It’s fuff-fuff-fuff-freeeeezing here in blogland today. After complaining and worrying about an over-warm autumn, I am now feeling the cold very much indeed. Our kitchen thermometer is showing 13 degrees, which Mark claims is ‘not really cold’ but which I claim is fuff-fuff-fuff – you get the picture.
NaNo has moved from the dining room to the sitting room for the duration of the fuff-fuff-fuff, which gave me a good reason to turf infuriating sleeping son off the sofa (he sleeps downstairs ‘so that he can wake up’ – yet god help anyone who actually tries to wake him) and also a different perspective on writing. This is often helpful, I find – you do want to have a particular spot for writing, but a change of scene now and again can work wonders. And today I reached 4,000 words without even trying, leaving me just 1300 to do after lunch.
I will be busy this afternoon, doing Spanish followed by drumming, and then off to Peter’s for yoga and dinner and a little light printing. The printing is for the gig tomorrow as I want to have some poems on cards to give all the people who are coming to the Twilight Gig (see poster below). I know Peter’s flat will be Mmmmmmmmmmmm-ahhhhh! and not fuff-fuff-fuff! as he always keeps it warm. I’m going to have to set the heating to come on earlier here, as it just isn’t warm enough at 7 am after only half an hour. I don’t mind the cold quite so much if I’m moving around, but most of my work is done sitting down and then I get really chilled off.
NaNoWrimically, I’m up to 56,000, on target to do 75K by the end of the week.
Time for soup now, then I must get the nose back to the grindstone. Here’s the poster for tomorrow’s gig: I’m on at 5.30.
Nope, it refuses to post it. OK so see you at Embrace Arts, Lancaster Rd, tomorrow evening.
I went to prison this afternoon. It was quite an experience: not my first stretch, since I’d worked at Stocken Prison in Oakham years ago on a poetry project; this however was my first time inside HMP Leicester. Leicester, as local people will know, resembles a castle from the outside. From the inside it’s more like Stalag 51 with barbed wire and high fences inside the walls; gates which have to be double- and triple-locked and which can’t be unlocked at all when a red light is showing (ie when the outside gates are open) – and I was informed by the member of staff who showed me out, that sometimes staff finish their shift and can’t get out because there’s a lock-down. I wouldn’t fancy that at all – in fact the poet whose gig it was told me that he’d once been locked inside a prison overnight. Security trumps everything.
Anyway, as you will by now have gathered, this was a poetry performance, by a guy called John Siddique:
He was good: thoughtful and entertaining and he really engaged with the prisoners. There were about eight of them; all young-ish men apart from one older Asian man, and all pleasant and witty. They read some of their poetry afterwards and it was quite stunning. Once again people without a stake in society prove that they can bring a clarity of vision and an honesty to their work.
This was followed by some short radio-plays which were based on testimonies by some of the prisoners: again these were touching and amusing. Some prisoners spoke of their regret at the things they’d done wrong and how they wanted to have more control over their own actions in the future.
When I left there were families outside waiting for visiting time.
39,000 words today! How are you doing?
I haven’t blogged for a few days, what with NaNoWriMo and all the other stuff that’s going on, not to mention the shredding. Oo! Did I tell you about the shredding? I have an ever-growing pile of cuttings and prunings at the bottom of the garden and no idea what to do with them, so I went on Streetbank
and asked to borrow a shredder – and lo and behold! some kind soul who turned out to be the gardener from the Martyrs offered to lend me theirs. They even brought it round – so on Sunday I got it out and fired it up. It started for about a second and then stopped and refused to do anything. ‘Oh, no!’ I thought. ‘It’s the lawn-mower all over again!’
but then I opened it up and saw that a wedge of wood (not Wedgewood) was stuck in the blade, and having freed that, Bob was well and truly my Uncle. It’s very satisfying getting branches and twigs, sticking them in the top and seeing them vanish as they are chewed up and spat out the other end as mulch. Lovely.
Back at the laptop-face, I have been keeping up with my Nano word count and I’m now up to 23,700 words; about fourteen chapters. I’ve had a court case, an artists’ meet-up, a political meeting and a bust-up with a friend, so I’m quite happy.
What do you think of the new profile pic? In some ways I prefer the old one, but I chose this one for the Mslexia blog. I was going for highly intelligent and slightly scary. Does that work?
In other news, my bid to run a workshop at Embrace Arts has finally succeeded. It pays sometimes to ask people why they’ve rejected you! And last night I went to a meeting of the literary caucus of the planning group for next year’s Clarendon Park Artbeat. This is a (very) local arts festival and was terrific this year: next year I am leading a poetry performance workshop, organising a poetry breakfast called ‘Poetry on Toast’ and setting up guerilla poetry on Queen’s Rd. All good stuff!
I’ve had a couple of bits of good news lately, one of which is quite exciting: I had an email from Mslexia magazine today to say they loved my pitch to be one of their bloggers and they’d like me to start next month! My pitch was that I’d be blogging about Mark and his gender dysphoria and how living with this has affected me and my writing. Finally, gender dysphoria pays off! I get paid for this too – not a fortune, but something; plus it will raise my profile and that of this blog. So watch this space…
I’m up to 14,000 words in my NaNo journey, which is bang on schedule. I realised if I’m going to make 17k it has to be over 3,000 per day so I was falling a little behind. I’ve also been getting a poetry collection together, mentoring Graham in his poetry journey (there’s one of his coming up in a day or two) and signing up for a gig at Embrace Arts. This is the start of a series of Twilight Performances which involve music, poetry and storytelling and begin at 5.30 in the evening. So if you work in town and want something to help you wind down that’s SO much better than alcohol, come along. I can’t upload the flyer, sadly, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. More on this nearer the time…
Back to the laptop-face…
It’s my first day doing NaNo and I’ve done 3640 words! It’s flowing quite well at the moment and I’m over my limit of 3000: I’ve planned 3,000 words a day in order to achieve 75,000 in a month. So I’m quite pleased with that. I work best in short bursts; and I usually work office hours: nine to five or thereabouts with a break for lunch and another for tea. I’m not a midnight-oil person, nor am I a scribbling-at-3 am-person: over the years I’ve found that this pattern suits me best. And I don’t work weekends: my brain needs the time to digest what I’ve done and come up with more stuff to do.
It has come to my attention that some people are attempting to write the whole 50k in one day. This strikes me as very extreme and quite foolish, like trying to run up Everest or do six marathons at once, because merely climbing the damned mountain or doing the one marathon just isn’t enough. Why? Why would you do that? I am very mistrustful of all these extreme activities. Where does it get you? At the end of it all you’re likely to have are, let’s face it, 50,000 words of gibberish, and it’ll take you all month to get over it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a novel wasn’t written in a day either. A novel needs time and space to grow – and that’s why I give myself space in between working days; to let my mind digest what I’ve done and come up with more.
Things that grow need time, people!
I wasn’t intending to start NaNoWriMo officially until Monday but I was seized by a sudden inspiration and yesterday morning I wrote my first paragraph. So I now have about 200 words under my belt and will begin properly tomorrow. If you work every day in November it boils down to about 1600 words per day, which sounds a lot but then again if you just write without editing it takes most people about 90 minutes, so that’s not bad at all. When I was writing my memoir I did about 1500 words per day and finished after about three hours (with some editing), so I know it can be done. However, I am planning to produce 750,000 words in November which works out at around 3000 per day – about 10 pages – so I’ll have to try a little harder. The reason is that I want to end up with a full-length novel, rather than one which, after editing, looks more like a long short story.
I don’t know how the people did who were planning to write 50,000 words in a day. In a day! I had never heard of such a thing but to me that comes into the same category as running up Everest; bonkers and frankly pointless. Why rush? Why do people do these extreme things? It can’t be good for you. Slow and steady wins the race, after all…
PS I’m getting a little tired of Captain Kirk – I think I may need a new sign-off. One came to me in the middle of the night but it’s gone now. I wonder what it was?
Yes, it’s that time of year again and this year more people than ever seem to be doing NaNoWriMo. In case you’ve been hiding in a bunker for the last ten years, NaNo (as we afficionadoes call it) is short for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in November every year and during that month ONLY we try to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. That’s a very short novel, almost a novella, but still it’s a great achievement in only 30 days (or 25 days in my case, since I don’t write at the weekend). I am going to take advantage of NaNo this year to write a novel which has been bubbling under for years – a modern take on Dostoevsky’s ‘Idiot’. It will be called ‘Idiota’ in order to denote that the main character is female, and the name will be explained by some sort of Spanish connection, since idiota is the Spanish word for idiot. If you haven’t read Dostoevsky’s magnum opus, it’s about a Christ-like character who is naive and gullible and doesn’t understand what’s going on. He’s a sort of Luna Lovegood character who floats around in an otherwordly bubble, except that he is deeply empathic and distressed by other people’s troubles. It’s a loooooooooooooooooong book but well worth the effort, though I have to say I don’t enjoy Dostoevsky as much as Tolstoy. Plus, I have terrible trouble with the names, because you don’t only have to learn their first names and family names but the patronymics as well, and I can never remember which patronymic goes with which surname.
Mine will be much simpler and about one-tenth of the length of his. No, maybe not a tenth, since that would bring it down to about 80 pages, but let’s say a fifth. I aim to write 75,000 words during NaNo since that will give me a decent length novel to work with and submit some time next year.
Good luck to all NaNo-ers. If you’re taking part please let me know what you’re doing and we can encourage each other.