Learning About Time

Unfinished projects are the bane of my life. Not just crafting projects, of which I have, um, more than enough, but writing projects, life projects, development projects: basically, anything which demands of my time; anything which requires energy in the planning, and then in the doing. Anything which takes longer than, well, my attention span. I mean, how long is a piece of string?

Some projects can keep my attention and energy for months (I’m also looking at a writing project which will take years, and so far *touch wood*, I am not filled with dread); others maybe half an hour. Of course, things like bills also demand attention, and far more persistently than most of my projects, rather like a small, screaming toddler, which cuts into the project-time.

Love-Birds1.jpg

However, I have learned that half an hour, here and there, can get any project done. Perhaps not immediately, but just half an hour a day, or even ten minutes, and it’ll be done sooner than you think. Certainly sooner than if you wait for an entire afternoon, or day, or week, or however long you think the project will take.

Of course, the trick with a stitching project worked in this fashion is simple: make sure, if you make colour changes to your project (or if it’s one you’ve designed yourself), that you make comprehensive notes about the thread-numbers. I found myself with a spare hour to finish this one (minus the outlining, which I’m still trying to work out), and a fair proportion of that was spent in remembering which threads I was using…

 

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.

Advice for Writers about Reading

Advice for aspiring writers is that they should read. Read often, read widely. Fiction, non-fiction, picture-books. Whatever, whenever, as long as you read.

I had a conversation a month or so ago with my mother on the subject of reading How-to-Raise-a-Baby books. There was something in the paper, and I idly asked her if she’d read them before my siblings and I were born, fully expecting her to say no. She’s not that sort of a person. To my surprise, she said yes, she’d got them from the library. The thing was, though, with those sorts of things, that you pick the ones which agree with your own prejudices. So really what you’re doing is finding an ‘expert’ to justify your own ideas on how to raise Baby.

The same, I suspect, applies to seeking advice for all walks of life. Whatever you want to find out How-to, chances are you can find a book which tells you How-to in the way you were going to do it anyway.

Including writing. So I’m probably going to expose my own prejudices on the subject of Writing, by talking about Advice from the Greats (ie, already published).

On the subject of reading, the late great Sir Terry Pratchett said something along the lines of writers needing to read everything but the genre they write – in case of unconsciously recycling what you read.

And this, of course, simply justifies me in my faith of my ability to write fantasy, when I don’t tend to read fantasy as a rule. A version of the advice was given to me years ago by my sister, when I was first attempting a novel. Of the comments she gave me, the one which stood out was “Stop playing Warcraft”, probably because I had stuffed the land with every mythical creature you can think of, including leprechauns, and everyone was a terrible stereotype. I subsequently stopped playing Warcraft and there isn’t even a whiff of gold at the end of a rainbow in my current WIP. Whether this makes it better is entirely subjective. I know there are people out there who happen to like cheesey, cliche novels. Must admit, I’d like it if Regency-romance writers would stop nicking Heyer’s characters and story-lines.

But writing, like raising a baby, is very subjective, and what works for one novel might not work for the next. So read, or not read, the genre you write. Presumably you write it because you enjoy it, and you should enjoy writing because it takes so long to create a good novel.

But you should remember this piece of wisdom from my mother-in-law, who read all the baby-books:

You might have read the books, but Baby hasn’t.