Season of Mists *

snow covered stuga feb. 10

As Autumn steadily sweeps across us, the temperatures dipping further down with each day, nature’s exhibition of its colourful canvases growing ever more spectacular, we slowly ready ourselves for the winter. 

Winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves are made ready.  The radiators clatter to the sensation of heat coursing through the pipes for the first time in months. 

So off to Sweden I head for a few days to help prepare the summer houses for oncoming winter, when ice can reach a metre or two below the ground, when snow can pile metres high up against the walls. Minus twenty (centigrade) is not unusual. This is the final sorting before the dark days descend, radiators will be left on and this year to ensure there is no repetition of last Easter’s indoor flood following burst pipes, a heated lead has been placed in the water pipes between the houses to stop them freezing. Fingers crossed. 

I can’t wait to see the bountiful beauty the trees will offer – although even as we left in August the birch leaves were already tinged ochre and cracking at the tips. The ocean adorns itself with a wintry gown, the light flickering across the silver shimmery sea, the crispness of the air snapping at my lungs. 

This is my last escapade abroad this year; I will catch up with you all on my return until then I wish you a lovely final few days in October, a fun Halloween if celebrating and for those participating in NaNoWriMo best of luck! May stamina, perseverance and snacks carry you through until the end of 50,000 words. 

‘There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall this vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.’

Robert Henri (1865-1929), American artist & teacher

* From ‘Ode to Autumn’ by John Keats

My First Non-NaNowriMo Week

dickinson

At the beginning of October I felt the buzz from the build-up of writers preparing for this months challenge. Come the middle of October the intensity of preparations was increasing and as I read more and more about the NaNoWriMo I was sorely tempted to join.

However, my writing needs did not suit the criteria for the actual challenge, but knowing so many of you were beavering away on your creative projects I was inspired to set and try to complete my own challenge.

I have already completed 70,000 words of my first draft. My challenge is now to finish this by the end of the month!

My initial task was to familiarise myself with what I have written – this alone filled me with fear.

One day in mid October I set the printer going and looked on in quiet awe as it shook under the stress of the workload. I’ve never printed so many pages in one go! Over 400 and that is double-paged. Finally a large block of paper sat on my desk.

What if I didn’t like it? Or even hated it? What if it wasn’t any good? I’m a lousy liar, even more so to myself. The moment of truth had arrived.

I started early one morning and as per Stephen King’s suggestion in ‘On Writing’ I decided to read what I had written in one day. By my side was a new A4 notebook and three pencils, all sharpened, ready for use. At this stage I was looking for major errors – particularly wrong names or places etc – as well as major plot faults or omissions.

To my relief I enjoyed what I read and I was carried away by the work it involved. After scribbling pages of notes and scrawling corrections across most of the text pages I took a rest. Over the next two weeks I edited on screen according and then planned for the first week of NaNoWriMo.

There was one major problem with the book and this struck me the day I read the whole text. I also realised this is what had caused me to let the whole project slide to a halt earlier in the year.

As I read the last two chapters I found them to be jarringly rushed and rough. As I had headed towards 70,000 words I had started to panic about the length of the novel. Whilst there were technically only about 30,000 words left until the end of the novel (a typical novel length being 80,000 – 100,00 words), I had a vast amount of ideas and plot that I wanted to incorporate into it. I had begun to take short cuts to try to achieve this.

This was a mistake and reading all my ideas for the rest of the book it became obvious that I must split it into at least two books or perhaps even aim for a trilogy. I will decide that in the future. For now I have put those ideas and chapters in a separate folder in Scrivener marked ‘Book Two’. Nothing like optimism! At the moment I need to complete my first draft.

As some of my draft was written out of sequence there were certain places that needed an extra ‘connecting’ chapter and at the start of this week I wrote two such new chapters. Once started, I revelled in writing away on my book, happy to be reunited with my characters. My writing flowed easier than ever and I believe writing my blog over the months has helped improve and hone my skill.

Within a few days I had completed over five and a half thousand words on the two new chapters. Furthermore I rewrote two previous chapters. These were initially written from the first person viewpoint as I was at that stage exploring various viewpoints before settling on a close third person viewpoint for the book.

I am satisfied with the work achieved this week and have decided to split the first draft into three sections. After reprinting the first third I reread this carefully making editing adjustments as necessary. I also feel two further chapters are required to enhance the continuity of the story. These I will write next week. After that I believe the first third of my book will be complete. By then I expect the word count to be approximately 80,000. Altogether I estimate the book will be around 100,00 words long.

Being so close to completing my book I truly appreciate the work, effort and resilience it takes to finalise such a project and I am filled with respect for all writers out there who have completed a book, be it published or not.

As I once again enter my fictional world I want to wish everyone best of luck with NaNoWriMo, whether taking part officially or ‘unofficially’. Remember to enjoy.

“Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.” John Steinbeck

Photo: Courtesy of The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities

PATIENCE & PASSION

Photo I took in October 2015 and which was printed in local paper on Friday.

Photo I took in October 2015 and which was printed in local paper on Friday.

Patience is not my strongest virtue and this is particularly true when it comes to gardening. In Spring I planted a passion flower in a pot and placed it on the sunny deck.

Full of hope and expectation I was soon checking the intermingled star-shaped leaves for buds, tucked away behind the foliage. No luck. During the warm summer days I sat swinging gently on the wooden swing seat and cast surreptitious glances at the Passion flower. No luck. I waited and waited before finally this Autumn giving up all hope of blooms.

Whilst washing up one morning last week I spied something most unusual dangling above the fence by the seat. Could it be? Surely not? I dashed out in the gentle rain – at last, one glorious passion flower. I’m sure I danced on the spot, then paused at various angles to examine this wonder of intricate design. Sheer perfection. Such colourful flamboyancy. 

Returning indoors my mind spun on this one lone flower. There was a lesson to be learnt here. Patience and perseverance. Words that I realised should be every writer’s keystone.

Patience in the task at hand. Patience to trust yourself, follow your path, your writing path. To believe that your goal will be achieved but perhaps not in the way or time frame your mind has set itself. 

Intrinsically linked to patience is perseverance. To continue with your project, not to lose hope and to believe with all your heart that perseverance will reap the rewards.

As so many are now entering this month’s NaNoWriMo I feel patience and  perseverance are required more than ever. May they give you strength and energy and don’t forget to have some fun along the way. I wish you all success with your endeavours. 

Although I am not officially entering NaNoWriMo I will take this opportunity of what I imagine will be a quieter month on WordPress to concentrate and finalise a couple of writing projects.  However, I’ll check in now and then on everyone;  a whole month away would give me withdrawal symptoms!

‘Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side your self. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more importantly it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.’ 

John O’Donohue