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Upcoming projects:
Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
Flocking a drawer interior

Monday, December 31, 2012

An Old Resolve

New Year's Eve 2010 I decided the years of reading my favourite authors- Tolkien, Jordan, Sturluson- had left me unsatisfied. Not in the stories they told, far from it, but rather from my own that had not. When I was fourteen or fifteen, I had tried, if half heartedly, to write a few stories. The first, which is thankfully long gone and forgotten, was an abomination, even for someone so young. After giving up on that for a time, long enough for it to slip from my memory, I had the inkling to try again. This time, the general idea was there, but my own writing abilities were still far from developed. At this point, I was fifteen or sixteen, I'm not sure were in the year it was. I managed a whole ten paragraphs. But, as my future self would learn, it was a significant improvement from what my fourteen year old mind had wrought. That too, however, fell by the ways. At least for another year.

Now comes my final year of schooling before university, the eve of 1 January, 2010. This was the year where I had had enough. Mid December, I was perusing old files and came across that final attempt (although it was in reality far from the second), and wondered what had happened to it. The ideas were all still there in my head, but I have never taken the next step and putting them onto a page. In various folders, scraps of the story remained in a cluttered state, some on bits of old assignments, others on the corners of newspaper or an old envelope. But that was it, they were there.

Some time that December, I began getting a few more tantalizing paragraphs written, but ever at a rate that seemed so insignificant. Minding, this was at a time in my life where the longest continuous thing I had ever written was at most ten pages. And so, for half a month that continued, until I came to the eve of 2010.

I was never one for New Year's resolutions, and still am not much for them. I see no reason to wait for the end of a year and another's beginning to make a change, especially if it is something worth changing. For this, the timing was perfect, and I asked myself that hallmark question, Why not? So, I made the resolution to write a page a day, no matter what else I had happening in my life, for the entire year. For my seventeen year old self, that was a bold goal, and I will admit that it was difficult. Through my final year of senior high, the last summer while my old friends were still home, through leaving the country twice, going to university sixteen hours away by drive, and essentially starting an entirely new and unfamiliar chapter in my life, I held true to the resolution. If I missed a day, I would write two pages the next, and I never forgot, not once.

At the end of the year, I was surprised at how fast it had gone. Through the month of November, there is a program called National Novel Writing Month which one of my professors introduced me. In those thirty days, I managed over 52,000 words, and the start of a tradition I have kept ever since. 2010 came and went, leaving me in its wake with 309,071 words, which was around 470 pages. 

But I did not stop there. Through December 2010, I gradually wrote my way towards a conclusion, and resolved to begin again in 2011. That was an interesting year, one which I will remember for quite a while I think. I learned a considerable amount about myself through writing, and watched as my voice changed and developed. What I wrote in that year, what I have come to title The End of an Age, may have been more than I have ever written in my life combined. Since then, I divided it into 56 chapters (something I decided not to do in the beginning and changed around September).

Haven't read more than a few pages.

Come 2011, I opened a new document, that daunting 0 pages, 0 words, 0 lines staring at me as the new year burned on. Yet in the previous year, it became something natural to write that page every day, and I could not imagine what it would be like not doing it. So, word by word, I began another, building off of the world born in 2010.

This time, I did something a little different. Being me, I knew that I would have to out do myself, which at this point in my writing, simply meant more. November 2010, I helped track how much I wrote by extending the page formatting to have zero margins. at 57 lines per page, I averaged around 1,100 words a day instead of the less than 700. 

At the end of the year, with another November's NaNoWriMo defeated, I landed at 409,000, of which 60k were written in one month. Because the pages were sized differently, I have no idea how many standard pages that counts, but it now sits in a dusty folder 67 chapters and a prologue under the title Black Smoke Rising.

The keen observer may note that I would have been 2 pages short of one a day. Yes, that is true. While I have no idea where those pages went, it doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. Not because I do not care about the goal, but because the goal changed. Tell a story in a year, or at least part of one anyway.

Haven't read more than a few pages of that, either.

2012 came and went, much in the same fashion, but through the previous year I realised that more was not necessarily better. So, instead of going for volume, I decided it was better to develop and describe the plot and characters and world better. Today is the last day I had to write, although in truth I have been near finished for several days now. 

Interestingly, same number of pages, two short. At 401,000 words, it is only a little shorter than the year prior, which is likely accounted by dialogue. November brought another 60k, or slightly more, and tonight the last chapter comes to an end. 76 chapters, somehow, again with a prologue. Carrion Men was an interesting journey, and, predictably, has not yet been read more than is necessary to avoid inaccuracies and major discrepancies.

For the fourth time in four years, I now sit with a blank page and a blinking cursor as the new year dawns again. Will anyone ever read any of it? Likely not, but that is beside the point. I set out so many years ago to tell a story, and in its telling I have come to appreciate more than just words on a page.

Fair winds in 2013, and may the year be as kind to you as these past three have shown me.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stray Lines on an Empty Page

The long tradition of mapping the earth has been alive since the genesis of society itself. Such a simple thing, lines on parchment, on stone, in the earth or in the mind, yet it is more than a representation of civilization. At least, to those cartographers who gave them birth. Whether accurate or abstract, by the design of nature or imagination, a map is more than a giver of direction and information, at least it is to me. It is like music, or art, or poetry, or dreaming out the window on a soporific mid-summer's day-- it is a way to change how we think and how we view the world through these eyes that never sleep. 

Drawing maps- of any kind- has been a fascination of mine almost as long as has been Medieval History. I was never much of an artist, although I love the feeling of pressing pencil to page and creating something with it. People were the worst to draw, and any other form of life only slightly better. But maps were always different. It was a way to let my mind wander and break the binds that this world has created, replacing them with my own. I am sure there is no lack of the wonderful and mysterious, the grand and the breathtaking things which make this earth so incredible, but that is just it- they already exist.

As Napoleon said, "Imagination rules the world." Or, as I see it, imagination creates it. Everything is empty until the mind fills in the darkness.

Whether in writing, drawing, smithing, working with wood and leather, reading or walking through nature's bounty, the sense of awe and wonder and inspiration will ever bring me back to those days where the good people of this earth were less fortunate than we. Where what lay around the next bend of the land was all but unknown and the common practise was to make what was needed, not outsource the labour and the time, pay for the service to be done by someone with years of training and education, or to send for it via mail or internet. 

Of the dozens of maps I have drawn, only one has ever been the same as another, and that was because it was amongst possessions stolen in the dead of night and in need of recreation. (but that is a tale for another time).

What are all thoughts but stray lines on an empty page?