An interview with…Amanda Huggins

Amanda and I first met at a local writing group. She’s been so supportive to me over the years and is a brilliant writer! She writes novellas, short stories, flash fiction and poetry.

Please introduce yourself and your published works

Hi Sarah, thanks for inviting me over – I’m honoured that you’ve asked me to be your first interviewee!

I’m an author and travel writer currently based in West Yorkshire. I was brought up on the North Yorkshire coast and after living in London in the 1990s I headed back north and ended up ten miles from Leeds.

I’ve published two novellas, Crossing the Lines and All Our Squandered Beauty, and four collections of short stories and poetry. Both novellas won the Saboteur Award for Best Novella, in 2021 and 2022 respectively, and my poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds, also won a Saboteur Award in 2020.

All Our Squandered Beauty is a coming of age novel set mainly on the Yorkshire coast, and was developed from the title story of my first short story collection, Separated From the Sea.

The blurb: Karas father died at sea – or did he? She has spent her teenage years struggling with grief and searching for answers. When she accepts her art tutors offer to attend a summer school on a Greek island, she discovers once again that everything is not what it seems, and on her return she faces several uncomfortable truths. Could Jake, a local trawlerman, be the key to uncovering the past, and will Kara embrace the possibilities her future offers or turn back to the sea?

My second novella, Crossing the Lines, was based on my story ‘Red’ which was a runner-up in the Costa Short Story Award in 2018.

The blurb: When Sherman Rook walks into the Jupiter diner, Mollie’s mama is instantly smitten. Despite her daughter’s reluctance, they leave the New Jersey shore behind and move to his isolated farmstead over a thousand miles west. Fifteen-year-old Mollie distracts herself from Rook’s cruelty by befriending a stray dog she names Hal, but when Rook crosses a final line Mollie realises that sometimes we must leave behind those we love in order to save ourselves. With only $20 to her name, she sets out from Oakridge Farm, relying on luck and the kindness of strangers as she makes her way back home across five state lines.

When did you start writing? Can you tell me about your journey to publication?

I was around eight when I had the not-very-original idea for my first ‘novel’,  an equestrian tale called Silver Brumby which I wrote by hand in a spiral bound notebook with a shiny red cover. My first writing success was with a love poem written to George Best when I was eleven. It won third prize in my grammar school’s literary competition. I’d like to say I never looked back, but shortly after writing a lot of angst-ridden sixth form poetry, I put my literary ambitions aside for quite a long time.

Around ten years ago I started writing again with serious intent – travel articles at first. I sent a piece to The Telegraph every week until they accepted one! I had further success with my non-fiction in the years that followed, including winning the British Guild of Travel Writers New Travel Writer of the Year Award in 2014, and being shortlisted twice for the Bradt Guides New Travel Writer Award. Then fiction – or more specifically, short stories – captured my attention, and I soon started submitting and entering awards, and went on an Arvon course to try and hone my craft. I achieved quite a lot of success in competitions, and had a short collection of flash pieces published by Chapeltown Books. I then submitted my first full-length collection, Separated From the Sea, to a few indie publishers. I got some great feedback from one or two, but I knew in my heart it needed more work. After a lot more editing, I sent it under a pseudonym to Retreat West Books and it was accepted. They then went on to publish my second collection, Scratched Enamel Heart.

Around that time I’d also completed All Our Squandered Beauty and had my first poetry chapbook published by Maytree Press. Suddenly it was all happening!. I was then on the hunt for a new publisher, as Retreat West decided not to continue commissioning new books due to financial and time constraints. I submitted to around half a dozen indie presses before Victorina Press accepted my novella, and they have since published Crossing the Lines as well.

What were the pivotal moments so far in your writing career and what you have learned from them?

Having a piece of travel writing published in The Telegraph was a pivotal moment for me – it gave me the confidence to keep going. Then when I started writing fiction I sent the very first short story I completed, ‘All Stations to Edgware’, to Jo Derrick at the Yellow Room magazine. To my surprise, it was accepted, and Jo said some lovely things about my writing which really encouraged me. I think these small affirmations are really significant when you start out – it’s important to know you’re heading in the right direction. That said, it’s just as crucial to learn to accept rejections with grace, and I’ve had far more of those!

Being shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award was a real biggie – I can still remember my shock and disbelief when the email arrived. It was such a great night at the awards – I was a runner-up rather than the outright winner, but I still got to add the iconic Costa sticker to the cover of Scratched Enamel Heart! And I have learned that these are the things which grab the attention of bookshops when you haven’t got a mainstream publisher behind you.

Seeing my name on the cover of a book for the first time was also a real pivotal moment – I think that’s when I finally gave myself permission to call myself a writer.

But something else that felt really important to me was the first time a reader got in touch to say my writing had made them cry and that they were worried about what happened to my characters after the story ended! When someone thinks of your characters as real people then you know you’ve done the job you set out to do.

Who are your favourite authors?

I have so many, it’s hard to know where to start. Kazuo Ishiguro is one of my all time favourite authors, and The Remains of the Day is certainly in my top five favourite novels – the story of a life sacrificed to duty; beautifully written and heartbreaking. Other all-time favourite books include Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Siege by Helen Dunmore, and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. More recently I’ve loved Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. And this year’s favourite novel so far is Trespasses by Louise Kennedy – intense, honest and heart-wrenching. But these are just off the top of my head today – tomorrow you’d get different answers!

I read a lot of travel writing too – I love Dervla Murphy, Alex Kerr and Pico Iyer in particular – and I really enjoy short story collections. When I’ve finished a novel I often pass it on, however I usually keep short story collections and return to them over the years in the same way that I do with poetry. I have countless favourites, many by established authors, but also a growing number by emerging short story writers. The collections on my shelves include books by William Trevor, Lucy Caldwell, Tessa Hadley, Helen Simpson, A L Kennedy, Wells Tower, Miranda July, K J Orr, Ernest Hemingway, Taeko Kono, Haruki Murakami, Richard Ford, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, Anton Chekhov, Annie Proulx, Isaac Babel, Angela Readman, and A M Homes.

I’m a huge fan of Japanese writing — novels, novellas and short stories. Japanese literature is often poetic, quiet, unhurried, and that way of writing suits the short story form. Sparing and effective use of language, subtlety and nuance, a certain elusiveness, all demand that the stories are read slowly, and that they are re-read and savoured. These are the qualities that draw me back again and again, and the tales of yearning and loss, of not quite belonging, all resonate with the themes I explore in my own fiction. I admire Murakami’s short stories, and really enjoyed his collection, Men Without Women. Murakami is renowned for his surreal writing, yet I prefer his stories when he writes of single men and smoky bars, lonely hearts and enigmatic women. I also love the short stories and novels of Yoko Ogawa. Like Murakami, her writing is often surreal, and can be unsettling and even grotesque. She is adept at self-observation and dissecting women’s roles in Japanese society. Taeko Kono explored women’s roles too, burrowing deep beneath the routines of daily life to reveal a disturbing underbelly — and who could resist a collection called Toddler Hunting and Other Stories?               

What advice would you give to other people wanting to write?

I would never offer up sweeping statements like “write every day even if you’re not inspired”, as people can feel so pressured by this type of advice that it can end up hindering instead of helping. That said,  you do need to actually write – your novel or poem is no good in your head!

What I would say – because I’ve been around the block a few times! – is only write if you really love doing it and would be diminished by not writing. Fame and riches are hard to come by and are not the best motivator.

Network: talk to other writers at events and festivals, join a writing group. It’s a lonely business, and your partner will soon get tired of your writing babble.

Never expect friends and family to read your stuff – they probably won’t.

When you start out, submit to lots of places at once – that way you’re not waiting on tenterhooks for one response. When a rejection hits it won’t feel as bad if you’ve got another ten other pieces out there. I think this actually matters less when you’ve had a few things published and have become accepting of the high rejection rate!

Finally, what are you working on now?

I’ve just sent the final edits of my poetry collection, Talk to Me about When We Were Perfect, to the publisher. It’s out next March with Victorina Press, so that’s exciting. And before that, I have a short story collection out in October, An Unfamiliar Landscape, which was commissioned by Valley Press last year.

So now I’m moving on to the next book, which is a collection of all my stories set in or about Japan, with accompanying essays on Japan, poems, and journal entries from my travels. A lot of it is already written and/or previously published, but I’m working on three new stories for the collection, and now have the pleasant task of going through all my Japan journals to select some excerpts. That will be out in early 2024, and the working title is The Shadow Architect.

But there’s a new novella bubbling under too…

Thanks Amanda! You can catch up with Amanda’s latest news on her website:

https://troutiemcfishtales.blogspot.com/

Or you can find her on Twitter and Instagram @troutiemcfish

Book Three – the story so far (setting)

All my books so far have been set in Yorkshire, and Book Three is no exception!

Book Three, provisionally called The Challenge, is set in the city of York. York has a special place in my heart as my grandma used to take me as a child to see the daffodils around the city walls.

It is a place steeped in history and full of iconic buildings, such as the magnificent York Minster. You can find out more about the history of York on this website: https://www.visityork.org/history-of-york

The Challenge sees Libby and Peter (from The Wedding Murders) reunited to investigate the mysterious death of a teenaged boy in York.

As part of the research, I made several trips to the city, looking for good places to set key scenes.  

The Museum Gardens and St Mary’s Abbey

The ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, York

York Minster

Micklegate Bar

Micklegate Bar in York

The River Ouse

Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s Tower

The Challenge is currently with my agent, awaiting her feedback, before we submit it to my publisher. Fingers crossed they like it! 

The Wedding Murders is now out in paperback!

I’ve been busy over the past couple of months promoting my new book, The Wedding Murders.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since the e-book was published by One More Chapter in February (2022). It seems to be doing well and one of the highlights was when it got a bestseller flag (for one day only!) on Amazon US. On 19 March, it hit number 145 in the overall chart and was number 1 in the subcategories Amateur Sleuths and Vigilante Justice Thrillers. The latter is not a description I would use for the book but I’m not going to complain!

There are now more than 200 reviews of the book on Amazon (UK) so I am really thankful to the people who have taken the time to leave a review or a rating. It makes such a difference!

To promote the book, I did my first ever Facebook Live for the UK Crime Book Club with Abby Davies and Casey Kelleher. I was TERRIFIED but the organiser, Samantha Bowley, and the other authors involved were so lovely and put me completely at ease. If you join the Facebook Group, you can watch the video.

The paperback of The Wedding Murders was released at the end of April and receiving my author copies was another highlight. It’s always nice to be able to hold your book in your hands!

This week I returned to Marsden Library to do an in-person event with my friend and fellow author, Amanda Huggins. As always, we were made to feel very welcome. I also got a real kick out of seeing my debut novel on a display of Yorkshire Authors, alongside Alan Bennett, Joanne Harris and Charlotte Bronte. You couldn’t ask for better company!

And my next event is Essex Book Festival in June when I will be in conversation with J A Corrigan. Tickets are available here: https://www.essexbookfestival.org.uk/event/the-bad-sister-and-the-wedding-murders/

In the meantime, I will be putting the finishing touches to the latest draft of Book Three (provisionally called The Challenge) this weekend before returning it to my agent. It’s a sequel to The Wedding Murders and I have enjoyed being back with my main character, Libby, and her partner-in-crime, Peter.

You can buy The Wedding Murders online from a number of retailers including Waterstones and WH Smith, or you can purchase it from Amazon using the link below:

Fairy tales and crime fiction

Crime writers are rarely in the business of delivering happy endings, but our books may have more in common with fairy tales than we think.

Reading some classic children’s stories to my young nephew I was struck by how much criminality lay between the pages of these seemingly innocent bedtime yarns.

Next time you’re stuck for a plot, you could do worse than peruse your children’s bookshelves for inspiration.

BURGLARY AND TRESPASS – GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS

Is it any surprise that the three bears are angry when they come back from their walk not only to discover someone has broken into their property, but also eaten their food and slept in their beds?

In one of the original endings to this tale, the bears throw Goldilocks onto the fire in retribution. The 21st century version is much tamer – Goldilocks runs away. Let’s hope she didn’t leave any fingerprints…

KIDNAP – HANSEL & GRETEL

The Witch lures Hansel and Gretel into her house with the promise of gingerbread. Once there she captures her young victims and puts her cauldron on the stove, intending to eat them.

Kidnap with a threat of cannibalism – and we read these stories to children?

POISON – SNOW WHITE

Toxic relationships are a common theme in both fairy tales and crime fiction. As the saying goes, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family!

Snow White’s jealous stepmother puts her to sleep with a poisoned apple. Modern day equivalents might be Rohypnol or GHB.

INTIMIDATION – THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

‘Let me in, let me in, or I’ll blow your house down!’ cries the wolf outside the little pig’s door. Intimidation is one of the building blocks of a good thriller.

GASLIGHTING – THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

The Emperor loves his clothes – so much so that he is easily tricked into believing in a special cloth that only wise men can see. Everyone around him keeps quiet as the naked Emperor parades around the town in his birthday suit. A lesson in vanity or a pitiable victim of fraud?

These days you are perhaps more likely to fall foul of cyber fraud – online retailers selling you something that doesn’t exist. Or how about creating a rich, influential character that no one dare stand up to?

Some plot devices found in fairy tales will feel very familiar to crime writers:

THE UNINVITED GUEST – SLEEPING BEAUTY

The doors are closed, the party has begun, but is there a killer among the guests? The premise of the closed-door mystery has a lot in common with the opening to Sleeping Beauty.

THE TICKING CLOCK – CINDERELLA

If Cinderella hadn’t had to leave the ball by midnight, there would be no tension in the story. She could have danced with the Prince all night, left her number and lived happily ever after. That midnight deadline is what makes all the difference. No time to stop and pick up your shoe, Cinders, get out of there before disaster strikes!

AN OFFER YOU CAN’T RESIST – PINOCHHIO

Pinocchio is all set to go to school like a real boy when he encounters the fox and the cat who tempt him to go to the fair instead. Things go badly wrong and get even worse when Pinocchio tries to lie his way out of his predicament. The only thing that can save him is listening to his conscience and telling the truth. Good job our characters don’t feel the same way, otherwise there wouldn’t be much mystery!

THE QUEST – THE BRAVE LITTLE TIN SOLDIER

In many fairy tales the heroes are put to the test before they can achieve their goal. Similarly, detectives have to overcome a series of obstacles before they can unmask the killer.

Spare a thought for The Brave Little Tin Soldier. He falls out of a window, nearly drowns, is swallowed by a fish, thrown into a stove, and set alight before he wins his true love.  

All writers know the importance of an atmospheric setting in our fiction, and fairy tales are no exception.  

INTO THE WOODS – LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

Some of the best fairy tales are set in woodland for a very good reason. Darkness, shadows, plenty of places to hide. The forest serves as a departure from the safety of home and a threshold to adventure.

Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Goldilocks are all tales of disobedience and straying too far off the path. In the modern era, it’s also a good way of losing your 4G…

CASTLES – THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA

The castles in fairy tales are often occupied by people of great power and privilege. To gain entry, peasants have to be very clever or very beautiful. The contrast between rich and poor, and the abuse of power and privilege, is fertile ground for crime fiction writers.

TOWERS AND LOCKED ROOMS – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST / RAPUNZEL

Always check your exit! The creepy castle or mansion house is a stalwart of crime fiction for good reason. Once you’ve entered, it’s not always that simple to escape. Rapunzel grows her hair to evade her capture while Beauty wins over the Beast. Modern day criminals might not be quite so easy to win round.

At the heart of every fairy story is a morality tale. Perhaps crime fiction is the contemporary equivalent?

This article was first published in Red Herrings, the magazine for members of The Crime Writers Association.

Photo by Cederic Vandenberghe on Unsplash

Dream Big, Act Now: The benefits of life coaching for authors

Don’t get your hopes up.

It’s something we get told all the time as writers. Don’t get your hopes up and then you won’t be disappointed.

It’s well meaning. A way of protecting our self and others, but it’s also limiting. So it was fantastic to finally hear someone deliver the opposite message.

How about having a big dream? An impossible dream? A once-in-a-lifetime, million-to-one dream? How about dreaming of becoming a bestselling author?

And, crucially, taking steps towards that dream while 100% believing that you will achieve it one day.  

Comparing yourself to other authors? Fine, if they inspire you to work harder. Dealing with rejection? OK, it happens. What can we learn from it? Handling a tricky negotiation with your editor or agent? Bring it on.

The Dream Author coaching programme, run by Sophie Hannah – a bestselling author herself – isn’t about learning craft. There are lots of brilliant courses out there that will teach you everything you need to know about plot, character, structure, theme, etc. And it’s important to take the time to learn these things, particularly if you have just started to write.

Life coaching is more about managing your emotional and psychological responses to writing and publishing, dealing with the rollercoaster ride of your creative journey, learning to deal with agents and publishers, handle rejection and accept the ups and downs of a professional writing life with equanimity.

It’s bigger than that though. The tools you learn through the course will help you in all aspects of your life including work, relationships, home, health and money.  

The 14-month course comprises weekly webinars and exercises to work through. Sophie offers coaching via email or through the webinar where your issues can be raised anonymously and discussed. This is incredibly positive, and I recommend everyone to take advantage of it.

The course deals with issues such as procrastination and motivation (Sophie’s a big fan of scheduling); money and the business side of writing; making good decisions; celebrating success and constantly working towards your dreams.

Am I a bestselling author because I signed up to the Dream Author programme? No.

Am I working towards my dream goal while believing 100% that I will achieve it one day? Absolutely.

You can find out more about the Dream Author coaching programme here: Dream Author Coaching with Sophie Hannah | Find Out More

Photo by Lucas Clara on Unsplash

NaNoWriMo 2021: The final week

I finally finished my NaNoWriMo challenge on 4 December.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an international challenge to write 50,000 words in November.

Knowing that I would find that difficult to achieve, I set myself a goal of adding 18,000 words to an existing manuscript that will hopefully turn into book four.

22 November – day 25

Goal: 539 words                               Achieved: 564 words                                      Total: 12,625

Intended to get up early to write before work but ignored the alarm and went back to sleep! Managed 564 words quite easily after dinner. A new plot line so very sketchy and will need fleshing out.

23 November – day 26

Goal: 475 words                               Achieved: 414 words                                      Total: 13,039

I went to a café on the way to work this morning and wrote 414 words by hand. I also made a lot of notes about one of my characters (a local MP) and her backstory. I really like this character and although she is no longer a POV character, I think I will want to use her again in another novel further down the line.

24 November – day 27

Goal: 961 words                               Achieved: 1,529 words                                  Total: 14,568

Another virtual write-in with my writing group this afternoon. We meet over Zoom, chat about writing for a bit and then do some focussed writing, checking in every 90 minutes or so to cheer each other on.

1.30pm – 2.30pm

Session one – merrily typing away when I came to a section that was basically a long rant and no longer relevant to the plot. Had to delete about 500 words which put me right back to the beginning again so only managed to add 119 words. ☹

4.15pm – 4.45pm

Session two – Added another 315 words. Definitely taking one step forward and two steps back at the moment and deleting a lot of words as I go along.

7.30pm – 8pm

Session three – lifted another chapter from the first draft, adding another 1,095 words. Needs some tidying up though.

25 November – day 28

Goal: 532 words                               Achieved: 572 words                                      Total:  15,140 words

Day off. A productive day with a chat with my agent this morning and lots of stuff done on the new house but unfortunately not many words written. Eventually I forced myself to write in the evening and managed 572 words – a new chapter towards the end of the book.

26 November – day 29

Goal: 360 words                               Achieved: 819 words                                      Total: 15,959 words

Planned out the chapter by hand at lunchtime then wrote up my notes while cooking dinner. Had to delete some of the words I wrote yesterday but added another 379 words in about half an hour.

After tea I took some more words from my first draft and copied and pasted them into the manuscript, adding another easy 440 words. Happy days! Just over 2,000 words to do now before the end of November.

27 November – day 30

Goal: 541 words                                               Achieved: 0                                        Total: 15,959 words

Horrendous night and day thanks to Storm Arwen which cut off our power. No words written as I tried to sort out the house and heating, etc.

28 November – day 31

Goal: 0 words                                                    Achieved: 0                                        Total: 15,959 words

Family day, no words planned. At this rate, I am not going to hit my target. Another bad day weather-wise and ended up staying with relatives instead of going home so no words written again.

29 November – day 32

Goal: 541 words                                               Achieved: 896 words                      Total: 16,855 words

Moved across the final bit of text from the first draft and by doing so, built up the word count by 896 words. The last half of the book still needs a lot of editing.

30 November – last day of NaNoWriMo!

Goal: 1,145 words                                           Achieved: 0                                        Total: 16,855 words

I don’t think I am going to achieve this goal and hit 18,000 words but I’m going to try!

4 December

Goal: 1,145 words                                           Achieved: 1,151 words                  Total: 18,006 words

I finally hit my target on Saturday, 4 December, finishing the challenge with 1,151 words.

The manuscript now stands at 60,006 words. I don’t think I am going to have much chance to work on this again until April, as I will be working on book three.

It definitely worked for me to set a smaller target than the suggested 50,000 words and I enjoyed tracking my progress on the website.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? How did you get on?

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

A COVER AND A NEW TITLE FOR BOOK TWO!

You’re invited to the wedding of the season…but you might not live to tell the tale!

The cover of my second book was revealed on social media this week and I love it!

I love the striking contrast between the red, white and black. Coincidentally these were the colours of my own wedding which makes it extra special.

Some of you will know that I originally called the book The Wedding Guest, but the title was changed after discussions with the publisher, One More Chapter.

The Wedding Murders features Libby Steele, a plus-one at a celebrity wedding. She’s the guest of her boyfriend Matthew who used to be in a Britpop band with the groom. It’s the first time the band have been reunited since their acrimonious split in the 90s and Libby soon realises they all have secrets to hide.

When a bridesmaid goes missing just hours before the ceremony, Libby suspects there’s a killer on the loose…

I was lucky enough to get an endorsement from the amazing Sophie Hannah which blew me away. This is what she said about the book:

‘This gripping murder mystery will keep you riveted from start to end. Fans of Lucy Foley and Agatha Christie will love it.’ 

You can’t get much better than that! But here are some of the other lovely endorsements I’ve received from published authors:

‘An intensely compelling, riveting story with a nail-biting climax!’ Abby Davies, author of Mother Loves Me

‘A fast-paced thriller with plenty of twists and turns’ Sophie Flynn, author of All My Lies 

‘A gripping tale with plenty of twists and turns making for a most enjoyable read!’ Roz Watkins, author of The Devil’s Dice

I really enjoyed writing this book. It will be published as an ebook in February 2022 and a paperback in April 2022 and is available to pre-order now.

If you’re a book blogger, you can request a review copy on Netgalley.

NaNoWriMo 2021: week three

A fairly productive third week of NaNoWriMo and my enthusiasm for the book is still going strong.

I’m definitely finding it easier to write in the morning and I am also loving the virtual write-ins with my writing group.

4,358 words written this week bringing the total up to 12,061 words.

12 November – day 15

Perfect Crime Festival in Liverpool – no words

13 November – day 16

Perfect Crime Festival in Liverpool – no words

14 November – day 17

Goal: 400 words                               Achieved: 498                                                    Total: 7,703

Scheduled time: 8.45pm

Struggled to get back into the swing of things at first and spent a lot of time moving sections around, but eventually the words started flowing. There are some elements of the police procedure that I’m not confident about and will need to research further.

15 November – day 18

Goal: 500 words                               Achieved: 711                                                    Total: 8,414

Scheduled start time: 6.30am

Woke up early and got straight onto my laptop. Managed over 700 words in about 20 minutes. I find early mornings are great for writing. I wrote an emotional scene with plenty of dialogue. I may need to add a bit of description and conversation breaks later.

16 November – day 19

Goal: 600 words                               Achieved:  1,056                                               Total: 9,470

Scheduled start time: 5pm

A slow start as I was working on chapters that were more or less done, but then I incorporated another plot point from the first draft and the words started flowing. I have now passed the half-way point of NaNoWriMo!

17 November – day 20

Goal: 530 words                               Achieved: 446 words                                      Total: 9,916

Scheduled start time: 1.30pm

Another write-in on Zoom with my writing group today. I won’t be able to attend the full session as I have got lots of house stuff to do this afternoon but hoping to get an hour done and bring my total word count for this book up to 52,000.

Constant disruption during the hour I set aside for writing, which was very frustrating! Created a new scene in Blackpool and fiddled about with some of the later chapters but no significant progression today. Disappointing.

18 November – day 21

Goal: 800 words                               Achieved: 2,145 words                                  Total: 12,061

A day off today, so I plan to do four stints of writing throughout the day, aiming for 200 words per session.

Session 1, 9am

Started by adding another scene from the first draft so a very easy 1,610 words in about 25 minutes. According to my NaNo stats, this puts me back on target to complete 18,000 words by the end of the month. Hurrah! I could take the rest of the day off but I’m not going to!

Session 2, 10.30am

Another 535 words added. Really excited about this book now! 54,061 words written

Session 3, 2pm

Ground to a halt! No more words done this afternoon. Sadly, real life took over.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Nanowrimo 2021: Week two

Week two of NaNoWriMo and I have written another 3,835 words.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an international challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I am being a ‘NaNo rebel’ and aiming to add 18,000 words to an existing manuscript, which will hopefully be book four.

I gave myself two days off this week to attend the Perfect Crime Festival in Liverpool. I came back full of ideas and inspiration, and it was great to spend time with other writers and readers. I now have a huge ‘to be read’ list!

Another thing I did this week was a virtual write-in with a group of writers I met on the Jericho Writers’ self-edit course. We met over Zoom to write, and it proved very productive.

I’m a little behind on my goal, but confident I will catch up.

WEEK TWO

5 November 2021 – day 8

Goal: 530 words                               Achieved: 0                                                        Total: 3370 words

No words done today, really tired and very busy with the house move.

6 November 2021 – day 9

Goal: 530 words                               Achieved: 998 words                                      Total: 4,368 words

Scheduled start time: 8pm

Started writing at 7pm. Lifted a chapter from the first draft and copied and pasted it into the manuscript so an easy 998 words tonight, leaving me a bit of time to plan a new chapter to work on tomorrow.

7 November 2021 – day 10

Goal: 632 words                               Achieved: 637 words                                      Total: 5,005 words

Scheduled start time: 8pm

I was planning to write later on this evening but managed to get some writing done waiting for tea to cook. The words were flowing as I started writing a new chapter. Managed 637 words in about 45 minutes. Will continue this chapter tomorrow.

8 November 2021 – day 11

Goal: 500 words                               Achieved: 823 words                                      Total: 5,828 words

Scheduled start time: 6.30am

Woke up early to write before work and managed 823 words, continuing the new chapter I started yesterday. I’m really pleased with it although I need to do some research so had to add a few notes to myself in the text. I use square brackets and capitals e.g. [FIND OUT WHERE THIS IS] when I need to do some research but don’t want to stop writing. I find early mornings good for writing. After a cup of tea, my brain feels quite active.

9 November 2021 – day 12

Goal: 0 words                                    Achieved: 0                                                        Total: 5,828 words

Scheduled start time: 8.15am

Busy day today so decided not to set myself a goal. Any words written will be a bonus.

10 November – day 13

Goal: 972 words                               Achieved: 1,377 words                                  Total: 7,205

Scheduled start time: 1pm

Today I am doing something I have never done before, a virtual write-in with a group of writers I met on a self-editing course. We are going to be writing our novels over Zoom, keeping each other going when the words stop flowing. I have high expectations of achieving nearly 1,000 words with this type of focussed writing.

It was brilliant! Despite a few interruptions I managed to add 1,377 words to my manuscript which was way more than I was expecting. I enjoyed the companionship of writing alongside others and the chats in between focussed writing sessions. I would definitely do this again.

11 November – day 14

Goal: 0 words                                    Achieved : 0                                                       Total: 7,205

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash