Posts filed under ‘Writing’

Quiddity

I learnt a new word today, reading a blog from the British MuseumΒ by Peter Sheppard SkΣ•rvedΒ – quiddity! It apparently means ‘thingness’ which is a wonderful concept as well. I do like it when I encounter a new word to add to my collection of obscure and interesting ones. Especially if I like both the sound and the meaning.

I like it so much it is now officially my Word of the Year and I shall endeavour to use it at any available opportunity.

The question is, do I like it enough to oust my previous favourite word from its top spot? Time will tell, but it would be quite an achievement as I am very fond of the word farctate.

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January 24, 2014 at 6:24 PM 1 comment

New(ish) Year Post

It’s still the first week of the New Year, that will just have to be good enough. And if we start the year as we intend to continue then that will have to suffice. Better to do something a bit late than not at all, right?

And on the bright side, it can’t be a much worse year for the blog than last year. I was a bit shocked to discover how few posts I did last year, except that month I did the Jackie Gauntlet challenge. Shameful. I apologise. And I intend to do better this year. Honest πŸ™‚

Of course we all know where good intentions lead…

But they have to be better than bad intentions?

Anyway, enough of that. Last year was a bit up and down. The worst bit was at the beginning, when I had to give up my PhD. I’d love to be able to say I’m completely over that, but it still irks me. I am moving on though, and the best thing about last year was achieving a Big Goal which I have been trying on and off to do almost all my life, writing a novel! At least the first draft, which is a long way from finishing one, but it is a huge step which I had not managed before.

Other good things about last year were learning bobbin lace and learning to knit. And felting, as well as the machine, I also learned wet felting and nuno felting, though I haven’t blogged about them yet.Β And I wrote a few poems.

As for the year of finishing things, well, the less said the better. I finished the first draft, OK? And a few other things. But not noticeably more than other years. I prefer starting things anyway πŸ™‚

So much for last year, this year is a new start. It has not felt like much of a new start yet. My energy levels have been the worst ever, which is depressing, which I need to resist as depression saps energy. Nasty vicious cycle and very hard to break with chronic arthritis. And when I say poor energy levels, I really mean unutterably shockingly appalling. Like not having the energy to anything for a whole day, and not the next day either. Not getting up, not knitting, not blogging or writing, just reading, watching telly or wasting time online. Today has been a bit better, obviously, as I am writing this πŸ™‚ and I also managed to tidy my bathroom a bit.

I don’t like blogging about stuff like that. It is the reality of my life, but not very cheerful or interesting. I prefer to write positive blog posts, which is partly why I have done so few last year. Not that it is the only reason, it maybe accounts for somewhat over half the time, the rest is because I was too busy doing interesting things which I could have blogged about, except for being too busy actually doing them. And then too tired recovering from them. And then on to the next new thing.

So, what about this year?

Jackie is doing a seriesΒ of 30 day challenges, one a month, which is a nice idea and I have tried it before, or at least having a primary focus to each month. That was two years ago and the January went great, I worked really hard on the HBP (House Beautification Project) and achieved a lot (and it’s kind of depressing to compare how much energy I was able to dredge up even then in the throes of my stress condition to how little I have right now, but I won’t go there). It slackened off the next month though, which surprised me, as I was supposed to be focusing on creativity, which I enjoy, while I don’t enjoy tidying up. And then it fell apart when my Mum’s cancer came back. But she’s soldiering on and the treatment is still working so far, I pray it keeps working, she has more this month and it gets harder each time, but further apart at least.

I might join in some months, but this month I have just not started well, so that’s not going to be my plan this time.

I’m not really sure I have a plan. No, let’s be quite brutally honest: this year, I have no plan. Which doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad year or one where I don’t get anything done (I hope!) because I am going to hold on to the hope that I will improve, at least when the weather does in spring. OK so that’s a while off yet and the weather is set to get worse first, but what can I do? Move to Spain? Nope. So all I can do is hunker down and try to get through the bad weather and hope I will improve, and try to improve.

Do I win the prize for most optimistic New Year post yet? πŸ˜€ Maybe the booby prize for most pathetic…

I do have Big Scary Goals though. I might not be feeling positive about them right now, but I did manage to write that first draft and I loved it. Of course, now I have a Crappy First Draft TM to edit and it seems like a big pile of horse turds, but it will be good practice to try and turn that big pile of horse turds into useful manure a really great final draft. Also it would be so exciting and fun and a big learning curve to self publish it, so that is an adventure I’m terrified ofΒ looking forward to.

And I want to write at least one more first draft – of course I have the ideas for about 3 or 4 jostling for attention and I did begin one over Christmas πŸ™‚ but I need to properly outline it and not jump the gun and ruin it. It is very tempting to switch focus to another first draft (they are safer and less scary than editing something into a shape where someone else might actually be allowed to read it!) so I shall need to find some discipline from somewhere. Maybe I can borrow it from the part of me which can sit there with a big box of chocolates and not eat them which bemuses my husband and sister so much. Then of course I might get fat again from eating all the chocolates…

I also want to learn knitted cables and finish more things. And I want to participate in this excellent challenge to make historical clothing which will be a useful motivator to get my kit in order for re-enacting, which I’d love to do more of as I haven’t managed much these last few years. I would love to get an old caravan to do up so I can get to more shows, but that is a bit of a pipe dream. The challenge will also be fun for making some stuff to go with my collection of antique clothes which I have not mentioned much here, except the parasols I think.

And of course I need to blog more! I have lots of stuff to blog about.

I could try to blog once a week. I’m not very good at weekly goals (I tend to forget which day it is and think it’s still the same week when it’s actually three months later) but that is no reason for not trying. I know one way is to try and do it on a set day of the week, but again, that is not so easy when you have fluctuating energy levels. I can try though. Let’s see how it goes.

What do you think then? And what about your goals or resolutions or whatever?

January 6, 2014 at 8:01 PM 2 comments

I wrote a novel with NaNoWriMo!

Hello bloggy friends, long time no blog, sorry πŸ™‚

Posts full of excuses about why the blogger has not blogged for ages can be so boring (I know, I wrote enough of them when I was trying to blog every day a few years back…) so I’m not going to write one. But I do at least have a reasonably good excuse for the month of NaNovember (that’s not a typo, it’s been my new name for this month for the last few years) because I was busy writing the first draft of a novel. I have done this before and I think I must have mentioned it here too, because every year at this time I join the massive online writing project that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, though it ought to be InNo really because it is totally international).

That link ought to take you to my wonderful stats page, which shows how many words I wrote each day, it is a very encouraging graph which shows the novel growing. This is my best ever NaNo graph. It is my 5th year of doing it and my 5th win, but my first time to actually complete what I wrote all the way to “The End”. All those other times I hit 50k, breathed a huge sigh of relief, patted myself on the back and stopped writing.

Part of the reason why is because I had not really got a proper plan or outline. And my goal was 50k, not completion. So this year, I decided, would be different. This year, I would not only win, but finish my first draft.

I think I may have had some kind of plan about that way back at the beginning of the year… something about a Year of Finishing Things? Anyone remember that? Well, it didn’t go all that well, I don’t think I finished a whole lot more things than any other year. But my most important goal for finishing something was the first draft of a novel, any novel. I tried quite hard in the first part of the year, but whether it was me not being ready yet or some other thing it didn’t happen. Then there were the moths. Did I blog about the moths? I can’t remember, but if not then I might round to it, if I can bear it.

But NaNo was always my backup plan. I thought, even if I don’t manage it in the rest of the year, surely I can get a good head start in NaNovember and push on to finish it before the year ends. I totally never expected to actually finish in one month! And it’s not the novella I half expected, my final word count was 87363 words! (Including those two special ones, “the end” πŸ™‚ )

And not only did I not stumble to a halt just past the 50k mark, which I was half afraid of, I sped up after hitting that! I had a 10k day πŸ™‚ and many others were 5 or 6k, I could hardly believe it. I did feel the elusive end was receding the more I wrote at one point, but then I reached it on Friday 29th and was elated.

So, how did I manage it? I did a number of things differently this year.

1) I had a smaller, more achievable idea. My ideas tend to get out of hand. (A bit of that happened anyway and I do have to edit heavily.) So, I thought, instead of some huge grand idea, I will write a small book about something simple.

2) I planned and outlined, right up to the final scene. Some of it did change as I wrote, but I did reach that scene almost as I had visualised it. And some of the early scenes which I had visualised several times as I impatiently awaited the beginning of the month almost wrote themselves, as if I was just describing what happened on a TV screen in my head. For the first time, I even began at midnight.

3) I picked something for which the research would be fun and easy, and which I would not get hung up about like something based on my academic research. My novel is about antique dealers. I don’t think I’ve got around to mentioning this fairly new hobby of mine on here, but for a bit over a year now I have been into antiques. That’s a subject for another post, but since I find it enormous fun to go to antique shops and fairs and have become friendly with some of the dealers, I thought that would make research fun (and be a great excuse for shopping!) so I did some interviews in October once I had my idea. I also went to an auction for the first time and bid on stuff! (My husband despairs as the house fills up…)

4) My goal was the completion of the draft, not 50k. I would have counted it a win if I got to 47k and the end, more than 87k and no end in sight. That meant that although I was happy to reach 50k and win NaNo I kept going because I had not reached my goal yet.

It has been the most fun NaNo ever, even better than my first, which I loved. I think I sped up towards the end for the same reason that you read faster at the end of a book, you really want to know what happens next, and the only way I could find out was to write it. I still have a lot of work ahead with it, but I am excited to do it because I have never got this far before. Although I had a plan and stuck to the general outline, I did allow my characters a lot of leeway and some of them took it, in spades. Give an inch and they take three miles. But I am not worried, their antics carried me over the finishing line and I can rework everything in edits, even if it means changing 90% of the thing!

So I hope to end the year a lot happier than how I began it, having achieved a Big Scary Important life goal πŸ˜€

Next year – editing and who knows, maybe even publishing!

How are your goals going?

December 7, 2013 at 7:16 PM 6 comments

Progress on Getting Things Done

Well, keeping up the blog slipped a little 😦

Still, I’m writing it now!

Other progress has been good though so I’m not going to feel guilty πŸ˜€ I can tick off one of the things from my list as completely finished, which is the needle felted penguins, which I promptly handed over without managing to take a photo of them finished – typical. I shall try and remember to get one and share it at some point.

The before picture - they are now three complete penguins with little wings as well.

The before picture – they are now all complete, with little wings as well.

The Victorian crochet is stuck, which is the point at which I usually give up and start something else. If I continue and finish the pattern they will be too long, so I need to try fixing it together and trying it on my foot properly, not just pulling it into shape, which I haven’t got round to. Not a hard job, but requires more thought than simply following the pattern. I will get to it though!

But the best progress, though not yet finished, is to the HBP, which I have decided is to be the primary focus of this month. (For my new followers this was begun last January and stands for Home Beautification Project, a more creative and fun sounding name for tidying, cleaning and sorting out the house!) I took advantage of the husband being away for the weekend visiting his mother to completely empty my bathroom and clean it thoroughly.

I had to do it while he was away as you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and he can’t stand walking on the eggshells! By which I mean he hates the mess and I clogged up most of his upstairs space with my crap, which I had to try and clear before his return.

So as soon as he was off I began the work. It was hard because I was feeling a bit tired, having been woken by next-door Β sawing at 8am when I’d not fallen asleep until around one (I like my 8 hours!) but I pressed on. Over the course of two days I cleared the floor, swept it, washed it (using my feet to push the cloth around which I can’t say was easy but I doubt I could have finished the job any other way with my arthritis, and Dvorak helped with his Slavonic dances!) vacuumed cobwebs off the ceiling, dusted the windowsill and all the glass bits which were on there, cleared the stuff out of the bath and around it, cleaned the stupid cat litter thing for training cats to use the toilet instead of normal cat litter (Pebble never got on with it, though I did try!) so I can give it away (if anyone local wants it drop me a line and it’s yours, otherwise it’s going to a charity shop!)

Of course I was utterly knackered by all that and had to have frequent rests. I was fortunate to have a couple of days where my joints were not too bad. I had been concerned that working so hard on the Friday would mean I might swell up and be in too much pain to continue but God answered my prayers and I was able to carry on! My muscles ached but that was a nice change πŸ™‚ However, I can’t say the same about Sunday as it did catch up tome then, especially washing the floor I think. I was not only very tired but quite painful so I was not able to finish putting everything back. Still, he was so pleased with what I had done that he is graciously putting up with the mess until I feel better enough to finish, which I have sadly not managed yet. That is the price I pay, it often takes longer to recover than to do the tiring thing, even when I can manage it at all.

My nice clean bathroom :) (yes there is less than loveliness lurking behind the door, I'll show that area another time when it is finished!)

My nice clean bathroom πŸ™‚ (yes there is less than loveliness lurking behind the door, I’ll show that area another time when it is finished!)

But the bathroom is so much nicer now. I have been making grand plans to change the storage in there so it works better and never gets so out of control. I have a bad tendency to pile up my clothes in there and it makes a huge awful mess. I shall post again on the changes once they are made, as my plans are not likely to be of interest.

But until I sort that out, I can’t sort the rest, so poor old husband has to put up with half the mess (I did put half of it back).

Oh bum! I am such an idiot 😦 I should know better than to write while I try to keep an eye on an ebay auction. I was going to put a bid on something and totally forgot until five minutes after it ended. That’s not even the first one I missed today! It went for Β£1.04 – how frustrating! Well, I’m not going to miss the next one – it’s a parasol and I already put a bid on. I have moved my windows around so I can see the little red timer counting down! In 23m 23s I shall know if I got it πŸ™‚ but I might have to increase my bid at snipe time so I must not forget it. It’s a red stripy one.

My new parasol! I can’t believe nobody else wanted that for 99p + a fiver postage!

My writing is also making good progress. I have been reading loads about the craft of novel writing and I suddenly came to a realisation a few days ago about one of my half begun novels that I had the wrong main character. This other character had a much more interesting story, but for the way I wanted it to work out I knew she would not co-operate as easily as the one I made up just to do what I wanted. Of course that was not going to work! So that story has been brewing away in my head ever since and today I sat down and wrote the first scene, 1700 words in an hour and twenty minutes. It felt marvellous!

An hour or so before I wrote it I was sitting in bed stroking the cat and visualising the scene all through, seeing it through her eyes (the character’s, not the cat’s!) which really helped getting written so fast and fluidly.

Well, that’s more than long enough for a post I think. Pebble is now sitting on my lap, which makes it a tad awkward to type πŸ™‚ and I just won the parasol for rock bottom! Yay πŸ˜€

March 12, 2013 at 8:57 PM 5 comments

New Word – Disimprove

I have been using this word for a while now and I find it increasingly useful, although I would prefer that not to be the case. The meaning of the word is when someone tries to improve something but actually manages to make it less good. I am sure you will be able to instantly come up with several examples! See, the word is very useful πŸ™‚

It is not the same as deliberately ruining something, as the intention is claimed to be good. So the company who makes your favourite biscuit deciding to stop making it is not a disimprovement, but them changing the recipe so you no longer like the biscuit is.

Neither is it the same as things getting worse for other reasons: my arthritis might get worse, but it is not a disimprovement unless it was as a result of trying to change it for the better, for example if one had a hip replacement which went wrong, or when drugs cause horrible side effects worse than what they are supposed to be treating.

It can be done with the best of intentions, or it can be an excuse, as when the recipe change is claimed to improve the taste, but is actually a result of their desire to use cheaper ingredients. As long as it is claimed to be an improvement, but isn’t, that is a disimprovement.

Governments are very good at disimprovements.

Sometimes if enough people protest the disimprovement might be changed back. This would have to be called an undisimprovement, as it is not an improvement over the original situation, just a restoration of it. I was disappointed when Blair did not undisimprove what Thatcher had done and even more disillusioned when he continued to make disimprovements of his own.

Unfortunately, not everything can be undisimproved.Β It may be too late to correct climate change, but that does not absolve us from trying.

What do you think of my new word? Will you start to use it too? It would be great if a word I invented got into the dictionary! I would really feel my life had been worthwhile πŸ™‚

February 12, 2013 at 11:03 AM 3 comments

Waiting to get Well

I often feel as if I spend my whole life waiting to get well from something or other.

Not the arthritis, I know that won’t go away for waiting, although I sometimes have to wait out a flare up. Not just the anxiety either, although waiting has been more successful there, as it is less bad than it was.

I just seem to be very run down at the moment. I am on my third cold of the winter and although that might be the average, I usually have fewer, one of the benefits of not getting out much and not having children. I do seem to catch them from my husband though, who gets out a bit more than me…

I suppose it is inevitable that I will be feeling run down. Having a long term medical problem like arthritis is hardly a recipe for general health and well being. I just deleted a boring rant about how hard it can be to exercise, I doubt anyone wants to read it and I don’t actually even want to write about it! Also mood is so vital to health and recovering from anxiety combined with having to give up a long term ambition like my PhD is not helping.

But sitting in bed moping and whining is not going to solve the problem!

Not all things come to those who wait.

OK so I shall never be what one might call healthy, but I do try to not be the most unhealthy I can be. I tried giving up and I got fat which was even worse. It was hard to shift that back down to somewhere between slightly overweight and the wobbly side of average. But once I had managed that, no more weight seems to have come off, even with my experiments into semi-fasting (which I got fed up with, although I usually skip lunch these days).

I had wanted to focus on writing the novel once my PhD was not going to happen. I have been working on it, but I have this nasty habit of convoluting my plots to the point where they can seem too complicated to ever get straight, plus they always need research which can be a lot of fun but can also throw curve balls. (Ingibiorg, I’m talking about you!)

Why did I think that a treasure hunt whose trail was laid in the 12th century and was partially followed in the 19th before my modern characters have a go at it would be a suitable first novel? I have three plots to keep straight as well as setting the clues!

So now I am wondering whether it would be sensible to take a month out from having the novel as my main focus and make my health the primary target in February? I can only have one at a time as my energy is so limited (if you have never read the spoons article it is a very clear explanation of the kind of choices people with very little energy have to make) and improving my health would benefit every area of my life. It’s just less fun than playing with pretend people πŸ™‚

I’m sitting here feeling glad I decided to wash my hair and write a blog post about this rather than go for a walk though as it is totally chucking it down with rain! (For once the forecast was worth checking before going out) After all, it’s not February yet.

I would need to increase my exercise as much as I can physically manage (which is not a lot, but probably a bit more than now) for example starting to go swimming again. I would also need to try to improve my diet, which is not terrible but could be better. I can still think about the novel plot and do some research, but if I have a choice between going out or lying in bed writing on the laptop, I would go out.

But just thinking and writing about this is making me feel tired… hibernating seems quite an attractive option…

What do you think? Should I take a month to spend all my available energy on trying to improve my health? Or am I just making excuses and I should knuckle down and write the darn novel? πŸ™‚

January 30, 2013 at 4:01 PM 4 comments

I’m a winner! NaNoWriMo 2011

So I succeeded in my goal to write 50000 words of a new novel in the month of November. It feels good.

This is my third time and my third win πŸ™‚

I’m happy about that, but I’m not just showing off. I thought I would share my thoughts on why I find NaNoΒ a useful challenge, what I’ve learnt from it, what I’ve got out of each time and how the experience differed. And hey, that might be a long blog post, or I might cut it down, but, err, well, I’ve kind of turned off the inner editor so I’ll try not to ramble too much!

The first time I did NaNo was in response to being advised I should by the tutor on a writing course. I was quite resistant to the idea. No way could I write that much that fast! It had taken me years to get past chapter 3 for goodness sake! And I was already working on a novel but NaNo wants you to make a new one. You can be a rebel of course, but the first time I do something I prefer to do it properly!

So I checked out the site. Ooh, pretty forums… I think I was lost at the forums. I enjoy forums. (Or should that be fora?) They remind me of newsgroups, waaaay back at the dawn of the internet…

Anyway, I wanted to play, but I wasn’t sure I could really spare the time. I had a PhD to write. And we had a family crisis on. But maybe that was why it seemed so tempting, escaping into a fictional world where I had complete charge. I decided I would write fiction in the time I would usually read fiction, so for that month I gave up reading novels and on the morning of Nov 1 I signed up and began!

In order to justify the time spent writing anything other than my thesis, I decided to write a story set in 12th century Norway, in a little settlement in the fjords, with a stavechurch, and each chapter would be about a different runic inscription written on it. I used real runic inscriptions from real stavechurches, I just made up the story behind how it got onto my invented church. It was great fun!

I learned so much from that first time. About my field of study – it was so useful to spend some time imagining the world they really lived in, their day to day concerns, what might lie behind each text. Also to discover little areas about which I just didn’t know enough, like how many people would be in a bishop’s retinue when he consecrated a church. So it was great for my studies, as a new perspective.

Also it was enormously helpful for my confidence as a writer, both of fiction and a thesis, that I could write so much! The most I had written previously was 15000 words of my MA dissertation (on Self-Referential Runic Inscriptions) and 12 chapters of a novel at maybe 3k each, if I recall right. And I could meet the goal. I even finished a couple of days early.

But as soon as I reached 50k I stopped dead, halfway through a chapter and I’ve never gone back to it. Oh I’ve read it a few times – I got it printed as a book (with Blurb, who I recommend), which made me happy to see, as a reward to myself for having done it! But the poor characters are still dangling where I left them…

Also the forums taught me heaps. I had no idea how to write a novel really, but I found books and websites there which have been so helpful. Snowflake, Storyfix and Kristen Lamb are worth checking out.

Last year I wanted to do it again because it had been so great. But I really really couldn’t spare the time from my thesis, because my upgrade was due. So I used the motivational aspect and the feeling of community, a bunch of folks working towards a difficult shared goal, and Nanoed my thesis!

I still think this sounds crazy. Actually, I think it would be. Because I very quickly realised that it is not possible to write 50k of a thesis in a month, and it was killing me trying! I had to compromise. What the hey, I was a rebel anyway, because what I was writing was no novel. I included my process journal for the month too. I think I ended up with about 15k being thesis words, which was great actually because 15k was what I was supposed to have for the upgrade. It’s just that there’s a universe of difference between a first draft and polished ready-for-publication academic writing. But that was for the coming months. You can’t edit nothing!

A process journal is a really useful tool anyway, so it was fair to include it. It’s where I recorded my thoughts and plans, how I felt about it (a vital vent!) and a way to problem solve how to proceed.

And that time I couldn’t just ditch my writing at the end of the month. No, I had to push on through December, cancelling Christmas (apart from I did go to the carol service and to my parents for the actual day).

And in the middle of January I reached burnout and had to go off sick, diagnosed with a stress condition. As I began this blog during that time (why? why did I think I needed another writing challenge right then? I think I needed an outlet…) I suppose it must chart some of that, were I to go back and read it. I will one day, maybe in January.

And so we come full circle, to this year’s Nano. As I’ve hardly written much this year – this blog for the first half of the year, a few poems and a my crochet journal, I felt it would be a good way to try and rediscover the joy of writing. I believed it was important towards my recovery to set and achieve this goal, in particular.

It worked. I enjoyed it. It was hard some days to make myself write, and I’m surprised to say I hardly touched the forums this year. But I wrote a fun and very self indulgent story. The best day, my character woke up in this brilliant fantasy place, went down the waterfall water slide to swim in a pool with giant waterlilies, then had breakfast in the garden and hiked in the forest by a stream, where she sat on a mossy rock and crocheted.

I actually had a brilliant day the day I wrote that too! I think it put me in nearly as good a mood as if that had been my morning!

So I’ve learned that I can still achieve this goal. Hopefully I’m getting a bit better, as I don’t think I’d have even begun, let alone finished, had it been much sooner in the year.

And if I edit it veeery heavily and work on it some more, there is actually enough of an idea in there that I can play with it more if I want to. I wonder if I will this time? Or will those characters also wait in limbo…

I’m not sure it matters, because I have rediscovered my joy in writing, so I know I’ll write something, whether it’s this one or one of the many others jostling for attention. The goal gets closer, the more I practice and the more I learn.

And that’s 1267 words, which is only 400 less than the daily word count goal for Nano, so I’ll stop there. If I was really kind, I’d cut this post in two, but it’s late and I just want to finish. I hope you don’t mind. OK, I really do need to stop now! What do you think of Nano?

December 1, 2011 at 11:13 PM 2 comments

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