For a few weeks now, whenever I’ve taken a break from writing/editing, I’ve been playing around with figures of rhetoric. This is a) because I have a cool book on them and b) because I’m looking for ways to play with language in one of newer novels.
The thing is that I write plain, sparse prose. That’s my natural style for fiction and I think it generally suits the type of sci-fi I’ve been writing. Just occasionally though, I play with dialogue. Usually because it makes no sense to me that characters from different planets all speak the same way. Sometimes I keep it subtle – like a character who never uses contractions – and sometimes I go the full Yoda!
But I’ve used up most of the simple approaches over my existing short stories and novels. So, now, I’m looking for new patterns that work in English to try out, which leads back to rhetoric.
The Ancient Greeks spent a lot of time sitting around thinking about language. They broke it down into all sorts of patterns that have different strengths and weaknesses and put a name to each one. Thus the title of this post, because honestly the names of the figures of rhetoric are almost harder to wrap my head around than the definitions!
You can tell I didn’t have a ‘classical education’.
My favourite for thinking “Yep, because that was totally obvious” is the pronunciation of zeugma (zyoog-ma) and for thinking “Stop with the syllables” was definitely epanalepsis.
Aside from struggling to pronounce and remember the names, the thing I’ve realised about many figures of rhetoric is that they work really well for applications where language is heightened, like poetry a speech, or types of theatre. They are a bit trickier to deploy in naturalistic fiction.
We used Swansea as our base for a day trip down to the Gower Peninsula, the highlight of which was seeing Worm’s Head (worm = dragon).
I think it looks like a dragon!
It’s hard to get the scale of this, but the water here is covering the massive causeway that joins the dragon to Wales. Obviously there are only certain times you can cross!
It was a great walk to Worm’s Head, but you get the feeling they maintain it for the number of tourists that visit.
I love how all Welsh sheep are spray painted.
After a day spent on winding roads and looking at the coast (and sheep, of course) we had a quiet dinner in Swansea. It got a bit exciting after that, because the hill opposite our hotel room caught fire! Coming from a fire prone country it was nerve-wracking to watch how close it got to houses…
I don’t have great photos of Swansea itself, but I did love the museum there. So much fun stuff to look at!
You know how I’ve been having a big, productive year? Well, let me add to that list!
Yes, I have managed to complete a draft of the second novella (aka “N2”) of my three novella series. It’s only a little bub at 20K but I’ve been so excited to finally get it re-written and complete.
As it’s pretty close to the end of the year now (whoosh goes another one!) I doubt I’ll finish anything else off, but I am going to try to wrestle N3 into shape next. Mind you, the ol’daemon is flitting about excitedly looking for new novel ideas. He seems to think that we’re ready for another new project…
We shall see.
A lot of writers talk about how novels are ‘like a marathon’, but what I don’t often hear them say, is just how long novels can be with us. (And I’m ignoring here the ones that hang about for a decade or more!)
Now, I know a lot of novelists will get through a first draft in weeks and then maybe the edits also in weeks, so that they output multiple novels a year. Most writers I know, though, don’t get through them so fast – particularly not writers who have full time jobs.
Many of my projects span years. I’ll do a draft zero one year. I’ll do a first draft another. I might do second and third drafts in a single year because that is redrafting from feedback. As a result three or four years isn’t an uncommon lifespan.
It’s so common when I remember the year I started a project that it’s been five, or six years that I’ve started to think in “novel time”. I think it’s a bit like geological time, but for novels. (It feels like geological time compared to most things in my life!)
Of course, I also multiproject, so while I’m not working on one thing, I’m working on something else and all these projects end up overlapping.
Interestingly, I figured out that I’ve done seven scratch drafts, four first drafts, two second drafts, and two final drafts in the past five years, with a few third/fourth drafts along the way. From a productivity standpoint I’m fine with that.
And while I’m doing numbers (at least I didn’t spreadsheet it!) that’s about 541,000 new words including my screenplay. There’s no sensible way to work out the edits. Probably a good thing!
This day we travelled from St Davids to Swansea and we did skip a lot of towns and interesting things along the way. Mostly because the majority of the day was spent at Whitesands beach going for a small hike and watching the surfers!
But we started, in St Davids, having a good look around the Bishop’s Palace and St Davids Cathedral. Being the home of Wales’ patron saint is why such a small town has such a big church, but it is a lovely thing to see. The stone is purple and the ceilings in the different parts of the cathedral are wooden and that’s why I liked it so much.
The arches do actually lean outward slightly…
I love this!
I have a lot more pics of this place (and the ruins of the Bishops Palace) but let’s move on!
Whitesands is a great beach, but it was climbing around St Davids Head that we were looking forward to.
Not much of a surfing day, but got to love that they’re out there!
As someone who doesn’t like being up high, I was quite proud of myself!
Sadly someone fell from one of the walking trails so emergency services were out with the helicopters trying to find them…
We also visited Newgale beach, Tenby and some other spots on the way through to Swansea, where we were in a hotel near the water… More boats!
Currently, I am looking for a new day job. I do this about every 1 to 2 years and, despite how short a time that is, I’m always surprised by how much the process changes.
Sometimes all roles are through agencies. Sometimes most are direct with the company hiring. Often the technology they use for sucking up your CV into a database changes. It’s always interesting!
It also takes a lot of energy. Mental energy I mean. Though going to an interview on a 39 degree day (that’s in Celsius) is a bit tiring, it’s true.
Usually when job hunting, I don’t write much, because of energy conservation and because it uses some other part of my brain and so switching takes effort. This time though, I seem to be doing a billion things while job searching, including attending conference days, doing some online coursework, weaving (my preeeeties) and, yes, I’m still writing. I’ve gone back to the novellas and am taking the mallet to the scrapy, scratch-draft of N2. Feels good!
As for the conference (publishing related) and the online education (work skills related), my brain is getting tubby with new knowledge. So satisfying. This week, brain is very excited about playing with new software… Love me some new toys!
Of course, as xmas approaches the job hunting may slow through sheer lack of opportunities, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be lacking things to do if that happens, ey?
The draft of Blurty’s sister (sequel) is done. It’s rough and will need a bit of work to get it from draft zero to first draft, but that’s fine. Blurty was like that too.
For the observant bloggy reader, it will be clear why the extended “woot” in the header… yes, the completion of the Blurty Sister draft means I’ve written two novels this year! *Insert face of extreme happiness*
And I also completed my first screen play!
New trend? Once off? Who knows.
I did catch myself calculating what my writing capacity is like these days… that’s usually a sign that I want to keep up my momentum.
The obvious question is: what’s next? Well, I’m thinking I should return to the novellas. They’ve been languishing for a while due the protag in novella 3 and I having a debate about who he’s in love with. I may just have to give in and write it how the protag wants me to write it. Yup.
Of course next year, in theory, will be the-year-of-many-edits considering I now have three complete drafts that all need to head on to the next draft stage. In fact if you include novella 1 then that’s four…
I should stop thinking about that before I get scared and run away! Not that I don’t enjoy editing. It’s just that it’s sloooooow compared to writing fresh-y words. Mostly because you have to do it multiple times, and stop to get feedback.
Anyway, I’m giving my writing daemon permission to eat chocolate. I’m having some fireball bourbon to celebrate.