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The White Lily
08 December 2015 @ 05:08 pm
I feel strange, since I finished writing Living Conditions.  Like I want to write, but there's nothing there.  It feels like the equivalent of having been on some sort of mental cleansing diet for two months, channeling every bit of inspiration, every bit of emotion, every idea, everything I have to say directly into one story.  I feel drained, like there's nothing bubbling out that has to be said, no fountain of ideas constantly trying to burst its way free of my head.  Emptied out.  Maybe that's the way it should be.

By the time I reach the end of a story, the characters are so alive, so vivid in my head--and the conclusion of their journey is at that point so obvious, so entirely unable to be any other way--that it feels like the writing came easily.

It didn't, of course.  It never does--each phase has its own special challenges.  The obsessive rereading is about the only part that ever does come easily.  But once the characters are so alive to me and the plot so solid, the writing is very different.  It's more feeling out the edges of an amorphous fog in my head, pinning down the specifics, fixing the rough edges of the first clumsy attempts to capture something I didn't understand, and filling in the gaps in an existing solid framework.  In the final stages, the creativity happens instinctively, and my conscious mind is fully focussed on the mechanics of making it happen and drawing every possible nuance out of what I've already got.

I don't feel like a creative person.  I feel like a mechanics person who happens to stumble over creative ideas, and is then unable to leave them alone until I do them properly.  The idea of looking at a blank page and having to Do Something Creative...  That's not me.

I remember feeling this way after His Son's Father, too.  And The Mother of Invention, for all it was short, because it was... intense. Promise Ring was such a learning curve that by the time I finished it, everything I wrote was already better.  But for ages, nothing I wrote matched up to what I felt I'd acheived in HSF.  Of course it didn't.  HSF was complete and polished, all its various bits and pieces tucked into place and aligned.  Certainly nothing matched MOI with its polish and double meanings, likewise with all its bits neatened and straightened away.

Living Conditions is more than either of those.  It's twice the length of HSF, with four times the depth in the characters.  And four times the complexity and meaning of MOI.  All settled into place and content.  Perfectly complete, if not completely perfect.  Of course starting on a cold, incomplete story can't compare to that incredible rightness of slotting those last few puzzle pieces into place on something that's on fire in my mind.

This feeling of insufficiency will pass.  I will write things that feel mediocre for a while.  I'll keep feeling a bit flat for a while. I'll go out in the sun.  Play with my children.  Reconnect with the real life friends I've been ignoring because I withdrew into my shell trying to get those words out of my soul and onto the page.  Sorry, guys.  Remind myself about the life I've been sleepwalking through for the last little while, because it still doesn't really feel as real to me as the story does.  And I'll follow my heart.  I'll write what I can, when I can.

I've been through this before.  And soon, something new will start to burn inside.  Then I'll be writing again.
And I don't have to worry about whether what I'm writing is mediocre or not, because I can't help myself.  Even if I tried, I couldn't stop the next story I write from being even better than the last one.  Or the next one, from being even better than that.
The White Lily
05 December 2015 @ 10:18 pm

I'm not a visual writer.  I'm not sure how much this comes across in my writing; people rarely comment on the lack, and there's certainly plenty of description of other kinds, but it is absolutely true.  I rarely describe things visually.

The only thing I tend to write visually is eyes--they sparkle, or they shine, or they go dark, or whatever it is they're doing.  This isn't really as much of an exception as it seems, because it's a shortcut for an emotion.  Really, it's still about how it feels.  I wouldn't be able to tell you the eye colour of more than more than a handful of people outside my immediate family.  To be honest, I'm not actually sure that I can remember my mother's eye colour.  I'm pretty sure it's brown?  My dad's were blue.  I've just remembered that.  Mum's must be brown.  Only a very few of my characters have an eye colour I care about.

For the rest, it's all how it feels.  I'm not blind--just perhaps a little oblivious--but my imagination, it seems, is. I write about how things feel, where things are positioned, how they're moving.  Kinesthetic stuff, not visual.  And not just things the POV character can touch, not even just every character, but everything in the scene.  Think of me as the Daredevil of writing.  Mostly it's just people that matter to me enough to give off a 'signal'--you won't get descriptions or clothing unless it's moving somehow, but you'll get what their expressions are doing and how their bodies shift.  The tiny details that make what they're doing matter.

Part of it's that I rarely write things at all until they matter to the plot, and visuals... well,
unless I've got a smoking gun that I need to hide among the geraniums, they don't usually register as necessary.

It's actually a pretty immersive way of writing.  As far as I'm concerned, it's far, far better than too much description.  I don't think people miss it, much.  At least, they don't in fanfiction, where the characters and setting are already vivid in the reader's mind.

But I think for my original work, it's something that is sorely lacking.  God save me from introducing characters like Dan Brown, with a potted summary of their history to date, but I think it's a problem to get nothing out of me on the colour of anything, or on how any of my characters look.  Two of the characters in Futureproof have blonde hair, two have 'dark', one has 'dark eyes'.  Three have their height mentioned.  I'm pretty sure that's nearly it, apart from a couple of people whose work clothes are relevant to the plot.  Seriously?  In what's approaching 70,000 words of sci-fi worldbuilding, I suspect that's a problem.

It's a problem I've been thinking about for a while: how to get more comfortable with descriptions.  I noticed the poetic concision coming much more easily when I was working on Living Conditions than it ever used to, and I think it's from the work I've done on drabbles.  Apparently they really are a great way to learn to say more--much, much more, if you're doing them right--with less.

Now I want to work on my visual descriptions.

For the moment, I've decided to start keeping a people-watching file.  I'm writing one-sentence descriptions of people I know, or people I see in the street.  Maybe eventually even people in my head.  Like an artist, carrying a sketchbook--only mine is for words.  Maybe I'll try sketching some locations with words, too.

I'm going to try and add something to it every day. I remember I got faster at writing drabbles--much faster--the more I practiced.  The first couple back then took me a week of polishing.  Later ones, only an hour.  And this is fun.  Hard, but... fun, thinking how to condense a real complete person I know's manner and character--that bright recognition of them--into just one short sentence of physical description, something that takes one clean and creative detail and tells a story in itself.

Maybe it'll help, maybe it won't.  It might help as a characterisation exercise, too; maybe it'll help with the abominable trouble I usually have creating characters, pinning them down and forcing them to coalesce them out of the amorphous something they exist as in my head into reality before they need to because they've suddenly become unexpectedly relevant to the plot.

If not, then at least I'll have a long list of interesting ready made character descriptions to steal from.  And that will definitely help.

The White Lily
05 December 2015 @ 07:49 pm
I've finally finished reading The Rosie Project, which is a lovely light read featuring a narrator with Aspergers syndrome, which should make it an instant favourite for me.  And it is.  I love it.  It's really good.

But it's taken me over a year to read, becasue I simply can't stand it.

I've always been completely helpless in the face of embarrassment comedy.  Seinfeld, or Coupling, or (god forbid) The Worst Week of My Life are, for me, the equivalent of a horror movie.  A book's a bit easier than TV, because I can skip ahead a few pates and, assuming things turn out okay, go back to skim it and, if that seems safe, read it properly.  It just triggers an intense overstimulation of every panic hormone I have every few pages, because I empathise so deeply with characters--far more than I do with people, to be honest.

In any case, The Rosie Project's a great book.  Super Aspergers Cocktail Man was, without a doubt, the highlight of the book for me.  I want him running my local bar.  And then I want time to be able to go there.  :P

I was a little put off by the love relationship--I've always been dubious about incompatibility so strong that it's love.  Then again, I do understand that Hubby and I are weird, in the fact that we are so very close to identical in our outlooks and what, as it turns out, is more of a Vulcan love grown from and strengthened by logic and convergent neural networks than one that could be found in the pages of... well, pretty much any story ever.  I don't think I've ever managed to covey to anyone how awesome it is to be in a relationship that's as close to narcicisstic as you can get outside clonecest.  But I did like Rosie and Don's love relationship anyway, mainly because of the dancing scene.  That was... well, it was for me the best scene in the story for showing that Rosie really did love him for his craziness as much as he loved her for hers.  Even if I had to read it backwards to make my adrenaline behave.

Technically, it was beautiful.  I can never write humour, and there was a great deal of sly commentary going on that didn't exactly go over Don's head, but that he just didn't get emotionally.  I love the way an inadequate narrator allows you to draw a big scene or memory in a few crucial details that wakes up the entire scene in the reader's head, without the narrator running the risk of getting too tell-y, because even if they are telling, they're telling the wrong things.  And I love the way an inadequate narrator allows you to build suspense, where you can cue the reader in to what's about to happen to make them squirm, and still take the narrator by surprise.  I'm unfortunately just too squeamish when there's embarrassment on the line.

Great book, well worth a read.  Unless you're like me, you probably won't need a cushion to hide under.  :)
The White Lily
29 November 2015 @ 10:59 am
Woke up this morning to what I would call, if the original poster hadn't disappeared from the scene, a flame war going on in the comments.  Apparently the readers have rallied behind me--the moment in question was clear, her manners were unacceptable, and oddly enough I did actually manage to sleep.  I feel much, much better.  :)  
The White Lily
28 November 2015 @ 08:57 pm
Someone sent me a flame on my new story.  It was inevitable with something edgy like this.  Unreliable narrator, sexual assault, and disturbing relationship parallels...  I can see where she was coming from.  But she wasn't polite.  Apparently it made her want to vomit, and I didn't spend enough time on the pairing she preferred, and she hated the ending because the place the hope came from was sick.

It's ridiculous.  I mean, I know she's wrong in pretty much every respect about this - for starters she'd clearly chosen the wrong story to read, and for the rest of it, the line that made her want to vomit obviously made her start skimming and skip the resolution of that because the next few lines pretty much fix exactly the things she complained about.  Or maybe she read it, she just didn't understand because my narrator doesn't specifically point out his next few lines completely invert the meaning of the first one.  Perhaps she should have gone for a story where the characters were magically turned into kittens and everyone is completely emotionally aware all the time.

Unfortunately for her, all of my plot bunnies turn out to have fangs and go straight for the throat.  This one more than usual.

The feedback on this story has been unexpectedly effusive.  Words like genius, extraordinary, mind-blowing, intelligent, spectacular, truthful, and unique--to the point where it had finally overcome my ambiguous feelings about the happenings therein and reinforced what I knew in my gut to be true: this is a brilliant story, well worth sharing.

I don't mind constructive criticism--I love constructive criticism--I love to hear which bits have worked for someone, which bits havn't so I can do more of the things that worked and less of the things that don't, so I can get closer to that perfection which is every moment working for every reader all the time.  (Ha!  Even I know that's impossible.)  If I can work on them, that is.

It's not even like I think she was right.  She didn't have a point, not about anything she said. She'd clearly misunderstood the line that was her main complaint--she got exactly what I wanted out of it, she just didn't keep reading to get the kick in the guts fixed. And it's not even like she went after the vulnerable bits that I already felt a bit queasy about--she went after my favourite bit of one of the most perfect and necessary portions of the resolution, and what was essentially the central tenant the whole story, which if she didn't like she could have stopped reading at chapter 3.

But now, here I am, having panic attacks, dreading going to bed because I know as soon as I let my mind stop being intensely distracted in the moment, this horrible feeling in my chest will spread all over and try to drown me. I should have been asleep two and a half hours ago to catch up on the sleep I've been missing writing this story.

I need to go to bed.  Wish me luck.
The White Lily
26 November 2015 @ 10:19 pm
Hello everyone!  I'm sure no one's watching this any more--it's been five years, but I think I might have somewhat started to emerge from the fog of mothering very young children.  I'm writing again, and so here I am, writing about writing, and about my life.

It's funny, because in the last two months I've somehow managed to write an entire, stunningly brilliant 60,000 word fanfiction novel, and I've talked very little about it.  I've been obsessed; I've been consumed; I've given up eating and sleeping and talking to anyone who exists outside my head; I've lost over 10% of my body weight, which is usually the sign of a good story for me.  And I've created something extraordinary.  It's turned out to be little like the evil adult love-child of His Son's Father and Mother of Invention, and it's in the BBC Sherlock fandom.  Come on, there's so many geniuses in that fandom--you knew I couldn't stay away.

Yes, it's fanfiction, which is not the direction I had decided to go with my writing, but I guess I must write where inspiration takes me.  Speaking of which, it's... disturbing.  And explicit.  And very gay.  And did I mention disturbing?  None of which was really where I wanted to be heading with my writing either, but I haven't been able to leave this story alone--it's just too good.  Did I mention it was also powerful, and hopeful, and thought-provoking, and tense, and emotional, and packed with vivid characters, and absolutely laden with layers of meaning and genuine things to say?  And it has a happy ending?  The comments I've been getting seem to confirm it; it's not just me.  This story deserved to be finished.

You know the thing of which I'm probably most proud?  I know it's not perfect.  There's lines, there's whole scenes, there's words that aren't... exactly right.  Words that I could spend hours or days on, obsessing over, trying to find exactly the right fit.  But I'm not doing that.  I'm not saying I haven't done that at all, because I have.  One sentence ended up with an essay and a flowchart to sort out the six layers of meaning I was trying to convey with it--but I'm doing my best to save it for the moments that are the most important.  For the rest, I'm doing the easiest 99% of the job, and letting the other 1% go. And I'm posting it anyway.  99% perfect is actually pretty damn good.  

In any case, at this point I'm about to post the tenth and final chapter, and I guess I'm coming up for air.  I'm thinking about what I've done, and what I'm going to do next.  And I'm thinking about how I'm going to do it, to make sure that I keep this momentum--keep finishing things, keep creating things that are worthwhile, and keep doing things that are important to me, not just as Mum, but as me.

I've still been checking in on Futureproof regularly, and it's progressing.  It's had a lot of good work on it, and I'm going to go back to working on it, or perhaps have another go at starting something else original, as soon as this current story packs itself and its assorted outtakes up and vacates my brain.

I've come to terms with the way I work on things.  It takes me a long time to write something good, it needs to bake in my brain.  Bursts of all-consuming obsession interspersed with vacations--it's during the vacations that some of the most truly extraordinary things happen to the story, so I'm not worried--when I do get back to Futureproof, there'll be something amazing there waiting for me again.  If there's not, I'll give it a brief spring cleaning to make sure nothing's hiding under the beds, and then work on something else for a while.

So here's my question: does anyone still read this?  Or am I still stuck in my head, talking to myself?
The White Lily
26 December 2010 @ 01:35 pm
Something was wrong last night.

I've not yet discovered anything I can't eat because it makes William upset, but I'm seriously searching yesterday's menu for anything that I might not have had since becoming a milk bar (potential culprits: pistachios and turkey) because last night...

This parenting thing, eh? Not so straightforward...Collapse )

Relief was almost instantaneous. It must have been the placebo affect that caused the results within a few seconds - or perhaps just the distraction of the strange taste in William's mouth - but he had definitely tapered off to occasional sobs within five minutes, and within fifteen he was happily feeding. Not just consoling himself with sucking while he quietly moaned, but staring up at me and making soft happy noises. Half an hour later, it was time to go back to bed - but he was wide awake. He kept smiling and drinking me in with wondering wide eyes: You're so clever, Mummy! You can make anything better!

Yeah. We went to bed together, with me cuddling his little warm swaddled bundle chest to chest, since he was too awake to go back in his cot and I was too tired to spend half an hour unsuccessfully trying to put him back to sleep then end up bringing him to bed with me anyway. I fell asleep before him; every time I'd sleepily open my eyes to see if he was drowsy enough for me to put him back in his own bed, he was still staring up at my face, transfixed in wonder.

I don't know when he eventually fell asleep, but he slept through until midday and woke up bubbly and content.

Hurrah for panadol.
The White Lily
03 December 2010 @ 11:09 pm
So, William's a month old today, and I've not really said anything about how it's all going.

Well. Extremely, incredibly, unbelievably well. I honestly can't believe how easy a baby William is to look after - and how much I'm loving... I was going to say perhaps not *every* minute, but to be honest even when it's the middle of the night or my shirt's smeared with poo or my bra's soaked with vomit or his sad little face is all screwed up in distress, I'm just trying to soak up the experience of him being this tiny and (and this cooperative!).

He's put on over a kilo in his first month of life, which is absolutely brilliant. He attached and ate very well from the beginning, and although at the beginning I kept having to wake him to feed, he's begun making it quite clear when he'd like to be fed, which is... well, a mixed blessing (particularly on days like today where he's presumably having a growth spurt and has essentially decided he wants to be fed constantly - by which I mean I can only obtain any breaks at all where he's not crying by giving him my finger to suck on instead, which pacifies him for maybe 15 minutes before I have to put him back on the breast for another hour - but this is fortunately unusual). As long as I get seven or so feeds in during the day, he only demands one or two night feeds. Nights with two are better, because the only real difference is that he agrees to go back to sleep after the second, so that I can catch an hour or two more sleep and end up with eight hours total. At first we had to spend a few minutes rocking him and singing to him a bit to convince him to go back to sleep again - but now he's figured out the difference between night and day and he's usually asleep the moment we put him back in his bed again. Woot. Seriously.

Oddly enough, even when he demands feeding in the middle of the night, he doesn't actually wake up. He'll squeak a bit, and I'll look at him and he'll be fast asleep. So, I'll go back to sleep. He'll squawk a bit more seriously, but when I look at him again he'll be fast asleep. And so it goes on. Eventually, the squawks get so frequent that I'm getting less sleep waking up every time he makes one than I would just by picking him up and properly waking him for a feed. When I finally decide to draw the line and feed him I'm almost always convinced I'd done that last time he made a noise so I'd already been feeding him but had fallen asleep doing so and so it's time to change sides or put him back to bed (despite the fact that I never feed lying down now that I can sit up, because of the risk of falling back to sleep). It can be a bit distressing, actually, because by the time I'm awake he's fallen silent again, and I start searching for him beside me and he's not there and I worry he's worked his way down under the doona or fallen off the edge of the bed or got wedged between the mattress and the wall... And then I look over into his cot, and he's just there, fast asleep, making no noise, and I feel like an idiot for having fallen for it again. Still, if that mid-nightly ritual is the greatest of my sleep difficulties, I'm definitely a lucky mother.

The last couple of weeks he's been having more difficulty feeding. It's like he's completely forgotten what a nipple is for - he's very happy to hold it in his mouth and lick it or even cuddle it close to his cheek like his very favourite friend, but he seems to have a lot of trouble remembering he's supposed to start sucking. Or even realising that he's obtained his objective. Whether he's calm as anything or absolutely frantic with hunger and shaking his gaping mouth from side to side like a laughing clown on speed and windmilling his crazy arms in the hopes that will help... somehow, it doesn't seem to make much difference to him noticing that it's right there in his mouth, all he has to do is start sucking. This has been heaps better since I realised that I could bait-and-switch by getting him sucking on my finger (which for some reason he's *always* ready to suck - I've got a hickey on my fingertip), then swapping in the nipple when he's got the idea. But because of all the mucking around - and the usual increase in wear and tear on a sensitive part of my anatomy - I've been getting pretty sore, which has been making things even more difficult, because it's not like I can take a couple of days off feeding him to heal. Fortunately, I found some good (if counterintuitive) advice to attempt to feed him more often rather than less so that he'll be calmer and suck more gently, which has made great strides in keeping things from reaching the cracked-and-bleeding stage.

I've been expressing breastmilk the last couple of weeks as well (ever since I started getting really sore, so that if things get really bad I actually *can* take some time off) and it seems I can consistently pump one extra feed per day when I first get up, so I've been building up a bit of a stock of frozen milk to cover me if I want to have a couple of extra drinks every now and then, and to keep at potential babysitters (ie. grandparents) houses as well as, once I've got enough of a buffer to make me comfortable, donate to the Australian breastmilk bank for babies in need who, for whatever reason, can't have their own mother's milk.

I went to see Harry Potter on Sunday, which I enjoyed a great deal, but was perhaps most notable for the fact that it was the first time I'd been out of William's immediate vicinity since he was born. I was away for three and a half hours total which, since he eats approximately every two hours, meant Hubby got to give him a bottle. He accepted that quite happily and seamlessly switched back to the breast afterwards, so essentially that means I'm free to have him babysat or leave him with his dad whenever. Now I just have to work on wanting to be away from him. :)

So that's how he's going for sleeping and eating - I won't go into detail about his other primary function, except to mention that we've just started using our cloth nappies, which are 'modern cloth' - ie, just like a disposable with velcro closures, elastic legs, stay-dry liners, and waterproof covers, only when they're dirty you chuck them in the washing machine. So far, I'm pretty pleased - we'll see if I still feel that way after a few washing days. :)

As for his personality... he's so much more calm and content and easier to settle than I'd expected. He doesn't seem to cry for no readily apparent reason at all. If he's a bit unsettled, it's a short checklist of: hungry? (feed) dirty? (change) wind pain? (sling him over the shoulder in a fireman's carry) tired? (swaddle and rock) just plain sad? (present finger for sucking) And that's essentially it. Of course it's a full time job - I was expecting it to be a full time job. I wasn't expecting to feel calm and in control and almost always able to solve his problems when he's upset.

At this point he has essentially three 'quiet alert' periods every day - one first thing in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one last thing before bed. Each period is one to three hours (depending on whether he has a feed in the middle and keeps going), and during the time (unless he's having a bad wind day) he's just this amazing happy little sponge. He windmills his arms and kicks his legs, lifts and attempts to support his disproportionately sized head on his little pipe-cleaner neck, and grunts and coos like mad. He watches everything - his particular favourites are lights and the security grill above my breastfeeding chair - but he's happily been holding eye contact since he was a couple of weeks old. We think he smiled his first real 'social' smile today, which is a big milestone. We've yet to see when it's repeated. Quiet alert periods are the highlight of my day - I just sit with him cradled on my lap making faces at him, poking my tongue out and cooing back at him, and marvelling that this very small person will one day be full sized.

I can't believe it's already been that long - but I guess as they say, the days are long but the years are short. All in all, I think it's fair to say that so far, I'm loving motherhood. :)
The White Lily
16 November 2010 @ 12:45 pm
First of all for the pick of the lot:


Next is the highlights package:Collapse )

Gluttons for punishment can visit here for the full set.

The White Lily
15 November 2010 @ 02:04 pm
All sorts of uncensored stuff under cut, mainly for my personal records, so not necessarily for the faint of heart.

Read on if you dare...Collapse )

Summary version for those who just want the are-you-okay version, or get bored or squicked in the unbelievably tl;dr above. :)Collapse )

Selected picspam to follow.