Are books alive?

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I found this sign at the cafe where I usually go to write. I really like the idea that books have a life of their own, and that the stories within them play out even when I’m not reading them.

I like the idea, but I’m not really believing it. I’d like to, because it’s a really nice thought – at least for good stories. Then again, I do have a hard time throwing away, or selling, my books even after I’ve read them.

It’s the memories I guess. Seeing a book I’ve enjoyed brings a little bit of the story back to me and I feel that enjoyment and connection to it again. I guess in that way, there really is life in books, but it’s the life that I bring them as the one who took part of the story they tell.

So, yes, maybe there’s life in books, but I don’t think they’ll die, but surely they can bring their joy to others. Maybe I should bring some books here. I could do with the shelf-space at home, and my books could do with being read again.

Maybe I’m just ranting, when I should be writing – editing.

Also, it’s raining again.

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Drops of water on the inside of the window.

 

Are books alive?

Writing In Another World

I write fantasy. My stories take place in a different world. What I’ve thought about quite a bit recently is how a lot of my actual writing also happens in a different world.

I mentioned in my previous post how my shoulder was acting up and I wasn’t writing for a while. It’s gotten better, and I’m back at it again. I finished the two conversations for the story about Alene and I’ve started to write the part leading up to the first one. I’m still not particularly happy with how it’s turning out, but I’m more than happy to be writing again.

The last few days, writing had been an escape both from the mental and physical world. I’ve gone over to the pub up the road, ordered a pizza and a pint and sat down by the fireplace to write.

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It’s a pretty radical change in environment compared to my apartment. I like my place (and I’ll stay there despite the recent rent increase), but lately I’ve not been comfortable writing there. It may change now that winter is coming and it gets dark earlier, but not yet.

The pub is warm and cozy. It’s lit by candles and the fireplace, and by a length of Christmas lights draped around the doorway to the other room, where the bar is. It’s rarely full, at least not at the hours I go there, but it’s also rarely empty. Low music plays over the speakers.2015-09-23 20.41.34

It’s a pub for meeting up and having a drink and a conversation – or write. It’s not a party place, and I love it.

I rarely notice it when I get there, but whenever I’m done for the evening and step out through the doors it’s like reality comes rushing back to hit me in the face like a cold shower – regardless of whether it’s raining or not.

That’s when I realise I’ve been somewhere else for a while – a safe happy nowhere land that I create for myself when the conditions are right.

This usually happens when I’m writing, and almost never while I’m at home. I have to go somewhere else to find that sweet spot where the real world slowly drifts away and my mind starts building another reality all on its own. For really, it is another reality. The fears and worries of the real world shrink and go away and my stories and characters become more real. Their issues matter more. Their world comes closer and I learn and discover more and more about it.

It’s one of the things I really love about writing.

Writing In Another World

More Bad Body Times

My shoulder’s been acting up again lately. I spent too much time in a bad chair playing computer games. So my arm, shoulder, and neck all started aching and being all painy and achey. Not cool.

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I’ve been to the physiotherapist again and the arm is fine now, but the are between the neck and shoulder still aches. I’ll have to keep up with the stretches and remember to stand up regularly while it at work. I had two days off, then worked one day and then it was weekend. I’ll be back at the office tomorrow.

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With this going on I’ve been trying to do things that doesn’t require me to be in front of the computer. There’s been no writing and no gaming – except maybe just a little. Mostly I’ve sat in front of the TV watching anime. It’s entertaining but feels like a waste of time.

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The entire weekend has been a bit of a waste really.

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I was horribly hungover on Wednesday, and today I’ve just sat around not doing much. I did go to the spinning class, and I wrote a letter – by hand no less – to a close friend (sorry Å, not you), but other than that, not much.

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I suspect there will be more walking coming though, once I’m not hungover and once my legs don’t hate me after the spinning. I went for a nice little hike after work on Tuesday. It’s getting too dark for long walks after work though. With the time change evening begins to fall before five, and the sky is black soon after six. I manage on my own, but I don’t feel like dragging others with me under those conditions.2015-11-01 15.05.51

I did get a few nice pictures though. I still enjoy the idea of the panorama function on the phone and I like finding the landscapes where it works. One of these days I’ll have to get up on Elizabeth forth (which is next doors) and take a big picture of the surrounding area. I should be able to see my house from there.

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I’m really looking forward to getting back into writing too. I want to try and finish the scene I’m working on for the story about Alena, and then I’ll get back to Emma’s Story. I have a few ideas of things to change up and then I’ll do a thorough editing pass to try and catch as many mistakes as I can. After that I should be ready to send it off to the editor.

More Bad Body Times

Panoramalpaca

This weekend me and my friend E went for a trip to the Waterfall Alpaca Farm near Drimoleague in West Cork. We did a bit of walking, ate a lot of good food, met the alpacas and figured out how to take panorama pictures with our phones.

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Sure the picture quality isn’t the best, but we had fun, and if just look at the thumbnails and don’t zoom in, it looks kind of nice. It also gives a pretty good idea of the scenery we encountered.

I’m always mesmerized by the hills and mountains of West Cork. It’s very unlike the landscape of back home in Sweden where I grew up – I may have mentioned that in the past…

Still, it fascinates me, and I’m not entirely sure why, but maybe that’s part of it.

I took some normal pictures too:

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And of course, a bunch of photos of the alpacas. They’re friendly, and while not necessarily shy, they do seem to like to keep their distance. We got to lead them around a little trail, about half an hour or so, and in order to keep them from running ahead, you just had to hold your hand out in front of them and they’d stop.

Even then, they’s still let you touch them, and they’re really soft. I can see how they make for good wool.

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Panoramalpaca

Second Draft Finished

The other day I completed the second draft of Emma’s Story. I did not put it up here on the blog as I expect it won’t be current for long. On Friday I sent it to two new friends of mine who had not yet read it. One of them already finished it.

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This is in itself great news. They got to reading and I didn’t have to badger them about finishing. What’s less great news is that they pointed out that I’d put in two chapters twice. At first I thought it was just a case of duplication, but then I discovered I’d actually left out two entire chapters.

Not so good.

Really quite embarrassing actually.

Still, my friend finished the story, sent a mail with feedback, and even made some new comments on things no one else has mentioned before. This is always interesting when it happens.

Feedback is good, let’s not even argue that. It gives you a new perspective on your work and it helps you see things you haven’t seen before. Getting feedback on something that’s been central to the story all along and that no one else has mentioned is a bit weird though.

I’m not saying these comments are wrong, just that no one else mentioned them. The comments are about something I’ve thought about while writing the story, but as no one else has mentioned it I figured it wasn’t much of an issue.

It could be it still isn’t much of an issue and that my friend didn’t have much else to remark upon. I’m afraid that’s just wishful thinking though. This is an issue, and it’s something I’ll need to address. I just don’t know how. Hopefully something will come to me once I sit down and start tinkering with it.

I’ve had some other feedback that also needs addressing, but which will be a lot easier to deal with. It’s of a more technical aspect and I believe I’ll be able to handle that when doing the next editing pass. It should be easy enough.

Second Draft Finished

Mixing It Up And Keeping It The Same

I’ve got an idea and I’m going to try a little experiment.

I posted the opening scene of Emma’s Story on the showcase forum on Mythic Scribes and got some feedback from people who hadn’t yet read it. One commenter mentioned how Emma’s parents come across as really unsympathetic and another mentioned how there was no sense of location in the scene.

This is for the second draft of the story by the way, not the same as is available here on the blog (though it’s still pretty similar).

The first issue is one I can fix quite easily by just making a few changes to minor details, but the second one is more problematic. I want to get to the point of the story, without dwindling too much on things that aren’t important. It doesn’t matter to the story as a whole how the room looks, or how Emma’s parents look.

On the other hand – it matters that the reader feels welcome to the story.

I don’t want them to feel that things are happening and they don’t get a grasp of it, so a little bit of description may still be in order. The way I’m thinking about doing this is by adding some motion to the scene.

In the current version Emma stops just inside the door, and then she stands still and talks to her parents who sit at each end of the table. She does not move from that spot for the entire scene and neither does her parents. It’s not particularly exciting apart from the actual conversation which gets a bit strained towards the end.

The new plan is to add a fireplace and some armchairs in a corner to the scene. The parents have moved over to the armchairs to relax after the meal, and the fire in the fireplace is about to go out. This is when Emma enters the room. She sees her parents have moved and she sees the fire dying. Instead of just standing there and telling them what’s happened she goes and puts a log on the fire, pokes at it for a bit and brings it back to life. While she does this, she talks to her parents and they discuss the current situation.

The experiment I mentioned earlier is that I’m going to try to use the exact same conversation lines as I did in the current version of the scene. I’m fully aware that it may not work out at all, but I want to try it and see how it ends up. If nothing else it’ll be fun to compare the two version and see the differences.

Mixing It Up And Keeping It The Same

Building Up Steam

I’ve had a bit of a break from the writing and it’s been tricky getting started again.

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I finished the first draft of Emma’s Story and then I went back to Sweden for a week and I meant to get started again when I came back home. It was more difficult than I expected it to be. But maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It’s getting better though, and I’m getting back into it. Like I mentioned, in a previous post, I drew up a plan for what I need to do. It seemed like a good idea, and it probably is.

The interesting part is that when I sat down to write that extra chapter I wanted to do, I felt like I’d disconnected from the story. It felt like I didn’t quite know the characters as well as once did. I’d only stopped writing for about two weeks and already I’d lost touch.

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When I wrote the first draft I thought about it daily. I wrote most days, and on days I didn’t write, I thought about it. The story was a big part of my life for those three months it took to write it and it became natural to spend time with it. And then, after a short break, it was all gone.

wpid-wp-1443514969111.jpegI’m getting back into it, but it’s taking its time. I finished that extra chapter and it sort of works but needs a bit of polish – of course. I’ve started changing up the conversations that need changing and I’m fixing other things as I go. The fun is coming back. I’m still not quite in the
zone with the story the way I used to be, but it’s getting there.

I found a nice new pub to write at and it’s encouraging me to put in some more time. It won’t help me get rid of the excess weight I put on while back home, but it’ll help me get some work done on the story.

I rewrote the first conversation in the first chapter and I tried to put a bit more pressure on Emma to get her mind made up and get married already. I may have overdone it a bit as reader comments indicate her parents come across as mean and unsympathetic now. They also commented on how it seems Emma is doing all the work and her parents may be working her too hard.

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This is probably a case of me going overboard with the pressuring, but also of the reader not being familiar with the setting. I think I’m quite fortunate in that my previous readers have all been familiar with my setting through my previous story already. It makes it easier for them to accept how Emma is running the burrow while for a new reader it may seem a bit odd. It’s something I’ll have to factor in for the next rewrite.

Most importantly though. I’m getting back into it and I’m getting excited about getting out of work so I can go work on my story instead.

Building Up Steam

I Love the Forest

I’m back in Sweden for about a week. So far it’s been good. I met both my brother and my sister at the same time for the first time in ages. Tonight, however, was a personal solo-highlight.

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The forest has a special place in my heart.

Sure, I stayed mostly on well maintained paths lit by electric light, but it still felt great to be out among the trees.

wpid-wp-1442259653709.jpegWhat’s more: my legs kept up the entire way. I’ve had issues with the muscles in my thigh since sometime this spring and it’s been a drag. I really enjoy walking, and I used to do it a lot. For a while I averaged nearly ten kilometers a day and then, of course, I overdid it and damaged myself.

Since then, I’ve not been able to walk the way I used to – not as wpid-wp-1442259510903.jpegfast, and not as far. Tonight, I mostly walked at a very relaxed pace, but I was out there for nearly two hours, and it was almost completely without pain.

Walking is a great way for me to relax. It’s a mild exercise and I can disengage my mind completely. I pick out some music, put my feet on the road, and let my mind wpid-wp-1442259453371.jpegwander. It can get rather meditative. It’s amazing.

It’s a great way to dream up ideas and characters for my stories. It’s a great way to think through whatever bothers me. It’s a great way to spend some quality time with myself.

I don’t mind company now and then. Last year I organised group walks around Cork and the nearby countryside. It used to be good fun, but due to the leg issues I haven’t done it this summer. I’m going to try to pull one off for September though and maybe someone will show up. I’m quite excited about getting going again.

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It did eventually get pretty dark, and the path homewards had no lights until I got back onto the city streets. This is the last picture from the forest part of the walk tonight.

Two minutes after this I saw a few stray dogs on the path just ahead of me. Only they weren’t dogs, but deer. Three of them stood on the road just ten-fifteen meters (30-50 feet) ahead of me. I did reach for my phone to take a picture, but they darted.

I put my phone back into the pocked and kept on walking. Three seconds later they all came running back again across the path, even closer than moments before.

I Love the Forest

Writing in Foreignian

I wrote about writing again. This time it’s about what it’s like to write in English when it’s not your native language. You can read the article here.

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Technically, it’s a bit rambling and unstructured, but the content is still very relevant to me. Perhaps the most important thing to me personally was to openly state that I’m writing in English even though it’s my second language.

I’ve never actually denied it, but I’ve also tried my best not to draw any attention to it. I worried that people would let that affect their judgment of my writing. These days, I don’t let that concern me very much. I’ve grown to learn that writing is about more than just correct grammar and spelling – and then I’m not even including storytelling in writing.

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The cool thing is that a lot of the principles (I really don’t like to call them rules) for writing and storytelling apply the same regardless of what language you’re writing in. It took me a while to understand this, but now that I have, it doesn’t feel like such a big deal that others might know I’m writing in my second language.

My skill, or lack of skill, at spelling and grammar, don’t really matter if my skill at storytelling isn’t up to scratch. If I write a boring story, it doesn’t matter how well, or how badly, it’s spelled.

That’s not to say I don’t care for spelling and grammar, rather the opposite. Because I’m not a native English speaker I’m putting in quite a lot of effort into making sure I get it right. I don’t always succeed, and I make plenty of mistakes that my poor beta reader has to point out – some of them more than once.

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When I first joined the article team on Mythic Scribes I was a little concerned that me being a non-native English speaker would be a bad thing for me. I’ve realised that’s not necessarily the case.

Sure, I’m not going to write technical articles about language rules, but I can still write about how to plan a conversation, or how to set up a description. These are things I would have done the same regardless of whether I was writing in English or in Swedish.

Writing in Foreignian

The Urge To Change

I finished the last chapter of Emma’s Story last night (it’ll be up on the site on Tuesday). Today, I put all of the chapters and some comments about the story together into an e-book (also available on Tuesday) and started reading.

There is so much I want to change.

Completely unrelated bird from this morning.
Completely unrelated bird from this morning.

I knew before I began reading that I would have to do some rewriting of the first handful of chapters. The reason for this being that it took me a while to find the right voice for the story. I felt much more comfortable with the story during the second half of it, and I was happier with how it turned out.

To bring the first part up to scratch I would have to do a bit of polishing and rewriting. I just didn’t know how much until I started reading the story from the beginning – about an hour and a half ago.

It’s a good thing I didn’t read on my laptop. I’d still have been on the first scene shuffling words and sentences and events around. Same if I’d printed it out on paper. It would have been a complete mess of angry red marks.

Let's move forward instead.I guess that’s a good thing. It means I’ve connected with the work and that I’ve got a clear vision of it – which I can’t honestly say I had when I started. I had an outline and a vague idea, but I didn’t really know the character very well. I figured it would just be a short story anyway so it wouldn’t matter all that much.

Wrong – of course.

It’s funny how you grow to like your characters when you write about them. I’m not going to write another story about Emma, because I wouldn’t know what to story tell, and because there are other characters I’d like to get to know. It’s a bit of a shame though, because Emma turned out to be a pretty cool character in the end.

It’s something I enjoy thinking about though. What story could I tell about her? What happens next? Will she live happily ever after, or will she not?

Then again. I haven’t even finished her first story yet, and I have to do that first. I have a whole load of polishing to do on the early chapters. I’ve got a fairly long conversation between Emma and Burje to create from scratch, and I’ve got to fix up the motivation that drives Emma to do what she does.I'll still be drinking copious amounts of coffee and uh... cough syrup, of course.

She’ll still do the same things, but I need to fix the story so that it actually makes sense for her to do it. That’s going to be interesting.

I have a lot to do, and then I can’t just sit around and correct minor details in the first draft, no matter how much I want to. So it’s a good thing I was reading from the kindle, because the desire to change and correct everything was really strong. It won’t happen though – unless I realize some absolutely major blunder.

The first draft is done and I won’t change it. I’ll wait a few days, maybe a week, and then I’ll get started on the second.

The Urge To Change