One year ago I accepted an invitation. I didn’t know then it would be an acceptance that would change my life. Perhaps that sounds a little dramatic? Nevertheless, when I look back over the last twelve months and catalogue the differences, it feels like a fair assertion.
The invitation came from Authorlab colleague, Chris Paton who writes as Christoffer Petersen. ‘How about joining in with Nanowrimo?’ he asked me. Back then, I didn’t know much about the forum that encourages authors to write up to 50,000 words during the month of November. The forum works on the basis that online writing buddies support each other through the ups and downs of putting together the first draft of a novel. Chris and I spurred each other on. During that month I worked to complete a novel I had started for my MA in Professional Writing. The novel, Forgotten Children, had itself been forgotten and it was a good feeling to re-immerse myself in the plot and get to know the characters. I didn’t achieve my 50,000 words, but by the end of the month I had got into the habit of writing daily. More than a habit, that daily writing became a comfortable addiction.
By Christmas 2016 I had finished the draft of Forgotten Children and sent it out to friends and family for comment and feedback. But I wanted to keep writing. In February 2017, while strolling along a beach in southern Spain with my faithful Scottie dog, Hamish, I had an idea for another novel. Continuing my daily writing habit, I started drafting. Then in April, Chris suggested we commit to Campnano, which works in a similar way to Nanowrimo. With a daily target to push me on, I managed to complete the first draft of The Tapestry Bag. During the spring and summer I beavered away drafting and re-editing until I was ready to send The Tapestry Bag out to the world.
While writing The Tapestry Bag I got to know my key character, Janie Juke, very well. So well, in fact, that I realised she deserved a series of stories. Janie is a young and unlikely librarian who has a passion for Agatha Christie novels and sees herself as a budding Hercule Poirot. The Janie Juke crime mystery series is set in the late 1960s in Tamarisk Bay, an imaginary seaside town, modelled on my home town of St Leonards-on-sea. As Janie goes about her library work she discovers many of the characters in this sleepy resort are not quite what they might appear. She cleverly weaves her way through a puzzle of clues, unwrapping secrets and challenging lies.
The second Campnano in July helped me to complete the second in the Janie Juke mystery series, Lost Property, where Janie is approached by a Second World War pilot to track down an old friend. In Lost Property Janie teams up with local journalist and friend, Libby Frobisher, and between them they delve into the past in order to solve the mystery.
My daily writing habit continues. Over the last twelve months I have learned a lot, but there is still much to discover. I have taken the first few steps along a path that I liken to an apprenticeship – with each chapter, each blog post, each book review – I am trying to improve. Words are tricky, but they are wonderful too. They open up new worlds for readers and they create healthy challenges for writers.
Have you had a successful writing year? Let us know what writing challenges you have set yourself.
This guest blog has been written for us by Isabella Muir
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