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Underwater December 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Edinburgh, Knitting, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Small things.
2 comments

…That’s a comment on how wet it is up here, by the way.  It’s been raining horizontally on and off for about a week.

I was walking down to the library about ten past eight this morning.  You know, when it’s got to the point where you’re just following your feet, and you’ve stopped noticing things around you?  I’ve been trying to fend it off of late, because Edinburgh is such a beautiful city and I don’t have very long to enjoy it – only this year – but it’s caught up with me recently.  And, as I was walking past Bristo Square, I spotted something on the railings.

It was World AIDS day yesterday, which I assume accounts for it.

Yarn bombing is one of my favourite things in the world, and I’ll tell you for why.  I always seem to see it when there’s a lot going on around me, when I’m up to my eyeballs in late nights and my head is spinning with all the things I should have done and I haven’t yet.  And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, there are knitters.  If I didn’t knit, it would still say to me that someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to brighten things up.  That would just be fabulous all by itself.  But as a knitter myself, it feels like a reminder that even though it’s getting dark at 4 o’clock, even though I’ve barely seen the outside for quite a while and I haven’t had an evening in to myself where I haven’t had to work in weeks… some things are constant.  There are people out there who take a bit of time to knit red ribbons and tie them on railings.  There are people who still think that’s a worthwhile use of their time – which, of course, I have to wholeheartedly agree with.

It’s like someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to just reach across and say hey, hang on a minute – how are you?

…All the way down the road.  I don’t know if you can see it.

I won NaNoWriMo the other day.  It’s been good to take a bit of time out – I’ve met some fantastic people and learned a lot about myself.  It was a lot easier to keep going than this time last year.  I discovered, though, that it’s a bad idea to force myself to research about wartime mental illness when the nights are drawing in.  That on top of work – my first essay went in this morning, one down, two to go.  I’ve had to be pretty careful – yet another reason that seeing knitting just made it all a bit better.

My camera’s playing up at the moment – sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t.  But I have FOs to show you, and I’m determined to find the time soon!  Maybe I should instate WIP Wednesday, or whatever it is that the other bloggers are doing these days.  Something to think about.

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Not so strange July 3, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Literature, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo.
1 comment so far

There are a few types of projects I keep coming back to.

My default no-brainer project is the plain pair of stocking stitch toe-up socks: I’ve made a few for me, one for each parent, His Nibs has a variation on them (one round plain, one round double rib, repeat ad infinitem), and although I haven’t always got one on the go, I always have the yarn for one about ready, just in case.  I can knit the whole thing with no pattern and very little thought, so they’re perfect for times when I want to concentrate on something else, or even on nothing in particular.  I currently have two pairs of these in the works, a throwback to the fact that I’ve just come out of exams and sometimes, you know, you just don’t want to have to think too hard.  These ones are going to be for some very special people who have yet to receive my knitwear but have had to sit through my telling them about it for quite long enough.

The other thing I come back to a lot is the cabled hat.  I’ve talked before about why I love cables – they’re the first knitting ‘trick’ I learned to do, and I love improvising them and seeing where they go.  At the beginning of June, I was given a challenge to knit something based on the last book I’d read, and as luck would have it, I’d just put down my copy of this:

It’s about eighteenth century gentleman magicians in England, it features cameos from Lord Wellington and Byron, and I highly recommend you pick it up.  It takes a while, it’s a long book and it’s not something you can read in a few days but my goodness, it’s worth it for the denouement alone.  The fact that the rest of it is marvellous can only add to things.  Every so often I pick it up again, intending to just revisit the best bits, and find myself reading the whole thing from cover to cover again.

This is comfort reading at its best for me, so I headed straight in the direction of comfort knitting to try and represent it.  This is ‘Strange’:

I wasn’t entirely sure about it to begin with, I have to admit, but it’s grown on me hugely.  I’ve knitted on this for a month – it was the project I took to Edinburgh when Linguistic Housemate and I decided to take an impromptu trip for my 21st birthday (oh yeah, I’m 21 now, sorry – forgot to tell you that.  Oops).

The new short hair is making hats so much easier to wear, I have to say!  I’d never have dared wear something this cloche-y before I had it all cut off.  It’s most exciting – expect it to be very much taken advantage of!

Beyond that… it’s great.  Since I’ve got home, I’ve found time to read again.  It seems so strange not to have anything more deadline-based to do, I have to admit I’m not adapting to it very well.  So I’ve embarked upon Camp NaNoWriMo which debuts this month.  Do you remember the novel I wrote 50,000 words of in November?  At the beginning of July, it stood at almost exactly 60,000 words, and had ground somewhat to a halt.  I’m hoping, in the next few weeks, that having the time and the cheers of other writers will give me the impetus to finish the first draft.  I love the story so much, it’s just getting it out and on paper that’s the problem.

There’s no rest for the wicked, after all!  But would I have it any other way?

And now it’s over. December 1, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Uncategorized.
4 comments

Yesterday, at the last NaNoWriMo write-in of the month, I went up to the counter to get another cup of coffee, and there was a boy leaning against the counter.

“What are you all doing?” he said, indicating the seven or eight people with their laptops out, surrounded by packets of sweets and stuffed rabbits wearing capes, typing furiously.

“It’s National Novel Writing Month,” I said.  “From the beginning to the end of November, we’re writing a novel.  And it’s November 30th, so we thought we’d get together to boost morale a bit.  The target is 50,000 words,” I added, helpfully.

“Oh, right,” he said, looking impressed.  “Between you, or each?”

When I got back to the table and recounted this, there were roars of laughter.  As you can see, I’ve also got the adverbs-boost-wordcount bug right now, which should tell you a little about how it went.

A little about my NaNoWriMo this year.

When you’re writing a lot, very regularly, you learn a lot about your own writing style that maybe you didn’t really think of before.  For instance: my average speed for writing fiction comes up to abou 900 words in an hour, although if I’m competing with someone else, or writing as fast as I can against a clock, I can do that in just over twenty minutes.

I can’t sprint for longer than half an hour, otherwise my brain freezes up and I end up starting sentences with “And then”, and ending them with prepositions, and then the adverbs start appearing and when I reread what I’ve written I feel very embarassed indeed.

On an average day, it’d take me two-and-a-bit hours, including short breaks, to write my word count: usually between 1,500 and 2,500 words.  Any more than 2,500 words and I’d start with the prepositions and the and-then-ing again.  I wrote at least 300 words every day, just to be keeping going, except for the four days in France last week when I didn’t have access to a computer.

On two occasions, though, I wrote substantially more than 2,500 words in one go: once about a week from the end, and on the very last day, when at midnight I had 9,000 words to go and just went for it.  Unfortunately, on the last day, which was yesterday, I also had three hours of tutorials to prepare for and attend and a tech rehearsal to run in the evening (come and see Travesties, everyone, it’s going to be really good!), so it was all a bit of a panic.  I ended up going to bed at 2.3o after writing about 2,000 words, getting up at half past six, reading for my tutorial and then sprinting another 1000 words, then taking five hours out for my actual degree.  (If you’re not counting a sneaky 200 words handwritten in a tutorial and typed up afterwards…)

After that, there was an afternoon’s write-in at the Gala Café, without which I am certain I wouldn’t have finished.  Writing for me has always been a very personal thing, but having six or seven other people around, also writing very personal things, and daring you to catch them up, is amazing.  There were gingerbread plot bunnies:

And some real ones with capes and everything.  I got to 1700 words short of 50,000 before I had to disappear off and run the rehearsal, then left that abrubtly at ten to eleven, in a panic.  Do the maths, you can probably tell why.

So I finished, in the end, with ten minutes to spare.  50,097 words in 30 days.  111 pages in Microsoft Word.

If I’m lucky, in another ten or twelve thousand words I might actually have finished the story.

Back to the old degree, then, I suppose.

Thoughts two days in November 2, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Bwargh, Literature, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness.
2 comments

1,667 words a day is difficult.

At first, everyone is telling you how the only way to do it is to ignore all the distractions, sit down and just write.  There is no secret, or rather, there is, and that’s it.  Then you all talk for a bit about how you’re all so KER-RAZY and insane to be trying to write 50,000 words in a month.  Then you tell each other how excited you are about your plot, and you identify in advance as a planner or a pantser.

I am a planner, incidentally.  A 34-point, 2000 word planner.  I have discovered that I use neither the Snowflake nor the Phase Method, and it seems to work for me.

And then it starts, and you start writing, and you look at what you’ve written in horror and then you look at all the people who’ve written ten thousand words in a day, and you envy them, and you tell everyone about how you really want to just delete everything you wrote and start again.

I don’t want to delete everything I wrote.  It’s the worst pile of crap I’ve written in a very long time, but I don’t want to get rid of it, because it’s not really that bad.  It’s in no way fit for public consumption, and I’d like to think it will be one day but that’s a long way into the future.

The worst thing about it so far is that I’ve known for a very long time that, objectively speaking, I’m not a particularly good writer.  I’m not going to get the Booker Prize, shall we say.  But I’ve never been bad by my own standards: I don’t care if nobody else wants to read what I write, there are hundreds of thousands of words of stories that I’ve written that nobody is ever going to read, but I look back at them every so often and they make me happy.  By my own standards and for my own benefit, I’m a pretty good writer.  So the worst thing about NaNoWriMo so far, two days in, is that I’ve never been scared of scrolling up before.  I’ve never been embarassed to reread anything I’ve written before.

I know the point is that you just write, just start at the beginning and plough on until the end, and don’t look at what’s gone before until the end, but honestly, the thing that’s making me recoil is not the actual writing – that’s really good fun, actually, and so therapeutic, just getting my internal story out and haphazardly written down – it’s that I don’t think I want to edit this.  I don’t think I ever want to see it again.

I’ve never felt like this about my writing before, and that’s really scary.  I don’t have a target audience at all, any more, because not even I would read what I’m writing this month.  It feels like I’ve lost my anchor, somehow.  Does that make sense?

Anyway, if I’d written this last 500 words of novel rather than of blog, I’d be past my target for today.  So that’s a bit depressing.

All encouragement gratefully received, but don’t be surprised if I go into ‘You weren’t there, man!’ mode for the next few days.

Unrelatedly, Woolly Wormhead mystery KAL this month!  The cast-on is so fiddly I haven’t got very far, but I’m looking forward to it because it looks like it’s going to be beautiful.  And it has lace and cables and twisted stitches and yay.  So something at least is going well this month.

It’s November (nearly)! October 31, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Knitting, Literature, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo.
3 comments

I know I’ve been terrible recently about writing – and I’m hoping that’ll change soon, but every time so far I sit down to write a blog post I find I have nothing to say.  NaNoWriMo approaches, though – at midnight tonight, I’ll start writing and hopefully that’ll mean I have things to say again elsewhere as well.  That’s the plan, anyway.

So in lieu of conversation, have a bit of a reminder of this:

The November beret (remember that, right?) being worn by the very lovely Laura.  She took pictures of the green version at the original photoshoot, but unfortunately I didn’t get much of an opportunity to post some of the ones of her – a terrible shame indeed, because she’s disgustingly photogenic, don’t you think?

Anyway, it’s November here in a few hours’ time, I’m attempting to write a novel in November and I happen to have a pattern called ‘November’… can you see where I’m going with this?

At the end of November, I’ll make a donation of 50p per November beret pattern sold during the month to the Office of Letters and Light, because they’re fantastic and if there’s one thing I support it’s stories.  And also, one bit of creativity deserves another.

On the subject of which, I went to Newcastle yesterday to meet some fellow NaNo-ers.  I wholeheartedly approve of any venture which involves coffee, stickers, and meeting new people who make jokes about literature.  Considering that a significant number of my friendships over the years have been based on befriending people who recognise an Oscar Wilde quotation when they hear one, this is fantastic.

If you’re novelling this month, or writing creatively in any way, shape or form: good luck.  I have it on good authority that there a hundred-and-some thousand of us out there rooting for you.

If you’d like to buy a copy of the pattern for the November beret, you can buy it now from Ravelry (you don’t have to be a member, either!).  Or, you could give OLL a few pennies yourself anyway.  I’m fairly sure that qualifies you as A Good Person.