The Writing Blog

When I revamped my website ( recently, I included a new page for a writing blog. I started it with the best of intentions (honestly), but it’s proved difficult to keep it up to date. So now I’m going to make it a sort of monthly update, and post it here, as a sort of writing diary. Here are the January highlights.

2019 January 26

I’ve been very busy with entries for the new Postbox short story magazine. As of today, I’ve got 54 entries for it. I wasn’t going to start reading them until after the deadline, but I realised that, because of the volume, it would be better if I made a start earlier. The obvious Yesses and Nos are straightforward, but it’s the much larger pile of Maybes that will give me the most difficulties.

Tonight I’m ‘In Conversation’ with my friend Bruce Jamieson as part of the Further From Festival in Linlithgow. I don’t know what questions he’s going to ask me, but I hope I’m ready for anything. I know I’m going to finish with three sea poems, with brief improvised introductions on alto sax.

2019 January 14

I set a large part of my novel in a small village next to the Canal du Midi, the Eastern end to be precise. It’s a real village. I visited it in 1996 and was struck by its beauty. I liked the small centre, perched on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking the Canal. I wondered as I was writing the story whether I should use its real name, or make a name up.

I’ve come to realise I have to change it. I don’t like the idea of a future reader, if it’s ever published, being able to say ‘That’s not the village I know. It’s not like that.’ And in truth, it’s not like that now – I checked it on Google Earth, and it’s changed out of all recognition. Whether my memory is flawed – it probably is – or if I’ve been seeing it through the eyes of my imagination, I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s done. I made a name up. It sounds plausible, in my view, and there isn’t a real French village of that name in my gazetteer. There’s even a bit of low cunning, in that the name conceals the symbol for a chemical element that reveals itself only in the final chapter.

2019 January 07

When I constructed the first timeline for my novel, I wasn’t happy with it. It was too long, and it had the main character born in the same year I was, which made him too old by the last chapter, plus there were too many gaps in it, years when nothing significant happened.

Then I opened my notes and discovered a date for the first episode which was much later
than the one in my timeline. So that gave me an entry point to go back in and fix the episodes in the right chronological sequence.

The result is that he is nearly twenty years younger than he was, and the gaps have mostly closed up, making it a more compact narrative, and all the richer for it. It should also help with the pacing.

2019 January 04

Every writer’s life is different. It’s whatever we make out of the opportunities we can access, our particular likes and dislikes, and the time we have available.

I write, obviously, but I’m also Editor for Postbox Press, the literary fiction arm of Red Squirrel Press. In 2018 I edited two novels, three short story collections, two poetry collections, and I co-edited a mixed anthology with my friend Elizabeth Rimmer.

I travel near and far to do readings of poetry and prose, sometimes accompanied with music, and I lead workshops on creative writing, short story writing, poetry, how to get published, and other subjects. I’m on the Scottish Book Trust’s database of authors for the Live Literature programme, whereby organisations can be helped to bring authors to them at a reasonable cost, while authors are paid a decent sum for their contributions. Recent events have been in Falkirk, Dunbar, Stirling, and Barlinnie Prison, to name but three.

My current projects are challenging and interesting. One is that I’ve been recruited into the Ward Identities team for the East Lothian Community Hospital currently being built in Haddington. My personal role is to help staff choose the names for their new wards, in a hospital which will integrate several presently scattered health care services in one location. My aim is to ensure that the chosen names reflect the hospital’s physical and care settings.

Another major project for 2019 is to write a novel-length story, constructed from a number of novellas and short stories. That’s the plan anyway, and we’ll see how I get on. I’ll report progress.

About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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