Quick March.

When I’m writing a new story, I have a particular manner of approaching it. I tend to let it churn around and around in my head, and then when I think it’s ready, I’ll write it in one sitting. From conversations I’ve had recently, it seems I’m not the only one who works this way.

Yet when I was asked to write a monologue recently – which I performed on Thursday – I approached it in the manner suggested by the person who set the challenge. That was to think of somewhere that means something to you, either good or bad, and write about this place for 15 minutes without stopping. Then think of somebody striking, whether someone you know personally or who is in the news, and write about them for 15 minutes without stopping. Finally, put them together and use that as a jumping-off point.

At first, I didn’t know whether I could do anything with the place and person I chose, but after those 15 minutes of writing, I found a lot of usable material, which I then assembled into a poetic monologue. Instead of writing from the top to the bottom, I worked on the second part first, setting my ideas to an iambic rhythm; then worked on the first part second, using a dactyl meter.

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It produced a piece with which I’m very happy and went down well with the audience. I wonder whether I should approach more of my pieces like this?

I’m tackling National Novel Writing Month at the same time, where the aim is simply to write the raw material for a first draft and worry about the editing at a future date. As always, I’m finding unusual twists and turns simply by the process of writing. For instance, the novel was originally to be a series of newspaper reports about an inventor, with a historian filling in the gaps. However, more and more of the inventor’s own words started to creep in, and now it’s written almost entirely from her point of view with only a little help from the historian.

The next time I work on something original, I might try writing it out instead of just thinking about it, but I’ve learned a little lesson on that front as well. NaNoWriMo was planned out on three sheets of paper the size of newspaper pages. This is fine to refer to when writing at home, but inconvenient to take along to a cafe.

Diagnosis: Literature.

I’d never been a fan of diagnosing fictional characters with mental illnesses until I started on Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Septimus seems to have some combination of what we would now call schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and autism. As this was 1925, before treatments became available, his doctor merely recommends rest as remedy.

Mrs Dalloway
Mrs Dalloway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I mentioned this to a friend who also writes, and she told me that OCD runs in her family. Having thought about the stories I’ve written, I’ve realised I’ve created characters who probably have this particular condition.

For instance, one of my published pieces, Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse, focuses on a man who is obsessed with acronyms. Every day, he scours the newspapers looking for acronyms. When he discovers one that he considers incorrect, he writes to the person or company concerned. Another features a woman who carries out set tasks at set times every week, and can’t cope with any change to it. Even the example piece I knocked up on 1 September to demonstrate editing techniques concerns a man who needs to repeat an action over and over again.

Tonight, I’m heading to an event in town where Life Sciences students from Dundee University will be performing factual and fictional pieces based on their studies. Their work has been edited and guided by students on the MLitt course.

My student is Greek, although she has an excellent grasp of English. Once we’d worked out the story structure, I only needed to change some of the grammar, particularly the tenses. I’ve realised that tenses in English are not always straightforward. For instance, If I was is sometimes correct, while If I were is sometimes required.

If I were able to, I’d tell you in this entry how it went, but I’ll come back to it next week.

Just a Moment.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, National Novel Writing Month kicked off. As I’m the organiser for Dundee, I’ve been in the thick of it since then, and I’ve had other work on top. It’s left me little time to compose a full WordPress update.

So far, we’ve held our Kick-Off Event and our first meet-up, and our word count continues to rise. When I checked it at 4:30pm tonight, we’d managed to register 168,000 words. My own words make up about 0.5% of that.

So I’m going to crack on with this, and aim to come back with a fuller entry next week.