52 Prompts: Ice or Snow

East Out of My Driveway

Week 21 Prompt: Ice or Snow

More about 52 Prompts: Each week we’ll have a new writing prompt for your creative writing pleasure. If you are an altdotlife forum member, join us on the dedicated 52 Prompts writing blog (forum member login info).*

What’s it like?

…definitely mixed product.  I think I’d often do a vignette or a character sketch, but if I had a real-life experience, maybe just a memoir. Or heck, a book review if that’s what the prompt leads me to. Whatever you’re inspired to do–the point is to overcome the butt-in-chair hurdle that is so big.

Week 1: Worst. Meal. Ever.

Week 2: Where I’m From.

Week 3: Bulwer-Lytton’s Lyttony

Week 4: Fabric

Week 5: Pick a part of your body

Week 6: The worst thing that happened to you as a child

Week 7: Did it turn out how you expected?

Week 8: A moment of silence

Week 9 prompt: Henchman! (Or sidekick)

Week 10 prompt: “Clare Middleton I love you will u marry me”

Week 11 prompt: Tell an outrageous lie

Week 12 prompt: Stranded

Week 13 prompt: Self Portrait Early in the Morning

Week 14 prompt: Life happens in the kitchen

Week 15 prompt: Where are your ghosts?

Week 16 prompt: Wrong number

Week 17 prompt: Clouds

Week 18 Prompt: Angel of the North

Week 19 Prompt: Teeth

Week 20 Prompt: Relationships

*Not a member? Feel free to join us on your own blog. Don’t forget to send us a link to your work if you’d like (tweet to: @altdotlife#52prompts). (Or you can always join the altdotlife forum.)

Image credit: East Out of My Driveway by GollyGforce

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NaNoWriMo win!

I just finished NaNoWriMo this afternoon, so I’m quite chuffed.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the NaNoWriMo challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  Different people have different approaches to this.  Some people plan the whole plot out in the preceding months.  Some gather inspirational material for a few weeks before the start date.  Others are like me and decide to join at the last minute with a very bare outline of a plot (I could have written mine down in about 20 words.)

I decided to write romantic fiction because it seemed like the lazy option. It was contemporary, so I could use all real-life locations. No research was required. I figured out my three main characters pretty much straight away and the supporting ones more or less wrote themselves. I think the downside of this method was that the story doesn’t feel all that imaginative or satisfying to me. Some of the individual events are quite fun, but a lot of it felt quite mundane.

While writing, I began to admit that I actually like romantic fiction. I don’t usually “count” romantic fiction, particularly the ones in the pink shiny covers, when asked what I like to read. But my favourite novels are Catherine Fox’s, one of which at least is pure romantic fiction. I re-read Leila Aboulela’s The Translator with great joy: it’s at the literary end, but definitely a love story. I talked on Facebook about my devastation at the end of Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner – I loved all her novels till she wrote an ending I couldn’t accept! The truth is, I find a good romantic novel rather satisfying. I’m often to be found hanging around Joanna Trollope in the fiction section, or Elizabeth Berg. I definitely no longer read Mills and Boon, but I found while writing that the number of Mills and Boons I pinched from my mum’s bedroom during my teenage years meant that I’m very au fait with the genre conventions.

At 50,000 words, my novel is nowhere near finished. I have at least two major, major plot events to come – I think I’d probably be looking at about 90,000 for the whole thing. I’m quite tempted to keep writing, but not sure I can do it without the target. Especially given that I now think I have a better idea for a novel – one that I’m quite keen to start planning. Even if it doesn’t get written till next year’s NaNo.

Back when I signed up, I wrote down my pros and cons, so now to see which of those came true:

Pros:

1) I have never done it before

2) It seems unlikely that I’ll have a job by November, so I should have some time

These were pretty good reasons. If I was ever going to do it, now was the time to do it.

3) I am (possibly unwisely) reasonably confident that I could get to that number of words, having written pretty major stuff before, PhD thesis and suchlike. Although I don’t know whether I can possibly write that much fiction.

4) I’m getting used to blasting out poems and articles using the just-get-your-bum-in-the-chair method. It would be interesting to see whether that works for longer stuff.

When I kept up with the words, it wasn’t difficult to get to the daily target or beyond. 1667 words is about an hour and a quarter for me. When I did manage to get my bum in the chair, the words got done. The problems occurred when for some reason I couldn’t get my writing time early in the day. Then it became much more difficult to sit down to it. The routine was definitely helpful.

5) Fun, meeting people and all that good stuff.

Not so much. I was a total hermit, went to no write-ins, never stuck my head in the forums and generally just sat down and did it. I stopped my daily wordcount spreadsheet after I lost some words in an unfortunate saving accident and didn’t want to admit that my wordcount that day was negative.

Cons:

1) I literally have no novel outline beyond two one-line ideas that keep bouncing around my head.

2) It’s now well into October so I would really have to get on with it if I was going to write an outline.

This was actually an issue. I am not a write-to-a-plan person but I do think that an outline of, say, a page would have made a big difference. I struggled with the first 8000 words and from the 30-40k point because I didn’t really know what was happening (beyond 40k I didn’t know either but it was completely clear that the story was not going to finish at 50k, so I didn’t worry as much about where it was going in the knowledge that I wouldn’t necessarily have to encounter all of it.)

3) I really don’t think it would improve my job-hunting focus any!   Also, it would take some focus away from other creative activities that I’d like to pursue.

I did put in some job applications, meet my mentor and go to a career transitions workshop, so although it probably took a wee bit of a hit, I don’t think it was a disaster. It did hurt my other writing a bit: I didn’t submit to my online writing group for 2 weeks – that’s my first non-submissions since it started in July. I’m looking forward to getting back to my poetry – at the moment I’m only writing poems on a Thursday afternoon in my writing group.

4) I hate drafting on the computer, I’m a longhand-then-type person, but I’d want to write on the computer for the wordcount.

I’m still not a fan. I guess for first drafts it is bearable.

5) Level of insanity seem in other NaNoWriMoers. Just kidding, my lovely friends and family!

It did have some impact on my general organisation – I had to consciously get control of food and laundry after the first couple of weeks! I can see how, if I was working, it would totally take over my free time. In future years I may have to plan ahead, fill the freezer and clear the diary!

So yes, I am thinking of doing it again in future years. On the good days, it was some of the best fun I’ve had in ages. At no point did I find it insanely difficult, just a wee bit of a grind at times. It has really expanded my horizons of what I think I might be able to do in the long term. When I find a story that actually has something to it…

About the author: Kate lives in Fife, Scotland and is currently re-learning creative writing after 15 poetryless and fictionless years. She blogs at blurofwoodsmoke.wordpress.com. NaNoWriMo win! was first published on blurofwoodsmoke on November 28.  

Thumbnail Image credit: NaNoWriMo: the home front by mpclemens

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52 Prompts: Relationships

Crossed fingers I

Week 20 Prompt: Relationships – any kind – romantic, family, arch enemy etc

More about 52 Prompts: Each week we’ll have a new writing prompt for your creative writing pleasure. If you are an altdotlife forum member, join us on the dedicated 52 Prompts writing blog (forum member login info).*

What’s it like?

…definitely mixed product.  I think I’d often do a vignette or a character sketch, but if I had a real-life experience, maybe just a memoir. Or heck, a book review if that’s what the prompt leads me to. Whatever you’re inspired to do–the point is to overcome the butt-in-chair hurdle that is so big.

Week 1: Worst. Meal. Ever.

Week 2: Where I’m From.

Week 3: Bulwer-Lytton’s Lyttony

Week 4: Fabric

Week 5: Pick a part of your body

Week 6: The worst thing that happened to you as a child

Week 7: Did it turn out how you expected?

Week 8: A moment of silence

Week 9 prompt: Henchman! (Or sidekick)

Week 10 prompt: “Clare Middleton I love you will u marry me”

Week 11 prompt: Tell an outrageous lie

Week 12 prompt: Stranded

Week 13 prompt: Self Portrait Early in the Morning

Week 14 prompt: Life happens in the kitchen

Week 15 prompt: Where are your ghosts?

Week 16 prompt: Wrong number

Week 17 prompt: Clouds

Week 18 Prompt: Angel of the North

Week 19 Prompt: Teeth

*Not a member? Feel free to join us on your own blog. Don’t forget to send us a link to your work if you’d like (tweet to: @altdotlife#52prompts). (Or you can always join the altdotlife forum.)

Image credit: Crossed fingers I by Katie Tegtmeyer

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The Artist’s Way week 11 / on bad art

I can’t believe that the Artist’s Way is nearly done!  It has been such a big part of my life for the last 3 months.

The bit in this week’s chapter that I really need to remember (it was a theme earlier in the book too) is the bit about making bad art.   I struggle with the concept that to make good art you first need to make bad art.  Actually, I’m not sure it’s quite as clear-cut as that: maybe to make good art you need to make bad art, or at least be open to making bad art, all the time.

Another thing that chimed in with that theme this week was reading Anne Lamott’s words about shitty first drafts, which made me feel better about my terrible NaNoWriMo novel.

I think this is really one area where the process of learning the sciences is very different to learning the arts (I’m not sure the real-life practice of them is as different: I’ve had experiments, programs and computer models that definitely count as ‘shitty first drafts’.)

Learning maths was a matter of building blocks – you learn to do something simple then extend it and extend it.  You try to solve something and you can either do it or you can’t (in class, anyway.  Maths competitions were a bit different.)  So in order to do good maths, you first do easy maths, then make it incrementally harder.

To me, that’s so different from learning to draw a picture or write a story.  You can draw a picture straight away!  But it sucks.  It is nothing like what you wanted it to be like.  It is nothing like what an artist you admire would do.  It’s not anywhere near as good as your teacher has just done in the 5 minute demo.

You don’t get that in maths class.  You, Einstein and your teacher all get just as good an answer as each other to what the root of that square number is.

I know that’s a big part of why, despite getting an A band 1 (that I’m still inordinately proud of) in Higher English, I never for a moment considered continuing with English. You could have two answers that were both right!  Scary stuff.

The Artist’s Way has been tremendously healthy in challenging my attitudes to creative experimentation and getting me to give things a go.

On the weekly check-in stuff:

– 7/7 on the morning pages again, I think they’re totally embedded now

– I enjoyed my Artist’s Date at the wind turbine. I was thinking of going to the BP Portrait Award exhibition on my own, but as it happened my sister, my nephew and Mr Woodsmoke all came along too which was fab. Mr Woodsmoke isn’t a big art person but really enjoyed the exhibition (nephew slept through it).

– I am still rebelling when it comes to synchronicity

Finally enjoying an art class reminded me that sometimes it’s worth persevering through a crap phase!

About the author: Kate lives in Fife, Scotland and is currently re-learning creative writing after 15 poetryless and fictionless years.  She blogs at blurofwoodsmoke.wordpress.com. The Artist’s Way week 11 / on bad art was first published on blurofwoodsmoke on November 21.

Thumbnail image credit: Art Journal: April 4 – from Blissjournaling Group Prompt by juliejordanscott

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