The Marination Process

No, that  isn’t a novel title, although having said that it looks a bit as if it could either have a cold war spy theme, or be some sort of bio-thriller. I just thought I would say something about why I always have to leave my writing to lie around doing nothing for a while once I get to the end of the first draft. Because I don’t really have an image that expresses the idea of marination, I will use a picture I took yesterday while waiting for my first tram.

At the tram stop in Shandwick Place

Waiting for the tram

I suppose the link here is that this was a project that took a long time to marinate! Incidentally, until yesterday I felt as if I was the only person in Edinburgh who hadn’t yet sampled the trams. I was reluctantly impressed.

The reason for leaving it to marinate is that I need to get some perspective about the novel, and in particular about the plot, which seemed so logical and believable while I was writing it, and which will probably turn out to be as watertight as a sieve when I read it through again without the pressure of having to make it up as I go along. Why did I introduce a character in chapter 2 and then forget all about him? (It’s quite surprising how often this happens!) Where did the person who was originally supposed to be central to the story disappear to after chapter 23? (Again, this is only too common) What on earth was Mr or Ms X doing in that particular place in the middle of the night?

Sometimes I put off starting again because I already know there is something so badly wrong that I will have to take the whole thing to pieces and start all over again, but on this occasion I don’t think that should be necessary. All the pieces are there and more or less in the right order. I think all I need to do is to explain some aspects of it a bit better. But of course I won’t know that for sure unless I can get to the point where it can begin to surprise me as I re-read it. So I’m using all my will-power and a lot of distraction to stop myself from re-opening the Word file too soon. At this rate I should last at least until Monday.

As usual, ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ is taking a slightly different shape from the one I expected. One of the characters – a new arrival – has decided to do something very silly. Of course that  in itself isn’t all that surprising. If characters didn’t do anything out of the ordinary then novels would be extremely boring. I’m just waiting at the moment to see where this particular example of silliness will lead. When I say ‘waiting’ I mean writing on through it all and desperately trying to get to the right outcome.


Not Pitkirtly but Dunfermline

In some ways I feel as if I go through a time warp when I ‘visit’ Pitkirtly, and I was reminded of this when I went to Dunfermline for the day recently. This isn’t because Dunfermline itself is stuck in the past – far from it –  or because I have based Pitkirtly on Dunfermline, which I haven’t, but because I have memories of it which are stuck in the 1950s, when we used to go there to see my granny, and I also tend to dwell on family history when I go there as I belong to a group of people who are all descended from a coal miner who lived there in the 17th century. Apart from anything else, this shows that it isn’t always just the aristocracy who can trace their ancestry back that far!

I’m about 25,000 words into ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ and starting to consider possible titles for it. I like ‘Night of the Living Elves’ which came to me first thing this morning, but I very much doubt if that is the one it will end up with. I am writing at the rate I planned to write, which means I may finish the first draft by mid-September. There will still be some editing to do before publication.

I’m trying not to take on any other random projects in the mean-time but sometimes I can’t resist them. That was what happened with the Edinburgh ebook festival (this link is for the home page: http://www.edebookfest.co.uk/ – either search for ‘Sheila Perry’ or look for ‘writers’ residencies’ in the drop-down list of categories to find my 3 historical research articles) and also in the case of two articles on bar-coding in museums I was asked to write for a museum registrars’ website called Registrar Trek: The Next Generation.





I bring two pieces of (I hope) good news this morning. After a spell during which I did everything about as quickly as an arthritic slug – my excuse is that the weather was hotter than I am used to! though I expect if we had had a very dark, wet June and July I would have been too fed up to do anything much – I’ve sprung into action again.

coronation cover

Latest cover for The Coronation Quest

This morning in a flurry of activity, not only have I uploaded the image and text file to Amazon for ‘The Coronation Quest’ , but I’m very happy to say I’ve also written a few more words in chapter 1 of ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ which is now well under way. As usual, starting a new Pitkirtly novel is like coming home, with the characters seeming almost as real as members of my family. I hasten to add that I have definitely not based them on people I am related to, except maybe that second cousin I hardly ever see.

The publishing process on Amazon takes a little while so this latest novel won’t be available until later in the day or tomorrow. Once I’ve recouped my strength, probably after lunch, I will embark on the Smashwords process which will deliver it eventually to Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBooks.


I’m spending the morning recharging batteries. Not my own, for once. I feel well and truly recharged after my Nordic tour, though as usual it’s anybody’s guess how long that feeling will last.

Recharging batteries

Recharging batteries

I’m just preparing to go away for approximately 36 hours so I thought I’d better make sure my Kindle(s) and phone were fully charged beforehand so that I can use them on the train. Anyone who has seen my Finland photo collection will be glad I’m not also recharging my camera on this occasion. Perhaps unfairly I don’t expect to find anything worth photographing in Swindon, although I can always use my phone in any photographic emergency.

This past week I’ve spent almost every spare minute in my task of pulling apart the first draft of ‘The Coronation Quest’, a task that is much more rewarding – and quicker – than I thought it might be. If I succeed in not making it any worse by doing this, I am hoping to have it really finished in another couple of weeks. It’s quite annoying having to go to Swindon just now, but on the other hand it means I have an excuse to read a book about Germany after the Second World War on the train. Unfortunately, finding this has reminded me of a short story or novella I first thought of ages ago which might fill in a sort of black hole in the continuing story of Oliver and Flora from the ‘Quest’ series. I say ‘unfortunately’ because I already have enough writing ideas to last me well into next year, if not longer.

Anyway, the reason I mention it is because I downloaded it from Scribd (www.scribd.com) the other day along with some Lonely Planet guides. In case anyone hasn’t heard of Scribd, which I hadn’t until quite recently, it’s a subscription service for books. If you pay a monthly fee you can download as many books from it as you like. It may be good value for people who read a lot / read very fast. I have to admit, though, I have only started to use it because my novels have gone on to the site via Smashwords and at the moment I have a free year’s subscription because of that. In fact, I have only been able to use this at all since I got my Kindle Fire, as it works through an app and the books don’t go into the usual library. I’m still not sure about reading on the Kindle Fire as the glossiness of the screen seems to cause a lot of reflections, but certainly books with pictures such as the travel guides look better on it than on the other Kindle. There are apps for other tablets and phones too. I think there is a free introductory month or something for Scribd if anyone reading this is interested.


After a week in which I spent every evening in the black cavernous space behind the scenes in a theatre, and during the preparations for a week in which I will travel across Europe by train, tunnel, train, ferry, train, ferry and train, give a paper at a conference and return by very nearly the same route, I’ve been taking stock of my writing plans.

Backstage - a prop

Bizarrely taped together prop in black cavernous etc etc.

‘The Coronation Quest’, the first draft of which should be finished by now, has taken an unexpected turn and developed a sort of second wind, which is another way of saying I haven’t got to the end yet. This is slightly annoying in some ways – though good news in the sense that the plot wasn’t making any sense and now it is – as I don’t think I can possibly get to the end before I go away, and as I am not very good at writing fiction while in transit I almost certainly won’t finish until after I get back.

My so-called writing plan for the year, already not working very well even before this, has become even more tangled, to the extent that I may have to re-write it on a new page.

So-called writing plan

So-called writing plan with more squiggles and changes of direction

I realised this morning on the way to work that I don’t *have* to write all my first drafts during NaNoWriMo and its various offshoots. This was a bit of a revelation to me, although goodness knows why it should be, since I managed to complete some novels before I had even heard of NaNoWriMo. Anyway, the result of this flash of sanity was that I decided it would be more realistic to aim at spending the second half of June finishing off ‘The Coronation Quest’, and most of July editing it and ‘Adventure at the National Exhibition’ which is sitting there forlornly on my computer like a rescue dog waiting for a new owner. After that I can go into August happy in the knowledge that I can concentrate on ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ as it’s known at the moment.

Now I’m off to try and capture some amusing video footage of the cat chasing a miniature drone (the kind that’s like a helicopter, not the kind that hangs about beehives doing nothing) which I hope to use during my conference presentation to take people’s minds off museum labelling and storage systems.

The rain-forest is creeping closer to the conservatory where I usually do my writing. However there is nothing tropical about the temperatures around here, and I am still not sure if it’s really spring or not. It would be nice if I could spend the whole day sitting here watching the rain on the roof and the trees bending lower and lower with the weight of water on their leaves and branches, and the magpies and occasional fox appearing to give the illusion that my garden is a wild remote place and not a suburban rectangle. Just as I wrote these words, in fact, I saw a fox emerging from the undergrowth.

Rain on the rowan tree

Rain on the rowan tree

Although I would love to spend the day here, writing the occasional hundred words or so that may lead eventually to the end of ‘The Coronation Quest’, I do have to go out later to move some props into the theatre ready for the next show to be performed by my theatre group. It won’t be much fun moving in today in this weather, but it just has to be done.

A sign that I’m nearing the end of the novel is that I’ve now started to think about what to write next. I do have a vague idea in my head for ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ which I hope to start in July, but I also have two Edwardian novellas (sort of very long short stories) in mind, which is slightly annoying as they are quite a bit more difficult to write, what with research and everything. One of them, as I’ve already mentioned, is ‘Adventure at the Zoological Gardens’, but the other, which sprang into my head while I was researching a previous one, is ‘Adventure at the Palace of Varieties’, and that’s the one that is really jumping up and down shouting ‘Me, me, me!’ at the moment!

[goes off to review writing plan yet again]

I’m still not entirely sure that it’s spring – the heating is still going on every morning, and at least one cat has gone back into hibernation this week. However, the apple blossom is more or less out so that’s something.


I’ve now written just over 38,000 words of ‘The Coronation Quest’ so I must be over halfway through it now. I have some ideas about what may be happening, although there was quite a sticky moment yesterday when I wrote the chapter heading ‘An Unexpected Development’ and then couldn’t think what the development should be.
I am writing this post on my new favourite toy, a Kindle Fire, as a practice run for next month when I hope to blog from some trains between Edinburgh and Helsinki with pictures. Having now watched the last episode of ‘The Bridge’ I am sort of hoping the journey from Denmark to Sweden won’t be at all exciting! But maybe the whole trip will be inspirational – fingers crossed.


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