Having committed to getting a draft of my novel out by the end of November it feels as though there are fewer hours in the day than there were yesterday. Of course I realise this has nothing to do with either NaNoWriMo or with my writing and everything to do with the dreaded D word – discipline.
Let’s not confuse discipline with either organisation or determination folks – both of which I am quite capable of mastering.
In fact, most days, I am in a somewhat chaotic way quite organised. I know where I am meant to be, what I am meant to be doing and how I’m meant to be doing it. More or less. As long as I have a steady supply of caffeine and Springsteen, I am sure to meet a deadline with few hiccups.
Determination I have in bucket loads – and in fact it is the determination that usually gets me in trouble. Once I get my head down and start working on something, I usually want to follow it through to the end. Without stopping. Okay maybe it’s not determination I have, maybe it’s that obsession thing again.
The problem is of course that the rest of the world isn’t obsessed with what I am doing. Children and husbands need attention, meals need to be cooked, meetings attended, mortgages paid, FaceBook and Twitter need updating. Even allowing for the procrastinatory ( I think I just invented a word) nature of some of these (cooking for example), it is awfully hard to fit everything in. Let alone reach a target of 50,000 words in a month.
I’ve never been good at discipline – or at least not of the variety we’re talking about at the moment. I appear to be missing the gene that says “ok you need to focus entirely on this for one hour and then stop. Then you need to focus on that.” I also appear to be lacking the gene that says “that was the alarm, you now need to get up, go to they gym, come home, eat something that resembles soggy cardboard and write for two hours, before going to the office.”
I admire people who can and do function that way. I aspire to be one of them. I go to bed full of good intentions that last until the National Programme interrupts my REM cycle and I throw a pillow, a couple of cats and a handful of obscenities at the alarm clock.
Admittedly once up I then attack the day – but it doesn’t seem to be solving the problem, rather it seems to be exacerbating it.
So I’m left wondering – just when is the best time to write and how do I ensure I stick to a schedule?
before the world had been civilised and magick still worked, there stood a castle where the velvet sky met the crystal sea. Ligia appeared to float in the sky, a glimmering beacon to travelers who passed by on their way to the ends of the earth where it was said the Lady of the Underworld could tell them all they desired to know.
The spires of Ligia rose so high they seemed capped by the stars themselves. At all times a thousand candle flames flickered along the rampants and the drawbridge was left open, waiting. Travelers who stopped to rest and take food would speak of roaring fires before which waited deep tubs of boiling water to warm weary bones. Satin pillows on which to rest aching heads. Plates of food filled with herbs and spices, fruits and nuts – all to be washed down with warm, honeyed wine and ale.
And of Avalbane who met them and welcomed them. She stood tall and proud as befitted the princess of Ligia. When she was in the castle, Avalbane wore a simple sheath of blue, tied at the waist with silver hemp. Though it fell to the floor and showed no flesh other than her face, neck and hands, still it showed everything. Round, firm breasts above a slender waist and hips. Long lithe legs that strode with purpose.
Her hair, the colour of a pale autumn moon tumbled across her shoulders and seemed to whisper when she moved. But it was her eyes that left many a traveler tongue tied when she smiled. Glittering onyx, they would flash equally should she laugh or scold. The former would invariably cause her audience – man and woman – to fall in love on the spot with her ethereal presence. Scolding made them wonder if they had not already found the Lady of the Underworld, their own eyes would dart from Avalbane’s eyes to her back, and they would pull their cloaks around them with a shiver .
For from her back, grew Avalbane’s true faery legacy – a set of wings of the finest black gossamer grew there. The top pair towered over the princess while the lower pair brushed her hem. When she moved they brushed against walls and ceilings alike with a sound not unlike that of a cat’s paw padding through snow. When she stood to take leave of guests, Avalbane would wrap the wings around her body like a silk cloak before bowing and stepping backward out of the room
They need not have feared – Avalbane bore no ill harm to any being. Any scolding bestowed was in the manner of a mother forced to be cruel to be kind and with the hopes her listener would take heed of their own ill made choices. She lived a solitary life, punctuated with the visits of travelers seeking the Lady. Although she was always pleased to welcome visitors and she considered the housekeeper and grounds-keeper to be as close as family, she was lonely. The rest of her family had long passed to the Underworld and she had never found a mate, so she was alone. There were stories of other Winged Ones but Avalbane had never encountered any and had long ago decided they were simply that: stories.
So she spent her days working her herb gardens and blending her ales and wines. Her evenings, when there were no travelers to feed or entertain, she spent before her loom weaving or filling pages in The Book with her gentle, flowing script.
Loneliness was a constant companion, dogging her steps by day and gnawing at her by night.
© Angelique Jurd 2010
In fact I was recently talking with a friend about the subject and she wrinkled her nose and said “what – you mean Mills and Boon?”
Well , yes – and no. Yes because Mills & Boon, Harlequin and the likes are of course what springs to mind when you hear the word romance. Georgette Heyer, Barbara Cartland et al.
No, because they are, despite what we may think, far from the only romances on the market.
Yes, because as far as I am concerned it matters little what gets people reading – as long as they are reading. One person’s drivel is another’s fluttering heart if you will.
No, because like love, romance writing and reading takes many different forms.
So more than a little frustrated, I turned to that well of never ending information – Google and looked up a definition for romance. According to www.dictionary.com, romance is:
a novel or other prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in ahistorical or imaginary setting.
the colorful world, life, or conditions depicted in such tales.
a medieval narrative, originally one in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating of heroic,
fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory.
a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention.
a romantic spirit, sentiment, emotion, or desire.
romantic character or quality.
a romantic affair or experience; a love affair.
Since we’re talking about writing and reading let’s forget numbers five, six and seven for the time being. In that same vein, since we are not discussing fantasy writing lets also discount number three. Fiction is by definition a made up story but since I take objection to the term ‘full of exaggeration” let’s also forget about number four.
That leaves us with numbers one and two. A novel or other prose…depicting heroic…romantic exploits…in a historical or imaginary setting. The colourful world…depicted in such tales.
Basically then a romance is by definition a story that involves people loving one another.
Hmmm – fascinating.
By that definition Twilight, The Time Travellers Wife, The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City – heck even Harry Potter are all romantic. They all contain romantic elements – they simply hide behind sparkly vampires, inexplicable time travel, arrogant editors, Jimmy Choos and a school of wizardry.
Each of these has a hero and a heroine who fall in love and face challenges that at times keep them apart until they are forced to choose between their love and a life of certain misery. Yes, yes there are other storylines in those books too – but that does not stop them being romances.
One of the greatest love stories I have ever read is Stephen King’s Bag of Bones – it is haunting (pun totally intended) and sad and so unbearably romantic. He loses the love of his life then finds a new love only to lose her. Finally the object of his true love becomes something he must continue to fight for. His novel Duma Key is similar and both while certainly horror stories are by all definitions great romances.
Romance novels , like wine, come in a variety of styles and tastes.
There are the classics – Shakespeare, Shelley, Keets and the like knew what it was to express feeling in terms of a single heart beat. Move on to the 20th Century – Georgette Heyer, Barbara Cartland and Catherine Cookson all provide a swooning alternative to the life we know. The recent moderns – the likes of Candace Bushnell, Nora Roberts and Lauren Weisberger - with heros and heroines who might on occasion get it wrong, but they do so in designer clothes and not a mascaraed lash out of place as the sun sets on the obligatory passionate kiss.
So why are we so ambivalent about romance? Are we afraid it says something about our intelligence or our talent? Is it because we consider ourselves too evolved to waste time on such frivolity? I’m not sure.
I know I love the stuff – in all it’s presentations. Even the Mills and Boon – which I have been known to devour on a rainy afternoon accompanied by a box of chocolates. They may not be great literature – but they are great entertainment and always remind me of those 1940′s movies where the heroine dashes into the rain, one gloved hand pressed to her forehead, so nobody sees her tears. Nothing beats a good tear jerker.
What I am sure about is this – around half of the novels sold in the United States are romances. That tells me that whether they admit it or not – people enjoy reading about love. Writers might prefer to dress it up in erotica, label it chick lit, hide it in supernatural setting – but readers love reading about love.
I have a website for my non-fiction writing and now I have a blog.
I suppose this is where I document that journey that is described in that famous quote about writing being easy – all you do is sit in front of your keyboard until beads of blood appear on your forehead.
If only it were that easy. Getting to the keyboard is the biggest hurdle I know of.
Write every day they say. So here is the theory – here is where you will see my notes, my thoughts, my drafts – my beads of blood if you like.
And all going well – here is where you will meet my books.
Shall we begin?