NEW - CRITIQUE SERVICE

I am now offering a critique and manuscript assessment service. For further details, please e mail me at janelovering@gmail.com

Sunday, 27 April 2014

This is why I don't write historicals, family sagas or generational stuff. BECAUSE I CAN'T COUNT...

I can't do maths.  I'm well known for my 'not being able to do maths' abilities. In fact, in the 'not doing maths' stakes, I am approaching near-genius level.  I should point out that there are lots of other things I can do, although the rumours of that thing with the ping-pong balls has been greatly overstated... I can bake a cake without a recipe (and even, on occasion, without scales, although for that to work you have to like your cakes rather on the 'biscuity' side), I can ride a horse (without a saddle or bridle if I know the horse), I know the latin names of a lot of plants and animals... you know, stuff like that.

But maths, no.

I just see badly spelled words.
My inabilities rarely cause me problems - I have a calculator at work which does the heavy thinking for me, and I can do the functional things; percentages (I work out one per cent and multiply up), adding, subtracting and basic multiplication, and am driven into a barely contained rage when people refer to it as 'timesing'.  But today I had to do some maths for the purposes of a story.

It's the old, old thing... I had this person.  And this person had to be related to someone whose younger brothers died in the First World War.  As in a great-great something grandson.  In order to get the number of 'greats' right, and not have either somebody in the family tree having to give birth at the age of 10, or my person having to be about 80, I had to work this out.

I thought I'd got it all right, and then I realised that I'd made my child born in 1898 and any subsequent younger brothers would have been too young to have fought in the First World War and could only have died during it if someone had tipped up the pram. So I took it all back twelve years, added a layer of 'great's and recalculated, and finally managed, with a lot of crossing out, to get it to add up.

And now my brain hurts, I've got a piece of paper covered in dates and scribbles and crossings out which looks like the result of a hit and run family historian, and a ghost story that hopefully won't make anyone scratch their head and announce that it only works if someone became a father when they were three...

Fingers crossed for me, everyone...

13 comments:

Mandy K James said...

I'm no good at maths either. I can just picture you scratching your head and licking the end of your pencil! Hilarious as usual, Jane x

Georgina Troy said...

Lol, great post. I feel your pain when it comes to counting and numbers in general!

Glynis said...

I understand your pain. I was found to have number dyslexia when 15yrs old. I overcame the hurdle but those letters and figures in math are just a jumble. Calculator and math intelligent husband are my crutch. I keep careful tabs on my dates in my novels. It can make amusing reading when I get it wrong! :)

Carol Hedges said...

This is why you have an EDITOR!!! they point out the impossibility of your maths, the way you have unsequenced dates and generally tick you off for inacuracies. Or so I find...sadly.

Jane Lovering said...

Thank you all for your support and understanding! Mandy, licking the end of my pencil is the nearest I can come to doing maths - I have O Level Pencil Licking.

Georgina and Glynis, I'm fairly sure there is something wrong with me in the number department, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.

And Carol, yes, if it weren't for my editor, my timelines would be strange, fantastical things known only to wormhole and physics specialists...

alisonmay said...

Ah plotting maths. I've got a great partial draft sitting in a drawer that is only really let down by the fact that the main character has a 2 month pregnancy. Apparently that's not right...

Nell Dixon said...

I have severe dyscalculia so I feel your pain.

Jane Lovering said...

Alison - I once had a three month old baby talking...that would be sinister. Managed to change it but, yep, babies and pregnancies are the tough test of Writing Maths.

Nell, I was actually thinking of you as I wrote the post! Not for bad reasons, you understand, but because I remember your discalculia. Thank God for editors, I say.

Phillipa said...

I've just been writing a trilogy, following real time and the strict eight week structure of an Oxford term. As Carol says, thank God for the wonderful methodical copy editors.... mine went through every line with me, making it all work.

Phillipa said...

Blame my hatred of numbers of a vile tyrannical maths teacher.

Chris Stovell said...

I'm surprised - I thought with all your scientific knowledge you'd be a secret maths genius... and I feel so much better as I've always felt a bit ashamed of how baffling I've found maths! It seems, looking at the responses here, that we're in excellent company!

Margaret Kirk said...

Hate maths. However I'm a bit of an accuracy nerd, so when I had a similar problem I did chain myself to the desk until I got it right :(

The boy born in 1898 could have lied about his age, though? Plenty brave and silly young men did. Wouldn't work quite as well for the younger siblings, though, obviously!

Jane Lovering said...

Phillipa - I had a pretty rubbish maths teacher too. Got totally left behind and then it didn't seem worth anybody's time to help me catch up... Sigh.

Chris, no, sadly. No maths knowledge here. I did marry a mathematician once, but he broke his chains and got away, so I have nobody nearby to count for me at present.

Margaret - scribbled and scribbled until I got it sorted. Problem was that I was writing about Elder Sister of three boys who all died in the First World War, so it was her date of birth that was confusing me...