Sunday, November 29, 2015

I'm done

I completed the Nano challenge and I'm now the proud owner of 50,000 words that I wrote myself. Plus 2,500 words of out takes that I haven't counted in the final score.

This year crystallised for me how I need to work when I'm writing a longer story. I don't do well with tightly planning the whole story in advance, but I need an overall idea of what kind of story I'm writing, who it's about, and where it's going to end up. Then I think through the first section until I know what happens and write that down. At that point I have scenes in my mind's eye and I just need to get them down in words.

Whenever I complete that section, I need to stop the scene-writing and spend some time thinking and working out the next section. Some of my thinking I do when walking, cycling, or showering. Some of it I do by writing out the next part of the story in non-scene form. Planning, you might call it. I've never thought of myself as a planner but I think that's because I've assumed I knew what planning looked like and this wasn't it. Well, now I know.

Can I do it without the impetus of the Nano challenge? I really don't know but I'm going to have to find out. Because Nano is no longer what I need.

I didn't go to any meetups this year, the first year since 2006 when I haven't. I met up with some fantastic friends from past Nano years, but these weren't official meetups and most of the others have moved beyond Nano now. I don't get much use out of the Nano forums because they really aren't user-friendly; I use my own spreadsheet which keeps track of my words with better visuals than the Nano site; and Nano has changed almost beyond recognition since I first joined.

It used to be about the excitement of the challenge, now it's about being an educational charity that supports young people's writing. I don't think I got a single communication from Nano this year that didn't include begging for money. Even the winner's congratulation message includes a request to become a monthly donor.

So, Nano and I are done. It's been a great ten years. I've learned a lot and had lots of fun. Now it's time to step out on my own. I just don't know where the motivation is going to come from.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Week Three Blues

It's week 3 of Nano. How did the time go so quickly? And I'm at the usual point of wanting to give up and go fishing instead. I've never tried fishing and I think I'd hate it but could it be any worse than writing my novel? I don't think so.

For the real deal on just how bad Nano gets, I've got permission to quote from a friend. You can see the original here or here but in case you can't get into those, here is the text that marienbad/parallax has written:

The 4 Weeks of NanoWrimo
The week before: Ooh, so excited, but filled with trepidation - Can I/Will I be able to do this, will I make 50K. Gosh, this is daunting, I really shouldn't have signed up for this... No, wait, yes I should - I want to be a writer and this is my chance to have a shot a writing something long form. Ooh, so excited...
Week 1 - ooh so excited, here we go... writes 1667 words a day - oh my gosh this is amazing, the words are flooding out of me, and these characters seem to have taken on a life of their own. Every day is bringing new scenes and ideas, I love my story.
Week 2 - wtf? where did my writing ability go? I can just about make 1667 some days and man even that's a struggle. And my story is full of holes, everything is cliche and rubbish, my characters are always grinning/smirking/smiling - why? This isn't going to work, I'm never gonna make 50K.
Week 3 - jeez Louise, this is the suckiest first-draft in history. I know they are meant to be shitty but this is in a league of its own. Yeah I got a bunch of plot bunnies but they all seem to lead the story in the wrong way, not where I want it to go. I am hacking out 500 words a day sometimes and it's like pulling teeth without anaesthetic! I am never going to win Nano, I wish I had never started this now. God, I hate myself and want to die!
Week 4 - wait, what's happening? The sun has arisen, and I can see the light. All those plot bunnies have enabled me to build a decent backstory, my characters seem to have come back to life, and I am easily getting over 1667 words per day. The finish line is in sight, only 12K left to write, and I can do that now, come on fingers, type faster, keep up with my brain for crying out loud...
End of Week 4 - woo hooo !! I did it - 52,091 words! But wait, the word counter here gives a different figure than my Word Processor - Oh man, now I've got another 2K to write to win...hacks out 3.5K of crap just in case - validates woo hoo - I've won - only just, 50, 051 words, but it's enough. woo hoo, I've won Nano! Fantastic. breaks down and cries.
Week 5 - what, where's everyone gone? Man, I'm missing Nano already, I feel so down, I wish this went on all year. And what am I going to do with all that novel I wrote? I feel so blue, what now? Oh I know, maybe I can edit... looks at manuscript - jeez, Louise, what a pile of crap, it's so bad it's not worth editing!

My only caveat is that at the end I always think, "But it's just so long I could never edit it!"

But that's moot, because it's not written yet, so back to the coalface.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Windows 10 - Finding System Restore

The latest update of Windows 10 left me without a working keyboard. I couldn't find System Restore and needed the help of a Dell technician using remote control of my laptop to take my system back to before the update.

In case it happens again, I want to set down the steps needed to get into System Restore without using Search. (Because obviously search won't work without a keyboard!)

1. Right click on the Windows icon in the Start bar, click Control Panel.
2. On the drop down menu beside View By click to choose Small Icons (upper right part of the screen).
3. Click Recovery (icons are in alphabetical order).
4. You can now choose System Recovery as the second of three items.

Of course, next time it will probably be the mouse that goes. I should really look up the keyboard shortcuts to System Restore just in case.

Edited to Add:

To get to System Restore using only the keyboard:

Windows key + X
Arrow keys to select Control Panel, Enter
R key to select Restore, Enter
Tab key (several presses needed) to select System Restore, Enter

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Money, money, money

I have such mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo. It's helping me write a story that might otherwise never have surfaced but it comes with so many demands for money, money, and more money. Recently it was "Double Up Donation Day" which generated five different private messages asking for money: before, during and after the magic day.

I posted about it to the feedback and suggestions forum and this is what I got:
Me: I would like fewer donation requests.

I always donate at the beginning of November to say thank you for the website. Repeated follow-up requests for more money are annoying.
Moderator: The donation requests go out en masse, and not everyone can donate at the start of the month--they may be on a fortnightly or monthly pay schedule, they may want to wait until they've written x amount of words, and so on. You're not the only one getting more than one request! I donated in October, plus I'm an ML, and I still get requests. I just delete 'em and move on.
Me: I didn't assume I was the only one. I was just giving feedback in case anyone is interested that I find the number of donation requests is too high and I find it annoying.

If Wikipedia asks for a donation, they also check if they are asking too often and are annoying. I assumed it might be the same here.
Mod: Well, it was just Donation Day, so I assume the higher volume of requests was due to that.
I feel so much better now. I nearly posted that but I doubt if the sarcasm would be recognised.

So I shall stay with the Nano groups on my favourite website, which is Ravelry, and just use the Nano site for updating my word count. Somehow the Ravelry owners manage a huge website* that is easy to use and very intuitive and their requested donation is only $5 a year. Plus the only time you see the option to donate is if you want to upload images directly to the forums and not through your project pages.

It seems like such a wasted opportunity when forum mods and owners ignore genuine feedback.

* 5,711,874 registered users, 989,706 Ravelers were active during the last 30 days (up to 10/11/15). In 2014 Nano had 325,142 participants

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Llama llama red pajama

Today I did story time at the local library for the first time. It's half an hour of reading aloud to 3+ year olds and I loved it.

I was expecting to just listen this week and see how it's done but the librarian said to pick some books and we'd take it in turns, then it got to starting time and she wasn't there so I just went for it. When she saw I was enjoying myself she left me to it!

Next week I need to get there a bit earlier so I can check out the books. It's much easier to show a picture book while reading the text if you've already read it, but I was busking it because it's a very long time since I've read to children that age!

Monday, November 02, 2015

So far so good

I'm up to 4000 words on my Nanonovel. It's not great literature. It may not even be readable. But I'm having fun with it!
The door opened and Jenny took in Em's face and gave her a huge hug. Em had the familiar feeling of coming home she always had in Jenny's presence and she felt the tears start at her eyes again.

"Oh look at you," Jenny said. "What have you been up to now?"

"I got myself thrown out over a boy and we didn't even do it," Em said.

Jenny laughed. "Trust you. Come on in. Mum's out but she said you can stay as long as you need to. Alfie won't be using his room till he comes back in the summer, so you can have his bed if we change the sheets."

Em let out a huge breath she hadn't realised she was holding. "So I won't be needing to put on my fishnet tights and hang around outside King's Cross Station," she said.

"What?" Jenny did a double take and then laughed. "You and your old-fashioned ideas. I don't know where they come from."

"They're not old-fashioned. It might be the oldest profession but I'm sure it's still around."

Jenny shook her head but she was smiling. "Let's get this bed made up and you can tell me how you managed to get thrown out of your house for not having sex with a boy."

"I didn't say that. We didn't do IT but.. it's complicated."

"So you can fill me in on all the gory details."

It was a mixed blessing having a friend that you could say anything to except the one thing you really wanted to say.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

How Can It Be November?

So, yesterday was Halloween and we had the usual hordes of kids coming to get their sugar rush. We're a detached house with a wide drive; we had all the outside lights on, tealights flickering in a pumpkin holder, a banner, and a big sign saying "Trick or Treaters Welcome". I like giving out sweets to all and sundry but this year a lot of them had masks so we don't know who came and it's entirely possible that some of them came twice!

We shut up shop at seven thirty because the sweets had pretty much run out and we were going on to a Halloween Disco in aid of Canine Rescue. I was worried we'd come back to some tricks as we'd had to leave the porch light on but luckily the local kids are mostly pretty wonderful and we were OK.

So after leaping up and down for a couple of hours answering the door, followed by a heavy evening of dancing to Monster Mash and Spirit in the Sky it was hard to settle down and get a good night's sleep and today is the start of Nano.

I had a minor panic when I realised that my lesbian main character seems to have slept with a boy in the first chapter, but I think I've got it covered. It's actually a space story, or meant to be, but my poor MC is a long way from getting into space yet. 

It's times like this I wish I'd done more planning and less playing with my Excel spread sheet but I expect I'll get through the month. I hope so anyway. It's never a foregone conclusion and that's what makes it a challenge.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What makes a book unreadable?

Polaris book cover.jpg 

This is a hard sci fi book about a lost space yacht. Stephen King calls the author "The logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke" and the book was nominated for a Nebula award. For a sci fi lover like me what's not to like?

And indeed this book did transport me back to the old days of sci fi that I grew up with. Unfortunately, as well as being full of excitement, adventure, and hard science, those were the days when sexism was the norm and women were mostly for decoration or a prize.

Here are a couple of excerpts so you can judge for yourself.
Ten minutes later, the Sentinel's captain appeared, Eddie Korby, young, quiet, studious. Look at him and you thought he was timid. The last person in the world you'd think would be piloting a starship. But he always had an attractive woman on his arm. Sometimes two or three.
And a bit later on, of a character working in ground control:
He'd been trying to coax Talia into his bed for the better part of a year. That night he broke through. Afterward, he concluded that the business with the Polaris [the missing space craft] had, in some way, been responsible. It's an ill wind ... he thought.
I imagine there are other examples because I've only reached page 16. I will never know, because I really can't bring myself to read any further. It was the "he broke through" comment that finished it for me.

I'm so glad there are plenty of other books  around now where sexism just isn't an issue. It reminds me how far most of us have come.

I wonder what makes a book unreadable for you.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rafting for beginners

We signed up for white water rafting because of a persuasive young lady at the campsite welcoming drink. I was a bit nervous despite her frequent assurances that "c'est pas difficile" then I googled a bit and felt even more nervous when I read "it's a good workout for the upper body". Eek! What had we got ourselves into? My upper body probably needs a workout but I don't think I'm up for it! I was ready to call it off but we decided as we'd paid we'd at least go along and see.

When we got there it wasn't exactly reassuring. The facilities were basic with nowhere to buy food just a picnic area and a place to get soft drinks and ices. Other people seemed to know what to do and when but we never did get the briefing promised by the woman at reception so we had to keep asking for directions and help.

The wet suit was wet. The life jacket was too big and so was the helmet. At least the wetboots fit OK, although they were wet and clammy too.

Then there was the bus to take us the 5km up the river. It was old and tatty with stuffing coming out of the seat backs, it had no seat belts, and it went too fast. I just went into child mode: someone else is in charge and I hope to god they know what they're doing.

When we got to the start point and got told who our guide was, I explained to him that Neil doesn't speak much French and I'm mostly deaf without my hearing aids which I'd removed because I daren't get them wet. "Ca commence bien (that's a good start)" he said but at least he was smiling.

It all changed once we got into the raft. The guide laid out the rules about hanging onto your paddle for dear life, and trying not to fall in. One of the rules is that if the guide yells "Pizza!" you all have to fling yourselves into the middle of the raft with your paddle straight up in the air! It's a good position for when you bump into a rock, and guaranteed to break the ice at parties. 
Paddling was much easier than I'd expected, except for trying not to hit the paddle of the person in front. The river carries you down whether you paddle or not and the small rapids are exciting but not terrifying. No one in our group fell in, although we got splashed by another group which I admit I hated. Given that we were already wet and going to get wetter I'm not sure what my problem was.
We saw insects and birds and stopped to pick wildflowers. There were two places where the river opened out and the guide invited us to get in and swim if we wanted to. I chickened out the first time and no one from our boat got in but by the time we got to the second place I was so full of adrenaline that I was the first one into the water. Oh my word it was cold! So very cold! But it was the most fun I've had in ages.

I'd come a long way since my initial fears and it felt really good. We're going again next week.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Gratuitious Cat Photos

Rufus was a happy cat, kneading away at the double thickness blanket that stops his sharp edges from making his cat-slave shriek.

Then his cat-slave said "Bedtime" and had the cheek to push him off her! This was a shame and a disgrace.

Luckily he has a short memory and by the next day all was forgiven. Or was that dead bird he brought in a subtle way of getting his revenge?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Schrödinger's Dishwasher

I am a sad wraith of my former self. My shoulders droop, my legs tremble, and my hands are red and raw.

For the last three weeks I have had to wash up.

I know, first world problems and all that. Thank the gods it's not the washing machine.

Well actually the washing machine did break down and it wasn't covered by guarantee, so we had to buy a new one. Ordered on Saturday, delivered on Monday. By Monday evening I had racks of clean clothes drying. But I digress.

The dishwasher was covered by warranty. Domestic & General, I am not happy with you. It's now three weeks since you wrote off our dishwasher and promised us a new one. It's on its way! Look out world, we'll soon be piling up cups and plates again with sheer abandon knowing we can just shove them in the dishwasher and they'll come out sparkling clean!

That was the theory. In practice, there are two groups of people involved: the suppliers and fitters who work for D&G. The suppliers tell us that the new machine is with the fitters. The fitters tell us it hasn't arrived yet from the suppliers. It's in limbo. Does it even exist? Perhaps we shouldn't collapse the waveform and find out in case we get the wrong answer.

Meanwhile I stand forlornly at the kitchen sink, scrubbing away at piles of plates. A Cinderella in my own home. Don't you feel sorry for me?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Exciting Eclipse

There was a partial eclipse here today and I was all ready to look at it with my pinhole camera, aka two pieces of paper one of them with a hole in it. I didn't get the chance to use it because of the cloud cover but there was other excitement instead!

It was just getting really dark outside when there was a terrible loud noise like a hundred rain sticks all being used at once. I rushed to investigate what it was and in the kitchen I found heaps of rice all over the draining board and the side, with a few grains still trickling down.

Rufus had tried to climb up to his high place on top of one of the cupboards but someone had stored a large bag of rice there. (This was a deliberate ploy to stop him from hiding on top of a cupboard that is far too near the kettle for our liking.) Efficient use of his claws led to a rain of rice, or more like a monsoon of rice, all over the kitchen side and draining board and floor. Thank you, Rufus.

With a cat in the house, life is never boring.

Friday, March 13, 2015

We shall not see his like again...

Sir Terry Pratchett 1948 - 2015

I've read all his books, many of them several times. I was at a local library where he spoke about his life and work, maybe twenty years ago now. He signed a book for me. He was very engaging.

When my father died at age 62, Pratchett's books were one of the things that helped me to get through. I knew his take on Death was pure wish fulfilment but I needed some of that at the time, together with his willingness to even talk about death when too many people found the subject uncomfortable and shied away from it. You can't avoid thinking about it when someone you love dies.

It seems strange that he didn't even know I existed and yet I have a real sense of personal loss at his death. The world is a poorer place for his passing.


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Crochet Party

March is International Crochet Month and Ravelry is celebrating with a party. There's a Scavenger Hunt and a Mystery Crochet A Long and lots of other fun and games. Maybe I'll see you over there.

One challenge is to "write your name in crochet" and I got as far as "fairy" and gave up. In my defence, I'm still getting over the flu. It's the first year I've had flu in a long time and after nearly three weeks of being ill in bed I can't say I recommend it.

I feel like I want to wish you all "Live long and prosper!" but that seems almost too poignant right now.

Monday, February 09, 2015

I'm Not A Robot

Sometimes Blogger gets the message. Sometimes it doesn't recognise me and I have to type in words to prove my humanity. Who knew that one day we'd all be proving we're not AIs by copy typing nonsense letters that appear on a screen? I always thought a Turing test would be more interesting than that.

Every time it happens on this blog I want to scream.
  1. Blogger is supposed to recognise me so as to not count my page hits, and
  2. It shouldn't be asking anyone to verify they're not a robot, because I've turned word verification off.
Has anyone got any ideas as to how to get rid of it?

Friday, February 06, 2015

Could you read this book?

It's not as easy as it seems. The book will only open if you approach it with a neutral face. It won't open if you're looking sceptical - or even if you're excited! That's me done for then.

I'm not entirely sure that I can see a use for it except as an idea for a science fiction story. Now that would be something I'd really like to read!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

You can't say that!

I've joined a book club. It's only small at the moment: three or four of us meeting in a pub. It's local though and it's nice to meet other people to talk about books.

This month we read How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran and it was a challenging read. Not that the book is hard or literary, or even very long. The trouble is, it's all about sex and as I read I kept thinking "We can't talk about this at book club!"

If you go to amazon, you can read the beginning for free. It starts like this:
I am lying in bed next to my brother Lupin.
He is six years old. He is asleep.
I am fourteen. I am not asleep. I am masturbating.
The whole time I was reading I kept thinking, "how can we talk about this?" And yet it was actually quite easy in the end.

I started by saying how I'd felt about reading it and we all had a good laugh. And then we talked about how honest Caitlin is in her depiction of what it's like to be a young girl, and how refreshing to read about a young girl who is so keen on sex, and about how she invents and reinvents herself, and what we liked and what we didn't. 

It brought back lots of memories of my own childhood as I found myself looking for similarities and differences. One thing it brought home to me is that I wouldn't want to write a book like that. Not because of what other people might think but because I don't want to look back on my growing years with that crystal clarity and tell it as it really was, even if I was the only person in the world to ever read it.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Slightly Stunned

Rufus has just got back from the vet after having the wire removed which was keeping his broken jaw in place. He had it removed under anaesthetic, so he's still a bit woozy.

For the last six weeks he's been unable to go outside. For five of those weeks he's been almost unbearable. He should be able to go out again on Wednesday, so fingers crossed.
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