Writing Update and A Wee Bit on CRPS

Last week I posted about getting stuck into adding some meat to Working the Asset‘s story skeleton. I’d fantasized that I’d have posted that I’d gotten that done by now and was on the way to editorial pass #2…I may have bitten off more than I could chew for the time I had allowed for it.

Some Background (The CRPS Bit)

For most writers, physically writing on those index cards (or anything) is so easy and effortless that the only thought required to fill them out is what happens in the scene.

For me, there’s a lot more involved. For the last twenty years, I’ve suffered from a chronic pain condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). It affects my right hand and arm. Take a guess to which hand is my dominant one. Yep, you got it! 😬

Very long story short, the CRPS was caused by an injury sustained while serving in the Navy, and it eventually ended my career. And any prospects of ever having one.

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So, after coming to terms with the fact I’d never play the piano or guitar again (it was difficult considering music was my first love), I realised that I couldn’t let go of losing the ability to physically write.

After my diagnosis, the specialist warned me not to overcompensate with my left hand—pretty difficult to avoid when you need it to do double-duty to get you through the day—as that could cause injury to that hand.

Over the years, I’ve battled many voice-to-text programs to pursue writing: IBM’s ViaVoice; Nuance’s Dragon—which was pretty good until they abandoned Mac users; Apple dictation; and Google’s version. I still use the last version of Dragon to transcribe my dictaphone recordings with an 85% accuracy rate.

So, why am I telling you all this in an update post?

Remember I mentioned the specialist’s warning about the possibility of injuring my left hand? He wasn’t exaggerating. Four years ago, I overused my left hand and tore the ligaments in my wrist so severely that the physio told me that I’ll never recover the full strength of it back. Four years on, and it still smarts. Which sucks, because it was super strong. How strong? I pulled a stick out of the tar pits in LA without breaking a sweat.

This all has a point, I promise.

I miss having that strength and was trying to come up with a gentle way to build it up. Towards the end of last year, I took a Chinese language course and heard that it was easier to learn a new language by writing in it with your non-dominant hand. That got me thinking: I could gently increase my left wrist’s strength if I’m careful not to go too mad, and learn to write again.

On 1st January 2020, I started to write Chinese characters with my left hand. It’s so bad that I can barely make out what is written. I then stopped using the app on my phone for shopping lists (for the messages if you’re a Scots speaker) opting for paper instead. Slowly, but surely I’ve gotten better—Jez can actually read it when we’re going around the shop!

This is after one month–the first month’s attempts were all binned.
A quickly scrawled note from last month for DU2.

The Plan Is Working!

Which brings me back to all that goes into filling in those index cards. I’ve got to figure out the content of the scene, think about how the letters are formed, how to combine them to make a word, and to be mindful of my pain level.

I learned the hard way on the pain level front. I tried to work through the pain the other day because I have this weird thing where if I look down at the page I’m writing on, or reading, I end up feeling sick, and I just wanted to get it over with ASAP. But, I suffered for it.

Knowing that I couldn’t continue with the work, I did a quick search and found a sloped writing board thing. Wow, it worked wonders. I no longer feel sick, and I can write a bit longer before the pain kicks in!!!

My current desk set up–with Neenee my work bud and inner chimp (don’t tell her she looks like an orangutan!)

I haven’t shared about my CRPS here or anywhere really because it’s nice to pretend that it doesn’t exist, but it does, and it affects every aspect of my life. I decided to bring it up in this post because what I’m doing with the index cards would have been impossible six months ago, and I’m ecstatic and so proud of how I’m doing. Which brings me to…

The update

Look at all them filled out index cards!

This part of the editorial edit is all about getting down everything you know about the scene. It turns out I know a lot about what’s going on in them. A lot. I’m almost at the halfway point, the first sex scene, and I’m clocking in at around 9,500 words. For the outline! I figure that by the time I finish fleshing out the skeleton, I’ll have a detailed blueprint of about 20-25K words for an 80K word novel!

Here endeth the update.

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!

P.S. Huge thank you to my husband, Jez, and literal right hand man, for helping me every step of the way. 😍 Go have a look at Jez’s amazing photo blog!

Love this man! (Jez, by the way, not some random guy.)

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Susan T. Braithwaite

Royal Navy veteran from Scotland. My journey into writing started with a screenwriting certificate program at UCLA Ext. Since then, I've worked as a freelance content writer, erotica author, proofreader, professional beta reader, and content editor. I'm now working hard on my dream writing career: romantic suspense author. When I'm not writing, I can be found drinking too much coffee, obsessing over tiny houses, and planning world domination with my husband, jezbraithwaite.blog, and our squirrel army.​

11 thoughts on “Writing Update and A Wee Bit on CRPS

  1. Lucky you have a monkey to assist with the writing. That sounds like a pain pun not intended but I did smile using that word. So glad you persist with writing, I enjoy reading your stuff. Jez is quite a handsome fellow. Having a bit of eye candy around the house would help no doubt 🙂 🙂

  2. Oh that’s tough, Susan! But you’ve found a way through. Good for you and keep going (gently does it).
    I’m very impressed by your left-handed writing. My left hand is rubbish (so are my ring and little fingers, but that’s another story). Back in my long-distant past, some smart-arse suggested we play left-handed darts. My attempt was so way off that the dart embedded itself in the bar counter. Lucky there weren’t too many people in the hostelry, otherwise who knows want damage I might have done.
    Anyway, back to your book. 80K words sounds right for the action-adventure story you’re writing. It’s going to be awesome 🙂

    1. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I’m intrigued with the ring and pinkie fingers story…
      Why is there always someone who has to suggest left-hand danger-sport? When I was first learning to left-hand things bowling was as hilarious as it was terrifying.😬😱

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