Jonathon Dean

Writer. Human. Nerd.

Tag: Blog (page 2 of 2)

Handsfree Summer

The whole ordeal is over – more or less – which is marvellous news! It means that I can get back to work… sort of.

After almost four months with either a completely or partially useless right hand, rather a lot of things have started to slip. My typing speed, for one, has simply plummeted, and it’s going to take a lot of practise to get that back to anything like what it should be.

Other things are a bit ambiguous as to whether or not they are technically problems. See, my hand has broadly healed just in time for various trips and events that obviously eat into my writing time, though I’m not exactly the first in line to call these things “problems”.

Taking part in the Manchester Day parade, for example, was a lot of fun.

Not exactly a problem, per se (though my wings did keep getting caught in various things), but with a lot of preparation and recovery involved with marching several miles in the blazing sun pushing a giant phoenix float. Not something that leaves me a great deal of time and energy to get the writing show back on the (paper?) road.

And this was just a few days before the other big issue-but-not-issue; a week in Corfu with the girlfriend. Technically I’m claiming the amount of swimming done counted as part of my physiotherapy, because, well, it can’t have hurt, right? But living in Manchester, where summers are an endless procession of grey, miserable days, interspersed with the odd bright day that turns to rain the instant someone lights a barbecue, a little bit of guaranteed sun is required to not go mad. And who can argue with this?

So this leads me to the next predicament; Metaldays. In a week’s time, I embark on a ridiculous road trip through Europe, to a  7-day metal festival in Slovenia, and then back again. That’s another two weeks where writing will be… let’s say difficult, for various reasons, some of which aren’t even alcohol related.

So that’s seven days. Seven days to get as much work done as humanly possible.

It’s… it’s just not looking good, is it?

Cast-away!

Isn’t it nice having two hands?

Time for another update on the hand front; after two months, hand surgery and the implantation of wires into my hand (making me a temporary cyborg – huzzah!) the cast is finally off, and I can shower without a plastic bag taped around my right hand for the first time in a long, long time.

 

Since the cast came off and the wires were yanked out with a pair of pliers and no anaesthetic (both causing pain and ending my cyborg status – boo!), I was hoping the recovery would be swift and easy. Unfortunately, the human body doesn’t like that so much, meaning that the two months immobilised in a cast have led to a pretty hefty amount of muscle atrophy, and a massive drop in my ability to move my wrist and fingers.

 

So here I am, typing slowly, clumsily and wrist-brace-ily, waiting for a letter telling me when I get to start physiotherapy, and the long journey back to actually being able to use my newly de-prisoned hand, and the very strange-feeling new skin that lurked beneath the cast.

 

Joining the Cast

Another update re: the hand, since it’s been over a month since the last blog post.

Long story short, rather than getting my bandages taken off at the fracture clinic appointment, I was booked in for surgery, and now there’s a pretty hefty wire holding the bones in my hand together, underneath an even bigger, solid plaster cast.

I advise the squeamish to look away now.

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Pretty hideous, right? Trouble is, now I’ve seen it, I can feel the thing in the side of my hand.

Another three weeks of this, and then I get to start the exciting world of physiotherapy.

Trouble is, I’ve achieved basically nothing in the last month. Partially because typing is difficult, clumsy and painful, and partially because I’ve been on codeine for big chunks of it.

Three weeks, and then with any luck I can get back to writing, back to being able to use a knife and fork, and back to showering without a bin liner taped over my arm. Huzzah!

My Productivity is Fractured.

So, here’s the latest hiccough in my productivity:

Can you, uh, can you see the problem here? I can type, but it is one of the world’s slowest things trying to type with only my left hand. Not to mention how astonishingly uncomfortable it is to sit at a keyboard with the strange angle my right arm has to be (and don’t even get me started on trying to capitalise or use punctuation!).

So why is my entire arm bandaged up and near unusable? Would you believe a minor fracture in my little finger? No? Neither would I, but that’s what it is. Unfortunately, the fracture is so close to the joint that my wrist needs to be immobilised too.

Apparently, the unofficial name is a “boxer’s fracture”, since the usual way that part of the hand gets broken is by punching something damn hard with improper technique.

But that makes me sound a lot cooler than I am, because I just tripped over a cycle path kerb.

Fracture clinic appointment in just over a week. Let’s hope I can take this bloody thing off by then and get back to work.

Redrafting and Querying – Story of a Writer’s Life

The last two months since I finished Draft Zero (and then Draft One) of Airborne Empire have been a flurry of nothing.

 

There’s something soul-destroying about months spent redrafting and writing queries, then redrafting the queries, redrafting the manuscript and everything else. I think it’s the perceived lack of forward momentum involved. Don’t get me wrong, redrafting is important, and it absolutely improves the work, but there never seems to be an end-goal in sight. When you hit the George Lucas style of tinkering around the edges, you can drive yourself mad with it, but it’s still work that never seems like it’s done. At least with writing a first (or zero-th) draft, there’s a definite point when you’re finished.

 

As a result, months of rewriting and working on queries just feel like busy work; you’re pouring time and effort in, and getting no sense of accomplishment in return.

 

To make matters worse, the other writing project I started in the meantime needs more development work than I had imagined. Which, naturally, means I’m not doing the bits of that that I enjoy either.

 

Still, at least the news hasn’t been uniformly depressing so that I don’t really want to write Stories Behind Stories posts at the moment and… Oh, yeah, that one’s happened too.

Never mind.

The Long In-Between Times

I finished “draft zero” of Airborne Empire just before Christmas. I call it draft zero, because it’s not yet polished, fixed and adjusted enough that I am happy enough to call it “draft one”, yet. Yes, that is exactly how my numbering scheme works.

But now comes the difficult part; conventional wisdom says to let the manuscript sit for a while before you revisit. This is, of course, sensible. There’s no point in going back through your work the second you finish typing out the bare bones. You’re too close to it, the things you accidentally left unsaid are still in your brain. The characterisation is in your brain but might not necessarily be on the page. You need some distance, and to come to it with a fresh mind.

Which requires a break, and some in-between time, and a palate cleanser. And, if you’re me, at least, a palate cleanser includes a dozen ideas for new projects welding themselves onto my brain, and not letting go. Which can be difficult if your goal is to go back and redraft something else, because you simply don’t have time for a new writing project on top of your old one. I’m still not sure I’m happy enough that the Twist and its associated queries, are good enough to send off yet. In fact, Airborne Empire started as my palate cleanser for the Twist, and look at how that worked out.

At this rate I’ll reach a point where I have a dozen novels at various stages in the redrafting process that never get sent anywhere, while I continually write new projects and send them to join the old ones in their very own pre-query hell.

All we can do is push ahead, and try not to drown in a stack of unpublished manuscripts.

Who Invented Query Letters, Anyway?

I think if I had to go back in time and pick one thing to just never exist, it’d probably be ironing.

Alright, and the concept of social class.

And bananas.

In any case, query letters would be somewhere up there as well. Near-ish the top.

Because at this point I think I’ve spent almost as long writing, rewriting, redrafting, researching and junking the query letter for The Twist than I spent writing the novel in the first place. I know there’s some arcane formula for the perfect query letter out there (that may actually be what the Voynich Manuscript is), but there’s just no straightforward way to twist my brain around that formula.

The difficulty, clearly, is that there’s very little to actually go on, and to judge your own query letter against. I know what a good book reads like, because I’ve read (almost certainly) thousands of books in my lifetime. By contrast, I’ve read maybe a few hundred query letters – and those are mostly drafts or rejects over on QueryShark. While QueryShark does a great job of pointing out flaws and going over what to do and not to do, it’s still not even close to wiring my brain up in the right way to be able to see what does and doesn’t work, and to instinctively know what a good query letter looks like.

Which is all, of course, compounded by the fact that there are limited chances to actually submit it once it’s been agonised over.

Still, we keep at it.

 

Odd Weeks for Odd Folk

So I’m having something of a strange week.

I’ve always been a weirdness magnet. Strange things just keep happening to me wherever I am, and I don’t really get much of a say in the matter.

Still, this week’s been one of those weeks. Continue reading

The Joy of Research: “Don’t Fire on my Wardrobe!”

It’s probably something about me that I genuinely enjoy doing the research aspects of writing. Not so much as the actual writing parts, naturally, though much of it is easier. The strange and wonderful things that you can find when just reading around a topic just serve to reaffirm the idea that the past is another country.

Doing some research for my current WIP, Airborne Empire, I found one such wonderful piece of information. Continue reading

Time Flies when Standing Still

Isn’t it strange that time just disappears? Since I’ve stopped teaching, I’m noticing more and more that entire days and weeks can just zip by without leaving so much as a distinct memory, let alone a sense of accomplishment.

Who says time flies when having fun? Maybe the normal speed for time is stuck on the fast setting, but nobody’s really noticed because they hate their jobs so it’s all slowed down as a consequence. Perhaps celebrities have a reputation for not being the brightest pencils in the shed because they’ve spent so little time doing the boring things, and as a consequence have had much less time to learn things. Unlikely, I know, but why should the physicists be the only ones who get to speculate about the nature of time? Continue reading

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