Happy New Year - and a bit of advice.

2013 was mixed, to say the least. For several much loved friends and a few relatives, it was, not to put too fine a point on it, a pig of a year. I was glad to see the back of it on their behalf and found myself hoping for much better things from 2014.

But there were good points and highlights too, chief of which - for me - was working with the wonderful Saraband - a publisher in a million - to prepare my historical novel The Physic Garden for publication both in paperback and as an eBook. I love the new cover which is from an old sampler embroidered by Janet McNiel in 1819. (And many thanks to Glasgow Museums for permission to use it.)

Saraband won the Saltire Society's inaugural Scottish Publisher of the Year award in 2013. You can read all about it here. But essentially, they judged that Saraband had 'responded to industry changes and moved Scottish authors to the heart of its business.' All true. And as far as I'm concerned they are the most helpfully collaborative publisher I have ever worked with.  A unique pleasure and I very much hope to continue working with them. Meanwhile, the paperback of The Physic Garden will be published in late March, with the eBook being available quite a bit sooner. I'll certainly keep you posted.

On this dark and dreary New Year's Day I've been sitting in a cosy room in our 200 year old cottage, drinking tea, watching old movies, making notes and plans for the coming year's work and occasionally falling asleep. It was a late night last night: an excellent Scottish Hogmanay party, with good food and champagne too. I'm not beating myself up about not putting all those plans into action until next Monday 6th January. I love this quiet time in the middle of winter where you feel justified in going into hibernation mode.

But before I sign off for tonight - here's a little piece of advice for all those friends and acquaintances who keep telling me that they 'want to write' but can't seem to find the time or motivation. This kind of advice is fairly rare for me. I'm always happy to talk to groups and classes about research and the writing process, but I tend to believe that if somebody really wants to write, then that's what they'll do. The late Pat Kavanagh once said to me that she thought people should only write something if they felt they couldn't bear NOT to write it, and I've found myself agreeing with her more and more as the years have gone by.  If a friend says to me that he or she wants to play the piano (something I can do reasonably well)  I'll chat about teachers, but if, a couple of years later, I find that the same friend has done nothing about it, it's no big deal. I'll just assume it was a passing fancy. She might well be perfectly happy playing Chopsticks or busking a tune for her own pleasure - and that's absolutely fine too.

But just because it's 1st January, and the time for resolutions and people are still telling me that they really want to write - here's a thought.

If you write only 500 words a day for  300 days of 2014 (which would give you a pretty hefty 65 days off!) you will have 150,000 words by this time next year. That equates to a doorstop of a novel, or a novel and a half, or three longish novellas, or two novels of reasonable length.

500 words is easy peasy. They don't have to be the best written 500 words in the history of literature. Just part of an ongoing story. Everyone can find the time for 500 words. You could get up an hour earlier, or go to bed an hour later or even - if you're an insomniac like I am, from time to time - get up, make a cup of tea and scribble or type for an hour. Just as long as you put your bum on the seat, put words on a page and go on doing it.

I've already written more than 500 words on this blog post. It didn't take long. In reality, you'll find yourself writing more than that, once you get going. You'll also find that life events sometimes intervene - but then you've always got those 65 days in hand. And you will probably find that once you get to the 80 or 90,000 word mark, (about 180 days) you'll want to stop and devote the remainder of the year to reworking and revising what you've written.

This should be a whole lot easier than trying to find the time and space to write a novel in a month, especially when you're new to the craft. But you'll still finish up with a manuscript by this time next year. And as with every other craft, practice makes perfect.

Whatever you decide to do - good luck with it - and a very happy and successful New Year to my friends and readers and all those lovely friends who are readers, which is pretty much all of them.



Wishing you a very Happy New Year, Catherine, and great success with The Physic Garden and all you do in 2014! I'm also gearing up to getting back to work properly on Monday - seems a more suitable day to get serious.
Thank-you, and the same to you, Rosemary. I quite like celebrating the 'twelve days' of Christmas. Decorations will come down on Sunday and - like you - I'll be back to work on Monday!