the only vegetarian.  I've roasted some butternut squash, sweet potato, red onion, garlic and baby plum tomatoes, sauteed some chestnut mushrooms and spinach in mustard and white wine, and now I'm waiting for it all to cool so I can wrap it in puff pastry and set it aside for tomorrow. 

My plans for the rest of the day involve cups of tea, chocolate biscuits and the TV - Muppets Christmas Carol!  And then a book (a real, proper printed one - not an Authonomy one) until the girls arrive, hyped up for the night.  I fully expect tears before, during, and after bed-time!  Presents are all wrapped, cards are all written and all I have to do tonight is leave out some chocolates for Santa (lucky Santa), carrots for the reindeer (to help them see where they're going - according to Big Toots.  Little Tootsie thinks they help Rudolph's nose glow) and pop a couple of Santa presents under the tree for the morning.  The majority of pressies are already waiting at Granny and Grandad's for after church, but I figured they'd need something in the morning if they're not to burst from excitement.

It's strange to think we're only a week away from next year.  2011 has been a good year for me, certainly compared to previous years!  One book written that I plan to shape up even more and submit to agents, and a NaNovel that needs completely re-written, but it's a start.  I've learnt a heck of a lot, even since starting this blog, and I hope next year goes even better.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas and I'll see you all in the New Year.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Drum roll please....

...the second draft of Hospital Corners is complete!

My plan now is to catch up on my Authonomy watch-list and research queries/pitches/synopses etc over the Christmas period.  Mind you, my original plan was to leave the first major edit until after Christmas....

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Five chapters of Hospital Corners left to edit, and I hope to whizz through one of those this morning.  I am, however, singing all the songs for my Xmas Cabaret at the same time, so the results could be interesting!  Hopefully, will pick up any doozies.

My main reason for posting today is pure excitement at the fact that I've been a guest blogger for the first time ever!  One of my NaNoWriMo writing buddies has a blog and asked me to do a spot for him.  I did it with much pleasure and I'm sure to be asking for a return blog at some point.  Here's the place to find it:

Right - I'm off to practise my solo.  We had a rehearsal last night with the band, and the drummer was a tad on the loud side, meaning I couldn't hear the piano and came in well off-key!

Monday, 12 December 2011

7 Chapters and counting...

Well, I'm keeping on with the editing of Hospital Corners and a mere 7 chapters will see me reach the end for the second time.  Being more active with the various Authonomy Crit groups has helped get my book circulating again, and there are some decent reader comments to take into consideration.  All in all, I'm still pleased with how well the book is going down and the comments are still overwhelmingly positive!  I still have a pesky red arrow though...currently at 286 and falling. 

Cabaret is this week and i'm giving up my one free night this week to go carol singing!  It's all in a good cause though - the combined churches of Montrose go around various sheltered housing complexes and provide some entertainment for a wee while.  I went last year and it was good fun and we don't have the snow stopping us this year!  I'm still preparing for drastic changes in temperature, however.  It gets to below 0 some nights, and the housing complexes are set to boiling (as Esme says about LGH). 

Cabaret - two rehearsals left and things are going OK.  That's a cautious OK as there's still a lot of work to get through.  We're not helped by the fact that half the cast has a cold (myself included) and it's hard to give the 110% our director is asking when you'd much rather be somewhere cosy with a cup of tea!

Anyway - I'm planning on editing more of Hospital Corners this afternoon, in between completing a work-related questionnaire for my benefits and waiting on Asda man. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Can someone please turn off the wind?'s blowing a gale here in Scotland!  The slide has crashed into the flowerbed (first time it's succumbed to the wind) and there's a tree down at the end of the street.  Not fun.  I took Little Tootsie to the supermarket this afternoon to buy her shepherds outfit for the church Nativity and we nearly took off with the trolley! 

Apologies for not updating much recently - I'm swamped with preparations for a Christmas Cabaret (in exactly 1 week I will be a nervous wreck as I contemplate my first solo singing in over 10 years).  Tonight I have to stitch up some seams in a nifty flapper-esque dress for our Cell Block Tango number and attach some velcro patches to a white shirt for easy removal.  Our director has kindly given 5 of us about 30 seconds to change from white blouses, ties, hats and guns (it's a spoof James Bond number) to black tops....I'm apparently going to be wearing a wimple for my solo (Sister Act - Hail Holy Queen).  Nothing is simple when LAMS are involved! 

Where am I at with Hospital Corners?  Well - I've knuckled down to the editing over the past couple of days and I'm now up to Chapter 39.  I'm rather pleased with how things are progressing, and I've now read through to the end of the book for the first time since I wrote it in October.  I love it when I put down my own work and can say "Damn, that was good"! 

I'm making Julie into more of a chick-lit heroine than before - if she's not allowed to drool over Alex, then what's the point?!  I'd love to finish the first major edit for Christmas and then I'll take a break before reading it through again for character continuity and POV.  I'll probably end up starting that edit over the Christmas holidays....

Right - time to get busy with needle and thread before a night in front of the TV after 2 nights of rehearsals!  I've discovered Tesco's Mince Pie flavour crisps.  They shouldn't work, but they REALLY DO!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Chapter 29...

Now that the frenzy of NaNo is over (OK, I know there's 1 day left but I've reached the target and I'm happy with that - my therapist would be proud!), I'm knuckling down to Hospital Corners again.  I've been spurred on by my Authonomy buddy DaisyF, who started reading it and couldn't put it down.  I emailed her the rest of the first draft tonight because she just couldn't stop thinking about Esme, Dr B and the hunky Alex.  She's even started a thread in the "Recommend a Manuscript" forum saying I'm her new favourite book.  Cheers Daisy!

And from that thread, I've had two more very positive comments and ratings, with the possibility of backings in the future.  Woo hoo!

It's fired me up to finish the first draft edit by the end of the year.  That is, if I can fit in enough time around rehearsing for the Xmas Cabaret (15th and 16th December) and time with my girls.  Big Toots has had two days off school and is also off tomorrow.  Two days are my limit, however, and she'll be spending the day at nursery tomorrow while I get my hair cut.  We went to the cinema yesterday to see Arthur Christmas (great family fun) and then they had haircuts and we had a chippy tea with Granny.  Today was shopping for winter clothes - the smaller the boot, the bigger the price tag!  Can't quite believe Big Toots needed a size 12....I remember having size 12 feet and I was a lot older than 6!! 

Tonight we had Granny for tea (not literally - I'm vegetarian) and then Big Toots made her Rainbow Promise.  We were all really proud of her.  There were 6 of them "graduating" and they all had the option of saying the promise on their own or with the group.  B.T. was the only one to say it on her own - clear and loud and proud.  With 2 performing parents, it shouldn't be a surprise!

I'm also going to try and give up chocolate until Christmas.  I know most people love having a chocolate advent calendar (B.T. keeps calling them advert calendars and she's probably right!) but I'm going to save up my chocolate rations for Christmas and then enjoy a lovely box of Hotel Chocolat liquors on the 25th.  :)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

I've done it!

Woo hoo - a verified "winner" of NaNoWriMo.  50,910 words in 26 days...not bad at all!

And I still haven't actually reached "the end" of the story so I can keep adding to my total until the end of the month and keep my ML happy.  Best wishes to Marie Rex, the moderator of Scotland-Elsewhere forum, as she's in hospital.  :(  She's been doing such a great job, chivvying us all along and doling out our virtual bones for the Skeleton Marathon.  I'm going keep on writing every day, as a tribute to her. 

I may have my problems, but I can at least write without pain and get around without pain.  Kudos to Marie Rex and all the other writers on NaNo and Authonomy who struggle with painful physical ailments and still keep on going. 

Now NaNo is out the way, what am I going to do with the 50,910 words?  Well, I'm going to leave them well alone for a while.  However much I enjoy reading chick-lit, writing it is a whole other ballgame.  I've spent so long thinking in a more literary style for Hospital Corners that it's hard to get my brain to loosen up.  Plus, with my personality, it's hard for me to loosen up at the best of times!  I'm not saying I'm going to dump Tai Chi Choos and never do anything with it, but I'm going to concentrate on Hospital Corners first.  And possibly Agoraphobics Anonymous after that (more on that at some point).  Maybe Minotaur Mysteries too....

Monday, 21 November 2011

Getting there...

...the end of NaNo is in sight.  I only have to do 1000 words a day to meet the target and have some in reserve for the dodginess of the word-counting software.  I'd hate to verify my count, only to be a thousand or so short.

I took today to catch up on my housework, before a session with my psychologist and then a trip to the dentist with Big Toots.  She was getting a coating on her adult molars (the only adult teeth she has - tooth fairy hasn't had to visit her yet) and she was soooo good.  It was a more complex procedure than I was expecting, so I don't know what was going through her mind when the two women started scraping and sucking and coating and UV lighting her mouth for 10 minutes.  And her little face fell when she was told she couldn't eat chewy sweets anymore - she loves her Drumstick lollies.  I told her to look on the bright side - it would mean more chocolate! 

November isn't always a great month for me, mood-wise.  The darker mornings make it difficult to wake up and get going, but I'm ticking along as well as can be expected.  My mood was lifted greatly this afternoon by a lovely comment on Authonomy for Hospital Corners.

"Chapter 3 is one of the most beautiful and sad things I've ever read. I'd have read more, but I'm a little blinded by tears. Tough, manly tears, of course. There is absolutely nothing that should be, or needs to be, changed in anything I read, beyond the odd missed word or punctuation. But even those, I only noticed two of them in three chapters. Obviously I will back this, and there is no doubt whatsoever that it will be very easily published. If you look back at the 100+ critiques I've given, I've never said anything much more glowing that 'very well written', so the fact that I'm saying how exceptionally brilliant this is, is praise in its own right."  ShadowofOsiris.

Friday, 18 November 2011

I've lost count...

Day 17 I think....I'm at nearly 40,000 words anyway so that's all that counts!

And I'm simultaneously editing Hospital Corners and learning 18 songs for the Christmas Cabaret.  I did a show last year with that many songs and we had 5 months of rehearsals.  I think we'll have about half that time....

What's happening with the NaNo story - Anna is about to dump Quentin, realising he's just a clone of Charlie the ex-hubby.  She's finding it quite hard to not be distracted at work by her boss, Nigel, and his rather tasty bum.  They've just spent a morning performing a Marsupialization on a Pilonidal Cyst on Flo the parrot's bum.  Now it's going to be a spot of equine therapy before Anna heads to Aberdeen to meet Quentin and give him the bad news. 

In Hospital Corners - I'm seriously cutting the magazine article written about Esme's famous son, John Jones.  I realised that it's a whole pile of his backstory that has absolutely no place in Esme's book.  Otherwise, I've fleshed out a chapter between Julie and Alex and I'm much happier with how Julie's coming across, and her initial views of Alex, strengthening one of the books themes which is "don't judge people on first impressions".

Now, I'm off to watch Children in Need on the TV with a glass of wine and some lovely PartyLite Candles. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Day 14...are we nearly there yet?

Well - that's the halfway point and I'm sitting pretty at 30000 words.  Although the second half of the book isn't going to be easy to write and I've used up all the backstory I can possibly fit in.

I managed to get a thousand words out of my weekend though.  My boiler decided that 4 am on a Sunday morning was the PERFECT time to spring a leak.  I woke up to the sound of rain in my airing cupboard.  Or, as the Tootsie's put it when they saw it in the morning - "Mummy, it's weeing!".  Thankfully, very nice council repair mannie came with a replacement overflow/whatsit me bobbie/thingamijig and within ten minutes I had water again.  My order of priority - flushing the loo, cup of tea, shower. 

Sleep would have been nice - felt it this morning in my tai chi class.  I was the lead corner and messed up twice by the end of the class....brain, feet, hands...present but not entirely correct.

All good fodder for my NaNovel, of course.  And I even squeezed in an edit of what is now Chapter 19 of Hospital Corners.  Peggy's second batch of diary entries.  Now I'm onto my least favourite chapters involving the magazine interview with Esme's son...I foresee some severe cutting.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Day 9 of NaNo...

I am within breathing distance of halfway....

I decided to stop while the going was good, however.  I find it easier to leave at a point where I know how I want to continue.  If I stop when I run out of inspiration, who's to say I'll be any more inspired the next day?  So - I leave it at a point where I'm going to be happy for the next few hundred words at least.  Then the creative juices will have had a chance to get flowing and something will arrive for the next chapter. 

You can see my progress with my cool little Word Count Widget.  I'm trying to find other places I can stick it - I just so gosh darn proud of myself!  If I keep up at this rate, I'll have reached my goal by the 20th.  Yippee!

On a Hospital Corners note - I'm still editing away and have the first 18 chapters up for view on Authonomy (  I'm trying to edit a chapter a day, whilst still giving the inner perfectionist a day off every now and again.  I've spent the past hour writing out my Christmas card list, working out what supplies I have to work with (I make my own for family and friends)...and locating spare boxes of cards I must have bought in the January sales and forgotten about.  Shame I bought two more boxes today! 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Day 6 of NaNo...

Well, it's nearly nine o' clock at night, and I'm just calling it quits on my NaNo input for the day.  I think my word count sits somewhere around the 17,000 mark now.  I didn't think I'd get much written today, having church this morning and a 3 hour rehearsal this afternoon...but I sat down with the computer rather than the TV and bashed out nearly 2000 words. 

I'm not finishing here for the night.  I have a chapter of Hospital Corners to edit and three songs to start learning harmonies and words for.  And, if I have time before my eyes slam shut, I'll take a look at my "unrelenting high standards/perfectionism" work for my psychologist tomorrow.....:)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Day 4 of NaNo...

Things are still going (whispers) well.  It's only 9.40am and already I've written 1147 words!  My NaNo total is sitting at a very comfortable 11,356 words.  Not bad for 3 and a bit days.  I know things will slow for the weekend because I'll have my two Tootsies keeping me busy, as well as a rehearsal on Sunday for a Christmas Cabaret.  I'm also keeping up with my gym sessions:  Body Jam on Tuesdays, Circuits AND Body Balance on Wednesdays and the Gym proper today. 

And of course I'm keeping up with my tai chi classes on a Monday morning. I could hardly write a book about tai chi and not go! 

As the book currently stands, Anna has just completed her first "real" tai chi class with Tamara and GAP, in the hopes that it will slow the progression of GAP's newly diagnosed dementia.  Anna was less than keen to go back to tai chi, having been suicidal after her last class in London (but with her friends, who could blame her?), but has learnt that soft defeats strong....ish....kinda...maybe.

Next chapter will be a lot of fun to write - Grasp Birds Tail - as it introduces the irascible parrot, Flo.  And thanks to a series of dares on the chick-lit NaNo forum, Flo has to recite traditional wedding anniversary gifts....

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Day 1 of NaNo...

And it's gone remarkably well!  I had a bit of an internet dilema in the morning though....I have no idea why my connection decided to pack in today of all days!  A very helpful man got me working again and I was able to update my word count and research a few designer brands to name drop into the chapter.  I've given todays total as 3813, but it's actually now 4702.  Not bad for one day. 

I think the volume is down to the fact I changed my mind at the last minute and wrote in 1st person.  It gives me much more freedom and is better at getting closer to a character's emotions than simply reporting "Anna did this and then she did that and she felt this".  That's the idea anyway.

I don't know whether to keep going with the writing or wait until tomorrow afternoon.  I guess it depends on how bad the television is tonight!  Tomorrow will be a busier day as I have 2 gym sessions instead of just the 1 I had today (first time at Body Jam - my muscles hurt but it was good fun and I wasn't the worse there by a long stretch).  I also have to get some food in...gym sessions and thinking up 3000 words a day burns a lot of energy. 

I'm also still working on Hospital Corners where I can.  I've edited the first 10 chapters of the original draft, and it's now been slimmed down into 8 chapters.  I'm currently at 250 in the chart with 11 backers (thank you guys!).  I'm using a great free software from to help with the editing.  It picks up on commonly overused words, repeated phrases, sentence length, cliches etc.  Apologies if I've mentioned it before - my head is mince from all the work I've been cramming in these past few weeks!  Researching, outlining, editing and writing all at the same time....phew! 

Oh - another nice software I'm using is WriteWay.  I get a free trial of the professional version for NaNo and it's fantastic for pulling together all your characters, scenes, research and notes in one place.  I'm still pasting what I've written into Word for backing-up, but it's nice to have all my notes in one place instead of ferretting around between different Word files. 

That's it for today...possibly more tomorrow....probably not.  I don't think my blog counts towards my NaNo total, unfortunately!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Head: meet Brick Wall...

That's how I feel today!  I've spent all day researching stuff for my NaNo book and my head is spinning!

The tai chi stuff wasn't too bad and I found some extra information for some moves that has really helped me with my chapter outline.  However, researching divorce in England is driving me crazy!!!  Thank goodness things seem much easier in Scotland (and easier when everything is uncontested).

I've had to get my head around the basic proceedings of a divorce - what IS a decree nisi, for example.  I've managed to get all that information's what happens when the divorce, and ancillary relief, is contested that's got me all hot and bothered.  I need to know the exact procedure my MC, Anna, has to go through when her hubby, Charlie, divorces her for unreasonable behaviour...he tries to argue that she's impulsive with money and would spend anything he gave her; that she swindled his business out of a million pounds over the years of their marriage; that she signed over any rights to money from him; anything he can get away with.  Anna is determined to fight this all the way....but I'm getting bogged down in the financial horrors!  Form A, Form E etc. etc.

Ah'll be worth it when the book is written!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


I've spent most of today researching tai chi for my next book (a chick-lit, light and fluffy, feel-good read) which I'm going to have to write in one month.  It sounds scary and impossible - 50,000 words in 30 days - but, when I look back over my blog, I realise I wrote a hell of a lot in three months.

I think, when I started my blog, I had around 25,000 words.  It now sits at around 92,000 (although it's rapidly shrinking now I've started editing!) after 3 months of not-so-solid writing.  If I really get my head down, I think I can do it.

Hospital Corners has been a great learning experience for me, and it's journey doesn't end just because I've written the words "The End".  I spend time each night (generally in bed with my last cup of tea) reading through a chapter with my trusty red pen in hand.  It's much easier to see where things don't work if you read a printed version, rather than staring at a screen.  I think the edited version will quicken the pace without cutting out too much characterisation or description.  I hope...

There's a lot of talk on Authonomy about e-publishing and whether it's the way forward or not.  I'm not making a decision one way or the other with regards to Hospital Corners.  If a publisher approached me and told me they'd edit and publish my manuscript for e-publication, I'd jump at the chance.  Of course, I'd love to have a printed version in my hands, but something is better than nothing.  I may even invest in a Kindle for Christmas to check out the variety of books available and the level I'd be up against. 

Anyway - those are my musings for today. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


It's FINISHED.  I can now add "author" to my name. :)

OK, so it's the first draft and there are going to be huge chunks I will change once I've actually read them again...but it's done.  A fraction under 92000 words; something I never dreamed possible.  It only feels like a week or two since I was trying to make it to the 70000 word mark!

Seeing as it's Mental Health Week, I've uploaded the full manuscript at so everyone can find out how things end.  I'll  be taking most of it back down by the end of the month it's a limited time offer!

I feel at a bit of a loose end now...although I'm sure that will only last for a day or two.  The little grey cells are busy sparking away with my idea for the next book.  I will be taking part in NaNoWriMo next month, and the aim is to write 50000 words in 30 days.  A mammoth task, but if I can put my perfectionism to one side and simply create, I'm sure it'll be manageable.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Pitch perfect...

Well, I cheated a bit yesterday and took the girls to their favourite soft-play centre.  They spent four hours running themselves ragged; I sat with my netbook and coffee and got some writing done.  Then, when the batteries died, I started trying to write a synopsis...I hate trying to write a synopsis! 

The best thing to come out of my day (other than two kids who slept like logs all night) were my revised pitches.  I had to agree with one comment, that what I promised in my pitches wasn't actually what the book was about.  So here are the new, improved versions.  I know they're improved because I had a positive comment about them!  Enjoy...

Short pitch (the sentence that gets put on the front cover, or at the very top of the back cover):

It's not mental's mental hell.

Long pitch (the blurb on the back cover):

They say one in four people will experience mental health difficulties in their lifetime. Over two thousand of these poor souls pass through the doors of Lovingdell General Hospital's Accident & Emergency Department every year.

Not all of them are patients...

Dr Blake tries to deal with every patient herself. She's a professional perfectionist...and a bit of a bitch.

Esme has cut herself. Nobody knows why, and she's certainly not telling.

Peggy plots of ways to escape the locked psychiatric ward. Plans generally include swallowing broken glass, slashing her wrists or hanging herself.

Elizabeth doesn't like being touched and she's covered in cuts and bruises she can't, or won't, explain. She's only six.

Follow the staff and patients of LGH through one day. One typical day...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Runner up...

I can proudly add "runner up in the New Rose Short Story Competition 2011" to my name!  View the story at

I was so chuffed when I got the email from Miranda Dickinson, and a pile of goodies are winging their way to me in the post.  The best bit is that I get a review by Jamie Guiney, the head judge, of a piece of writing.  He'll be in touch to let me know how many words etc he's willing to look at....but even if it's a couple of thousand, it'll be great to get a professional opinion of the opening of Hospital Corners!

I'm entering another competition this week.  To celebrate the launch of Miranda's new book, Authonomy are holding a flash fiction competition.  Because her book is called "It started with a kiss" and is 416 pages long, we have to write a piece of flash fiction that is 416 words long, titled the same.  I've written a piece, but am going to leave it for a couple of days before coming back to it with fresh eyes.  Because it's me, there's a neat little twist in the final paragraph. 

It's the Tattie Holidays for the next two weeks, so I'll have my girls a bit more and be writing a bit less.  Hopefully it won't be too much longer before I rescue Dr B from her pacing up and down in her office....she'll be wearing a hole in the carpet by now!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Make your mind up...

Reading is a very personal thing.  Two people who normally agree on everything, from what to have for breakfast to the appropriate colour of towels to use in the spare room, can read the same piece of work and come up with vastly different reviews.

This has been my experience over the past week.  On one hand I've had two reviews berating me for allowing Esme to linger in the hallways of LGH for as long as I have, but today I had a review applauding me for such a slow pace!  What's a girl to think?!

Never mind...I'm taking all the comments and storing them in a Word file.  Once I'm ready to edit the first draft (probably in the New Year), I will work my way through the comments and see if I can't find a happy medium. 

The reviews have, on the whole, been helpful rather than hurtful.  For someone with as thin a skin as I, I'm pleasantly surprised at how I've coped with people dissecting my work.  Some comments I will throw away, but others will help me mould my book into a more appropriate form to be published.  I know, for instance, that I need to change the pitches (again) to make them less chick-lit and less about the diaries.  Esme is on a journey - a journey through her own life - and that's what I need to convey. 

But for today I'm focussing on chapter 33...don't ask me what happens in it because I don't know yet! 

Friday, 23 September 2011

New Trailer...

I'm still trying to get used to free evening, after show week.  So I spent last night with Windows Movie Maker and some generic Google images to put together a book trailer.  You can view the finished article on YouTube:

My word count has shot up in recent days, and now lingers somewhere around 77000.  I haven't had huge bursts of creativity - I've just found ways of bringing in sections I wrote earlier in the year while I played around with the main story.  Don't get me wrong though, around 3000 words are completely new!

Julie knows that Dr B has OCD and that Alex and Rosie were once an item.  She now grudgingly accepts that Alex maybe isn't quite so arrogant and that Dr B has a reason for being such a b*tch.  Alex has been granted a half hour nap, but he's about to wake up any minute humming Pennies from Heaven.  Dr B is about to confront Esme about her past.....things are going to start making sense!!!  And then Brian will turn up...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wifies What Write...

I've spent my first free Tuesday night in 6 months at the library (one week after the show and I'm already missing the regular rehearsals!).  Author Aline Templeton (a crime writer I'm adding to my watch list after tonight) spent an hour with us and I thoroughly enjoyed the session.

The funniest point was actually two minutes before she was introduced, when a member of the audience turned to her at the coffee table and said "So, the person who's coming tonight - who's she then?"  Even I recognised her from the dozen posters hanging around the place!  What made it funnier was the fact he was married to the librarian who had organised the event...

She made a lovely remark at the start, along the lines of "I knew I was a writer.  It's just the publishers didn't".  A lot of what she said rang true with me and my own writing experiences over the past few months.  Things like: do your research - but know more than you tell.  Things like: "I start with an ending in mind but I'm probably wrong". 

When the floor was opened for questions, someone asked about character names.  I sat there in shock as she said almost exactly what I have John Jones saying in his magazine interview (somewhere around Chapter 23).  Names are intensely personal and an author/actor can't help but ascribe personalities and traits related to someone they know with that name. 

Then, after a comment she made about criminals being inherently stupid (with the stories to back it up - my favourite was the bank robber who realised the teller he was holding up with a sawn-off shotgun was scared, lifted his mask and said "It's OK, it's only me"), a member of the audience asked if characters were ever a bit Jekyll & jaw was scraping the fuzzy felt floor tiles.  Again, in the same magazine article, John describes his mother as a little like Jekyll & Hyde. 

But then Aline went on to say that some people, with mental issues, a bit like Asperger's, can be like that....I nearly put my hand up and said "Like me, then?".  She did go on to say that characters in books are simpler than people in real life; that real people are simply too complex to put in novels (could explain why my own personality is spread across virtually every character in the book!).  In general, people are normal and simple.  The trick with writing is to put the character into a situation that pushes their button which makes them act in an interesting way.  All books are about conflict....

All in all - an enjoyable night out.  And good to know that I'm doing things pretty much the same way as a woman with a dozen books to her name.  And like her, I think I've found my niche in mental health.  She said that she tried writing romantic fiction but "somehow people kept ending up dead".  I know how she feels....I keep writing characters who end up mentally flawed.  Oh well, stick to what you know!!

Monday, 19 September 2011

70 000 and counting...

At last I've broken the 70000 word barrier!  I know, in the grand scheme of writing, that it isn't the word count that matters but the story but, let's face it, the word count counts! 

Apologies if that sentence makes no sense - in my Lemsip-ed up brain, it does.  The show was an absolute roaring success but now I'm suffering the inevitable post-show cold.  I always get run-down in the run-up to a show but I managed to stave this cold off until after the final show.  We've had nothing but positive comments about LAMS first production and I can't wait to see the DVD we made for "training purposes". 

It was nice to get back into the writing today though.  Shows are good fun, but they don't happen more than two or three times a year (cabarets are a bit different - not so much hard work.)Writing is for life:stick that on a bumper sticker why don't you?!  (Note to self:  if you're coming out with comments like that, go back into your MS once you've got rid of the cold and read it carefully for any stupid remarks that may have made their way into it!).  Actually, I'm quite pleased with how things have progressed today.  Not only have I bumped the word count up by nearly 2000, but I've introduced a bit more depth to Dr Alex Stevens (and remembered to go back into earlier chapters to make the necessary tweaks too!) and I can see my way just about clear to the Esme/Rosanna scene.  Alex just needs to get half an hour's kip; Rosanna needs to do a bit more internal musing in her office, and Julie needs to grab a large cup of coffee and get all three of them sitting round a table together.  Easy......

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Waiting on the oven man...

My cooker is only a year old, but in the past two weeks I've lost the use of the oven and one of the rings...not very impressed!  I have the oven man coming to repair it sometime today.  Originally I was told between 8 and 6 (very helpful!) so, despite having the dress rehearsal last night and only getting to bed at midnight (more on that in a minute), I was up and dressed for 8 which is always a struggle for me with the after-effects of my medication.  Then the mannie phoned at half nine to say he'd be here between 12 and 2.  Cue a shower and a dash to the shop to buy something for tea and enough chocolate to get me through the afternoon.  With any luck he'll be finished by 3 and I can take a nap!

The show, Bad Girls the Musical, opens tonight:  St Laurence Hall, Laurencekirk, 7.30pm, Tickets £10/£8.50.  I had about 8 hours at rehearsals on Sunday, 5 on Monday and 6 last night.  When my computer told me it had 10% battery remaining this morning, I knew how it felt!  It WILL be a fantastic show - the set, lighting, sound FX etc are absolutely top notch (the photographs for front of house are absolutely stunning!) and the acting/singing/dancing ain't bad either.  A few glitches still with getting tables/chairs on and off, but we staggered through the dress rehearsal pretty well.  Just please don't say "break a leg" - one of our stage crew/prison officers nearly did just that on Monday night.  She tripped over a piece of the set and has an impressive lump on her ankle now.

With my BPD, I experience all emotions at maximum volume, whether I need to or not.  I know that I know my lines, the songs and the dances perfectly well.  I know I'm doing a good job (because the director hasn't shouted at me) but I still feel stressed to the max, which means I'm knackered with a capital K-N right now.

So - Hospital Corners is taking a back seat this week and I'm spending my time reading chick-lit and eating chocolate.  Don't worry though - Esme, Dr B, Julie and Alex are all simmering away on the back-burners of my imagination (unlike the back burners of my cooker!) and I'll probably spend a lot of time writing next week to make up for the anti-climax of the show finishing.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Under 600...

A huge THANK YOU to everyone on Authonomy who is reading and rating my book!  In a week I've moved from 652 to 584 in the rankings, which I'm really happy about.  I also have a star rating of 4.09 which is pretty darn good.  (I'd like to wave a hello to Eric for following me over from Authonomy - let's see if he's actually reading this!!) 

Word count is now sitting at just over 68000 and I've incorporated an interesting little scene between little Elizabeth and a doctor....or is it Esme and Alex? 

Dr B is summing things up with a list in her office (as she does) and the face-to-face should get written in the next couple of weeks.  I can't make any promises because next week is show week and I may spend most of my days flopped on the sofa or in bed.

However, things are taking shape and I love it when everything starts falling into place!

Unfortunately I now have to get myself ready for THE GYM...I'm the youngest there by a good twenty to thirty years and they're beating me at everything hands down.  I nearly collapsed coming off the cross-trainer last week!  But that's what happens when you haven't exercised since the run up to your wedding 7 years ago, have had two kids since then...oh, and spent two and a half years locked up in hospital!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

I'm a finalist...

You may remember I wrote a short story last month for a competition on Authonomy.  Well, today I got an email saying that I made the top 6!  I'm absolutely chuffed to bits!!!  I don't know how many entries there were, but she has over a hundred followers on her blog and I'm guessing a fair few of them entered, as well as various Authonomy members.

I've been taking a bit of a break from Hospital Corners this past week - I've just had so much happening and I was getting a bit frazzled trying to fit everything in.  So I stocked up on library books yesterday and am taking some well deserved me time in the afternoons.  That's not to say I haven't been thinking about the book, and I've added in a few bits and worked out a few more areas to add in later on when Dr B and Esme have their big face-to-face.  I'm also reviewing other people's work on Authonomy through the Brutal Honesty Crit does exactly what it says on the tin.  I've had three reviews from various members of the group and they've all been overwhelmingly positive.  I'm now sitting at number 615 in the chart and moving in the right direction. 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

I only want to be with you....

I'm not just preparing for Bad Girls (opens in under two weeks now!) but for a weekend cabaret/dinner evening with my "other" musical society.  We had auditions a couple of weeks ago, and I discovered last night that I have a solo song plus various group sections to prepare for the end of October.  I've spent the morning editing Hospital Corners and listening to Dusty Springfield....I can only hope that lyrics haven't found their way into the manuscript.

I'm doing quite well on Authonomy, having worked my way up to 665 in the chart.  I've joined a couple of review groups and, so far, most people have commented favourably on the book.  At the moment I have 63 661 words written, so only another 30000 or so to go....I'm really hoping I can pull it out the bag and devise an ending that keeps everyone happy, doesn't sound too contrived, and doesn't just babble on excessively to meet the necessary wordcount! 

Friday, 26 August 2011

Fake tears...

I've spent an interesting morning researching ways to create fake tears when onstage....everything from squirting lemon juice in your eye (OW!) to staring at a light, to yawning, to a handy little stick with menthol and camphor that you rub just under your eye.  I'm sure I will try almost all of them for Bad Girls over the next three weeks (but definitely not the lemon!)

I've continued with my writing streak - another two chapters fleshed out yesterday.  I'm sure I'll cut them back to almost nothing in the dreaded edits, but for now I can smile at my 60000 word count.  Another 20000+ words should do it....I'm now at the point where Dr B has nearly all the information she needs before having a talk with Esme about who she really is.  Julie and Alex have been discussing the situation but are left scratching their heads because they don't know everything Dr B does.  Dr B (and the reader) now understand Esme's mental health condition, but we still don't know if Esme has hurt herself deliberately or accidentally.  There's a lot for me to keep track of, so I'm glad I have my index cards!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Happy Birthday...

Well, Little Tootsie is four today...I don't know where the time has gone!  Four years ago, I thought I was having Braxton Hicks...she kindly arrived 5 days early and has been a darling ever since.

I've written a couple of thousand words over the past two days, which I'm rather pleased with.  I'm at the point in the book where not a huge amount is happening, other than filling in the backstory and teasing a few points about Dr B.  So it's nice to have the word count increasing..I just hope I don't go back over it and realise it's all unnecessary information and have to delete it!

I'm determined to keep working on Hospital Corners over the next month and have it all finished for November...and after the past two days, I have slightly more faith that this might actually be manageable.  I'll be uploading the newer chapters in the next week or so.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Sore feet...

Writing is really great fun - but it's not good exercise.  I went on a 5 mile sponsored walk today and I'm really feeling it tonight! 

I've not really written much this week - I've been feeling quite run down so I compassionately gave myself a week off.  But I'm determined to knuckle down in the next few weeks and get Hospital Corners up and running again.  I've reached 819 on Authonomy now - not bad when you consider the fact I started at 4-thousand and something-th when I uploaded the book in July!  I really want to get the first draft completed by November, so I can devote that whole month to NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month - the chance to write at least 50000 words in exactly one month.  I'm torn between two completely different ideas and styles.  Another lit-fic book called Agoraphobics Anonymous (for which I have no plan other than the title and a three sentence pitch) or a chick-lit book putatively called Tai Chi in Jimmy Choos (for which I have chapter plans and character ideas). 

I'll keep you updated on my progress - both with Hospital Corners and NNWM.  Right now I'm off for a cup of tea and a hot bath for my aching tootsies.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Back to school...

Well, that's the end of the school holidays and they've absolutely flown by!  Big Tootsie is now in P2, and Little Toots is in her final year at nursery.  Where does the time go?

I hope to get back into a regular writing routine myself now that my days aren't taken up with "not watching TV" with them.  I have a show in one month, auditions for another tomorrow night, voluntary work to arrange, and 2 gym visits a week to squeeze in.  Plenty of time for writing too....

I think I've worked my way through the middle of the book bog.  I have Dr B reading the journals, Julie is finishing up her shift, and Dr Alex Stevens (got to have a hunky doctor somewhere - even if he is just a bit part) is wondering why Esme is getting upset over a magazine article...the plot thickens and I'm just in the process of giving it a good old stir.

In a way, my last couple of writing sessions have been "back to school" for me.  Remembering that structure is all well and good but things like writing in just one POV at a time, giving a bit of description, and keeping characters' voices distinct are more important.

Time to knuckle down in the classroom...

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Middle of the book bog...

Today has been completely hit and miss.  I've written, re-written, deleted, re-written, deleted again...

I've spent most of the day battling through chapters 19 to 21, working out what needs to go where and who needs to say what.  I think I've worked it out now.  I've written it down on the ever handy index cards and I'm now letting my brain mull it over. 

My main problem has always been endings.  I know what I want to happen, I just run out of steam getting there.  I am happy with a couple of sections that seemed to come out of nowhere...I just wish they were a bit longer, but I'm worried that if I try to pad them out it will be too obvious.  I really envy those writers who write too much and then cut back.  I'm not giving myself a hard time about it though - I never thought I'd get 40 000 words written! 

Other news - signed up at my local gym.  They offer an exercise scheme for people with health problems.  I start on 2nd September...eek!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Wet Wednesday...

Well - I'm glad I took the time yesterday afternoon to cut the grass and pull some weeds, because it's been chucking it down today! 

I feel like I have so much on at the moment.  Having 2 rehearsals a week for Bad Girls is beginning to take its toll...and rehearsals/auditions start next week for my other group.  I have harmonies to learn, new routines to practise (if I can remember them!), plus lines and scenes to remember.  Thankfully I've bought a copy of the musical on DVD so I can watch it and run my lines and moves alongside a supporting cast.  That's my plan for this evening.

I'm also working on my short story, When I died, for a competition.  If I can get that out the way this afternoon, I'm free to continue with Hospital Corners.  I've been doing some research over the past few days on the inner workings of the NHS and their ability to dig up medical histories based on a name.  And it's good news - Dr B won't be able to find out anything about Esme unless she reads the diaries....excellent....

Monday, 8 August 2011

I need more time...

I don't know where the last two days have gone!  I guess that's what happens when Big Toots and Little Tootsie arrive home from their holiday.  They had a great time and I can't say a big enough THANK YOU to Granny & Grandad for taking them.

I'm also up to two rehearsals a week for Bad Girls...we still have one song to learn, two numbers to choreograph and two other major dances to remember!  Scary biscuits....but we do have our costumes fitted.  We'll look fab, and I'm going to melt under numerous layers!

On the writing front, I've given Peggy a couple of days off as I'm writing a short story for a competition on Authonomy.  I wrote the first couple of paragraphs late one night last week...sometimes my best ideas strike when I'm all cosy in my bed and about to drift off in a medicated snore.  I end up grabbing the ever-present notebook and scribbling things down before they escape.  And I'm glad when I do it - because you can never quite recapture those first moments of inspiration.  If you try to remember exactly how you phrased something 8 hours previously, you're doomed to failure. 

So I'm working on a short piece (up to 2500 words - a walk in the park compard to an 80000 word novel!) entitled "When I died".  Very much black humour.  I don't expect to win, but I want to write the story anyway.

I hope to finish off Peggy's part in Hospital Corners by this time next week...but with two little girls to entertain, lines to learn, dances to remember, songs to sing, audition pieces to prepare for next week (for my other musicals group!)...oh, and housework etc...good job women can multi-task!  And speaking of which, here's a little line that went through my mind one day to leave you with a smile:

Modern multi-tasking for women is the ability to pee, while simultaneously tying your shoelaces and gargling with mouthwash.  Extra points if you can fit in a text message too...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A slow Saturday...

I really don't have much to say today.  I've had a quiet morning - catching up on some reading (i.e. actually reading for pleasure rather than to learn how to write!) and a quick trip to Tesco.  There's always something I forget...

I have spent a little time with Peggy today, writing her early diary entries from when she was first admitted to hospital.  I've had stuff drafted for a while, but today I've been going in and ironing out the kinks.  Hopefully, I can get some more of her life put down on paper by the time the girls arrive tonight.  I can't wait to see them again; it's been 6 whole days!  I foresee a lot of washing...

Friday, 5 August 2011


I've had two days of pretty solid writing, and I'm now pleased to announce that over 40000 words are written and up for viewing on Authonomy.  Hurrah!  I would like the finished book to be around the 80000 mark so I'm officially almost nearly there.

So - where am I in the timeline?
I'm now into the early hours of the Saturday morning.  Esme is snoring peacefully in A&E, Julie is sneaking into the toilets to peek at her diaries, and Dr B is munching her way through the contents of the vending machine as she goes through Esme's medical notes.

Dr B is still an enigma....and not just to the reader!  She's a character who is slow to step forward in my imagination.  She's aloof; she doesn't let people get close to her; she likes to do everything for herself...yes, she's me.  But she's a me who has managed to put a lid on her problems and succeed in her career.  I'll be interested to see how she's managed to do that...

The next chapter will be a long one, and the most autobiographical.  We're coming into the Peggy years - her diaries from her time in hospital.  They're not my actual diaries, but some of the pieces are things I wrote while in hospital.  Things I wrote while my mood was low; when I thought things couldn't get any worse...and then they did.  Some sections aren't pleasant - and I deliberately wrote them that way.  Mental ill-health isn't all fun and game...there are hardly any games and certainly not much fun.  Saying that, this is probably one of Esme/Peggy's happiest times.  A time where she felt accepted, normal even. 

I'll let you read them when they're done, but it's likely to take several days to pull it all into shape.  Especially as my girls come home from their holiday today...roll on tomorrow night when I can see them.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

From third to first....

No, I haven't won a competition.  Although I have won a free, limited edition, Harry Potter poster today.  Somewhere amongst the other 4999 pictures is my wee mug, pixelated for posterity. I think it's about an inch to the right of Harry's glasses. 

What I mean by "third to first" is this:

Yesterday I wrote a chapter.  It described Julie and Linda discussing Esme's handbag, which had just been handed in by the driver.  The piece was OK but it wasn't great, and it was nagging at me all evening.  I knew something just wasn't quite right.  There was a lot of dialogue for a start, and it felt clunky and contrived.

So, today I changed from writing in the third person (Julie sat down, pulling the bag towards her) to first person (I sat down, pulling the heavy bag towards me).  Suddenly it sounds a million times better.  It's more personal (obviously) and it breathes....the old chapter was definitely more like a zombie in a really bad movie, not quite alive and not quite dead. 

So - although it's taken me two days to write, I'm much happier with my 3000 word chapter and I'm in a much stronger position for moving onto "Midnight".  I also learnt what information is found on a bus pass....always handy to know.  Thank you to all my friends on Authonomy who helped me with that one! 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Compassionate other...

As part of my weekly therapy for my BPD, I'm currently working through a "Compassion" module.  It ties in nicely with a lot of things I've been thinking about on my own, and working through on a one-to-one basis with my psychologist.  However, todays session neatly fits in with my writing too!

With compassion training, we work our way through imagery exercises, building them up over time.  We start with just breathing in a relaxed way, then we think about a compassionate colour (for me it's a pinky purple) and then we move onto imagining a safe place.  Now we've reached the point where we have to picture our "compassionate other" - someone or something that we can talk to and they can talk to us, soothing us and being compassionate.  If we can picture someone soothing us in our minds eye, the idea is that we will accept that a lot more than just telling ourselves to be compassionate....if we need the therapy then we can't manage that!

So I was sitting in the room, listening to the group leader describing the qualities this "other" person should have...and I realised that I have already created my "other".  Her name is Miss Esme Smith.

The interesting part is that I already had a scene roughly worked out in my mind, where Esme will talk to Dr Blake, to get her to loosen up, enjoy life more I am going to be able to combine my therapy and my writing!  They say art mimics life....or is it life that mimics art?!

On a personal note - I had a lovely lunch with a friend today, and we're both hoping to sign up for the next round of creative writing classes at the local college.  Unfortunately class size is very low because the ILA dropped their funding....we'll have to wait 3 weeks to see if it's going to go ahead.  I think it's a crying shame if it gets cancelled all because the ILA don't think it's a valuable enough course. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

I'm a Bad Girl..., I haven't done anything wrong, I'm just trying to get into character for my rehearsal tonight!  Having realised we're now into August, it's quite scary to say "the show is next month"...14th to 18th September to be precise.  I really need to find time in the next hour to go over my script and learn the lines for Act 2.

I've spent today surprise there!  I jiggled around with Chapters 5, 6 and 7 in the morning, watched a film after lunch, and now I've completed my re-writes of Chapters 8, 9 and 10.  In terms of the timeline, I'm now at approximately 11.30pm.  My index cards from yesterday are coming in very handy.  I've stapled the timeline together and attached the individual "action" cards to the appropriate time slot.  So I know, for instance, that before I reach midnight, I need to:  hint at a link between Lottie and Esme; have Esme's diaries handed in to the front desk; have Julie pass on Esme's name, address etc; have Julie hide the diaries from Dr B. 

Hopefully, I can make a start on that tomorrow afternoon and have a chance to start on some completely new writing.  But for's the Baddest and the Best!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Staples, paperclips and index cards.....

Well, after the quickest cleaning blitz ever, my house is respectable for the week.  My ironing pile has been dealt with expediently - by just shoving all the clothes away unironed.  I have stocked up on chocolate raisins (vaguely healthy!) and bought piles of index cards, a box of paperclips and a stapler.  I am ready to test my story structure.....

So what have I done today with my book?  Well, I've written out a pile of 50 cards with events, characters and things like "establish Dr B's character".  I've assembled them into order and now I'm working my way through them, to ensure I've got each bit in place.  Reworking of chapter 5....again.....

I also have a timeline of index cards stapled together and stuck up on my kitchen wall for a quick reference.  It has such delights as "5pm:  Esme makes her way to LGH; Esme loses her handbag on the bus", "10pm:  Esme moved to MAU; Dr B still trying to find Esme's records; Esme wanders into Maternity Unit; Marge's story; Esme's panic attack; Esme moved back to A&E (conflict between Dr B, Alex & Julie); Why is Dr B so interested?; Why did Esme have a panic attack?" 

A lot happens between 10 and 11 that night! 

I think the idea of writing events on cards is a good one, but I also think I'm too far into this story for it to be as helpful as I'd initially thought.  I already have the timeline fixed in my head; I know the logical steps that must be worked through to get Esme from 4pm Friday to Noon Saturday.  Hopefully the process will help more on my next book.....once I get this one finished that is!

Now - this afternoon's task is to eat some of those lovely chocolate raisins, watch a film to refresh my batteries, and then start again on the re-writes later.  I find 3-6pm is the best time for me to get some serious writing done. 

Sunday, 31 July 2011


Today was the final day of summer church group - I was very proud of my two girls.  Little Tootsie looked so darn cute singing along to the songs (once she got over her initial shyness - bless), and Big Toots was thrilled because her group won THE SPECIAL PRIZE.  I'm so proud of both of them - they've been a real credit to the family.  And now they're away for their holiday.....I'll miss them.

My plan for next week is to write, write, write!  Tomorrow I will make sure the guinea pigs are cleaned out, basic levels of hygiene and cleanliness are achieved around the house, and that I have enough chocolate, tea and food to last me the week.  I will also be purchasing a large stack of index cards.  A suggestion from The Story Book.  I think it will help me work out the structure of the book, to ensure I'm creating enough conflict, coming up with knowledge gaps, and resolving everything by the end of the book.

The idea is that you write the main points of your plot on cards and place them on a timeline.  Then, you work out what needs to happen before that event, or what needs to happen after it.  And all the time you need to ask yourself if you have a protagonist, an antagonist, conflicts, changes in values, inciting incidents, turning points, knowledge gaps etc etc etc.  There's no such thing as a basic beginning, middle and end when you're writing a book! 

But I've decided that I'm not going to spend more than one day on that.  Because the most important thing is to be creative!  I'll let you know how I get on...

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Chips and chapters...

It's 7 o' clock at night, and I've only just managed to switch the computer on for the first time today.  It's been a busy day.  The girls arrived this morning and we did our usual "stuff".  Then it was a quick lunch, a trip into town to write some verses for The People's Bible, and then we were off to the Sunday School (it's not a) Picnic.

An afternoon of catching balls, kicking balls, throwing balls and playing with a large fabric "parachute" with a dozen or so kids, followed by a chippie for tea.  Lovely. 

I did manage a bit more work yesterday, after the girls had gone for the night.  I've now uploaded the revised first 12 chapters (or thereabouts) of Hospital Corners on Authonomy.

I'm not 100% sure how to split things up around Chapter 5 onwards.  Lots of changing POV, and I don't know if it's worth making each different one a different chapter or not.  Some of them would only be a paragraph or two long....I think I'll worry about that later on; you know, when I've actually written the remaining 15 to 20 chapters! 

I also managed to re-read "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" this morning.  I'm glad I read the other guides first as they reminded me of the different types of apostrophes and so on.  If I got one thing out of the book, it's where to hyphenate "fine tooth-comb".  I use the phrase at the start of Peggy's diaries!

Friday, 29 July 2011

I love it when a plan comes together....

Took the girls to the local garden centre for lunch and bought a fridge magnet, to remind me not to fuss over the wee trivialities (e.g. Little Tootsie only wanting to eat the chocolate off the top of her cake, which cost me £1.70, and Big Toots insisting on wearing her glasses to go and read what the different cakes were, even though I told her she didn't have to wear them at that point).  We were heading out the door, me feeling very harrassed, when I spotted the magnet.  I don't even know why I was looking in that direction - it was just one of those moments where I was being pointed at something valuable.  It reads:  While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.  So - next time I get a cake, I might just eat all the chocolate off the top.

So far today, I've written one paragraph.  Not much, I'll grant you, but it's quality rather than quantity.  And it highlights one of the themes of the book:  Sometimes things are simple.  Sometimes things are complicated.  Sometimes they're both.

There are some days when I feel pressure to put my head down and just WRITE something, but I'm giving myself a break.  I have ideas bubbling, snippets of dialogue forming.  But if I rush to write it down, I'm going to spend a whole lot longer re-writing, editing and potentially ending up with something pretty rubbish.  In my 2 hour post-lunch writing slot, I get interrupted.  My girls are good (they're absolute angels compared to many other kids their age!) but they're still too young to fully understand that my writing time needs to be uninterrupted.  So I get called to bring more juice, or cut up a kiwi, or simply to tell me what exciting programme is starting on the telly.  Plus I can already hear what's on the telly and it's distracting.  So I use the time to browse on Authonomy, read chapters of my reference books and jot down ideas.  Then, when they go back to their Dads at 6pm, that's when I switch on the laptop and the kettle.  I know I'm doing well when I reach for the cuppie and find it's absolutely stone cold!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

New glasses day....

Today is the day that Big Toots GOT HER is a date that will remain engraved on her memory for...ooh, all of today and tomorrow.  She was VERY EXCITED, shall we say.  I tried to tell her that the novelty wears off after twenty-something years but she was too busy jumping up and down to listen.

I managed to cobble together a nice little chapter over my coffee at Tescos.  I left all my writing guides at home and simply took my notebook, folder of draft chapters and a pen.  Sometimes sitting with a pen and paper and writing the "old-fashioned" way works best. 
It's nice to be able to type everything onto the computer - it's quicker for a start.  My fingers can type at the speed of my thoughts, but my hand can't write quickly enough.  I hate it when I have a great phrase in my head, but forget it before I've had a chance to scribble it all down.  Plus my handwriting is atrocious when I write quickly.  But, I have to admit, the simple act of writing with a pen and paper is satisfying.  And I'm less likely to finish a paragraph, immediately read it over, then edit it out of existence.  If it's on paper, it's always there to come back to and fiddle around with.  Once I hit that delete key, whatever gems I had are gone forever. 

SO -this afternoon I will indulge myself with polishing off said chapter, and working on Dr Blake's first big scene.   It's raining outside so I don't even need to feel guilty about not washing the car, or weeding the garden....girls are playing happily at a friends house (thanks K!)  and I have a bag of Revels in the fridge for later on tonight.  Bliss.....

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


I've given the writing a miss today - to mull over ideas and developments.  I scribbled a few words in my ever-present notebook whilst having coffee at Tescos (sometimes you get a phrase in your head that just sounds perfect), but I'm avoiding Microsoft Word at all costs!

That's not to say I've not been writing anything.  I've just spent the past hour working out how many words can be made from the phrase "Deep Sea Discovery".  I've given up at 225.  Thank goodness for Google, a dictionary, and alphabet fridge magnets!

I think my favourite is "caryopsis" which is the dried fruit of a cereal grass....apparently.

Deep Sea Discovery is the church group my girls are attending this week.  They're absolutely loving it, although they'll be more than ready for a holiday next week as they're absolutely shattered by the end of the day. 

Technically my girls are supposed to be finding words, and my eldest will be having a shot later on this afternoon.  But Little Tootsie would struggle (she only knows the letter S) so I've done her list for her.  Big Toots will have to come up with her own list, but seeing as she's won a prize for her competition entries the last 2 days, I don't think she'll bother trying too hard. 

I've just found another 4 words....

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Time for a quickie...

I've had a busy day.  Woken up by my girls at too early o' clock.  They haven't quite grasped the idea that whispering is supposed to be quieter than normal talking.  I took them to their summer church group and wished my dad a Happy Birthday (and I'll say it again - Happy Birthday Dad!).  I then had the unexpected pleasure of a day to myself as Granny & Grandad took the girls off my hands for the rest of the day.  It meant a bit of shopping for their surprise holiday next week and an afternoon of uninterrupted writing time.  I also got my tea cooked for me (thank you to the real Esme) before an evening rehearsing for a show I'm doing in September (Bad Girls the Musical).  Must find time to learn lines, remember routines and all that jazz, in between my writing sessions!

After several days plotting (and sub-plotting), I've now re-written the first "Act" of the book...with Dr Rosanna Blake recast as a real bitch.  I made her too nice....she IS supposed to be the antagonist after all.  But with the new tweaks, it will bring another layer into the whole book.  I will get started on some new chapters tomorrow and I will have all of next week to put my head down and write the bulk of the next Act. 

I apologise in advance if chocolate stocks dwindle in the area next week.....

Monday, 25 July 2011

Knowledge Gaps.....

Well - I spent an hour reading through this section in David Baboulene's The Story Book and I'm only a little wiser.

I fared a little better with the section on Character and Plot, even getting my head around the concept that Character is Plot and Plot is Character - you can't have one without the other.  It's led me to think (yet again) about my opening chapters and I'm going to have to re-write (yet again) to take the character of Dr Blake into account.  I've made her too likeable, and she's also too shallow.  I don't mean she spends all her time thinking about her appearance, I mean that I haven't defined her properly.  Sure, she wants to go home to watch Graham Norton, and she wants to know who Miss Esme Smith is.....but I haven't thought about her drives, her ego and her life outside the hospital.  This book is as much about her journey as Esme's...probably more so. 

So - Chapters 1 through 8, here we go again!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Key Questions and Story Baselines...

I've had an unproductive productive day today.  I might not have much written (a couple of hundred words at most, I haven't counted), but I've developed the structure of the book quite nicely.

I made a start on another of my reference books - The Story Book by David Baboulene.  It's very VERY technical but utterly brilliant.  It also nicely ties together psychology and writing - my two favourite subjects!  I never thought you could apply Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to a storyline, but there you go.

After thinking carefully about the structure of my story, I've had to shuffle a few sections around, expand on a couple of points and add a new mini-chapter.  It will probably change again before I'm finished, but that's not a problem.  The idea is that you tell your story, THEN work on the structure.  I might not have the whole story written, but I have the main parts down on paper.  It's just linking it all together now....and that's where I need a solid structure.

So I've spent my afternoon looking at each section of my book and asking myself who the protagonist is, what their goal is, what is the inciting incident and, most importantly, what is the key question.  All this pulls together to make a good story (hopefully).

As a taster, here is my story baseline (apparently this is a handy document to have when you reach the stage of talking to publishers):

  • My book is called Hospital Corners.  It is literary fiction, set in Lovingdell General Hospital, a fictional hospital on the outskirts of Bath. 
  • My protagonist is Miss Esme Smith (75).  She has cut her arm while preparing dinner, and comes to the hosptial for treatment.  Her goal is to get home as quickly as possible.
  • The inciting incident occurs when her arm is examined and reveals an obvious history of deliberate self-harm, raising two key questions.
  1. Did she harm herself deliberately?
  2. Who is Miss Esme Smith?
  • Esme is opposed in her quest to go home by Dr Rosanna Blake.  At the start of the book, Dr B's goal is also to get home as quickly as possible.  She is impeded in her goal when she is asked to examine Esme.  She is then determined to find the answers to the two key questions.
  • At the resolution, both key questions are answered and both Esme and Dr B are able to go home. 
I'm now into the section on "knowledge gaps" which I'm sure will highlight many gaps in my own knowledge!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Writer's block...

I've had the whole morning to myself.  Lots of time to sit and write....or not.
After reading all my "how to" and "how not to" guides, I've realised that Chapter 7 is completely wrong.  I've fallen into the trap of writing a whole load of back-story instead of focussing on what's happening at that moment in time.  I've now spent 3 hours wrestling with it and am completely stuck.

Perhaps a nice cup of tea?

Edited to add:  after a cup of tea, a quick game of "Gardens of Time" on Facebook and a further two hours, I've finally cracked it.  I started from scratch and took the chapter down a new route.  I've realised that authors need to be emotionally detached from their story.  I was attached to what I'd written - it was my story, not the character's.

Just in time for the girls arriving for tea, bath and an overnight stay. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Glasses and (more) Grammar

My eldest daughter had her first eye test this morning.  She was pretty nervous but she did amazingly well (the optician was impressed she could read the letters.  Apparently many kids of her age don't recognise capital letters?!).  Little Tootsie, her younger sister, also behaved brilliantly.  She sat patiently on my knee and didn't once ask "when can we go".  They both got a wee treat for being so good.  Big Toot picked out her first pair of glasses and can't wait for next week when we can go and pick them up.  They're pink Little Miss Sunshine frames.  You can't get plain old frames anymore - not like my first pair of glasses in 1987 (wow - that's a long time ago).

I decided to spend my writing time today consolidating all the information I've learnt from my two "how not to write" books.  Here are some common mistakes from "How Not to Write a Novel" by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark.  These are the ones I think I'm most guilty of....

  • Hamlet at the Deli.  Wherein the character's thoughts are transcribed to no purpose. 
    - In Hospital Corner terms, out comes the overly detailed description of a lunch Esme once had. 
  • Swann Song.  Wherein a character ignores the scene that is occurring to reminisce about one that is not.
    - In HC terms, complete rewrite of Chapter 8, where Marge spends most of her time in labour reminiscing about her relationship instead of screaming in agony.
  • The Whatchamacallit.  In which gaps in the author's research make themselves known.- I'm hoping to plug those gaps before the manuscript gets anywhere near an agent!
  • Sock Puppetry.  When all characters speak in the voice of the surrounding prose. - I've got to make sure Elizabeth sounds like a 6 year old.  A well-educated 6 year old is fine, but she's only read the dictionary, not swallowed it.
Other ones I hope to avoid include:
  • The Man of Average Height.  Where characters are described in generic terms.
  • The Underpants Gnomes.  Where crucial steps are omitted.
  • Asseverated the Man.  When the author thinks he's too good for the word "said".
  • "Hello!  I Am the Mommy!".  Where characters announce things they wouldn't.
I think the Underpants Gnomes is my favourite.....there are also such delights as "The Crepuscular Handbag" and "The Crepitating Parasol".  I really recommend it.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Harry Potter and Good Grammar

I took a wee jaunt up to Aberdeen today to watch the final Harry Potter film.  As a huge fan of the books, there were a few moments where I thought "that's not how it happened!", but it was immensely enjoyable nonetheless. 

While waiting for the film to start, and since arriving back home, I've been finishing the "how not to write" grammer guide I mentioned yesterday.  Some pretty good tips, and I now know the difference between a verb and adverb, active and passive voices, and that it's OK to put a comma before the word and.  And it's OK to start a sentence with and, but and because too.  I also, technically, know where apostrophes are supposed to go....but that's still a bit of a dodgy one.

I've not written anything new today but I'll plump out Chapter 8 tonight.  That is, I'll plump out the storyline whilst paring down the superflous words.  Apparently I should be aiming for an average of 18 words a sentence....ooops.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

You learn something new every day...

People (exactly which people, I'm not sure) say "Write about what you know".  That's all well and good, but we'd get some pretty boring books if that were the case.  So I take the above sentence to mean this:  Research what you want to write about so you don't sound like a complete idiot when describing a hospital procedure.

So today I've learnt about ECGs and where the different electrodes are positioned.  I vaguely remembered the positioning from the one or two times I had an ECG in the past, but I wanted to be sure.  Plus, where do you put a wrist electrode when your patient has a bandage on it?

I also read up on symptoms of panic attacks and heart attacks.  Having been lucky enough to have had neither, this part of my story is proving the hardest to write so far.  How can I describe something from Esme's POV when I don't know exactly what it feels like myself?  I hope I've managed....

I spent much of last night and this morning reading Stephen King On Writing.  The first half of the book is a little autobiography, which is interesting.  The second half is the advice on writing.  He uses the analogy of a tool-box with all it's different drawers and layers of tools....I have to ensure I have my own writing tool-box equipped.  Apparently an understanding of grammer is important...I hate grammer.  We were never taught it properly in school so I've never understood more than the very basics.  I get confused when people start talking about verbs, let alone adverbs. 

Luckily I found another book at my local library, another how not to guide.  It's called How not to write.  Simple guidelines for the grammatically perplexed, by Terence Denman.  Hopefully, by the end of the week, I will understand why it's wrong to Boldly go and why I shouldn't start so many sentences with But, And or Because. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A new pitch...

This morning I took my girls to the library for story-time and their summer holiday challenges.  Unfortunately, it seems like my eldest is struggling to read for long periods and I suspect she might need glasses.  Not really a surprise, given the family history.  Still - I hope they will help her.

This afternoon has been a productive one.  I've completely revised Chapter 6 of Hospital Corners.  It's now written from a narrator's POV (like the prologue and Chapter 3).  People have commented they like the tone of the Prologue so I'm trying to incorporate it into the book a bit more.  It also means I can add in little comments and asides that my characters would never dare to think....:-)

I've also entered a competition through to win a critique of the first 20000 words.  It meant re-writing my pitch (again) after a bit of research into how the pro's do it.  So here it is.  Not quite so mysterious, whilst still not completely giving the game away. 

Who is Miss Esme Smith?  That's the question Dr Rosanna Blake really wants answered before the end of a very long shift...

Lovingdell General Hospital is a typical hospital on a typical Friday night.  A&E are playing host to drunk students, car crash victims and an elderly woman who calls herself Miss Esme Smith.  Her case appears straightforward - she's cut herself while peeling potatoes - but Dr Rosanna Blake is concerned.

When she finds a pile of diaries in Esme's handbag, Dr Blake pushes her scruples to one side and reads them.  The story they tell is a disturbing one, leaving Dr Blake a changed woman.  Esme is a woman with a troubled past and an uncertain future.

Hospital Corners tells the story of one woman's fight with mental ill-health through the eyes of different characters in her past.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Birthday books...and POV

Well, today I'm 32, and I have a caterpillar birthday cake!  My girls certainly keep me young...:-)

You know you're a writer when you still take your scheduled 2 hours at the kitchen table to work, even on your birthday.  And when you spend part of your birthday money on new writing books (I've exhausted the supply at my local library).  Today, Amazon kindly delivered:
Stephen King On Writing (a classic text)
David Baboulene The Story Book (a writers' guide to story development, principles, problem solving and marketing) and
Margaret Geraghty The five-minute writer (a whole book full of writing exercises)

I'll let you know how I get on with them!

All of the books I've read so far tell you to write something every day, and to set aside a specific time instead of just fitting it in "when you have a moment" (because that moment will never arrive).  I haven't written anything new in the past 24 hours but I've been reviewing the first 4 chapters of Hospital Corners to take Point of View (POV) into account. 

It's not something I knew much about until I read How Not To Write a Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark.  It's a great book, very funny in places, and one of the more helpful writing books I've read over the past few months.  There are many books telling you how to devise a story arc, write a character CV and so on....but this book trumps them all.  It really got me to consider POV from sentence to sentence.

Here is a paragraph from Chapter 1:  "Esme gave a deep sigh.  Here she was standing in an empty hospital cafeteria; a lone figure in her thick wool winter coat, her pink cardigan poking out the bottom of the sleeves in little frills, a mid-calf tweed pleated skirt, thick black tights and sensible flat, stout shoes."

I wrote the description to let the reader "see" Esme more clearly, but didn't think about POV.  This whole chapter is supposed to be from Esme's POV and I've just described what she's wearing from an author's POV.  When did you last describe exactly what you were wearing to anyone, let alone yourself?  I fell into the trap of telling the reader what she was wearing, not showing them what she was thinking as she stood there. 

Here's the amended paragraph:  "Esme gave a deep sigh.  What must I look like?  An idiot, that's what.  All wrapped up in my warmest winter clothes in a hospital where the thermostat is set to boiling."

It might take me a bit longer to get on with writing new chapters, but it'll definitely be worth it in the long run!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Welcome to Hospital Corners

Today has been spent with the girls at Granny and Grandads (thank you!) so I've not had a chance to write anything today, other than a quick attempt at an "elevator pitch". 

What's an elevator pitch?  Well -  it's where you imagine you're in a lift with a publishing agent and you have 3 sentences to sell them your book before they get out. 

The short pitch is the teasing information they put on the front cover to encourage you to pick the damn book off the shelf in the first place. 

The long pitch is the blurb they put on the back or inside cover to persuade you to buy the book instead of putting it back on the shelf. 

At the moment my long pitch is the first two paragraphs of my prologue so I'll be looking to change it sometime soon.  Have a read and let me know what you think.  Would you buy the book based on the following information?

The Short Pitch
Who is Miss Esme Smith? That's the question Dr Rosanna Blake really wants answered before the end of a very long shift...                   

The Long Pitch
If you’re lucky, you only go to hospital twice in your lifetime; once on the way in and once on the way out. Imagine what hospitals would look like if that were really the case? One wing would be a maternity unit, the other a morgue and, joining them in the middle would be a gift shop giving equal importance to pink teddy bears, blue balloons and white lilies.

Of course, hospitals are needed for all those unscheduled problems in between being born and dying. Hundreds of thousands of stories unfold in them every day; around each and every hospital corner is a new story with new characters - ordinary people living their ordinary lives, yet having an extraordinary day in a vast hospital complex.

Miss Esme Smith is one such unfortunate soul. Tired, lost and confused - she simply wants to see a doctor and go home to bed. Dr Rosanna Blake also wants to go home. It's been a long day and it's about to get even longer.     

The Elevator Pitch
Lovingdell General Hospital is busy today: there’s Elizabeth (a six year old with a sore throat and suspicious father), Brian (a rather young and very scared new dad), Marge (a paranoid and hysterical nearly new mum) and Lottie (who’s ended up at the wrong end of a knife attack) for a start. Then there’s Esme – a seventy-five year old woman with a wrist laceration who wants to go home but can’t because a certain Dr Rosanna Blake won’t let her. Dr B also wants to go home (it’s been a very long day), but she needs to know something first: Who is Miss Esme Smith?  

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Saturday 16th July

Well - I've finally bitten the bullet and set up a blog and a Twitter account!  I don't have the first clue what I'm going to do with them, but apparently they are necessary tools for an aspiring writer.

Here's some background:

My name is Stacey.  I'll (very) shortly be turning 32 and I live in Scotland.  Riveting gets better.

From April 2008 to October 2010, I was a patient in a psychiatric hospital.  Yes, you read it right and there are no typos.  For two and a half years, I was a permanent in-patient at my local nuthouse (I'm allowed to call it that, I earned the right).  I have an interesting little condition called BPD - if you're at all interested then you can look it up.  But it's not really relevant.  I am not my illness, it's just a convenient label and helps me understand that I don't always think about things the way 'normal' people do.  I have no problems with that....

Since my discharge last year, I have been slowly re-building my life.  I have two wonderful daughters and I am loving spending extra time with them over the school holidays.  They are thoroughly enjoying the two hours of 'telly time' I throw their way each afternoon.  They think I'm doing it because I love them.  I do love them....but it gives me two hours every day where I can sit at my kitchen table and WRITE.  I'm hopeful that after a couple more works, they will have worked out what is meant when I shout "Mummy is WORKING!" when they pop through every five minutes to tell me what programme they are watching on CBeebies. 

And that brings me neatly to the reason I am writing this blog.  This is going to be an online diary of my writing.  Everything from what chapter I've been working on, which "how to" or "how not to" guides I've been reading for advice, and any interesting tips I've picked up from my favourite online community 

I don't know how interesting it will be, but I hope to look back on it in years to come (when I'm a famous author of course) and laugh at my ridiculous attempts to work out POV, story arcs and other skills I've never even heard of yet.