I’m always going to write some posts around your forum comments and then I forget. So let’s see if I can remember long enough to catch up a little.
. . . while reading tonight’s post [Chilly singing] I was humming the Gloria from Faure’s Requiem and was going to recommend Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna as I feel they have similar airy, light, and joyful qualities. Then I realized I was humming the wrong song. :/ The Lauridsen (and the Faure, for that matter) are still worth the recommendation.
I love the Faure but . . . Good old YouTube. I’m listening—first to Lux and then to the Songs of the Roses that Diane in MN mentions later in this thread—as I type. I’d never HEARD of Lauridsen. I’m so ignorant.
Although I could have done without the banner ad: How to sing, really sing. Breakthrough method releases your unique voice. Watch free video here!
I’m only interested if it involves chocolate and champagne. And I’m a little worried about the escape clause provided by that ‘unique’. *
Speaking as someone who’s seventeen, I always write drafts by hand – but that’s actually because I’m a really good typist. When I write things by hand, I can write one sentence and think of the next, then write that sentence while thinking of the next, and carry on. If I try to type a first draft, my fingers catch up to my brain and I get stuck.
YES. EXACTLY. I AM EXACTLY LIKE THIS. I TYPE A WHOLE LOT FASTER THAN I THINK. And it’s like falling off a cliff when you reach the end of your thought and your fingers are still whirring away wanting something to do.
It’s true that I write the blog straight on the computer—it would be way too much like work if I didn’t—and I start other stuff on the computer a lot more than I used to. Still. Paper is the real deal. Paper doesn’t disappear at a (usually mysterious) keystroke. And I have more little notebooks (spiral preferred, so they lie flat) with pretty or striking or tactile covers than any four people need. I tend to write drafts in pencil, but I take notes in ink, and I just like the process of an old-fashioned fountain pen gliding across the page.
Though I also just like paper–I usually type up the draft, then print it out to make edits and then type those in… But most people at school with me think this is insane.
When you win the Nobel Prize for Literature you will have the last laugh.
How many people are there in the Muddles?
Do you sing with piano or organ? I only ask because I am part of a group which can run to twenty or more and we gather in homes (those belonging to folks with parking not entirely filled with snow) where the living-dining-kitchen areas are one glorious (or not) space.
I know that kind of space is rarer in the UK, but we make do.
Both piano and organ, but mostly piano for rehearsal. As long as there’s an accompanying instrument I don’t think it matters that much till the next concert is getting close. There are something like forty Muddles members on the books but I would have said we rarely have more than twenty-five at practise, and we were about fifteen last week. I know. I think about this. So does Gordon, because I’ve spoken to him about it. But it’s unlikely anyone has a drawing-room big enough if all forty of us showed up—and since I’ve never managed to sing at a concert, possibly the last couple of rehearsals or so everybody turns out. Except the superfluous first soprano who is going to the opera, unless she has flu or a deadline rendered intolerable by said flu, and doesn’t go to the opera either.** My murky fantasy is that we start a splinter group of oh, twelve or so.*** There are lots of living spaces that could hold a mere twelve—including Third House’s sitting room. Mwa ha ha ha ha. I would throw in use of my cheap portable electric keyboard free.
Susan in Melbourne
I find that commercial and public interiors in the northern hemisphere are kept unnaturally warm in winter. [In the UK] I moved between hotels, restaurants, meeting rooms in universities, public transport, and everywhere I was too hot. On arrival in a new hotel room, I’d rush for the window to fling it open, and then to the heater to turn it off. A colleague who has recently moved back to the UK from Australia was telling me that she and her partner just had to leave a restaurant recently because it was too unbearably hot.
WHERE? This sounds like America to me, not frigid chilblained England. I acknowledge that I’ve been too hot occasionally, like in the Heathrow hotel room where Peter and I saw the original CSI for the first time (this was long ago) the night before flying to the States. And there are still, I believe, criminally insane stores that leave their front doors open to the street and blast the entry with the best their central heating can do. And anybody can have a Bad Wiring Day when the on switch gets stuck. But generally speaking . . . I like pubs with open fires, and then I want to sit next to them.
Robin, you obviously mostly inhabit private spaces rather than communal ones, and I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be burning fuel at the greenhouse-layer-thinning rate that commercial premises seem to be doing. Yours is the more realistic experience of the real (chilly) world outside.
Indeed. This is why my laptop and I crouch by the Aga in the kitchen. It’s not because my office is still full of stuff waiting to be doodled and I can’t bear to go in there with all of it staring at me reproachfully†. It’s because I get COLD in my office. At very least I’ll turn the central heating on and I’ll probably dust off the electric fire and open it up too. If I’m sitting by the Aga, if there are penguins in my office I don’t care.†† Also, there’s the hellterror. The hellterror does not truly grasp the concept of GO LIE DOWN yet, and her big crate lives in the kitchen. The Aga system is not popular with hellhounds, whose favourite bed, as I’ve told you, is in my office†††, but Pav will grow up. Or maybe I’ll just rope her feet together.
^ Also: token footnote. So no one complains about the lack of footnotes.
Seriously? You have very demanding readers if they’d complain about a lack of footnotes
DEMANDING. TOTALLY. VERY DEMANDING. MY READERS. THEY ARE.‡
* * *
* Nadia is a little cynical about poor old Dido. Drama queen, she says. ‘Remember me’ indeed. —I’ve always liked Dido although I agree that topping yourself because your boyfriend dumps you^ is not a healthy, balanced reaction. But—I’ve gibbered about this before—your attitude toward a piece of music changes spectacularly—unrecognisably—as soon as you start developing a relationship with it by trying to perform the sucker. However inadequately.^^ So I’ve been engaging with Dido on a whole variety of new levels as a result of trying to sing her. And it may be entirely the wrong kind of courage, but it does take courage to do yourself in. I think there’s some steel there—and some anger. I’d like to get that into my performance, cough cough cough, with the despair and grief.
Purcell is Radio Three’s composer of the week. Today we had Dido. The presenter went on rather about the recording he’d chosen, and I have loved the soprano in other roles and agree she has a fabulous voice. And when we got to the famous Lament, for which no stop has been left unpulled, I’m all: STOP FRELLING WHINING YOU MAUDLIN COW.
^ I don’t find his offer to defy the gods and stay very convincing. Just by the way. Aeneas the creep. Aeneas the faithless. All he is is a pretty pair of biceps.
^^ Which is about as much explanation and excuse as anyone needs in answer to my craven question, why should mediocre amateurs even bother? This is why. Because performing widens and deepens your understanding of a major art form. Your brain and your emotions are not limited by your technical skill. Horizons beckon. Angels+ whisper. Doodah doodah.
+ Or supernatural being of choice. Djinns. Fairies.#
# Out hurtling hellhounds today I saw a van. Gremlin Landscaping I read. I blinked and looked again. Gemini Landscaping. Okay. That’s better. I don’t think I’d hire the first guy. But I think I may have a creating-my-own-reality problem.
*** Assuming SATB, four part music, there have to be at least eight of us because I’m not singing all by myself. If there are second sopranos we have to be at least ten.
† Believe it or not, all you amazingly, astonishingly, superlatively, supernaturally patient people, I’m still turning the frellers out at about two a week. Or I was, up till the last fortnight when there was too much generalised illness in this household and I lost the plot for a while. But I should be starting up again next week. But you are all aware of the refund button on the side bar of this blog? Not only is there no disgrace^ to asking for a refund . . . remember that some day in the fuzzy distant future WHEN I’VE FINISHED THE BACKLOG Blogmom will put up a doodle shop where the refund button is at present and you can reorder. We will be taking commissions at a strictly-enforced rate of about two a week.
^ The disgrace is all mine+
+ Including my continuing failure to knit square squares which means the rose and pawprint requisitions are still in the aaaaaaugh stage.
†† As long as they clean up after themselves.
††† And this was true before the arrival of the hellterror.
‡ However there is no footnote shortage today.
Yes. The doodle factory has begun operations.
I know you’re due a KES tonight but Blogmom tells me she’s already receiving wistful queries, in the wake of my turning SHADOWS in last Sunday night, about the likelihood of my getting back to doodling any time soon. Since you’ve all been waiting a year, this is perfectly reasonable.* So I thought I’d better deal with that first.
I’d been planning on waiting till the end of the week when I should be able to provide slightly more impressive desk-in-process photos. It’s not, repeat not, that I didn’t hit the ‘send’ button and immediately swing around and look despairingly at what used to be my office and is now a kind of storage facility for homeless parcels. It took me two days just to dig out. Believe me when I say that I have thought of the bell auction backlog EVERY DAY, because my office has been effectively impassable for the same year you’ve been waiting for your doodles, and I’m not tidy to begin with.**
I am so not doing this again.*** And for those of you who are puzzled at why I have been quite such a nugatory no-show about the whole affair†, the view from here goes like this: The New Arcadia Bell Restoration Fund rolled into existence some time in early 2011. I don’t remember exactly when the idea for the auction coalesced out of my overheated brain or when it seemed to me a good idea to add almost anything to the list that any of you out there expressed a willingness to spend money on . . . but I do remember that Blogmom was ready to set the thing up months before I pulled it together to send her what she needed.
And the reason I kept not pulling it together, aside from my general uselessness about almost anything practical, is . . . that PEGASUS II, due last summer, was showing an extreme unwillingness to be written. In fact a total unwillingness to be written. I wasted a lot of time refusing to believe this. It wasn’t just my next book. It was the frelling sequel†† to the book that ends on a cliffhanger so appalling that anything I can manage to do in KES looks like a mug of Maggie’s mum’s hot chocolate††† in comparison.‡ The prospect of merely not being able to afford to go on eating (nearly) paled in comparison with the horror of not finishing PEGASUS. Finishing. FINISHING.
PEGASUS, which, as long-time blog readers know, started life as a short story for ELEMENTALS: AIR, wanted to be a trilogy? Kill me. Kill me now.
So last August I set aside the semi-congealed, lumpy, overstuffed bungle that book two of the PEGASUS duology had become, and frantically began writing SHADOWS.‡‡ In the first place, I needed to keep eating. In the second place, I couldn’t face telling Merrilee or my editor what had happened till I could honestly say that I was working on something else. I whispered the dreaded ‘t’ word to Merrilee last September‡‡‡ and let her break it to my editor.
The part I’m not telling you much about, and that I’m not going to tell you much about, is that I thought I really was going to get SHADOWS put through fairly quickly, but along about March this year a big fist of health/menopause/mind/heart/spirit stuff punched me hard, and EVERYTHING including SHADOWS w e n t i n t o e x t r e m e s l o o o o o o w m o o o o o t i o n. . . .
But things may be improving generally. There is, for example, KES. And I’ve sent SHADOWS in.§
And the doodle factory went into production yesterday. Watch this space.§§
* * *
* And leaving you to hang a little longer over the particular cliff at the end of KES 42 . . . pleases me, because I am the hellgoddess and, as blondviolinist pointed out on the forum, I enjoy your pain. Mwa ha ha ha ha.
Also, in the final crunch to finish SHADOWS^ I haven’t written any KES in a while, and I need to get on with that, I’m only a few eps ahead at the moment. And just as much as you do I want to know what happens next, because KES, like everything else I’ve ever written, including cough-cough nonfiction^^, keeps surprising me.^^^
^ EXCEPT I’M NOT RATBAGGING FINISHED. I’ve spent the last two days cutting the freller—I cannot write short—and will be going on doing so for several more days yet. Which is actually amazingly stressful. Arrrgh.
^^ Including this blog. Which is mostly nonfiction, if of a perhaps slightly unusual kind.
^^^ Which as every writer who has ever written anything worth reading has said in one form or another, is a good thing and a necessary thing. A piece of writing you can order around, which is perfectly submissive to your fingers on the keyboard, is going to be dead and booooooring on the page.
** I now also have a yarn problem. At least this doesn’t require additional steel struts and granite pillars to shore up the weight-bearing floor.
*** Yes, there will be a permanent doodle shop on the blog AFTER, REPEAT AFTER I fulfil the auction orders. Did I say AFTER? AFTER. AAAAAAAAFTER.
† I am a lifelong absent-minded disorganised dilettante who always believes she can do more than she can.^ But the overcommitted messes I get myself into are usually not this extreme.
^ And I wonder why I’ve ended up with ME. No, I don’t wonder all that much.
†† I who never write sequels
††† Have I mentioned that Maggie’s mum—I mean mom—makes the best hot chocolate?
‡ Although I’ve had one or two really excellently cruel ideas about intercutting some of Flowerhair’s story.
‡‡ The first twenty single-spaced pages of which have been sitting in a folder behind my desk for several years. Almost nothing of said twenty pages remain, except the first-person high school girl narrator, and the short hairy guy from the Slav Commonwealth named Val whom she dislikes and distrusts on sight.
‡‡‡ I knew there was something up with you, she said. I just didn’t know what it was.
§ Even if I’m still frelling tinkering with it. Frelling.
§§ The straightforward stuff first. The one offs later.
One of the lesser wrong-going things last year was that I had a, er, stab at one of the auction knitting projects and promptly made a mess of that too, which was worse for morale than it should have been, first because my Secret Knitting Projects were all going the way of PEG II and second because I was beginning to pick up signs that in fact my money was not going to be welcome at the bell fund I thought I was raising it for. This was very bad indeed for morale. GAAAAH. LIFE. NO, IT’S NOT WHAT I HAD IN MIND. DON’T YOU HAVE SOMETHING ELSE?
Meanwhile, I am a whole year older in terms of knitting nous. And I will turn out the auction knitty things with aplomb. Just not this week.
I went ringing at the abbey again tonight.
Even longer pause.
. . . I wonder how long before they ask me politely not to come back?
I then came home to a query from Blogmom about all those doodles and doodled books I haven’t sent out yet. Yes. I haven’t sent them out. I said that I was going to have the rest out by the end of March. I lied. I didn’t mean to lie, but I lied. I was at that time in the grip of the delusion that I would have finished SHADOWS . . . about a fortnight ago.**
I’m still working on SHADOWS. And as I keep moaning to everyone who doesn’t quickly run away from me, it’s going fine. It’s just not going fast enough. I’ve had to slow down, indeed, precisely because I’ve been ramming it through slightly faster than it’s wanted to go, and I came to the point with the third draft—which is usually my final one—that I had to slow down or risk botching the job. As it is I’m skating over stuff I didn’t want to skate over. I’m hoping I might get to use this world again—like ALBION takes place in SUNSHINE’s world—which might give me a chance to poke more ignorant fun at quantum physics and chaos theory. But I think the algebra is specific to this book, and the Japanese language and culture, which appear to be settling in for the long haul in my life***, are tied in SHADOWS to a specific character which is inconvenient since I don’t write sequels.†
And it’s hard to judge what to put on the blog—about anything, really. I’m never in a good mood when I wonder what kind of an absolutely weird impression of Robin McKinley I’m giving by the public persona who appears here. I don’t think I’m quite as TOTALLY FRELLING SELF OBSESSED as you’d be forgiven for thinking I am from these (virtual) pages: it’s just that I’m my own safest material, since I don’t have to worry about hurting, humiliating or infuriating anyone else when I talk about me.†† At the same time I’m so conscious of what I’m not saying about me that I genuinely can’t guess what I look like to all of you.†††
And . . . I don’t like whiners. If I whine here, I’m very sorry. My judgement was off that day(s). So I’m not telling you how the undone doodles pray on my conscience and how grim my office at the cottage is, full, as it also is, with heaps of books, lists, and mailing envelopes. Circumstances conspired—PEG II crashing and burning, and my then urgently trying to get on with SHADOWS as fast as possible—but that still leaves you waiting over six months for something you paid for last autumn.
Since I mostly write here about all the rushing around doing too much that I do, you would also be more than forgiven for thinking‡ that if I stopped flitting about the landscape and concentrated I would be getting both SHADOWS and doodles (etc) done a lot faster. You’ll just have to take my word for it both that it doesn’t work that way—and that there’s perhaps less flitting than you think. I work seven days, remember, and I don’t take holidays, or anyway I can’t remember the last time I took one. For one very minor example of this wombly balance: I guarantee that if I weren’t whacking myself silly over SHADOWS I would be getting on with learning how to ring the beastly abbey bells at least fractionally faster than I am.‡‡ Indeed I’d be getting on with bell ringing generally at least fractionally faster if I didn’t pretty invariably have no functioning intellect left by the time I go to bell practise in the evenings.‡‡‡
But believe me, you will be the first to know when I send SHADOWS to Merrilee and instantly morph spectacularly into a Doodle Factory.
* * *
* Well . . . I’m getting a lot of knitting done while I sit out. There’s no point even watching Stedman on twenty-seven: it’s just a storm of ropes to me. But I can sometimes learn something standing behind someone with his or her hands on a rope, and intently watching what they’re doing. And at the abbey I can use all the help about anything that I can get. So I stood behind the treble for some Cambridge Major^, because in other towers I can treble bob, which is what the treble does in Cambridge . . . and got horribly lost. So when, later, they called for Bristol Major, which is another treble-bobbing method, I decided to stick to knitting. But I’ve been tagged as a stander-behind—it’s one of these how-you’re-wired things: some people find standing behind of zero use—and one of the other ringers said to me afterward, oh, but you should have stood behind the treble again! I decided it would be impolitic to say I’d rather knit.
I was knitting on Monday at (bell) practise and Anthea, who did use to knit, and quite glamorous things too, says she doesn’t knit any more because ‘nothing happens fast enough’. But I knit in waste time: those three minutes at that exasperatingly long light on my way to Nadia’s, sitting out in bell towers, during break at the Muddles, waiting for my computer to stop sulking and do something.^^ And all that effort, even at my knitting speed, does blerg or bludge into something eventually: I now have the world’s longest leg warmer and I’d better cast off and start the other one. It would be nice to have a pair by November. . . .
^ To the extent that I ring it inside, I ring minor, which is six bells, not eight.
^^ Yes, I can sing while I knit. As necessary.
** Positive thinking doesn’t always work. Sometimes even putting something on the blog to make sure I do it doesn’t work.
*** Have I mentioned that I’ve found a language school in Hampshire that offers Japanese? I’ve told the woman who is my contact that I can’t commit to lessons till I’ve dealt with an overdue work project. Ahem. But this is so much old-unfinished-business-coming-back-to-bite-me, not a brand-new, for-godssake-McKinley-get-a-grip fascination. I’d be more inclined to see it as some kind of serendipity rather than actual unfinished business if it weren’t that Damarian has a certain amount of Japanese grammar in it—as well as some funny alphabet stuff. I only started writing down what I think I know about the Damarian language in the last ten or so years, when I would have told you I remembered nothing of Japanese except how to count to ten and say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’. That’s true, but the Story Council apparently saw an opportunity and pounced.
† PEGASUS is one story in three books! It’s not a trilogy! The word ‘sequel’ will not be bandied here!
†† I have arguments with myself all the time. China is sometimes broken.
††† Don’t tell me. I’m sure I don’t want to know.
‡ Simultaneously grinding your teeth optional
‡‡ This is hardly a silver lining, but it did occur to me that . . . the abbey has always been my best local opportunity to learn some of the slightly-more-upper-level stuff that the New Arcadia band can’t reliably support. But given how steep the learning curve for adapting to the abbey’s bells is, the only way I’d ever have stuck the course is by something like this—having cast myself off from New Arcadia first. As it is . . . I’ll stick the course unless they tell me to go away.
‡‡‡ I write the blog every night on fumes, okay?
I’ve felt that I’ve made kind of a lurch forward, singing, this week. I’m not spending as much time practising as I would like because I’m a little absorbed just at the minute* in work.** But I’ve been aware that whatever Nadia did to me last week about dropping my breath deeper down and farther in had in fact come home with me rather than staying behind in the Teacher Magic Room and waving and saying ‘see you next Monday.’*** It is very odd because once you are doing something† it tends to be ‘well, why weren’t you doing this before? It’s not like it’s quantum physics.’†† Why should it be so hard to remember to breathe? Blerg.
So anyway this week I’ve been breathing down into my abdomen and supporting all this noise I’m making. And it’s been fun.†††
And then last night . . . I had no voice. What? What happened? This Your Instrument is Your BODY is SO WEIRD. Cheez. I did whack myself silly last night over SHADOWS since I had a guest post, but one of the great things about singing‡ is that it’s so different. There is certainly the absolute-energy level that you have to stay aware of, especially when you have ME or any of its many grisly relations, but generally you get an instant boost as soon as you shift to a different activity.‡‡ And I opened my mouth last night and . . . this tiny little squeaky sound crept out. . . .
I was better again this morning, fortunately, and I sang like mad while brewing tea and getting dressed and taking the indoor jungle outside again‡‡‡ and writing cheques§ and, of course, hurtling. I was back to breathing from my gut and making a reasonable amount of noise. But what frelling shut me down? I was talking to Nadia about it (of course) and because I swear singing is more Freudian than any mere human analyst could intimidate you with, it may have been some reflective business between the bit of Maggie’s story I’m revising, where she’s trapped in a situation she sees no way out of, and the way I was feeling just before I made the decision to quit my bell tower. But the way your/my voice pursues its own view, I said it’s almost like having another critter about the place—two hellhounds and a singing voice. I don’t know how professional singers do it: Nadia says, as she has said before, that it’s about the level you can attain when you are off the wall, melting down and/or in doolally extremis—that if you find you can’t rely on producing x level even under contrary conditions, then you can’t be a professional singer.§§
Yes. I get that. And fortunately I don’t have to worry about professional standards. But the journey is still the journey, whether you’re hoping to open at the Met next year as Rosina or Orfeo or merely to be in the amateur choir singing for a little local wedding in two months, and I’m in it for the journey.
* * *
* Did you know there are 43,200 minutes in a 30-day month?^ Sounds like plenty, doesn’t it? Part of the reason I’m so bad at maths is that numbers are so misleading. 43,200 of anything sounds like a lot.
^ I know. Calculators and the internet make this kind of thing really cheap. Remember the old ‘when I was your age I had to walk to school seven miles in the snow and alligators’+? My generation’s version of this is ‘when I was your age, if I wanted to know how many minutes were in a month I had to sit down with a pencil and paper and figure it out.’
+ Special snow-proof alligators. They prefer mountainous country where they sled around on their bellies.
** As of tonight I’m a page ahead of my daily count. But I’m having an adventure tomorrow which is going to suck up a few hours. But it will be worth it because I will come home inspired.^
^ And speaking of inspiration. I am slowly and limpingly starting doodling again. Actually, the truth is, doodling—like singing—has become one of those things I do to cheer myself up. Both activities use a lot of the same creative engagement muscles that story-telling does but at a slightly different level and strain—a bit, perhaps, like going for a nice brisk five-mile walk with some hellhounds instead of running a marathon with 1,000,000 fitter, better trained and more competitive people than you.+ You get your blood moving and your endorphins elevated and a few calories burnt off toward that chocolate you want to have this evening, but you don’t feel like you died and when you try to get out of bed the next morning you don’t wish you had. But between the dreadful rush toward the climax of quitting the New Arcadia tower that I was theoretically earning bell fund money for and cramming the second draft of SHADOWS through to send in the end of last month, I stopped doodling for public disclosure.++
But life goes on and the official doodle pen is once again raised. The new schedule is that I plan to get another batch out the end of this month and EVERYTHING but the fancy one-offs+++ done by the end of March.
At that point I’ll take a deep breath focus on the fancy stuff.++++
+I can’t face touring for a lot of reasons.
++ Although I’ll probably post some of them one of these days just . . . because.# Jousting Tulips. Woven Hellhounds. Six Knives in Search of Washing-Up Liquid. Three Apples Just Sitting There. The Thing That Lives Under the Sofa. (Several of these. Things That Live Under the Sofa.)
# Because the blog is a time-engulfer and almost ANYTHING eventually gets pressed into service.
+++ One of the not-so-tangential reasons I’m thrilled with my ribbed legwarmer(s) in its new utterly straightforward and unconfusing yarn is that it suggests that I will manage to knit the two squares that people have already paid me for. That was one more crisis of confidence at a time I didn’t need any more crises, even little ones, when I was trying to use the snooty aristocratic variously-coloured and –threaded yarn and didn’t seem able to keep my knits and my purls in neat little rows. The yarn I’m going to be knitting the squares in is very very plain.
++++ Just by the way . . . wheeeee. I’m looking forward to these.
*** I not infrequently feel that if I looked carefully around the edges of Nadia’s studio I would see a whole series of little curled up Better Singing Selves belonging to all her students.
† I won’t say right but let’s say less wrong or moving in the right direction
†† I am very glad singing is not like quantum physics.
††† I’ve also been trying to learn the vocal line to Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. It being Bach and all I wasn’t exactly surprised that it’s more complicated than it looks. Have I told you that the Muddles are singing for another wedding in April? Which I am going to try to make it to? They’re doing Jesu, the first part of the Vivaldi Gloria, and the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria. I’m used—and Nadia says that’s how she knows it too—to thinking of this last as a flashy soprano solo, so I’m hoping they’ll just give it to Griselda and the rest of us can sit back and listen comfortably.
‡ Or doodling
‡‡ The absolute-energy level, however, rules how long the boost lasts.
‡‡‡ Yes, I assume I will have to bring it in again tonight.
§ Possibly one should not sing while writing cheques, but I think probably they went to the right people.
§§ She also says the difference between what you think you sound like on a good day and what you think you sound like on a bad day is not nearly as audible to your audience as you believe. Words to live by. I’m only a choir singer.
How do you convert ideas for stories you have into believable plots?
I start with about 4 cups of good flour, 5 cups of warm water, a tablespoonful of dry yeast and another tablespoonful of honey . . .
And then you stir it all together, cover, place in a warm, draft-free spot, and leave it alone for a while, right?
That’s right. But story-yeast can be rather slow. Sometimes it’s years before the sponge has bulked up enough. You just want to keep it warm and comfy and add a little more flour and honey from time to time. It will of course suddenly start raging out of its bowl when you’re fully occupied whacking the gorblimey out of some other dough.*
Also, this made me laugh.
Oh good. That was the plan. Because this question also illustrates one of what are probably the two main reasons why I let Ask Robin slip. Reason one: Impossible questions. What on earth was this person expecting? The Chinese menu web site for writers?** There isn’t an answer. If there were there would be even more books out there . . . but they’d also be better books.
I don’t object summarily or comprehensively to impossible questions per se—most of writing is about what might magnanimously be called guided floundering and it can be reassuring to compare scars with other people who have slammed into submerged objects in the murk—but I do rather object to the impossible question being plonked down in front of me like a dead fish on a slab. The entirety of the email that bore this question was exactly . . . the twelve words of this question. I grant that email is different from other written forms of communication, and I don’t usually bother with salutations either . . . but to a stranger I’m asking the favour of free professional expertise/attention of? Um, yes. I’d stick a salutation in. I think a ‘Dear Robin McKinley, Would you be willing to talk a little about . . . .’ would be nice. Plus your name at the bottom. This is big steaming pet peeve of mine. Put YOUR NAME at the bottom of your email. Cheez. You don’t have to tell me I’m your favourite author, or even your favourite author this week and next week it’s going to be E. M. Hull***. But a quick genuflection at the altar of old-fashioned politeness?
Yes. Damn it.
THANK YOU for validating the way I write. I spent much of junior high and half of high school traumatized by English teachers who insisted that you absolutely could not write anything worth reading, much less grading, unless you wrote an outline first, and then plodded through sticking exactly to that outline stage by stage; and required that you turn in the outline to prove you’d done it, then a thesis and topic sentence for each paragraph, then….
And this illustrates the second reason† I have let Ask Robin lapse . . . and how I was wrong to do so. I’ve answered the ‘how I write’ question before. Many times. It’s almost as common as the much-dreaded Where Do You Get Your Ideas? †† It’s another one I have nothing against rambling on about but I’m a bit conscious that I’ve said it all before (many times). So I’m relieved that it’s new and interesting to someone.
I am not a consistent human being. On the one hand I don’t expect anyone to read this blog every night or to have memorised my FAQ and Author as Bitch from Hell on the web site. I’m also extremely conscious that certain, ahem, themes appear regularly in this blog. On the other hand I’m reluctant to recycle too blatantly. One of the reasons I decided to drag Ask Robin out from under the bed and dust her off however is the awareness that after four (?) years of blogging pretty much everything is recycled to a greater or lesser extent and it’s a bit daft that I’m a writer and never talk about writing.
To submit a question for Ask Robin, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask Robinses are archived in the Ask Robin Archives, a veritable treasure trove of… Ask Robinses!
You can also wander over to Robin’s Web site and peruse the most excellent FAQ
– Blogmom, who doesn’t do New Year’s Resolutions either (except for one-word themes for the year)††† but will try to keep Ask Robin Archives updated regularly
Diane in MN
I saw a sign at a colleague’s work station years ago: If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is an empty desk the sign of? Hah! Guess what MY desk looks like.
We be of one blood, thou and I. So, is this a genuine quote by Albert Einstein? Because if it is it so goes in the Quote Thingy. But the last time I tried to add an excellent Einstein quote that someone had posted to the forum—“But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”—it turned out to be an urban myth.
It’s still a good remark. Maybe we should put it, or both of them, up as ‘anonymous.’
You mentioned doodles and I got mine! YES! It’s totally gorgeous and I love it. I’ll probably put it in my will.‡ . . . To any who are waiting, it is SO worth the wait. My book is a treasure, and if I ever have the opportunity to have one done again I will leap at the chance, even if I have to sell a goat to afford it.
Oh good. ::Relief. Relief:: Hmm. Maybe there’s a future bribery opportunity here: any guest post used on Days in the Life eligible for free doodle.‡‡ But surely you’d only have to sell a few extra cheeses for the book?? I’d hate to be responsible for a goat being sold that didn’t want to be sold.
Quats: I was taught that way too, but evaded it: wrote the paper, then the outline, then the first draft, etc. and handed them in at the right times–in reverse order.
Emphasis mine. You are so ooooooooorganised Whimper. I can’t even begin to imagine being—or ever having been—enough ahead of the game to do this. AAAAUGH. I will now carry this picture of Superemoon indelibly etched in my frazzled mind as I labour back and forth between doodle-desk and writing desk. . . .
And speaking of the latter, I bet I could get at least another paragraph or two of SHADOWS down before I terminally fall out of my chair tonight.
* * *
* Nooooooo! Not the Seventeenth Third Damar Novel! Nooooooo!
** Column A: Heroine. Column B: Hero/2nd Heroine/Other Romantic Interest Not Covered by the Foregoing. Column C: Heroine’s Best Friend. Column C(a) If Column A is human, than Column C is Nonhuman. These may be reversed if desired. Column C(a)(1) animal (2) alien (3) Supernatural/paranormal/fey (4) Other.^ Column D: Villain. Column E: Secondary Characters Who Move the Plot Along. Column F: Secondary Characters Who Screw Things Up More. . . .
This could be fun.
^ Special considerations: these categories may be suitably adjusted if either (A) or (B) is nonhuman. It is however in the highest degree desirable that at least one of (A) (B) or (C) is not human.+
+ Oh, did I mention this is the Fantasy Writers’ Chinese Menu?
*** In which case I will be compelled to hunt you down and force you to memorize The Complete Works of Shakespeare and of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. I discuss E M Hull and THE SHEIK with some emphasis on my web site.
† All right, three main reasons. Third reason: indolence.
†† It’s also another impossible question. How I write also depends on the particular story. But the beginning-to-end-three-times-in-succession is pretty much my basic bottom line. With story-specific curlicues. The minutiae of how and where I keep notes, when or if I ever pause or go back to edit or change something in the current draft . . . feh. I have a strong, Don’t you have something better you could be doing than asking silly questions? reaction, but I tend to be all over the details of other people’s jobs because they’re not mine and I’m an inquisitive dork^. So, okay, fine, but remember that if you’re another writer what I say about how I write has nothing to do with you.
^ And also I may be able to put them in a story some day
††† I like this idea a lot, except for the fact that the words that keep occurring to me are things like ‘multimillionaire’ and ‘thirtysixhourday’.
‡‡ All of you who liked Horsehair Braider’s first guest post and are waiting hopefully for the next one . . . she’s sent me one^ and I’m such a mess I keep failing to get back to her about it. Given how I keep whining about guest blogs, this should give you some clue what a basketcase I am at the moment.
^ And it’s funny