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Psych: I’m not writing a novel I’m constructing a skelton and then adding meat to it

October 6, 2012

Hello everyone! I’ve got a quick update for the day. Last night, I submitted the first chapter of my thesis to the rest of my workshop group! Wooooooooooot!

It’s by no means the final draft of the first chapter, but I’d like to think it’s a pretty good start. A lot of it was back-story, setting up the monks’ early medieval world and past, interweaving that with their present activity of floating on a coracle, bored and wet. It was a bit of a balancing act since there were three stories going on at once: you have the monks telling each other a story, the we’re-in-a-coracle present, and the flashbacks to explain how they got there.

In addition, I’ve officially decided to have the story in 3rd person limited point of view. The only POV I’m truly terrible at is 3rd person omniscient, but I did need to practice a little to get into the 3rd person limited mood since most of my recent stories have been in 1st person. I talked with my thesis seminar about it and they were very sympathetic. They pointed out that it would take A TON more research and time to fully immerse myself in all the heads I’m plotting to be in, time I don’t necessarily have. With 3rd person, I don’t have to know absolutely everything. Plus, the amount of characters are more than I’m necessarily used to. 3rd person is just easier.

The writing process of the chapter was interesting. Due to family wackiness and other classes insisting I take their midterms, I had less time than I thought I would to research/write. The Invisible Ninja Cat came up with an idea to save me though. Since I mostly knew what happened in the first chapter in my head, I just wrote it, putting capslocked, red-font notes where I needed historical details. I then specifically looked those facts up in the books I’d gathered. It was interesting, rather like putting a skeleton together and then adding colorful flesh. I don’t know what it is about this story, but it seems like that sort of process is a running theme. For my first draft of “Portraits” I literally only had the dialogue of the monks talking to each other. I had to go back and add where they were, what the scene looked like, what even they looked like. It was extremely odd, just having voices speaking to you in the dark. Usually when characters “talk” to me I can see them and their actions. The rest of the parts/varying points of view in the story were then also added around them, designed to explain the monks’ conversation and the consequences of it. And then I wrote a prologue. Bit topsy turvey. I know for some writers writing out of order is normal, but I haven’t really. Interesting.

For anyone who’s interested, the following are the books used for researching the first chapter:

  • Irish Monasticism: Origins and Early Development by John Ryan SJ–the first two section focus more on history, which is fabulous, but I mostly used the third section on Irish Monastic Life. Because BRILLIANCE and SO ORGANIZED. This book is going to be used a lot in the future.
  • Everyday Life of the Pagan Celts by Anne Ross–Like the third section of Irish Monasticism, this book scrupulously details what Celts did week in, week out. Interestingly, Celts were known for their over-the-top feasts. Each feast would have a Hero’s Portion. In Ireland this meant that when the hindquarters of the main course animal were served, the bravest Hero was given the thigh piece. If another man claimed it, the two men would rise from the table and fight in single combat to the death.
  • Goddesses, Heroes, and Shamans: the Young People’s Guide to World Mythology, published by Scholastic Press–though not the most illustrious of sources in the academic sense, it does contain accurate information on the Celtic pantheon and myth cycles. For the purposes of my story, it was plenty helpful. It also offers some open-minded commentary on societal values and what the gods/heroes/shamans meant to ancient and present peoples.
  • Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic by Burleigh Mutén–again, filched from my childhood fantasy/myth collection. It provided more accurate information on a certain goddess without me having to scour the internet for a reputable site.
  • Anecdota Oxoniensia Lives of Saints from The Book of Lismore edited and translated by Whitley Stokes, D.C.L.–this is a great source of Irish saint myths/stories. For the not-Catholic, saints are people who have led such holy lives that Catholics are absolutely sure they’re in heaven (think Mother Theresa). Their lives are usually distinguished in some way, sometimes having supernatural abilities, and there are miracles attributed to them after their death. The more ancient the saint, the more likely they had out-of-the-norm feats both during and after their life. I mined the life of Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise, who founded the monks’ monastery. If anyone’s interested, the book is available for free from Google books here.

I also researched Celtic protection spells (fascinating) and an herbal cure of nausea (chamomile) on the internet.

That’s all for now, folks! I hope ya’ll have a wonderful week and remember to bring your Watsons on all your adventures!


From → Thesis

  1. Herbal cure fore nausea… thanks for that one, love!

    My characters talk to me in the dark ALL THE TIME. It’s sort of like hearing voices, except I’m PRETTY SURE I’m not crazy. Probably.

    I can’t wait to read this, quand c’est fini, or whenever you want me to read it! 😀

    Super excited.


    • OOOO interesting! That makes me feel better that you have voices in the dark too. Don’t worry: if we’re crazy, then we’re crazy together! Thank you for the compliment, lovely! My plan is to finish the first draft by the end of January and then I will send it to ALL the peoples (you, some other friends, my parents’ friends, my parents, thesis readers, whoever has a brain and time etc). Then I can spend the second semester polishing it up and looking for a job. Yep yep.

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