My Hands Are Out Of Shape

You know what really, really stinks?

Finally, after months and months, really getting the urge to write again.

Having ideas flowing and inspiration coming and actual words happening when you put fingers to keyboard.

Creating narratives and having characters responding and the glorious creative juices flowing juicily.

And then…

AND THEN…

Finding out that after months of barely touching the keyboard except to write the odd tumblr post, your once-brisk typing fingers are slow and your sturdy novel-hammering-out hands have become creaky, fragile things that start to ache after only a few thousand words. I swear, I’ve lost eight words a minute off my typing speed, my accuracy is down, and the backs of my hands are burning along every tendon after only 1200 words! (Admittedly I did nearly seven thousand yesterday)

Where has my writing stamina gone? Now that the brain is finally willing, the flesh is proving abominably weak!

Oh, well. No pain, no gain, right? Time to tape ice-packs to my hands, get coffee, and keep at it!

 

 

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Result!

It took me all day but I wrote 376 words which did not entirely suck.

Given that I haven’t been able to manage fiction at all for months, I am calling this a victory.

Also my motley lot of survivors have a completely reasonable reason for surviving the Mysterious Disappearance.

They’re all in prison.

As prisoners.

Or guards.

They’re all locked in together behind the sturdiest doors on the whole station.

Yes.

I like it.

Victory.

Powerless

The power in our street is getting cut today, so I won’t have time to write a full entry. Power outages are the household gods’ way of saying ‘hey, why don’t you go see that movie you wanted to see?’

So as soon as the ninja wakes up, we’re off!

 

Why Do I Do This To Myself?

So I’ve spent the last few days compulsively reading the English translation of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, or ‘When They Cry‘. It’s a jolly little Groundhog-Day-style repeating story with serial killings and insanity and people getting murdered in a thrilling variety of gruesome ways.

This was a bad decision, for the record.

It’s one I keep making. I watched Ghost Ship and had a pillow over my head for half of it. I watched The Ring and had nightmares for a week. I keep reading creepy urban legends and then not being able to sleep. I don’t know why, but scary stories have a terrible allure for me even though they freak me out and I couldn’t even watch Sweeney Todd without hiding my eyes during the bloody bits.

When They Cry kept me awake until two in the morning, way too creeped out to sleep. And I didn’t have all of it, so I’m going to read the other arcs and do this to myself again. I know it’s a bad idea, but I’ll do it anyway because I need to know what happens.

As far as I can tell, most people who enjoy horror stories don’t actually have nightmares and hide under pillows and find it impossible to sleep after finding out the latest horrifying twist (SHION WHY). I don’t even enjoy them most of the time. But every now and then I pick up a DVD case and read the back, or happen across a review online, and I get curious and think I’ll just take a peek and YOU WOULD THINK I WOULD KNOW BETTER BY NOW. Apparently I have sub-conscious self-destructive urges that express themselves by putting thoughts in my head like ‘I’m thirty-five, surely I am now sufficiently jaded to handle a horror comic meant for teenagers’.

I am not.

This is why I had nightmares about my baby being either a vampire or a zombie after she was born. Didn’t improve the post-natal freakout one bit.

I have very rarely tried to write creepy. This is probably my best attempt. I would actually really like to, but I have the little problem that I completely terrify myself and can’t finish and don’t want to think about it because scary. Like writing mystery, it’s something I really want to do but find myself fundamentally ill-equipped for. Do any of you have a genre you like reading and want to write but just can’t seem to get the knack of? (Or can’t do except during day-light with cartoons on and someone at hand to distract you at need?)

The Mystery Of The Self-Doubting Writer

Well, it’s not all that mysterious. Writers are a notoriously neurotic bunch. We were once presumed to be interestingly malnourished, probably drunken creatures holed up in an attic with a typewriter, now we’re popularly supposed to be uninterestingly malnourished, probably anxiety-ridden creatures holed up at a desk with a computer.

I will poke my pale, timidly quivering nose out from behind my computer to concede that yes, I am in fact anxiety-riddled and prone to holing up, although I do it with my three year old, the TV and a supply of fruit and healthy crackers, so only for a given level of ‘holed up’. And that’s probably why I’ll never write a mystery, as much as I’d like to.

Whoa, there, Salmon, that’s quite the leap you made there. How are those two connected again? (I’m sure you were wondering.)

I love murder mysteries. I adore Hamish Macbeth, Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple, Tom Barnaby, Phryne Fisher, Detective Inspector Frost, Monk, and that strange little man Columbo. I love the puzzle-solving and the clever little clues and (as mentioned in my last post) the way the main characters are relatively safe.

The tension of mysteries comes from a very different place than the tension in most other genres. It’s not peril to the major characters – although some of them go with the perpetually-in-danger-of-losing-job semi-tension – it’s the mystery itself. And some peril. A bit.

Mysteries have to be a bit clever. I don’t know how mystery-writers do it. Whenever I try, it seems so painfully obvious and all the clues stick out a mile. How can you tell if a clue is subtle enough when you know it’s supposed to be there? Beta readers may be the answer – get a fresh pair of eyes on the story and see what they pick up. But I get so frustrated at not being able to come up with anything even remotely clever that it never really gets to the point where I can show it to someone else.

So if you write mysteries, well, I salute you. You are braver and more devious than I.

Getting Started

I’ve heard it said that the hardest thing about a new endeavour is to get started. Make a commitment.

This is utter bollocks.

Getting started is easy! Anyone can start writing a book, or reading a book, or cleaning their bedroom, or eating healthier! Anyone can produce two hundred words, or a load of laundry, or a lettuce!

Finishing, now. Finishing is hard as hell. There are many hurdles between you and your finish line. Here are some (not all) in no particular order.

Hurdle One: Later. “Meh, I don’t feel like it any more. I’ll do it later. Tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow.

Hurdle Two: Lost Inspiration. “Where did all my ideas go? Man, I’m tired from picking up all these clothes. Cooking from scratch is hard. I’ll leave it just for now. Tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow.

Hurdle Three: It Sucks. “Everything I do sucks. I might as well just give up and watch a movie while I balance a pizza on this pile of dirty laundry.”

Hurdle Four: Equipment Failure. “I don’t have the right research books, and the vacuum cleaner is making a funny noise and I think the broccoli’s gone limp. I’ll have to pick this up again when I have all the stuff I need to do it really properly.

Hurdle Five: Haven’t I Done Enough? “Well, I’ve got half the first draft, I can see the floor, and I ate a vegetable just yesterday. I think that’s enough for now. Hooray for me!”

Hurdle Six: I Am So Very Busy. “Well, these other things really are more important. I’ll have to get back to that side project of all my hopes and dreams and also my bodily health after I finish alphabetizing these paid bills.”

Hurdle Seven (optional): Perfectionism. “My first sentence is terrible! I think I saw a cockroach poo in one of my drawers so the whole house needs fumigating! I’m still putting sugar in my coffee! I CAN NEVER BE FINISHED UNTIL IT’S PERFECT.”

Side note: I quit processed sugar once. Turned me into a raging harpy for three straight months. My husband eventually begged me to give in and eat some chocolate, if I loved him or our daughter at all. It turns out that while I can give up coffee and *almost* all forms of sugar relatively painlessly, I am hardcore addicted to chocolate and the sugarless kind doesn’t do the business.

There are lots more hurdles, of course. A lot of them are personal ones (a major one for me at the moment is the fact that sitting down at the computer makes my kid think ‘ooh, lap’ and come over to sit on me, which makes typing quite hard), but these are a few that I’ve discussed with others and know are at least somewhat common. All you can really do about them is get to know them well enough that you can see them for what they are – a trap and a snare, not the voice of reason they pretend to be – and go around them instead of being tricked into trying to jump and winding up flat on your face on the track wondering why you even bother.

You can’t always do it, of course. Three and Five still get me on a regular basis. But knowing your enemy can help!

 

Packing to go home is always harder than packing to leave.

At home, you have all your stuff right there, you can leave things behind if they don’t fit into the suitcase, and you can wear other clothes so you can get your laundry done in advance. Packing to go *back*, suddenly you have more things to fit into the same amount of space, you can’t remember how you got it all into one suitcase in the first place and you have to pack the clothes, shoes and toothpaste you are currently wearing and using.

So yeah, I’m going to have a fun day.

It’s like editing.

No, really, I’m not reaching for this comparison at all.

See, your suitcase is your plan, right? You’ve got characters and plot and stuff in there, some odds and ends of character development shoved in the corners, and you’re all set for your writing ‘trip’.

Inevitably along the way you will find that you’ve forgotten a few essentials, like the toothpaste of Three Dimensional Protagonists and the dry socks of Plot-Hole Stuffing. So you’ll pick those up and add them on the way. Plus you’ll find some things on the trip that you want, like that darling little secondary character who’ll go beautifully with the NaNoWriMo sweater you couldn’t resist. Souvenirs are nice! 

Except that when you need to bring your story ‘home’, suddenly your plan-suitcase is just completely inadequate to the job. You have more characters and more plot and suddenly you realize all that waffling on in chapters five, eight and ten is hanging out the back of the suitcase looking saggy and sad.

Editing is like trying to fit all the detritus of a long trip back into the same suitcase you left with. Unlike real life mementos – and underwear – there is no financial pain or social awkwardness involved in abandoning what won’t fit. You need to go through and decide, again, what will serve the story best, what you need and what you really like but doesn’t serve the plot.

Of course a plan, unlike a suitcase, can be expanded to fit that darling little secondary character, if she still fits the plot. But anything that doesn’t fit should be either left behind or – if you can’t bear to – put in a second ‘cut files’ suitcase just in case you do need them someday.

Now I need to stop putting off packing. Ugh. Wish me luck.