progress with my writing – no photographs today

This is a completely different type of post from the ones I have produced recently; some of  you may have visited the blog many times but not even know that I have been working on a novel  as I have hardly mentioned it for months.

Earlier in the year I was working on self-editing and revising the story but could not decide whether to keep my original first chapter in place or bring forward a much later chapter and use it as the introduction to the main character Ellie.  Deciding that “temporary separation” was the answer,  during the summer I spent much less time working on the novel and much more time  on writing short pieces as exercises for myself and learning to use my new camera effectively.  I have never been one to sit and write in my free-time to the exclusion of everything else and time spent in the fresh air walking or gardening is vital to my mental and physical well-being.  Without my garden to nurture my soul I couldn’t be creative in other ways.

Some of you will know that I started this blog after attending a self-publishing conference where we were all encouraged to “build a platform” on social media as quickly as possible, regardless of whether or not we had already published work or were still complete unknowns struggling to finish writing our first book. I think this was bad advice.

I joined WordPress in late March and I quickly found Joanne Phillips who was very helpful, learned from her blog about the A – Z challenge and jumped straight in to posting every day.  As  a) I had not prepared any posts in advance like many of the other participants and b) I was still learning how WordPress and all the widgets etc worked, this took up a lot of the time I would have put into the editing and revising of my book. Without joining in the A-Z challenge I may not have found some of the wonderful bloggers whose posts I still enjoy reading every week and I certainly would not have got to grips with WordPress and gained confidence online in such a short time.  I cannot help thinking, however, that I would have been much nearer to publishing my book if I had delayed setting up my blog.  Do I wish I had waited?  Well, no, because I have met so many lovely bloggers and had such fun reading their posts and producing my own.

The plain fact, obvious to anyone reviewing the popularity of my posts, is that my photographs of wildlife and plants are liked by a small loyal band of regular readers and a reasonable number of people who visit on an occasional basis.  When I have exclusively written about my unfinished novel the comments have been supportive and useful but the appeal of those posts is limited.  If I use up a chunk of my “creative thinking time” trying to write interesting posts about my writing endeavours I will hopefully  get more useful feedback but I probably won’t have enough time left to read and respond to the comments and consider how to make use of the suggestions.  I have really enjoyed reading and commenting on other writers posts about their WIP’s but, recently, several of them have announced that they plan to publish less blog posts in the future so they have more time to actually write the WIP’s.

I spend some time on Twitter but not on Facebook ; perhaps if I had joined Facebook when I started the blog I would by now have “built a platform”  that affected the sales of my book when it is eventually published, but I doubt it.  If anyone ever asks for my advice I shall say start a blog at any time if you think you’ll like blogging but, if the intention is primarily to achieve sales for your first book, wait until you are almost ready to publish and combine it with a self-promotion campaign to some established websites that will reach a much larger audience than your blog.

I have now made my decision about which chapter to use as the beginning of my story and it will mean lots of tweaking as the readers will know something from the start of the book that was previously revealed much later; perhaps slowing down the editing process because I was spending time on the blog  has helped me to write a better book but I am not totally convinced of it.  What I am sure about, however, is that sharing photographs of dragonflies, butterflies, bees and flowers has been an entirely positive experience.

August 18 – final butterflies and a hopper

I have set myself new writing targets for September; stepping back from the WIP and concentrating on improving my photography has helped me to regain enthusiasm for finishing the novel.  A huge ” thank-you” to everyone who has liked and/or left kind comments in response to the photographic posts as the positive feedback really helped to keep depression at bay.  These are the last butterfly shots for 2013.

I took the photo of the Small Copper butterfly last week on the marjoram that has been covered in bees and butterflies all summer

small copper

Yesterday some Speckled Wood butterflies were flying in a small group along the edge of a belt of trees; they completely ignored me

speckled wood1
This one was darker than the others; it looks a bit moth-eaten!

speckled wood2
I couldn’t get a clear shot of the underside; this was the best effort

speckled wood3

I don’t know anything about identifying grasshoppers but this little creature appeared in front of me on a reed

I knew I had a good shot but I waited to see if I could capture the face

Afraid that it was disappearing I snatched that picture too quickly without getting the focus right  but, a moment later, the hopper reappeared from the far side of the reed and I had my shot of the dayghopper3

where have all the words gone? will “normal service” ever be resumed?

Where have all the words gone?  I know the answer to that question. The ones from my first attempt at a novel are in intensive care.

no visitors

They haven’t responded well to their surgery and are languishing in disarray.

nil by mouth 2

All the new words in my “inspirational thoughts” journal are sulking like recalcitrant teenagers behind their comfy Moleskine jacket. Nothing will tempt them outside.

I think hope “normal service” will be resumed soon but, just for the moment, the photographs will have to suffice.

Butterflies, buddleia, thistles, rosa ‘William Lobb’, 3 journals and an unfinished book.

I was in journal heaven for two hours this afternoon; I sat in my garden with three of them, one for my novel, one for plants and one for wildlife. 

Novel first.   I was scoring chapters; when I innocently  typed my way through the first draft, periodically revising sections as I went  along to produce a sound base for my first major editing of the story,  I had no idea  writers “scored”  their chapters by rating the scenes for speed and light. I had instinctively moved between quiet, intimate scenes, action-packed intimate scenes, conversational or action scenes with lots of characters and so on. The more articles I have read about pacing your novel, the more blogs I have read about a writer’s anxiety that their story arc is not ‘on an upward trend’  or the pace of their book is too even, the more insecure I have felt about the construction of my own story.  The editing I started in mid-March now seems totally inadequate so I have  renumbered everything in smaller parts and described  each scene in more detail. Today I began scoring them in my journal; against all the odds I found I enjoyed doing it.

Plants.  On Wednesday I had a delivery of plants,  lots of them, carefully packed in flats and peeping out of damp  newspaper . Only other  plant-mad people will understand the joy of unwrapping each one, finding the right-sized pot and standing them somewhere shady to acclimatize for a couple of days prior to planting out. Today I entered their names in my journal; I know they are all listed on my laptop in the order confirmation email and I no longer need to hand-write the list but I have been doing this since 1983 and the feeling of continuity is comforting.

Wildlife (and plants).  I sat by a border that is allowed to contain thistles until  their seeds are about to disperse at which point they are hacked down and removed from the garden. There is also purple sage, a buddleia alternifolia and the wonderful rose ‘William Lobb’ in this border so the scent is superb and there is an almost constant stream of insects and butterflies passing by. The photos below are of this border. I have identified the butterfly as a female Small Tortoiseshell but if you disagree feel free to say so; she looks a bit ragged round the edges . There were also lots of comma butterflies and  others flitting about I did not manage to identify because I was writing. I recorded the ones I identified in my wildlife journal along with all the other species I had seen today; I do this a couple of times a month between March and October.





So, my secret’s out; I’m a Journal Junkie.

If you like these photos please feel free to use them.

Seeking solace writing in my journal at Waterperry Gardens

About ten days ago I was upset by an answerphone message, left on our phone by someone I was voluntarily helping, a message that showed such a callous disregard for my feelings it left me reeling, as if I had been punched in the face. I think I might have coped better with being punched, as then I would have seen it coming and had a chance to duck or at least brace myself for the impact.

I did not realize how emotionally bruised I was until last weekend when I sat down to continue editing Ellie’s story and I couldn’t work on it, my thoughts were all jumbled. I tried starting on a new short piece but I just felt empty, devoid of creativity.  On Sunday morning I set off with a journal to sit in the wonderful gardens at Waterperry and watch the world go by; on a sunny summer Sunday there is always a diverse range of visitors to inspire scenarios.




Sat on the white bench under the Wisteria I scribbled down ideas as people drifted by; the more I scribbled the better I felt. I won’t pretend that it doesn’t hurt anymore, when you make someone a gift of your free time and they turn on you it leaves you feeling violated, but I’ve put it into perspective and regained control of my thoughts.


These point&shoot pictures were just to remind me of this therapeutic visit to a beautiful place; if you like them feel free to use them.

I sat by the pond to do some editing but the damselflies flew in!

This afternoon the sun came out and  the humid oppressiveness of the past few days lifted; the air was warm and scented by roses, with just a soft breeze blowing, so I decided to sit by the pond to continue editing Ellie’s story.  Ten minutes later the damselflies arrived in large numbers; I had seen the odd one or two about over the last couple of weeks but today’s visitors were a photographic opportunity I could not let slip by.

2 common blue and 1 large red

9 common blue flying too fast for the mode I was using!

9 common blue flying too fast for the mode I was using!

1 common blue; worth clicking on for a clearer view

I failed to capture a decent shot of the frog in the reeds but I’m sure I heard him saying “eddit, eddit, eddit.”

Promotional stickers on book covers

I am still tweaking my novel but the time has come when I can no longer put off the tricky matter of choosing a cover design. I had not understood the importance of the cover on ebooks when I started writing the story so I’m more anxious about this aspect of digital self-publishing than I had anticipated.

One regular piece of advice is to visit booksellers and see which covers from your genre catch your attention as you walk towards the stands. Earlier this week I went into a well-known High Street shop that sells books, magazines, stationery etc. with the intention of choosing two or three of their top-one-hundred-selling paperbacks  based entirely on my reaction to their front cover design. I have never bought a book without reading the synopsis; this was an experiment to see if the stories fulfilled my expectations created by their covers alone.  My plan was short-lived, however, as every book’s cover was partially obscured by a large red sticker showing the special deal if you bought two books at the same time.  If your book is amongst the top five in the bestsellers list I suspect that this would not bother you, but what if you are a new author whose book has crept into the top one hundred for the first time, someone relying on readers being drawn to their book first because the cover is striking.  I came away without buying any books but will try my experiment again in a proper bookshop where there will, hopefully, be shelves full of naked books for me to admire.

I would like to know how you feel about covers being defaced by large stickers after so much effort has been put into their design so please leave a comment. 

The first rose of summer

One of the roses is flowering and half a dozen of the others have burgeoning buds that will soon open and release their exquisite fragrance; sadly, if this strong north-easterly wind does not stop blowing, nobody will be able to smell it although the residents of the neighbouring village might just catch a whiff as it hurtles past.

Many people who are avid readers of whodunits but not particularly keen gardeners will still know about the thornless climbing rose “Zephirine Drouhin” which appears in Agatha Christie’s story “Sad Cypress.” The photograph I took today shows a sport of that variety, also thornless, called “Kathleen Harrop” but this one is much less well known. It grows against a wall of our house and I have used it in my manuscript as a clue for Ellie.

Kathleen Harrop

Kathleen Harrop

Is angst-free writing ever any good?

Earlier this year, whilst sitting in a waiting room after arriving much too early for a hospital appointment, I had just begun to read my newly purchased issue of a writing magazine when details of a mini-poetry competition caught my eye.  I have never entered a poetry competition, in fact I have not entered any kind of creative writing competition since I left school, but  writing “8 lines incorporating foreign words and phrases”  seemed within my capabilities so I pulled out a pen and the appointment letter from my bag and  less than five minutes later I had written the following lines on the back of the envelope.

Une Visite To The Café

This café looks familiar, I’m getting déjà vu

I think I came here with mon père or was it avec tu

Mon Dieu, it’s that rude garçon who fondled my cheveux

Well if he touches it again I’ll poke him in les yeux

I don’t know what to order, perhaps some fruits de mer

Followed by du canard with lots of pommes de terre

I’ll nibble on some fromage, swig champagne with my brie

Then, when I’m feeling très joyeux, I’ll try that Maître d’

I couldn’t bring myself to the point of actually submitting the mini-poem for the competition and it has taken me weeks to understand why. I was not concerned about rejection of my writing; hundreds of people must enter these competitions every month and only one can win. I was not fearing humiliation as they would be most unlikely to print “the standard of this month’s entries was very high except for the appalling rubbish submitted by Lynne Revette Butler” next to the winning poem; only those involved with judging the competition would  know if I had somehow embarrassingly  misinterpreted the instructions. Eventually I worked out the cause of my reluctance;  insufficient angst during the creative process was to blame. In fact no angst about the content of these lines, not even the slightest trace of it, had disturbed my mind during those few minutes sat in the waiting-room chair or subsequently. I was happy with it from day one. My anxiety  over submitting my poem was due to my lack of anxiety while writing it.

Is this a common feeling if you have not sat up into the early hours with your red pen?  Yes, I know I’m only talking about eight lines of  nonsense, but I cannot get past the feeling that I simply did not suffer enough when I wrote them.

Differences; my discarded “D” post

This is a post I  wrote  for  “D” in the A to Z challenge but I thought the link was rather tenuous and used the piece about writing a Diary instead.  

Whilst editing my manuscript  I noticed that I have unknowingly fallen into the bad habit of using the same word for slightly different meanings rather than using one of the alternatives.  Was I surprised or amazed? According to my dictionaries these words are interchangeable but apparently this was not always the case.

An old anecdote about Dr. Samuel Johnson is a good illustration of this point.  When his wife found him kissing one of the female domestic staff she said “I am surprised.” In response the Doctor said “No, I am surprised, you are amazed.”  Presumably he meant that he had been “caught unawares,”  been “taken by surprise,”  whilst his wife was “taken aback,”  felt “bowled over and flabbergasted.”

Nuances between words in the English language (as taught during my schooldays) are being lost and increasingly one word covers all situations; does this matter when new words to describe our possessions, emotions and actions are entering our vocabulary at a rapid rate? If my grandchildren ever want to experience the full  joy of reading classic literature from past centuries I think it does matter for, rather than just having to look up an occasional unknown word, they may struggle to comprehend the author’s meaning at all.

I know the difference between saying “that’s old-fashioned”  and “that’s so not modern, grandma.” The difference is about 50 years.