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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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iclaudius

An Interview

I did an interview for the STV website yesterday, which you can read here if you’d like a little more information on this project.

One of the questions asked that didn’t make it into the article – possibly because I was a little thrown and babbled a bit! – was ‘what do you hope to achieve with this project?’  I found it interesting because it made me think.

If I’m being completely honest, I’m doing it because I want to be noticed.  More than that, I want someone to notice and go “hey, she’s good, maybe we should pay her a sum of several pounds to write some things.” In fact, I blogged on the subject of freelancing and its frustratingly voluntary nature here only a week ago.

I am slightly worried that this answer is too cynical for a quirky project like this.  I’d love to say I’m doing it purely for my love of telling stories, but I’d be lying.  I do love telling stories, but ultimately I have rent to pay. Sorry, idealists.  Having said that, I want to pay it by doing something I love, which is pretty idealistic…  Oh, but I also hope to improve my writing style immeasurably in a comparatively short period of time.  So there’s a less materialistic concern for you!

In news more pertinent to book  one, why do I know nothing about Ancient Rome?  According to the laws of childhood – as set out in the finale of the last series of Doctor Who – everyone does ‘Romans‘ in primary school.  So why is all my research new to me?!  Amy Pond is not significantly younger than I am!  I think maybe we did Tudors and Stuarts an extra time…

And it’s not particularly useful, but I liked the line in I Clavdivs that Livia Drusilla (Caligula’s grandmother) was once bitten by a snake, which promptly died.  Because she’s venomous, do you see?!  Siân Phillips did a cracking ‘evil schemer’ in that show.

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Procrastination In Disguise

I read an interesting post on Nicola Morgan‘s blog today in which she was talking about research, and the fact that doing too much can hinder the writing process because you get bogged down in details that you could add later.  It’s essentially a slightly different take on my own advice to myself (as seen in the ‘about’ and ‘FAQs’ on this very page), and it’s reassuring that a proper published author feels the same way.

This is especially relevant to book one because obviously I can’t write from Caligula’s point of view without knowing anything about him, but I’ve got so much material to read/watch that if I go through all of it first, I’ll get to the end of January without having written a word.  Essentially, because I don’t know very much about him, or Ancient Rome, I need to be conducting light research as I go, but only enough to get things in the right order and the right sort of shape.  Then I can change stuff and add detail at a later date.  2012, maybe.

So there we have it.  Research is nothing more than an insidious method of procrastination, making you think you are doing srs work when actually you’re putting off the task at hand – namely, writing.  I need to nip it in the bud, before I get to the point of having 3 days left to write 49,000 odd words.

I’ll get on to it right after I’ve watched all 12 episodes of I, Claudius and read all 5 volumes of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Word Count: 0

For those expecting the actual writing to begin today I should probably mention that I am Scottish, and as such New Year’s Day is designed exclusively to help me recover from Hogmanay.  However, I will be downloading I Clavdivs* at the same time as sprawling on the couch with crisps and tea and a Doctor Who (new series 5) box set.

Tomorrow, Caligula’s Blog begins in earnest.

*I mean the classic BBC series I Claudius, where they use the roman letter that looks like a ‘v’ instead of a ‘u’  in the title.  But I quite like calling it Clavdivs.

 

January

I initially had a lot of trouble deciding on January’s book.

I thought it would be the ‘friends and family’ volume, and had vaguely planned to email everyone I was close to over the Christmas period to ask for ideas.  However, as soon as I sat down to compose said email, I knew it wasn’t going to work.  Different people were bound to want different genres, which would mean a random cacophony of characters and plot ideas more convoluted than a local authority newsletter.

What I needed was a structure – perhaps I could begin with a genre and expand it from there?  This is the format I have opted to go with, as you can see from the ‘get involved’ page.  However, January is immediate and looming and tangible; so close I can almost smell Snowmageddon 2: Snow Harder.  And I didn’t want to nag people for their ideas over the holidays lest they had been watching too many heartwarming Richard Curtis movies and ended up insisting I write a family saga about an English Rose with a heart of gold.  I’m not ready to become Joan Jonker just yet.

The solution, as it turned out, had been offered by my sister about ten seconds after I explained the project to her towards the end of November.  She thought about it for a couple of minutes, then looked at me and said “Caligula’s Blog.”

I almost dismissed it out of hand because it was too perfect a pitch.  It was a ready formed concept – all I’d have to do is research the life of Caligula and some Roman history, then write it.  Bam.  So much for the group participation stuff.

As it turns out, it’s the perfect first book for this project, because whilst I’m researching and writing it I can get this site off the ground and publicise the project so that I have something to work with for the coming months.  With that in mind, I have downloaded Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire to my phone in five volumes, as well as the Caligula volume of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus’s Lives of The Twelve Caesars which had a rather lovely comment about the legs of one of Emperor Tiberius’s generals…  I am currently trying to source a copy of I, Claudius from the library and have been told to check out Plutarch’s Lives, but if you know any other useful source material, please leave a comment!

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