Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Friday 1st July = Official Mumbling and Stuttering Day

The first drafts of chapters three and four are done.  Woohoo!  Now I need to start on chapter five, then decide whether I'm going to do chapter six for the dissertation as well.

I've had the figure of '15,000' in my head for a while now when thinking about the dissertation but it wasn't until last week that I thought I probably ought to check that, and only at the weekend did I actually get round to doing so.  As it turns out the word count for the creative part is 15,000-20,000 giving me, potentially, another five thousand words.  So here's the question: given that I am aiming for my chapters to be 5k each, do I do an additional chapter?

I've got a loose plan of chapter six, so there'd be no problem there.  I think the issue is in my inability to shut up, meaning that despite my aims for word limits, the reality will inevitably be different.  This can already be seen in chapters three and four.  Chapter three is just over 5,200 words.  Chapter four is just over 5,400.  If this trend continues, I'm going to be over 20,000 words if I choose to do chapter six as well.

Of course there's the delightful editing process, where I read through my pieces again and again simply trying to cut the word count down.  Do we get a 10% margin for dissertations?  I do love my 10% margins...

I guess I'll just have to run this by my supervisor on Friday.  The first meeting!  *Dramatic drum roll*  This is the point in the process where I try to talk about my work, end up making very little sense and probably sound like I didn't even read my piece, let alone write it.  At least I can take comfort in the fact that said exercise doesn't count towards my mark, otherwise I really would be doomed.

The Litmus launch is also this Friday.  I believe the idea is for us to read our pieces aloud.  This is the point when I realise there's a horrible jarring sentence in a crucial bit of the story, which every agent and publisher in the world will see.  I will be put on some sort of black list and any time I try to submit a manuscript big warning buzzers will go off and my efforts will be automatically discarded.

Or something like that.

What I will have to keep in mind is that even if I do find a mistake, it's too late to do anything about it now anyway.  Crying/spilled milk and so on.  To be honest, as long as my surname has been spelled right for once I'll be as happy as a bird with a french fry.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Battling my Brain

This time last Sunday I was gearing up for a whole week of dissertation writing, where the words would flow effortlessly onto the computer screen and my characters would come alive in my mind.

That's what I get for having high expectations.  Long live the pessimist!  You're either always right or pleasantly surprised.

My wonderful plan hasn't exactly matched up with reality.  I did manage to complete Chapter 2 (which, due to restrictive word counts for the PP assignment, was over a thousand words shorter than it needed to be) and I have written around 1,500 words for Chapter 3.  I suppose I ought to be thankful that I wrote that much, but the number of words isn't really my main problem.

In theory, I like my story.  The subject, plot and main characters are what I want them to be and it is something I would normally find no problem bringing to the page.  And yet, here I am, not having written a word of it today because I just don't feel inspired to do so.

I was writing something else earlier in the week - just some mindless drivel that could never be used for anything vaguely meaningful - but I was nonetheless motivated to do it.  I got that feeling of needing to write it, of being so into the story that I just had to get it down.  I wrote around nine thousand words of this in one day.  And yet in a week I can only manage a fraction of that for the thing which is important.

Perhaps this is the problem.  My subconscious mind is so damn contrary that it will not, under any circumstances, allow me to do something which might actually be useful.  Because I must write this piece for my dissertation, suddenly I don't want to.

It was the same in my first term of undergraduate uni.  I barely spoke to my housemates because there was this huge pressure (in my crazy head) to make friends.  As soon as I made the decision to leave, the whole idea suddenly became much easier and the last week I spent in halls was the best of all the months I'd lived there.

Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that telling my brain to 'stop being insane' isn't really going to work.

I want to try and get something done with it this evening, if only just a paragraph or two so that I actually feel like I've made some progress, however minute.

Because I've just spent this entire blog post having a whinge, I want to end on a positive note: last night I saw X-Men: First Class and it was AWESOME!

Yeah, I'm a nerd - and damn proud of it.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Another one bites the dust

My non-fiction assignment has been sent off into the world to arrive, Royal Mail willing, on Monday at uni.  I'm fairly happy to see the back of it, with the one exception of a moment last night, as I was trying to get to sleep, thinking I should have mentioned why there were still new things to say about the Titanic in my rationale.  Yes, this is apparently the most exciting thing in my day that I think about (or try not to think about) before I go to sleep.

Now I am trying to adopt the same method for this assignment as I did for my Publishing Project one - i.e. not think about it at all.  I'd rather forget the things even existed rather than remember all the parts I forgot to include (see above pre-sleep panic attack as an example).

Seeing as my next assignment is my dissertation - due in September, which is probably not as far away as it's pretending to be - I will have to think about the PP assignment much sooner than I would hope for.  In saying this, though, I have been doing a little work on it this past week without any devastating consequences.

For my PP assignment I handed in chapter 2 of my new novel Hide and See - but due to uni word limit it only came to around 3000 words and I was aiming for between 4k and 5k for each chapter, to make it nice and neat and to satisfy the little OCD fairies in my brain.  So before I can start writing chapters 3-5 for my dissertation I have to finish off chapter 2, all the while not looking at what I've done for the rest of chapter 2 lest I notice that on the second page I've missed out an apostrophe and will, therefore, fail my entire MA.

And don't even get me started on the whole job-hunt thing.  I haven't even started.  I don't want to start.  I want to sit in my room and make up stories for a living.

But I don't particularly want to be impoverished so I'm guessing I might actually have to grow up and be an adult one day.  Whoever came up with that rule is a big poopy face.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

One down...

So my first assignment of this semester has been sent off to uni.  I can't decide whether this fact causes me relief or more nerves.  I'm glad it's out the way and everything but I'm now terrified of looking at anything relating to the story (Hide and See) just in case I realised I've done something wrong.  'Twould be too late to correct it and I would, as a result, have a metaphorical heart attack.

The unfortunate result of this new fear is that I am supposed to be continuing said novel for my dissertation.  I'm not really sure how to go about working on something while also avoiding it completely.  I'm not much of a science-type-person but I'm pretty sure that would violate some sort of law of physics.

Fortunately (in a way) I have another assignment due first: my Titanic piece for non-fiction.  I'd been feeling fairly relaxed about the whole thing until I handed in my Publishing Project assignment - now, the next deadline feels awfully close.  I need to rework the main body of the piece and I haven't even started on the rationale (ah, 'rationale': possibly the most hated r-word in all the world - or for Arts students at least).

I've written a plan for said rationale but the whole thing seems at risk of just turning into a rant.  It doesn't take much for me to have a rant, as evidenced by this here blog.  Not that my Titanic rationale plan seems particularly angry (can a plan seem angry?) but I think there's the possibility that I might go too far into my personal reasons rather than the technical method behind the piece.  Unless this is what I'm supposed to do?  Or was I only supposed to do this in the actual creative part?

Conclusion: I probably have no idea what I'm doing.

I think I may have gone on a bit of a mini-rant for my PP rationale as well, although I promise I did try to minimise that section.  I was basically defending fantasy against critics and/or academics who turn their noses up at it.  It's a bit of a sore subject for me, given that I have never written a 'Literary' novel and don't ever intend to.  It's not my thing and I don't appreciate being told that I have to appreciate something just because the experts tell me to.

How lovely it was to be sent this link (thanks Natasha!) about author Stephen Hunt defending genre literature for us plebs who like to read such trash.  I'm glad someone's saying it.  I don't know what I'd do if the only novels around were about middle-class, middle-aged professionals who have lots of feelings, don't really do much and have rather weird ideas about sex (Ian McEwan, I'm looking at you).

Okay, methinks I've ranted for long enough.  I wish I could put some sort of 'final thought' which sums up everything I whinged about in this entry but it's so all over the shop I don't think I'd manage anything coherent.

So instead I'm going to do a Craig Ferguson and ended on an awkward pause.