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Bent Spines

For now blogging pretty much exclusively over at http://www.bentspines.wordpress.com

I might be back at some point.

Day six is over and for the next few hours NaNo will take the back seat to my US election all nighter.

Most of my writing for day six got done before seven am. I couldn’t sleep so got over 2,000 words done before going to sleep. No more words after that unfortunately and I already know that day seven is going to be a wash out as I will be exhausted from all the election watching.

Day six was focused almost entirely on chapter development again. I had several characters that weren’t well rounded enough and I wanted to make sure they were fully rounded before I carried on and took the story much further.

I’m starting to get to know my characters a lot more and I think that is really important for me as a first time writer.

I took a massive step forward in terms of research today as well. My main character grew up in a children’s home and so far I had just been stumbling through the background of her story. I decided to finally phone my Nanny and ask her for help. The thing about my Nanny is that she rocks, she grew up in a children’s home and I think that gave her so much more love to give to her children and grandchildren.

I had wanted to ask her some questions about growing up for a while but wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. The main character of my story is inspired by my Nanny, she’s strong, independent and loveable. Although this story isn’t the story of my Nanny it definitely would never have come about if she wasn’t so amazing.

She was happy to help me with my research and I learned so much, both for my story and about my Nanny’s childhood. I didn’t think it was possible but she’s even more awesome than I originally thought.

I will have to go back and do some rewrites because a lot of my story is factually wrong but it will be worth it in the long run.

Well day five was a bust. Another day lost to migraine. I wrote less than 200 words. 

 
The worst bit about the lack of writing done on day five was that all day my characters sat around in my head begging to tell me more of their story but I was in too much pain to help.
 
My migraine cleared away around 10pm which was just enough time for me to have some food and yell at my girlfriend for being behind on her AcWriMo goals. It isn’t my choice to yell at her, she just works better if I’m putting constant pressure on her to write.
 
At just past midnight I am awake enough to get some words done before going to sleep but hopefully not too awake that I stay up all night. I have to be well rested for the all nighter I want to pull tomorrow night for the American election.
 
I don’t want to be vocal enough to tell the whole WordPress world who I support but I think any regular visitors to my little blog world will know that as a woman who is in love with another woman the results of the election are very important to me. I’d love to live in America one day and I’d love it even more if my future wife could still be my wife there.
 
Anyway, enough of the politics. I’m away back to let my characters continue their conversations.

Goodbye day four!

Today was by far my most productive day and it just happened to be the first day I let go of the stress that comes with reaching 50,000 words in 30 days. For the past three days I had been obsessed with reaching the daily target so that I could keep on top of all the writing and win.

That tactic wasn’t working for me so instead I chose to stop caring quite so much, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo because I want to win, I’m doing it because I love the characters I’ve created and I want to do them justice. It is no longer about hitting word targets, it’s about creating a realistic world for the characters I love. Whether or not I reach the overall target I will still have words that weren’t there before and that’s the real achievement.

I spent day four focusing more on character development than the emotional heartbreak of sending families to war and orchestrating suicides that the previous days brought. That in itself will probably bring more emotional heartbreak in the long run; I have an eight year old boy in my story that was originally only there to give a sweet and believable reason behind why one of the main characters is disabled and therefore can’t go to war. Today this little boy took me by the hand and showed me his world, he has become part of the beating heart of this world.

Ok reading that back I believe I have truly gone insane. Don’t worry, as I said in my first NaNo post I will be committing myself after this so you don’t have to.

Day four has been the most positive of my experience so far, I am actually enjoying my characters now and I’m finally writing for me instead of for the word count. Saying that though I am still proud that I’m catching up!

Word count: 6,030

Day three is over and I haven’t quite caught up myself where I should be by this point

I went to my first write-in at Mono in Glasgow. Mono is a really nice little vegan cafe, I even tried some food. I’ll admit that I missed meat but the falafel wrap and Cajun wedges I had we’re still quite good.

The write-in was a mixed experience for me. On one hand it was really nice to be surrounded by people that are all in the same boat as you and that forced me to actually do some writing. On the other hand, there was already a full table by the time I got there and they already seemed to know each other so I was stuck on a really awkward table with just a couple of other people and my girlfriend who I’d dragged along for moral support and so she actually did some of her dissertation. It felt a little bit lonely when there was a table full of people all laughing and comparing ideas and then us by ourselves.

I started to feel sick after a while and the noise level had risen too much for me to concentrate so we left. I didn’t manage to get any more done after we left either because I ended up feeling too sick and falling asleep.

My story itself is progressing quite nicely. I like some of my secondary characters more than my main character but I’m sure that will change soon. I was also quite an evil writer, I ended up sending a father and four of his sons to war leaving just his wife and youngest son at home by themselves. I also orchestrated a suicide that left a little girl parenthesis and that scene was in the first ever flashback I’ve written!

I’m glad I chose to take part in NaNoWriMo and I’m not regretting it. Yet anyway.

Word count: 3,767

50,000 words. 30 days. Don’t worry, I’ll be committing myself to an asylum so you won’t have to.

It is now technically day 3.

I originally planned to get this one story out of my head that has been there for well over five years but another story came along at the last minute and waved frantically. The other one was content enough to wait some I’m letting this one out.

Day One: I didn’t do anything. I left the house for uni at 8am and I didn’t get home until half 5. I then took some painkillers for a migraine that almost made me go hulk on my fellow classmates and slept. I woke up when Rhianna came home from work around 7pm but the rest of the evening was spent with me writhing around in pain and wishing someone would invent a permanent migraine cure.
Word count: 0

Day Two: I overslept. I checked the mail. I spent a lot of time on Glasgow’s NaNo chat room. I finally started to write around 6pm. My girlfriend came home around 7pm and then we spent a lot of time creating a name bank for all the possible characters that might make an appearance. I then drew a blueprint for the house my main character lives in. I also disabled the most likeable character.
Word count: 1,668

Will do a day three update later on in the day.

I never understood what people meant before about characters writing themselves. I initially had a plan for several of my characters that has completely changed. Also story lines have come out of nowhere for characters that I never gave any thought to in the planning stage beyond how they would interact with my main character.

I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is not knowing enough about World War 2, especially Scotland during World War 2 so I’m having to do a lot of research as I go. I know some of my points probably won’t be historically accurate but I’m trying not to edit too much as I go along. December is for editing. November is just about getting the words on the page!

Also, two of my characters changed their own names. I was convinced that my main character’s best friend was going to be called Mary. I’d decided that before any other names. As I’m writing her name for the third or fourth time it just switches to Ellen. I had no control over that and it wasn’t until I was reading what I had so far that I even realised she had switcherooed her own name! My main character also changed her name but I had more input on that one. Ruth just didn’t fit her. She kept telling me it wasn’t her so when I came across the name Roberta she yelled “that’s me! Call me Bobby for short!”

Yes, I am aware I’m coming across crazy talking about my characters as if they’re real but you go try and write a novel, you’ll eventually sound just as bad. It might take you more than the two days it has taken me though!

Today was shaping up to be a pretty terrible one, I had a really bad migraine, all my muscles ache from building a bookcase and I knew I was going to have to build another one today.

Then my girlfriend rang me and woke me up, she just kept babbling on about whether or not I’ve seen the news or been on Twitter yet today. Eventually she was coherent enough to tell me the Scottish Government was going to legislate for equal marriage.

My day has been made. No my life has been made.

I don’t think I can put into words how terrible it feels when the country you live in legislates against you, when it refuses to see you as an equal in society and refuses to give you the same rights.

I’ve had the equal marriage debate a hundred different times with so many different people and it is surprising the amount of different views floating around. From the people that despise the pesky gays for trying to force their religion to conduct a ceremony it deems immoral while not understanding that we were campaigning to get the government to open it up to religions that want to take part not force anyone to do it, to the straight people that were possibly more vocal than some of the LGBT people I know on the importance of equality to the reactions of my own parents.

I love my parents very much and I don’t doubt that they love me but I think they both had very different reactions. My mum is incredible, she gets angry at homophobes on the Internet and goes on mini rants about how I’m allowed to love whoever I want, it probably helps that she loves my girlfriend (note to self: keep this one). My dad had a different reaction, while he fully supports civil partnerships having the same benefits as marriage (although they currently don’t) he doesn’t understand the importance of the word marriage to the people who currently can’t have one, he says it is just a word, not knowing the full power of words to the people they are denied. He also said he doesn’t care whether or not it happens because it has no effect on his life. Dad, I love you but how does it not effect you? I’m your daughter and this tiny piece of legislation will make my life and my love equal in the eyes of the law to yours, I think that it pretty damn important. 

I should point out in fairness to my dad that he has never once been unsupportive of me when it comes to my sexuality, he was much more accepting that I ever could have asked for and I am truly grateful for that.

Now back to the legislation, being a sucker for words I have to say I’m not delighted by the words the Scottish Government used when announcing the news. Their Twitter feed says they ‘intend’ to make it into legislation which is rubbish wording on their part. I intend to go on a diet but it doesn’t mean I’m actually going to do it.

I’m also in two minds about the additional protection they want to bring in for religious bodies, one part of me hates this, this is our legislation, the Catholic Church can jog on. However, as it was pointed out on Facebook by a friend of mine that is a law student and who knows her stuff, the majority of legislation isn’t overturned in the Scottish Parliament but in the courts afterwards so giving these religious bodies extra protection will hopefully mean that when they decide to try and overturn the legislation in court they won’t have a leg to stand on.

All of this legislation stuff will mean nothing until it actually goes through in whatever ridiculously long time frame the Scottish Government gives themselves and less still until the day I get to drag my girlfriend down the aisle.

To end on I would like to congratulate all of the campaigners that worker tirelessly on lobbying all of the MSPs on this, and to every single MSP who has stood up in support of equal marriage, let’s be honest this isn’t something we can thank only the SNP for just because they happen to be in power but something we can thank every single supportive MSP for because they stood up for what they believe in (especially Patrick Harvie because I get goosebumps every time I’ve seen him talk at a rally or Pride).

Anywhere but queer

If being gay was a choice, knowing what you know now, would you choose to be gay?

This was a question put to me by my girlfriend. We had just been talking about how I’m absolutely the biggest lesbian she’s ever met because I bought tickets to see Uh Huh Her and was dragging her along with me (she loved it).

I didn’t even have to think about my answer. No. Hell no. I would never in a million years have chosen this life for myself.

I could have done two things when I realised I was gay, I could have suppressed my feelings and ultimately ended up depressed or suicidal, which is a road too many people go down, or I could be the gayest person on the planet.

I chose the second one. I surrounded myself with lesbian pop culture. I bought all the music and box sets and surrounded myself with things that might make me look normal.

The L Word became my safety blanket, when I felt that I wasn’t normal I would put in one of the DVDs and watch my feelings normalised on screen. Girls would hold hands with each other, and a hell of a lot more on that show, and I would feel like it was ok to be gay.

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My music taste and bookshelf quickly reflected what I was trying to see in the world around me. I had to hear girls singing about girls, I had to devour pages filled with descriptions of my own feelings. I had to feel ok.

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As my girlfriend told me, I’m pretty damn gay owning all that.

I’m happy with the life I have right now. I love my girlfriend, my family are so supportive of who I am. My mum got angry at a homophobic blog! But I still wouldn’t choose this, maybe one day things will get better. I know they are better for me now than they were for the younger me that first picked up that L Word box set but it isn’t good enough yet. I still encounter homophobia on a daily basis, I can’t marry the girl I love, I’m still made to feel like I’m not normal by the world.

I campaign for LGBT rights because I have to see things get better so that maybe one day coming to terms with your sexuality won’t be an issue for teenagers because they will be accepted as normal straight away.

I wish I was a Hufflepuff

It is no secret that I am obsessed with Harry Potter. It is a slightly better kept secret that I pretty much went to Hogwarts. My school had four boarding houses, insane teaching staff and some really good friends.

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Unlike Hogwarts you weren’t put in a house by a magical rhyming hat but by gender and age (Hogwarts had a much cooler system). Like all the other Harry Potter obsessives I’ve taken all the sorting hat quizzes it the results always baffle me. I constantly flip flop between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, on a day when I answered the opposite of what I felt I even managed Slytherin.

I understand that most people want to be Gryffindors, most geeks want to be Ravenclaws and most bullies want to be Slytherins but what about Hufflepuffs? Why are so many people against Hufflepuff House? Especially those obsessed with sparkling Cedric Diggory, does no one remember that dear old Diggory was a Hufflepuff?

The more I watch or read Harry Potter the more I realise I would want to be in Hufflepuff. Not because of all of the typical ideals held up by all houses but by the pressures in each of the members of those houses.

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Imagine the pressures on a Gryffindor, you are constantly expected to be brave and chivalrous. You have to live up your housemistress, Professor McGonagall, and you have Harry fricken Potter to constantly overshadow everything good you might do!

What about those in Slytherin? The pure evil in your house is immense, you would have to be constantly cunning in order to attempt to impress your housemaster, Professor Snape, and then you would have Draco Malfoy constantly sneering at your pathetic attempts to do outdo his levels of meanness. Although not all of them are evil, Horace Slughorn was a rare nice one.

Ah Ravenclaw, you are my second favourite house but the pressures your students must feel seem immense! On one hand you have the beautiful Cho Chang as your housemate and Luna Lovegood could be your best friend. On the other hand even a mean Slytherin, prefect Gemma Farley, commented that Ravenclaws are so competitive when it come to academia that they will even backstab each other in order to get top marks. That is pressure that I would never be able to handle.

Hufflepuff on the other hand is underrated, it is always thought to have had the least powerful witches and wizards because of the house founder’s policy of accepting anyone. In reality, Hufflepuff has produced the smallest number of dark wizards and witches than any other house and, second to Gryffindor, the largest number of students staying to help defend Hogwarts against Voldemort. Hufflepuff doesn’t lack in cool students, Tonks was a Hufflepuff, that’s right, Tonks, the incredibly cool witch of awesomeness that was Tonks. There is a lack of pressure to be great on Hufflepuffs, but sometimes the lack of pressure produces greatness.

I wish I was a Hufflepuff.

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On being a student president

Once upon a time there was a naive, little girl who had a simple dream.

To change the world.

It couldn’t be that hard, she told herself. Many people had changed the world before her. Some for good and some… Well some not so good at all. Her dream, however, was to make a positive impact. She wasn’t sure where but she did know one thing. She really liked education.

Education was everything to a society, those who were educated tended to flourish and those that didn’t had a very tough time indeed from what she could see from behind her rose-tinted glasses.

That girl grew up and someone forgot to tell her to take off the rose-tinted glasses. She became the president of a college. It was everything she ever hoped it would not be.

I know you all know that this story doesn’t belong in the fiction section but the little girl never thought it would become a sad often horror-like story.

Being a president is not fun. It is not something anyone should take on light-heartedly. It is so much worse when you aren’t paid, working part-time to pay the rent and studying.

Colleges are having their budgets slashed and at a time when universities are being given more money, why should their activists rock the boat?

Colleges have long been the forgotten, underfunded institutions that struggle to survive. Doing the best with what little they have to give second chances to mature students and first chances to some of the poorest.

The fact is that many people wouldn’t have made it where they are without the college sector.

It becomes even worse when the only people tackling this are in the sector, forcing the government to look down their noses and sneer at the people asking for more money for themselves when in reality they are trying to save the education of thousands.

I am one of the only people fighting at my college. On a day when my lecturers strike over their pensions, and believe me I support them with all my heart, I can’t help but ask why they aren’t tackling the real issue. I know the cuts to pensions are a awful thing but a 10% cut to colleges lost 1000 people their jobs, why aren’t they fighting the 20% cut instead. Shouldn’t protecting their jobs be more important than protecting their pension?

Being a president is awful when only two people on your SRC want to fight and the rest don’t seem to care. Being a president is awful when the staff can’t see past the pensions to the bigger picture. Being a president is awful when you realise you’re beginning to lose the will to fight.