Completing a novel in lockdown.

I applied to undertake a writing course when I was working as a nurse in 1997, and my daughters were three and one years old, but the opportunity to study for a nursing degree came along, and there was only so much I could do if I were to stay sane. I reluctantly put writing on the back burner until I retired early from nursing and my daughters were at university. Finally, I have an office to write in where I have a notice board to pin notes and quotes to, and space to spread my work, study notes, and keep my umpteen books on writing. My desk is an old Victorian kitchen table, and my chair is the one my youngest daughter used at her desk before she left for university. Alfie, my white cat, has a bed in the room, which he uses when the mood takes him.

I was struggling to complete a novel, so I put it to one side and started another one, only to find the first one drawing me back to the characters I had bonded with. I started writing it from a different viewpoint, only to find I was stumbling halfway through yet again. My confidence as a writer was low; I was allowing the negative voices in my head to dampen my creativity. Every writer goes through this, I am not unique, but it hurts all the same. Not to be defeated, or drown my liver in alcohol, I decided to be proactive.

Having already completed a couple of online writing courses, with varying degrees of success, I decided to find a longer course which would offer me a deeper understanding of writing and creating a novel. When I stumbled upon The Novelry while searching on Google for writing courses, I was excited by A Book in a Year course which would see me complete my book and edit it thoroughly. I was even more convinced I had found the right course and environment for learning and writing once Louise Dean had emailed a response to my questions.

Becoming a member of The Novelry is more than learning the craft of writing. It is a haven to ask questions (we often feel we should know the answer to), to air concerns and doubts about our work, and to give and receive feedback on works in progress. It is a very encouraging, nurturing, and stimulating environment – and what writer doesn’t need that from time to time.

I didn’t think I was a writer unless I was toiling for hours, making my fingers bleed on the keyboard until I began The Book in a Year course, where I was permitted to write for only one hour a day, which shocked me at first. The rest of the time was dedicated to thinking about the plot, characters and their desires, as well as undertaking the lessons, which were often a springboard to where I was going next with the novel. Although I originally wrote between five and six in the morning, I soon discovered my creativity flowed better between seven and eight in the evening. My creativity is anti-social, but the dark shadows under my eyes are grateful.  The course encouraged me to set me a writing routine which I did not have before, and it is something I will continue when writing my next novel.

The Classic course had me rereading novels such as Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ to dissect the story structure, which I found helpful when looking at the structure of my own work in progress.

The course encouraged me to read authors I had never read before, such as Jack Kerouac, Muriel Spark and Anton Chekhov. There is a list of ‘hero’ books, of which I had to choose one for my bedtime reading, so I end the day immersed in the genre I am writing. I chose ‘The Gathering’ by Anne Enright, then changed the genre of my novel from accessible literary to UpLit, so read ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman as well. During the day, I read other novels, and I am currently reading one book by each of the tutors, to give me a flavour of their work.

I live in Suffolk, on the Norfolk border where, at long last, I have an office to write in. My two daughters have graduated, one as a vet and the other as a computer scientist – don’t ask me exactly what she does! I enjoy feeding the wildlife in my garden and have a hedgehog and hoglet living in a special house of their own. You will find me putting out their special food after dark, then listening to them feeding – it’s surprising how noisy they are.

Sylvia Plath honoured the diminutive, amiable and prickly Erinaceus europaeus which The Times once suggested should be our national emblem in the UK, or perhaps the emblem of writers writing…

“I hold my breath until you creak to life/ Balled hedgehog/ Small and cross.”

The novel I am writing is Up Lit, a genre I came to love after reading ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman. My writing is influenced by one of my favourite authors, Anita Brookner, whose books I devoured since the late eighties, and have reread several times. Another comfort read I turn to is Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’, which never fails to satisfy me, no matter how many times I read it, and I am also very fond of Anne Enright, Maggie O’Farrell, and Anne Tyler. I have just realised they are all female authors, but this has not been a deliberate choice.

Hemmingway said, ‘Write drunk, edit sober’, which can be interpreted in various ways.  Hemmingway was perhaps intimating that a writer should write as though drunk, removing inhibitions and just letting the words flow for the first draft. However, when it comes to editing, the writer should be alert to every word and eliminate the ones which add nothing to what she or he is trying to say. Another way of taking the phrase is one I have tried, which is to write while drinking alcohol and see where the writing takes me. I am a lightweight when it comes to drinking, and I cannot say whether the experiment worked or not, as whatever I write, I edit hard, so probably undoing the dross I wrote while tipsy.

I am particularly fond of the live team meetings with the tutors on hand to answer questions and facilitate the session. Even if I have nothing to say, I like to attend as I always learn something from listening to other people’s questions and hearing the insightful answers from the tutors.  They are at eight in the evening, so you will find me in my loungewear, with no make-up on, sipping soya milk or an alcoholic beverage, depending on my mood and whether I have a question to ask!

The live sessions include The Story Clinic and guest tutor classes such as Louise Doughty, author of ‘Apple Tree Yard’ and more recently, ‘Platform Seven’.  I have a special notebook where I jot down the nuggets of information; otherwise, I would not remember it all – and that has nothing to do with the alcoholic drink I may or may not be sipping at the time!

I was in awe of ‘meeting’ Louise Doughty as I loved ‘Apple Tree Yard’ when I read it years ago. Now I have this free time; I will be reading ‘Platform Seven’ after I have finished Louise Dean’s novel, ‘Becoming Strangers’, and Tim Lott’s ‘When We Were Rich’.

The community of writers are a vibrant, friendly, knowledgeable crowd. I feel honoured to be in their company and celebrate their milestones and successes. Many of their faces have become familiar thanks to the online meetings, which have been comforting during the lockdown.

Joining The Novelry has given me the tools (not rules -as Louise says!) and encouragement to complete my novel. But not only that, it has lifted my spirits immensely during the lockdown, giving me the drive and focus as the life I knew fell apart around me. 

In three weeks, I will commence the Big Edit course, and hopefully, hone my novel into something beautiful to read. I already have the premise for my next book, so you will find me hanging around The Novelry for quite some time. Happy days!

Lockdown Lessons 3


Well here we are again, in lockdown week six – or is it seven? Time is merging and I no longer know what day of the week we are.  I even had to think which month we were a few days ago.

During this time, we’ve had to adapt in more ways than one, but I didn’t expect to be cutting hubs hair. Fortunately, he’d bought a beard trimmer before the lockdown, so we went into onto the patio – saved me getting out the hoover – and I did the deed. It wasn’t too bad – but I’m not adding a photo to this post!

To return the favour, I asked hubs to wax my armpits! Needs must, folks. Again, the result was good, but he had sticky palms and my skin was tender for hours, but worth it. If I shave my armpits the skin looks like a plucked chicken!

Hubs and I have been having a battle of the open windows in the bedroom. I’ve always advocated airing the house, especially the bedroom, even when it’s chilly outside.  He, on the other hand, likes them firmly shut. We’re both sneaking around opening or closing the damn things, without telling one another. However, during this Covid-19 time,  a well-aired house is recommended, so ha!

Although my daughters graduated from uni a year ago, I’m still sending them boxes of goodies to ease the pain of not seeing one another, and to give them some cheer during this time.

I’ve had a good sort out in my office and it’s now uncluttered, so my creativity has increased – although some days the words flow better than others. I’m not the only one to feel a simmering of anxiety and fear coursing through my mind at times, I’m sure. Mind you, I’ve done a thorough spring clean of the whole house – hubs even bought me a pair of special ‘bobble cloth’ slippers which go over my shoes so when I glide around, I’m picking up the cat hairs – genius!

Some local independent shops are offering home delivery of their products, so we’ve been able to support the local deli by purchasing a selection of glorious cheeses, bread and artichoke hearts, plus a cheeky bottle of red wine. I have even purchased my favourite sweets I like to eat whilst writing – yes I know without going regularly to the gym as I used to, this is a risky thing to do! I’m known as the Spog Lady (I’m obviously eating too many oops).

Hubs watched the Netflix, ‘The Tiger King’, whilst I wrote in peace, and we binged watched, ‘After Life’, which I highly recommend, although I cry at the end of each episode.

I’m grateful for having a garden to tend to and sit in, and I feel for those, like my daughters, who live in flats. I admire those parents with children at home – it can’t be easy, especially if they have no outdoor space or the children are little balls of energy as my two were when they were little. Let’s hope it’s not too long before we have a little more freedom to stretch our wings, whilst still keeping socially distant from one another. The photo is the wood-burning stove in our local pub, and I fear it will be months before we see it again – there may even be a plate of mince pies sitting on the hearth by the time we do!

Stay safe and well, folks.

Lockdown Lessons 2


Well here we are, almost three weeks into lockdown and Alfie’s taken to drinking gin! (Before you call the RSPCA – it’s water) I’ve kept my own alcohol consumption to its normal minimum, but snacking has increased – I won’t be beach ready this year, although there may be no beaches to visit, who knows? I’m missing my gym classes, and the online alternatives don’t work as well for me – I can be a bit lazy, given half the chance.

I’ve rediscovered childhood comfort food in the form of bananas and custard – which we’re eating quite regularly – such is the need for comfort these days!

I’ve reread Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman as a comfort read and have ordered Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (the copy I have is in a box of children’s books in the loft, which feels like climbing Mount Everest to go there), as another source of comfort read.

I’ve discovered Tiggy is back in the hedgehog house, so I’m feeding him hog food and some mealworms. In turn, he thanks me by pooing all over the patio.

I’ve realised how wonderful it is to have a neighbour with an allotment, as he has provided us with lots of delicious purple sprouting broccoli.  I’ve made stir-fries with it using fresh ginger, garlic, bacon and mushrooms with pasta (I had some in fortunately as it’s like gold dust!)

WHO is buying all the plain Galaxy chocolate still?? I managed to find some with caramel in our local shop, for which I’m grateful, but plain Galaxy is another comfort food for me. Hey ho…

Thursdays at eight o’clock is a time to connect with neighbours as we all stand on our doorsteps clapping all the NHS staff, care staff, and other services who are doing sterling work during this difficult time.

I hope you are all still keeping well and safe, and finding the headspace to write and read. Thank you for being here.


Lockdown lessons


It’s not quite a been a whole week since the lockdown, but already I’ve learnt a few things which I will list here. I’m sure as the weeks pass, I’ll learn much more…

Since going to the gym is no longer possible, I now follow the classes online, and I discovered I need a longer warm-up session than given in the video (so my body let me know the following day), and I need to use my thicker yoga mat to protect my bony prominences.

Unfortunately, I need my eyes tested as the glasses I’m using no longer give me the sharp clarity I like when typing, reading or watching TV.

I had forgotten how delicious soya milk was. When cow’s milk was unavailable, I bought soya milk instead and discovered that my morning porridge and hot chocolate are even more scrumptious! I will continue buying this once life returns to normal…whenever that may be.

Hoovering is still a boring chore.

Alfie (photo above) enjoys chilling all day as he stills goes out at night – he has more freedom than we do!

I’m seeing less of hubs, as he’s a bank nurse and is having to cover more shifts than usual due to Covid-19.

As hubs is a keyworker, I do all the essential shopping trips to protect him as much as possible.

Following from the above two, I’m making so many packed lunches for him, I feel like he’s at primary school.

Our front and back gardens are now weed-free!

Doing the housework is still not my top priority – apart from a clean kitchen and bathroom. The dust has a nasty habit of returning not long after I’ve removed it, so it’s rather soul-destroying.

Since when did large (and even small) bars of Galaxy chocolate become so popular? I have two squares left and it won’t be pretty when I run out…

Well, dear reader from wherever you may be, I do hope you are keeping safe, sane and are finding the headspace to do plenty of writing and reading. Let us all stay indoors until the world becomes safer and healthier, then come out on the other side being a much kinder and cleaner world.

Listening to my novel


Alfie and I have been enjoying listening to the beautiful voice of Marie-Pierre as she narrates The Reluctant Mother.

As this is my first experience of having a novel turned into an audiobook, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t realise that I would be sent a few chapters at a time to listen to check all was okay. What I didn’t expect to happen is I would listen to it as though it was a play on Radio4  and get sucked into the story. As I wrote this a few years ago, I had forgotten some parts of the story, so I’ve enjoyed being immersed in Colette’s world once more.

I’ve attached the YouTube link as Marie-Pierre has posted the first few lines there for you to listen to. I will let you know when it will be released.

Hope you enjoy listening to the short video and maybe you’ll find you want to find out what the future holds for Colette and Finn and their baby, Dylan.

Happy Word Flow One & All

I’m not sure the link has worked – tut – so I’m sharing the YouTube video on FB and Twitter.

The Reluctant Mother

Exciting news!


I have just heard from my publisher, Winter Goose Publishing, that they have signed a contract with a narrator and are set to start recording The Reluctant Mother for an audiobook. I’m so thrilled as audiobooks have become so popular, so it will be exciting to be a part of that arena.

I’ve been listening to auditions from potential narrators over the past few months and have been dying to tell people about this, but agreed to secrecy with the publisher until a narrator was found and a contract was signed.

I will, of course, keep you informed of the release date, and for those not familiar with the novel, I’ve put a link in for you to peruse. Thank you for being here and taking an interest in my work.

Happy reading One & All