Category Archives: surfing language
Midnight came and went and I was sitting on the bed, fingers poised above the keyboard and my mind on blank. The agony of the first sentence overpowered me and when, after a paralysis of about five minutes, I finally made myself type something, I disliked it so much that I kept on writing totally off target, making Ally do and think all kinds of things that weren’t supposed to happen. After the first half hour I had exactly 777 words and decided that sleep was more important.
Today was gobbled up by room searching, but I’m not going to sleep until I’ve reached a decent word count. *armscrossed*
Oh, and by the way… the horrendously boring and insignificant first sentence is: “As I walked through the rustling leaves on my short-cut through the park, I kept re-running the interview in my head.” I sure hope the next batch of words will be better.
Two hours to go before NaNoWriMo starts in my time zone. A bit less even, it’s already four minutes past ten. I’m trying to be excited, but all I am is nervous and tired. Not a very promising start.
I’m going over my notes and the very rough outline I started and never finished. It’s helping in making me feel excited again, and it’s hindering by reminding me how bad I am at finishing something that I started.
Are you prepared? Or are you even in a time zone where you have started already? Very soon I’ll be able to start typing. I’ll be able to tell Ally’s story, or rather, let her tell her story.
Actually, typing this is making me feel excited after all. Come on November, just hurry up and arrive already!
Sorry for being silent for over a week! But there are several adventures lined up in the immediate future and they require a big part of my attention.
NaNoWriMo is less than 24 hours away. After starting some elaborate planning, I got frustrated and didn’t finish any outline or anything. I know my protagonist like the palm of my hand (Ally, a young woman of quiet, dry humour and a strong wish for a normal life, as unlike that of her eccentric, uncompliant family as possible), I know my setting (a bookshop in contemporary London that is much more than is discernible at first glance and where, at second or third glance, some very strange things can be seen to be taking place), I know my antagonist (currently without a name and a pretty shady figure anyway, therefore going by the pseudonym of “evil apprentice” – someone formerly connected with the bookshop who has very dark designs on it, on the people working there, without being fully aware what that means for the world of fiction – although he wouldn’t much care if he knew anyway). There’s a score of side characters, from Earl, the owner of the bookshop, to another guy with a pseudonym (‘green eyes’), to some of the elderly regulars and some people who seem to be straight out of fiction. And maybe they are.
After travelling over land from Germany to London (with a stopover in Brussels for a friend’s birthday-surprise-party), I’m now at another friend’s house, and will start this morning with my room hunt. I’d love to find a one-bedroom apartment, but the chances for finding an affordable one are slim, so I’ll be looking at shared flats as well. A whole city to choose from!
Something equally essential: job hunting! I’ll be looking for a job that pays for a roof over my head, some food in my mouth and lots of live concerts for at least six months.
Pretty obvious – I’m insane.
Jittery-stomach nervous and wild-to-discover-something-new excited at the same time for all three of them. Adventure two and three are about to start. Adventure one will start tonight at midnight. Let the revelries begin.
I’m starting to cheat. For NaNo. No, I’m not starting to write before November 1st. It’s more personal than that. I’m starting to cheat on my story idea.
This is so typical of me. I have an idea I’m excited about, happy with and eager to start on – and then I loose interest. I start seeing all the difficulties. I realize all the ways in which it won’t work. I fantasize about the beginning and the end and get discouraged by the middle ground. It starts to feel like work. New ideas come fluttering out of my dreams, out of songs, out of something I see or hear… All intend on enticing me away.
So now I’m sitting here with a story idea, fully-fledged characters, a plot that is basically worked out (but would profit a lot from me sitting down and spending some serious time polishing it up) and all these fresh, beautiful ideas are fluttering around my head. They distract me. I want to follow them. They are luring me away from my golden idea that I’ve already spent hours and hours on.
So what do I do? I try to remain loyal. Every new idea gets its own word document where I dash down the idea and any connotations I have. Mostly that’s it. If the idea is especially strong, I write a few paragraphs about the aspect that holds my mind most active. After that I close it and put it in my little writing corner on my computer (my dropbox folder, for safekeeping). Then I try to concentrate on my NaNo idea. Usually it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Do you suffer from inconstancy in your story affections as well?
I’m sad today. I’ve been upset about happenings in the UK – the eviction of a Traveller’s site inhabited mainly by women and children through riot police and with what seems to have been an excessive amount of force – information by The Telegraph, BBC, The Guardian. Background information from the Human Rights Clinic of the University of Essex.
That’s not what I want to talk about though. After ranting, railing and crying all over my family’s house the whole afternoon, I calmed down again and settled down to do some writing. And I couldn’t. It’s not like my mind is running constantly on the unfairness that took place today. It’s not. It’s active somewhere in the back of my mind, but I’m not totally consumed by it (not anymore).
The problem is that I’m sad. I have this murky grey fog drifting around in my head and my soul, shrouding circumstances and feelings and leaving the cold, stark knowledge that the world is not a good place. It does not leave me freedom to write. I cannot create when I feel like this.
A question to all the writers – am I indulging my laziness and just find a cool sounding excuse? Is it possible to write even when you’re sad? Or angry? Or feel disappointed? Do you have to be happy and content to write? I need your opinions. Please comment.
(note to self: must never ever again use the expression of an award being awarded! also, must give urgent warning about way-beyond-reasonable-length of this blog post)
*warning: very long blog post!* (but read it nontheless!!!)
Blogging. It’s fun. It’s even more fun when you get feedback and you know that people are reading something you wrote. That something is read and maybe even appreciated that is basically your brain chewing up inpressions and thoughts and spitting them out in chunks of letters that form words and sentences and hopefully convey some meaning.
Two people have, in the last days, told me that they appreciate what I write by passing the honour of the “Versatile Blogging Award” on to me. This is a sort of informal award that is more or less a way for new bloggers to connect and to learn about/from each other.
********** the award and the first rule **********
However, when I heard from one of the two kind people passing this on to me, I thought it was spam. Really! (I’m sorry!) It was just that it came out of the blue, that I wasn’t even aware that the person had ever seen my blog before (and since it hasn’t been around that long, I think the chances for that are pretty high). Anyway. I couldn’t believe it. That’s why I will accept it, but I’m going to alter the rules a little. More about that further down. But first things first: the accepting of the award. Here we go:
Thank you, thank you, thank you! *blushing and bowing* First, to the kind person running A Story Every Day, whose name unfortunately I don’t know and whose blog features short stories, non-fiction, all kinds of other writings by a wide array of writers. Then to Iris B, who is a romance author who posts some very intriguing glimpses into her work and whose blog you should definitely check out. These two very kindly gave me this award.
With this, apart from being polite and expressing my gratefulness at being seen and being appreciated, I have also fulfilled the first ‘rule’ of the award. Although I think they are more like guidelines. 🙂
********** the second rule **********
The second ‘rule’ is to post seven facts about myself. Aha. Instead of telling you seven things about me, which would probably bore you to death, I will save your life by giving you seven causes that I feel passionate about and that are more important to know about:
1. In Thailand, bloggers and other users of social media, are being held responsible and put in prison for comments made on their blogs or websites by others, even by anonymous users. I believe that everyone who uses social media has to stand up against this injustice. (information with Asian Human Rights Commission; access has more information and a petition that can be signed)
2. In Botswana, the San are being denied access to water on their traditional land, where they have the legal right to live, but cannot, because of said lack of water. Instead they live on the outskirts of the preserve and some have returned, living in extremely harsh conditions and having to rely on water handed out to them. Meanwhile, there are luxury hotels on the preserve with swimming pools and bars. (more information at Survival International and the BBC)
3. Slavery is alive and kicking even now in the 21st century. About 21 million people world-wide are affected. Children that are abducted to work on cocoa plantations, bonded labourers in cotton-producing countries, tomato pickers in Florida, USA, domestic workers all over the world, … it’s everywhere. Do something. There’s plenty that everyone can do. (more information and campaigns at Anti-Slavery)
4. People of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) community are being marginalized, threatened, abused and even killed in many parts of the world. It is unbearable that in this day and age someone has to die for something as his or her gender identity or sexual orientation. The not-so-obvious things like bullying, ill-treatment and discrimination are maybe even worse. (more information at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International)
5. This is closely related to point 3, but as a chocolate lover I find this particularly jarring: more than 100,000 children work in horrible conditions in the cocoa industry, and at least 10% of them have been trafficked. This cocoa is destined for chocolate factories that produce the sweets that we eat in the western world. This is totally unacceptable. (more information at the BBC and the International Labor Rights Forum and on information about fairtrade chocolate, see Fairtrade Foundation)
6. Closely related as well: the right to education. Worldwide, there are 75 million children that do not have access to basic education and 150 million children currently enrolled will drop out before completing primary education – at least two-thirds of these are girls. Education is the key to counteract so many other abuses and to improve the circumstances of the individual’s life. Everyone has to have this chance. (more information at UNESCO and the Right to Education Project; information on action you can undertake can be found with the Global Campaign for Education)
7. No big words needed for this: GREEN ENERGY!!! We all need it and I want it, I support it, I’m all the way for it. (Find information with Greenpeace and Explore Green Energy; also check with your local energy provider what green options they have – most of them have them by now! Let’s increase the demand!)
********** the third rule and the amendment **********
What a lot of information on extremely important topics in a very condensed space… On we go, to the third and last, you’ll be relived to hear, ‘rule’ and the one I really want to change/amend: pass this award on to other newly-discovered blogs (up to fifteen). What I want to add is: and give a reason for your choice! And one that is personal and not generic. Otherwise, the whole idea of connecting really looses value, I think. 🙂
note: the following are in no order or ranking whatsoever!
Fitri Adi Anugrah – Fitri is a funny and clever advocate for multiculturalism, with a passion for food, photography and witty writing. Check out her post on dreams, it’s very inspiring. And I’ve been thinking about her post on escaping consumerism all day today. Some very thought-provoking questions, all with a good helping of humour and self-criticism.
Bursts of Brilliance – I only discovered this blog some hours ago, but I LOVE the voice of this woman, who is, apparently, a displaced Alaskan. She’s into writing and she confesses to being shatterbrained, she’s a fellow adventurer in the upcoming NaNoWriMo challenge and she made me laugh. Out loud. Very much recommended.
All the pieces fit – Juan is a writer of inspirational poetry. Her prose, however, is not any less inspirational. The post on decluttering your life really hit home with me. She’s smart, she can express herself extremely well and she has a very warm and embracing writing voice. This blog comes with all the attributes of a comfortable chat with a good friend over a delicious cup of hot chocolate.
Catherine Noble – Catherine is very new to blogging, something you wouldn’t know from just looking at her website – it’s highly professional and very pretty in pale pink with grey flowers. Which leads one to think that this woman must be a perfectionist. And this would be right, as she admits herself. Like me, Catherine is a first-timer in the NaNo-challenge. She also runs a food blog, which I haven’t checked out yet, but which looks good enough to eat!
That’s it guys. Or rather, girls. (no, it’s not intentional that my winners are only girls! maybe girls write more?) CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Remember to: 1. link back to me (although I’m giving you permission to neglect this point…) 2. write seven facts about yourself (original version)/write seven causes or facts you feel passionate about (amended version) and 3. pass this award on to other newly-discovered bloggers (original version) PLUS tell us what is great about them, why you give them this award, what you like about their blog (amended version).
Oh and girls, don’t forget to go to those blogs and tell them they got this award from you! 😉
********** the last sentence **********
Thanks for reading through till the end – if you’re reading this right now, you ROCK!!!
I *love* the word ‘plot’.
You can do so much with it.
You can plot a murder. You can loose it. You can use one to overthrow an evil dictator. If you’re not careful, you can miss it. You can employ it against someone or something. Best of all, they are messy and you can fling in whatever events, occurrences, mad inspiration or evil twists you want. It’s complete freedom. It’s the stage where you just happily imagine making your characters walk through fire. Or push them into boiling oil, as the amazing Holly Lisle expressed it.
Your main character (MC) needs to leave town, so that her car can break down, and she will be able to meet the guy, who will later ruin her life? Cue: the unexpected arrival of the crazy spinster aunt, who embarrasses her so deeply that she is forced to leave.
You MC is mortally afraid of fish? Make him be the only one around when a child falls into a lake, forcing him to jump in and swim through all the fish to save the golden-haired infant from drowning, and coming out, he’s so empowered that he asks out the child’s mother, who wasn’t irresponsible at all, but instead was distracted from looking after the kid because the detective was asking her uncomfortable questions about the murder. Oh! OH! You could have the guy stub his toe on the murder weapon as he comes wading out of the fish-infested lake, glistening heroically in the sun. Or rather, dripping and blinking out from under the algae that cover him. And while the mother tearfully embraces the child and its rescuer, the detective realizes that it could of course only have been your main character, who found this ingenious way of suddenly ‘finding’ the murder weapon. Hm. Not sure I like where this is going…
Apart from my insane imagination going on the rampage here, the point is: plotting is FUN! It’s figuring out how to get from introducing your MC (or MCs) to having them either happily married to each other, or dead, or broken but wiser, or saving the world, or the murder, or … whatever ending fits in with the genre your write in.
This is what my plotting session last night looked like:
Me – lying in the middle of the living room floor.
My sister – lounging on the couch.
The floor – covered in my notebook, several pieces of paper with mind-maps, post-its, a pair of scissors, coloured pens, coloured paper, my computer for quick research, my sister’s computer for the music (the sound is better on hers!), several books to see how real authors do it, several used mugs half-full with tea, two half-eaten bowls of soup.
… and this bit of conversation is representative of about four hours of work:
Me: … but how does he [= the evil antagonist] try to force them [= my MC and her friends] to give up the shop?
Sis: Well, he could… well…. okay, he could spread evil rumours about them.
Me: Like what?
Sis: Like … *concentrated silence*
Me: Oh! Maybe he pretends to be a customer and says things like ‘I’ve seen this book a lot cheaper at this other bookshop!’ to customers? OOOOOOR, he could spread the rumour that the shop is infested with rats! Ha! That’s good, isn’t it?
Sis: Maybe. Maybe. Or he could kidnap N [= on of the side characters].
Me: I’m not sure he would do that.
Sis: Maybe not. But I think he should. It would be cool. Then the MC can rescue her.
Me: Okay, okay, let’s see. Maybe. I’ll keep it in mind. Back to the rumours. He could also pretend to be a building inspector and…
Sis: … and gain N’s trust and then kidnap her?!? *hopeful look*
Me: *banging my head slowly on the floor*
After bragging about finding the perfect idea last night, I got to thinking about what makes my idea so perfect? And I decided to have a look at what professional writers, or at any rate, writers with any experience at all, think makes an idea perfect. Here are the results of my research:
Alexandra Sokoloff, a very successful writer of thrillers and movie scripts who also runs an AWESOME blog, insists that you have to be “excited enough to spend a year (or most likely more) of your life completely immersed in it” and, if you want to be a professional writer, other people have to be excited enough about it to want to buy it. Which makes absolute sense to me. Read the full article to see how she suggests finding that perfect idea.
What author and writing instructor Larry Brooks has to say about it in his super-interesting storyfixer blog sounds similar: to fall in love with your idea. To make it one that matters to you and that “you’d read if someone else wrote about it”. The whole series about how to prepare for NaNo is chock-full of tips and ideas and encouragement. Definitely something I’ll go back to in the next days and weeks.
… I’m cutting this short. I’ve been patient enough, going through hundreds of tips. Now my head is pounding with new knowledge or reminders about things I should have known, and ah, what the heck. I’ll give you the short version:
The unanimous opinion seems to be to choose the idea you love, that excites you, that you feel like spending at least a month of your life with and maybe, if you’re interested in that, to choose one that others can be excited about as well.
For me, what makes my idea so perfect in my head, is the character, which I care deeply, deeply, deeply about and how is as alive as can be, as well as the setting, which I just adore and wish I lived right smack in the middle of. And seriously, the falling-in-love-bit is not the problem with me, I do it all the time with every new idea. But I think I must have a bit of a commitment problem, because usually I abandon my ideas as soon as the relationships starts getting a bit tougher. First fight and I’m off.
(Note to self: *must*NOT*let*this*happen*with*NaNo*project*)
Off to start the *serious* planning while I still have all these tips fresh in my mind. I’m relying on this to help me stick with this perfect beginning through the rough times.
I set out to find the perfect idea for my NaNo project. And secretly I didn’t think I would find it because, well… I’m really bad at being creative on command. Then suddenly, while I was jotting down the working titles for all my beginnings and vague plot ideas (often just called ‘Jack’s story’, ‘Macy’s story’, ‘Devlin’s story’, … you get the drift?), the perfect idea popped up and made me gasp and jump up and hit my forehead with my palm and generally behave like a madwoman.
I mean, it was so OBVIOUS! It’s actually an idea for which I started a fiction blog more than two years ago and then didn’t get past six or so posts because too many things suddenly started happening in the story to keep track of, and also, because I started is as a sort of running diary, without an overarching plot. But the setting in itself and the main characters are absolutely perfect. Of course, in accordance with the NaNo ‘law’ (or guidelines or rather, game rules), I will not use a single word of those blog posts! It’ll be all shiny and fresh. 🙂
So, you fought through these self-complimentary and triumphant ramblings because you want to know what the story will actually be about? Hm. Well. Okay. Just to please you, some hints: it will feature a bookshop where not everything is as it at first seems. It will have a leading lady that suffers from an over-exuberant family. There will probably be some romantic elements. There will be some laughs and lots of surprises. And I really cannot tell you more. Why? Truth be told, because I really don’t know anything more myself.
I think I have a lot of planning to do.
I spent a lot of time yesterday on a) the new look – like it? and b) a list of favourite reads – see page link above. I also got myself a twitter account and started hanging out over there to get some gossip, tips, tricks, ideas, encouragement, laughs… Like I said yesterday, there is a HUGE writing community there, something that I really didn’t know before. I thought twitter was either people talking about revolutions (interesting and necessary and cool, but too tough to keep up with, plus temporary) or people whose friends were, for some strange reason, interested to know what they were doing every minute of the day (uninteresting beyond belief). Instead there are cool people sharing knowledge, cheering each other on and forming friendships.
When I signed up for NaNo, I did it mainly for the fun of taking part. Also, because I apparently need deadlines to work efficiently, as proven once again by my recent last-minute scramble over my MA dissertation. I had the vague idea of tackling that one story that I have been fighting with and obsessing over for years and that still refuses to budge past the one million beginnings I’ve written for it. Then I read this post by Lynn Viehl about whether to go with an old idea for NaNo or choose a fresh one. Strangely, I’d never even thought about doing something completely fresh. I have so many ideas in my head and in notes and snippets and on random bits of paper, that I just assumed I should use NaNo to pressure me into finishing one of them. It seemed more of a task, than anything that would bring me a lot of enjoyment.
But now – liberation! I can do whatever I want to do. The same as I can start using twitter and learning to appreciate it long after I’d made up my mind about it and dismissed it as anything I would be interested in using, I can shake off the misconception that I *have to* finish anything, just because I started it. Hey, those ideas are noted down! I can take them up again any time I want to. Or I can just leave them where they are.
For now I’m heading off into daydreaming land to find the perfect idea for my NaNo project… use some old element or not… find a completely new idea… go with an older one but mix it with another older one… complete freedom!
So I’m officially on twitter now. My head hasn’t stopped spinning yet.
I made the decision when reading this post by Debbie Ohi, in connection with having a way of keeping up to date with NaNo things happening in London. And there is LOTS of writing-related stuff happening – mutual encouragement, prompts, promotion, writing business, …. I had no clue…! It’s very exciting and very encouraging and *slightly* too big to grasp.
Now I’m just overwhelmed and have no idea where to start, how to start, and how to keep my knowledge-related perfectionism in check. *sigh*
I just did something really crazy – I signed up for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. This is an amazing and insane event, starting November 1st, 00.01, ending November 30th, 23.59. In that time, every participant is expected to write a novel of 50.000 words.
The thing itself is insane. In my case, having to look for a place to stay and a job make it even more insane, although I’m hoping to achieve both things before November 1st, so I can really give this a go. I very much want to! It’s going to be a blast! People all around the world, writing just for the fun of it and with the goal of producing as many words as possible, however bad or ludicrous or in need of editing. All that will happen later – November is dedicated to putting the words down. I can’t wait for it to start.
Anyone going to join me? 🙂
This is it. I’ll keep it short and simple. The file is too big to be downloaded through the box on the right, so please follow this link to download it.
The link will only be active for ten days or so, so after that, if you’re interested, just mail me and I will send it to you again.
For comments, please go the page I have created of the same title and leave a comment there, or write me an e-mail if you want to keep it private.
Please, please, please comment! And please be honest in your feedback.