7QT: Twas the Week Before Christmas…

…And not much was stirring. That’s the problem with being on break from the usual routine; one loses the rhythm that once inspired blogging. 7 Quick Takes Friday is hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum.

~1~

Well, it was my partner’s birthday on Sunday. A week before Christmas, poor lad, but at least we got to celebrate with a relaxing time at home after Mass, and then went for a meal with his dad and siblings.

~2~

The remainder of the days I spent with him consisted of the usual if one’s usual is playing video games (Lego Dimensions, Slime Rancher) 😉 and reading. I hate to admit it, but the holiday is, in some cases, for relaxing – even when I would honestly rather be working.

~3~

I’ve also been working on my assignments for January – a four-part Phonetics assignment which in each of its parts uses the Praat acoustic phonetic programme.

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An example of a spectrogram one can analyse in Praat.

~4~

Of course, though, the persistent winter cold has returned with a vengeance – and I can only hope that any form of ‘refreshers’’ (meaning the second term of new-to-uni activities) flu will be short lived if lived at all. I have had rather enough of being illed. It gets in the way of my studies, my games, and my mind, like a fog across the frontal lobe, infecting every inch of my spirit until it is no more than a mush.

~5~

I look forward to when the Christmas kerfluffle is out of the way and we can all just get back to the winter as it was without the needless commercialism. Even the togetherness can be stifling, can it not? Some of us are not used to it.

~6~

Editing has been slow – big surprise there, eh? 😛 – though rewriting has been somewhat of a success. I finally finished chapter and ramped up the tension and, most importantly, the plot. The extract below follows Cathy and Petite Victoria as they argue over the bartering of freedom for the crew.

~7~

So, this was it. This was Victoria’s deal?

“So you planned to steal me away from my comrades to keep me captive from them?” She was surprised how calm her voice sounded. “What next, push me off a cliff?”

“I offer you asylum,” Victoria said simply.

“Asylum from what exactly?”

She spread her hands wide. The bands of heat above the plateau rippled in response. In front of them, the sea thrashed against the rocks like the orchestra pit of a play-house; behind them, a wasteland trawled until it hit the settlement, the only signs of life and survival for miles.

“Without my help, your crew have no way home.” She paused, and Cathy heard all the meaning in her silence. “Unless they plan to walk to Roma with no food or water.”

She was right, damn all heavens!

“Unless you plan to sacrifice them and their little guild for your own freedom.”

“So, you use me as the bartering chip,” muttered Cathy.

NaNo No, Part 2: A Resurgence?

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The further the skyship ascended into the stratosphere, the more Cathy was made to regret (that) she hadn’t tied her hair above her head/up. The rain danced/? off the sails with ?/ thrummed/? against the deck. She drew her/a shawl/? closer against/around her neck.

Because that airship in Stardust is gorgeous. 🙂 And a snippet of editing.

Yesterday, I started talking about National Novel Writing Month and its impact on my life – which, in summary, has been substantial, from spurring me to start my first proper novel (as opposed to a ‘novel’ I wrote when I was thirteen that was half the length it ought to have been, industry-standard) to helping me edit and put together what I think has been more significant and elegant writing (but who really knows?).

As I said, it’s November now, and we are seven days into it.  Whilst many if not most of my writer friends are (or have done, in the case of Cait G Drews ) already deep in their plans and their novels and their progress, if I had planned to write for NaNo, I would be seven days behind.

As it is, I have not considered it.

I might have done, might have said to myself what is necessary for me to write a novel or a project this November? Instead, however, it didn’t even cross my mind that I might. Why? Because – as I related in the previous installment – two out of my three NaNo achievements were made during July’s CampNaNo. Ultimately, I’ve made myself associate November with study (in this year’s case: towards my Master’s degree) and July with being able to spread my wings creatively, so to speak, and write.

Nevertheless, with everyone around me gearing into writing mode, it does feel a bit strange not to be writing. Perhaps, even to the point of trying to inspire myself to ‘celebrate’ NaNo in some way, using it to my advantage somehow. With its goal-orientated system of even the smallest encouragement, how could it not be useful to a slow writer and procrastinator like myself?

I think setting myself a task over the course of November would be useful to my editing, to my writing in general, so that it doesn’t seep from my fingers. A paragraph or a page edited a day, instead of my ambitious (on average, my chapters are 2500 words long) goal of a chapter a day. That I only rarely complete.

But I don’t think it’s advantageous. Not to me. I can’t fault that some people with greater workloads than me can deal with university, or work, or a busy home-life, and still pump out 2000 words a day or something similar, but I can’t. I tried. Even when I was a first year, and I did have the social and mental ability and disregard for my studies to stay awake until 3am, I didn’t have the drive then. Now, I have the drive and the want to work and succeed, but I’ve lost the want to stay up after 12 midnight, not least because it’s not good for my mental health the following day.

I admire those who have the ability to make those distinctions and sacrifices for their writing (as well as keeping a healthy reading and blogging schedule, too). It’s not me. I can’t do it. And I have to bow to the fact that, for me, it’s not possible. Maybe next November, yes (not July, as I will be in the middle of my dissertation then), but not this November.

I won’t be setting myself any goals – no matter how I want to – simply because I know I cannot consistently keep to them with my life as changing and in-flux as it currently is.

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On the other hand, that doesn’t mean I don’t still hold those who do NaNo in the highest respect. Go them! To write a deal of a novel alone in a month is an achievement that we must not dismiss.

I will just keep thinking to myself – maybe next year. Maybe.

NaNo No

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It won’t have escaped your notice that it’s November and the writing community, Twitter, blogs, Facebook even, are abuzz with tales of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo).

Now, I am no stranger to NaNo; my favourite of my novels was born during NaNo in 2010 when I was 15, where I won NaNo, but then spent an additional three months trying to end the 50,000 words into 80,000.

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<It might partly have been to do with the fact that I handwrote the entire first draft, and so spent a deal of my time after November copying it onto Word.>

Later that year, I presented for my English Language GCSE on NaNo and my teacher and I were pleased with my resulting mark.

After that, my other forays into NaNo were in July, as I had entered a state of education where I could not afford to spend my November with a head of scenes and characters. In fact, there is indeed a version of NaNoWriMo called CampNaNo. It is essentially the same set up, though writers are encouraged to produce their own wordcount goals. Even so, I stuck to 50,000, as that was NaNo to me.

In 2013, I spent the two weeks I was volunteering in Uganda handwriting in a sandy notebook the sequel of the novel written for my first NaNo. But it felt disjointed, and, though again I completed NaNo’s wordcount goal, I was left with a lot more to type up of a novel that I didn’t love. The characters were bland and the plot felt samey, and, although this was a character’s side I needed to tell, I wasn’t invested in her as I had been my other heroine.

For those of you who know them: I still found Zara a whiny teenager as I had in Aidelle’s story. Although Aidelle was blunt, she at least had class. Literally.

The next time I did NaNo was the following year, yes the July again, with the absence of a notebook and a new plot on my mind. It was my first year as an undergraduate student, and I was free from exams, at least for where it mattered in July. I had already scrabbled at some ideas for short stories, but none were forming as I’d hoped, and coming to birth as knowing I was a Steampunk (and it was that aesthetic that the past two NaNo novels had tried to emulate), I was really beginning to grow a new idea in my head. One of true dirigibles and Vesuvian tribes and a linguist hunting for her beloved. Perhaps it sounds familiar…

I left her for at least a year, I did, and I kept leaving her. But I have been making slow progress through the third draft of H and editing updates continue (see the main photo above).

I haven’t done NaNo since then, though not for want of trying. As it is with my literary status (minor published, unagented, student), I’m not sure I want to spend my time on new ideas, particularly as writing a larger novel in general hasn’t been coming to me, when I ought to be editing, polishing, and submitting what I already have.

Well, I have written rather a lot – it’s funny to think how much I am still affected by those novels I have not worked on for a bit. I did mention they were dear to me. However, I have yet to talk about NaNo as it stands this year, the original topic of this blog, and it’s getting late. Look out for part two tomorrow, where I consider how I can utilise National Novel Writing Month this year.

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It’s been a while since I’ve worked on either of those favourite novels, but you can still read about the Time, Stopped trilogy over on my Novels page of this blog. 🙂

5 Senses

Taking inspiration from NevilleGirl’s post, of the 5 different senses in writing. Whereas she listed examples of senses to use in writing, I thought I’d challenge myself further by writing a little piece of description for each that could be relevant in my novel.

Smell

In amongst the soft chugging of steam from the device’s motor, the smell clouded the air. Faint at first, but only more pungent the more she angled her head upward, the steam clouded the air with a metallic stink. She stifled a cough (as much as she was able in the headrest), and concentrated on the basement’s usual odour of rotted wood and fresh copper wire. It was not much better, but it was better at least.

Taste

She sunk her front teeth into the wad of fabric, and very nearly heaved. She would’ve spat it out if she’d been able. It tasted like damp straw and the back of a fireplace.

Touch

Against her bare skin, the crushed velvet soothed like a bandage with extra padding—another gash zigzagged from her right elbow to an inch from her wrist-bone—and that was not the only surprising element to the rented outfit.

Sound

In the air, everything was muted, or muffled as if the world above the clouds blanketed the world below. Or both silenced the other. Amelia’s boots scuffed along the deck as she moved back and forth, map tight in her fist; a whoosh of air skimmed the bow from front to back as if trying to shush Cathy’s thoughts; and even the wheel squeaked little as The Cloud-Chaser’s faithful captain ploughed her through the dense atmosphere.

Sight

Cathy gazed over the plateau, shivering a little, despite the midday heat that curled off the building structures below her. In this hamlet, where the tribespeople worked like ruthless cattle and their ‘Queen’ was no better, a figure was conspicuously absent, no matter how far Cathy strolled.

A certain man with pince nez halfway down his nose and a stack of papers tucked in his arms.

Alexander had not crashed in Italia.

~

And, on that note, thanks for reading! Feel free to continue the 5 Sense tag in whatever way you think will help your fab writing!

Beautiful People: H’s Cathy

*gasp* What is this, an actual Beautiful People post on my blog in 2016? I know, I’ve been as lax in keeping up with the writing tag as a printer sans ink, partly because I’ve not tackled any new big novels for a while and instead have been trying to focus on the importance of editing. But since I’m working on it at the moment, about two years from its conclusion, I thought we’d revisit my Steampunk novel H, a tale of ghosts, Italian tribes, and dirigibles.

what is beautiful peple about

Beautiful People is a monthly segment focusing on the fictional people of our novels with the intent of uncovering their little tidbits that although may not come into fruition or play in the novel, round the character into more than a paper cutout. It is hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky from Further Up and Further In.

So, let me once again, introduce you to the lovely, yet audacious, Miss Cathleen Cattoway, betrothed to Squire Alexander Sterling. Or so she hopes…

PAPERFURY

  1. How did you come up with this character?

Horology - CathleenLike most of my character creation, I don’t recall coming up with Cathleen Cattoway specifically. I know I wanted a female main character to look through, someone with brown hair and eyes as a template for her appearance. Confident and not docile to the sexism of the day, but not someone who liked mechanics. Her name was something of a pick-out-the-hat, as I tend to do. It stuck, thank goodness.

  1. Have they ever been starving? Why? And what did they eat to break the fast?

Totally boring here, but no. She’s had to be self-sufficient, and she has been hungry, sure, but never starving.

  1. Do they have a talent or skill that they’re proud of?

Linguistics. That is, the study of language structure. Cathy’s particular speciality comes from translating Latin and Greek, and so she is fascinated by how different languages use different syntax to create different meaning. This also helps her pick out when people are not being so truthful—as she is more likely to hear the false way they are using language.

4. List 3 things that would make them lose their temper.

People thinking she has to need help.

People stopping her from reaching her potential or helping others.

Liars, because she can read them more easily than most.

5. What is their favourite type of weather? Least favourite?

Does nighttime count as a weather? I guess that’s cheating. 😛 Cathy’s favourite time of weather would be blue skies, though not too hot. Her least favourite? Thunderstorm rain.

  1. What is their Hogwarts house and/or MBTI personality?

I went with Hogwarts house because, although I’ve done numerous Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator tests and read loads on my own type (INFJ here 😀 ), I’ve not had the time to read that much into other types. Since INFJ’s are the rarest, even if my characters do share my attributes and interests, I don’t think if they were to do the test, they would come out so.

I’d say Cathy’s a Ravenclaw. She’s not brave enough for a Gryffindor, is too frank to be a Hufflepuff, and honestly, I see very few traits of hers as Slytherin-y. She aspires to not aspire.

  1. Are they more likely to worry about present problems, or freak out about the unknown future?

Well, Cathy would consider the two irreparably linked – her present problems are the small cogs in the machine of the unknown future; if there are present issues, that means that the future is not going to be set out the way she would like it to be.

  1. What is their favourite drink?

Your average Google stock photo

Tea. Definitely. Just your average India Leaf tea, though she was recently introduced to lemon Green tea, and she rather liked it.

  1. What is their favourite colour? Least favourite?

Her favourite colour is a rich maroon or burgundy. She likes the rich reds that can be transformed to taffeta fabrics. Her least favourite colour…I’d say that would be black, simply because it lacks texture and the potential to see other colours through it.

  1. What is a book that changed their life?

Wow. Now that’s a loaded question. I mean, I don’t have a favourite book, and – as Cait herself would say – I am a feelingless Vulcan, whose life has very rarely been changed by a single book, so I don’t know where to start with Cathy. What springs to mind would be the first book she translated: a series of poems in elegiac couplets by Catullus, one of a group of Roman writers known as the ‘new poets’. She would’ve been inspired by the way the poetry is clever and full of imagery – yet, also is poetic in the sense that it does not stick to the poetic boundaries English is forced to.

What about you? Are you in the deep depths of editing at the moment, or have you just started making a new book baby? Let’s chat 😀

7 Quick Takes: A Recap of the Vanished

I know I’ve been absent from 7 Quick Takes Friday for a while now. Some of it has been out of my control – moving and all that jazz – but some of it, I must admit, has been laziness on my part. So, of all the things, this is a Friday catch-up, I suppose.

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Oh, September, how you are a tricksy month, particularly for someone like me who took a rather distended break from blogging and writing et al, and whose mind now is struggling to settle back into routine.

~2~

I think I will relish returning to the normal routine of student work getting in the way of writing work, though. Giving myself a reason to get out of bed will surely aid my brain into inspiration during the day.

~3~

Speaking of which, that’s coming up soon. I get enrolled soon, and then lectures after that, though it still feels like a lifetime away. I know it will pass so quickly; and part of me wishes so, whilst the other is perfectly happy to freeze time in the here and now.

~4~

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What am I reading? Oh, wow, what a question, since, if one goes by my Kindle app, I am reading quite a number of things at once. For my own amusement, I recently stumbled back into reading THE SECRETS OF GHOSTS by Sarah Painter and published by Carina, a small press that has impressed (!) me with its selections of titles and way with voices.

~5~

Image result for heart of brassThere are a few books I’m reading for writing style inspiration:

THE DARK DAYS CLUB by Alison Goodman; HEART OF BRASS by Kate Cross; A GATHERING OF SHADOWS by VE Schwab.

A theme, right? Well, I have to read up in my fields. 🙂

~6~

On the writing front, I’m slowly rewriting my novel H, a historical fantasy that floats about from New York to Italy. Here, our plucky young heroine, Cathleen ‘Cathy’ Cattoway, returns to New York in the dead of night to question the man who last saw her betrothed.

~7~

When they docked unceremoniously in New York—Cathy’s boots slid her across the moisture-sleeked deck like untethered weights—the morning hung dark and heavy over Ellis Island, mist-less yet crammed with whispers of forbidden conversations out of their reach. Even the residue of last night’s Passing made Cathy’s hair stand on end. Out here the air was a mixture of gaslight fumes, the smell of bitterly cold air, and fouler scents, too…

House Moving and Procrastination

Sorry I have been shamefully quiet this last week. It looks like I was more able to post when I was out of the country (in Poland for the World Youth Day) than when I have been here in England with my laptop and time to my disposal.

There have been a few factors orchestrating this virtual absence – and the least of them, for once, is not having the time or knowing what to write. I could have posted about anything, and I should have, but my own self got in the way.

Firstly, though, there have been some developments in my non-writing work. That is, I moved to London to get settled into my student lodgings for the time I need to be in London for my Masters in Linguistics. I’m in the capital! It’s kind of scary…

Not much has happened so far, apart from unpacking, shopping, and cracking the wifi code. Cough… I’ve also been planning my next Steampunk outfit for the Lincoln Asylum in a couple of weeks. I’d like to say that I’m going to write a post about my experiences at the biggest Steampunk festival, but signs point to that being unlikely…

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Oh, and making friends with the resident cats. Boop.

Then I journeyed up to Leeds for some personal matters and exploring the surrounding areas. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay up there, but two days turned into three easily. The problem is: when I stay with my partner, I find his dad’s place a difficult place to concentrate on work. Sure, I did some research (not writing-or uni-related) I was hoping to do and got a couple of chapters of Metropolitan Magic written. But none of the writing is serious.

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My partner making an idiot of himself, as usual.

Which brings me to my other point for why my progress with writing has been slow… I haven’t felt emotionally up to editing. I want to edit Horology, as it’s with Betas at the moment, but I keep putting other things first. I keep saying I’ll do it later when I know full well that I may not have a later. I am filling up my schedule so I don’t have to think about what is probably not so much a mammoth task as it feels to me.

I can’t shake it, though. I love writing, and it’s a great stress reliever, yet I don’t want to face the constant barrage of rewriting and knowing that my work may never be good enough to see in print. I think non-writers, those who ask that poison-to-writers question are you going to get published? don’t understand how much time, effort, and energy we put into our work. It’s not just writing, rewriting, and editing; it’s that over and over and over again. We have characters in our heads, ever-roaming, and we want their stories to be perfect – but the stories never will be. And everything we do is fruitless to change that.

It’s one thing to have a tough skin at the comments of others, and quite another to be sensitive enough to rip one’s own work apart.

I don’t know how I’ll proceed. Need to take some big breaths and take things slowly. Again. Until next time: pax.