Stories for a spring sky

13-03-19 Spring sky
A delightful spring-looking sky

The days are most definitely getting longer here in Norfolk and we are having our fair share of bright days, although accompanied by most cyclists’ least favourite conditions – wet and windy. All in all it is behaving pretty much exactly as you’d expect for a British March. It is the weather that makes me homesick for York, although I have never lived there, only visited.

Having wrapped up InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month) at the end of February, I set myself the challenge of working on my creative writing every day during March. I am happy to report that, like my knitting, I am very happy with the progress I am making.

To start the month, I intended to take part in a 21-day writing challenge by Write Your Journey. It seemed to me a great idea to receive a writing prompt each day so I could flex my creative writing muscles, but this turned out to be the wrong challenge for me. I should probably have investigated the website more fully before signing up for the prompts, as I would have realised that it was geared towards meditating and exploring yourself rather than about writing stories. I completed the first few days, but I began to struggle when I got to the one that required me to listen to a guided meditation accompanied by a meditation bowl prior to starting to write. This isn’t my taste, although I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried it and enjoyed it or found it helpful. Writing in my journal provides me with as much navel-gazing as I require on a daily basis, and if I’m facing anything particularly thorny I tend to turn to the I Ching which I use as a random way to explore problems from new viewpoints.

When I got to this point in the challenge I decided to abandon it and work on more fictional items. Then, if I was going to be writing fiction, why spend the month writing short pieces each day based on prompts at all? Enter (actually, re-enter) my novel.

I started writing my novel in May 2018, got over the 10,000 word-mark of my first draft then life went a bit kablooey and I didn’t look at it again until the end of February. When I talk about my novel, I tend to do so in a self-deprecating way: I say it wryly, I put inverted commas around it and I don’t acknowledge to many other people that it is, in fact, supposed to be a proper novel and that I am writing it. I feel that it seems presumptuous of me to write a novel whereas writing little stories is perfectly okay. Even in my writing group, we all say we write short stories, none of us admit we are working on a novel. Perhaps I am the only one; perhaps we all are, but we aren’t ready to say so.

Earlier this year, with the novel resting, I wrote some scraps of a story that has been fizzing around in my head like balls in a pinball game and that is entirely for my own consumption. When I decided to go back and work on my novel, I re-read some of my earlier character descriptions and it hit me that my little personal story, if tweaked, would make an excellent tale of what happened in the youth of one of the characters and how she had led the rest of her life in the reflected glory of it. So my first action was to import that text into my novel and I have been rewriting it to suit my character for the past few days. To say this has been enjoyable is an understatement. I have loved it and why not? I always love writing.

I currently do my creative writing on my MacBook laptop computer using a writing application called Scrivener by Literature and Latte. This is an all-singing, all-dancing piece of software and I am willing to admit that I find it very complex, not to mention intimidating. Actually, since buying it last year I have often just used Apple’s built-in word processor, Pages, for creative writing because my needs don’t justify Scrivener’s complexity. However, I do like to use it and, as with any software, you can use it to any level of expertise you choose so it is in this software that my novel resides. The way I see it, a solid month of working on my novel in Scrivener will be part of the learning process, not just an exercise in creative writing.

There are, of course, a number of writing packages out there for the Mac user including Ulysses, which often wins ‘top app’ awards in the media and IA Writer, another very popular choice. Ulysses and IA Writer both hang their hats on providing a simple, distraction-free interface for writing, Scrivener by default has multiple elements open but you can choose to go into a single, clean screen for writing. Personally, I like to have other reference items around the edges. Scrivener and IA Writer are both traditional desktop applications, in that you buy a license and then pay to upgrade when new versions are released. I used Ulysses for a while until they adopted a subscription payment model which I don’t like. I understand it because it provides a predictable income stream and the company can release micro-updates as many times as they like. I’m just old-school when it comes to owning rather than renting my software.

One of the great things about software created specifically for writers is that it usually provides you with easy to reference word counts and you can set goals for the whole work or for a number of words per session. I like that, although every day I am writing away full tilt and suddenly the computer gives out this chime and I almost fall off my chair with shock!

The first draft of the novel now stands at 15,930 words. I wonder if I can hit 20,000 by the end of the month.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this little wander into the realm of writerly matters. Are you doing anything a little out of the usual this March?


 

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Pamela Boxall

A highly imaginative approach to literature (and to life in general) can lead to imprecision.

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