A Room of One’s Own

Completing a novel is all about writing. About finding the time to write, every single day, whether for five minutes and a hundred words or eight hours and two thousand. It’s also about having the space to settle down, hopefully undisturbed, to use that time to write.

I lost the habit of writing in the last six months of last year, except for blog-posts. It’s easily done when Life makes other demands. Life does that, sadly. No time, no energy.

It didn’t help that the room I meant to use as my Stitchery and Office was filled with all the junk we hadn’t managed to get rid of just yet. There was barely space for my laptop, let alone me. No space, either. I can write while curled up on the sofa, but there are distractions.

Last week, though, the spare room became this:

Stitchery Office

Clean, tidy, and available for use. So far (touch wood), it’s working. I am writing again.

There is much to be said for Virginia Woolf’s claim that a woman requires money and a room of her own in order to write. Certainly the room is indispensable. Money would be nice, too, but we can’t have everything…

And yes, I do sit on the giant bean-bag, and yes, I do know how bad it probably is for me to spend so long hunched over the desk with no back-support.

It’s comfy, and I like it.

 

Lost for Words: Fire-Flaught

The internet is a many-coloured thing, with lots of wonderful resources. Is there anything more useful than knowledge at one’s fingertips?

I like knowing things. Nothing specific, just things. Lots of things. Random things. Obscure things. Details.

But of all the resources the internet has to offer me, one of my very favourites is the OED Online. For those who don’t know the OED – basically, I like reading a dictionary. But not just any dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary.

The reason I like the OED so much is that it doesn’t just tell me what a word means. It tells me how the word joined the English language and how long ago. It tells me who has used the word, and when, and in what context. It tells me the history of the word, and its spelling variations.

And I am incredibly grateful that my (several) library cards grant me free access to this wonderful resource. Sadly, at about 26 volumes and around £1K, I cannot afford the space or money for the paper copy, much as I would love one. And yes, I collect library cards. One day I would like to have joined every public library service in the UK (a bit ambitious the way governments like to close them, but I can dream).

Anyway, the reason I mention all this is because I thought it would be fun to share words. I like words and languages (although I’m not generally very good at speaking them).

My chosen word today is the noun  Fire-Flaught, which is a flash of lightning in the Scottish/N. English dialect. Apparently it was used interchangeably with fire-slaught by some authors, which is the older of the two, but that is now rare (interestingly, though, the most recent citation the OED has of it is 1999, whereas fire-flaught was most recently used in 1996).

The origins of fire-flaught seem distinctly Germanic, with fire having many cognates in the dead languages of the Dutch and North German tribes, and flaught  probably having roots in the Old English and Norse words for ‘flaying’.

I quite like the image of a lightning bolt as flaying the earth with fire.

Which words do you like?

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

As any veteran NaNo-er knows, the key to a successful NaNoWriMo is good preparation: spending October planning your project and doing your research, so you don’t get stuck in the middle of November because you don’t know what’s happening or where you’re going or how such-and-such works.

What a prospective NaNo-er does not need is an unfinished craft project Christmas present of the variety which requires time, energy, and obsession of the variety required for NaNoWriMo.

CrossStitcher Robo Family

For some reason after finishing my previous project, I lost the will a little and had a few days away from my stitching. So I’m a little behind and will be spending this week stitching like crazy to have as few distractions as possible from NaNoWriMo.

Which, incidentally, looks like it might be an attempt to finish the Novel, since in my break I began to chip away at that again. Funny how life and plans work like that! Like computers and threats to replace them when they have hissy fits and don’t work…

Complicating Circumstances

There comes a point when making a Big Decision when you realise one thing: you’re making it too complicated.

You become all twisted up in the pros and cons, and then you realise that actually, only one thing matters, and that makes the decision for you. And suddenly it wasn’t all that much of a Big Decision after all. It probably is, in the sense that it will drastically alter your life, but not in the grand scheme of things. It’s just what’s right for you.

Mark and I have been working on a Big Decision recently, and I realised that this over-complication of matters applies equally to my writing, especially what I think of as my “Miscellaneous” blog-post (that’s this random one at the end of the week when I write it. If you were wondering).

You see, when I started all this malarky, I wanted it to be profound and literary. To showcase how beautifully I write, and how original and intelligent my thoughts. I wanted it to be perfect, the sort of writer’s essay which gets collected up into a book and published as Something Important to Say. To make you think.

Every single week.

Which is really over-ambitious. And ridiculously arrogant. And over-complicated for what my blog is, which is to provide me with a space to write regularly – even if not on the novel I should be writing – and to ramble my thoughts.

The result of my deliberations about complications is simple: I’m going to stop trying so hard – save perfection for that novel and any other fiction – and here shall lie the trail of destruction which follows as I wander down that path to finished stories.

I shall endeavour not to repeat my rants too often – nothing worse than someone complaining about the same thing over and over again and never seeming to do anything about it.

Life is complicated, so simplify it as best you can.

The October Question

Now that the nights are drawing in and the weather’s turning damp, and you’re wondering if it’s time yet to put the heating on or whether another jumper will keep cold from creeping into your bones, it’s that time of year when writers the world over have a decision to make.

NaNoWriMo, or not NaNoWriMo?

Are you ready for the annual challenge to write a fifty-thousand-word brand shiny new first draft? From scratch. Or are you still busy with last year’s, editing or rewriting, and can’t afford to invest a month in another story? Or are you just going to have a writing holiday, away from novels? Perhaps you’ll decide instead to do the blogging equivalent, NaBloPoMo, with a post-a-day-commitment.

Last year, still busy with the previous year’s NaNo draft, I opted for the blogging version.

This year, I’m still busy with that novel. Well, I say busy, but really, I’ve stalled a bit in my writing of the second draft (I don’t count all the previous edits as separate drafts. This second one is a complete re-write). I have about a third of it, and for (Real World) reasons I shan’t bore you with, I have become a bit stuck.

And I’m the sort of person who likes to finish one big project almost completely before I start another. Which means that I don’t really want to think about another novel until I’ve at least got this one to a stage where I’m happy that all I have left to do is a final edit. So I don’t really want to tackle NaNoWriMo this year.

But equally I don’t want to do the blog-a-day either. I’m happy with my current level of two to three posts a week. It’s taken me a while to reach it, and I’d rather not disrupt it.

So my final decision is this: I’m going to attempt to write short stories, total word count fifty thousand, about my world, both pre- and post the period my novel takes place in. My hope is that in doing so, I shall find a way back to Raganbald, and when we reach December, I shall be able to fly through the rest of that second draft.

What are your plans for NaNoWriMo?

In the World of My Mind

It’s a strange thing to write about writing without writing about what it is that I’m writing. It’s the same to talk about dreams, and living the dream, without actually saying what that dream is.

I’ve never been very good about talking about specific plans. Vague ones, about the utopia of working from home and the self-employed dream of being about to drop everything to have lunch with friends or to go shopping, well – sure, no problem. I can talk about those plans until the cows come home, while bemoaning the boringness and drearyness of the job which currently fills so much of my time. That’s easy.

But committing myself to a specific plan, sitting down and working out exactly how to make those vague dreams a reality? Well, that’s a smidgeon harder. And I’ve never been one for explaining my process or talking about what I’m up to. I much prefer to present things as fait accompli. I suppose if I don’t let anyone know, I can’t disappoint anyone. Except myself, when I continue to be doing a deadly dull and creatively stifling job. Ah, but one day -! One day, all this shall be over, and that dream, which I’m still just dreaming, shall be true.

DSCN1677

The World of my Mind has been flitting recently. Having given me an Ah-Ha about my current novel and potential series for the world, my mind got me a quarter of the way through the re-write and then decided it would much rather cross-stitch and sketch patterns. When I’ve got my Christmas stitching out of the way (and yes, finally done the 24th mini-kit for the Advent calendar!), I shall begin to stitch samples of them and plot them on my shiny cross-stitch software. And then, maybe, I shall begin the process of talking to HMRC.

And maybe also, I shall find days when I can sit and write, especially now that those two chapters which were giving me such grief seem to have concluded themselves in a suitable fashion, at least for this draft.

To return to the opening statement about writing about writing without writing about one’s writing, I suppose one reason why I don’t like to talk about this work in particular, except in vague terms, is because it’s a fantasy, sort of, but it’s not an epic, or fantasy in the stereotypical sense (and here’s where fantasy-readers shout me down about the stereotype being unfair). What I mean is, it isn’t a quest, or full of fights and warfare, or particularly full of magic, or any of the other things normally associated with fantasy.

It’s about a relatively peaceful world and an Emperor chosen by the Gods who is, perhaps, not the greatest choice, because he is the youngest son and the baby of the family. And it’s about the prophesised end of this world. And it’s not a trilogy. It’s a stand-alone, although I have plans for other books for this world.

This, then, is the World of My Mind now, as I come to the end of my early twenties.

Knowing about Writing

“I’m going to write fantasy,” I announced, with all the confidence of a fourteen-year-old who hasn’t thought it through. “Then, if I don’t know something, I can just make it up. No research!”

“Hm,” said my dad, with that parental expression of unimpressed but trying not to discourage.

He’s not a writer, I thought, what does he know?

Turns out, more than I do.

To write convincingly, whether fiction or non-fiction, you have to know your subject matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re making it up or not: you still need to know it, inside-out and back-to-front. You don’t need to have experienced it, but you do need to be able to research it, and to be able to imagine how it feels.

And yes, in the grand scheme of things, if you don’t know or can’t find something out, you can just “make it up”, but make sure it makes sense with the rest of your story. And you’ll have to know how it fits in.

My suspicion, based on my current WIP, is that the key to this is Proper Planning. That way you don’t get sudden surprises half way through a chapter. And you don’t need to rewrite the entire manuscript.

You have to know what you’re writing about, whatever that is.