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Blimey, is it that time of year already... - dorsetgirl
November 2nd, 2011
09:21 am
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Blimey, is it that time of year already...
So, November.
National Novel Writing Month.
But not for me.
Sorry, I’ll stop channelling Ian Wylie now. Anyway, I worked out several years ago that if I typed at my normal speed for fifty percent of the minutes I had available during the month, I might just make the 50K. That’s assuming I can think at the same rate I type. Not normally a problem, but I guess fifty thousand words need some kind of joining thread if they’re not going to become totally random, and that involves Plot.
I don’t do plot - I can never think of anything for the characters to actually do, and besides, I get bored. I get them in a situation and then start to think, “Oh for fuck’s sake, sort it out for yourself.” I’m not the kind of writer who wants to “convey a message” in my fic; I’ve only ever done that once, and it worked, but I just don’t have it in me to want to tell other people how to live their lives or what they should be thinking about. All I ask is that no-one tells me what to do or what to think. (This could be why I totally refuse to do Hallowe’en: all those supermarket shelves full of pumpkins and ghouly cakes and stupid costumes simply make me think “Don’t tell me what to do just because it's the end of October.")

This here bit of writing is actually yesterday’s allocation. The idea is that you must write something - anything - for at least ten minutes every day. I don’t anticipate any problems with the actual writing, it’s more when to do it. I’ve found that if I sit down at the computer first thing in the morning (like, um, now), I sit here far too long, cycling through my emails, my friendslist, a bit of family history, rinse, repeat.
So yesterday I decided I would do my stuff while OH took the boys to jiu-jitsu in the evening. Then middle son said he would prefer to go on Thursday instead - he only goes once a week - and the youngest, who goes twice a week, said at the last minute that he really didn’t feel like going. Cue one slightly pissed-off dad who’d left work early to take them (I could take them, but it’s one of his “hands-on dad” things that he likes to do); cue also one pissed-off DG, left with no personal time to start the month in the correct fashion.
Anyway, I do actually have lots of things I want to write about, I just need to find a better time to do it:
Going back to where it all started - the fanfic - I have lots of stories in my WIP folder. I’m completely out of new ideas and motivation, but there are plenty of fics that just need a little polishing;
I have a narrative - a life story - for a brother of one of my ancestors, which currently stands at twelve thousand words. I’ve got most of the actual facts of his life together; I’ve done a fair amount of research on related subjects, and I have the thing in basic shape. What’s holding me up now is how to present it. I generally favour a fairly sparse style for individual narratives: a year, a basic heading of what happened in that year, and a paragraph or two of the actual facts.
I know what I don’t want - fake empathy laid on with a trowel (“we can only guess at his mother’s feelings as she watched her son’s ship take him away, never to see these shores again”). And I know what I do want - clear, authoritative sources for every fact, and sound reasoning for every assumption.
But I don’t want the text(1) broken up(2) with endless references, particularly(3) as some sources(4) will be referenced many times(5). Nor do I want the reader shouting, as I do myself, “But how do we know this?”
So my dilemma at the moment is: do I say things like “We know from his settlement examination that he joined the Army in xxxx year” and “the registers of xxxx church tell us that the child sadly died at the age of five”, which has the disadvantage of throwing the reader out of any involvement in the story? Or do I say “On leaving the Army, he took up a position as...” and “after the death of little xxx...” ?
My personal preference - as a writer, if not as a reader - is for the former, I think. I would then have a reference section - either at the end of the document, or at the end of each chapter - which lists the documents by name, with either the actual text, or links to transcripts if the text is long. There’s probably a better way, but I can’t think of any at the moment.
Finally, I have a rant brewing, on the way in which our society (in England, specifically) has changed over the past fifty years. I won’t spoil it here, but I have the title, and a number of things I want to say, and I hope to make a start at some point this month.
So, I’ve now spent forty-five minutes on this, rather than ten. Breakfast time, I think, and then I need to visit wrisomifu to see what I’m supposed to be doing - apart from actually writing - to fulfil the “comm” part of it all.
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Date:November 2nd, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC)
This is me with my academic hat on:

Personally, I wouldn't mention the sources in the narrative unless they're part of the story. So when he joins the army just give a footnote reference to the source, then at the proper place describe how he came to be examined about his settlement, and what the consequences were, if any.

Can you group the references together at the end of each paragraph to avoid breaking up the text with too many numbers? Have the footnotes just give a brief description of the source - 'Baptism Register of St Mary's Little Puddleton' - and the record office reference - which is enough to show that what you're saying is based on sound research - then have a separate chapter where you talk about how you went about the research and the sources in more detail? Just please avoid the ghastly Harvard system of referencing, whereby instead of a number in the text you put (Bloggs 1978, 150; Smith 1992, 200)!

I don't think it's necessary to include transcripts of documents (as opposed to quoting relevant extracts in the narrative). If it's to reassure your readers that you've done the research, that's what footnote references are for. If it's to enable people to pursue their own research, unless there are aspects that you haven't fully covered in what you've written, there won't be much more useful information to be squeezed out.

But of course if it's to be web-published and you've already done the transcripts, you might as well include them!

And with my writer's hat:
I think part of the point of NaNoWriMo is to be totally random, to some extent. That is, to just write, dammit, and not get hung up on whether the plot makes sense or spend time obsessively editing to the point that you never get beyond Chapter Three. But I've never done it because I just don't have the time in November.

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