• Writing

    First Day of NaNoWriMo 2012


    Well, I got up early this morning and had a total panic attack – I had no way of picking up my previous notes on the project and making sense of it. I had a lot of ideas, but I’d lost the vision of the whole in the months since I started. I had a lot of shiny, broken bits and pieces and no idea how they should have gone together.

    Note to self: when you have everything clear in your head and it’s all hot and shiny and all you have to do is just manage to not fuck it up…do it. Don’t wait. Don’t set it aside for four months, because when you come back you won’t have any idea how it all fits together.

    So I started writing about things, rather than trying to write the story. I wrote about the various areas that the Carnival will hold, such as the Wild Hunt carousel (which occasionally eats small children). I wrote about the Vagabondi, the clown/tumbler troupe based on commedia dell’arte. Two warring bands of clowns, jugglers and tumblers, one from the Summer Court and one from the Winter Court who perform short impromptu plays throughout the Carnival which mock the Court on the opposing side. They also hint at secrets and imply things in pantomime that most are afraid to whisper out loud, as the night winds carries all secrets to the Queen of Darkness. I described the Marionette Theatre and the King of the Cats, whip in hand…and so far I have something like 2,500 words, over my daily goal of 2000.

    It will all get replaced, of course, but for now it serves a purpose. I haven’t even had the time to blog recently, and I haven’t written anything in a very long time. But my ass is in the chair, and I’m adding words to the count…and as I fall into a groove, hopefully they’ll be more graceful words that I’ll be happy to keep. Which I guess is the whole lesson of NaNoWriMo: Yes, it will most probably suck, but that’s not the point. Try to not suck, of course, but primarily you just need to force yourself through it and put words on paper. In December you’ll start revising and throw most of them away, but at least you’ll have a start.

    Anyway, the video above? That is TOTALLY my marionette theatre. I can picture Perdita in her red shoes dancing there with her painted smile, leaving bloody tracks as she dances.

  • Personal

    Candles for the Dead

    Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a time when the “door” to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them.Samhain on Wikipedia


    During all the panic and muppet-arm waving about NaNoWriMo starting tomorrow, it just dawned on me that at this time last year my father was still alive. The book that I was planning on writing was based on an old story that he used to read aloud to me from a worn book which had been his own as a boy. It was all for him (and the result was indeed dedicated to him).

    I’d flown back to the US in September for my last visit with him and starting that project had a lot to do with finally writing it for him. Not because it was a book that he would like, mind you – but because of the family memories associated with the original book. I finished it before he died and managed to get a rough first draft to him which he was too ill to read, but at least he got to see the dedication. It meant a lot to me.

    I have four sisters, and I suppose we were all “Daddies Girls.” He was such a larger-than-life figure to us all. (And to the community where we lived, to be honest – he did so much for the town and surrounding county. He headed the local Search & Rescue, assisted with creating the local chapter of the American Red Cross, was awarded Reserve Peace Officer of the Year and a Meritorious Service Award from the Sheriff’s Department.) More than that, he was the man who spent every weekend camping with us, or teaching us to hunt, or giving us riding lessons and hauling us to horse shows. He spent one night every month stressing over the household budget for the next month (we weren’t exactly wealthy) with a half-full glass of Scotch at his elbow to ease the pain. He was the strong backbone of our family, and once he was gone we drifted apart.

    So tonight on All Hallows Eve I will light a candle for my father to show that I remember. And tomorrow I will attempt to make sense of my mess of a book idea because he despised quitters, and whiners, and liars – and I will be better than that. He is still my rock.

  • Writing

    Bad Timing

    I’ve done no NaNoWriMo preparation at all so far due to the amount of work that I’ve had and also a bout of flu that just wouldn’t go away. I thought that I’d kicked it, but woke up again last night with a head like a rotten melon and a sick stomach. I’m done with being ill. Thank goodness I rarely get sick, because I readily admit that I am the world’s worst patient.

    At this time last year I’d almost totally outlined my entire project, I had chapter titles, quotes, research, etc., all done and waiting. And this year? Nada. I think I’m going to leave it up in the air until November 1st and decide then what I can do.

    Whoops…back to bed.

  • Writing

    NaNoWriMo Day 22: 50,000 Words

    This morning I finished the NaNo section of my novel (i.e., the 50k part of it) and had to have a quick dance around the room with my arms up making that sotto voce “raaar” sound meant to indicate that large crowds of people are cheering for you. Hey, I know I’m a huge dorkasaurus, but sometimes you just need to pat yourself on the back. :)

    I still have the big final battle, the ending chapters, and all of the bits in between to do – probably another 20k if I’m lucky. That leaves it a bit on the thin side for a novel, but with the illustrations I think it will be fine. I don’t know if other people write like this, but a lot of what I still need to do are transitions and strengthening characters and plot – since I was working in Scrivener, in a chapter and scene type of format, there needs to be a lot of smoothing between those scenes. After I get a reasonable alpha-type draft, then I’ll start the rewriting for a first draft – that one I might show people. It may take a second draft before I let anyone read it.

    There are some scenes and characters that I really, really like. I’d written earlier about accidentally plagiarising a short story that I must have read a post on somewhere, and how disappointing that was to realise. Well, one of my favourite characters has come out of that rewrite, a cocky streetwise girl named Malenka who leads a band of guttersnipes and pickpockets. I love her scenes. And then, on the other hand, there are scenes that I wrote when I was just trying to force out another 500 or 1000 words, and they are as stiff and lifeless as cardboard. The scenes where I was having fun and being in the flow are like night and day to the ones where I was forcing it for the daily wordcount. All of those will have to be rewritten or trashed.

    Overall, NaNoWriMo was a great experience. There is an amazing community of would-be writers (and quite a few professional ones) that support each other. I’ve met some wonderful people, and I very much look forward to reading their books someday. I’ve never had a problem with discipline, but I did have a massive writer’s block before I started. I’ve been thinking about this particular story for decades, literally – and thanks to having a competitive, supportive framework within which to work, I finally got over my fear and did it.

    What was each day like? What did I do to finish NaNo with relatively little despair and bloodletting?

    1. Write at the same time every day.

    I have an advantage in that I am currently not working. I’m trying to build a freelance art business, but my longterm (and pretty lucrative) career as a large-scale ecommerce project manager, UI/UX designer, and developer is over. So, although we may not be able to pay the mortgage much longer, I did have the free time. So I would get up at 5:30 or 6:00am, have breakfast, and write at least 2000 words. Sometimes I wrote more, and I used the cushion for those days when I just couldn’t bear to write anything.

    2. Eat breakfast.

    Sounds dumb, but I think it really helped. I normally don’t eat breakfast, but will have coffee and either dry cereal or some toast. (Dry cereal? Long story. The first time I ever remember noticing someone with body odor was on the schoolbus, and I thought they smelt like Cheerios and milk. I’ve never had milk on cereal ever since, but I love some dry Special K Red Berries.) Anyway, I’ve been forcing myself to cook (cooking is a massive pain in the ass at 5:30am when you’re still half-asleep) and eat it (I felt sick-ish every single morning. Plus the fat from bacon, gammon, etc. did bad intestinal things to me. TMI?). But protein and slow-release energy food really does help, I felt as though my brain was working better. I know, it sounds dumb.

    3. Don’t check mail, or Twitter, or read any blogs until you are done for the day.

    Twitter is the devil. I found that if I just had a quick peek before I started, I would leave it open and check it every two minutes. No Twitter. No surfing. No lolcats. Nada. By the way, I just checked Twitter right now. I have the attention span of a gnat, and have to cut out all distractions because I am easily subverted by Teh Shiny.

    4. Organise and Plan.

    Apologies to pantsers out there, but if I had tried to do that I would probably have struggled to even start, let alone write every day. All through October I did outlines and character sketches, I did my research, collected reference photos, and I got everything set up in Scrivener (which I love with a passion and want to have its babies). I set up a structure in Scrivener with chapters and scenes inside the chapters, with notes on what I wanted to write for each. I did everything that I could do without actually starting to write. When I did start, I knew what I needed to do. If I got stuck on a certain scene, I could move to another since I knew what needed to happen in each one. For me it worked superbly well.

    5. Reward yourself.

    Rewards work. They work for training dogs, and they work just as well for motivating yourself. I know you’re all evolved and all that, but trust me – throw yourself a bone. What I did was allow special treats, such as a stiff drink that night if I’d done enough words – and with me out of work right now, believe me that is a treat. I may think that vodka is another food group, but it is a very expensive luxury that we don’t have very often. I did during NaNo, and it helped. I’m also going to use my 50% off for being a NaNoWriMo winner to buy a copy of Scrivener for my very own, because I have to have it.

    6. Write through the suck.

    You won’t be Shakespeare, or Stephen King, or even Barbara Cartland. Ok, that last one was a joke, but you know what I mean. Don’t fret about it, just write. Even if it is so horrible that you are writhing with embarrassment as you write it, keep the ass in the chair and write de damn words, mon. You’ll make it through the suck part to something that you are actually excited about as you write it. There may even be tears (the good kind). But you’ll never know unless you force your way through the wall of suck.

    7. Don’t give up.

    Again, that sounds too simple and obvious – but I would guess it is probably why most people abandon their projects. They don’t have car accidents or get kidnapped by the Mafia or anything, they just stop believing. Believing in yourself is one of the most difficult things that you can do, trust me. I’ve always struggled with it. I didn’t write this book for most of my adult life due to a simple fear of suckage. Embrace the suck if you have to – it may be bad, but at least you never gave up.

    8. It really helps to have supportive people around you.

    I can’t describe how much my husband helped me just by giving me the space and support to do this. No, I didn’t ask his permission, I’m not a 50s housewife. But we sabotage the ones we love all the time, it’s a human thing. We chip away at each other by being dismissive or threatened or jealous or selfish. Thank you, Phil, for not being any of those things. I’ll make it up to you later. :)

    That’s it, I suppose. We’re having a mini-celebration here, with a bottle of wine and everything. (Hey, a bottle of wine is a real luxury in this house. The French drink it like water, and it’s dead cheap over there. Why is a bottle of mediocre wine so expensive in England?) I wish you your own celebrations and victories as well.

    Oh, and I’ve also started this…illustrations! I haven’t painted in ages, so that is the next challenge.




  • Writing

    The Accidental Plagiarist

    I haven’t posted much lately because I’ve been writing. Or not writing, depending on the day…my mileage varies. Currently I am at 36k words, and have worked out some of the plot kinks that were plaguing me.

    This morning I went to write a scene that I’d been excited about doing, as I could see the whole thing in my head and had had the initial inspiration from a dream. As a matter of course, I usually google names, etc., to make sure that I haven’t inadvertently yoinked a real person’s name or a bit of an existing story that I may have read. And what happened when I googled “clockwork fagin”? This. Now, I know who Cory Doctorow is, and am aware that he is a very good writer. I have For the Win sitting on a shelf but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I swear that I have never read this story. I don’t remember hearing anything about this story, but quite obviously I have.

    How uttery disappointing, that the idea which jumped fully formed into my dreams is not my own. I can see the children with their clockwork limbs gathered around a fire, on which cooks a pot of rat stew. They are comparing the day’s haul of pickpocketed goods, presided over by a robot Faginesque character in tattered black. The fire lights the archways and missing tile of an abandoned and forgotten underground station. Pretty cool, huh? Problem is, it’s not mine.

    So, into the trash with that, and now I’m trying to completely rework those scenes. And that is why I haven’t written anything this morning.

    It’s quite scary, actually, knowing that your mind is quite capable of doing this to you. “Yeah, here you go, a cool-ass scene, from your oh-so-creative imagination. Yes, you are on fire baby, you can come up with this shit even in your dreams.” All writers read, they read voraciously and passionately – I think you would have to, in order to write. And all of that material is sitting there, forgotten, washing around in the depths of your subconscious waiting to be fished up as though it was new, and yours. So dangerous.

    I’m still sad over losing my clockwork thieves and rat stew.

  • Writing


    Had some fun this morning writing the Unseelie masquerade ball scene for my #NaNoWriMo project, and managed to bring my total so far up to about 26 1/2 thousand words. Halfway there, hurrah!

    For reference material, I had looked up scenes from two of my favourite movies, Labyrinth and The Company of Wolves. Labyrinth for the gorgeousness of the dancer, laughing behind their fans, and Company of Wolves for nobles acting like the beasts of the forest.

    And here you go:


  • Writing

    NaNoWriMo: Good Day Seven, Bad Day Eight

    Yesterday I got up to 20,648 words. Today I have nothing. I’ve opened up Scrivener so many times, produce a few lines of rubbish and then close it. Since I am ahead of the targets that I had set, I think I may call this a vacation day and just do something else today. Tomorrow, early, it is back to the grindstone (even if everything does come out as poorly written crap, I’ve written through it before and come out on the other side).

    Today will just have to be a do-over.

  • Writing

    NaNoWriMo, Days Five & Six

    The writing is going better now, I finally hit my stride and although I’m not trying for large numbers (usually just hitting right around my original 2k per day target) it seems to be flowing a lot more easily. Part of it is that I am taking the time to think about what I am writing a lot more, and the whole process is a lot more enjoyable. I’m still remaining disciplined about editing (aside from the odd spelling error which I fix at the time, I am not going back to re-read or re-work anything at all). I am even having fun at times, in my slow and limping way.

    I woke this morning with the remnants of a dream still in my head and wrote down the following: “mudlarks, tatterdemalions, the childrens’ rat stew, clockwork Fagin”. The leftover image from the dream was of a robotic Fagin-esque character presiding over a tattered group of child pickpockets and thieves. Many of the children had been turned out of the workhouses when they lost limbs in the factory machinery, and he would “fix” them with clockwork limbs. And I suppose they all ate tasty rat stew at the end of the day. :)

    The odd thing? Phil said that he’d woken with “It’s The Hard Luck Life” running through his head, as though my dreams had seeped through from my brain to his in the night. Weird.

    Anyway, currently at 16,248 words.

    PS: Do you think googling “floor plans british museum” and “security measures british museum” will get me on a surveillance list? :D

  • Writing

    The Queen of Procrastination

    I am the very queen of procrastination today. I’ll do my original goal of 2,000 words – I think I did most of that this morning. But the rest of the time that I spent sitting at my desk?

    1. Twitter. Twitter is the devil.
    2. NaNoWriMo site, going through forums. Because it’s part of NaNo, right? Community and all that? Surely that counts. *HONK* Fail.
    3. Reading a book about writing. Again, although helpful, it doesn’t count. Writing words counts, reading them…not so much.
    4. I did several versions of a cover for my unwritten novel. Sorry, let me place the stress where it needs to go: my UNWRITTEN novel. Epic Fail.
    5. Gaming news.
    6. Facebook.
    7. Opened Scrivener 3,789 times, changed a few things, wrote a paragraph or two. Yaay me.
    8. *cries*


    (real name removed, of course)

  • Writing

    NaNoWriMo: Day Three, Painfully

    Yeah, I read all the posts and the writing books where real writers remind all of us wanna-be ones that writing is work. Hard work. Not all fairy farts and giggles and words just flying out of your head on sparkly wafts of inspiration.

    Perspiration would be more like it. I’m at 10,741 words today and I feel as though I dug each bloody one of them out of my brain with a spoon. That was harder than most of the day jobs I’ve ever had.

    Any time that muse wants to show up and sprinkle some of that magic wordglitter around, the door is open. I’ll be the one with my head inside the oven, computer is upstairs. Knock yourself out.