What To Write

I’d intended my NaNo success post to be a bit longer, but then things interrupted me and I thought I’d just throw it up as it was and come back to my other musings later. Right now I’m sat in Starbucks, waiting for Scrivener to finish loading up and so I have a brief period where no writing is immediately demanding my attention (although apparently product referencing is!).

The thing about ‘finishing’ NaNoWriMo is that I never feel I really do it properly. Yes, I write 50,000 words in a month, and I even do it without breaking the fourth wall and eliminating all contractions and giving people ridiculously long names (although I have been guilty of long titles). What I’ve not yet done is actually finish any of the stories. This is mostly because the sort of writing I lean towards doesn’t fit well to novella size, and I’ve generally found I have more luck with it if I pick a project that I’m interested in rather than one that necessarily suits the medium. Given I think of NaNo’s strengths to come in the community it encourages (seriously, the forums are amazing) and in the way it just gets you writing, every day, no excuses, I’ve never felt too bad about it. But it does then leave me in a situation of wondering what I do when I finish.

I’ve never had a problem with a shortage of ideas. If anything, I have the opposite – I constantly come up with things that sound cool and fun and I want to explore and it’s very easy to leave behind the current grind and slog stage for a new project that I’m still star-struck by and can get enthused about. I find middles the most difficult part of any novel. I tend to come up with ideas that lend themselves to multiple books or at least one very long book, and inevitably I reach a point where it’s hard work. But that’s part of writing. Anyone who says it’s easy is either fibbing or has never written a book. It doesn’t come by magic.

Anyway, all this rambling is leading to a point, I promise. The point is: what to write after NaNo?

Before November hit, I was 37k deep into a rewrite of 2009’s NaNoWriMo, a project I have temporarily named ‘Humire’. During the process of writing this November I’ve realised that I actually want to change one massive aspect of the background that is probably going to involve a full rewrite – not that much of a pest, as I feel better for cutting some of the fat off, and it was only 37k. There’s a lot I can still keep and use and most of the plot will remain the same. I just want more of the grit and hopelessness in the setting.

It had been my intention to take NaNoWriMo and have fun with something, get myself back into good habits and then return to Humire. I did indeed have a lot of fun and I have made some good habits. Only, now it comes to the point where I could hypothetically switch, I can’t help but feel that this would be indulging my urge to project hop rather than doing what’s best for my writing.

Both projects are designed to be fun to write, with no real idea of how publishable they might be come the end until I’ve finished them. There is as much potential legitimacy in my current SF NaNo as there is in Humire. And for that reason, and in the interests of actually doing the unimaginable, and finishing something – for now, I am not going back. For now I am sticking with The Hero Who Cannot Be Kept down, probably for the next six months at least, until the damn thing is finish – beginning, middle, and ending.

So. That’s what to write.

50k

Today I hit 50k for 2013’s NaNoWriMo. It’s not the first year I’ve won (2009, 2011) but it’s the first year I’ve actually been ahead and finished with time to spare.

It’s been a busy month, but worth it.

Honesty and Getting Bigger

It’s one of those facts you eventually have to face up to – at twenty-six years old, I am no longer the same size I was when I was eighteen.

This isn’t exactly a brand new revelation. I have an underactive thyroid and mental health issues that I frequently treat by indulging my sweet tooth. I’m less active now; I spend a reasonable amount of my time at my desk when at least in retail I was on my feet for those three hours a day. I still exercise once a week and walk places a lot, but I’ve put on about three to four stone in the last eight years.

When I was eighteen I was pretty slender, so this isn’t as much of a problem as it could be. I have boobs now, for one, something that A-cup eighteen-year-old me would’ve killed for. I am curvier, I am chunkier. I’m a size 14-16 in jeans, trousers and skirts, and a size 12 in tops. Generally I’m okay with this. I’d like to be a bit fitter and stronger (although asthma doesn’t help the cardiovascular shit), but I do my damndest not to let the world fat-shame me into hating my body. I had an eating disorder when I was fifteen, and I’d rather not do that again, thank you.

The trouble is, I’ve not really been at a financially comfortable point in the last eight years either, and so the vast majority of my tops and such are all from that time period. Some – the size 8s – have long been given up as ‘not a chance in hell’. Some of the size 10s are old enough and comfy enough that I can still wear them. Others are just that little bit too tight – around the arms, around the chest – and more and more I’m starting to realise that I’m not doing myself any favours with regard to my self image by constantly struggling with clothes that are too small.

Most of the new clothes I’ve bought in this time have been from charity shops, and if I ever do manage to put some money aside to get more, that’ll have to be where I go this time too. Even places like George at Asda and Tu at Sainsbury’s, while decently priced, will quickly add up and make getting the vast majority of a new wardrobe very tricky. At the moment I have no money, and so I’m torn between going through and sorting out all the doesn’t-fit-comfortably clothes and taking them to donate, leaving myself with a very limited wardrobe, or waiting and enduring. It’s a dilemma I’ve been weighing up (hurr, weight) for the last two years, probably.

I’m starting to lean towards it being time to get rid of the clothes that are too small.

It’s going to be at least six months of scrimping and being incredibly tight-fisted before I get back to point zero and can consider saving up to actually buy things. That’s assuming that no unexpected expenses come up in that time, and that I basically ignore Christmas for the most part. A painful possibility but when you only get just under £60 per week, that’s the way it goes. Nonetheless, each time I pick up a top I used to love and pull it on only to find it pinches my upper arms or is stretched ridiculously tight over my breasts, it chips away at the sense of self and confidence that I battle to maintain, and that’s really an unacceptable cost.

It’s been long enough. Time to face facts: I’m not a size 10 any more.

Coming Home

At 11.30pm Wednesday, Craig and I arrived home after a week in London doing work with Foolish People on their amazing production Strange Factories (www.strangefactories.com).

It was a fun week, but very hard work, with a lot of rushing around and travel – and a little time for writing too. I do love the city, and this latest trip has made me really keen to go down again when we’re not working so we can visit more Londony places. We had a brief stop at the British Museum and went to an amazing Wardruna concert, but that was pretty much all we had time for. I really want to go back on the London Eye at some point, not to mention visit a few of the other museums and the Tower, etc.

Nonetheless, coming back was a really powerful reminder of the niceness of Home. I missed the Brandycat terribly, and he was most pleased to see us return (and has barely let us out of his sight since). Even though the place isn’t as tidy and clean as I’d like it, there is something so comfortable about being back in our own space, with everything familiar and on hand and easy. I’ve got a few resolutions to try and keep but we’ll see how long they last.

One of the things I did on the train journey was read a lot of my older writing – just going through the various folders in my ‘Stories and Notes’ section, which covers a variety of stuff from when I was eleven and onwards. Reading my younger writing is always a strange mixture of cringing and thinking, ‘Hey, this isn’t actually that bad’. The writing is always very immature, of course, and I had a real problem with telling not showing, but some of the ideas underneath all that were quite nuanced and interesting.

The overall result of this is that I’ve decided to NaNoWriMo this year, as a bit of a last minute addition to my workload. I love NaNoWriMo, love the whole culture that surrounds it and the good writing habits it instills. The one I wrote in 2009 was actually Not That Bad and is the basis for the novel I’m currently working on in general. So this year I’ve decided to go back to a very old idea – perhaps the first idea I really put any heart into, and a character I was obsessed with for years. My main challenge is to write her without her being a complete and utter Mary Sue, which will be challenging, but her story does fall into the archetype of The Hero Who Cannot Be Held Down, so a tiny bit of sueish traits will be okay as long as she’s flawed and the world reacts to her flaws.

I’m excited by it, and excited by the work I have ahead of me generally, although it is looking to be another very busy month. At some point I’ll need to take a breather, but if I can keep going until Christmas, that’ll be pretty cool.