The Gap is Gone

For many years, writing filled a gap in my life.

When they came into my life, the characters kept me company in the dark as I tried to fall asleep in my new apartment, totally alone for the first time.

Later, my brain explored their world as my body did physical tasks long since gone mindless.  Their conversations kept me entertained through the boredom of lines, their adventures gave my mind a place to wander when it had nothing else to do.

A lack of challenge, a shortage of stimulation, led me to writing.  A hobby soon grew, becoming a passion, and I was hooked.

For the past year, I’ve barely written.  Blogs are sparse, characters are quiet, and it’s been perplexing to me.  These are my children, this world one of my own making, a place I am always welcome.  There are still lines to stand in, still quiet moments in the dark, still tasks that don’t require my brain.  Where has the story gone?

This week I realized – the story is not gone, but the gap is no more.  Those empty moments are now occupied with work, with stress, with the many things to which I’ve committed my time and energy.  The chatter that filled my mind now dims in down moments; what was once a fairly level din is now peaks of intensity followed by valleys of quiet.

In searching for and finding a more challenging job, I fear I’ve reduced writing back to an occasional hobby.  I’ll have to decide if I want to pursue ways to bring it back; perhaps I’ll find quiet moments again, as this job becomes more routine, and the characters will speak once more.

NaNo 2013 Advice, Part 2

My advice for this week is simple.

You actually need to write.

Needless to say, I have not been very productive recently.

Is your NaNo going better than mine?

Learning to Read

I had to do a little research and a little decision-making tonight for Mara’s Tale.

She’s starting to learn to read, which is awesome and will set up several other scenes to come.  However, she’s learning to read in a fantasy world with technology similar to the middle ages or Renaissance, from a herbalist in the poor district of town.  This means I can’t have her using lined paper and a pencil, the way I learned to read and write.  What would she use?  Slate and chalk?  Charcoal and… what?  The little research I could do online turned up quill pens and ink on paper, or even pencils.  I’m not sure that the poor herbalist would have access to those, at least not to waste on a child’s practicing.  For a few moments I was stumped.

Of course, this isn’t historical fiction, so in the end I decided to use a variation of it.  Rough paper, probably made nearby, and a charcoal stick seemed to work well for the tale and feel like something that the herbalist would have at her disposal.

Additionally, I remembered that spelling wasn’t standardized until much later (at least, in real history) so I made it a point not to have Mara spell out words or refer to letters explicitly.  It made the section a little trickier to write, but it worked out ok (at least for now).

Chapters

As I’m working on Mara’s Tale, I’ve discovered that chapters aren’t really important.

If the year changes (and it does several times when she’s small) I will note the year in the way that one would usually denote a chapter heading.  Other than that, though, I’m just marking changes of scene/time with a hard return and a triple asterisk.  (***)

I’m sure that the book will eventually be split into chapters, but right now that’s not really high on the priority list while I work.

How do you handle dividing a story into chapters?

Cutting Myself Some Slack

Today I explained to someone who perhaps I’m behind on my word count because my heart isn’t quite into NaNo this year.  The advice I got in return was that perhaps I shouldn’t spread myself too thin, and maybe not participate in NaNo.

The reality is that I’m setting a couple of different goals with regards to NaNo this year.  The first is the obvious goal: 50,000 (new) words and a completed novel.  However, I have another, smaller goal.  I want to work on Mara’s Tale, and without the driving force of NaNo, that hasn’t happened.  Each time I fill in another gap, every day that I write (even a few hundred words) is a success in my mind.  Earlier this week I wrote only about 600 words, but they were important because they completed the last section I had left of a particular part of Mara’s life.  The word count may have been short for the day; the accomplishment was not short.

I think layered goals are perfectly acceptable, don’t you?

A Moment From Another’s Perspective

Something important occurred to me yesterday.  If a child escapes from a slave trader, after he’s invested six years in raising her, he’s going to be a little annoyed.  He’s also probably going to try to get her back.

This actually helped me with Mara’s tale, making it easier to answer a couple of questions that had been bothering me.  It helps with her introduction to a key adult in the next part of her life and also provides a logical reason for her to get new clothing.  There are people looking for her, and she needs to disguise herself.  I think I might also have her dye her hair, at least temporarily.

I’m also pleased that this helped me to put some shape to a new character, Granny Hazel, who teaches Mara how to read. 🙂

 

NaNo 2013 Advice, Part 1

I’ve already made some silly mistakes as part of this year’s NaNo adventure.  In the spirit of last year’s advice (“Let me tell you the things I’m doing that aren’t helping…”), I’ve decided to go ahead and do the same this year.  It’s not so much advice as admitting my mistakes, but advice sounds so much better.

Don’t turn on the television.

This should be common sense.  When you’re trying to write a lot, the TV should be off a lot.  Notice, however, that I said should be common sense.

I started this year’s NaNo with one advantage and one disadvantage.  As I’ve already mentioned, filling in gaps is setting me up for a limited word count, but I started off this year with four days off from work.  The disadvantage is working well to make life difficult, but I totally blew my advantage by turning on the television.

It will be fine, I thought.  I’ll just put on a movie I know by heart and let it be background noise, I told myself.  Really?  I can’t even listen to music and write successfully!  Why on earth did I think this was a good idea?

The honest truth is that somehow the television and my recliner are now linked in my brain.  Turning on the TV when I sit down in the recliner is reflex.  That means I need to either fight the reflex or sit somewhere else for the rest of NaNo!

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