Writerly Round-Up: November 2019
Such a wet month, November! On Saturday 24th November 2012, the stream next to our house broke its banks and our basement level lounge and kitchen were put out of action for six months as a procession of insurance assessors, electricians and builders, plus an army of friends and family, helped us recover and refurbish. This weekend, seven years to the day, the water rose once more. Luckily, we got our flood door in place just in time, at three o’clock in the morning, and apart from a garden that looks more like a mud slide, a Zen garden that will never be white again, and a slightly damp edge to the Garden Room/Office, we’re fine. Our neighbours were less lucky. And I know there are many people across the country in a much worse condition. My thoughts go out to all of them. Yet despite the weather, I have managed to keep going with my writerly activities this month.
Writing in November
If it’s November, it must be NaNoWriMo time. And once again I’ve joined hundreds of thousands of writers around the world in bashing out a huge number of words in a short space of time. The target is fifty thousand words in thirty days, which works out at 1667 words per day. Some people work in spurts, getting way ahead of target and then taking a few days off. My pace varies each year, depending on what else is going on, although I make sure I do some words every day, just so my online graph looks okay. In fact, this year, I have been fairly steady and as of today, I am just ahead of target at a shade over forty three thousand and looking forward to finishing on Friday or Saturday.
I’ve been working on the first book in a new series and have made some interesting decisions along the way. Most of the month has been spent writing back stories for my murder victim and the growing list of suspects. I have concluded my list is too long and I’ll have to ditch some of them at some point. I have also discovered that some of the minor characters are interesting in their own right, and I’m having lots of ideas for future books in the series. I’ve invented a whole new village called Coombesford, somewhere up in the Haldon Hills, and know the insides of the main buildings intimately. And I am seriously toying with the idea of changing the series title from Coombesford Crime to Coombesford Chronicles, to allow me more leeway further down the line. I made a mistake with the Suzanne Jones thrillers by naming the series before I realised the other two main characters were going to play a major role too. I don’t want to make the same mistake again.
Sales and Marketing
There’s been little or no movement on the ebook front this month, mainly because I’ve done no promotions or advertising. But face to face sales have been quite promising. I’ve always found it easier to sell physical books and sometimes wonder if I should just give up on trying to increase my visibility in the ever-expanding ocean of online materials and concentrate on doing what I do best. But, with the busiest present-buying season rapidly rushing towards us, I will take the plunge back into the ocean from next week and see how I get on.
This month, my research has consisted on checking out locations for Coombesford every time we go out driving. I’m even toying with the idea of marking up a local map and picking out specific road numbers!
Out and About in November
As mentioned last month, I did my latest stint on BBC Radio Devon earlier this month, presenting Pause for Thought on the early morning show, hosted by Laura James and Gordon Sparks. This time, I took a gastronomic world tour and if you fancy having a listen, you can pick up the first instalment, from Monday 4th November, by clicking here (around 22 minutes in) and the rest run on Tuesday to Friday at the same time, and on Saturday and Sunday an hour later. The first one is broadcast live and the rest are prerecorded. But I’ve been so busy, I haven’t even listened to them myself. Note to self to spend some time doing that later today. It’s amazing what you learn about your own speaking voice when listening to a playback of that type.
For months, I’ve been banging on about preparations for the Exeter Literary Festival, and it finally took place between 7th and 10th November. My two sessions went very well and the audiences were both appreciative and generous with their questions and their book-buying afterwards. The rest of the festival also seemed to go very well and we are looking forward to doing even better next year.
I also did one evening presentation this month, to the wonderful ladies of St Andrew’s Guild in Ashburton. I talked to them about my Writers’ Journey, which gave me the opportunity to revisit some of my earliest publications, such as my 1975 doctoral thesis, which is hard backed, cloth bound, hand typed, with photographs pasted in and graphs constructed using Letra Set! Such huge changes in technology we have seen in the past forty years!
Writers are Readers Too
It’s been an interesting month reading-wise. I read an multi-awarding-winning literary novel which shall remain nameless; I absolutely hated it, found it tedious and self-indulgent, but had to finish for my Book Club. I read a novel by a relative newcomer, which will also remain nameless, that I had promised to review months before and had forgotten about; it read more like a text book than a novel and was a classic example of an author who had done a lot of research and was determined to share it all with the readers. It confirmed my decision to stop agreeing to review books by authors whose writing I am not familiar with.
I finally got around to reading The Second Sleep by Robert Harris, having picked up a copy at his talk at Budleigh Salterton in September. I have to confess to having mixed feeling about this one. I love Harris’s writing and most of this book is wonderful. The concept is certainly a fascinating one. But I was pulled up short by the final chapters and can’t decide whether they are the only possible ending or a case of Harris running out of steam. I would be interested to hear from any of you who have read it.
I do not usually binge read. I tried it once with Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, ran out of steam at book eight and have yet to return to the rest of the series, years later. But for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working my way through some of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. They are much grittier than the crime thrillers I write; they are full of violence, co-incidences and improbable situations. But I love them! I’m on my third so far this month, and the tenth in the series. Who knows how long I will be able to keep going before I start craving something more sensible or literary. But I take my copy around the house with me and dip in to it at mealtimes or whenever I can justify a few minutes; which is more than I can say for some of the other books I have read lately!