Category Archives: surfing language

courage

2013 is almost a week old already. A lot of people have written about resolutions and plans. I don’t write resolutions, but I felt that I wanted to make some kind of statement to myself. So I wrote wishes on self-made cards and they are turning out to be quite motivating, spread around my desk. And pretty to look at. Amongst them are things as general and important as ‘I want to earn my own money again’, as well as those that are more personal and immediate, like ‘I want to attend Nathalie’s wedding‘. I have also chosen the beautiful song ‘Ends of the Earth’ by Lord Huron as my personal anthem for this year.

These wishes and this song will guide and accompany me. However, there was something still missing. A direction. Something to strive for, to go towards. Then I remembered that author Lynn Viehl, who blogs at Paperback Writer, sets herself themes for each year. I thought about what this could mean for me and I had two words in my head that I was experimenting with and had almost decided for one, when courage came along.

cour·age (n)

1.  the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

2. Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion.

definition from Dictionary.com

Courage and bravery are often used synonymously, but they aren’t the same when you think about it. I’d even argue that bravery is a result of courage. So I looked it up in an etymology dictionary and got the following:

courage (n.) c.1300, from Old French corage (12c., Modern French courage) “heart, innermost feelings; temper,” from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor “heart” (see heart) which remains a common metaphor for inner strength.

In Middle English, used broadly for “what is in one’s mind or thoughts,” hence “bravery,” but also “wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness,” or any sort of inclination. Replaced Old English ellen, which also meant “zeal, strength.”

definition from the Online Etymology Dictionary

Isn’t that a wonderful word? Inner strength, heart, confidence, lustiness, pride – all part of this one concept: expressing what is in your mind or thoughts. I don’t know what triggered me to think of courage in the first place, but since I have, I see it everywhere. It pops up in blog posts, in video talks, in discussions with friends, in old diary entries. I think it’s a sign. So I’m adopting courage as my theme of the year.

And because I like to be thorough in these things, I also looked it up in a thesaurus and while some of the synonyms were a little contrived, there were a lot that I really like – amongst them words like boldness, adventurousness, audacity, daring, determination, endurance, enterprise, fortitude, intrepidity, mettle, pluck, resolution, spirit, tenacity and élan.

So 2013 will be the year of courage – a year full of intrepid enterprise, determined resolution and bold adventures. I know it will be – because I’m going to make it so!

.

Do you write resolutions? Or choose themes? Or maybe an anthem? Or is all of this new-year-new-beginning thing a nuisance and unnecessary anyway?

I edited all my words away

Dear Internet,

I have been “editing” the first draft of my novel for the last two weeks. Basically, that means re-writing it. I apologize for my long absence, but at the moment I feel empty of words. They have all gone into my work-in-progress. And at the moment, I hate every single one.

Yep, that’s right – I hate every single word of it.

My writing sucks, my characters suck, the story sucks. My writing is painful, wooden and filled with clichés. The characters are flat, lifeless, boring, exchangeable. And my story… what story? Why was I deluded enough to think I could write a novel? I’m wasting my time, I’m wasting everybody’s time and I should just give up.

Really.

*sigh*

Alright, now that bitterly-needed rant is out of the way, I guess I should start picking myself up again. Let’s start at the beginning:

According to this excellent and very funny article on Fevered Mutterings, it appears that at the moment I’m “officially the least reliable critic of [my] work in the entire world”. Oh. Okay. Alright.

And didn’t I read somewhere… oh, well, actually, just about EVERYwhere, that a first draft is just that: a first draft and it needs to be re-written and edited, re-written and edited, re-written and edited, … [repeat another ten to fifteen times]? Hm. Well, yes, I guess I did, but … But did that mean me?!? It did? Ah, okay. Well, that would explain some things.

On top of that, didn’t I read this pep talk by Lemony Snicket on why it’s best to give up writing straight away? I guess I did. And when I did, I wanted to sit down and write a ten-part epic novel right away, but sort of didn’t get around to it. So the conclusion? Read it every day to hang on to that power and inspiration.

It might even get me through this re-writing chore.

Camp report no. 1

So the NaNo fun has started… I went into the game with slightly over 3000 words, none of which I’m particularly pleased with, but they needed to be put on paper. I’ve been doing other things the whole day, hoping to get every urge to procrastinate out of my system by dinner time. I work best at night.

My main character, Meg, has arrived in the village, had an almost-fight with her Mom and has made the acquaintance of some of her future friends. In the middle of writing I changed the sex of one of these friends – I felt there were too many girls. 🙂

Also, I’m so happy to have the support system of my cabin – hurrah for fellow writers!

research

Research.

What can I say about it that hasn’t been said by a thousand writers before me, all of them more knowledgeable and experienced? One thing I can say is that I always, ALWAYS underestimate it. After all, it’s fiction, isn’t it? I can just do what I want. … Or maybe not.

Today, I wanted to ‘just quickly’ look up some Welsh fairy creatures. Just to get an idea what kind of mythological things populate that area. Just as background knowledge. Nothing to do with the story itself. That was this morning. Tonight… Well, let me put it like this: I dare anyone to ask me anything about Welsh mythology and get away in under an hour. Except for the pronunciation, which totally defeats me. Okay, so maybe I read too much, but it doesn’t feel too much. Rather, I totally underestimated the effects my ‘little bit’ of research would have on my story. Where I originally thought to have the standard range of fairy creatures (dwarves, elves, fairies, …) as a backdrop, maybe with a Welsh name thrown in here and there, I know realize that…

 … the actual creatures are so much more interesting! I mean, who wouldn’t prefer to have a disembodied screeching voice that announces the death of a person to a bunch of boring old elves? Or a black dog with putrid breath and fiery eyes to a run-of-the-mill ghost? And did you know that in Wales they have this amazing creature that is called the Water Leaper? It looks like a giant frog, only it has bat wings instead of forelegs and it snaps the lines of fishermen, and sometimes it eats the livestock. Cool or what?

… all these things, all the legends and mythical creatures and spirits and so on actually fit the story so much better! That will really throw my main character off balance, and she needs being thrown off balance pretty badly. To start seeing fairy creatures is one thing. But to see fairy creatures she has never even heard of before… Perfect!

… Yeah, well, that’s the drawback: I need to make major changes to my story.

*note to self: in future, do the damn research *in depth* before you even start typing the first word!*

on finishing something

The last few days I have been obsessed. Possibly also possessed. Anyway, that’s my excuse for failing miserably at writing one post a day.

I couldn’t think of anything else, except of my project. Ironically, that project is all about blogging, which would make the sane and normal person think that it would remind me of writing a blog post, but nope. It didn’t. I woke up in the morning, long before the alarm, with the feeling that I was wasting time, after I had dreamed about the project the whole night, grabbed my computer, worked right through the whole day without stopping except for a quick walk with the dog, went to bed with red, swollen eyes and completely exhausted around 11 pm, dreamed all night about it, woke up much too early, … I think you can guess how it continues.

Anyway, that was me the last three days.

Right now, my part is done and I’m waiting for reactions. Which leaves me suddenly feeling adrift. Even though it was so exhausting, I really enjoyed my headlong rush to finish a project I can be proud of. Waiting for the reactions from my classmates is eating me up inside and making me nervous as anything, but at the same time, I’m already looking for the next project I can dive into with the same abandon as I did with this one. That might not be so easy, because I usually have a problem: I’m a committment-phobic when it comes to my own ideas.

I’m really fabulous at starting things and quite the reverse when it comes to finishing something. Fantastic ideas always come to me, and I never see them through. So right now, I want to take a quick look at what made this project different. What made me see it through to the point where it’s actually out in the world and depending on other people to carry it further.

  • First, I had a vision. But then, I also sat down and turned the vision into a real, do-able goal. I thought about the details and the nitty-gritty, instead of just the glory of the finished product. I drew plans, made notes, researched stuff.
  • I started doing something, even though I knew it wouldn’t be perfect. I knew I would have to revise and, quite possibly, completely rework it later on. Still, I did it. I did it, because I needed to show the people I wanted to work with (my classmates) something concrete, instead of just talking about it all the time. I needed something to work with, even if I would have to change every single thing about it in the process.
  • I filled dozens of papers with notes. I wrote down every single tasks I had to do, be it ever so small, and I did not let myself get up until I had completed all the tasks there were. I stayed in my chair and kept the fingers on the keyboard, or the mouse. Actually, it wasn’t really a chore – I didn’t want to stop. But I didn’t want to stop because I could see it moving forward and progressing.

Sound familiar? It certainly does to me. It’s what everyone always tells me. It’s what everybody is being told all the time. It’s what all mentors, all handbooks, all guides say: Set achievable goals. Work out what you have to do to get there. Sit down and do it. Don’t stop until you’re there.

I guess all those people who have given me advice… they were right after all.

craft

This morning, while browsing my feed reader, I was intrigued by this article by author Jillian Kent, as a guest post on literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog (which I love to read, by the way). Jillian Kent asks whether I am a craft junkie. And goes on to explain what she means with ‘craft’ – the craft of writing. The art of writing. And how she cannot stop buying books on writing.

I answered with a halting yes. Actually, I would love to be. I would love to have all these books, go to conferences, talk to authors, read what great writers have to say about the craft of writing. Unfortunately, I’m usually broke. And when I have some money, I usually spend it on live music. Hm.

Actually, I’ve made the experience that the more I read about writing, the less I write. Often it intimidates me. I love reading those books anyway. Especially because I doubt myself all the time anyway. So I figure, it’s better to doubt myself and read something that can teach me, than to doubt myself and panic. But I also know that those books can strengthen my insecurities. So I read them in small doses. Maybe it’s good that I’m broke so much.

doodling

Today, I doodled. And I don’t mean pictures. I played around with a plot.

It’s an old idea. Actually, the original idea is about fifteen years old, I wrote the beginning of the story when I was still a teenager. Two or three years ago I re-discovered it, knocking around on my computer, and at the first time of reading it again, I laughed out loud.

In a good way.

So I started doodling with it, every time I thought of it. Because that’s what I do with stories. I think of them, I go all enthusiastic, start writing, find out that I have no structure whatsoever and then put it away in some folder on the computer. And every time I feel like it, I take it out and start playing around with it.

Somehow I seem to believe that stories finish themselves, if only I wait long enough and play around with them from time to time. Maybe they mate. Or they need time to hatch. I’m not sure. It doesn’t work anyway. They don’t grow.

So today I doodled on this idea. I wrote an interview with the main character, which I didn’t finish because he was way too talkative. He also kept hitting on me. So I ended it, but I learned a lot about him. Like, that his friends call him Dev. The name I gave him was Devlin, but he doesn’t like that. He thinks it’s too Celtic. Too grown-up. Too serious.

Then I went with my old and trusted method of just asking questions of myself and answering them. Mainly, I ask ‘why’. It sort of develops from there by itself until I have a pretty good idea of where it’s all going. It did work – as in I have some more ideas – but it also brought some new challenges that I hadn’t  thought of, and the most important one is that the stakes aren’t high enough. All the events and actions I’m putting on the line for Devlin (or rather Dev, as I now know) – he’d never in a million years do them! And the reasons I had before, that would make him do it, aren’t strong enough. I need to be much, much more mean towards him.

At that point, I thought that some really serious structure would help, and I brought out my little chart of what has to happen in which part of the story (first part: introduce character, establish setting, dump character into problem – second part: character tries to solve problem, fails, … and so on and so on). I tried to fill it in, but didn’t succeed much beyond the first part. Structure. I need some. Also, I need some more fiery hoops for Dev to jump through. And bigger rewards to make him jump in the first place.

*gottathinkitout*

I never used to do this much plotting, but I think that’s the main reason why my stories don’t mate. Or hatch. Or don’t grow in any way. I need structure.

What about you?

diving for words and how morning writing has recently helped me with that

I have started a new story. It’s the story of a relationship, but told only from one side and illuminated only from one side. And while the relationship is the focus, I look more at how the narrator deals with the conflicting feelings of pity, guilt and a love that is truly on the rocks. It’s powerful stuff, even if I say so myself. It’s a pure joy to write and I’m diving right in, right down to where the feelings lurk and I drag them up in the guise of words about grey clouds racing across the heathlands, an affectionate dog and the appearance of a hare. If you’re intrigued, then let me tell you, you cannot be more so than me. I’m just taking a quick breather to recover from all the tangled emotions before going under again. I cannot wait to discover what is down there.

On a (only slightly) less elated, yet related, note – I’ve started writing ‘morning pages’. After my wonderful friend Rachel, Human Rights activist and the genius behind rightswriter, gave me a link to a website encouraging you to write 750 words every day (750words.com), I decided to not sign up with the website (one more log-in to remember – no way!), but instead to force myself to follow this really good idea by myself. I’ve managed to do this for the last week, with only one exception. I get up, pull back the curtains, put on my warm wooly socks and the warm, over-sized jumper and sit down at the desk, bashing out words, most of the time with my eyes still closed. Around 300, they usually start to open, though very slowly. Around 500 I’m moderately awake. When I’ve done the 750, I’m ready for tea. The benefits? Even while what I’m writing in the morning is totally unstructured, rambling, diary-style, planning-the-day-ahead stuff, I usually end with feeling ready to go on writing. It helps me break through the barrier of  “Oh, I have to wait until inspiration strikes” – because that bloody inspiration strikes very, very rarely. Instead, I sit down and write. It helps to have a thermos of tea next to my elbow and a hot water bottle under my feet.

That reminds me – I need to make more tea before dropping down to the murky water of word-covered emotions and pulling them up to the surface to glitter in the sunlight.

At least, I hope they’ll glitter.

Anyone else has experience with establishing firm writing/working routines?

the moon reminds me of a promise

As I watch the slim crescent of the moon, hanging right there in the dark sky, too close, too big to be real, it feels good to be in this small room, huddled comfortably under the blanket, listening to something soul-y while typing away on the keyboard. Typing what?

Unfortunately, not the novel I wanted to write in November as part of NaNoWriMo. For various reasons I didn’t get past the first 10k. I could have caught up in the last week or so, if I had really pushed, but every time I thought: ‘I  should use this time to catch up’, my contrary streak gained the upper hand and said: ‘Should? Since when are you listening to shoulds?’ I’m not sure if this is laziness disguised, or the pressure really was too much. Anyway, let’s look at the bright side: I’m ten thousand words ahead of where I would be had I not taken part. I will go on with the story and the rule of non-editing and see where it leads me in the next weeks and months.

I have also written three lengthy posts on my new music blog, cresting the sounds. The last one, posted today, took me most of the day to write and re-write.

Writing applications also takes time, and I’ve been doing that as well. Although I know that doesn’t really count for the type of writing I’m talking about. The moon out there reminds me that one reason for going the route that I have now embarked on, was to give me time to write, combined with the promise to myself to take me more more seriously as a writer. A writer writes. So I’ll just go on with that now.

NaNoWriMo – halfway there …theoretically

Today is the 15th – the middle of November. I’m still under 10k for the 50k challenge of NaNo.

Ouch. This is not looking good. I really, really want to win this. I don’t want to give up. I still think that I can make it. I’m moving into my new place tomorrow and will start the jobsearch on a more intense level. However, I will have my own place and I will be able to have a regular routine again. I’m very confident that I will be able to catch up.

I did some non-novel-related writing. In fact, I’m quite excited about a new venture: I set up my own music blog, cresting the sounds. So far, only one post is up, about a concert I went to last week. Check it out and see if you like the music! 🙂

 

NaNoWriMo – day 11

This is a list of all the things I DID do today:

  • cuddle with the dog
  • eat full English breakfast
  • watch two episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot
  • drink 21 cups of tea
  • attempt to repair my friend’s computer
  • write e-mails
  • research jobs
  • set up RSS feeds for job searches
  • lie on the floor and moan about my back hurting
  • read blogs

And this is a list of things I was supposed to do and didn’t:

  • write

NaNoWriMo – day 10

No writing at all yesterday. But one third of the November-Adventure is achieved: I found a room! I’m very happy about it and will now embark on the other two thirds: finding a job and finishing the story by November.

Feeling good about it. Let’s rock this month! 🙂

NaNoWriMo – day 9

I’m a couple of hundred words further on.  Nothing much.

BUT – interestingly, just at the point where I actively gave up the room search and did not look for anything new, something developed. Nothing is definite yet, but I have a good feeling.

Unsure if this applies to writing as well… Maybe I should give up the idea of “catching up”. Maybe then it would come naturally again and be fun once more. I think I let myself get too serious about NaNo.  Let’s see where a more relaxed attitude will get me. 🙂

NaNoWriMo – day 8

I’m roughly six thousand words behind the word count. I didn’t write a single word today. I will NOT give up on this. My productivity increases with the pressure. Usually. We’ll see.

My main problem is that writing’s not fun anymore at the moment. It feels like a chore. I don’t like this. But I think it might be a mind trick that my lazy inner devil is pulling on me. I’m up to your tricks, you little bastard. You will not make me give up on this.

Anyone else on the point where you start talking to yourself in cafés and don’t even notice the funny looks you get anymore?

NaNoWriMo – day 7

Sitting all day in different cafés and making heavy use of the wordsprints on twitter (#NaNoWordSprints), I caught up a little, but not all the way. Tomorrow’s another day, I guess. I’m determined to not give up on this challenge, but sometimes it seems a bit secondary when I’m practically homeless and unemployed into the bargain. In the mornings it all seems doable and I’m fresh and full of energy, but in the evenings I just want to curl up under the blankets and forget about it all…

Okey, enough complaining. Tomorrow Ally will have to face her parents – poor girl… she’s in for a rough weekend.

NaNoWriMo – day 6

Nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

A bit disappointing. I was busy, however, with pitying myself, silently freaking out, and obsessively checking different websites for rooms, or jobs, or any other way out. Also nothing there.

I’m over 5000 words, but should be around 10,000 right now. I’m devoting this whole day to catching up. And I will.

I’m pretty sure that you’re not supposed to be so much behind in the first week already. I’ll be on target tomorrow.

 

NaNoWriMo – day 5

Saturday… The friends I’m staying with invited me to go along to see some fireworks in the evening. I felt like I always do before seeing fireworks: mellowly pleasant expectation tinged with a good dose of ‘been there, done that’. And the same way as always, once the rockets are in the sky and bursting into halos of gold and green and red, I’m just as excited as a kid who sees it for the first time. It helped to make my whole week seem better than what I felt it had been.

And going for drinks afterwards with a whole bunch of people I didn’t know before also helped me to realize that this was one of the reasons I wanted to come here and do this: to meet interesting, cool people, make new friendships, have good conversations and laugh a lot.

As to the story… I went to a write-in, meaning a meeting of writers all doing NaNo, where you sit around a café (or a pub, in this case) and write. You can chat in between and exchange ideas and stuff. It was really nice. The embarrassing part was that one of the girls asked me what my story was about and I couldn’t really say… I mean, of course I could explain it, but I couldn’t say in one, snappy sentence.  Really, really need to work on a synopsis.

Ally had another adventure and a little breakdown, spilling her fears to Nora, seemingly the only one working in the shop, who has taken her to see Earl. Earl, of course, is the proprietor of Earl’s Books and it has to be supposed that he knows more than he’s letting on. Or maybe he will let on now…?

By the way, is it normal that, while you story is very alive, your main character’s voice fresh and funny and original and the action full of unexpected twists and turns in your head, when you put it on paper it reads as exciting as  dull, grey ditchwater?

I’ll leave you with some fireworks…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

NaNoWriMo – day 4

Engaged in deep soul-searching. Attended self-pity-party for one. Trudged slowly through the city, looking determinedly miserable. Wrote around 500 words. Felt immensely proud and desperate at the same time.

What I’m learning from this:

  • Never embark on three crazy adventures at the same time. Try to stagger them at least a little.
  • Keep on writing no matter what. Those 500 words right before falling asleep helped. Really.
  • Trust your friends to make you feel better when you’re down – don’t eat it all in and be all miserable and lonely.

About Ally: she’s in the bookshop and trying to figure out what’s up with the shop. She’s in for another adventure in the next couple hundred words and will then have a job offered to her, followed by a serious discussion. She’ll go home with very mixed feelings and not sure how to tell her parents.

Off to write that now. And it’ll hopefully sound a lot better and much more funny when it’s done.

NaNoWriMo – day 3

I never fully realized how important the things we take for granted are – in this case, I’m talking about a place to call your own. Although I have awesome friends that keep passing me around like a black spot while being incredibly nice to me, feeding me, supporting me and so on, it’s not the same as having your own place. Just the sense of being able to close the door behind you and then noone has a right to come in. Or to leave things as they are, not to plan ahead for trivial stuff, like: do I wash my laundry here or do I pack it up and wash it tonight at my other friend’s place? Sleeping as well – can I stay up until two to write? If we’re sharing one room and the other person has to get up in the morning, then no. Doesn’t work. I guess what really gets me is that I’m not in control of my life. I’m dependent on others. And I don’t like that feeling.

What has all of this to do with writing? Very little, at first, except for the fact that it’s keeping me from it. Then again, it has everything to do with it. Just the fact that this is keeping me from writing is worrying. One of my dreams was always to be good enough to live from writing, because then I could travel, because “I can write from anywhere”. Ha. Apparently not. This is an extremely frustrating discovery, but also an important one: for me to be in a writing frame of mind, I need another frame – that of my own space, my privacy, my little tiny bit of the world where I can shut it out.

Story-wise nothing much happened, of course. Ally returned to the bookshop and had a conversation there and met some people, but I didn’t get to move it along much past that. On the NaNo website there’s a statistics page with every profile. It tells you all kinds of clever things. My favourite sentence is the following:

“At this rate you will be finished on: December 10, 2011”

Thanks for that.

NaNoWriMo – day 2

Let me say again: I’m searching for a room in London, while living out of a backpack and moving from one friend’s place to another. Just as background information.

The foreground is, that I reached yesterday’s quota today. I am now at 2701 words. It’s almost midnight and I’m exhausted from walking round the city all day, getting lost, finding myself somewhere I’ve never been before (theoretically a good thing, but the problem is that I cannot explain how I got there at all, which is a bit strange) and from travelling on the tube without being able to breathe, or at least not without smelling someone’s sweaty armpits. Ugh.

So the first chapter is finished and I think I have Ally hooked on the adventure – after what I let her experience today (hint: it involves a wolf), I have almost no doubt she’ll come back to the shop tomorrow – almost reluctantly, maybe, but she’ll come – to find out what the deal is with this place. I can feel her tossing and turning on her bed in my mind, trying to answer the unanswerable question: did she really see what she thinks she saw? Or was she dreaming? I’ll let her stew over it. She’ll be almost bursting with curiosity and the need to know by tomorrow, even though she might not be able to admit it to herself. Tomorrow is also when I’ll be meeting her again, because I cannot, for the life of me, go on writing tonight.

(Yes, I know I’m a day behind. I don’t care. I’ll catch up tomorrow.)

All the other Wrimos – how was your day?