In Which I Cheat and Then Assuage My Guilt with Bookbuying

I am cheating, and I feel awfully guilty about it.

I mean, we were getting off to a really good start, we were seeing each other all the time, and every time we saw each other my heart would go pitterpat. And now?

Now I’m cheating. Has it come to this? I am cheating on my own writing with other writing. I’ve been writing something else.

I was so happy writing my 1500 or more words a day, and I actually kept up. I’ve got nine bundles (they aren’t really chapters, since 1500 words equals only about six pages) and for once in my writing life, there was action and a total lack of navelgazing. The problem? I kinda miss the navelgazing. . .

See, I was so intent on writing plot and keeping the tension string pulled taut by the end of each 1500 word bundle, that characterization fell by the wayside. It’s the writing equivalent of not bothering to ask your spouse how their day was, or not having conversations with them anymore. So then I did the writing equivalent of starting a little something-something on the side. Oh, the conversations we had! It’s not right to do this with people, and it’s only slightly less wrong to do this in writing.

Or is it? It feels wrong, anyway.

This relationship might just be worth saving. I think I can merge the two, and how convenient is that? My 1500 Words can mesh with the Illicitly Written Words, and hopefully turn into something better. Now there’s something you can do with words that you can’t do with real people!

So I am writing in layers, or trying to, and it’s very unfamiliar territory for me. I’m used to spitting something out, and that’s the end of it, except for obvious revisions and simple fixes. What a lazy writer I am, I’m noticing now, late in the game. I’m changing my ways, though. For example, the layer I am bored with now– all action and dialogue, and with too minimal an amount of characterization– I’m going back to that layer and finding the chinks in the armor and attacking there. Word attacks. This is my writing version of marital therapy, and the only way I can think of to reconcile the 1500-a-day writing with the illicit-I’m-cheating writing. It’s a good think no-one reads this, because I don’t know if that would make sense to anybody else…

Thank God I had this realization on a Friday, so I can do some writing this weekend and figure out an amicable arrangement. And also, you know, do that whole grading-teaching job thing. The one that pays. The one I actually finish every semester!

Last night, I went to coffee with my mom at Barnes and Noble, and I got some reference material. One was quite necessary, and the other was a luxury. Here is the necessity:

by Martin J. Dougherty

Let me note that I am not writing about anything medieval– although I do have a penchant for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, so you never know, he might make an appearance, owing to his constant presence in my subconscious. But eventually, a few of my characters may have to get into a physical altercation, and left to my own devices this altercation would be a quick bop on the nose. So not effective or interesting. I know absolutely diddlysquat (What do you know? Diddlysquat is deemed acceptable by the Spellcheck Gods (and Spellcheck isn’t!)) about physical combat of any sort. A few weeks ago, I looked in the Self Defense section and found out how to kick it gangsta-style and use brass knuckles and the like– but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted basic hand to hand combat. Basic offense and defense– no frills. When I saw Medieval Combat, that was perfect.

So I was malingering in the sale books, and I found this book by Martin Dougherty. Do you think that’s a pen name? I suspect most of those sale cookbooks, the ones that come out of Britain, are put out under fake names. They all have the same number of syllables, which is highly unlikely. Oh dear, I just checked on Barnes and Noble website, and he’s written a bunch of books, so he’s real. Or real enough. Never mind.

Anyway, I flipped through it and there is so much useful information in there! I could fictionalize a whole battle sequence, or formation, or an individual fight that he used for an example of, let’s say, how to parry a blow from somebody wielding a sword or a longspear. And how many people would recognize a battle strategy from the Norman Conquest? I mean, I’m familiar with the event, but would never in a million years think while reading, “Say, this battle is eerily familiar. Didn’t they pull these same moves in the Norman Conquest?”

I also got this, which I didn’t need at all, but I do love this kind of book:

HF Ullmann, ed.

And perhaps it doesn’t look fascinating from the outside, but Oh My God you have never seen so many designer refrigerators collected in so many pages. Or garbage compactors. Or shelving or couches or chairs… I love books like these because I can see characters peopling the empty spaces. If I had a more practical bent, I’d be looking for ideas. Instead, I’m looking for a place for the people in my head to inhabit.

I’m building up a reference library, book by book! A few months ago, I was looking for a book on English Architecture, cottages or manors, and I couldn’t find anything. Not a thing in the bookstores, either online or in the flesh. Everything was Victorian and full of cabbage roses. I almost bought a Dover book of architectural plans for Craftsman Homes, just because I like them, but it was a far cry from the era and style I was looking for. Then I went to an online library, and after a lot of hunting finally found the right book. It seemed so familiar. Do you know why? Because I already had it! Well, it was at my mom’s house in the room that was once my bedroom. But I braved a lot of cat shit and dust bunnies, and I found it. It pays to have a reference library of your very own.


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