Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Profanity - Just The Topic For Christmas Week

Last night, I was sitting up in bed with the electric blanket set to 'Inferno' mode, pillows plumped, and my current bedside book propped up on my knees, when an idea for a blog post peeped out from the midst of a footnote.

My current bedside book is King Charles II by Antonia Fraser. I've been reading it for ages (I fall asleep quickly so four pages is a good night, and this thing is 672 pages long) and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. It helps that King Charles II was rather a nice bloke for all his faults, but mostly it's Fraser's writing style. Her biographies aren't at all dumbed-down but they are very readable.

Anyway, King Charles II is especially famous for his popularity with the ladies. And to illustrate that this was common knowledge at the time, and to draw attention to some rumours that circulated about the King, Fraser quotes a couplet composed by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, which I already know from reading other material about Charles II. Which contains the word 'prick'.

Which she omits.

It's very clear from the context what body part Rochester was writing about. Crystal clear, in fact. But the word he chose was omitted, in a quote, which appeared in a secondary historical source.

Although I am an enthusiastic and passionate swear-er, I acknowledge that it has its place. I don't swear much here on my blog, for instance, although I have no problem at all with bloggers who do if that's the way they want to express themselves (Hannah Moskowitz springs to mind, and I love her blog and her voice). It's just another form of language, but it doesn't happen to match what I'm trying to do with my own blog posts. So I don't swear much here, and when I do, I keep it to the gentler ones. I do, however, swear without self-censure on Facebook, in my novels, when I hit my hand with a hammer and when my foot slips on icy pavements.

Basically, as with all forms of written language, I feel the decision to swear or not should be just that - a decision. In the segments of my last novel set in rural Ireland in the 1940s, swearing did not feel right. In the contemporary sections, about students living in Dublin, it did. On my blog, for me, it doesn't feel right.

But in a quote? In a historical quote? John Wilmot, the guy who wrote the couplet, decided to swear. Fraser decided to quote it. Except she didn't.

I have to admit, this somewhat baffles me. Quote the damned thing or don't - there's plenty of comments about Charles liking the ladies. In fact, Rochester wrote another one which I love (he seemed to be the Dorothy Parker of his day, famous for saying deliciously nasty things that rhymed), quoted by John Miller in his biography (and on Wikipedia, where yours truly found it):

Restless he rolls from whore to whore

A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.

OK, it doesn't have the bawdiness of the one Fraser quoted (for the record, it's "Nor are his high desires above his strength;/ His sceptre and his prick are of a length."). Vulgar as anything, yes, but it effectively makes the point that (a) Charlie liked women, (b) women seemed to like him back and there were rumours about why they did, apart from the whole King thing, and (c) Rochester was a smart-arse. I'm not going to argue that it's high art and deserved to be reproduced on those grounds, but Fraser had solid reasons for including the quote. But why on earth include a historical item and then censor it?

Am I alone in thinking this is weird? What do you guys think about swearing in books, on blogs, in anything written? Should it be avoided at all costs, as Antonia Fraser does, even when it prompts people like me to write lengthy and ponderous blog posts about you? Is it OK in non-fiction but not anywhere else? Or should it go in everwhere because people really do talk like that and ergo book characters should too?

Now I'm off to decide what of Charles's mistresses I like best. I feel disloyal to Amber St. Clare when I say this but Barbara Villiers is currently out in front. . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Real Life Intrudes

December is a busy time of year.

Apart from Christmas, Chanukah, or other mid-winter festivals, some of us have four close friends born in December, all of whom throw great parties. Some of us have friends who just moved into a house with a secret bedroom above the kitchen and an eight-foot Christmas tree in the living room, which we must see. Some of us embark on time-consuming knitting projects at the worst possible time.

I love December :)

I also love shopping for gifts - like regular shopping but without the guilt, and with the added bonus that it makes two people happy instead of just one. I'm almost finished gift shopping but I suspect I'll be picking up additional stocking-fillers here and there right up to Christmas Eve.

How about you guys? How do you spend the lead-up to the holidays?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Microfiction Monday!

Susan at Stony River has given us a great picture for Microfiction Monday this week - my story is below.


Some Saturdays, when Tony arrived in the old graveyard, he wished that someone else would come along at the weekends to help him clip back the briars.

This story is definitely one for my father, who liked to put on his oldest clothes at weekends and wander around our suburb clipping back dangerous briars. The late playwright and columnist Hugh Leonard wrote a column about his habit of doing the same thing, which made us wonder if there were middle-aged men all over Dublin spending their free time ensuring that paths were briar-free. Dad wrote to Hugh Leonard to let him know that he wasn't alone and I still have a card - somewhere - that he received back.

When we lived in an apartment block, Dad used to pop out in the evenings and do small odd-jobs in the common areas. He was a marine engineer so no one could complain that he was unqualified to do them, but since no one ever seemed to see him do it, I often wondered if people thought the building was haunted by the ghost of an obsessive-complusive janitor, or if they knew there was someone living there who liked to find practical ways to fill his evenings once the Daily Mirror Quizword was done.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Talli Roland's The Hating Game - Take On Amazon Blogfest!

Talli Roland is a fantastically funny and entertaining blogger, and if you don't follow her blog, you're missing some great stuff. She's also very nice.

I've been looking forward to her novel for some time now, and the ebook is released on today!

Help Talli's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Also, if you love Talli's writing, indie publishers or debut authors and want to spread the word, here are some links for your Twitter or Facebook, depending on your location: link:

Help debut author Talli Roland Take On Amazon today! #TheHatingGame link:

Help debut author Talli Roland Take On Amazon today! #TheHatingGame

Friday, November 26, 2010

How To Put A Book Together - Interview With Garret Pearse

Garret Pearse, editor and compiler of the Pint And A Haircut collection, has dropped by today to chat for a bit about the process of putting a book together. A Pint And A Haircut, which features true Irish stories (including contributions from some of our favourite bloggers!) is on sale in all good bookshops or directly from the publishers, with all royalties going to Concern's Haiti fund. You will notice that I ask horribly hard questions so extra kudos to Garret for having the guts to pick favourites!

Garret, welcome to Pink Tea and Paper! I know you got the idea for A Pint and a Haircut from Paul Auster's collection. Once you had the idea, how did it all come together?

I figured I’d have to get stories before I could approach a publisher. The first thing I did was set up a blog website called to explain what it was all about.
I then sent out a pleading email to everyone in my contacts list looking for stories. I’d naively thought it would be a case of sit back and watch the stories flood in but alas things are never that simple. I did get a few stories in the first week but then realised I’d have to chase stories more aggressively. I targeted writers groups and got fantastic help from Eimear Rigby, one of Concern’s Press Officers, who got me a lot of local newspaper and radio coverage. That was the turning point and after that, the stories started to come in at quite a pace.

How did you choose the charity?

I’d always admired the work that Concern did overseas and we have a family friend who has been working all over the world with them.

What was the easiest and most fun part of making the book happen?

Most of it was actually a lot of fun from the challenge of getting people to send in their stories to getting to read such a variety of stories when they came in to getting to meet so many of the authors at the launch.
I suppose if you were to add up all the time I’ve spent on it, it may add up to quite a bit but it was always very varies and nicely spread out over the 8-9 months I’ve been working on it.

What was the most difficult thing?

Without a doubt, having to select 70 stories and leave out another 70.
I spent a week of sleepless nights wracked with worry and guilt about the choices I’d made and the many great stories I had to leave out.

How long did it take from the initial idea to the book being in your hands?

I had the idea in the middle of February so it took about 9 months from idea to book launch.

Was there anything unexpected about the publishing process, anything that surprised you?

I hadn’t a clue to be honest about any of it so I had to learn as I went along through the process. God know's how many mistakes I made as I went.

Are you a writer yourself?

Besides keeping a journal, I’m not or certainly wasn’t at the start of the process.
I just enjoyed reading a good story and the Paul Auster compiled book just gave me the idea. I’m probably the least qualified person to compile a book so I was incredibly lucky to have so many people trust me with their stories. Funnily enough, the book has spurred me to write a bit more, mostly personal memoir but I do feel I have a story or two in me, whether anyone would like to read them or not!

Do you read short stories much? Any favourite short story writers?

Again I’m not a huge short story reader – I tend to bury myself in a novel more readily. Having said that, I can think back to a number of short stories that have stuck with me over the years from some of those on the old school curriculum like the Confirmation Suit by Brendan Behan or most recently JD Salinger’s For Esme, with Love and Squalor collection which I got to read last year. I must say that I love Salinger’s apparently effortless style of writing.

What's your favourite Irish story of all time?

Uuuggh – that’s a tough one.
It’s so hard to compare all the different stories you come across over the years. I’m not even sure I can answer that one. I loved some of Frank O'Connor's stories. Guest of the Nation sticks has always stayed with me as a very powerful story.

Who is your favourite Irish writer?

Thanks for another easy question!
I really can't say I have a favourite. I loved Roddy Doyle's Barrytown trilogy when they came out. Recently I've read a couple of Colum McCann's novels and really admire his writing and also love JG Farrell's writing. But as for a favourite? I just couldn't bring myself to say I have one without having to change my mind next week! Sorry!

Thanks a million to Garret for stopping by - and keep this great collection in mind for the Hibernophile in your life this Christmas!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ten Things I Love About Dublin - Part Two

Following on from Part One yesterday, here are five other things I love about Dublin! Also, check out Talli's original post on London and Helen Caldwell on Edinburgh. Anyone from Belfast or Cardiff care to complete the set?

6. Dun Laoghaire.
Disclaimer: I work in Dun Laoghaire, so I have to confess its charms are a little diminished for me since I see it every day. But it is still very nice.
Dun Laoghaire is somewhere between a suburb and a town, on the outskirts of Dublin easily accessible by rail and bus. As well as tons of charity shops, some really good restaurants and Reader's Bookshop, it also has two very long piers which are great for walks on dry windy days. When we get them. . . The whole town does close down fairly completely at 6pm and it doesn't feel terribly safe after that, but during daytime it's a great spot for getting out of the city.
PS - it's pronounced Dun Leery. If you want to be a right smartarse, try saying it in Irish - Doon Lair-a. Most Dubliners will roll their eyes a bit at the latter. . .

7. Markets.
I know, so far I've mentioned two shopping centres, a bookshop and way too many other places to spend money. I fail at Buy Nothing Day every year, just in case you hadn't guessed, and here I am with more rampant consumerism.
But not really. I always try to visit markets when I go to a city because they have far more character than glossy streets full of identical chain stores. And Dublin is rich in markets. One of the oldest is Blackrock Market, in the suburb of Blackrock, which is sadly no longer as good as it once was. The excellent Dublin Flea popped in November 2008 and is still going strong, and there is also the Liberty Market (never been myself), Point Village Market, Cow's Lane for designer stuff, the Temple Bar Food and Book markets, the Crafty Market and even a fancy dress market (do not ask, I don't know. . . .). And of course, all the others that I've forgotten. Which is probably about three.
No, I don't know how I ever have any money either.

8. Bookshops!
As a UNESCO City of Literature, it would be a terrible shame if Dublin fell down badly in the bookshop department. Luckily we don't. There is Chapters (not affiliated with the more famous chain), with a huge secondhand section that one of my cousins describes as a real-world Amazon Marketplace. And Hodges Figgis, my personal favourite, and Waterstones across the road, and Dubray Books on Grafton Street, and The Secret Book and Record Store on Wicklow Street, a great spot for anything strange and off-beat.

9. History.
Ireland has a lot of history for such a small place. Not all of it was nice. The history we're creating today isn't very nice either. I guess we're better at stories than real life. . .
That being said, Ireland's history, if you're interested in it, is all over the place in Dublin. There is a hell of a lot of nice old architecture about, if you look up instead of down. There is the GPO, which was the central staging point of the 1916 Rising against British rule. The Bank of Ireland building on College Green was our parliament back in the 1700s, before the Act of Union united us with the UK. You can still see bullet holes in the angel statues on O'Connell Street - and while we're on the subject of O'Connell Street, Daniel O'Connell, the man for whom it's named, may be one of the nicest historical figures ever, in any country.
And you don't have to go too far out of Dublin to see even more history. Glendalough, home of St. Kevin's monastary, is less than an hour's drive from Dublin. One of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country is close by, too - Boyne Valley, which is full of Neolithic chamber graves that predate the Egyptian pyramids.

10. Murphy's Ice Cream Parlour
A very new arrival in the city that I just discovered a few weeks ago. Murphy's is utterly fantastic. They serve some of the most unusual ice cream flavours I've ever seen - sea salt (which I'm hoping to make over Christmas using the recipe on their site), pink peppercorn, and brown bread (which I could take or leave). They're an Irish company and they make their ice-cream from the milk of the endangered Kerry cow, and they constantly try new and cool things. What's not to love?
Oh, and there is a table in the Wicklow Street branch made from a surfboard, and a wall covered in Post-Its left by customers.

Following Talli's lead, would anyone else like to mention the coolest thing about their city?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ten Things I Love About Dublin - Part One

Talli Roland has posted a list of things she loves about London.

I'm very tempted to list ten things I love about London, but I'd go way over ten and be here all night. So I'm going to tackle Dublin, not least because a few fantastic bloggers have mentioned that they may be visiting and I may as well put some information out there for people to find!

And with the news full of talk of bail-outs, bankruptcies, corruption, mismanagement all that other stuff the Irish are so good at, I feel a small patroitic need to note some of the stuff we got right, even if we can't count.

1. The coast.
Dublin has quite a lot of coastline for a capital city because it's built around a bay. We don't have many good beaches, but Sandymount Strand has a certain bleak urban loveliness about it. The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) rail service runs along the coast and takes you past Killiney Bay, which is gorgeous.

2. The cinnamon bun's in Simon's Coffee Shop.
Look, the list was inspired by Talli Roland. Sweet stuff had to figure prominently. It's only right.
Simon's Coffee Shop is a strange, offbeat studenty cafe in the George's Shopping Arcade. They sell the world's most wonderful, messy, sugary cinnamon buns which can be had, along with a cup of tea, for under four quid (good by Dublin standards).

3. City shopping centres
OK, so the ILAC and the Jervis won't take anyone's breath away, but the aforementioned George's Arcade, which looks like a Victorian railway station but was actually purpose-built, and the Powerscourt town centre across the road, are genuinely lovely buildings. The latter also has good cupcakes, courtesy of the Sugar Loaf Bakery.

4. Parks
The Phoenix Park, which features heavily in my Nanowrimo novel this year, is one of the largest city parks in Europe and even has a herd of wild deer. St. Stephen's Green, the largest of the Georgian parks, is more accessible and generally cuddlier. And the Iveagh Gardens, tucked away behind Harcourt Street and the National Concert Hall, is alsways the top of those 'Dublin's Hidden Gems' lists that newspapers publish on slow news days. But deservedly so!

5. The Chester Beatty Library
Ths museum is small but perfectly formed. Their collection is based on the private collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, antiquarian and hoarder extrordinaire. They run excellent temporary exhibitions alongside permanent galleries of Buddhist, Islamic and Christian texts. The cafe is also fantastic, and their gift shop has saved my arse more than once.

Would anyone care to chip in with their favourite things in their own city? You never know when a travelling blogger may need inspiration!

Friday, November 19, 2010

[NaNoWriMo] The Relative Values of Numbers

Sounds like the title of an Alexander McCall Smith book, doesn't it?

But no. It isn't a book about Isabel Dalhousie uncovering a massive banking fraud operation while musing on the ethics that go alongside her own personal wealth (MEMO to Alexander McCall Smith: I would totally read that). The relative values of numbers affect the lives of Nanowrimo participants in what Tony Blair might call a very real and meangingful way.

The scariest number of all, as every writer knows, is 0. When 0 appears on the word counter, that is a special kind of hell. You have nothing done. You have the advantage that you haven't messed anything up yet, but you know you will. You're a writer, and you know it's never as good on paper as it was in your head.

Once o is gone, Nanowrimo participants enter the most satisfying numerical period of the month. Sadly, it only lasts a week or so.

From 0 until about 5000, hundreds of words matter. You write 200 words, bring you from 600 to 800, and you are ecstatic. Hundreds really count, and 100 words doesn't take long at all. Every hundred is immeasurably satisfying. Tens have ceased to matter (there is no sense of achievement in getting from 230 to 280 compared to getting from 280 to 300) but it's OK, because you're racking up the hundreds and you are on fire.

Somewhere between 5000 and 10000, though, hell kicks in again. 100s start to look small and meaningless, just as tens did. Now it's all about the thousands. 12300 to 12800 is no achievement. That little 3, morphing into an 8, is dwarfed by the two numbers in front of it, which are stubbornly staying the same. 500 words (which, if you are aiming for 50k, is just under a third of your daily goal and is never to be sneezed at) suddenly looks like it is not worth doing.

Thousands are now where it's at. Less than 1000 is chicken-feed. You envy the writers who say 'I just did 300 words!' with joy in their voices. You will never write 300 words again. You will only write 30% of 1000.

Luckily, for most Wrimos, it stops there. With a daily target of 1667, you manage to jump three of the all-important digits in the thousand-column every two days. Most people recognise that for the awesome progress that it is, and grow used to that output. They keep plugging away and cross the finish line with a smile, usually a little early because they are calm.

Then there is me. I'm aiming for 75k and just broke 37k last night. I have just under half the book to go, and well under half the month.

And now only tens of thousands mean anything. Last night I was miffed that my daily total fell short of 40,000. Crossing from 36,999 to 37,000 - nothing. Even hitting the halfway point didn't help (partly because I'm behind schedule hitting it).

But the good news is, there is a cure for this form of number-fatigue. It is called Write Or Die.

Write or Die is most famous for playing an annoying noise at you if you stop typing for longer than a few seconds (so far I've had screeching cats, a car alarm and that 'ringringringringringringring BANANA PHONE!' ringtone from a couple of years ago. Not making this up). On 'Kamikaze' mode, it deletes what you've already written if you stop typing. Either way, it punishes you if you stop writing. But I don't think it's the punishment aspect that makes it great.

Before you start, it asks you to enter a target word count and duration. And suddenly, if you force yourself to do it a short enough timespan, 100 words becomes and achievement again! Last night I gave myself a deadline of one hour and a (very ambitious) target of 4,000 words, and did far less well than I usually do when I set myself three 20-minute challenges, or even two 30-minute challenges.

Lesson learned.

I'll close by suggesting a new slogan to Write or Die: Reclaim Your Relationship with Numbers!

Or perhaps not.

Part of the NaNoWriMo 2010 Blogchain

Monday, November 15, 2010

Microfiction Monday 57

Welcome to Microfiction Monday - picture-inspired fiction in 140 characters.

Drawing pictures for clipart was a boring job - until Fred decided that every picture could be improved by adding black lipstick.

Blogger's New Feature - Stats

Blogger has a new and delightful little feature - stats. I can now view all kinds of fascinating info about my readers (without their privacy being compromised - thanks, Google!). Until now, the only way I had to track interest in my blog was comments (which I love, of course, as do most bloggers), but not every reader will comment on every post. So there were quite a few surprises when I checked my stats.

Such as:

-My most popular posts are the Top Ten TV Shows blogfest and Born on the Fourth of July, a post in memory of my late father. I love that my dad is one of the two biggest draws to my blog. I think he'd really enjoy that :)

-The overwhelming majority of my pageviews are from within Ireland, even though most of my commenters aren't.

-I've had readers from Russia, the Ukraine, Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands and Brazil. And 19 from Australia - I'm choosing to believe that at least one of those Aussies was Mark Webber, my favourite F1 driver. So hi everyone!

-Most importantly, 47% of my pageviews come from people using Firefox, more than any other browser. I always knew you guys had impeccable taste!

Have your stats turned up anything interesting?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Little Break from Nano Madness

Ann at Inkpot and Quills has taken part in this sort-of-meme found on Rainy Day Wanderer's blog. Just to break up the constant stream of Nano-posts (there is another one to follow about numbers and their effect on the fragile Wrimo psyche), I thought I'd fill in the survey too. If you like it, feel free to take part too (I do love gentle, non-taggy memes!) - If I were a season, I would be autumn
- If I were a month, I would be October
- If I were a day of the week, I would be Friday

- If I were a time of day, I would be night

- If I were a planet, I would be Saturn

- If I were a direction, I would be East

- If I were a tree, I would be a sycamore
- If I were a flower, I would be a daisy
- If I were a fruit, I would be a pear
- If I were a land animal, I would be a cat

- If I were a sea animal, I would be a seahorse
- If I were a bird, I would be a magpie

- If I were a piece of furniture, I would be an armchair
- If I were a liquid, I would be water

- If I were a stone, I would be sea-glass
- If I were a tool, I would be a Swiss army knife
- If I were a kind of weather, I would be blustery with grey skies

- If I were a musical instrument, I would be a guitar

- If I were a colour, I would be deep turquoise
- If I were a facial expression, I would be a raised eyebrow (although I can't raise one eyebrow)

- If I were an emotion, I would be amusement

- If I were a sound, I would be a kettle just about to boil
- If I were an element, I would be air

- If I were a car, I would be a 1999 Toyota Starlet

- If I were a food, I would be chocolate

- If I were a place, I would be Dublin

- If I were a flavor, I would be orange
- If I were a scent, I would be vanilla

- If I were an object, I would be a book
- If I were a body part, I would be fingernails

- If I were a song, I would be Expectations by Belle and Sebastian
- If I were a pair of shoes, I would be a pair of red Converse trainers

- If I were transportation, I would be an intercountry train

- If I were a fairy tale, I would be
- If I were a holiday, I would be Halloween
- If I were a novel, I would be Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
- If I were a movie, I would be The Maltese Falcon

(EDIT: I took the photos of the grey sky - in Edinburgh, Dublin in the snow, and the train. I cheated with the train - it's actually an S-Bahn train in Cologne in Germany, but it was taken on an interrailing trip. So it's less of a cheat).

Monday, November 8, 2010

[Nanowrimo] Day Eight - Falling Behind Disgracefully!

The end of Week One and the beginning of Week Two have taught me a whole new range of lessons.

I have learned not to get complacent just because you established an early word-count cushion for yourself.
My lead has now been eroded. I deliberately worked hard on Day One to pull ahead, and the pressures of a busy weekend have now eroded my lead. To hit my target of 75k by November 30th, I should be on 20,000 by the end of today.

I'm on 15,300. And I have to go to work today, and I have plans after work.

So that means that tomorrow, I can just do my daily 2,500 + the backlog of 4,700 which = 7,200 words.

Except that I have plans tomorrow too. Luckily, my plans are with Writer Friend, who isn't Nano-ing but remains mired in editing and we plan to do some work. Probably not 7,200 words worth of work though, since that's more than my Day One total and on Day One I wrote for about six straight hours. So let's say a realistic target for tomorrow is more like 1,000.

Leaving me with a backlog of 6,200 to tackle on Wednesday. Plus Wednesday's target of 2,500 = 8,700 words.

I have no plans on Wednesday, but I will be at work all day. And my lunch hour is precisely that, an hour.

You see how quickly it mounts? Your numbers will vary depending on your target, but right now I'm only one day behind. My word count RIGHT NOW should be 17,500. But looking ahead, you can see how that small deficit grows. . .

So it's time for a very big push. Strategies will be:

Bringing a packed lunch to work and writing at lunchtime.
Writing on the train or bus where possible. Even if I just get a 100 words done on my 15-minute bus ride, it's 100 words!
Working extra hard on my free evenings.
Waiting anxiously for the weekend to try to pull ahead again. . .

Fingers crossed! Good luck to everyone embarking on Week Two - may you screw it up less than I have so far!

Part of the Nanowrimo Blogchain

Thursday, November 4, 2010

[Nanowrimo] Day Four - Lessons Learned

Brought to you as part of the Nanowrimo Blog Chain.

Day Four of the madness and I have learned the following lessons:

1. Writing after a full day at work is hard.

2. Writing after a full day at work and a driving lesson is harder.

3. Writing after work is easier if I bring my netbook in and do a bit at lunch time. On Tuesay day I managed 1700 words at lunch, today I managed 1000. Yesterday I skipped my lunchtime writing and it was very tough to make my target in the evening. In fact, I failed to make my target - or even half my target - because of No. 4.

4. Writing in bed is a bad plan. I know this one is obvious, but you didn't feel how cold the computer room was last night. Seriously. I couldn't face it, so I decided to write in the warmest room of the house and got into bed with my netbook. I fell asleep after 1000 words and for the last 20 or 30 I was not at my best.

I'm back on target now thanks to the epic first day, but I need to do another 1000 before bed tonight to stay on target - ideally more, because I have a work do tomorrow evening.

Once more into the breach. . .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

[Nanowrimo] Day One - Tips

Brought to you by the 2010 Nanowrimo Blog Chain!

Everything that follows is based on my experience. Your mileage may vary.

I work full-time, so I knew Nano was going to be a challenge this year. The year that I won, I was unemployed, and while 'unemployed' certainly doesn't mean 'not busy', it generally does mean 'slightly more control over how you spend your time'. I knew this year would be tough, so I cheated a little. I had some annual leave to spare, so I booked 1st November off work at the tail end of a holiday.

The usual daily target for Nanowrimo is 1,667 words. I'm aiming for 75k and a completed novel this year, so my daily target is 2,500. Not a huge amount more, really, but enough to be a bit scary! And as I'm Co-ML for my region, I don't want to crash and burn in Week One, because then how can I help to encourage my fellow Wrimos?

So I decided to use Day One to get as far ahead of target as I could. Not everyone can take a day off for 1st November (and this year is especially difficult for everyone because Nano starts on a Monday, so it will be Day 6 before most full-time workers and students get a day to themselves), but I recommend getting ahead of target as soon as you can. If you're reading this on Day Two and worried that you're behind, just keep going! Try to meet your daily target or get as close as you can. But as soon as you have some extra time, whether on a quiet evening or a Saturday or by hiding in the garden shed where no one can find you, try to pull ahead. It feels so much better knowing that you can have a bad day, or a busy day, and not fall behind.

But why does falling behind matter? The goal is to verify your 50k between November 25th and 30th. That's aaaages away. Aaaaages.

Falling behind doesn't matter, once you know you can make it up. But it can be demoralising, sitting down on Saturday and knowing you have to write half of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before you even start Saturday's target. And then you're just breaking even. . . so if you can't pull ahead early, try to keep up until you can. The less pressure you have to handle, the better.

Which brings me to another issue - the Nano forums.

The forums may be the best thing about Nano. Friendly, fun and full of utterly random information (the Reference Desk forum is brilliant), they can be a terrible time-waster so people with willpower like mine may want to unplug the internet.

However, there is a side effect of the forums that you have to be able to overlook - comparing word counts. As you browse, you may notice some people with absurdly high word counts. A few people hit 50k yesterday (yes, really, I am NOT making this up).

It's really important not to let this affect you. Don't even bother falling into the trap of thinking 'If they wrote 50k in one day, it must be total rubbish.' Maybe it is, but maybe not. It isn't important. You're on your own journey and facing your own challenge.

My word count for yesterday looks fairly impressive. But bear in mind that I achieved that by taking a day off work and writing from 11.30 to 6, with a short lunch break, and that my particular story has quite a bit of world-building going on at the start. Also, my lunch break was spent researching (luckily my research is fun). If you have kids to look after, or college assignments to do, or any other commitments, your word count is going to be different. And all that matters is whether you are meeting your goals.

And if you're not? There's plenty of time. Change your strategy. Enjoy it.

Forget where other people are. Focus on where you are. For some people, writing 50,000 words in a month is genuinely not a challenge. Some of them are even churning out works of genius faster than I can write grocery lists. But they're not me, and apart from being happy for them, they don't matter.

Chins up for Day Two!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Back at the Coalface

Apologies for my long absence from blogging. I've been in Madrid for almost a week, which was fantastic, and a blog post about it will follow soon.

And now it's November, which means it's Nanowrimo time! My local region had our first meet-up on Saturday and we had a great turn-out. I have a sort of an idea, kind of, and after a cup of tea I'll be gluing myself to my chair for a day of novel-writing.

Good luck to all other Wrimos kicking off today, and to everyone else - happy November :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall on Your Knees

Apologies in advance for the fact that this post will leave you with 'O Holy Night' stuck in your head all day. It's Ann-Marie MacDonald's fault.

She wrote a book called Fall On Your Knees that I am mad about. I read it on the recommendation of a Canadian friend a few years ago and I re-read it last week. I can't talk about it too much, because I've recommended it to someone who may stop by this blog and I don't want to wreck the ending. But it definitely merits a read if you're interested in characterisation.

The setting - Cape Breton island in the late 1800s to mid 1900s - is challenging, as I imagine MacDonald had a tough time finding resources to work from (social history is a pain in the face to find out about. No one tells you where people went on dates, or when it became usual to dye your hair). It is the characters, though, that really make it sing.

It's hard to define who the main characters even are in this book, as it centres around three generations of a family and they all get a turn. James, the patriarch, is pretty unlikeable - snotty, self-absorbed, obsessive. Then he gets worse. Two of his daughters, Mercedes and Frances, share main character and viewpoint character duties for most of the book, and I found them both interestingly drawn. Mercedes is deeply religious and lives only to help her family.

I hate her.

Frances, by contrast, is selfish, difficult, slutty (not a word I like to use because it feels very anti-women, but Frances just totally is), troublesome, wild, abusive and mad.

I liked her better.

And I feel sure I had exactly the responses that MacDonald wanted me to have. She didn't mess up the good and bad characters. Everyone in the family loves Frances too. In spite of, well, Frances.

Sometimes, you read a book and you like the wrong character, and you know it's the wrong character. There is a book out there that everyone except me claims is one of the best ever written, and the only person in it that I liked was a very minor character who shows up for two pages. That meant the book wasn't working for me. As William Goldman might say, if you're rooting the butler, then everything is very far from being wonderful.

Not the case with MacDonald. She skilfully creates a self-sacrificing girl with no pleasures in life beyond her family, her crush on Rudolph Valentino, her one friend, her faith. And she makes her gradually less and less likeable until - no, I won't spoil it ;)

And Frances? When I started to type that I liked her, I imagined commenters popping up to say 'But she. . .' 'And she. . .' 'Are you forgetting the time when she. . . ' And I'm not. She did a lot of things that would instantly make any other character unsympathetic for me. Somehow, though, for reasons I don't fully understand (although I'd bloody well better try, if I'm to make a go of this writing lark), I liked her.

I won't even start on what MacDonald does to the elder sister, Kathleen.

Can't recommend this one enough. I can definitely imagine someone hating it, though, because there are very few entirely sympathetic characters (I think only one, and even so I can see why someone wouldn't like her), so don't blame me if you read it and you do. There are some very interesting techniques at play here though, and it's a real 'writers' read'. But it's also very good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Microfiction Monday

And once again, it's time for Microfiction Monday! Above is this week's picture and below is my entry. Take part here.

For European readers, taking part in a regular blog event with regular rules like this is making me feel exactly like those poor souls who have to write the script for Have I Got News For You, finding a new way to say 'And now to our final missing words round. . . .' every week :)

The animated version of The Princess Bride hit a snag when the editor asked why the animator decided Buttercup had to have some potatoes.

Sorry, but that is clearly Fezzik at the window. I wonder where he got the crown. . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Blogging in November

Rebecca Enzor at Sticky Note Stories has proposed a NaNoWriMo blog chain. Rather than let our blogs go quiet in November, she suggests we blog about Nano so that we can share each othe's experiences.

I'm sure the world will be immeasurably richer for reading my Nano-rants. But you never know.

And the whole beauty of Nano is that, apart from having lots of fun, sometimes you stumble upon cool stuff. My winning novel from 2006 was utter rubbish but it did feature a main character I would love to go back to. And 2008's failed attempt yielded one good exchange:

'Keep an eye on this until I get back and don't stop stirring,' said Brenda.
Amy, not naturally gifted at anything involving heat, food or responsibility, balked.

Apart from that, both Amy and Brenda have been consigned to Character Heaven. But I did like this when I found it. I haven't secreted it in a special notebook to be slotted in somewhere (Adrian Mole used to do that), but it does prove that in the midst of writing total rubbish on purpose, some good stuff crops up.

And the same is true of your method. I would never dream of cancelling virtually all of my social engagements in order to write constantly - and yet, I learn little lessons during Nano that help for the rest of the year. Tricks for finding time to write, good habits. Or my favourite - outlining the first few scenes so I don't get half a page in and stop dead. Even if it's just key words ('Arrives at house, sees garden, state of disrepair, talks to mother, hears news, calls friend, drives home. . .').

In deference to bloggers who don't participate in Nanowrimo and are already sick of the sound of the bloody thing, I will include the word 'Nanowrimo' in the subject line of all Nano-related posts so you can skip them.

If you're interested in checking out other Blog Chain participants, the link in the first line of this post will bring you there.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Microfiction Monday

Over at her blog, Susan hosts Microfiction Monday - a challenge to post stories in 140 characters or less, inspired by a weekly picture. Here's my entry:

No one ever left town on the freight train that rode through every week. It seemed only right to Marsha that she would be the first.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Microfiction Monday

Over at her blog, Susan hosts Microfiction Monday - a challenge to post stories in 140 characters or less, inspired by a weekly picture. Today's picture was so pretty that I had to have a go.

'This is my palace,' she said. 'I hope you aren't threatened by my obvious wealth.'

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Official Noveller

There are many things to love about Nanowrimo. The copious amounts of caffeine. The active and brilliant forum. The excuse to ignore every other obligation for a month.

My personal favourite, though, is that for one month only, the word 'novel' becomes a verb. 'Can't talk, novelling.' 'I'm off to novel.' 'I need to find more time to novel.' So for November, I'm not a writer. I'm a noveller.

There is more to Nanowrimo than just putting your head down and writing frantically until your fingers start to melt, though. There is also a very vibrant community around this mad activity, mostly on the forums, but also offline. Every year, Nanowrimo's Municipal Liaisons volunteer to organise meet-ups, write-ins, parties, events or whatever else they can think of in their hometowns.

And this year I am Co-ML for Dublin :) I'm really excited about it. I love Nanowrimo anyway, and this year I get to be more involved than usual. It also gives me an extra incentive to win, because Nano Head Office ask that MLs do their very best to win to motivate other Nano-ers in their region.

I've won Nanowrimo before, but never while working full-time. So this year, I have less writing time than the last time I won. I have the added responsibility and time commitment of being an ML. I'm under extra pressure to win. And I am considering aiming higher than 50k.

I cannot wait :D

So if you're interested in writing 50,000 words in a month, head over to the and start reading. The forums re-launch for 2010 later this week. And if you're a Dubliner interested in Nanowrimo, head for the Dublin Forum in Regional Lounges and say hi! We'll have weekly meet-ups running for the month of November, regular write-ins and possibly more. . .

Monday, September 27, 2010

Important Post - Follow That Link. . .

Hey all,

Kiersten White has taken some time out from her book tour to educate us all about the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy.

It almost killed her two years ago. Many bloggers and readers - not to mention real people who actually know her - are very glad it didn't.

Ectopic pregnancy is scarily common, far more so than I realised (and I'm a hypochondriac, so I realise things about most illnesses). I'm not actively planning to have kids but it's worth knowing anyway. Unplanned pregnancies can happen, and they can go wrong. And I know people who want to have a family.

Everyone should click this link and read Kiersten's story. Even if it won't ever be relevant to you (guys), you may know someone who will need you to know.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What I Saw And How I Lied

Nope, I didn't witness the crime of the century, lie about it and finally decide to reveal the truth here on Blogger. I just thought that the title of Judy Blundell's excellent novel, set just after WWII, also made for a rather attention-grabbing subject line.

And I'm trying to grab attention here, because it's a great book and I want to squee about it. I'm practically lapsing into LOLspeak.

Evie, the main character, is almost sixteen and ecstatic to have her perfect stepfather home from the war. She's also desperate to be anything except what she is. When aforesaid Perfect-Stepdad decides to whisk Evie and her glamorous Mom away to Florida for an indefinite holiday, Evie is puzzled but excited.

In Florida, she meets a recently-returned GI, and falls for him in that way that only almost-sixteen year old girls can. He's Handsome and Older and he seems to see in Evie the girl she wants to be, instead of the girl she is. But her parents don't seem to like him as much, and some of his stories don't quite add up. When tragedy strikes, Evie has to choose between her family and her new love - and she has to betray someone.

The use of language in a book is a funny thing - it's often the last thing I notice when it's done well, and the first thing I notice when it's done badly. Judy Blundell's book is unusual because the writing is so good that it actively stands out. I've written historical fiction and it's very hard to pitch your language properly - authentic and accurate without being stilted, modern and accessible without being anachronistic. Evie never says that Peter (her GI) is like, totally, like amazing, but she still manages to sound like a kid.

One line sold me on the whole book. A few pages in, Evie spots her crush talking to Ruthie Kalman, a Jewish girl in her class. Evie's best friend assures her that she has nothing to worry about, he wouldn't be allowed to date a Jew. And Evie thinks:

'It was almost worse that he couldn't have her. It was all Romeo and Juliet and balconies. Ruthie had European cousins who disappeared into camps during the war. She was so lucky - tragedy and curly hair.'

There isn't a single word there that a teenager in the 1940s wouldn't have said. No hint of anything anachronistic. But it still rings with a truth and authenticity that, as a former (or recovering!) teenage girl, hit me right where I live. I had that thought (or ones like it). It could be said today, over a mocha in Starbucks, or outside the milkshake shop in Dame Street in Dublin where gangs of teenagers congregate to make me feel old. And better than that - it's funny.

Apart from the outstanding quality of Blundell's writing, the characterisations are excellent. Even by the end, there is so much we aren't sure about - so much Evie isn't sure about. And Evie's development is very well done. She starts out as the classic YA narrator - female, plain but with potential, in the shadow of her pretty friend, dying to be someone she isn't, loving but resenting her protective parents, no serious problems in her life but no massive highs either. Her voice makes her compelling, but at first I was thinking 'I really like this girl, but she isn't anything new.'

Then the book takes off. And Evie really takes off.

Cannot recommend this one enough. Loved it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

SPEAK - In Support of Laurie Halse Anderson

Apologies for how long this is. But I feel there is nothing here that I can cut.

Wesley Scroggins, a Christian academic based in the US, is calling on parents to take action against the book Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. On what grounds? The main character in the book is raped. Ergo, Mr. Scroggins believes the book should not be read by teenagers, as it is immoral.

I am delighted at the number of intelligent, thoughtful Christian bloggers who have spoken out against Mr. Scroggins's remarks. Myra McEntire and Christine are two I have read so far and their posts impressed me.

I agree with Myra that a blog should be free of politics, sex and religion unless you set out to blog about those issues. I blog about writing and I enjoy connecting with others who blog about writing, particularly those from different backgrounds. But I'm going to break my personal-life-stays-off-the-blog rule here so I can comment on this issue - and its wider implications, which mean a lot to me.

I am not a practitioner of any religion. My mind is open and I respect the faiths of others.

I was raised as a Catholic (Irish readers will know that this phrase can cover anything from 'yeah, my parents baptised me to get presents. . . how many esses are in 'Jesus'?' to 'daily Mass, hair shirts and regular fasting') in a deeply Catholic society. Divorce was legalised in 1996, when I was 12 years old. The year divorce was legalised, our local priest took a vote in my class to see if we would pass the divorce referendum. Of 26 children aged 12, only 7 agreed that a man or a woman should have the option to end a marriage. I should point out here that we had had legal separation for a long time. Remember this for later.

Abortion remains illegal, but studies suggest that up to 19 women a day travel from the Irish Republic to Britain to obtain legal terminations (doesn't sound like much, but our population is small). Essentially, we know that women terminate pregnancies. We know that women born and raised in Holy Catholic Ireland terminate pregnancies. And we don't put many resources into stopping them doing it - we're very fussy about who gets to adopt children, and we have rules about who is allowed to put a child up for adoption. But we just don't want to think about any of this unpleasantness, nor do we want to address it, so we export the problem.

So how is any of this relevant to Laurie Halse Anderson and Wesley Scroggins? Because like Anderson's main character, Ireland has a long history of not speaking. We have one of the worst histories of clerical sexual abuse. We have a truly astounding suicide rate per head of population, and the most common victims of suicide in Ireland are men of roughly my age. I'm not blaming all of this on our Catholic history, although that certainly plays a major role (Ireland's relationship with the Church was heavily tied up with our sense of nationhood, so it was always an unhealthy one. I am not criticising religion per se at all). There were also social issues, post-colonial mindsets and poor communications contributing to it.

But for whatever reason, this most locquacious nation doesn't speak.

And look what it leads to, when we try to pretend that difficult and unpalatable truths aren't there.

In the midst of an argument with my father many years ago (I was probably fourteen and angry with everything), he said that in his day, young people didn't insist that their problems be addressed - they knuckled down and they got on with things, and by and large they grew out of their problems. I snapped back that the only things his generation had given mine were Charlie Haughey and institutional sex abuse, which wasn't at all fair (I never said I came across well in this anecdote). But political corruption and hushed-up abuse were two very profound and damaging consequences of a society that couldn't speak, and we are dealing with the consequences every day.

And now it's exported abortions and a high suicide rate, even years after we shook off the worst of Church domination of secular matters. We are still a society that can't speak.

I would go beyond saying that it is good to speak about our experiences, even when they are unpleasant, and to create art from the dark side of human life. I would argue that we have collective responsibility to speak about these things. Not a personal responsibility - I'm never going to knock on the door of the victim of any trauma and inform them that they owe it to society to talk about it - but a collective one. Example: I suffer from panic attacks, and among friends, I talk about them as openly and freely as I can bear to (incidentally, if any bloggers would like to talk to me about that - firstname dot lastname at gmail dot com). I choose to do so because that makes it easier for the next person. If a friend of mine feels they can ask me about panic disorder, the next time an ashamed panic sufferer confides in that person, they're more likely to get the response they need. I feel every person who has shared an experience with me (whether through sharing a true experience or expressing something in fiction) has given me a gift - the gift of knowing them better, or in the case of an artist, of knowing people better.

Art is a critical player in bringing issues into a public arena. Laurie Halse Anderson's book is fiction, and Mr. Scroggins is not seeking to suppress a personal account of a trauma. But he is calling for the suppression of material that deals with a social reality. He is calling for us to only expose ourselves and our children to nice books, nice stories, nice people.

We can choose which stories - again, real or fictional - we want to hear. No one forces me to buy the books I buy and listen to the stories of the people I meet. I can raise my hand at any time and say 'I'm sorry, this makes me uncomfortable. Is it OK if we talk about something else?' And if I'm mid-stream about Panic Attacks and Me, I will respect it if someone asks me not to talk to them about it.

But no one - no one - has the right to say that any story should not be heard at all. No one can say 'I am sorry, but your experience isn't valid. Your art isn't valid. Your thoughts are not valid.' Mr. Scroggins, just because a book refers to an immoral deed taking place, does not mean it should not be read. And no one has the right to impose their choice of when to listen on anyone else.

And come my next pay cheque, I'm off to Amazon to listen to what Laurie Halse Anderson wishes to say.

Top Ten TV Shows Blogfest

A little late to the party, but thanks to DL I made it!

My entry for the Top Ten TV Shows Blogfest, courtesy of Alex J. Cavanaugh - good Irish name too :p

1. House
2. I, Claudius
3. 30 Rock
4. Doctor Who
5. M*A*S*H (far from my favourite but I respect the show a lot for achieving so much as a comedy based on that most serious of situations)
6. Frasier
7. Blackadder (single-handedly got me through a sizeable chunk of my English degree - even my lecturer agreed it was a pretty good guide to British royal history for novices. And the final episode is such a masterpiece)
8. Auf Wiedersehen Pet
9. Black Books
10. South Park

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Inkwell Newsletter

The Inkwell Newsletter has just arrived in my inbox. It's a great read, and worth checking out for all writers - it's Irish-based, but they always have plenty of information about contests, submission opportunities and such, and not just for Irish markets.

Inkwell also run classes in south county Dublin (one of my illustrious relatives is involved in teaching for Inkwell, as is my old writing teacher Claire and the popular Irish publishing blogger Eoin Purcell).

This month, Vanessa O'Loughlin, the lady behind it all, writes:

Some of you already know that I am looking for proposals from anyone who might be interested in taking over Inkwell. My 6year old has been diagnosed with autism and ADD and is going to need a lot more of my time, so I am faced with the choice of selling the business or downscaling it. Having spent 4 years building a nationally recognized brand that is poised for growth, it seems a shame for it not to realize its potential. I would love to see it continue to grow, it can be run from home and would be ideal for one person, or two people who could focus on the different aspects of the business, the workshops on one side and the online services on the other. It's a global market - the website gets up to 100,000 impressions a month and this newsletter goes out to 1000 keen writers. Its also a brilliant platform for networking in the publishing community. If any of you are interested, or have a proposal, do get in touch 087 2835382. In the meantime your newsletter will continue to arrive as normal!

I'm posting this partly to help get the word out (albeit in a small way as most of my followers aren't Irish) but also because I don't think I've ever mentioned the newsletter before and it's a genuinely great resource. And now might be a nice time for the number of subscribers to go up, to give Vanessa an even more attractive package to offer a prospective successor.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Upcoming Writing Adventures!

I have a few writing adventures coming up, and I was thinking it might be fun to blog about them.

First of all, I have signed up for a class in feature writing. I've always wanted to write features well (I wrote some for the college papers but let it slide badly after I graduated) and there's a great-looking six-week course starting in Dublin on September 23rd.

And secondly, we are approaching the dreaded November - yes, it's Nanowrimo time again! A lot of writers don't like the idea of Nano, and that's fair enough (I'll probably blog about this again at some point), but I love it. It's one of the highlights of my year, even when I fail horribly and have to spend the month decidedly un-busy and surrounded by well-meaning friends who say things like 'Wow, I'm holding you up, you should get back to your novel!'. To which I respond, 'No. I really shouldn't. Trust me.'

My recent period of blog-quietness was also a period of writing-quietness. I'm revisiting some old projects and tinkering with some new ones, but I could use a shot in the arm. Fortunately I have shots in both arms coming up - and conveniently, my course finishes a few days before November, so I can come down slowly from thinking in a serious and journalisty fashion before Nanowrimo unleashes itself upon me again.

Can't wait :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


The extremely funny and talented Talli Roland's debut novel, The Hating Game, is due for release early next year. If it's half as entertaining as her blog, I'm going to be very happy (Talli's blog is a must-read for all writers in need of a smile, especially those of us who suffer from Writer's Arse).

However, it is being released for the Kindle on December 1st, and Talli is trying to get 1,000 bloggers to participate in a Blogsplash on the day.

All you have to do to participate is sign up on Talli's blog (follow the link above) and then on December 1st, post a short paragraph on your blog. Talli will send you on the text - you can just copy and paste.

I'm taking part, and here's a few reasons why:

1. Talli is published by an indie press, Prospera Publishing, who send out a lovely newsletter and generally seem rather nice. I'd like to see them enjoy success.

2. Talli is a debut writer - and don't we all need to believe that they can take over the world?

3. I believe the future of publishing will be all about ebooks and smaller presses, and I'd like to support them from the get-go.

4. You don't need a Kindle to read the ebook. There is a program you can download to allow you to read Kindle books from your computer. I didn't know this until Talli announced her Blogsplash and I'm bloody glad I know it now, so this seems a nice way to say thanks. . .

5. Wouldn't it be cool to know what bloggers can do if we band together? We could be responsible for what books top the Kindle chart. Or we could get 1,000 people to donate a fiver each to charity and raise five grand before breakfast. Or we could create a super-cool blogger army, roaming the earth armed with biros and encouraging people to write.

But we'll never know if we don't experiment with the collective power of blogging . . . :p

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Rules

Many people have said funny things about writing a novel. My favourites include:

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Don't be too harsh to these poems until they're typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction. ~Dylan Thomas, letter to Vernon Watkins, March 1938

Starting a novel is hard. Luckily, Nathan Bransford has tackled the topic here and once a blogger has written about something it magically becomes easier. Right?

OK, not so much. But it's still a good post.

I read through it with some trepidation. My current project started out as pure fun (inspired by a notebook, would you believe) and now I'm working on it seriously. I expected to fail every test but was pleasantly surprised.

  • The Main Plot Arc - Yes, I have one. Which is a relief. You may laugh but while my last book had one, you had to dig for it.
  • Obstacles of Increasing Intensity, With Ups and Downs - Further sigh of relief. My protagonist would hate me if he were real, but at least Nathan and I agree.
  • Protagonist - Yep. I have one and he wants stuff. Check.
  • Setting - FECK! I was doing so well! My setting is all over the place - it has kind of been tacked on as it was needed. Imagine a very modern and experimental stage production with a poor stagehand running around behind the actors tacking up green felt to denote a forest and blue wallpaper to denote a drawing room. Needs work.
  • Style and Voice - Has undergone one major change. Needs work.
  • The Climax - Hasn't happened yet, please check back.
I imagine it will take me some time and a few revisions before I'm fully happy with all of the above, but if one was happy enough with all of those, there wouldn't be too much left, would there?

And since I brought the subject up - anyone have any other good writing quotes they like?