Archive for September, 2012

(It’s a bit complicated (and I’m very tired, so probably not explaining nor writing in the best possible way), but I’m posting this because I thought I already had posted it and I mentioned to a lovely lady from my corsetry class that she could find links on my blog.  Not sure why I hadn’t already posted about this because it is quite fascinating and intriguing and exciting and all kinds of good things!)

So, popular belief has it that boobs weren’t treated as separate entities and hoisted up in bras (as opposed to smooshed up in corsets) until the 20th century.  At the earliest, you could suggest that some Regency undergarments were close-ish to modern bras.  But discoveries in an Austrian castle that were only publicised earlier this year seem to refute all we believed.  Check out what they found:

There are plenty of articles on these amazing finds – fabric that have survived some 600 years and have the potential to re-write our understanding of undergarments – so I’ll let the experts fill you in better than I can (though, worth noting that they found pants and knickers [Edit – I did originally write ‘knickers’ here, too, but when I re-read one of the articles I found that actually the bikini-like briefs are believed to have been men’s pants.  Apologies, no knickers to see here.  Move on!] too – bonkers!):

Yahoo News

This one shows the knickers, which look suspiciously like tie-up-bikini bottoms – I think we need to re-think who invented the bikini!

More details later emerged in this article, which I found via the good Comtesse (who is definitely worth following if you like to be kept – ahem – abreast of history news (sorry to manage an oxymoron and pun in the same sentence – I’m sure that’s word-play overkill, but please let me off, I’m so tired!).

Hope you enjoyed this instalment of ‘Sleepy Writer talks Medieval Underwear’!



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BIAM: First Day

Just to give you an idea of my first day’s progress: I got home from work just after 5pm, read today’s chapter in BIAM and read the last chapter I wrote for AT&Gw; I then wrote from 6pm until 8pm today, had an hour off for dinner and to call my Dad for his birthday, then I wrote again from 9pm until 10:20pm.  I didn’t find it nearly as difficult to get my head down and actually write as I thought I would and I’m really pleased to say that I wrote 2,327 words today!

That’s a pleasant surprise – I really thought I’d struggle to write 500 words today, considering it’s my first day writing in over a year.  But I just made myself sit and do it.  No excuses.  I didn’t let myself get up from the computer or go online, I had to write, even if I found it hard to write something scintillating or maintain my focus.

This was a slightly non-representative day as I finished work slightly later than usual (I’d normally be finished about by 4:30, rather than 5), but I also had nothing I needed to do this evening.  Starting next week, I’m going to be teaching an evening class on Tuesday nights and I’ll be learning at one on Wednesday nights, so that’s two evenings taken out of the week, plus I have another group activity on Monday nights, so I’ll really have to play catch-up on my Fridays off and at the weekend.

But anyway, yay for reaching my word count aim on the first day – may this be the first of many!

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Starting ‘Book in a Month’

Today I’m starting to use the Book in a Month ‘system’ that I mentioned the other day in my post about books on writing.

I’m planning to finish the first draft in the course of the next 30-40 days (I’m being realistic – it’s the beginning of the new academic year!), so I calculate that should be 70,000 words in total (I already have 50,000+).

So, if you want to comment on here or you know me on Twitter (@ClareTeaches) or Facebook, please badger me – ideally, I’m aiming for 2,300 words per day, which would be 70,000 over the month.  However, I haven’t written in over a year, so let’s see how my stamina goes!  I’m happy to build up my daily word count over the first week or so and take a little longer to get to the end.

I’ll be posting daily word counts on Twitter and perhaps weekly ones on here, so here goes!

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So somehow I missed this hilarious post showing the publishing process in GIF form (by the very publishing-savvy Nathan Bransford) until it was almost a week old, and I’m all

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Hello there!

I noticed quite a few people have started following JoaT, so I wanted to say a quick hello to my new readers!

Thanks for joining me here and feel free to chime in any time – I love hearing from you!

Also, a quick update on my writing – I’ve mentioned that I’ve been wrestling with some plot demons lately … Well, I don’t think I needed to worry.  I looked back over my plotting document (which has somehow reached 17,000 words – over-planning, moi?) and found that back when I wrote it, I actually did a much better job better than I thought – everything ties together and it all advances the plot.  Who’d’ve thought?

So, onwards with the writing!  Huzzah!

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I mentioned earlier in the week that I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and I’ve already told you about the stories I’ve been enjoying.  This post will discuss some writing-related books I’ve consumed recently.

I’ve been wrestling with some plotting demons in A Thief & A Gentlewoman, which have stopped me moving on with the story.  Sometimes plot-doubts are simply us as insecure writers second-guessing ourselves … but sometimes there really is a flaw in our plotting.  The outline of AT&aGw has gone through a few changes, with a parallel plot added to increase complexity (and ensure it reached a fantasy-appropriate word count!), but coming back to the story after a break, I now feel that that addition has actually diluted what was a strong plot with an exciting climax.  So I’ve been focusing on books about plot to get some ideas for how to move forward.

I’ve already reviewed Write to be Published, which I loved, so I won’t go over that again, except to say get it!

I picked up The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing a couple of months ago as it has interviews with some interesting writers and articles on topics not covered by some of my more specialist writing books, and it seems like good value – a big chunky book for £10.

Plus, I’ll admit it, I like getting new writing books.

This is more of a dip-into book, rather than a read-straight-through (which is what I did with Write to be Published).  I’ve read or skimmed through a few articles and particularly the section on plot, since that’s what I’m working on at the moment.  It seems quite good so far, though not utterly amazing, however I’ve only looked at a few parts and I suspect it will become more useful as I dip into other areas.

I found Monica Wood and James N. Frey’s articles on plot fairly helpful, though in a broad way of getting myself thinking about plot and encouraging my subconscious to start working on the problem of what is and isn’t working in my plot.  There wasn’t necessarily anything in these articles that I hadn’t read elsewhere, but this book would be useful for someone looking to get a one-stop reference for different areas of novel writing.  Like Write to be Published, it gives a broad overview and is a handy resource for having information all in one place.  I do prefer Write to be Published, though, as I found it more readable and like Nicola Morgan’s voice and her take on different subjects.

A couple of years ago a friend gave me a copy of Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, as somehow he’d ended up with two copies (no, I don’t know how, either, but thanks, Darron!).  In light of my current issues with my WIP, I finally got around to reading it.  Again, I used a combination of skimming, dipping in and reading fully, since some sections were more useful to my current position than others.

Despite the horrible cover (sorry, I hate it!), I liked this one and have found it really useful.  It articulates a lot of things that we already know about plot and structure from being readers and consumers of narratives, which is helpful for clarifying that feeling of “I know this plot does/doesn’t work, but I’m not sure why!”

Bell does get a big obsessed with his own ‘systems’ (complete with acronyms – are you an OP or a NOP?) and it gets a little annoying reading repeatedly about “the LOCK system”.  He does also reference his own fiction fairly often, which I didn’t think was particularly great (sorry!) and in one instance was actually quite over the top when it was meant to be giving an example of downplaying emotion.  But if you can get past those minor niggles, then this is a very useful book for helping you think about plot, whether you’re coming up with one from scratch, or re-working a flagging one.

He includes plenty of exercises to try out and some handy appendices to help write your own back cover copy (a helpful part of the plotting process) and a checklist of key elements.  There are tips for generating ideas and fixing plot problems, as well as a great section on revising and rewriting, specifically focusing on plot.  I do recommend this as an excellent reference for your writing shelves.

Finally we come to a book I almost hesitate to admit to buying: Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.

Why the hesitation? you might ask.  Well, something about this book just seems a bit gimicky.  Maybe it’s that the writer encourages you to buy a fresh book each time you want to write using her Book in a Month (BIAM) system (what’s with writing books and their ‘systems?), or maybe it’s the very idea of a ‘system’ of writing (nevermind that it’s advertised as ‘fool-proof’ in the tagline.

But there was something that appealed to me about this book – perhaps it’s all the forms to be filled in (which is why she suggests you get a fresh copy for each novel you write, personally, I’ll be using photocopies of the forms!), which must have some sort of appeal to the woman who played ‘office’ and ‘teacher’ games extensively as a child (Complete with made up paperwork.  Yes, sad, I know!).

Anyway, I’ve read the preparation part of the book (that is, up to the point where you begin the 30-day programme) and I’m not regretting my decision to buy it.  Schmidt discusses and encourages you to think about all the excuses you make not to write or not to finish a manuscript, and the possible reasons behind those excuses.  She takes a psychological approach, looking at the ways we sabotage ourselves, reasons for resistance and methods of motivation, which is no surprise when you consider she has a doctorate in psychology.  I’d suggest keeping a journal alongside this book, where you can write about the issues raised and the questions posed – this has already helped me to feel more motivated.

Alongside this, however, she does address the writing itself and how that can prevent you from continuing.  One of my favourite sections so far is how she addresses the idea of theme and what it is you want to say with your story, explaining that sometimes the theme conveyed in a plot that isn’t working for you is a theme you’re not passionate about.  She helps you uncover your ‘writerly identity’ and visualise what it is you want to be known for as a writer, which helps you focus on writing the things that motivate you or, even, how to make an assigned piece of writing (eg, something outside of your usual genre of interest) more appealing to your own interests and passions.

There are some down sides of this book – for instance, she encourages you to write your first draft without any subplots to get the novel written in a month.  I disagree with this strategy as a good subplot will often tie in with the main plot of the novel, perhaps even helping the protagonist find a solution to their problems.  Also, the psychology-talk does get in danger of straying into ‘psychobabble’ territory sometimes, but there’s nothing to stop you from skim-reading!

So far, I’m finding this and interesting and useful book, which I plan to use to finish AT&aGw, once I’ve worked out the plot problems.  I’ll give more feedback when I’ve finished that!

What about you, what non-fiction have you been reading?  Got any writing book recommendations (or ones to avoid!) you’d like to share?

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