Camp NaNo, July 107

I made a decision a few weeks ago that the only way I am going to get to do what I want in life, as opposed to a series of pay-the-bills jobs, is by creating the job I want to do. To take control, in effect.

This might sound simple, and a bit of a Duh! thing to say, but taking control is not something I do. I am not a leader; I can only just decide what I want to eat from a menu, usually when the waiter appears to take the order because everyone else at the table has already decided. At that point I just pick something.

You may have noticed some small changes around my Cocoary. This is a part of my Taking Control.

I have found, though, since making this decision, that I am generally happier in the life and job (which I dislike) which I am currently living and doing. I have also found that something has clicked and I have more energy and enthusiasm to pursue my dreams. This is the most important change, I think. Never underestimate the power of having energy and a clear head. The job I dislike no longer gets me down like it did. My brain, which previously wasted a lot of energy thinking and dreaming of ways out, is free, now, to concentrate on the Way Out.

And so, to Camp NaNo July 2017.

I believe I have an account, but you won’t find me in the campsite. I’m not a people-person, sorry. Bit too busy for me.

Anyway, my plans for the camp which begins in the next few days are reasonably simple.

I have two story ideas currently competing for attention; they have been for the last few years. One is the story which I wrote for the first NaNoWriMo I completed in 2013, and still haven’t rewritten or polished to *er-hum* someone’s exacting standards, and the other is one which has been expanding, slowly, since the first scene wrote itself in my head on the way home from work while it was supposed to be working on the first story. Ideas are like that. However, both are at the point where they could, conceivably, be written (or rewritten in the case of the former) probably without too much difficulty.

In the spirit of taking control, though, and with the experience of writing without a plan something of a painful memory, my Camp NaNo goal is thus:

To write a plan, a synopsis, a detailed description, of both stories.

Quick Novels

‘Anyone can write a novel, given six weeks, pen, paper, and no telephone or wife.’

Evelyn Waugh

With the first week of NaNoWriMo behind us, I thought a quick round-up of some famous novels written in under six might help to encourage all those whose pens have stilled for various reason.

First up, Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, written in six weeks while convalescing for a war-injury in the spring of 1944. I really enjoyed Brideshead. I like the language and the imagery, I like the way it deals with Catholicism (Waugh was a Catholic), and I like the bittersweet ending.

A childhood favourite, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was written in just three weeks. I always liked Jo – I think there’s something about the name in fiction whereby she has to be feisty and a writer (Jo in The Chalet School, anyone?) – and Beth’s near-death was always emotional, no matter how many times I read it.

For people who think mysteries are all about obsessive plotting, A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story, was also written in just three weeks, while Arthur Conan Doyle ran a medical practice.

And Robert Louis Stephenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in about two weeks. I found that one strange. I don’t remember it being particularly horrifying, perhaps because of already sort-of knowing the story.

To be fair, none of these are particularly long books, all quite reasonable lengths but not door-stoppers, but I do think that Evelyn Waugh has a point about the lack of distractions. Would be nice not to have to worry about the Real World and such pesky things as bills and so on. Would make it much easier to write a novel.

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.

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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.

The Real and the Imagined

A year or so ago, in a Swedish class, we read several articles about people who “make friends” with TV characters. Or at least, consider TV characters their friends. They worry about what’s happening. They share in the ups and downs.

Now, I don’t exactly consider series characters as my friends, but I do get caught up in the emotions of a series. (If it’s a good enough series, that is.) I don’t normally watch many series as they’re being aired. I’m normally on catch-up. So I have lots and lots of episodes to watch at any one time. And I watch them. Obsessively. The TV equivalent of not being able to put the book down.

At the moment, I’m obsessively watching Criminal Minds. This is a bit tricky because my partner doesn’t like it much, so I can’t watch it when he’s about. But I do when he’s not.

I was a bit cross last November when Netflix ran out of episodes at the end of Season 4. That was upsetting. But I got my mitts on more a couple of weeks ago (thank you, Amazon Lovefilm!), and I’m already on Season 7.

Season 6 was devastating in more ways than one, and I’m thankful that Season 7 has made it right again. I’m not going to go into details because of spoiler-potential. But suffice it to say that the afternoon I spent finishing Season 6 was something of a tear-jerker.

My point, though, is this. I find the Fictional World infinitely more emotional than the Real World. Perhaps it’s because in the fictional world, I know what’s going on, but I can’t do anything about it. I can see trouble miles off (like the Wrath of God in The Raiders of the Lost Ark), but my favourite characters can’t, and I can’t stop them doing something stupid. And even when I can’t, and something leaps out to endanger them, the stress is such that I really don’t want to know what it’s like if a real person I care about gets got. Like the end of Season 4 of Criminal Minds. Too stressful and terrifying for words. I was really cross with Netflix for ending it there! (If you’re listening/reading, O Person at Netflix who Chooses New Content: the rest of Criminal Minds would be greatly appreciated. And White Collar, please. Ta!)

But normally, I assume that people in the Real World can take care of themselves, and their plights are generally less emotional. I can distance myself in a way which I can’t when I’m reading or watching something. Or maybe I’m just weird. Anyone else out there who cares more for the Fictional World than the Real World?