Saturday, 31 July 2010

AlphaPoem of the Week - Sonnet 116

Before I become all-consumed by my first novel project starting tomorrow, I thought I'd post this week's poem, Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare.

This is another favourite of mine (notice the recurring love theme in my choices!).  I adore the way that the first line and a half is almost overly wordy and serious - it just emphasises the simplicity of the statements that follow.

For Shakespeare, true love never dies.  What an old romantic.

Sonnet 116 - William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Monday, 26 July 2010

AlphaBook Project - one week to go

So the AlphaBook project starts on Sunday - aka my attempt to stop faffing about and finally write my damn novel.

The prospect of this is now bringing me out in a cold sweat and making me feel the need to go and lie down.  No more procrastinating?  No more putting it off in case it's no good?  No more running scared??

But the pressure is positive.  I have put my intentions out there in cyber space, and I hope that reporting my progress to my very modest number of followers will keep me honest!  I'm crazy busy with various things this week, but will be finding some time to read through my preliminary notes, character sketches etc before it all kicks off on Sunday.  I have no doubt that the characters will go off doing their own things anyway, but at least they'll have a vague framework within which to misbehave.

I will also be clearing out my handbag, to make room for my little netbook to write on.  This project might even help me lose a pound or two lugging that thing about...

5,000 words a week here I come!  (Tremble)


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

AlphaPoem of the Week – Asking for Roses

I am in a happy, life-affirming, hoorah-type mood today, and have just found this poem to complement that mood.

Robert Frost is probably best known for his famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, which might be an APOTW another time.  ‘Asking for Roses’ has a wonderful lyricism to it, like children’s poetry, but is suffused with sensuous rose petals and thinly-veiled virgins ripe for the plucking!

This joyful poem’s for CiBi and her eternal love of literature.

Asking for Roses
Robert Frost

A house that lacks, seemingly, mistress and master,
With doors that none but the wind ever closes,
Its floor all littered with glass and with plaster;
It stands in a garden of old-fashioned roses.

I pass by that way in the gloaming with Mary;
'I wonder,' I say, 'who the owner of those is.'
'Oh, no one you know,' she answers me airy,
'But one we must ask if we want any roses.'

So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly
There in the hush of the wood that reposes,
And turn and go up to the open door boldly,
And knock to the echoes as beggars for roses.

'Pray, are you within there, Mistress Who-were-you?'
'Tis Mary that speaks and our errand discloses.
'Pray, are you within there? Bestir you, bestir you!
'Tis summer again; there's two come for roses.

'A word with you, that of the singer recalling--
Old Herrick: a saying that every maid knows is
A flower unplucked is but left to the falling,
And nothing is gained by not gathering roses.'

We do not loosen our hands' intertwining
(Not caring so very much what she supposes),
There when she comes on us mistily shining

And grants us by silence the boon of her roses.

Monday, 12 July 2010

AlphaThoughts - Dastardly Doubt and the desire to write

Being new to blogging, today I've been reading other blogs on fiction writing.  There are some fantastic blogs out there for budding authors like me, to garner some nuggets of information and inspiration from proper real-life writers.

But here's the thing.  These good writing blogs have hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of followers.  However great blogs are for getting writers in touch with other writers, for following their trials and tribulations, for not feeling alone in your struggles - it can also make you feel like a very small fish in a positively teeming ocean.  I'm not talking about lack of followers here, but about the huge numbers of unpublished writers waiting for their chance in the limelight.

Dastardly Doubt starts bleating again:
'All these people - they've been following these blogs longer than you.  They're probably a lot further on with their novels than you are.  Their ideas are probably way better than yours.  And loads of them will be submitting manuscripts alongside yours...if you ever finish it.  Yeah, good luck with that.'

Previously on this blog I have shared some ideas on tackling the internal editor, and I know this is just another manifestation of that interfering voice.  But in the face of 'Big world, little me' syndrome, it can be so hard to convince yourself that you can do it and to keep pushing.

I hope that if you are reading this and empathising with me - especially if you are embarking on a lonely creative journey like I am - you will stick around and share your experiences.  My AlphaBook Project is going to be really tough on me, and I'd love to hear from others out there trying to squeeze every last drop of creativity from their pens and pencils!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

AlphaLife – Please do not disturb the nest

AlphaBloke and I went to the garden centre yesterday, and came across a sign that read:

Please do not disturb the nest

This was hanging on the front of a wooden framed stand housing various plants for sale.  We peeped towards the back of the stand…

Baby black 1

They’re baby blackbirds, we think – two, and there’s not a lot of space left for them to grow into!  It was a hot day and they were panting somewhat.  You’ll have to excuse the quality of the pics, but I was trying not to get too close and disturb them.

Here is the nest in situ behind the plants for sale:

Baby black 3

And a close up of his little face:

Baby black 2

This was right in the middle of one of the busiest areas of the garden centre – only the parent birds know why they chose to nest here!  Fledging should be interesting…

Saturday, 10 July 2010

AlphaThoughts - the startling beauty of comb jellies

I am currently doing an Open University (distance learning) course called 'Life in the Oceans: Exploring Our Blue Planet'.  It's a good course, and I will post further thoughts on it once I have submitted my assignment at the end of this month.

In the meantime though, I wanted to post about something I found truly beautiful and astonishing.  As part of the course, I have been watching David Attenborough's 'Blue Planet' series, and one sequence stood out for me.  In the episode entitled 'Open Ocean', DA touches briefly on the mysterious comb jellyfish.  Comb jellies live right in the depths of our oceans, and through a phenomenon called bioluminescence they put on the most incredible light displays.

I cannot find the sequence itself on the web, but here is an example of their beautiful rainbow colours (with appropriate spacey music):

Gorgeous, gorgeous creatures, no?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

AlphaThoughts – When inspiration strikes

Today, I am irritated with myself.

Yesterday at work, I was emailing a fellow blogger about writing.  Out of nowhere, an idea for a story hit me.  I remembered the old writer’s lesson: to always write ideas down, because however much you think you’re going to remember them, they can flutter away just as easily as they landed in your mind.

I’m not sure whether the idea was suitable for a short story, or for being worked into my current novel – or maybe even merited a future novel in its own right.  Why am I not sure about this?  Because, like a fool, I ignored my learnt instinct.

I didn’t write it down.  Today, I thought, ‘Ooh, I came up with a good story idea yesterday, what was that?’  Cue: slow, dawning realisation that I couldn’t remember it.  I have just re-read the emails that originally triggered it, but to no avail.  The flit is complete – the idea is gone.

The chick
This makes me feel pretty unfledged as a writer.  AlphaBloke would tell you that I have a bed-side table full of ‘How to Write’ style books, and rules such as this crop up in the vast majority of them.  As writers, we are exhorted to carry a notepad with us wherever we go, to record these precious droplets of inspiration.  I adapted this while at work, and for a long time I would email myself whenever I had an idea that might possibly have mileage.  The traffic from my work to my personal email address became bizarre – emails of a few words or links to weird and wonderful stories on the web.  I have just opened one at random from this period and it says ‘Sinister nursery’.  Odd, yes!  But enough for me to recall what that idea was all about.

But somewhere along the way I have forgotten to do this.  I have decided that my memory is invincible and knows no bounds.  The idea I’ve lost was probably not all that.  But it just might have been genius, and that is what is making me beat myself up.

It occurs to me that this is one way we can and should utilise your internal editor.  We should allow our left brain to kick in, when the right brain has an inspiration, and let it insist upon us writing it down.  I put my editor back in its box a few days ago...perhaps its absence yesterday is now punishing me...

If any writers have other good ways of recording ideas, or stories of ideas lost and somehow found again (I wish!), please do share them with me.

Bad AlphaChick.  Off to dig a notepad out of the drawer and install it in my handbag…

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

AlphaPoem of the Week - If I Could Tell You

To indulge and share my love of poetry, I have decided to post a Poem of the Week.  Future poems will be those I’ve loved for a long time, or poems I’ve just discovered.  I will aim for variety, although love will be a strong theme in many I choose.

This first, ‘If I Could Tell You’ by W.H. Auden is one of my all-time favourite poems.  For me, it portrays the unknowability of the future, and our very human need to know the impossible – whether our love will last forever.

It lends itself excellently to being read aloud, in a slow, melancholy rhythm.  That said, I often can’t get through the third stanza without a lump in my throat and a break in my voice.

For all those that have been frightened of letting go and falling in love.  I hope you enjoy it.

  If I could tell you
  W.H. Auden

  Time will say nothing but I told you so,
  Time only knows the price we have to pay;
  If I could tell you I would let you know.

  If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
  If we should stumble when musicians play,
  Time will say nothing but I told you so.

  There are no fortunes to be told, although,
  Because I love you more than I can say,
  If I could tell you I would let you know.

  The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
  There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
  Time will say nothing but I told you so.

  Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
  The vision seriously intends to stay;
  If I could tell you I would let you know.

  Suppose the lions all get up and go,
  And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
  Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
  If I could tell you I would let you know.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

AlphaThoughts: Pesky Editor

So.  It seems my internal editor became irritated with me for exposing its workings in my last post.  Since then, it has resolutely declared all my ideas for blog posts as rubbish and prevented me from putting fingers to keys.  Which brings me to the first way of thwarting that pesky little (or in this case big and intrusive) voice.

It’s the simplest way of controlling your editor…but also probably one of the hardest.  It is to do as I did above, and as I’m doing by writing this post to break my editor-imposed blog silence.  When your writing comes up against a wall, you acknowledge your editor.  You say, ‘It’s not that I’m not a good writer.  It’s not that my ideas are bad.  It’s just that my editor wants everything to be perfect – and the world isn’t like that.  I recognise you editor.  I respect that you have some incredibly important functions in my writing life.  But for now, with all due respect, butt out.’

My editor is screaming at me at this moment, as I have written this whole post without allowing myself to correct anything (except typos).  It’s saying bits of this sound unrefined, other bits sound pompous, and I really should double-check my grammar etc etc etc.  But I am ignoring it.

I’m not saying we should all write without ever going back and correcting ourselves.  All novelists that I’ve heard of go through a fairly long editing process, and you can be sure that those who don’t pay close attention to their editor as they’re writing the first draft.  Most blogs would probably be nigh on unreadable if we all just threw down haphazard willy-nilly witterings.  But if it’s getting in the way – that’s when you need to step in and say, ‘Enough’.  You can let the editor have its day once your ideas are all down on paper.

You will probably find that you like things that you’ve written while consciously ignoring your editor.  I find it can free up my writing when I’m feeling blocked.  I quite like some of the sentences and phrases I’ve come up with above, and this post has taken me all of five minutes (before pretty picture addition).

And those bits I don’t like?  This once, I’m not going to change them.  Editor – back in your box.