Why it is important to write every day

One thing you read quite often in any sort of writing related medium is to write every day. It took me a long time to actually get what was meant. Of course, at first I took it as “Write your story every day.” – but this can actually be quite exhaustive. And writer burn out is a thing that should be avoided at at all cost.

I recently adapted my writing to first scribble into my notebook and then (or never) type it up later. I don’t censor myself when I write into that notebook. I try to pen down every snippet, every scene, every picture that pops into my mind – no matter if it has anything to do with the plot or not. This can lead to quite lengthy explorations of backstory, or totally irrelevant cuddle scenes. Because I like writing cuddles, and I like writing happy characters. Sometimes I’m more on a world building trip and think of pedigrees and parties and intrigues. All of this goes into the notebook.

You might ask yourself what this has to do with writing every day. Scribbling into this notebook daily is easy. I don’t have any expectations towards my writing, no certain goal that I want to reach and especially no nagging word count. I can start and stop whereever I want to, I don’t have to finish anything (there’s a lot of abandoned stuff in there, oh my) and nobody is ever going to read it. The trouble with writing is, that it takes an insane amount of doing it to get it right. You write, and rewrite, and rewrite some more. With scribbling every day, the chance that I have a sentence there that is beautiful and hits every note, increases significantly. Sometimes a scene leads to thinking about other stuff, and that leads to a breakthrough somewhere else. So, over time this notebook became a treasure trove of words I can use or get inspired by.

Another benefit of writing daily is, of course, the practice. The ability to string words together in a pleasant way is like a muscle that needs to be trained. Technique suffers from not writing. Sentences are unwieldy and clunky after I haven’t written for a while, and I forget the littlest things.

And that’s why it is important to write every day.

dealing with a shapeshifting chameleon of a book

There wasn’t a lot of writing lately, mainly because I decided to live like a grown-up and also a lot of stress at work. It’s meeting season, cue me having to pour all my creativity into creating brochures and flyers and shiny illustrations in a ridiculous short amount of time. On top of that we’re one man short and have too much to do. Leaves you drained and not with a brain that wants to deal with writing in the evening.

Getting a bit of a distance between yourself and your work isn’t that bad though. I worked a bit on backstory and plotlines and also discovered that I have the stupid tendency to think up overly complicated things. I always want to put too much into a scene, a chapter, even the whole book. The whole Apples are a mess of too much crammed into a too tight space. Too many characters, too many plot lines, too much universe.

Sooooo – I chopped up the whole thing. Or, plan to chop it up. Focus on one plotline at at time, allowing to explore the universe and the characters and their relationships with each over time and not jumble everything together, hopping from place to place, from character to character.

This also taught me that I absolutely can’t trust myself. I started with the goal of writing a handful of short stories, because, d’uh, novels are time consuming behemoths. Then I said, okay, I write one novel, because more room to explore things and people. Now I suddenly have plots for four books on my hands. Granted, these are not doorstoppers like the original novel idea, so probably faster to write, but aaaaah, am I insane?

To amp up the insanity, I now have enough material to actually participate in NaNoWriMo, another thing I never wanted to do. But then Book 1 would be written and that would be awesome, wouldn’t it? I have to think about this…

Books of 2014 #4 – Barrayar; Lois McMaster Bujold

“Barrayar” is the second book of the Vorkosigan Saga, starting right where the first book “Shards of Honor” ended. I fell in love with Aral and Cordelia, and their unlikely love, during Shards and was dying to know how fate was going to treat them.

While Shards was a bonafide romance in a setting of two worlds at war with each other, Barrayar’s main theme is parenthood. There are a lot of different parents in there, from single and broken soldier dads to heteronormative parents, mothers who bear their child the natural way and mothers who use advanced technologies. This by the way made me realise that I wouldn’t mind being a mother, but the idea of being pregnant sort of gets me out of the deal. I would love to have one of those artifical uterus things the Betans invented. Anyway – another major theme is how a society treats the less healthy ones: be it disabled babies or soldiers wounded in battle.
This all weaves into a story of a planet trying to come to terms with progress, technological and social, told through the eyes of an out-worlder, from a way more “civilized” (or so it seems) world.

I enjoyed Barrayar immensely. Not only does it give you food for thought, it’s also beautifully written and features a lot of different characters, which I liked a lot. Especially the budding love between crippled Kou and valkyrie-like Drou had me in a constant panic that one of them would die. The relationship between Aral and Cordelia passed the test of time (the books were written eight years apart) and was still awesome. It’s so wonderfully sober and unromantic and yet written in sentences so beautiful that they punch you right in the guts. My favourite one: “Aral merely grinned, and made love to her as if she were spun glass.” Aaaaaaah, spun glass! SPUN GLASS!!! How gentle must he’ve been? I seriously wish she would write a bit more than single sentence sex scenes though, because she has the right words fo’ sure. On the other hand, being able to put everything into one sentence is the true art, so there…

As I loved Shards and Barrayar so much that I wanted to own them outside their Kindle prison, I had to realise that it’s not so easy to aquire books that came out some twenty years ago. But I succeeded in the end, and I’m looking forward to thumb through them and find my favourites scenes much easier from now on. The Kindle prooves again and again that it can’t deliver for me when it comes to that, to loving books and knowing where certains things hide inside.

writing and… certain aspects of femininity

A lot of things are not mentioned in stories, especially not the mundane stuff. The fact that people eat, sleep and have to use the bathroom for example, unless it serves the story. There are also a lot of traps to avoid while writing strong women. A strong woman doesn’t mean that they’re emotionless battle-amazons, but that they’re independent human beings with a range of emotions and one or more goals.

But there’s one thing that I never see mentioned (maybe I’m reading the wrong books). A (biological) woman will have to deal with her body every four weeks or so. Regardless of if she’s a soldier, a princess or a scientist, her uterus will declare war and she has to deal with it.
And even though most women put up a strong facade and pretend there’s nothing wrong, it is uncomfortable, it hurts and you’re not quite yourself. More often than not, you want to curl up in a ball and curse a blue streak.

The longer I think about it, the more I want to put this in the book – it’s about women, after all. And I thought, hm, how will my precious male lead, supposedly every girl’s dream, deal with that. Because let’s face it, men usually blatantly ignore a woman’s period or use it as a reason to not take her seriously and it makes them feel uncomfortable. If they are even aware of what’s going on…

Nate handles this a tad bit differently:

Nate watched Adelie as she fidgeted in her pilot’s chair, taking a deep breath every so often while rubbing her lower back.
“You okay? Pulled a muscle or something?”
“Wha- oh, no, it’s nothing. I’m okay.”
Nothing. Sure. If she had pulled a muscle, she’d have said so. Nothing only meant one thing. He stood up.
“Be right back.”
” ‘kay.” She kept watching the consoles, rubbing her back.
Five minutes later he returned with a tray, holding a little red pillow, a chocolate bar and a cup of tea.
“There, I thought this might help.” He placed the pillow, which was a heating pillow, in her lower back and handed her the chocolate bar and the cup.
The astonishment in her face was priceless. “Thank you. How do you…?”
“Sharing bridge duty with someone for eight years makes you pick up certain patterns. No big deal. Now put up your feet and relax for a bit. I have a painkiller too, if you need one.”
A grateful smile over the rim of the cup as she reclined her chair, snuggling with the warm pillow.
“Better?”
“You have no idea.”
“Oh, judging from your happy face, I certainly do.”

from an aborted story line

Sometimes I find sketches of scenes. Written months ago, I effectively have forgotten that I’ve written them and reading them with new eyes can result in interesting reactions. This here made me a) question that it actually was me that wrote it and b) punched me in the guts. Oh my, that last paragraph has to be saved, it’s so precious.

She heard Dee Dee approaching through the rubble, calling her daughter’s name. Adelie stared at the twisted body of Eliza, the wide open eyes staring into nothingness, the beautiful face covered with blood. A broken procelain doll. Under no circumstances could she allow that Dee Dee saw her like that, she would never recover.
“You’ve found her!”
“Stand back Dee Dee, you mustn’t see her like this!” Adelie stopped her friend from entering the ruin of the former lab.
“It’s my daughter, my baby! Let me see her!” She tried to push her away, but Adelie stood her ground, wrapping her arms around her friend and pushing her away, using her whole body to keep her friend from entering.
“No! Please, Dee Dee, not like this!”
“My baby! My beautiful baby!”
“You can see her later, not now! Not like this. Please, Dee Dee, understand?”
Dee Dee fought like a lioness, struggeling against her arms, but the pure panic that she could see her child in that horrible way gave Adelie an equal strength. The wails and tears of her friend though were worse than every punch. Even as she finally got her aboard a drop ship, she didn’t stop screaming, and all she could do was holding her tightly, helplessly trying to comfort her.
After she had dropped her friend at sickbay, where she got a shot with a highly effective sedative, Adelie left for her own quarters. The quiet of the studio was deafening, and she felt numb. Staring down at the green planet spinning below, she thought about the little girl that was probably now in a black body bag, put in by the recovery teams, soon to be brought aboard the Space Station, to be prepped for the funeral. The chance for Dee Dee to finally say Goodbye. She felt cold, as cold as Eliza. Why her, why a little girl? Tears burned in her eyes as she recalled the names of the many scientists that had lost their lives with her, but she couldn’t cry. She wanted to scream, but lump in her throat rendered her speechless.
“Lily?”
She hadn’t heard Nate coming in, but the instant she felt his arm around her, she turned and pressed her face against his chest. His arms enveloped her tightly. He didn’t say anything, he just held her, his hand stroking her back. The warmth of another human being felt almost unreal against her own frozen numbness. His heartbeat was a drum in her ear, telling her own heart what to do. Eventually, the lump in her throat loosened and she drew in a ragged breath.
Slowly lifting her face up from the safety of his body, their eyes met. He looked like she felt: exhausted, sad, defeated. There was no need to talk, they could only hold on to each other, being the anchor that was rooted in reality, the beam of light that fought the darkness. The darkness. She could feel it lingering in the background of her conciousness, waiting for a moment to engulf her, to drown her, to take the will to live out of her.
“It’s all my fault,” she whispered.
“It’s not. Don’t say something like that. Nobody could have prevented that. Not with what we had to deal with.”
“I could have saved Eliza.”
“How Lily? Nobody knew where she was?”
“I could have tried harder.”
He he grabbed her shoulders hard but she was so numb she barely felt the pinch. “Stop that. Now. You did everything humanly possible to save everybody’s life. You tried very hard, but you are not an army, and that was what we would have needed. They were too many, Lily! We stood no chance against them.”
She knew he was right, but she couldn’t believe it.
“This little girl. This bright little girl, with her cute pigtails and her curiosity. Gone. Just like that. Why Nate, why?”
Finally, the tears flowed, sorrow shaking her. Sobbing she buried her face in his shoulder.

She was sure she looked as awful as she felt, with a red nose, puffy eyes and a tear-stained face accompanying her bruised body, but in his eyes was nothing but love. He held her tightly, kissing away the remainders of her tears trickling down her face, kissing the tip of her nose, her eyebrows, eventually her lips. They melted into each others embrace, but ultimately that wasn’t close enough to thaw her frozen core. With shaking fingers she fumbled to open the buttons of his shirt.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to feel your warm skin. I’m so cold.”
Gently he pushed her fingers away and opened the buttons instead. Then he took off the shirt, wrapping her again with his bare arms. She sighed as the warm, soft skin of his chest touched her cheek. Burying her nose in his chest hair, she inhaled his scent. Musky, manly, alive. He was alive. Alive, with her and they were alone. She remembered the morning in the research station’s kitchen. The promise of time alone with him. It felt ages ago.
“It’s not fair that you’re half-naked, and I’m not, is it?”
“Ssshh.”
His hand had sneaked up her back and stole the tie that held her braid. Slowly and gently his fingers loosened the braid, pulling it apart until her hair was a wavy mane falling over her shoulders. Satisfied he buried both hands in it, cradled the back of her head, and kissed her.

glorious piece of purple

I just found this in my scribbles… I still like it, even though it has a distinct shimmer of purple prose.

Glowing embers of life floated from his lips into her darkness, setting the barren wasteland of her soul on fire. Flames licked over suffocating sorrow, rushing through her veins until passion woke from its slumber and with it a hunger for more. She grabbed him, pulled him down with her unto the bed where the white sheets greeted their heat with cool crispness.

Books of 2014 #3 – Bloody Lessons, The Victorian San Francisco Mysteries Series

I stumbled across M. Louisa Locke’s first installment of victorian mysteries set in San Francisco – “Maids of Misfortune” – while I was looking for books about the city, preparing for my trip. I enjoyed the heck out of the adventure of unconventional (but historical accurate) widow Mrs Annie Fuller and her dashing lawyer, Mr Nate Dawson, and was delighted to learn a lot about San Francisco in the process. I was even more delighted as I found out that there was a second book, which I read after my journey. Fast forward to now, two years later, and I had the idea to check if there might be a third book, and lo’ and behold, there is. Needless to say it was on my Kindle instantly.

As with romance books, mystery books come with a sort of ‘rating’ as to what to expect. These are labelled ‘cozy mysteries’ – there’s nothing gory or upsetting in there. In fact, they remind me a lot of Agatha Christie’s books where you’re always trying to figure out who the culprit is, but there’s nothing extremely violent happening. (I could have used a bit more heat between Annie and Nate, but being victorian and acting historically correct you don’t get much besides sweet kisses.)

I like this series a lot for three reasons.
The first one: It plays in San Francisco, one of my favourite cities ever.
The second: The author is a retired history professor, the books are very well researched and cover a specific social issue or trend from the time. The first deals with the working conditions of domestic servants, the second dallies with séances and the third covers the educational system and the problems female teachers faced at the time.
The third reason: The characters. Besides Annie and Nate, there are a lot of recurring side characters, who are all as well thought out as the two main protagonists are. The author manages to make them relateable to modern day readers without ignoring the social standards and circumstances nor the consequences of what would happen if the character would stray away from the social rules. Hence no more heat between Nate and Annie, because her reputation as a respected boarding house owner and widow would be on the line.

The three books in chronological order are:
Maids of Misfortune
Uneasy Spirits
Bloody Lessons

And now I have my fingers crossed for a fourth one. There are also companion stories with the focus on some of the side characters, but I haven’t read those yet. I’m sort of partial to Annie and Nate.

booby trap

I’m a rebel at heart, so as I stumbled across the idea that bras are actually not the healtiest thing a woman could wear (some studies have shown a possible link with breast cancer) I was all ears. I read a bit more on the subject, and the idea grew to me. I mean, even without the breast cancer link the benefits of not wearing a bra are obvious. Tissue strengthening, resulting in perkyness, and, most importantly, no restrictive garment on your body.

I never really had a problem with bras, but I also don’t have huge tatas, so… But I figured, not having huge tatas might be worth giving the whole idea a test run. See, women and breasts have been around for far longer than bras, we’re just brainwashed to believe for no reason at all that breasts need support. They don’t. (Although I’m willing to believe that better nutrition resulted in bigger breasts – they’re squishy bags of fat after all – so larger sizes might indeed need some sort of support.) I wanted to see if I could live without that ‘support’.

One sunny sunday afternoon I mounted my trusty aluminium steed (aka bike) and cycled 28km with the boyfriend but without a bra. To my great surprise, the jiggling was hardly noticeable. And that’s what most women are concerned about: jiggly breasts are an eye magnet. I decided to broaden the experiment to a week, with going to work and everything.

The first day I practically felt naked. I was hyperaware of everything, and that was exhausting. Walking results in movement, and I was in constant worry one might see my nipples. Until I gave myself a prep talk. Women have nipples. So do men. They’re there to feed babies. They are entirely normal, natural things. It’s not my responsibility if someone else wants to see something sexual in them.

After a week it began to feel normal. After two weeks it was normal. I forgot about my bras. I bought some snugglier fitting tank tops for wearing under light blouses. It’s now around four weeks and I don’t miss wearing a bra at all. I’m not more aware of my breasts as I would be with wearing one. I learned that not wearing a bra subconciously forces me into straightening my spine when I walk and pulling back my shoulders, because that in turn reduces the bouncing. A yay for better posture! Off the shoulder tops are my new favourite thing, because there’s no pesky bra strap anymore.

I assume there are some garments that might look better with a bra underneath. And I might actually buy some really nice, expensive ones for special occasions. But like high-heeled shoes bras probably won’t be something I’m wearing in my day to day life from now on.

If you want to read more on the subject of bras and possible health risks and the benefits of not wearing a bra, go here: Brafree.org

the week in review, 13.09.2014

Word Count: 48.040

Confession time: I’m not writing as much as I like to, and even worse, I keep deleting stuff, which is not helping on the word count front. The good thing about this: My place doesn’t look like a dystopian frathouse anymore, I’m giving my body the nutrition that it needs and I act more like a responsible adult on top of having a very stressful time at my dayjob.

Also, I’m dipping my toes very carefully into yoga. Veeeeery carefully. I’m still afraid this is going to turn me into an elightened esoteric version of a crazy cat lady. There’s no denying though that sitting on a chair the whole day is taking its toll on my body, so I better get moving. I also like challenges and trying to get my body into twisted poses is right up my alley.

It’s kind of ironic that a lot of writers online complain about writer’s block (which in my holy opinion is just a side effect of bad plotting) while I have the opposite problem: I want to write all the time and in consequence procrastinate on everything else. Which is not a good habit to have. Balance is everything, that goes for yoga as well as writing. Something else is true though: Writing is easier when your mind is at ease. I wasn’t at ease with my life anymore and switched things up, so now writing can settle back in too. It’s now such an integral part of me that I’m sure I’ll not stop doing it alltogether just because I’m not doing it every free minute of my waking day.

I very much hope I find the time to edit a short story with Nate and Adelie over the weekend, so that I can publish it, because the next part of Chapter One will be delayed. It’s from their cadet days and full of summer and motorcycles and picnics at the beach, and basically just cute and sweet.

Tell me, how was your week, friend? Did life treat you kindly?

Housekeeping

One of the hardest lessons to swallow is, that you do not have time to do everything. Especially not if your day job eats up a considerable amount of your waking hours. And then there are other obligations, like housework, maybe you want to work out, you should eat something, yadda yadda yadda. Oh, and sleep.

So, I want to blog more, but I know that I will never have the time to keep both my blogs – this one, and the more personal one – updated in the same amount. Because, d’uh, my time is limited. After much thinking I decided to keep this one and add the personal note, and discard the other one.

In this progress I cleaned up some posts here, so if you’re looking for the German version of the Apples, I’m sorry, this got deleted. It was horribily out of date and had nothing in common with the English one. But the short stories are still there, until I decide I cringe to much over them and take them down.

I also added some new categories and have great plans, as usual. :)