As many men as possible

The National Novel Writing Month challenge is approaching and I actually do have a couple of ideas this year!! However, last year I really did struggle; I had decided to attempt to write a sort of autobiography-cum-memoir-cum reflection… and to be honest, I lost direction, and although yes, I did complete the challenge, it was a very rough piece of work which will need a lot of bashing about, and maybe will emerge as something or some things completely different!

Here is something I wrote last year during the challenge, and I detect a disappointed and frustrated tone in my words:

As part of my failed (probably) attempt to complete 50,000 words in the National Novel Writing Month challenge, I have been writing about my life and family history, through associations with various rivers… and this has led onto not just rivers but seas and other bodies of water too.

I was down in Looe (not literally, only in my research) with Edwin Clogg, an interesting character who during the first world war was a ‘conscie’ – a conscientious objector. I don’t know if it was a religious or personal reason, so I can’t yet tell whether his family supported him, were horrified or ashamed, but I came across a contemporary report in a newspaper from 1915, when Edwin would have been twenty-nine:

Thursday 24 August 1916

AS MANY MEN AS POSSIBLE

TELEGRAM READ AT TRIBUNAL

Col. L.C. Foster read a telegram at Looe Urban tribunal from Commander-in-Chief emphasising that every effort should be made to secure as many men as possible, and that all men previously rejected should be sent before the Medical Board for re-examination.
Mr. W. McLean was appealed for by Mr. Coleman secretary to the Looe Gas Co). It was stated that Mr. McLean was the only gas fitter left. Five of the company’s men had joined the service. – Col Foster said the matter rested between Mr. McLean and another employee of the company, Nichols. One of the two men would have to join. – The case was adjourned for a month, when both men will be called up, with a view to one being secured for military service.
October 1st (final) was the decision in the case of Mr. Robert Vincent, who had been granted time at a previous sitting on account of his wife’s illness.
An application was made for Mr. R.Wickett, slaughter man and cowman employed by Mr. Broad. – Mr. Broad said Wickett’s removal would entirely disorganize his business; he was the only help in his shop and on the land, – Sept 15th (final) was the decision.
Mr. Edwin Clogg was appealed on conscientious grounds and business hardship, was granted two months to arrange his business affairs, and passed for non-combatant service.
Exemption, whilst in his present occupation was granted to Mr. Richard Pearce, shipwright and boat builder.

It was interesting to see how these boards, or commissions, or courts had to consider different appeals, from the compassionate – Mr Vincent, practical – Mr Wickett and Mr McClean, exemption – Mr Pearce, and conscience – Edwin.

It struck me how difficult it must have been for some men to have joined up, for example, how could Farmer broad replace his slaughter-man? It is a heavy job, dealing with the  stock, doing the deed – which is an expert job, lifting and carrying carcasses? A woman or young boy couldn’t do it, an old man might struggle, and would there be any of these free to take on the job? In a company of seven working men and five of them already gone, how could it survive with just one man? In a job which needed expertise, experience and I would guess a lot of physical strength?

In small communities, the impact of losing most able-bodied men must have been immense; I’m sure many companies foundered and failed, and many people faced hardship without income and with maybe other members of the family away actually fighting. Edwin wasn’t married, I don’t know what his ‘business hardship’ was… I guess it was the family greengrocer/grocer business, and I don’t know if his brothers served or if they too were objectors; however compared to a slaughter-man or gas fitter, being a grocer is hardly grounds to object and in a way I’m surprised he mentioned it… but here am I, looking at the life of a man a hundred years ago, and I only know the tiniest bit about him.

My featured image is of Cornwall, but not Looe… it’s Fowey

It’s all in the cards

As well as writing my present novel, I seem to have lots of other ideas buzzing around… in fact I’m finding it hard to settle to one thing! Maybe it’s because we are in a bit of a turmoil at home with rearranging the house for various reasons, and trying to fit a gallon into a pint pot, but I’m struggling to focus on my writing – doing lots of it but not in a focused way. I guess when life calms down. so will writing!

One of my ideas which I brushed on a couple of days ago  was with a fortune-telling thread – a little like runes, a little like tarot, a little like horoscopes, but with something I had made up – so therefore would have authorial control over!! I had come across a list of twenty-six things which I had seen as a pattern somewhere, a tusked creature, a concentric squirl, a fork… and I imagined someone telling fortunes – or being guided by them on a daily basis.

So that was one idea… but then as I was doing that, someone was sharing images on Instagram from a set of cards and a written guide-book on ‘spirit animals’ and using the set as an oracle. There are forty-four oracle cards in this set (I know because I have actually purchased them) and there are different ways of using them – drawing a card each day, or taking three cards  and ‘reading’ them as past today and future, or using them as a guide to a problem or a relationship… or whatever…

I could imagine as a writer, taking a card each day and writing to that card – or rune – or one of my list of twenty-six, and having a continual story-line, but the narrative is guided by the random selection of card/rune/object… Supposing I used this for the National Novel Writing Month challenge? I don’t mean that the subject or characters would be mystical or magical, they would be ordinary people in changing situations… would that work? Could that work?

So… just to practice…

  • the card I randomly picked – a rattlesnake… the experiences that you’re presently going through are an initiation into fulfilling your purpose as a healer…

well… that does take some thinking about! I will write to that and share (in the accompanying book there is a little explanation of that!

  • the rune I randomly took – is ingwaz the rune of harmony
  • the item on my list – the seated man

So should I combine these three? Write about each separately? Do something completely different in a creative way? I will let you know…

Writing in Stone

I mentioned that a month or so ago a new writing group started up of which I am a proud member. We first met in our local quarry which might sound strange except it stopped working as a quarry many, many, many decades ago. Now it is a small but lovely nature reserve,, with artists studios, a gallery and a café… this is why we call ourselves Writers in Stone!

We met for the third time yesterday and shared fifty-word stories, and then pieces based on a photograph. However we also use the meetings as a forum to share lots of other ideas, plans and ventures. We were very excited about the forthcoming town literary festival and had lots of ideas about events and venues, things we could do and things we would attend if others were doing it.

We also talked and planned for the National Novel Writing Month which starts in November, sharing experiences and thinking about some plans for tackling the challenge of writing fifty thousand words in thirty days.

We also talked about a new thing some of us have come across… bullet journalling… what on earth is that, you might wonder as I did a few days ago…

The Bullet Journal is a customisable and forgiving organisation system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.

http://bulletjournal.com/

I read an article about it, shared it with my daughter and we were thinking about it, then lo and behold, one of the writers mentioned she was interested in it to… we talked about it and now it seems a few of us are going to do it.  I am hopeless at making lists, I don’t like doing it, find they are frustrating because I lose them/don’t tick them off/don’t complete them/can’t read my own writing… And yet, when i am writing I love bullet points! I’m always using them! So could i match the two together? The need for lists and my love of actual bullet points? We shall see… I am now in the process of choosing a journal (yes i could use any old book I already have but…)

here is another interesting article:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelwmiller/how-to-start-a-bullet-journal?utm_term=.rreLa9DRD#.ipbmgkWXW

 

Tracking

 

I’ve been writing about writing over the last couple of weeks – yes, I know I’ve been writing about writing ever since I first write this blog, but I’ve been thinking about planning and target setting. Some writers – maybe many writers, plan their story in the most minute detail, writing biographies and back stories for their characters as well as family  histories and descriptions (even details which don’t appear in the actual finished work) Some writers have time-lines, and plot lines, and wall maps which look like a map of London underground, and do huge amounts of research about every aspect of the history and geography of the locations… Sometimes it takes a year or so before they are even ready to write!

I confess, I don’t plan… I have ideas… I have thoughts… I may even have some half-started pieces, or left over pieces from other stories. I do end up with all the other things, biographies, back-stories, timelines – except mainly they are in my head. In Radwinter, because unexpectedly it became a series, I do have actual written down family trees, but that’s mainly because they are genealogical mysteries!

Target setting… I generally have a vague idea these days about when a story might be finished, and from then a similarly vague idea of when it might be published, but with one exception, I don’t set myself a target to complete certain parts, or write a certain amount. The one exception is the National Novel Writing Month, an annual on-line challenge to write 50,00 words of a novel in one month. I have done it for the past four years, and completed it, but I have to admit last year was a struggle… but I did finish!

In the past, except for NaNoWriMo, I haven’t set myself a set number of words to write in a day, week, month etc. It hasn’t seemed necessary. However, just at the moment I have so many writing projects, that I confess, I am losing momentum with my latest novel, another Radwinter story, probably to be called ‘Saltpans’.

Then, two things happened… one of my favourite writers who I follow on Twitter, posts a daily word count. I suspect there are several reasons, none of which are to be boastful or brag; I guess it’s a way of motivating himself to write, knowing he’s going to be sharing the results, good or bad, and also to give himself a sense of achievement, and also to set himself a target… yes, target setting.

When I first started teaching, learning to be a teacher, I had to write lesson plans which might be why I so hate planning now. Aims, objectives, method (or some other word) what actually happened (can’t remember the word we used then) future development (or something like that. Our lesson plans were really simple, and as an aid to teaching for a learner, it was quite useful (I never thought I would ever say that!!) When I was a proper teacher, I still planned, of course I did, but my written notes were just jottings of what I was going to do. I knew what my aim and my objective was, it was obvious, that was why I was teaching it! All was well in the world of teaching (sort of) for many,many years, until suddenly I was told to start planning my lessons ‘properly’ again. I have to say I rebelled big time – I became a very naughty teacher (as opposed to a naughty student)

… but this is all off the point – except that detailed planning really puts me off and shuts down inspiration and spontaneity – and actually has the negative effect of making me feel anxious and irritated!

The second thing that happened was that I was cruising round the NaNoWriMo site as I often do, seeing what’s new:

http://nanowrimo.org

… and I came across a ‘tracker’ device. It is not tied to the November challenge, or any of the other activities (writing camps for example) it is just a thing which allows you to set a target of however many words in however many days/week/months, you set the final date.Well, I thought to myself, well this is light – why don’t I have a go? So I set myself a two month target to try to write eight hundred, 800, words a day.

I mentioned last Tuesday that I was going to try and have a set word target, and that was before I discovered the NaNo goal tracker… so last Tuesday I started… and I am pleased to say it’s worked really well! I’m not sure I will do it for everything I write but the beauty of it is it’s just anonymous words not attached to any complete thing – so I could do a track for two weeks to finish off a particular part of something for example. The word count is averaged out – so if I don’t manage one day, if I’ve banked enough words from another day, I am still on target!

It’s like going to a fitness camp where you build up your writing muscles and stamina! So in seven days I wrote 6,350 words, which works out at just over 900 a day!!! Wow! I am so impressed with myself – and so pleased with getting back into the rhythm of writing!

By the way… it would be interesting to see how many words I write here every day!!

Here is a link to my e-books and my recently published paperback, Radwinter:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

… and if you want to follow me on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/LOCOIMLOCO

Don’t confuse your reader!

As you can imagine, as well as doing a lot of writing (I’ve actually set myself a 800 word a day target for the next six weeks – not counting what I write here!) I do a lot of reading, and I do a lot reading about writing. It was a mixture of these things which, on the suggestion of my fellow blogger from my other blog, the Moving Dragon, that I had a look at a site which runs a ninety day challenge – to write eighty-five thousand words (yes 85,000)

The site which is called 85k90.com, has lots of interesting and helpful articles and I came across one which really rang a bell with my writing teaching – from when I was a teacher to now when I lead several writing groups. It’s all about not confusing your readers – and in actual fact they are the most simple and obvious points – simple and obvious but very easy to forget!

Here are the five by Wendy Janes:

  1. Ensure names and descriptions of characters are consistent
  2. Differentiate your characters
  3. Handle time carefully
  4. Yes, write beautiful prose, but don’t show off your vocabulary
  5. Steer clear of using drama for the sake of drama

Simple aren’t they? Because I’ve been writing just about all my life, from almost as soon as I could hold a pencil, I’ve learned these lessons by making mistakes on all these tips. Now I really try to make sure I don’t create muddle with names – however, in my genealogical mysteries, because my main character is dealing with family history sometimes there is a repeat of names – in my fiction as in real life family trees. I do that deliberately and carefully – and sometimes there is a muddle – but that is part of the story and I very clearly (I hope) make sure the reader knows it’s an intended muddle! I also write things down in old diaries to keep track of the dates of when things happen in my stories – I want events to be sequential and to be possible!

I guess my ultimate challenge in trying not to confuse the reader with characters was my latest Thomas Radwinter mystery, ‘Earthquake‘, where there were thirteen Chinese girls at a little boarding school in the 1930’s, one of them was murdered and the other twelve were all suspects! Twelve teenage girls!! I had to work really hard to make sure my readers didn’t get in a muddle (I got a bit in a muddle at times myself, I have to say!

When I read point number four, I almost blushed… with a little embarrassment. Last year I published my e-book ‘Lucky Portbraddon‘; it was something I had written quite a while ago but I wanted to get it off my mental writing shelf and out into the world. I set to editing it, having not looked at it for about seven years… oh dear… When I wrote it I had been trying to write a literary book… some of what I had written was actually very good, but it just felt unnatural and not my style, and well… pretentious to be honest! I went through with a mighty editing scythe and whipped out all the pompous, ‘aren’t I clever, aren’t I a wonderful writer‘ bits. I slimmed it down by more than a third cutting out ‘the beautiful prose’ which was just ‘showing off’ my vocabulary. It was a lesson learned, I can tell you!

Here is a link to the article which is very appropriately entitled, ‘Avoid Confusing Your Readers’!

https://85k90.com/five-simple-editing-tips/

… and here is a link to the challenge site:

https://85k90.com/

…and here is a link to my slimmed down ‘Lucky Portbraddon’:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/LUCKY-PORTBRADDON-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B01LWTVURP/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1502443608&sr=8-3&keywords=lois+elsden

… and my twelve suspect 1930’s murder mystery:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1502444271&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

… and here is a link to our other Moving Dragon blog:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com

So many words a day

One of my favourite writers posts a daily word count on Twitter… I wonder if he has a target or  if he is just keeping track… Maybe I should ask him.

I don’t keep track of how many words I write, I just write! if I did keep track, would I also count the words I write here, or only the words I write for whatever story I am working on? At present I am writing the next Thomas Radwinter story, provisionally called ‘Saltpans’ and I don’t have a finish date in mind either. I think it should be finished in the first draft by halfway through September – I had hoped for the end of august, but no, other things have interfered. When there is no-one else involved like an editor or agent or publisher, there is only me to keep cracking the whip. Maybe best-selling writers have people to clean their houses, do the washing and ironing, take care of the garden, go shopping… well, I just have me and my husband. I’m not complaining, I’m fine with it, but that’s the way it is!

Going back to word count; the only time I do keep track of my words is November, the National Novel Writing Month, a thirty-day challenge to write a new novel. Does it help me, is it something I should adopt? Well it is actually quite stressful, especially if unavoidable things happen, like visitors, or days out or weekends away, but I do manage to maintain that 1,700 or so words a day for those thirty days… Well, I have for the last four years, but could I maintain it for more than thirty days… I am sure I could not. So would I be able to sustain a lower target, say a thousand words a day? Maybe – but how would I take account of the work I do re-writing, researching, writing background or support material which won’t go into the actual story?

Maybe instead of setting a target I should just keep track of my story word count – just so I know what progress I’m making… Maybe I will do that. Maybe I’ll start that today and report back next week, next Monday – no next Tuesday afternoon!

In the meantime, here are links to the books I started for the national Novel Writing Month, and finished and published:

2013 – Radwinter – published 2014:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B00IFG1SNO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502118569&sr=8-1&keywords=LOIS+ELSDEN

2014 – Raddy and Syl – published 2015:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADDY-SYL-RADWINTER-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00WAN0YD8/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1502118569&sr=8-12&keywords=LOIS+ELSDEN

2015 – Earthquake – published 2017:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1502118569&sr=8-2&keywords=LOIS+ELSDEN

2016 – And the River – to be published (2018/19)

 

What a journey to Radwinter!

It’s a week since I announced the publication of my first paperback!! I am still very excited, and I would like to thank everyone for their kind and positive comments about ‘Radwinter’, and thank you to everyone who has bought a copy!

The adventures of Thomas Radwinter are described as a journey – as he says “I followed the story of the Radwinters … and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally”. My adventures in publishing my book are also a journey!

I’ve always written, and since being grown-up (if I actually am!) I have tried again and again, times without number to find a publisher or an agent. Maybe I wasn’t lucky, maybe I hadn’t the right connections (actually I have no connections in the media/publishing world!) or maybe it was just one of those things, but I had no success… No success until I was able to write full-time and heard that it’s possible to publish e-books through Amazon… which is what I did:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

That was in 2011… for a while I’d had the idea of writing a story about four brothers, and had even found a family name, Radwinter… in the autumn of 2013 I took part in the on-line challenge, the National Novel Writing Month, the aim of which is to try to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November. I had my characters, I had a vague notion of writing about genealogical research, and the two things came together on November 1st… thirty days and over seventy thousand (70,000+ !!) words later and I was well on my way to my first Radwinter novel.

It was published in 2014, and unexpectedly it was followed by a sequel, and then three more in the series (the latest, Earthquake, published two months ago) I then discovered that I could self-publish my novels as paperbacks!!

To cut a not very long story short, a week ago I was thrilled to announce that a paperback edition of Radwinter is now available!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-x/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498553716&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Please let me know what you think of it and how you enjoy it… and here’s a secret, Thomas Radwinter is sorting out Radwinter VI at this very moment!