Despite the fantastic weather that we have been having recently, my landline has once again broken, slowing my internet down to painfully annoying speeds. I’m taking this as a sign that it’s time for another break from blog posting.
I have two projects competing for my attention at the moment, and without the distraction of internet I might just be able to give them each a chance to appear. I’m really interested to see which one wins out.
Supposedly my phone line should be fixed by mid-September some time, which staggers me that no-one can get out to look at it before then, so until then I’ll be a bit quiet, but writing like a mad thing!
I studied astronomy at Uni. It was only a single semester subject, and it was more of an overview rather than getting too deep into the physics side of things, but I got a distinction for it. Something that really strikes you when you learn about other planets, as well as your own, is how incredibly unlikely it is that you’ll get the neat balance on a planet that lets life not only survive, but thrive.
Yeah, I know, given only advanced life can contemplate such things, statistically those who do so must exist on those lucky few planets, so there is nothing special about me thinking about this. The point I want to focus on is the incredible BALANCE the planet must have.
I am worried that we have irreparably stuffed up that balance. In Australia it is autumn (fall) at the moment. In fact, we are into our second month of autumn. On Wednesday it was 36°C and we had bushfires. Yes, I had our bags packed and the pet pack out ready to grab the cat and go. We are normally all complaining about the cold about now. Until Saturday we had not had any significant rain this year. THIS YEAR!!!! I don’t live in a desert. Not yet anyway.
I hear many people say that this is all part of a natural cycle, but the thing people seem to be missing is that all the historical natural cycles (and we can track them back a very long way) were gradual. What is happening now is happening at a rate we have never seen on the planet before. The best scientists have no real idea what will happen next.
What does this have to do with writing? Not much. I’ve been putting the above fears into my writing for the last ten years, and I don’t think that’s made a scrap of difference. I think I need to change tack. If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging, because I think it is important that none of us ever think it is too late to make a difference.
For the first time in over 10 years I did not take time off from work for Adelaide writers’ week. Yes, even when I was living in Melbourne, I used to come over for it. In fairness, I’m quite part time at the moment, so I wouldn’t have to miss many days anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, it was really interesting on the days when I did go, and I still think it is a great event. Earlier in the week, when the weather was nice, it was lovely to sit on the grass and listen to writers talking about writing. Then the temperature went over 33°C which is about when my patience starts to run low, and I stopped enjoying it.
I know I’m not in a particularly good place with my writing at the moment, but silly things started to annoy me; the way people took ownership of chairs and carried them around with them to wherever they wanted to go. People asked questions, which were actually just verbose statements turned into questions by saying ‘don’t you agree’ at the end, as if we were all there to hear them talk. I even had someone carry their chair and sit immediately in front of me (sitting on the ground), she then turned to look at me as if I had done something wrong? WTF?
Maybe the truth is that I am not so much in a bad place with my writing, but with my fellow human beings (please BYO coffee cup). Either way, I decided to skip the last two days, which actually had the people I was most interested in listening to. Besides the forecast of 35°C days, I decided it would be better for everyone if I just stayed at home and listened to the pod casts when they come out instead.
I might be going out on a limb here, but I think I’m going to hit this week’s target. I kind of have to, because even if I do get to 44K by the end of today, that still leaves 6K to write to get to 50K by midnight Wednesday. I think I might still be writing up until midnight Wednesday -which coincidentally is about what time the lunar eclipse is going total in Adelaide, so I wanted to be up anyway.
Will I finish the novel? I think so. Are there some gaps in it; yes without doubt. This will definitely be the scratchiest of any of my scratch drafts to date. It’s the first time I’ve written stuff like <describe the house in more detail here> in my manuscript. I’m cool with that. If something was going to hold me up, or I needed to research it to get it 100% right, then I’ve left those bits for the edit.
Would I do JanNoWriMo again? I don’t know. First of all, I am not sure if I’ll ever get all of January off work again, and there is no way I would have managed the 50k if I was working. Secondly, January is super hot! We had so many days either over 40°C or near enough to. It was awful trying to sit at a computer in those conditions, and probably not terribly healthy. I don’t think it is a coincidence that my previous novels were written over winter.
Finally, I don’t know that I did the novel justice. I suspect I will have whole chapters that are going to get cut. I also feel like I pushed the characters along in places they wouldn’t necessarily have gone if I had given myself a few more days to ponder. As it was I had to take a three-day break mid-JanNoWriMo to massively brainstorm to work out what was happening next. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do. I guess I’ll find out when I go back to do the edit.
Next week I’ll let you know some of the lessons I learned from JanNoWriMo, as well as letting you know what my next project will be. Besides finding a job, of course. I guess I’d better start thinking about that too!
In early October I started getting a visitor in my garden; a bald baby crow. Still hurting from the loss of the Gardner, I didn’t want to get too close. But with his daily visits, and watching him grow, I couldn’t help but be drawn in. I noticed that other baby crows in the area looked normal, so why was this crow bald?
When I Googled ‘bald baby crow’ I got nothing besides a UK site which suggested my crow had mites and was likely to die. Given that Adelaide crows are not actually crows, but ravens, and they are nothing like the evil-sounding birds I’ve seen in the northern hemisphere, I decided to ignore their I predictions of doom.
His parents didn’t seem fussed and he seemed to be thriving in all other ways, so I decided to document his growth. Below, for anyone else who has a bald baby crow in their backyard, I want to give you hope that your bald baby crow can grow into a healthy, feathered crow (or raven):
First photo – sorry, this was taken on my phone, so not terribly close or clear. When he first arrived his legs were naked as well. By the time I got this picture he had feathers on his legs and a dark patch on the top of his head.
Now I’ve got the SLR out, so you can see him a bit better. The dark patch on his head has definitely turned into feathers.
SLR + Zoom. The feathers are growing, but his ears are still very exposed.
Above and below – left and right side; his ears are now covered and just a small patch of feathers coming in on his throat hint that anything was ever not normal
So now the little bald baby crow is not bald, not a baby and apparently not even a crow. He’s now a fine-feathered raven.
There is something odd about my street. More specifically: about the cats in my street. They are all duplicates of cats I have lived with at some point in my life.
I worked out very quickly that this feline doppelganger thing was going on. It also wasn’t lost on me that the most common visitor to my backyard looks EXACTLY like my current cat (see photo above –btw I had to work very hard to get the photo of the outdoor cat to look un-friendly, she is actually a lot more sociable and smiley than my cat).
At first I chose to ignore this coincidence, because it was weird and unnerved me a bit… But recently something odd happened. A cat has moved in who is not a past cat clone. I don’t know this cat, I’ve never known a cat like this cat, and I don’t know anyone who has a cat like this.
Is this cat a glimpse into my future?
I have to confess; the non-clone has weirded me out more than the clones. I don’t have a name for this cat and I’ve been giving it a wide berth. But what will seriously freak me out is if I meet someone who has the clone of this cat. If that happened then I wouldn’t even try to fight the universe, we’d just have to move in together.
I have to confess, aside from the time off work and my visiting friend from Melbourne, I wasn’t really that excited about Adelaide writers’ week this year. I had only heard of a couple of the authors in the line-up, and yet again genre writers were under-represented.
It was actually a great week. As always I heard from a bunch of authors I’d never otherwise be exposed to, and I bought a couple of books which might never have found their way into my collection any other way. The big thing I took away from this year was not any tips about getting published or putting words on paper, but how much I could relate to the experience of ‘real’ authors.
Many talked of things I’m banging on about in this blog each week; pantsing, hours editing flash fiction, and forcing yourself to write when doing anything else seems more attractive. Watching the novelty of these ideas wash over the crowd I realised I’m already there when it comes to knowing what it is like to be a writer. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, because I know a lot of these authors still have other jobs to earn a living. So really the main difference between us is degree of publication.
Alarmingly one author, John Marsden, talked about the never ending itch of finding purpose in his life, which drives him to do so much. Currently I’m consumed by this conundrum for too many hours of every day. I stupidly thought getting published and sharing my work with the wider world would sufficiently scratch that itch. Clearly I’m wrong.
But I have always said it is the journey you need to enjoy, not the destination, so I guess that means I’m already in the good bit. There was even a part of me that wondered if maybe I’m lucky that I’ve not had one of my novels picked up yet. I’m writing a book a year and writing exactly what I want. It sounds like getting published might hamper me on both of those things.
It is fantastic that writers’ week is free, and I hope it continues to be so. It is wonderful to share the experience with readers, writers and wannabe writers. Adelaide is not very good at bragging, but writers’ week is something of which we should all be proud. Just please invite some more genre writers next year!
My friend and I have dared each other to ask every author at Adelaide Writers’ Week where they get their ideas – just so we can watch them roll their eyes. The truth is neither of us will have the guts to do this because it is just such an embarrassing question. Writers get ideas from everywhere! Usually the problem is deciding which ones you will let in and which you will ignore.
But it has made me wonder about the rest of the population. Do non-writers really not get ideas for stories? Do all their fantasies revolve only around them and other people they know? Or (and I refuse to believe this assertion) do some people actually not make up any stories in their head about anyone?
I watch a news story and I start imagining the fallout of events, I read a book and I think about where I would have taken the story, I listen to a song which might ostensibly be about the basic boy and girl falling in or out of love and I can turn it into a dark paranormal novel, maybe even a trilogy. Doesn’t this happen to everyone on some level???
If I was to list my top five favourite things about being alive, making up stories would be on there. If, and I hope I’m talking to no-one here, you have never made up a story after you left school, try it now. Even if you need to fan-fiction it and lift someone else’s characters and setting, try it (there are no copyright breaches when it stays in your head). You may just find you like it.