I am currently editing and compiling a series of my own short stories.
They were begun in 2014, when I first became involved in the world of Steampunk, and continued until 2016. Initially posted on a, now closed, blog the first story having been published in a Steampunk magazine also, I have decided to compile them all into one volume.
The stories are based on the characters that my daughter and I assumed as part of the ‘costume’ for events, gatherings and annual Asylum Festival. These events involve people from all over the country, and in the case of The Asylum Festival, the world, dressing up in faux Victorian clothing; often hybridised from various literary characters, films, Industrial mechanisms and so forth.
This is not ‘serious’ literature – and was never meant to be; more a romp through various countries and continents with varying degrees of success. Lucy Lockhart and Theodora Doppler are a pair of adventurers, aka thieves, who collect treasures ostensibly for the Royal Society in London; think Harry Flashman crossed with Indiana Jones in female form! It is pulp fiction (no, not the film), in the style of the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century
The issue I have is that over the course of a writing career – especially at the beginning, one’s style and skill changes and grows – the earliest pieces reflect this, and can be seen as the development of these skills.
But do I publish? Of course, no actual publishing house is going to want to publish a set of stories about a philandering, thieving, amoral, (sometimes murdering), woman, set in an alternate 19th century, so it will be a self-published project – if it happens!
I finished writing my story today, HURRAH! Yes, the one I was doing for NaNoWriMo, that I did not complete in the time-frame; 1st to 30th November.
But now I have to edit it,BOO!
I cannot tell you how much I despise editing. The story was planned – first time I have done that, researched, written and completed.
The idea has been expulsed from my mind and body, like giving birth, or squeezing a particularly juicy spot. I do not really want to spend time poking and fiddling around with the after-stuff. And yet I cannot afford an editors fee – I know some out there who say, they only charge so much per thousand words, but free is the affordable amount for me.
When I was a visual artist, I made a quick pencil sketch of my idea, transferred the image to canvas, and painted it – done. I used acrylics because, firstly I couldn’t handle oils and secondly, acrylic paints dry so quickly, you can pack it up (for no-one to ever look at again!) a day later.
Writing is a bit like sex, the more you talk about it, the less I reckon you’re doing it. If I plan too much, or discuss too much, or overwork the idea, then I lose interest. For me, the excitement in writing lies in what will happen as I travel along this journey with my characters, and when we have reached the end I don’t want to go pouring over what might or might not have been.
Editing gets in the way of me starting my next story; I nearly always have two or three; even four ideas bubbling away at once.
Editing is like waiting for three hours at the airport for your bags after returning from holiday – feels like wasting time, but that’s your stuff.
Editing is like doing the washing up after a fat, fulfilling meal – takes the shine off it.
Editing is like having to write the envelopes after the Christmas cards are written – boring.
Revisiting the NaNaWriMo site is helpful, to a degree. There’s congratulations and praise; regardless of whether a writer reached 50,000 words or not. For the NaNo team, it’s the taking part that matters, that effort was made, and creativity happened. But what they do have is a link to help people like me – 5 Quick Editing Wins for December.Thanks NaNo Team (Katharine Gripp and co)
So, I am off to edit now, wish me luck. To misquote the heroic Captain Oates, “I’m going in and I might be some time.”
migraine (n.) late 14c., megrim, from Old French migraigne (13c.), from vulgar pronunciation of Late Latin hemicrania “pain in one side of the head, headache,” from Greek hemikrania,from hemi-“half” +kranion”skull” (see cranium). The Middle English form was re-spelled 1777 on the French model. Related: Migrainous. https://www.etymonline.com/word/migraine
I had my first migraine when I was around 25 years of age. I didn’t know I was having a migraine. I managed to make it home from the shop I worked in at the time, get into my pyjamas and lie down on the settee. I thought I was coming down with flu. When I complained about an awful noise in the apartment, my husband had to turn off the fridge – and that’s when he knew – I was having a migraine attack.
It began with pulsating neon-like triangles in the outer corner of my right eye. They throbbed away al afternoon, eventually causing such fuzziness as to obscure the vision in that eye. I had the most horrendous headache, felt nauseous, shivering, and later came the vomiting.
A migraine is a primary headache disorder characterized by recurrent headaches that are moderate to severe. Typically, the headaches affect one half of the head, are pulsating in nature, and last from two to 72 hours. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migraine
A headache?! A headache?! It’s more than a headache wiki!! Ask anyone who suffers from them. I began to get a migraine once a year or so, from that point onwards. Very occasionally one would be so bad, that I would have to take the day off work. Painkillers were useless. A darkened room, a cool, damp flannel on the forehead, plenty of water, oh and a sick-bowl, just in case!
“Migraine is an inherited tendency to have headaches with sensory disturbance. It’s an instability in the way the brain deals with incoming sensory information, and that instability can become influenced by physiological changes like sleep, exercise and hunger.”Professor Peter Goadsby, Professor of Neurology, King’s College London.
A s far as I am aware, no-one else in my family suffers from migraines; not my mother, father, brother, or aunts and uncles or nearest cousin. Then I reached a certain age (mid-40’s) and began to get a migraine each month. And each time it was different – sometimes I would have a visual migraine; Scintillating scotoma, the most common visual aura preceding migraine, but often without the after headache. I would get Ocular migraines; painless, temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes; that’s the one which makes you think you might be going blind; scary but it passes. As well as nausea, I get photophobia and in recent years have taken to wearing sunglasses even on not-so-bright-days.
Most commonly, my migraines take the form of, what I call ‘the shrinking helmet’…
…Imagine Alexander Dumas’ Man in the Iron Mask, kind of thing, okay? It is smooth, polished, seamless and fits snugly over one side of your head. There is a ‘plate’ that goes into your mouth and presses on the roof of your mouth and another that presses against your right eye. Through the following hours, that ‘Mask’ is going to get tighter and tighter. Your mouth feels as though it will press up through your nasal cavity, your eyeball is flattened… and then you get used to it. It seems to resolve into a neck-pinching all-over general pain. There may, or may not, be nausea.
I missed my writing session for NaNoWriMo last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, because of migraine!! It lasted 2 days (and on the third day you gasp and blink with relief, but fear going near bright lights and technology) I was not sick. But I could not write at my laptop. I could not hand-write as I couldn’t wear my glasses without the ‘Mask’ pressing tighter. I couldn’t read, use my mobile phone, play video games.
Today, Tuesday, I still have the remnants of the pressure in my right eye and the roof of my mouth. I will have to get as much as possible written of my story, before the possibility of the whole thing kicking off again!
Like some kind of word assassin, it lurks on the edges of my brain, ready to sneak in and kill my vision.
This is my 2nd year at NaNo. Last year I started a sci-fi novel, reached my 50,000 word count and continued it – it is still progressing, has passed 100,000; but that’s for another time. This year I am trying a new approach. Planning!!!!!
I am late to the party this year, partly because of that and due to other writing commitments: I have a little map of the village in my notebook, all the villagers names, family connections and job roles in the community i.e. dyer, scribe, labourer etc. I have NEVER planned a story before.
I will be ‘trying’ to write a piece of Magical Realism, set in late 17th early 18th century. Suzanna is a 12 year old on the cusp of womanhood. All she wants is to be the May Queen and for James Joseph to fall in love with her. An isolated village, the Church, culture and conformity, and Oak Tree Jesus!
My notebooks, beginnings…
And so begins my introduction to this years NaNoWriMo event.
NaNoWriMo?? I hear you cry – what is wrong with you Alex, have you forgotten how to speak or are you making up new words?
National Novel Writing Month – shortened to nanowrimo – is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. But you don’t have to!
If you’re a writer and need something to motivate you – this might prove to be worth a shout. I joined, last year, on the recommendation of a fellow Wirral Writer. I work alone, I like working alone, I don’t mix well when it comes to creativity, I don’t want to share my ideas and I don’t want to make new friends – if that sounds like you, then NaNo is still fit for purpose. You do not have to do anything you don’t want. But I got a hell of a lot of words written! I found that this works for me, I need a ‘kick-up-the-arse’, not because I don’t write or enjoy it, but because I get lost in the minutiae, or I wander off into the Land of Research – for example, did you know that not everyone in England in the 16th century had a chimney on their house? Chimneys were a luxury, a luxury!! – see what I mean?
Last year I was what is commonly called, a ‘Pantser’ – writing by the seat of your pants, not organised or planned. This year, it’s Planner; let’s see how that goes.
Sure, some people go all the way, they keep in touch, they communicate with new writing friends, they even meet up at venues for real-life ‘write-ins’ as well as virtual ones. It is a perfect writing platform as you use as little or as much of it as you want. You can see other people’s word counts – so you are either incentivized or proud as a peacock throughout.
So, if you are beginning a new story, or even in the middle of one, you can join the community and share as much, or as little, of your experience throughout the month of November – just get that story written!
Before NaNo – daydreaming, and during NaNo – working!
I am currently studying ‘An Introduction to Screen-writing‘( University of East Anglia) with FutureLearn – an online digital education platform. For me, being able to continue to learn and develop is as important as eating and bathing. This course is FREE! Many of the courses are free and are well designed, presented and are engaging.
Prior to this week, we have been learning about the Five Fingered Pitch and then extending into Ten fingers, or, Two Hand Pitch. I had an idea for a story which I thought might work well on the screen, so I pitched that. So today, we have been asked to do an exercise in developing character outlines. It is part of the the process of character development. We are to ‘create an outline for a character from a film that you’ve recently seen or use it as an opportunity to develop a character of your own.‘
I’m choosing to stick with my own story, in the hope that this exercise will help me to develop Reg – who currently doesn’t even have a surname!
List the character’s major actions. Start from the end and work backwards. (Don’t analyse how or why; just create a list of actions.)
Saves his neighbourhood.Scares the drug dealers half to death. Accepts help. Falls into despondency. Discovers son has drugs. Asks new neighbours to be more respectful.
Analyse the list to reveal the character’s wants and needs. Is the character aware of what they want?
Reg wants things to be like they used to be, he wants his family safe, and a quiet life. Reg feels impotent, he initially pleads for peace but is disregarded, in Reg’s eyes, his son has been tainted by the badness of the world. Finally realising that others feel the same, Reg is persuaded to join forces, under the ‘guidance’ of an archetypal mentor. They set about scaring off the dealers and thugs. Reg is aware of what he wants – a peaceful life – but the invading force (new neighbours) paralyse him.
Describe how the character thinks and look at his or her basic psychology. Intelligent? Intellectually engaged? Cognitive Biases? Impulsive? Cautious?
Reg is a thoughtful considerate father and husband. His wife thinks he’s ‘too vanilla’. He is rare amongst his peers in that he has a college education. He listens to reggae, classical and jazz music. He reads history books and sporting fiction. He learnt to play the piano and violin at school, but parents could never afford instruments of their own. Wanted to be a jazz musician, but ended up working at the local steel yard. He enjoys the simple things in life; a pint with his pals at the weekend, a game of pool, football in the park with 10 and 12 year old kids on Saturday, sex on Sunday. Reg is quite philosophical about where his life is in comparison to original plans.
Describe the character’s superficial affect. How might a casual acquaintance describe them?
A nice guy.
List any important physical characteristics
None. Just your average dad.
This is just an outline, so stick to that format and make lists; avoid long prose descriptions.
So this is my character outline for Reg, aka; Reginald, Reggie, or Barnsey (because he looks like a young John Barnes; footballer).
The working title for the story/script is ‘Regilante’!!
This is something I have never done before in my story writing; plan the character, and this course is helping me look at writing in quite a different way. I have also stepped out of my comfort zone – writing from a male POV and a Black Comedy – I have never written comedy before and do not know if I am even up to the task!