I’m Alive, And I Will Survive!

I’m Alive, And I Will Survive!

I’m pleased to announce that I got through all four performances of Fame! without permanently injuring myself in any way, survived the afterparty without touching a drop of alcohol, and am now recovering from the sheer exhaustion caused by musical theatre. To put this in context, last year I missed the third night of Hairspray because I injured my hands and was in too much pain, so I figure I’ve made progress.

I'm sure the cast won't mind me sharing this backstage picture of everyone. Can you see me?
I’m sure the cast won’t mind me sharing this backstage picture of everyone. Can you see me?

It was a weird feeling, that last performance. For those who don’t know the show, it ends with the students’ graduation from the High School For The Performing Arts, a song called “Bring On Tomorrow”. For me, this was my last performance at school and, indeed, the last day I’ll be there until results day in August, which is a terrifying thought in itself. So I was fully expecting to be overwhelmed by emotions.

Here I am in my 'Fame!' tshirt, our costume for the finale.
Here I am in my ‘Fame!’ tshirt, our costume for the finale.

But I wasn’t. I usually cry at the end of musicals, even when they’re not sad. I get caught up in the moment and the music and tend to get quite emotional, but this time I was completely fine, even though it resonated more deeply with me than many stories.

I feel like an adventurer with my jacket and Richard's hat.
I feel like an adventurer with my jacket and Richard’s hat.

The afterparty which followed was a chance to say goodbye to some friends of mine: Ben, the musical director of the show who has been in my Music classes since year ten, and with whom I attempted to write Mort: The Musical; Conor, whose ridiculous impressions of teachers sustained me throughout GCSE History and A-Level Music; Richard, whose hats I steal at every opportunity…

At the end of school, I didn’t feel sad about saying goodbye to my friends, because I knew I would see many of them again in rehearsals and for the show. Now, though, it’s a different kettle of fish. These aren’t people I’ve met up with out of school on many occasions, so it kind of feels likely that we won’t really see each other much now that school has ended.

And I’m torn between being emotional and telling myself I’ll have to make more of an effort to meet up with people from now on, if I don’t want to lose touch.

I learned a number of things from this experience, and I plan to make a video about them in the next few days, so I’m not going to go into detail about my revelatory experiences of makeup in this post. It was educational and pushed me out of my comfort zone in a number of ways, so for now I’m going to return to a topic I know more about … writing.

I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this July, with a wordcount goal of 50,000 words. Although I’ve never found 50k in November to be a challenge, despite various obstacles, I’ve often found summer writing sessions less successful and productive. I’m not sure why — it’s probably a combination of disruptions such as going away on holiday before the month is over, having performances and concerts, and the way sitting inside writing is less appealing in summer than in freezing cold winter.

Last year, of course, July was a particularly difficult month for writing, since I couldn’t really use my hands and I wasn’t yet in possession of Dragon. I’ve written that it was the hardest NaNoWriMo of my life.

My original intention had been to write the fourth draft of The Quiet Ones. It’s mostly a line-edit, but my way of working means writing it from the beginning and just making each sentence better, as well as expanding some scenes, cutting others, and sneaking in a few extras. However, my illogical attitude to writing struck again, or rather, my approach to research got in the way.

I decided, since this is the last draft I plan to write before querying this novel, I should make it as realistic as possible. Since my protagonist is studying at the University of Aberdeen, in order to make her student experience more accurate, I should totally research what she’d learn in that first year, shouldn’t I? Because of course, if I know what she knows, I can get a better idea of how she perceives the world, as well as being able to toss in some archaeology facts to make it look like I know what I’m talking about…

… and so on and so forth. To cut a long story short, I emailed Aberdeen’s archaeology department asking for their booklist for first year, and they were very nice in replying. I’m now working on reading those two 700-page textbooks in my free time.

The most difficult thing with books this size is how to read them. Do you put them on your lap? On a table in front of you? HOW DOES THIS WORK?
The most difficult thing with books this size is how to read them. Do you put them on your lap? On a table in front of you? HOW DOES THIS WORK?

So, having concluded that I needed to do too much research to complete my fourth draft during Camp, I decided the only logical alternative was to work on an all-but-unplanned first draft which requires me to teach myself Esperanto as I go along. That’s clearly the best thing to work on at high speed, right?

Those who’ve seen my profile page on the Camp website or have been paying attention to other social media will be aware by now that I’m working on a novel with the working title of Butterfly Of Night, also known as assassin!trilogy book 1. It’s not proving to be an easy project, because so far in 2014 I’ve written a third draft of The Quiet Ones and a second draft of Death and Fairies book 1 — my last first draft was in November, so my brain needs to click back into writing mode rather than rewriting.

Oh, and I’m writing it in third person present tense, which … I don’t really do. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever done it before.

The world-building for this novel is equally baffling, given that it’s set in what is basically an alternate version of this world. That is to say, it’s sort of modern-day, but the technology they use is different. It’s in a fictional city where the first language of everyone is Esperanto. I’m used to creating fantasy worlds, but alternate versions of this world which are mostly the same but slightly different are baffling. I’ll get there.

I’m doing okay with wordcount so far, and 50k might not be out of reach. In the meantime, I just need to survive ballet rehearsals and two performances next Saturday, and then I’m free.

Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo? What are you writing, and how much research did it need? How is it going?

6 thoughts on “I’m Alive, And I Will Survive!

  1. Research? Pfft. What’s research? (Okay, I lie, I research a lot, I just hate it and it usually happens in 2nd drafts. For the 1st time rounds I just blather on pretending I know stuff I don’t. Or I just write complete fantasy and make everything up.) Yay for not injuring yourself in the musical!!

    1. Mine usually happens in second drafts too. Or in this case, fourth drafts. Because it’s never too late to triple your workload and study part of a degree during your summer holiday…

  2. I’m glad you had fun in the musical! It sounds like a great experience.

    And it took me a while to find you in that backstage picture, but eventually I spotted you. :)

  3. I’m Camp NaNoWriMo-ing! I’m aiming for a 20k story about a kidnap, told from the point of view of the kidnapper, and so far, so good. It’s mostly a character development kind of story, and I think my MC’s far too likeable to begin with, so that’s something I’ll have to adjust when I get round to it. Research-wise, not that much. A little look into caravans on Ebay, but it’s set in the present in a single setting so I mostly just use my common sense. The main challenge is actually writing; I’m a slow typer. I’ve got a summer job (yay me) and it’s too hot to sleep at night, so I’m generally too tired to do anything in my spare time. I guess I just need to commit to writing when I sit down because otherwise… ooh that’s an interesting blog post… But judging by the way things are going, it’ll probably be longer than 20k, with time to spare to begin editing at (or cringing and trying to forget) and the end of the month.
    Please please please publish your novels! I’d love to read them and I’m going to buy your poetry as soon as I have money, I promise!
    Also: a couple of side notes. People who wear hats are cool. And I totally get the things about big books: I’m on the last book (so far) in A Song of Ice and Fire so I generally either lean then book against my legs and hold the pages down, or lie on my side with the book at 90 degrees, then roll over to read the other page, if that makes any sense.

    1. Thanks for commenting! That sounds like an interesting project. My original idea for assassin!trilogy (back in … like, 2011) was a murder mystery with a killer as the detective, so I totally get the whole writing from an odd POV thing. Then it turned into this weird alternate universe thing where everyone speaks Esperanto and I don’t even know any more.

      I have every intention of publishing novels, but that’s not really in my hands at the moment — I don’t have the wherewithal to self-publish them (poetry is easier), even if I thought they were ready for that. I plan to query The Quiet Ones in autumn, and to try and follow a traditional route with that. So, you know, in about two years you might see it on the shelves… maybe…

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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