November 30, 2009
Total words: 60942, (personal goal was 60,000) and I am two scenes away from the end of this stage of the story – it would be nice to think I could wrap that up in another, say, 2000 words. Maybe tomorrow.
Middle words: and walked (this phrase is used 16 times)
First line: Marion woke up and it was all a dream. (I’m going to lose this, but I’ve wanted to start something that way for a while).
Last line: Marion said, “I am sure that when the idea occurs to them, poison will take their fancy.”
Most pointless adventure: Duplicated a character and had to kill off one version with a carnivorous waterhorse. This failed to make the surviving half any more interesting.
Favourite part: Bloodthirsty rose maze.
Favourite story-within-story: A ghostly version of LRR in which the grandmother gets to say, “My, what big eyes you have!”.
Worst parts: Aimless angst.
Best realisation: That there were some themes emerging – paths between worlds, beast-people and truth-despite-love.
Part that would probably be the most embarrassing to read out loud: any of the indirectly reported lyrics.
Best lesson: Lay clues, foreshadow, and give ominous predictions. These are more fun if you have no idea what they are clues to, and prove invaluable down the track. The double-sided coats and talkative convent students and wolf-faced old women and mysterious cups that I littered through the story last year for no good reason (other than having no idea what was happening) turned out to tie in with curses of truth, and timid teenagers, and roads that go through more than one forest, and lost daughters and pied pipers and tides of gnawing, chittering things. Maybe next year they will even feed back into the main plot.
Secondary lesson: If you mention archery in the working title, it is pretty much a given that you will never, ever be able to get anyone in the story anywhere near a bow and arrow. Well, someone found a golden arrow in their roast, but that only happened last night, and out of desperation.
Things to do once November is over: Write short stories! Read novels. Talk to people. Answer emails. Tear out all the secret-project-scribbles and pin them to corkboards around the house. Be civilised. Take the plastic wrap off the mop. Rearrange chairs. Sketch in my sketchbook. Design Christmas cards. Not resent mealtimes. Move. Look at photos of tiger farms in Brisbane and wonder whether I can work that into a secret project. Eat vegetables. Not feel guilty about working over lunchtime instead of writing. Go to movies. Think it’s realistic that I might go to bed at a reasonable time. Remember the existence of things like “editing” and “proof-reading” and “spelling”.
November 28, 2009
It can be metaphorical, if you like. Mostly I’ve just been reading too much of The Faery Reel and think Moreton Bay Fig buttress roots look prehensile. Pen with colour added in Photoshop, and you can see a larger version here.
This may end up becoming the December blog header, which is the reason for the shape.
November 28, 2009
Life through Cellophane – Gillian Polack: It was described on the cover as “part horror & part gentle love story”, but I’d rephrase that as “part gentle horror and part love story”. It’s about growing up in middle age, about being alone when surrounded by people (and vice versa), and about how, even when your family is made up of friends, you can’t always choose them or how they’ll behave. Also ghosts and ants and lots of food and Canberra and escaping from the public service. I really liked it.
The Impetuous Countess – Barbara Cartland: I mentioned in my review of Serena last month that there was another Regency to come. I was reading this book on the train and wanted to hit my head against the window in rhythm with the train because the writing. had. a. paragraph. break. at. the. end. of. every. sentence. and it drove me batty. It also made it difficult to assess the book beyond that, but it was in some ways closer to what I should have liked – innocent, flamboyant, melodramatic. And yet it was thin and silly, and I have a theory that this is because it concentrated on just the romance and the erratic behaviour and missed what make Heyer’s and Jones’ and Bujold’s romances so much fun: that those books aren’t primarily about the romance, that while what romance there may be is inevitable it’s almost a bonus. Plot: Young girl running away from home falls in with dour but handsome count, carriage is overturned, she tells the people who takes them in they are married, forgetting they are in Scotland and that means that now they are married and then they… go to France, I think, and there are balls and misunderstandings and Napoleon and rooftop escapes and pretending to be servants to escape from Paris and then getting smuggled back to England and finally realising they love each other. It could have been fun if it wasn’t *so* cringe-worthily over the top (and the heroine so hilariously naive). Or maybe if it had just had longer paragraphs.
The Two Pearls of Wisdom – Alison Goodman: My diary says “It was sort of like… Prince and the Pauper meets chinese chequers meets The Grinch who stole Christmas. All in a good way. (P&P for opulence, deception & protocol, CC for world buildng & border decoration & Grinch for the denouement).” All of which is true, but not necessarily helpful, because regardless of how that sounds it is a good book, with a strong formal structure (which suits the world), a very ordered world (which suits the story), lots of elegant action, complicated politics (both government and gender), beautiful description of trappings and action (both fighting and smaller actions – a lovely way with the folding of hands), and dragons. My personal tastes trend more towards fairy tale retellings and chaos-with-a-heart than such beautifully thought-through worlds and systems of magic, and while I don’t have the background to do it myself I’d like to see a take on this looking at the cultures that inspired the world, but I am looking forward to reading the sequel.
Fables 10: The Good Prince (issues 60-69) – Bill Willingham, et al: My note on this simply says, “Gentle, for all the fighting”. James Jeans’ cover painting still makes me sad. Old enemies, new heroes, baseball in the Frog Prince’s lands, foresworn knights and families slowly growing. The individual issues of Fables form a much more discrete storyline than the enormous mythology of Sandman, for example (a large part of their respective charm) but I am still blown away by the ease with which mood changes to model itself to each episode – fun and childlike, austere and tragic, heroic. It’s a beautiful series, and my copies have been in fairly high rotation.
The Pipes of Orpheus – Jane Lindskold: This was like the Famous Five in Dante’s Divine Comedy written by a late 19th century fantasist and Christian Anderson, but with a dash of PL Travers, more human sacrifice, and a strong dose of Stoker in the last third. It was – I’m not sure. It had the same effect on me as a lot of late 19th century fantasy, which is admiring puzzlement, and I think this is because the story doesn’t neatly fit the modern structure of such stories. Essentially, it is the story of the surviving children the Pied Piper in his madness lured away, and of their journeys through Hades, Transylvania and Olympus to free the spirits of the dead. It features a gorgeous description of a tenuously existing world being rolled up, and some Muses who appeared to be Welsh. The relevant entry in my diary reads “I finished Pipes of Orpheus on the way in [to work]. I am still puzzled”. It is, however, one of those books I will recommend because I would like to discuss it – don’t, however judge it by its cover!
Four and Twenty Blackbirds – Cherie Priest: I have not read a great deal of Southern Gothic fantasy, but I think I might like it. Tor gave out some free books at… Conflux last year, I think, and I finally read this one. It is gripping from the beginning, full of ghosts and family secrets and murderous cousins, swamps and alligators and monks in disguise, blood memory and old murders, the lies of those we love and the occasional kindness of enemies (such a small part, but it stuck with me). But I particularly liked the heroine, Eden, who is… kind of awesome, not because she is Feisty(TM) or Strong(TM), but because she just does things. She’s not superhuman, she knows which fights not to pick, she’s physical but not exceptionally powerful, not angsty (!), not polite or relying on hints, prepared to do something, even if it might not be wise, rather than do nothing. It is such a relief to read a story which appears to be shaping up to be an impenetrable web of untold family secrets and have the main character give up on being polite and just ask the questions outright. I’d like to read more of the stories about Eden, but also some more of the genre because it interests me not just for the books in it, but for the sort of fairly location-specific genre, and because of recent conversations about whether parts of Australia have or could support something similar.
November 25, 2009
Still aiming for a second goal of 60,000.
November 25, 2009
Pen lines with colour added in Photoshop. Based on a photo of me in a tree, aged about 3, and a very grainy video of me hamming it up on the piano for reference purposes the other night.
I maintain that all children should be forced to learn the piano – after that, you can read the music for anything else.
November 18, 2009
A little cotton-candy circus fantasy for Illustration Friday. You can see it larger here.
The panels were done in Inkscape, the lines with a pen and everything else in Photoshop.
The texture in the background is from the endpapers of my great-grandfather’s autograph album, which as best I can tell was in use from at least 1908 to 1913 and contains signatures and poems and paintings and such sentiments as:
Fall from the hill tops,
Fall from above
Fall from every where
But for Heaven’s sake,
Don’t Fall in Love.
Janey McHough – 11.12.08
Good boys love their sisters
But far better have they grown
That they love other boys’ sisters
Far better than their own
ELS – Oct 24 1907
Yours “The Egg”
31st May 1907
November 13, 2009
Larger version here.
Pen line work with digital colour and editing. Part character test, part messing around with thaumatropes (and dirigibles). The reason for Gwen’s expression in the last panel is because she is actually doing something subversive (more on this in the fulness of time).
The two separate pictures are of a dirigible and (if you turn your computer upside down) a seated man who has just dropped a bowl. Together they are *meant* to look like a rudimentary and possibly unfeasible aircraft. Still working on the optical illusions here.
Edited to turn one of the images the right way up – I kept waking up last night with it bothering me.
November 12, 2009
I just hit halfway. 25,094 words. 50.19%. I find out tomorrow whether something-at-the-day-job is going to happen which will mean I need to bow out. But still – an average of 2,091 a day so far, and if I average 1,384 from here on in, I can still make it. Having run some studies, I can write at least 400 words in 10 minutes, which means at least 10.4 hours of writing remaining.
Did I mention I like spreadsheets?
My NaNoWriMo spreadsheet has columns for:
- Av. to date
- Av. daily
- Av. remaining
- 2nd target
plus a chart of various values and some other calculations (writing minutes remaining, average needed to obtain higher word counts) off to the side.
It isn’t procrastination – I set it up once and can use it over again, it takes moments to update and I love seeing the numbers tick over and grow and fall, the lines on the chart move and waver and cross. My biggest motivation is adding in the new total and seeing how many I have written for the day, how the averages shift.
It’s great for this sort of writing because it makes it a game against myself, a challenge, a strategy of little by little and bit by bit (and yes, I have a spreadsheet with various compound interest calculations that I carry around on my thumbdrive). It keeps my eye on the goal: words on paper. And sometimes, when I get to the end, I look back and find pieces that are even salvagable, links and patterns and plots wavering out of the fever dream.
And sometimes I look back and realise I’ve just written an unrelated interlude which is best characterised as “Orpheus & Eurydice” + selkies + “Gawain and the Loathly Lady” + Thomas the Rhymer, with advice (but not philosophy!) from a very lost Robin and Little John, roses, mortality and a musing on social responsibility.
November 9, 2009
Someone asked at Conflux whether NaNoWriMo was a good thing for one’s writing, and I said I don’t know – it could be the worst imaginable thing for it. But as the world’s most extreme parlour game? For that, I would recommend it to anyone!
So I am doing NaNoWriMo again and have just reached 27% of the wordcount (the 50,000 words, that is – I’m not trying a repeat of the 90,000 I did last year). And so far it is… much as it always is. Agonising and crazy-making and fun and horrific and startling, and full of lessons that I knew in theory but had to learn in practice.
These are my personal November writing principles.
- Writing can be like an inkblot: if I fling enough words at the page eventually I start seeing things.
- I may never get around to editing what I do have, but I can’t edit what I don’t have.
- Keep moving forward.
- Never go back.
- When a character sticks, add a new one, or dredge up an old one. Some of my favourite characters started as space-fillers who got grafted back in when I suddenly needed an extra speaking part.
- When a scene sticks, change scenes. Even in the middle. Especially in the middle – this has the double benefit of giving tension to the plot on one hand, and time to work out what happened on the other.
- When the plot sticks, use high explosives. I’m quite serious about this – in a pre-industrial setting, particularly, it can give pages of people running around and trying to work out what happened, and why.
- If I can’t lose characters in a forest, I can occasionally lose them up a tree.
- Trade contractions in for adjectives.
- Describe liberally – if I describe in circles around a scene for a while at high speed, I will usually write a detail that could come in handy.
- Graft old established plots in. I started my NaNoWriMo project with a well known legend, but throwing in an element or two of a fairytale can liven things up a bit. It gives a line for my fingers to follow while my mind is thinking of ways to remix it.
Number 11 is a lot of fun. It’s the one I usually rember to use when it isn’t November, and is a way of tapping into patterns and echoes of stories and then just messing with them. There are usually a few examples in most of my stories – an irish fairytale blended with some A. A. Milne and a bit of John Birmingham, or Cinderella meets The Crucible with a dash of the Paper Bag Princess.
The thought process tends to go: I don’t know what is happening at the end of this sentence so – oh, here is a tree. I will send my character up a tree. Now what? It would be boring to just come down. Okay, she will get lost in the tree and come down in another part of the forest. Now she is lost in the woods. Okay, she should meet… meet a wolf. Who turns out to be a motherly, Tiggy-Winklish wolfish sort of person, who keeps mysteriously losing chickens. This has tied into a whole subplot of lost things (shoes and cups and kingdoms and hearts). It does give a lot of draggled loose ends, but that means there are more threads to weave back into the plot later on. At the moment, I am pulling together a Sleeping-Beauty-as-murder-victim strand with a Lancelot-is-really-Orpheus strand and about to add a dash of Tristan and Ysolde.
Of course, it also yields such awkward situations as a character who was entertaining, but going nowhere, so I had to duplicate him and then kill off his first manifestation with a conveniently-timed carnivorous waterhorse. But hey! It’s NaNoWriMo! No one ever has to read that part, and if I ever do need a story about a carnivorous waterhorse, I’ve got a page of description all set up there ready to go.
November 4, 2009
Ah, November, season of writing 2,000+ words a day.
Illustration Friday this week is themed “Skinny”, which led me to think of long, thin (relatively speaking) tails, and long clever fingers.
This is also the new blog header. I do have some slightly more developed ideas on the theme, but see the first sentence of this post to calculate the likelihood of them being finished by Friday.