Revision: 16 minutes
Episode 6 revision-note-taking continues, and I continue to feel uncertain of how useful my revision notes actually are. Similarly, I continue to question my own methods while writing Bad Guys.
Specifically: if I’m only writing this zero draft to pretty much discard it as soon as it’s done …
What’s the point?
I’m conscious of certain things ever since I took on that approach: I’m conscious of the ideas that I’m leaving out, for instance, in the interest of getting this zero draft finished quickly. Entire characters have fallen by the wayside, never mind the scenes they’re in; this zero draft is lean, discarding all unnecessary baggage for a quick sprint to the finish-line. I’ll get there. Fast. Probably before the end of the month.
And then I’ll have to go back and add in all of this shit anyway.
Or will I? Because I’ve been thinking that I really need to start including these ideas and characters while the zero draft is still in progress, make my mistakes with them now so that I don’t have to make time to fix them later, and do this zero draft right.
But, on the other hand, Bad Guys has been really hard for me to settle on when it comes to the cast, and there are only six characters who keep coming back – which are the six I’m working with in this draft. Maybe it’s actually better to do it this way, just work with the core ideas that I know are the most stable, and be willing to “build out” once it’s written.
Or perhaps I need to be more open to adding new characters I haven’t thought up yet, rather than trying to force the ones I’ve thought up before the writing process started into a place that might not actually suit them in this story.
Whatever I end up doing, I get the feeling that this might be the most infuriating zero draft I have ever written, in terms of coming back to make revision notes.
Ah well. Learn by doing and all that …
I had a ton of new ideas today, and did almost skip another chapter just to avoid dealing with the frustration of not immediately incorporating them and letting them patch up the holes I thought I had to cover for the sake of keeping up momentum.
But I didn’t; I wrote down those ideas in my ideas document and then just kept writing, and I think I’m doing the right thing.
Also, this is a zero draft, and I’m going to incorporate a couple of those ideas that help me out of a jam …
And I’m going to use those ideas I have that will slow my writing down by making the zero draft longer by including them, because it’s the right thing to do.
And also, I think, the more fun thing to do.
Revision: 1 hour 32 minutes
And now I have two revision plans for Wolf Gang, and there will probably be a third one in the near future because it still doesn’t feel quite right.
I also think that I do just need to start a new werewolf story, one that better satisfies my need for werewolves – much as I hate to admit it, Wolf Gang suffers from a fairly similar issue to The Wereling, where the werewolves could be replaced with some other thing and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. And, I mean, that’s fine for Wolf Gang; it’s the result of a writing experiment, it’s “not meant to be good”, and that’s part of the fun …
But it’s also made me realise that I do actually want to try my hand at a “good” werewolf story, and this can’t be it. It’s quite freeing, actually, because now I can focus on making Wolf Gang the shittiest YA werewolf novel it can be.
Got over a bump in the road, and the rest of the story should play out pretty smoothly going forward. We’ll see.
I’m starting to think about other projects that I could start once I’m done with Bad Guys, or at least once I’m done with the zero draft, now that I feel more confident about my ability to power through the initial block of how to approach a story that doesn’t present a clear path forward when I look at how to get started with it. I’ve got an idea of how to “reboot” a very old project of mine that I still really love, have had a certain set of ideas about for many years – almost half my life, actually – and now that I’ve gotten used to opening up with projects and being more willing to let go of long-entrenched plans and designs once the writing gets started, I’m excited about the opportunities this presents.
I’m also starting to think ahead with Bad Guys, in terms of what else the story could – and perhaps should – be. The ability to let go of old ideas and embrace new ones has really made me aware of just how many old ideas are in this thing, and how many are holding it back from feeling like a real story. It’s the issue of the cast with this story, more than anything, that causes this problem, and that’s where my thoughts are going right now: when this zero draft is finished, I have the suspicion that, even if I do include the characters I’ve planned to include from the start and can see where they do and don’t work, I’m just going to replace them all anyway, because I already know that they don’t work.
Basically I think my observation on Monday about needing to be open to new characters who emerge from the needs of the story was correct, and for the rest of this zero draft, that is the agenda I’m going to be working from. Sounds like chaos. Hope it’s fun along the way.
Be prepared. If I keep repeating this advice to myself, I will eventually feel like taking it. That’s how it works.
I have to be honest: I am in a strange place in my life. Having Bad Guys as a source of focus and self-centering in my life has been so amazingly beneficial that I find it hard to describe. At the same time, I feel so disorganised, and I think it’s not that I’m any more disorganised than usual – it’s just that, with this priority of having 1400 words to write every day, my lack of organisation is becoming more apparent to me, because I haven’t adapted to having this huge thing to organise myself around. I’m going on with business as usual, and just sort of expecting myself to “deal” and include this massive, ongoing project.
Which is not being fair to myself.
Thus, the plan going forward is to, um, have a plan.
And part of that plan really needs to incorporate having days off; I haven’t had days off from writing basically since the start of Camp Nano, which I only decided to do because I wanted that stupid achievement; well guess what I didn’t even get the trophy because while I was writing every day I wasn’t updating my word-count every day and also you probably don’t even get the trophy at Camp Nano it’s probably only for real Nano well also writing every day does feel right but.
I need, and have needed for a long time, to get better at taking care of myself on a holistic level; I’m doing pretty well in terms of the writing right now, and the rest of the stuff I’d like to be doing well at is actually getting dragged along in the wake of that momentum, which is great, but it’s also starting to get tangled up together and it needs to get de-tangled. I need to get de-tangled.
Which means morning writing! Well, “morning” is a strong word; first-thing-after-I-have-breakfast/lunch-writing! Because once it’s done, it’s done, and I can get on with the business of having some downtime. Which I have to also start to understand that I actually need, despite the fact that I “don’t do anything with my time”; I do a lot with my time, it’s just that it’s mostly self-distracting garbage that I shouldn’t be doing. Or at least not doing as much as I have been and currently am. I mean, shit, I was hot on the reading train, and the last batch of library books I got I’ve renewed twice because I hadn’t taken the time out of my schedule of self-distracting techniques to read them.
Also, to be honest, this zero draft – I didn’t get over the bump I thought I had, and it’s making all the new ideas of how to change the story and Make It Better are becoming increasingly more seductive and appealing. I don’t want to go back on my commitment to just keep writing, but I also don’t want to spend another fucking month on writing a manuscript that I’m never going to even use. So while I’m taking the next two days “off”, I think it really is time to try and make some plans. Not necessarily plans for this draft, but plans. At the very least, it’ll give me the chance to get these ideas down in writing so that I don’t have to keep them in my brain.
Well, I didn’t write first-thing-after-I-have-breakfast/lunch, and I spent a lot of the day creating a D&D character for a one-shot this Sunday – but hey, it’s one of my days off, I’m fine with that. I will be writing much earlier in the day tomorrow, though, because I know it’ll be good for me and I’ll be glad when I do it.
I also did the brainstorming, or at least some of it. More tomorrow, and more forward-looking, seeing where I can take these ideas that isn’t tethered to the current version of the story that I’m writing. Today’s brainstorming was more on this current version of the story, because I realised that I have been spending the past week working on a chapter that literally doesn’t need to exist because it adds nothing to the story …
Until I started writing about it, and realised that, actually, this is a perfect place for a lot of quite important stuff to go down.
The issue is that I can’t just write it off the top of my head; it actually requires, like, thought and shit – and if I’m going to do that, well then I may as well actually start over and write a zero draft that I am putting thought and deliberation into. I probably won’t be able to get my 1400 words written each day that way; I’ll risk losing momentum and enthusiasm the longer it drags on – but right now that’s happening anyway, because until I stopped to take stock of this chapter and the ideas being presented in it, I had no idea what to do to keep this story moving. I was considering skipping writing it altogether for the sake of keeping up momentum; I might still do exactly that. And so many ideas that I have are just not getting explored because I’m insisting on this breakneck writing pace for myself.
I mean, I know what I’m going to do, which is just keep writing – but if that turns out to be the wrong decision, then I want to have a clear record of events that tells me why it’s the wrong decision, so that I can look back on it and learn from it. And I want that because right now I’m starting to think that it really is the wrong decision, because I’m writing too fast for my ideas to keep up, and that’s been killing my momentum just as much as spending too much time deliberating has done in the past.
So, maybe what I need is a mix of both. Maybe day-about for planning/brainstorming and writing, or spend a couple of days brainstorming what I’m about to be writing for the rest of the week, and then spend the rest of the week just taking those ideas and going wild, rinse and repeat. I don’t think I can afford to keep up the 1400 words per day at this rate; I’m not getting the opportunity to direct myself in my writing, and while that worked for Wolf Gang, the ideas came way more easily with that project, because they were so much more basic.
It might also just be this chapter: it’s a new one, I never had any sort of plan or even idea for it before I started writing it, and maybe I do actually need to just ditch it, “skip” it, or whatever, for the sake of getting to the parts of the story where I do have some ideas to work with.
I dunno. I’ll see how it goes tomorrow; I do have some ideas now for this current chapter, but in the end I still think it’s kind of trying to make the best of a bad situation that didn’t need to exist in the first place. Whatever I do, I definitely need to give myself time in my writing schedule to stop and think and brainstorm, not necessarily to make a plan for myself but just to, I dunno, refuel, stock up on ideas and energy instead of trying to write my way to them – it works sometimes, but when it doesn’t, I need to know what to do.
Be prepared. If I keep saying it …
Writing: DAY OFF MUTHAFUKKA
I’m an adult.
What do I want my age to be when it comes to acting like it? That’s a story-seed I’ll stow away for a rainy day …
Today, incidentally, was quite rainy, so this is day 4 of no exercise this week, and it bothers me that I’m making it so easy to miss my daily exercise. I also did absolutely no writing, or planning, or brainstorming; I did nothing involving writing at all today, and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing.
However, I did come to a realisation. I was running some old WOW raids and listening to the Writing Excuses podcast. They were discussing ‘literary fiction’ (season 12, episode 5, for those interested/the purposes of appeasing my lingering academic research habits), and the way that two of the hosts had been to creative writing classes where they were told they weren’t allowed to write fantasy or science fiction for the course. One host offered two ‘little’ defences of this act of artistic censorship. The first was that the lecturers ‘don’t read it and don’t know how to critique it’; she then went on to say that, when she challenged this and suggested that they could still critique the aspects that they did understand, like character, theme, structure, etc., they actually agreed to do it, which was nice to hear (though I wonder how common).
The second was that she found, in the classes that she herself has taught, that when her students did write fantasy and science fiction, it was very generic and derivative. Now, as an aspiring born-again hack, this kind of stung. The gist of the episode was “literary and genre fiction can learn from each other yay”, but what I took away from this particular anecdote was that one should feel bad about writing generic, derivative work in a creative writing course …
Which, maybe, is totally legit. I mean you don’t need a class to write generic, derivative work, right? You can just do that shit on your own why take a class to just do the same thing you could do for free in your own time instead of learning something new and taking the opportunity to challenge yourself and grow as an artist let me tell you as the author of the as-of-yet-unpublished-and-probably-never-will-be shitty YA werewolf novel Wolf Gang writing generic, derivative work is hard. It’s fucking hard. I wouldn’t say that it takes a great deal of writerly skill, but it absolutely takes effort. Because you still have to understand the tropes, devices, themes, conventions, cliches, and so on that you are deploying in your work, and what I have learnt is that I really don’t understand those things as much as I thought I did when I wrote Wolf Gang. I could recognise them, I could shove a bunch of them together in ways that I’d seen done before, but I did not understand how to make them work together as a well-told story. I still don’t, to be perfectly frank. I am far too disorganised of a writer to pull that shit off in a zero draft; and so far, with Wolf Gang and now Bad Guys, that’s something I’ve embraced as My Style.
Until I heard this episode of Writing Excuses, and I realised that the problem I’m having with Bad Guys is that I’ve been making myself focus on how tropey and pulpy and fun in those ways that I can make it – when what I’ve actually always wanted to get out of this project, right from the start, was the experience of taking those tropes and conventions and cliches and not so much upending them, but filling in the gaps, going behind the scenes.
Which, as far as I can see, clashes wildly with the other thing that I’ve wanted out of this project right from the start, which was basically writing a Suicide Squad fix-fic and being able to make money from it by changing the characters and setting and certain aspects of the plot.
And then I started actually writing the damn thing, and now that I’m at this point where I’m really stuck and don’t feel good about moving forward, where I’m having all of these second thoughts and foreboding feelings about the direction that the zero draft is moving in, it’s given me the opportunity to take stock of where I, the writer, am at with the project, and where I’m at is a land of confusion, with no genesis of new ideas or solutions coming in the air tonight, or any other night, okay I don’t even like Genesis not like I dislike them I’m just totally unfamiliar with their work outside of memes what was I talking about again …
I’ve been thinking the thought: “if I just started over from scratch with these new ideas, this would be a better story and use of my drafting time” for what feels like the entirety of this week. I’ve also been countering this thought with the thought: “if I stop-and-start with this project one more fucking time it’s never going to get written”, and that’s kept me from starting over – but, well, today I have finally ground to a halt. I’m not going to say that this is writer’s block, more like writer’s reflection. I’ve come to a crossroads disguised as a wall, and I can’t go both ways at once. Either path is going to consume my energy and prevent me from taking the other path – for a while. Probably a long while. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing; I think that I’d actually be fine doing that and then jumping off onto another project to write a zero draft of. I think I’d still have energy. I just wouldn’t have energy for this project; and I think it’s actually a good idea for me to do a bit more of this long-term thinking.
But I also think that I’m really feeling the lack of a solid grounding in the Craft, as they say. I have been a proud self-taught writer since I was 13 years old, yes I did one creative writing paper during my undergraduate days but, while that was actually very helpful, it didn’t teach me basic shit that I don’t know – and am sort of expected to know by now. Like, what the hell is theme? How do you identify it; how do you discuss it? I didn’t stay in the school system long enough to even have that basic level of technical knowledge given to me, and as such, while I feel like I can and do recognise all of these things, because I don’t have the language to articulate a lot of it, I’m missing a whole bunch of tools that could make my struggles as a writer a lot less struggle-y. That’s my thesis anyway …
And it’s important to me right now. Without going into detail, my most recent therapy session brought to my awareness the fact that I have all of these interests that I don’t follow through on – something that I’ve been aware of for a long time, but hearing it from a psychologist gave it a little more impact. I am interested in learning the craft. So, I want to get around to doing it.
And I can start with these damn books I bought myself from Christmas and still haven’t read that are all about the craft, and take some damn notes, and Learn A Thing. Will it help me make Bad Guys a good story? Maybe not, but it might help me better understand not just the parts that work, but why they work. Maybe it’ll make me the most basic, white-bread author ever produced by human evolution – but you know what, I’m already trying to be a hack, so maybe I’ll just become the Uberhack, and hack like no-one has ever hacked before.
Sounds like a plan.
My body is ready.
What the fuck am I going to do about this book?
Revision: 1 hour 48 minutes
5170 of which was devoted to Bad Guys.
This wrap-up section of the weekly blog post is being written the following Monday, because Sunday was pretty full and there was no writing done whatsoever.
Okay. This week has been one of those weeks that tries to give me a hint, and it’s up to me to take it.
I think the hint is that I need to just keep fucking going.
Because I don’t have any other clear plan; and really, that’s the only thing that matters. I have tons of ideas that I’m letting circulate in my short-term memory, and even writing them down hasn’t made it easier to move past them and get the hell on with it. I just keep thinking about and developing those ideas, and the zero draft just feels futile and pointless and like there’s no way for me to actually resolve the issue that I’m having right now.
The issue is regret, in a nutshell. Regret that I haven’t put certain elements into play yet and have thus given myself more work to do when I come back for revision passes; regret that I don’t have certain characters’ voices and that they’re just filling space when they’re on the page, completely unnecessary to the goings-on of the plot (and the problem with the chapter I’ve currently stalled on is that all the characters feel like that); regret that I haven’t been a better writer throughout this process, giving myself the resources that I need to make it smoother and more manageable for myself. And now, frustration that when I think about trying to put those things right going forward, I feel my energy and momentum take a steep dive into the abyss at the mere prospect of it, and I have no idea what the fuck I’m supposed to do with that particular portent.
Also I still haven’t done my Monthly Words post, for the past two months, and now it’s looking like it’ll have to wait until the end of this month, because I can’t focus on it while I’m focusing on getting Bad Guys written …
Yes I can. I just need to be more prepared.
This week has been a string of problems that have stemmed from a lack of preparation on my part. I haven’t set myself up with a workable schedule or routine for getting all the stuff done that I am trying to get done, and trying to wing it instead has caused me to grind to a halt. This is a fail week – and to be real, if this is what failure for me is looking like lately then I have nothing to fucking complain about. At least where writing is concerned.
I can do this. I kinda don’t want to, but I know that I can, and that in itself is actually pretty motivating. And after two days of no writing, I also have the motivation of knowing what will happen if I let this slump continue: exactly the same thing that happened every other time I tried to get this project off the ground. Well, I’ve gotten it off the ground, and I’m going to fucking keep it there.
Here’s to a better week. Let’s get it started.