No NaNo? Yes NaNo!

Oh shit what am I thinking?

So I’m going to give NaNoWriMo a try this year. Everything I wrote in my No NaNo post last year still applies; I’m still working hard at the day job, I still don’t have much time and I’m still hyper critical of myself so what changed?

Well, I happen to have a story ready to go. I’ve got the world, the characters and the plot and I’m just filling in the holes in those things at the moment. I was planning on starting writing in December and then the thought dawned, like Cthulhu emerging from the mists over a city skyline, ‘well, if you get moving on the prep you could be ready to start for NaNo.’ So it’s as good a time as any to give it a try. I may well fail, but every word I write that I wouldn’t have otherwise written is still progress.

This is a quick and dirty blurb for the story I plan on writing:

Cria is Truthseeker of Blackstone City. She is intelligent, principled and more than a little rigid and, alongside her bodyguard and assistant Lana, she investigates crimes and puzzles in the city. When a young peasant dies at the Great Temple, apparently while stealing some of the famous inlaid stonework, she isn’t satisfied. A thief girl with a strange tattoo is apprehended by the guards and then disappears back into the Lower City streets. The stories of these two young people lead Cria and her friends into the darkest corners of the high society of Blackstone City.

It’s set in the same world as my short story The Hanged Man and ultimately I’m aiming to write a series in this world with these characters. Wish me luck!

So are you NaNo-ing?

Why do I write?

I write because I can’t paint for shit. Creativity is fundamental to my well-being; I don’t just write I also knit, draw, sew, take photos, make jewellery and I’m a gardener (as in, gardening is my job 8 till 4.30 every week day). I do these things with varying frequency and level of skill, mostly at a mediocre level (except the gardening – I’m pretty ok at that) and writing is the one I think I’m best at and if you think my writing’s mediocre you should see my drawing.

I write because I enjoy the feeling of words in my brain. When the words are right they give me a shiver; I don’t often manage to create this effect with my own writing but I want to dammit. Does that make this a kind of mental masturbation? Oh. Ick. I think I need to go and have a lie down. Not that kind of lie down you perv.

I write because I want to be a writer. Can’t be a writer if you don’t write now can you? In what way do I want to ‘be a writer’? I’d like to be published and supplement my income with a few word pennies. Or I’d like people to read my writing and enjoy it and if I can give them that little right-words shiver? Even better. Or I’d like to be a world-famous bestselling author. Maybe not the last one since book tours and public speaking seem like they’d be my own personal hell so let’s change that to ‘moderately successful full-time author’.

I write because I like the ‘snick’ sound you get when the plot clicks together in your head.

I write because I want to be better at writing. Simple. Get better by doing. It’s frustrating to have a glorious picture in your head, something that really sings, but when you get it down on paper it’s slightly skew-whiff and a bit grubby and out of focus. It’s as if the process of squeezing the thoughts out of my brain makes them crap – I think this is why writers sometimes spend a lot of time thinking and talking about their process because what works for one writer for cleanly getting the shit from brain to paper doesn’t seem to work for everyone. It’s like our brain orifices are different shapes and so the exudation process is different for everyone.

I write because there’s this goddamn story in my head. And that other story and that other one, and the one about the octopus.

I write because I hate editing. By god I hate editing. I might be ok(ish) at writing but I suck at editing. And so I’d rather write something new than work on the old thing, even though the old thing will never be more than crap if I don’t polish it.

I write because I enjoy it when people are complimentary about my writing. This doesn’t happen very often and if I want it to happen more often I need to write more, get better and get it out there.

I write because having finished a story or poem is a great feeling. There’s that shiny ‘I did that and it’s mostly good’ feeling that I also get from planting up a new flower border or finishing a difficult knitted shawl. Even better is finding a story or poem you wrote a while ago and had mostly forgotten, rereading it and going ‘hey, that’s pretty good.’ It’s so easy to get bogged down in the feeling of nothing ever being good enough; not knowing when to stop editing, feeling depressed because everyone and their dog is a better writer than you, hating your own work that actually going ‘I’m done! And it’s ok!’ is refreshing.

I write because not writing would be to give in to the self-doubt.

***

This post was written in response to the prompt on Chuck Wendig’s blog last week.

Exit Only

She wrenched awake. Blinding sun streamed through a crack in the curtains. The sheets coiled damply and she struggled to escape them. Her mouth stuck to itself and she grimaced and poked her tongue into the crevices in her lips. The smell of bacon hung slack in the air.

‘Hey!’ A voice lifted from the kitchen. ‘Want breakfast?’

She felt her stomach curl and twist, ‘Nah,’ she said. She pulled her clothes on over her sticky skin. ‘Thanks,’ she added, walking past the kitchen door.

The front door slammed behind her, cutting off a question. Another morning, another exit.

***

Copyright © Elizabeth Cutts March 2015

***

Written for the 100 word flash fiction challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog. Definitely a bit quick and dirty. But fun!

Goals?

So how am I doing on those writing goals I set myself in my post on saying No to NaNoWriMo?

Well, I’ve kept up with ensuring I write 6/7 days a week and have nearly finished the first draft of a long-short detective story set in the fantasy city of Blackstone. I wonder if I can get it finished for New Year? I guess we’ll see. One of my problems is that this stupid character insists on being called James even though this is a world with characters called Cria, Lana, Dian and Kalen. James? Really? Get back in your box mi laddio and do what I say. Anyone else have characters that get stubborn? Or is it just me?

As for submitting stories by the end of November? Well, I did one but the others have languished so that’s a fail, fail, fail. Bugger.

Update: I haven’t abandoned my plan for a short story posted on this blog, however the long-short I mention in this post grew another head and is blatantly transmogrifying into at least a novella, the bastard. So I have put that to one side for a little while and am working on a properly short short story which I began just before Christmas (and the accompanying gastroenteritis – it was truly a joyous holiday) and I’m now whipping it around the park a few times until it’s in decent shape and then I’ll post it, I promise. Better late than never and all that.

Cool

I will never

be cool

I will never

be funny clever forward enough

I will never have the right thing to say

on the tip

of my tongue

I will never be bright enough

I will never be the social shooting star

the one

the core

I would not want to be

in the middle

I would shrink shirk hide

I will never be cool

have it

be happening

or whatever the fuck the word for it is now

I will always be peering through the glass

glad to be on the dark side of the glass

but wistful

about the ease style smooth

of the people in the light

 

© Elizabeth Cutts 2014

 

***

This poem wrote itself in a few minutes flat, I think I’ll need some distance before I can evaluate it honestly. The total lack of punctuation makes me a bit nervous (see – not cool).

The Stocking Filler

The mechanic bent over his pride and joy; the zenith of his craft, his masterpiece, the culmination of his talent and the exemplar of his art. He breathed on an imaginary smudge in the red paint and then buffed it with his sleeve until the imaginary smudge was no more. He smiled to himself, straightened and gazed upon his project with a satisfaction previously unknown to mortal man. He straightened the pointy latex ear extension on his left ear and thought that he would reapply it properly later as part of the preparation. The novelty Christmas clock on the wall told him it was half six and so there was plenty of time to prepare and get his full costume on before midnight.

The mechanic turned and went into the room designated ‘the office’ where he kept the plans, papers and, most importantly right at this moment, the kettle. He clicked the kettle on and allowed his imagination to wander through a tableaux of anticipations and expectations. The door to the wardrobe stood open and he smiled and took out the pointed green hat and, in an unusual moment of impulsiveness, he placed it carefully on his head and directed the fall of the pompom so that it hung correctly down the back of his head. Perfect.

In the workshop the project gave out a metallic twang as it settled. It gleamed; the red paint slick over sheets of metal, the glitter of rivets, the smell of oil and hot mechanisms. It had beady black eyes that looked like they were made of coal but were in fact carefully worked dark glass and a round nose and cheeks which blushed with carefully applied red stippling. Below the nose and cheeks sprouted a chaotic beard of white painted springs in which nestled a red slash of mouth curved in a menacing grin like a knife in a bramble bush.

The mechanic stepped back into the workshop with his steaming mug and sighed with satisfaction. He took a gulp of his tea and turned towards his work bench. His hat pompom bobbed. Now that the project was finished the workspace must be cleared. Each tool must be put back into its place and the surfaces must be swept and cleaned.

Behind him the coal eyes of his project began to glow with a deep blue light and another metallic twang issued from somewhere in the rotund torso of the construct.

The mechanic pulled out a drawer and carefully placed three screwdrivers into their allotted spaces as designated by carefully painted white outlines and labels.

The construct raised its mitten clad hands in silence; the mechanic’s work was excellent and every smooth metal edge slid neatly alongside its neighbour, every bearing spun absolutely silently. The mechanic’s curved back bent and straightened, bent and straightened as if he were worshipping at the altar of his bench. His hat bobbed in time with his actions and he hummed ‘Santa Claus is coming to town.’ Tools slid into their places with conclusive clicks and thuds. He swapped from humming to whistling. The last piece of equipment slotted into its niche and the mechanic turned towards the corner where he kept his cleaning equipment. He stopped in surprise, the whistle dying on his lips, and gaped at his project which now stood before him, glowering, with its hands raised in a threatening manner.

‘Oh,’ he said aloud to himself. ‘Well, that’s jolly odd. Maybe I knocked the controller.’

When not in use the controller sat in a carefully constructed recess on the project’s back. The mechanic had been very proud of the design. He felt it was sleek and convenient and well hidden by the sack of coal the construct carried.

‘I’ll just have to get to your controller and see what’s going on,’ he said to the four foot tall robot in front of him. The way the eyes were glowing unnerved him a little and he didn’t know why he spoke aloud to the construct; there was no auditory input channel after all. He began to move round the robot. Snowflake shaped blades extended from the mittens with a ‘snick’.

‘Oh,’ he said again and took a step back. The construction now seemed to be looking at him, although the head had not moved. ‘Well, this is a bit difficult.’

The metallic mouth opened. ‘Ho. Ho. Ho.’ The construct had a tinny voice.

‘Shit,’ said the mechanic. He was not usually one for swearing, not even when he dropped his largest spanner on his toe. His word for such situations was ‘fiddlesticks’ but this seemed a swearing sort of situation and so he restated it to himself, ‘Shit.’

And then after a brief pause in which nothing happened except the mechanic’s pointy ear-tip fell off his left ear, ‘Bugger.’

He considered the situation as the construct stared at him. He was between the construct and the door but he knew his project’s capabilities (even now he could not repress a smidgen of pride at the thought) and was extremely doubtful of escape. He should have considered this possibility; literature and film and so on were positively littered with examples of the created turning upon the creator and he could not, therefore, deny that he had been warned.

‘Ho. Ho. Ho.’ It rolled forward six inches on its carefully designed tracks which could cope with rough ground and even stairs. The rubber treads squeaked on the smooth floor.

Some instinctive part of the mechanic’s brain took over and, hardly knowing what he was doing, he turned and sprinted for the door. Two attractive and very well-made snowflake shaped throwing stars buried themselves in the door with a decisive sound. Thunk. Thunk. He flung it open and ran out into the deep and undisturbed snow.

The construct’s tinny voice came from behind him. It said, ‘You are not a good boy. You are a bad boy. You must have some coal.’

The mechanic put on a spurt of speed hearing this damning judgement and six strides into the cold and sparkling night something dark and round landed in the snow just ahead of him, then something hit him in the middle of his back. He lurched forwards and then he was flying through the air as the world exploded around him. He landed face down in the snow, ash, snow and silver glitter floating down around him. His hat lay a few feet away in the soggy snow.

The construct rolled forward, its glass eyes focussing on the body. The mechanic’s flailing had made a very serviceable snow angel. The construct was satisfied. It looked up at the lights of a distant town and rolled on, clanking slightly in the cold air, to make its delivery of coal to all the naughty boys and girls of the world.

***

Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Cutts

***

This was written for a seasonal challenge on the Ultimate Write: Tea Urn forum and although I missed the solstice deadline I’ve managed to get it up for Christmas Eve so I’m happy.