Monthly Archives: July 2007

Choice – is using modern language right?

Just thought that I’d write a quick post about a choice that I’ve made in writing the novel.

The story is set in 1141, but I’ve deliberately chosen to use modern English for the dialogue. I don’t see the point of writing in a fake olde-worlde style just to try to give a flavour of the middle ages. I want to get across how the characters interact with each other and what they are feeling. It seems that the best way to do that is to use language that will be instantly understood by readers – that way the only decoding that needs to be done is of the ideas and emotions – not the language itself.

Also, using ‘archaic’ language is silly anyway – in 1141, most of the common people would have still spoken Old English – or Anglo Saxon – while the nobility would have all spoken a form of Old French or Anglo Norman.

In case you’re not familiar with how different Anglo Saxon is to modern English, here is an example:
Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum si þin nama gehalgod tobecume þin rice gewurþe þin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofonum…

No, I don’t know what it means either… I found it here though.

So to litter my dialogue with lots of ‘Prithees’ and ‘Hark thee heres’ etc makes as little sense as just sticking to plain everyday English. So, yes, they might say ‘OK’ – which is anachronistic, but carries more meaning to most modern readers than ‘yea, verrily’. And after all, my early medieval characters wouldn’t have said ‘yea, verrily’ any more than they would have said ‘OK’ or ‘How’s it going?’

Using modern English helps to define characters more easily than archaisms. For example, ‘How’s it going?’ is a different kind of greeting to ‘How do you do?’ and says more about the character than an archaic greeting as it would always tend to sound formal.



Filed under Language, Middle ages, Writing


Yesterday’s writing didn’t go so well. I’d decided to edit through the first few sections that I’d written mainly to get everything straight. A lot of the story has changed since I began writing and I wanted to change a few loose ends. For example, Arif started out as Stephen’s son – now they are brothers. Stephen and Geoffrey originally met in the crusades – now they are half-brothers and Stephen is the son of a crusader. I’d also toyed with the idea of making Stephen related to royalty, but that all got too complicated to fit in as a sub-plot.

As I was twisting my way back through all the now-contradictory things I’d written before, I just couldn’t focus. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and sleep – so I gave in after an hour and went to bed.

Where I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours, only to be woken up at 4:00 by the cat!

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Filed under Middle ages, Sleep, Time, Writing

Feeling good

So far so good – the new strategy is working.

Last night I managed to get started on writing at 9:30 after all the interruptions and finished at 11:00. So I got in an hour and a half rather than the half an hour  I’d have achieved if I’d tried to fit everything.

I also got a major section of the novel finished (well first draft at any rate) and that really helps to give a sense of achievement.

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Filed under Time, Writing

Working smarter?

I came home from work today, still shattered from yesterday’s visit to Legoland (which was great fun, by the way) to discover that the cat had been sick at various points around the living room.

So, first things first, clean that up, then get dinner cooking. Take the wheelie bin back to the garden – then Josh arrived back with my Dad. He’s still excited from yesterday as well as getting back home and finding me there already. Then my mobile phone starts ringing, but I can’t find it in my bag before it stops – mainly because I’m being whirled around by Josh. When I get hold of it, I try to call back, but can’t because the other end’s engaged (leaving me a message). When I do get through, and it’s mum to tell me that Dad is bringing Josh back – which I’d kind of gathered by this point.

Josh doesn’t like me talking on the phone – or rather he does because he can be very naughty knowing that my attention is diverted elsewhere. I’m trying to listen to Mum while Josh is pulling my clothes, screeching like a monkey and giggling.

Then he wants to play mummies – the bandaged, un-dead sword-wielding kind, obviously. He picks up his sword, whirls it around his head rather theatrically and brings it crashing down on my knuckle, which immediately swells into a nice purple lump. Ow.

And I’ve been home for all of 10 minutes. And that’s pretty average, actually – give or take the bruised knuckle.

But it made me think that maybe I’m going about writing the novel the wrong way. Trying to do a little each night is not the way to do it because there is too much going on each night to be able to focus – and it is so obvious that I can’t believe that I didn’t see it before.

Say I aim to write from 9:00 to 10:00, four evenings a week. Some of that time will be spent ‘getting into it’ – probably between 10 to 20 minutes depending on what I feel like. Then there might be interruptions such as a phone call or Josh coming downstairs – which could eat up another 15 minutes. So that means that out of my hour, I could lose up to 35 minutes. If you average that out at 22 minutes over a week for each 4 hours writing time, I lose around an hour and a half.

Also doing a bit each night means that I have other things to get done afterwards, so part of my mind is always focusing on the next task.

But say I decide to only write twice a week, but write for 2 hours instead – from 9:00 to 11:00 – then I only lose three quarters of an hour (two lots of 22 minutes warming up/inturruptions). And I can focus on just doing writing for that evening because I will more time during the rest of the week for general admin tasks.

So, in theory, I should be more productive by trying to write a little less often.

Hasn’t necessarily worked out quite like that tonight. I decided tonight would be a night off because I could do with an early night – caught up with Daunt and Dervish on BBC7 listen again. But I got sucked into surfing the net afterwards, so no early night!

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Filed under Children, Motivation, Self sabotage, Time, Writing

Early bird/ Night owl

But I have a horrible feeling that I’m the worm.

Once again, no writing despite Josh being asleep by nine. My mum rang up instead. (They spend so long together – I wonder if it’s a plot? Like, ‘Nanny, I could do with an early night, you couldn’t give her a call about 9:05, could you? Keep her talking for 45 minutes or so. That should do it…’)

That makes me sound awful. But I am going to be spending all day with her tomorrow, and I’ve seen her every this week too – and I’ve only got evenings to write in!

But that takes me back to my old dilemma: to write very early in the morning (before anybody remotely sane is up) or stick to evenings?

In the mornings all I have to do is write so I get on with it. But Josh seems to be programmed to wake up 15 minutes after I get up, so I rarely get peace and quiet. And he really resents me getting up early to write or study (which he has to get over, but it doesn’t help concentration when your six-year-old son is complaining very loudly about how selfish you are or popping in every five minutes to find out when you’re going to be done. Obviously for him it’s a win-win situation. He either gets away with disturbing me and being obnoxious, or I have to tell him off – and so giving him my undivided attention, which was what he was after in the first place.)

Another down side of getting up early is that I also have to go to bed early, so have even less time to wash up, make sandwiches, deal with phone calls, sort out household accounts. And forget socialising! The last time I tried the whole getting up early routine, everybody (even strangers) kept telling me how tired I looked.

But working in the evening is an uphill struggle because I’m already tired. Quite often my mind is full of all the things I have to do and that makes it hard to concentrate.

On the upside, I finally defrosted the freezer  and liberated all the escaped peas and other assorted items that had been entombed in the ice  like the hapless Runners in Logan’s Run.

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Filed under Children, Housework, Sleep, Time

No time

Today I feel frustrated. The novel is going well now, but moving forward so slowly that it seems almost pointless. I keep getting ideas for new projects and it’s getting me down that I’ll have to wait so long to get on with them.

I feel so tired in the evenings after working, then putting Josh to bed and clearing up. I’m torn between relaxing and just trying to get on with as much writing as I can before I get too tired to see what I’m doing!

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Filed under Children, Housework, Sleep, Time, Writing

The story!

I’ve finally managed to write a synopsis of the novel (see page tab above). It was much harder than I thought it would be – maybe the whole thing is a little complicated.

It needs tweaking, but it should make up for the ‘About the novel’ page being about lots of things other than the novel…

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Filed under Writing