Summer Daze

Well, summer’s nearly over. August bank holiday weekend always feels weird as an adult — I guess because I’m not at Reading Festival like I might have been a long time ago? Also, sitting in your PJs on the Sunday burning through Ash vs Evil Dead isn’t really that different to any other night, except for the fact that it’s Sunday and you don’t need to be in bed.

How things change.

However, as the end of the summer approaches, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect. I’m currently 20 books deep in my To-be-Read challenge, which is pretty spectacular. I had a really good holiday, off on a cruise around the Adriatic with stop-offs at Venice and places where they filmed Game of Thrones. I’m also writing a D&D campaign properly (sort of — I started it last week, but hey, I started it) and it feels like I’m getting somewhere with that.

I’m half-contemplating NaNoWriMo this year, even if just to get a start on a book properly. I can’t stop thinking about vampires and superheroes, and I’m not sure that’s a good mix, but I’ll never know if I don’t get the words down on paper. It was great to have time to stop and not think about anything on the holiday, but now that I want to start thinking again, I’m struggling to figure out how to do it. I need to take more walks, listen to more music (and hey, isn’t that new Brand New album really bloody good) and give myself space. I don’t give myself enough space, really.

I still haven’t found a writing space, either. We figured that we need to cowboy up and actually buy a house in order for that to really be a thing. Three bedrooms means one actual bedroom, one music room, one study. I think I need that.

But alas, any thoughts of scribbling will go totally by the wayside over the next couple of weeks, because Destiny 2 is out soon, and so is new Star Trek, and I’m very excited to lose myself in daydreams of broken galaxies and kicking ass. Live long, shoot first and fucking prosper.

Learning to Love the Edit

Full disclosure: I’ve always been a bit of an arrogant shit. The problem is that when I was younger, I was smarter than all the other kids I knew. I’m not being a dick about it – it was simple fact. I was generally good at most things I turned my hand to, but especially anything to do with literature and writing. I’d get entered into harder exams, my teachers encouraged me to do extra reading and assignments, and on the whole, I’d come out swinging.

Of course, when I got to university, that all went by the wayside – no longer the big fish in the small pond, and all that. But that sense of having things come easily to me never really went away. I’d write something and my peers would tell me it was perfect. My tutors would have other ideas, but, on the whole, I was good. (Later on, I would realise that it was true, I was good, but I was never brilliant.) When I didn’t get the top grade, I wept like a spoilt brat. But then again, I had been spoiled. I’d been praised and built up for years, before having it all tumble down around me in a mess of tissues and snot.

I’m a bit more realistic these days. I know that I have to work at things in order to get them to be at the quality I’ve come to expect. However, there’s still one thing holding me back – I hate editing my own work. It’s been ingrained into me for years – I’m the kind of person that gets it right first time, why do I need to go and edit it? I tweak things as I go along, don’t I? Why should I sit down and read through everything when I’ve been reading it for days/weeks/months anyway?

There’s a simple answer to all those questions. You don’t get it right first time so sit down and work at it, you might tweak things as you go but it doesn’t mean it’s finished, and you’re not reading it in the same way when you edit it. So just do it.

Learning to love the edit is pants. It really is. But I also need to realise that my editing is different to someone else’s. I didn’t even realise that anyone had a lighter editing process until the second term of my MA, when David, my non-fiction tutor, revealed that he didn’t really edit much either. It’s pretty much there on the first draft and he just makes a few tweaks. I’m not a (widely) published and talented writer like David Vann and I know that I need to put more effort into my edits. It’s reassuring to know that not everyone needs to pull their work apart and stitch it back together, though. Like everything, it takes balance, and that’s what I’m now striving for.

I thought that I might get a bit better at it by editing someone else’s work, rather than my own, and my D&D compatriot James has kindly offered up a few of his latest blog posts over on Mining the Mindscape, covering our latest escapades (although I’m not sure how many of my edits have made it up there). So far, it’s been a much less painful process than sorting out my own raw drafts and, dare I say it, quite fun. I’m not at the ‘love’ stage yet, but I’m a lot closer to ‘like’ than I was before. It helps that I keep giggling at various bits of dialogue.

With regards to my own writing, I’m working on a few flash pieces – less than 500 words – for fun. Having such a low word count means that each sentence has to mean something, and no word can be out of place. It’s been a good challenge, although I’m still not quite ready to share, and I’m slowly regaining a sense of the joy of writing, rather than it feeling like a chore. I suppose that’s a good place to be in, for now. And eventually, the novel might possibly, hopefully, somehow, become a thing.

Marching On

My blogging at least once a month is going well, as I’m sure you can all see… February and March have been BUSY. Work busy, life busy, writing busy, generally busy all over.

At work, I just finished off a project on community management strategy for a gaming website that I’ve been helping out with for a number of years, helping them to transition their social network to their main website. It’s been a great experience and I feel like I’ve done everything I can to help support a community that has been there for me through thick and thin. So that’s been good.

Life? I just don’t seem to have time to do anything, I’m always out and about. However, one good thing I’ve been doing with my time lately is popping along to a D&D games night set up by Proud Lion, the local comic book shop. It’s great fun, I’ve met a lot of really lovely new people and I’m finally getting back into playing. My role-playing still leaves a lot to be desired, but I think I just need to get back into the swing of being another character. I’d like to sit down and do a proper character sketch when I have the time and dig deep into what makes my half-elf cleric tick.

Writing busy, THAT’S A THING THAT’S HAPPENING. I wrote, edited, finished and submitted a story to a short story competition for the Evesham Festival of Words. I have no idea if I’ll win, get shortlisted or even longlisted, but at least I finished something and submitted something. I’m pleased with the concept, but genre fiction doesn’t always perform that well at these kinds of things so I’ll have to wait and see.

Now that’s over and done with, I suppose I’d better get cracking with my ‘Ready, Set, Novel’ plan. I’ve completed a few of the exercises but got distracted as soon as Mass Effect: Andromeda came out (I have more thoughts on that to follow up with soon). Setting aside time to write just seems impossible at the moment – I only managed the other story because it had a 2,500 word limit – but I’ve got to do it if I ever want to get a book out there.

Also, a quick Mount TBR update – I’m up to 11 books out of 24! It’s pretty exciting to (almost) hit the halfway mark, so exciting in fact that I went and splurged on a Humble Book Bundle collection from a bunch of great female authors… Whoops. That takes the unread Kindle library up to about 130 books? Jeepers. That said, I’m totally ignoring the Kindle in favour of physical books at the moment. I’m currently on Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series, which is full of wizards, and swearing, and feelings. I’m reading The Virtu and it’s the best. You should read it too.

Metrics and Measures

January’s officially out of the door, meaning that 31 days (and a few more) out of 365 have been and gone. It’s ridiculously cliché to say it, but tempus fugit and all that. I can’t believe where the time has gone already and how ridiculous the world has been in those few days.

However, I’m not going to go on about the state of the world for now. Instead, I’ve been trying to look at what I’ve been up to, and compressed them into various numbers to make it look more impressive. So, in those 31 January days, I have …

  • Read four books, or 1,170 pages if you’re feeling fancy
  • Written 1,086 words of a new short story called Guidance
  • Spent two days in London doing business things
  • Baked approximately 42 spiced nutmeg biscuits
  • Walked 181,339 steps (and it’s still not enough)
  • Written one article for a great website
  • Played around 15 hours of Final Fantasy XV
  • Raised my fist in triumph at 14 new AFI tracks
  • Cried at two different Mass Effect: Andromeda trailers

If you look at it like that, January wasn’t so bad at all for me. I’m feeling pretty posi about February, too. So far, I’ve properly kicked off a major project at work that’s basically my dream project, and although it’s been a lot of hard work so far, it’s been really fulfilling. Hopefully, I’ll continue to do some good stuff there but it already seems like it’s making an impact, which is great.

I’m also planning on doing lots more writing, if I can. I picked up Ready, Set, Novel! by the NaNoWriMo people to help me plot my next big idea — I think with a bit of additional help, I’ll be able to really solidify this one and make a good start. The only problem I have is that I have two big ideas that are totally incompatible and I need to choose which one to focus on first …

I’m going to finish Guidance, somehow, as well. I’m not feeling it too much at the moment, but I need to push through and actually complete it so that I can move on fully to the next thing. And I bought a new editing pen that’s a nice purple colour, so if I want to use it, I need to have a first draft to edit!

Mount TBR is progressing pretty well, too — four books down out of a possible 25. I seem to be going through Kindle books a lot faster than the print ones, probably due to the amount of time I spend on the bus each week, but I’m optimistic about hitting that goal. It’s also been great to dive back into the Kindle archive, see what I bought three years ago and discover how good they actually are. Has it stopped me buying new books? Well, seeing as I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing as I type this, then no. But it has forced me to pick up some treasures that I was otherwise missing out on.

So, I suppose that I need to continue forging through February and make it a good one. 2017, I won’t let you get me down, no matter how many depressing articles fill up my Facebook feed.

Mount TBR Challenge 2017!

My to-be-read pile is shameful. Ignoring my boyfriend’s Warhammer books, our shared bookshelf is positively drowning in stories that I’ve never read, with books stacked upon books as we struggle to make space for all the things I’ve not even touched since bringing it back from the bookshop.

My friend Charlotte, enabler of my book hoarding habit and all-round great gal, turned me on to a possible solution from My Reader’s Block: The Mount TBR Challenge. So excited by the possibility that I might finally crack through a few titles, I wrote a whole article about it for Nothing In the Rulebook — you can check it out here. The crux of it is that there are several different mountains to choose from, depending on how many books are in your pile and how many you feasibly think you’ll read. I went for Mount Blanc, which is 24 books.

So far, I’ve knocked two off the list — The Autobiography of James T. Kirk and The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell. They were, admittedly, not that long (although thoroughly enjoyable!) but they’re on the pile, so it’s not cheating.

Currently, I’m reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman on Kindle when on the bus, and The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells when at home. When flicking through my Kindle trying to find the next book to read, I realised that I had over 100 books sitting on there that had never been touched. Add the 50 or so on the bookshelf that have yet to be cracked open, and that’s a lot of bloody books. I can see myself aiming to scale up.

As I mention in the NITRB blog though, I’m hoping that this will help spur me on to keep writing myself. Although I’m not setting myself any hard and fast goals for the time being (New Year’s resolutions are always a waste of time for me as I end up breaking them fairly quickly), I am intending to at least produce a few things this year, and keep submitting to competitions. And if that helps me get a novel on the go, I’m all about that. But I’m also enjoying taking the time to discover some fantastic new worlds, as well as revisit others with a different point of view. So wish me luck — see you at the summit!