Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Rainbow ripples

When I was smaller (I'm being very careful here and deliberately not lying to you by saying I *was* a child, past tense because we both know the lay of the land on *that* one!)

Ahem... When I was smaller, I had a wonderful blanket of many colours I called my 'rainbow blanket'. I *adored* that blanket and should ask my mother where it went, actually...

This blanket I absolutely adored and snuggled into quite often in my book-filled, anti-social, daydreaming world of childhood. I could spend hours inside this protective cocoon... safe, secure, snuggled, innocent. Through the messy and sometimes violent divorce of my parents, my rainbow blanket was solace. It didn't walk away, it didn't yell, it didn't scold attention-seeking behaviour, it didn't push a needy child aside to deal with 'bigger problems', it didn't play an innocent child against anyone else in a horrid game of one-upmanship... that blanket was my life raft, in essence, my comfort.

In an effort to more firmly grasp some of the nostalgia for my early years, I hunted high and low for a replacement. Finally, after much deliberation, I discovered a wonderful crochet blanket pattern created by the wonderful Lucy over at Attic24 and the gorgeous colour variation created by KnitKnatKnotUK over on Ravelry.

I spent literally months deciding on which colours to choose for my blanket as, while I definitely wanted a rainbow theme, I didn't want an in-your-face garish rainbow.

The yarn I chose was Stylecraft's Special DK which is acrylic (Reminder: I can't handle animal hair/fur-made fibres) and feels, I am pleased to say, nothing like what people presume acrylic will feel like.

It's soft, smooth and gloriously wonderful in hand.

This is my chosen colourway:

To start the blanket, I chained 297 as recommended by KnitKnatKnotUK and have made some (*very little) progress...

I started with the Violet and have moved to the Royal but seeing them so closely together, I am slightly regretting my choice of colours... At the moment, I am honouring the choices and sticking with my selection in the hopes that it all comes good in the finished product, but only time will tell.

I'm very much hoping that the newest generation of the rainbow blanket lives up to its legacy and becomes a snuggle-inducer for years to come.

(Pictures and progress notes will be forthcoming when they pop into existence!)

How to learn a valuable lesson about the curse of perfectionism

  1. Be a steadfast perfectionist
  2. Glance into the corner of your office where there is a ghastly open void
  3. Grumble at the blatant waste of space in said corner
  4. Design a bespoke shelving unit that fits *exactly* into that awkward corner, taking very accurate measurements and drawing everything neatly on your plans
  5. Research how to finish the unit. In depth. Read forums and products reviews with advice (Paint? Spray or brush? Sticky-back plastic? Decopage?)
  6. Ask someone to "handy" build it for you
  7. Talk them through your complex drawings and ideas, confused, as it appears your notes are suddenly not *actually* very legible
  8. Reiterate that, while you are a perfectionist, you do not require perfection from them
  9. Admire at how that handy person tackles the job with gusto, problem-solving along the way
  10. Don't admit to yourself that there were problems to be solved
  11. Watch them give up ("for now") part way through because the finish you chose for the unit is too damned frustrating and just. won't. work. properly
  12. Let the project sit for a couple of days, all the while glancing into the chasm in your office
  13. Decide to tackle the unit yourself
  14. Realise that the handy person was right. It's a pain in the ass
  15. Tell yourself that it won't be perfect. It's impossible. The materials are repelled from each other like oil and water
  16. Tell yourself it doesn't *have* to be perfect
  17. Clench your teeth while you work and repeat #16 every time the plastic sticks to itself and not the wood and every time the plastic won't stick to the wood and every time it bubbles and every time it buckles and every time you cut a crooked line
  18. Be wrong 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Something's not right.

Something's not right with my Book1.

I don't know what it is, but I've had this feeling for quite a few months as I've been working on it.

Something truly doesn't 'fit' the way I want it to and I don't know if it's best to actually fix it or just leave 'well enough' alone *sadface*

The two scenarios my brain is proposing wouldn't be major changes in terms of editing, but they would be large to monumental changes in terms of the overall story.

One option my brain is considering is to change the age of my protagonist. I am asking so very much of them that they seem a bit young in comparison.

The other option being considered is to change their gender.

(A secret, third option being considered is to change both! Shh, for that way lies madness, surely!)

Am I alone in this issue? I can't be the only writer who has ever encountered this problem, can I?

If you've 'been there, done that', how do you cope when 'something's not right'?

Do you leave it, trusting in your muse that it will all come right in the end, or do you give in to that little voice in the back of your brain that taunts and berates and teases?

(I semi-imagine that whatever choice I make, an editor will come along one day and tell me the other way was the best one *grin* )

Monday, 27 July 2015

How do you know if you're 'original enough'?

This weekend, I was able to spend a fair few hours editing Book1 so that now I just need to update the digital version of the manuscript and I am good to go! (Read: start actually writing the darned thing again.)

One of the reasons I have had to spend so much time reworking the first 40K words is because, as I mentioned in a previous post, I had some issues with a setting that seemed to too closely resemble a famous setting in a famous book about a famous boy with famous magical powers. Famous.

(Have I mentioned that it's famous?)

Because that setting is so famous, I was left with little choice but to change my setting. I adore the stories that feature that Famous Setting but Book1 isn't fanfic or even an homage.

This story has nothing to do with that Famous Boy or that Famous Setting. They're not even of the same world.

But I have to wonder... Where is the line?

At what point is an original work of fiction 'original enough'?

My Book1 has characters of a similar age to the ones in the Famous Setting stories. The protagonist in Book1 has issues with parent(s) not being available just as the protagonist in the Famous Setting stories does. My protagonist has friends who become like family, same as...

You get the idea.

It leaves me to wonder how a work is determined to be original... With all of the writers out there telling their stories in all their different ways, how can a single writer be sure that their story is, indeed, unique?

I understand that comparisons will be made between Book1 (if it's ever published) and other works of fiction. It's one of the most viable ways readers learn about new works. 'Hey! If you liked So-And-So, you'll love Such-And-Such!' And even what works they might want to avoid. 'For those who love the prose of Author M. Storywriter, stay well away from the ramblings of Faker D. Wannabe!'

I welcome such comparisons, though, positive and negative. There's a lot to be learned from both. (If I ever do read reviews! I'm well aware that that is a minefield many choose not to cross.)

In the meantime, however, am I the only writer who knows that their story hasn't been told before, but worries that it's 'original enough'?

(I also wonder at what point writers will simply run out of ways to string words together in any sort of unique way. But that's very philosophical for a Monday and I'm certainly hoping this doesn't occur in my lifetime, nor in the lifetimes of my children!)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Two distinct writing styles... Which do you use?

In my, so far very short, time as a writer, I have come across two distinct styles of writing.

(I'm sure there are others, but if they don't fall into these two categories, I don't know of them.)

One of the styles largely makes use of the writer's immediate imagination. There's little, if any, forethought, and the writer simply writes as the story appears in their mind.

I started writing my first story this way. It came to me suddenly, unbidden, ready and willing to be transcribed. I write that story as it is told to me by my protagonist and this seems to work for us. In between storytelling sessions, I take the time to investigate and understand the rules of his world and the nuances of the locations, the people, the climate, making careful notes throughout. And then it's back to chronicling his story.

The issue I find with this style of writing is that things are not always revealed in good time. I sometimes learn something new and have to go back and re-work what I have already transcribed as it changes context or wording ever so slightly.

Most significantly, there was a semi-major re-write of the second setting of the story when it occurred to me that it was too similar to the setting in a rather famous set of stories involving a young wizard. Thankfully, my protagonist seems to concur that the events could have happened in this other location!

Because of these issues, the 'simple chaos' of how I receive the story, I am facing many roadblocks when it comes to developing how it is told. I have approximately 40K words transcribed (and copious notes) but I've revised them a couple of times and I haven't finished the re-write of that setting issue yet so the story itself is sort of stagnating. It's a little sad, but I'm not entirely worried as it's a beautiful story (of course, in my own humble opinion!) and it will be told. Eventually.

But this 'struggle' does make me wonder... What would it be like to write with a plan. What would it be like to write knowing, not the details of the story, but the journey those details will need to take, ahead of time. What if I plotted it all out. What if I had a plan?

This is the second style of writing. Writing with a plan. Writing with an outline in mind (or on paper). Knowing the timeline of the story before the details are known... Is a very different style to the one mentioned above.

I think the second story I am writing will follow this. I hope, anyway. It's a much simpler story, in that I'm not creating any new worlds in which my protagonist exists. The rules are known, there are the same rules I follow in my life, and for that, I think that elements of writing this second story will be easier. I just don't know if this style will suit me. I don't know if it will suit the way I tend to hear stories.

Perhaps, the issue I am facing with my first story lies in that the world itself is what complicates matters, not my style of writing, so I may not find it any easier or better when writing my second story as the world is much easier to get to know. Only time will tell.

I think I will attempt to get some understanding of where the second story unfolds, though, before delving into the details, just to see if it helps or works differently for me.... Or, in fact, if it's even a style of writing that I can use!

So, how do you write? Are you a by-the-seat-of-your-pants-er or do you take a more structured approach?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The more I read, the more I write. The more I write, the more I read.

Before I ever dreamt of seriously writing, I used to read all the time. I read everything. Even shampoo and conditioner bottles while in the shower (how much fun I had trying to pronounce all those impossible ingredients!). Everything.

When I was about 16 years old, I was tested and told I could read and retain at over 500 wpm. I know not if that's impressive, average or even pretty slow, but I know it made me feel pretty special to know. That number seemed quite high back then!

Recently, with the advent of the smart phone and tablets for entertainment, I found I didn't read nearly as much. I would rush through my shower just to end up sitting idly playing some silly game on my phone. No reading involved. Sad times.

Since I made the decision to write a story, however, that has changed. Slowly but surely, I am reading more and more. I am getting back into my old habits of picking up anything that's covered in text and finding out whatever information I can.

I'm still not back up to the consumption levels of my late twenties, before smart phones, but I'm well on my way.

And, by coincidence, I appreciate reading so much more now. I appreciate taking the time to absorb text, to take time away from the reality of commutes, waiting rooms, boring parties. I treasure those sweet, stolen moments.

I also appreciate reading fiction more than ever because I now have a much greater appreciation for the amount of work, the amount of imagination that is shovelled into birthing that new world from the synapses that course through a human brain.

Developing a new world myself and having to deal with the minutia that it entails (for example, changing the name of one character devolved into three hours of deciding what the naming rules were in my baby of a world and, essentially, renaming all-but-one of my characters)!

The rules that are created within a new world needn't be spelled out, but they must be consistent, they must be as complex as any of the rules which exist in familiar worlds and when they are, they are splendid.

I just read a fantasy novel by an author I follow on Twitter and the entire time I read it, a small part of the back of my brain was learning tricks of a craft I long to hone within myself. I read the subtext of the rules the author had chosen for their world and marvelled at their ability to not only come up with them, but at the detail to which they applied those rules. Subtle but pervasive, the author's rules were deep, multi-layered and touched upon everything, every single nuance the author captured in their story followed those rules.

I hope to be that adept some day, or at least that my writing causes me to appear adept. In the meantime, I will continue to grow my appetite for the printed word and as I read, I will write and as I write, I will read. My appreciation for both growing with every word.

Friday, 17 July 2015


I find myself post-change, once again. I am sitting at the desk of a new job, a better job than the one before by more comparisons than I can reasonably fathom.

As I sit here, knowing that I am not wasting anyone's time, I am not doing anything 'wrong' in blogging while at work, while 'on the company's dime'... I remember how fortunate I am. This blogging today is positively sanctioned.

That's right. My bosses have told me that they do not care (so long as it's legal) what I do in my spare time while in the office - be that blogging, surfing Twitter or even picking my nose.

As long as I continue to deliver to them the service and results they have come to appreciate in such a short time, I am a free agent in my free time.

So, here I sit, basking in the sheer joy of not only not working where I was previously employed, but in the utter thrill of, in a way, getting paid to write.

It's not technically the case (and I understand that I am taking liberties with semantics here) but it is true.

Gone is the guilt of feeling the desperate need to write but not being comfortable in doing so while unemployed or during time off of work because there are other things that could, that should be done.

Grown up things. Dishes, laundry, vacuuming... All of the things that an adult has to do to function and fit in 'normal' society.

While I wasn't working, there was also a tremendous sense of guilt over writing... It took away time to be looking for work... It was a was a pleasure I struggle with feeling I deserve, of which I am worthy. (As we know, feelings of worthiness and 'Good Enough' are a common and long-running theme in my life.)

Now, however, I feel... not quite 'worthy'... but I do certainly feel 'worthier'. This is a massive improvement in my life.

Now, I just need to find the time when at home to actually write... or figure out how to lug the various parts of my novel to work.

We're gonna need a bigger bag!

(Also, I'm searching for decent writing prompts to use here on my blog as motivation to actually write, so if you have or know of any, please shout!)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Why not just... write?!

This is a difficult question for me.

I have a story in my head (OK, more than one) that I need to get out but I battle daily, even *hourly* with ensuring I find a balance between losing myself in those wondrous worlds and being firmly rooted in my daily reality. Laundry, dishes, even eating take a backseat when I'm writing sometimes and because I know this, I often neglect the *writing* in an effort to keep myself real on a day to day basis.

I also avoid writing to keep The Wookie happy. He's an accountant/former engineer and his brain doesn't assimilate creativity as easily as mine does. His brain doesn't appreciate the *need* to create when the muse has visited and so I refrain from expressing the voices in my head... It's *his* reality, too, and I'm ever mindful that he's the only one currently employed and paying all the bills...

This, by proxy, means I don't even write blog posts these days. Quite sad, really, but as I was settling down to sleep last night, my brain was winding down and shared the thought "Why not just... write?!"

And I had all sorts of excuses ready; laundry, The Wookie, finding a job, a still untidy office... The list of excuses is virtually endless! But my brain insisted.

"Why not?! Why not *really*? What's the real reason why I don't write?"

And I think I found the answer: Fear of failure.

At the moment, I have a great start to a story. 40K or so words that have had nothing but positive, unbiased feedback.

But if I keep writing and the story flops? The muse leaves me? I over-edit or under-edit or *gasp* don't edit at all?!

What if it was all just beginner's luck?!

And I realised it's time to give myself the same kind of advice I've given countless others: Just *try* it. Worst case scenario? No one's going to die.

Well, no one *real* anyway... who knows what will happen to my characters?!

But the advice is sound. No one will die if I write. No one will perish if I follow my heart and my head... All I wish to do is develop this little fantasy world I've fallen in love with and adore discovering as I go...

So, I will write. I will write my story as and when I can. I will write blog posts (probably random ones like this one). I will write lists, plans, memos, letters... Anything I can think of, even the smallest, most insignificant things, but...

I will write.