Shopping

Except in rare famine years, no one starved in Egypt. The Nile’s flood and constant sunchine produced such good crops that even peasants with tiny patches of land could grow enough wheat, vegetables and fruit to live on. Those who could afford meat ate pork, mutton, goat, goose, duck or wild game. Beef was a luxury because cows needed good land that was better used for crops. Hens were unknown until the New Kingdom (c1568-1085 BC), when some were imported from Syria.

There were no shops. Townsfolk bought what they needed from farmers and craftsmen who sold their wares from stalls in the streets. Money had not been invented, so shopping was done by bartering – exchanging goods of equal value. Wages and taxes were paid in the form of food, goods, or services.

Writing the Perfect Scene

Writing the Perfect Scene – When I read this it made perfect sense to me. A light went on in my head – “this is something I’m doing wrong”.

I will learn to write using the Motivation Reaction Units within my Scenes and Sequals.

Motivation is what the character sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels (as in touch). It is external and objective.

Reaction is what the character feels internally. It is internal and subjective and is broken down into three parts:

  • feeling (this always comes first)
  • reflex (this happens as a result of the feeling)
  • rational action and speech (this happens when the character has had time to think and act in a rational way)

Motivation and Reaction should always be written in different paragraphs and should always be in this order.

But what are Scenes and Sequels?

Scenes should have:

  • Goal – what the character wants at the beginning of the scene. The character doesn’t sit back passively and wait for it to come to them, they go after it.
  • Conflict – The obstacles the character faces as they try to reach their goal. Naturally, there has to be a struggle otherwise the novel will be boring.
  • Distaster – This is failure to reach the goal. Something bad has to happen to make the reader turn the page and keep reading.

Straight after a scene, comes the sequel.

  • Reaction – The emotional follow through to the disaster. Show the characters reaction to what has happened. Show a passage of time when there’s no action but there is re-action. Then have the character “get a grip” and look for options.
  • Dilemma – Oh, there are no options and the character has a dilemma. They wonder what will happen next and have to work through the choices available.
  • Decision – Let the character decide on the best option and decide to carry it through. Let the reader respect the character for trying. This gives the character reason to be proactive again because they now have a new goal.

And the pattern starts over.

Within the Scenes and Sequels you must rember to use the Motivation Reaction Units. If you do this well, you will have written the perfect scene.

Inside Information

Writing the manuscript is the easy part. Getting noticed is the challenge!

A friend of mine received one too many rejections where it was obvious that her manuscript had not been read. This was after she did the right thing and queried the agent first and she was asked to send in the chapters. After the normal waiting period – 6 to 8 weeks – her manuscript was returned untouched. Why do they ask to see it if they have no intention of reading it? But that’s a different story so I won’t go into that now.

After this happening several times, she was frustrated enough to email the editor and ask politely what she should do to ensure her manuscript would be read next time. Apparently, the reply was a little agro but pushing that aside, she was given some inside information that really hit home.

This is the important part of what my friend told me:

She said that she receives so many submissions a week that she reads none of them first off. Even though the letters are addressed to her they automatically go to her assistant who doubles as her reader. The assistant reads the submissions and she picks out a tiny percentage to pass on to the agent. The figures I got was that perhaps 3 submissions out of 200 would be passed on to the agent. The rest get sent back. Even with the submissions she does read, the agent still may not request to read the full manuscript. She said that she takes on between 2 and 5 authors a year. According to the agent, this is the usual system with literary agencies (the screening assistant system) because they receive so many submissions and are nowadays acting as readers for publishers because the publishers won’t accept anything unsolicited.

So now we see just how difficult it’s becoming to be noticed. Right, this means a change of plan!

The Snowflake Process

Randy Ingermanson Talks About Writing but more importantly he explains a not so complicated method of writing a novel using The Snowflake Process.

I’ve heard about this before and have been to his site before but it was only tonight that I took the time to read his words. I think all writers grow as time passes and I’ve come to believe that ALL stories should be thoroughly planned BEFORE we start writing.

How often do you hear a writer say “my characters just won’t do what I want them to do”? That used to be me but not any more because that actually means that you have no idea where the story is going and you’ve lost control. Well, it’s time to take back control. It’s time to plan your story from beginning to end…

Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean the creativity has disappeared because you’ll still have flashes of inspiration and all plans can be changed but at least you’ll know where you’re heading.

Anyway, take a look at The Snowflake Process of Writing a Novel. It’s very interesting.

Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastinate means ~~ v. intr. – To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness. ~~v. tr. – To postpone or delay needlessly.

Some writers seem to have a never ending flow of ideas. They always have something to work on, something in the pipeline and even more ideas finding their way into a special “Ideas” notebook or folder. Then there are the other type of writers who find choosing the right idea more difficult. They spend so much time asking themselves “How do I get started” and searching the internet for the answer, that nothing actually gets written.

Here are a few suggestions to get your started:

  • Just sit at your computer and type. Doesn’t matter what, whatever is on your mind. What you did this morning or yesterday. Get the flow started and then at some point you can cross over into writing your novel.
  • Flip through magazines and newspapers and see if ideas can be stimulated by what you are looking at.
  • Take the phone off the hook and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the internet or the television. Pull the cords out, if you have to. This is writing time, not surfing time.
  • Same goes for eating and drinking. You’re only wanting these things because you can’t make yourself write!
  • When you do start writing, when it’s time to stop – finish in mid sentence so that when you return to your work tomorrow the thought is already there. You can finish the sentence and then continue typing.
  • If you get really desperate try opening the dictionary at any page and then writing a sentence using the first word you see; or, try to think of new words using each letter of the word you first see.

Here are some other suggestions:

Keep an open mind

Sometimes you can be doing something else and a character will pop up in your mind and shout “Hey, I wanna be in your next story”. Who are you to deny this person? Take notes and listen to what the character has to say because these are the best characters ever.

In other words, let your subconscious mind take over. It really does work.

Commit yourself to a deadline

Set a deadline for when you want to finish the chapter or novel. Make sure it’s a realistic deadline otherwise you won’t make it and you’ll be disappointed in yourself.

Another form of this is to set times especially for writing. Say… an hour a day. If you find you sit in front of a blank screen for most of that hour try giving yourself a reward when you’ve written a page or 1000 words – whatever works best for you. The reward can be allowing yourself 30 minutes on the internet or that cup of tea you wanted so badly.

Again, be reasonable or be stressed!

Start anywhere

Remember, you don’t have to start at Chapter 1 word 1. If that’s the reason you’re having trouble getting started go to a scene that you feel enthusiastic about and start writing. Often, once a few scenes are written the rest start to flow much more easily.

Don’t, however, write all the exciting scenes first and leave all the boring in between bits to last because then you’ll have a novel almost finished but you’ll be dead bored writing the rest of the story and will experience major procrastination problems.

Have more than one project

This is something that works for some people but not all. Have more than one project going at once. It’s better if each project is at a different stage and then if you get stuck on one project you can switch to another for a while (letting your subconscious take over on the first project).

Don’t forget that you can switch between activities in the same project too. You can concentrate on research, writing, redrafting, editing, and planning. Whilst you’re doing any of these things – you are still in writer’s mode.

Read

Most writers like to read so this shouldn’t be a problem. Read books in the genre you are writing or that are aimed at the audience you are looking at for your work. Reading wisely has two effects: 1) It helps you relax, and 2) It is great research.

Find other writers

Joining writer’s group and visiting writing message boards is a great inspiration and I highly recommend doing both. Naturally, don’t let these groups interfer with your writing by demanding too much of your time but sharing ideas and thoughts with people just like you, is an excellent way to help get the creative juices flowing. It also helps you to realise that you are not alone. There are many people just like you and I sitting alone in a room, trying to write a novel. By reaching out to those people, you will find a new desire flare up within you and “procrastinate” will be a word that no longer fits in with your personality.

The Medieval Village

Villages were only built near a stream or spring because they needed to be close to water. Houses were dotted along a little dirt road. Some of these houses were nothing more than little huts; others were a bit bigger. A large manor house, with barns and stables surrounding it, was where the lord and his wife lived. You would always find a church nearby.

village

Around the village would be three large arable fields. One would be for growing wheat, one for barley and the third would be lying fallow (nothing is planted there because the farmers would be letting the ground rest). Each field was divided into strips. Most of the village families would have strips scattered about in each field, and the lord would have his own strips. His part of the land is called the demesne.

There would also be common grassland because the people had the right to graze cattle and sheep. Near the stream, where the ground is damp, the grass would grow tall and thick in the hay meadow, and close by would be the watermill with its big wheel turning round in the water as it grinds corn. This would belong to the lord, who would also have a windmill on a hill.

Further away, beyond the fields, are dark woods, where pigs might be kept and deer could be hunted.

The Lord and his Villeins

Most of the village people were called villeins. The lord of the manor gave each villein space for a house and small garden, strips in the arable fields and a share in the hay meadow, common land and woodland. Instead of paying rent, the villeins would work on certain days for the lord.

In February or March, they would do several days’ ploughing and harrowing on the lord’s land but they had to provide their own food. Once in summer and once in autumn, they would be expected to do one day’s ploughing and one day’s harrowing, but on these occasions the lord would give them food twice a day. There would also be other regular work to be done on the lord’s strips, like hoeing off the weeds. Besides this work, week by week, there were special times when the villein’s whole family had to work; cutting and carrying the lord’s hay and reaping and carrying his corn.

As well as this, the villeins would have to give the lord four hens at Christmas and twenty eggs at Easter. It is known that this is true because it is written in a custumal. There were so many rules about what the villeins had to do for the lord, and what the lord had to give them, that in many villages, to help their memories, they wrote down these rules or customs in a document called a custumal, which gives information about the work of the villagers, their rents, their rights and their rules.

Houses

The villeins would help each other build houses. They didn’t have bricks or stone but the lord allowed him them to cut down trees in the forest to make a wooden house. They built a framework of timber, filled in the spaces with a lattice-work of this wood, and plastered this all over with a mixture of mud and chopped straw. In this way they made “wattle and daub” walls. Finally, he thatched the roof with straw.
Inside, there would be a flat stone for a fire in the middle of the room and a smoke-hole in the roof above it. The cooking is done indoors in winter but whenever possible the women would cook out of doors. The windows have no glass but do have wooden shutters.

The house has two rooms. In one the man keeps his tools (a hoe, a spade, an axe, a wooden bucket, a sickle, a flail and his bow and arrows) and all the animals sleep there at night. In the other the family lived and slept. Most families would have a wooden table, some three-legged stools, a log against the wall for the children’s seat, and a bed like a big wooden box. The man of the house would make all the furniture himself. The floor would be mud, stamped down very hard and firm. All the clothes would go in one big wooden chest, and most of the food would be kept in baskets. In one corner there would be a wooden trough in which the wife would make bread, and an iron cauldron she used for cooking dinner, washing the clothes and bathing the baby. On the table would be wooden plates and cups, and a clay jug.

Up in the dark roof would be big pieces of bacon and strings of fish hanging by the smoke-hole to get smoked ready for eating in the winter. A tiny door led into a little wooden shed where there would be a great tub of salt water full of port pickling for the winter too.

Nobody in the village had water brought to them by pipes. There was a deep well in the middle of the village usually, where everyone went to draw water.

Egyptian Women

woman

Most women had to take second place to the men of the family. As far as society was concerned, “a woman’s place was in the home”.

Their daily chores included fetching water, cooking, cleaning, grinding grain, baking bread, brewing beer and washing and mending clothes. Some women had vegetable gardens to tend and animals to care for too.

Others did spinning and weaving or made clothes. Women from wealthy families could afford to hire servants to help them and they also had maids to do their hair and make up. Poor women had to do everything themselves.

Some women worked as servants for others, while others worked as mucicians, dancers or entertainers. Women could own farms and businesses and were often quite successful. They were even allowed to leave their property (in their will) to anyone they wanted.

Farming

Producing enough food for everyone was the most important job in ancient Egypt, and most ordinary people worked on the land for at leat part of the year. Much of the farmland belonged to the king and his noblemen, or to big insitutions such as temples, which employed stewards to look after their land.

farming

The boundaries of fields were marked out with stones to make sure that nobody tried to take someone else’s land. Every few years officials measured the fields to make sure the stones had not been moved; this also enabled them to work out how much of the harvest the landowner would have to pay in taxes.

Wheat and barley, were the most important crops grown, which were used to make the basic diet of bread and beer. They also harvested flax for making linen, and papyrus for making writing sheets. Beans, lentils, onions, cucumbers, lettuces and many fruits were also grown.

Some year the crops failed, which left the community to experience and famine. Many people starved at these times. Often, the ancient Egyptians knew when they would experience a bad year, if the height of the Nile River was too low, there would not be enough water for the crops and if it was too high, everything would be washed away.

As soon as the flood waters went down, the farmers ploughed the fields and planted their crops. They irrigated the growing plants with water which had been held back from the flood or brought the the fields, from the river, by using water scoops or wheels.

They often used trained baboons to help pick the fruit but ripe grain was harvested with a sickle; flax and papyrus were pulled up by the roots; and the rest of the crop was gathered by hand.