Tag Archives: stretching yourself as a writer

The Toothbrush of Terror

So, yesterday evening at around 4.45 or so, I was brushing my teeth.

Image: scienceblogs.com

Image: scienceblogs.com

Don’t ask why, all right? I have a weird life.

Anyway.

As usually happens when performing this tiny task of personal hygiene, my mind was wandering as I scrubbed. I was thinking, of course, about my latest WiP and where the story was going, and – specifically – about the last scene I’d written. I’m wandering into a new area with this latest work, you see: I’m tiptoeing, somewhat reluctantly, into the realm of scary stuff.

And I don’t really like scary stuff.

WAAAAARGH!! Image: oddities123.com

WAAAAARGH!!
Image: oddities123.com

I’d left my story at an interesting point (I try to do this every day when writing a first draft, so that I start off every morning with a bit of a pep in my step – useful tip, writer fans!) However, this particular interesting point was more interesting than most: it involved a girl, in a room, by herself, in the dark, who doesn’t manage to look closely enough to see something which is lurking in the corner like an oil slick on water… waiting.

I hadn’t actually intended to end up there. This story, so far, has really been surprising me in how it’s coming together and telling itself. Of course I realised, when I started this project, that it’d have to be a little scary, but it’s taking me further into the darkness than I thought it would. In a lot of ways it’s brilliant; in others, it’s giving me brain-melt. One thing it means is that I have to keep turning around in my office chair because the open door to the room I work in is behind me, and I keep convincing myself that there’s someone standing in it… even though there’s nobody else in the house.

Wail... Image: usatoday.com

Wail…
Image: usatoday.com

But anyway. Back to the teeth, and the cleaning thereof.

Toothbrush in hand, I was engrossed in my thoughts. I was thinking about scary things, lurking things, turning around and seeing unexpected things standing in doorways, haunted things and tormented things and things with lots of tendrils.

And then I heard the front door to my house bang closed.

Image: eofdreams.com

Image: eofdreams.com

As you might imagine, I fair near swallowed my toothbrush.

After flailing, foamy-mouthed, for a few seconds, searching the bathroom for a weapon (it’s surprising how little there is in a bathroom, actually, which you can use in an offensive manner in an emergency), I almost wept with relief when my husband yelled up the stairs: ‘Hello?’

He’d come home early from the office in order to work from home. That’s all it was. Not a marauding murderer or a poltergeist or a possessed toilet brush: just my beloved.

But for a minute, it was as if my thoughts had become reality.

If this had happened when I wasn’t lost in thought, thinking about scary things, I’m sure I would’ve reacted entirely differently – like, with smiles and cheers and a mini ticker-tape parade. I don’t generally welcome my husband home every evening with a wide-eyed, white-mouthed shriekfest at the top of the stairs. But, because my mind was completely absorbed in the weird, I found it hard to adjust quickly from one mode of thinking to another. Funnily enough, for a person who doesn’t like scary things, I find it easy to let myself get lost in them – which is probably why I don’t indulge in them too often – and, when I’m caught in a spiral of panic I go straight down the plughole of irrationality.

So. Hopefully, I can channel my deep sensitivity to scary things into what I’m writing without driving myself mad in the process, or letting things veer into farce. It’s good to write about the stuff that affects you emotionally, as a writer, and I think I can bring a lot of depth to the scarier details of the story I’m currently telling.

I’ll just have to remember to take regular ‘checking the house for monsters’ breaks – and, of course, start brushing my teeth first thing in the morning.

Are there any things you don’t like to write about because they impact you too much, on an emotional or mental level? Do you think it’s a good thing to write about the stuff that frightens you? And – most importantly – do you have any effective demon-slaying tips? Do share!

 

NaNoooOOOoooWriMo…

I may have done something foolish yesterday.

No. Scratch the ‘may have done.’ I did do something foolish. It could, however, turn out to be the best thing I’ve done in quite a while.

So, what did I do? Well, I signed myself up for NaNoWriMo, didn’t I.

Image: thesnapper.com

Image: thesnapper.com

‘NaNoWhat?‘ I’m sure some of you are saying – well, fear no more. I shall explain.

(At this point I cannot resist a picture of Inigo Montoya. Please stand by:

Image: quickmeme.com

Image: quickmeme.com

Okay. Normal service can resume.)

NaNoWriMo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month.’ Every November, people all over the world pledge to write 50,000 words during the calendar month, and at the end of that time they submit their work (for counting purposes only) to the NaNoWriMo website. If they have reached the grand total of 50,000 words, or more, they are declared ‘winners’; if not, well, there’s always next year.

The idea behind it is to encourage people to write enough words to form a first draft – you’re only supposed to write for the month, not edit or any of that fancy stuff – so, in theory, there should be just enough time to get it done. The website offers encouragement, tips and tricks, all the help you could want and lots of support from your fellow NaNoWriMo-ers, and I think it’s a great idea. I’ve been wondering about taking part for a while now, and so yesterday I did what I normally do when I’m making a big decision, i.e. I agonised about it forever and then just threw caution to the wind and signed myself up before I could talk myself out of it.

I spent some time yesterday, once the deed was done, putting a little bit of flesh on the bones of an idea I’ve had stewing for a while. It’s an idea I haven’t thought about too deeply, so the story was a total sketch – all I had was a title, and a vague notion of the central characters. (NaNo is supposed to be about writing a story from scratch, not about putting the finishing touches to a project you’ve had on the go for a while, but I don’t think anyone really minds as long as you’re writing.) As you might expect for me, it’s going to be a children’s book, and it’s going to involve family ties and friendship, and noble self-sacrifice for others, and deep, life-changing love (but not the yucky kind. This will most definitely not be a ‘kissing book.’)

I promise, I promise it won't be a kissing book. Okay? Image: smallreview.blogspot.com

I promise, I promise it won’t be a kissing book. Okay?
Image: smallreview.blogspot.com

One character who I am quite clear on is the Antagonist – and he deserves that capital A, for he is a nasty creature – and I’m letting him settle in my head. The whole book will take shape around him. An ancient evil force, whose prison is made weak and who is finally released in error by a child, he will wreak all kinds of dreadful havoc. In preparation for getting started, I’m thinking deeply about a few things, including: ‘When I was eleven, what were the things I was most scared of?’ and ‘When I was eleven, who were the people I loved the deepest?’

Of course, I haven’t written a word. I can’t even write the title into my Word document before November 1st, because I would consider that cheating. However, I think a bit of mental preparation can’t hurt.

I’m also going to write this book in the third person. I’ve made that very clear to my brain just in case it starts to write in first-person, which seems to be its default setting. I haven’t tackled a full-length project like this in the third person for a long, long time, and I’m looking forward to that. Third-person gives the writer a bit more freedom than first-person, but it also means the reader isn’t as involved in the action. As a reader, I don’t really have a preference for one over the other, but as a writer I want to make sure I can handle both types of narrative voice with equal ease. So, this is my chance.

Of course, my NaNoWriMo project may well turn out to be nothing. The story may work, or it may not. I might reach my 50,000 word target, or I might burn out at the 20,000 word mark. I’m hopeful something great will come out of it, something I can work on and perfect well into the new year, but even if it fizzles out I know that nothing related to writing is a waste of time.

I still feel like I’m being a reckless so-and-so, though. Will you wish me luck? I’d really appreciate it.

And hey! If you want to take part yourself, here’s the link you need: NaNoWriMo. Have you always wanted to write a novel? Well, here’s your chance!

Happy Tuesday, folks. While I’m here, thanks for all the feedback I got – not all of it via WordPress – on yesterday’s blog post. It seems to have struck a chord with some of you, and I’m glad.