It’s been three months since my last blog post, but the first draft of my latest novel is done. I’ve said previously how this was a ‘surprise’ novel, as I knew this was going to be a longer project, but I hadn’t appreciated just how long it was going to be. At 300 pages and 117,586 words (as this draft stands now) ‘The Slaves of the Underworld’ is my longest story for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ series yet. Thankfully, with a good plan, it all came together easily and flowed nicely. The only difficulty I had was with a co-worker–sorry–character, who I found to be quite unlikable, and I found this to be a bit of struggle, for if I didn’t like him, then would my readers take to him, and would Hobbs’ friendship with Peter reflect poorly on him–my main character?
After my previous downer of a post where I admitted I was struggling with motivation towards my writing, I can happily say I’m back on track. My solution was to find a better place for my writing to fit into my life, so that I can balance my hobbies and my time more comfortably. I now write on Friday mornings only. Up at 6, work from 7 until 12. With tea breaks of course, I mean, let’s not turn writing into hard labor… I’m tapping out about 3000 to 4000 words, and in my current project that seems to be a chapter a week. So it feels satisfying enough for me.
Sitting down to write has been a little tough lately. I don’t get writers block, in the sense that I can’t think what to write–I plan too much–so I always know what I need to get down on the page. It’s just that writing relies on me wanting and being able to write. I’m just getting over a cold, which has dragged on for about a month. It left me feeling pretty wiped out, lacking concentration, and just wanting to sit and be. Prior to that there was some stuff going on around me which made me feel very set apart from everyone as I did not think or feel in the same way as everyone else seemed to, it kind of compounded some personal wider established thinking around this, so I was a bit distracted, in my own head and feeling a bit stressed and miserable. So, it hasn’t been the best time for writing for me. All that is heaped onto some struggles I have with writing in general.
I’m really excited with the recent announcement by Fantasy Flight Game (FFG) of X-Wing 2.0. I’m hoping it’s going to fix what needs fixing and clean up what has gone from a streamlined quick play game to a bloated game requiring regular rule checks. Reading all the news though, I found that many people have suddenly found themselves feeling anxious, angry and upset. X-Wing Adjustment Disorder (X-WAD). There’s even been some self-harm by spikey Tie-Interceptor, and others who have pitched themselves back into the age-old mystery of trying to understand the point of crit tokens. I find fandom generally is so toxic these days, like any change is intolerable, and the toxicity of fandom has become so much easier to voice thanks to the Internet of outrage as it seems to have become. So I thought I would toss out some positivity for a game I love… and as a trained therapist and author of the self-help book, ‘Get Over It’, I can’t just sit here with all the XWAD suffering I’ve witnessed on social media, so after the mad Tusken Raider and hyper-jump below I’m wading into the despair to triage the most common cries of anguish…
One year vegan and… not dead. Yay us! That being said, I’m writing this feeling like death thanks to a cold, so while our vegan diet hasn’t killed us it hasn’t made us invincible either. I could drop anecdotal comments about how my hay fever symptoms reduced, I didn’t get my usual winter cold and how I haven’t had back ache since the diet change, but it’s hard to say whether that’s anything to do with the diet or just natural fluxes in my condition over a year. It might also not be directly due to the food I’m eating, but the lifestyle changes going vegan prompted. So, instead of this post being about actual physical health improvements I’m going to talk about the impact going vegan has had on well-being, which is about how we have felt in this process and feel now.
Okay, start with the negatives… I’ve been health conscious for quite a while now–if not so healthy in my actual diet–and would watch sat fat and try and moderate the treats, but going into a vegan diet for ethical reasons we were worried that we could be jeopardising our health. Every spot, tummy wobble and head ache, had us questioning whether we were making ourselves unhealthy through our diet. Ironically, this wasn’t the go-to explanation we would have come up with on our meat, dairy and egg filled diet! I also lost nearly a stone in under 6 months, which was a bit of a worry as I am already quite light. However, in the last few years my weight had crept up from 9.5/10 stone to 10.5/11 stone, so I’m taking the drop back down to 10 stone as my having lost the onset of middle-age spread. So, result for me. Rob has not lost weight, but we don’t talk about that… He had hoped he would. The only difference in our lifestyle seems to be that he eats crisps and doesn’t exercise as much as I do as I usually cycle a lot in the week through work. Thankfully, reading around and watching the films ‘What the Health’ and ‘Forks over Knives’ and Mic the vegan’s YouTube channel, we felt somewhat reassured that through our food choices and supplements we would be getting a balanced diet. In the midst of all this angst we had to do a bit of ‘calm the f*** down’ and stop being so quick to recognise health issues and blame them on our diet.
February was a good month for writing. I managed to reach the end of part 1–a third of the way through–my latest project. At 40 pages, “The Darkwood Mysteries (17): The Slaves of the Underworld”, is shaping up nicely as a novella, perhaps even a novel length by the time I have completed parts 2 and 3. My plan, which I talked about in my last post, has held up. Chapters are pretty short, which is what I wanted, and the story I have had in my head for a few years now is getting onto the page without too much effort. I’ve managed to get a few full days of writing in, starting at about 6:30 or 7 am and then working through until 5 or 6 pm (with lunch and plenty of tea in between of course!). This was always how I used to write, and I’m glad to be getting back into the swing of it. It feels much more satisfying than a morning or afternoon, and an hour or so in an evening here and there a couple of times a week.
I’m going to share chapter two with you now. And disclaimer time again–I don’t consider I have a first draft until I have finished the whole story, as I often revisit sections and chapters as I am writing to make tweaks or changes, or move things around, so these shares are very much the rough that comes from the writing desk before they’ve been studied and edited. Please forgive typos and any wonky writing that comes through. After the ‘hook’ of finding Jack Hobbs committing himself to the workhouse, chapter two reveals why he is in this situation, and sets up the inciting incident–entering the workhouse–which will propel the story forward, with Hobbs in a very different place to the usual Darkwood Mystery.