War of The Worlds by H. G. Wells Readalong

  I’m reading “War of the Worlds” for the first time, despite feeling like I know it off by heart. 

I don’t. I know Jeff Wayne’s concept album of the story off by heart. I grew up listening to it obsessively. I was around six years old when it came out and I know we had a copy of it soon after. I used to lie on the floor of our living room, not far from the site of the events in the story, and pore over the artwork in the double album’s booklet. I must have had to ask my parents to put on the LPs for me, because I’m sure I wasn’t allowed to do such a delicate task at the time.

I was obsessed. Old enough to grasp the horror of the story and the vivid illustrations (buildings falling on elegant, panicked Victorian women and men, crows picking at strings of flesh…), but too young to understand about consequences and grief and to be scarred by the whole thing. 

I remember dancing along to it with a friend, acting out the story, lip-syching before it was a thing.
Later, when I was a newly-wed, we got hold of a cassette copy of the Orson Welles radio play and listened with fascination to that ‘mockumentary’ version too.
Now my own chilren are listening to the Jeff Wayne version, and singing along.

But I still haven’t read the book.
So I ordered a copy of the Everyman Library volume “Threee Science Fiction Stories by H. G. Wells” (Including The Time Machine, which I have read, and The Invisible Man, which I only know from the classic black and white film). 

I started reading today and I couldn’t help but make notes as I went along. So I’m posting them here as a ‘read along’ (in the vein of Debbie Ohi’s Final Attempt To Read The Lord of The Rings readalong from 2001). Feel free to join in, pitch in, or just follow along.

Dun-Dun-Dahhhhhhhhhh!

Time And Focus

Sometimes I beat myself up about not writing more. And I should be writing more, don’t get me wrong.

But I sat down to write today and it was 3:58 pm.

I knew roughly what I needed to write (because I’ve outlined this thing). I knew the characters I was writing about (because I’ve sketched them out). I knew that I was only really writing about one transaction and then throwing in a ‘wha—?’ at the end of the scene.

And I wrote it, pretty much that easily.

And now it’s 5:56. Just like that. Boom…two hours later. Time-travel!

It worked because I had no other responsibilities. No one interrupted me. I didn’t have to stop for anything, pick anyone up, make food for anyone, fill in any forms, or answer any phone calls.

Theoretically, I could do this every day, while my kids are out at school and my husband’s out at work. And that’s certainly the aim.

But I just wanted to capture this here. Because that was two solid hours of bum-in-chair, tippety-tapping away at the keyboard on a story that I’d already done most of the planning for. 1935 words. Two hours.

Writing takes time. And focus.

I can still write when I don’t have both, and when the stars don’t align, but it’ll be harder. And I’ll have to try harder. And I should be kind to myself if every day doesn’t go like this (which it won’t). Which is not to say, ‘make excuses for myself’. This was a good writing day. One to shoot for.

Bum-in-chair, lassie. Every day.

What Happens When You Give Up On Facebook

Flower alone

I gave up Facebook for Lent when I discovered that I was frantically checking it to see who would wish my son a happy birthday, and getting upset when there weren’t enough ‘likes’ for my birthday-related post.

That was when I realized I was losing my mind. My FB use was unhealthy. It was Ash Wednesday. So FB had to go.

At first it was…weird not to know what was going on with all my neighbors and friends.

Then, people started sending me personal emails when they needed me. That was glorious.

Next, I discovered that pushing towards a hard deadline without the distraction of FB was a joy and a privilege.

Now that my deadline has passed along with four weeks of Lent, I’ll admit I’m feeling a little isolated.

The phrase I hear most often these days (from people who don’t live in my house), is “Oh, that’s right! You’re not on Facebook” before they fill me in on something that happened that everyone else knows about.

Yes, we’ve become so reliant of FB that no-one hardly anyone contacts friends directly to talk about stuff anymore.

I’ll admit it’s partly my own fault. I’ve come to loathe the telephone. But one nice friend did text me directly to ask if I’d heard the news about Terry Pratchett. The fact that she texted me (just me, not a random blast of friends on her wall) told me that she had thought about me and conversations we’ve had in the past. It meant a lot, and highlighted just how little we (I?) do this kind of thing anymore.

I have another friend who sends me things she thinks I’ll like *through the mail*. Not expensive things. Articles, fliers, books-she’s-finished-with. But things she knows I’ll like. Me, not some random subset of her audience of social media.

It seems very odd to be saying all this, given that I am the queen of the blog/social media network/text message. But I think my Lenten sacrifice is teaching me something. One-to-one interactions are meaningful. I shouldn’t assume that ‘putting something out there’ is enough. Sometimes a tailored, personal contact is exactly what someone needs.

I will stay strong. I will stay off FB. I will try to be better at taking the narrower path.

Novel Number Two

You’d think that, having just worked ridiculously hard to finish the first draft of a novel, I’d want to do anything but work on another novel.

Except I do. I want to do it all over again.

I know I still have to wrestle the first one into shape, but I can’t do anything with it until 3/27 at the earliest, when my critique group will have returned it to me with their comments, suggestions, notes and corrections. In the meantime I feel like i want to take everything I learned in the past few months, about writing a long long story, and put to work again.

So I dragged out the draft of the novel I started in 2012 (two years after I started the Novel Number 1 as a NaNoWriMo project too). It’s set in the same universe and I’m itching to get back there again. I remember why I gave up on this one. I lost the voice. I lost the lightness I had intended it to have. I hadn’t yet finished a novel and it felt pointless to be working on another one, without knowing (believing) I could finish it.

So now I’ve imported the existing 35K words into Scrivener, broken it up all into scenes, started capturing character notes and plot points, and read through it. Instead of being discouraged by its imperfection, I am now tickled by the bits that do work: The things that I know I can use to power the plot of the story.

I have an existing story that I can refer back to. I have a really strong sense of this world, this city, that I have created. I know the people. I want to hang out with them some more. (A different cast, mostly, but the same city).

Next steps: Identify the through-story, the big action scenes that’ll make the story fun, and then think really, really hard about all the pieces that have to be put in place to make it all hang together.

I’m excited.

Novel Draft 1.0

This morning the phone rang at 5:30. It was the school, to say that the boys would be staying at home today. Noooooooo!

Not that I don’t love my boys and enjoy their company, but today was the last day I had to work on my novel before my critique group expected to see it in their inboxes.

Knowing that the kids would sleep in unless roused, I stumbled out of bed (at 5:30. Yes, I did) and fired up my laptop. I’d been working fairly intensely for the past two or three weeks: printing out what I had of the manuscript, cutting up the papers in to scenes, paperclipping them together and writing notes on index cards clipped to each scene. I had been writing linking scenes, rewriting scenes and making notes on what I still had to do. I knew I was close. I just needed to push on and get it done.

K appeared, at some point, to say his work was closed too, because of the approaching storm. Something in the back of my brain said “whoopee”, but I don’t think I even stopped to acknowledge him. I just kept working. The sun came up. The boys started moving around. I smelled eggs and bacon cooking. I worked on.

By noon I had been though the whole manuscript and typed up the ending I had written a couple of months ago. I was just about to pat myself on the back for being done, when I discovered a whole slew of scenes that I thought I had already written, that I had in fact only written “[this is what happens here]” notes for. Eek!

Two hours later, I stumbled, crazy-haired and unwashed, out of the office and declared my novel (first draft) DONE.

Four years, four months and four days after the first line was written.

I could/should have proof read the whole thing again before I sent it off, but I was so drained that I just compiled the text, gave it a quick once-over and sent it off.

I wrote a novel. And people are going to read it. It was a Herculean task and I feel pretty amazing for having wrangled the darned thing into some kind of shape I’m happy with. It’s a first draft. It’s not ready for prime time, but the pieces are in place and I’m happy to let people look at it in all its imperfect glory.

And I’m taking the rest of the day off.

Little By Little, I’ll Get There

So, I have this deadline. It hits in exactly two weeks. I have to finish a readable draft of the novel I’ve been tinkering with since Nov 2010, and send it off to my critique group.

Finishing a novel seems like such a huge, unmanageable task that I keep putting it off. Every time I started on it, without the deadline and the critique group, I got overwhelmed at the idea of all the things I had to fix and finish.

With the deadline, I’ve been able to force myself to solve problems and make notes and plan scenes and push myself to figure out how to get them written even when I don’t feel inspired (or as if I know what I’m doing). There are lots of resources that have helped me, but the most important thing I’ve discovered:Writing Log YTD

Doing any writing, even a little bit at a time, helps me get closer to the end.

Fancy that.

This is a lesson I’ve learned from knitting. Even if I only knit one row a day, I”ll eventually get to the end of the project. The biggest thing I’ve ever knitted turned into a manageable project when I sat down and figured out that I had to knit four rows a day every day between then and October to get the thing done. And then it wasn’t scary any more.

So.

I’ve been planning out the scenes I need to write. I’m still far from being done, and I feel like i’m not getting anywhere, but when I look at that chart up there I realize that yeah, I’m getting stuff done. 29,955 words so far this year.

Wish me luck with getting that first draft ready in two weeks!

Good Writing

2300+ words on the novel today.

It doesn’t seem like that much until you realize that I’ve been up since 6:30 AM and it’s now 3 PM and I’ve exercised and eaten well, and got two boys out to school (with help) and cleaned up the breakfast dishes and eaten a healthy lunch and spent half an hour on the treadmill and that, as well as all that, it was GOOD writing.

I don’t mean deathless prose. I mean: I thought about what I wanted to write and made notes. I worked through my temptation to give in to Resistance. I put myself in front of my keyboard and pounded out words until some of them started to go together in ways I liked. I let go of ‘perfect’ and settled for ‘something I can work with and that gets me closer to the end of the story’.

These are big things for me, people. Big things.

Routine. Determination, Persistence.

Not things that I specialize in. (Going, rather, for a hopefully charming spontaneity and good humor).

But I’m trying to find a process that gets me closer to what I want (which is to be writing and finishing stories all the time.)

So, huzzah. Now I’m off to do the domestic goddess bit.

How have you fed your Creative Animal today?