Weekly Words 9-15/9/2019

11/9/2019

Revision: 40 minutes

Also some light brainstorming because I am coming unhinged with nothing to do I really needed to plan better for how to handle my post-Bad Guys phase …

Well, actually, I do have a plan, I’m just avoiding it for … well, I know why, but I know it’s stupid and it’s embarrassing to admit what it is, because it’s just that I am nervous about trying anything new right now. After two months of being able to power through my writer’s block, my doubts and second thoughts and all the rest of it …

Hmm. Well, I had help with that; I don’t have help right now. So maybe that’s what I should focus on, and in the meantime just not worry and do something else. Like read The Princess Bride, which so far is proving to be quite entertaining, and nothing like what I was expecting. I knew it was different to the film, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to be different. It makes sense, now that I’m reading it; I’m quite enjoying it … but I’m finding excuses to stall.

And it’s making me feel bad so okay, brain, enough. Let’s find a solution.

12/9/2019

Revision: 15 minutes

One solution has been found.

I got an email from Nanowrimo today, inviting me to get all prepped to be novel-ready for November. Following the link, I found that there was a PDF I could download, and true to my hoarder nature I did so. I had a flick through and thought that, hey, some of this stuff could be quite useful (though I never like character-creation questionnaires), found some of it a bit rudimentary but probably still useful as a primer …

And then I got to the plot/outline-creation section. There is a range of methods included in the guide, but the first one is the one that provided today’s solution. It’s just a huge spreadsheet of empty cells that you fill in with scene summaries.

And it’s perfect.

I’ve had ideas like this before – I had a plan to write out the scenes that I had in mind for Realm of the Myth as a way of getting something written as well as sort of saying goodbye to the project (or potentially discovering that I still wanted to make it work, though as it happened neither actually came to pass), and I’ve tried brainstorming many times over the years. But after coming to the realisation that there is a huge difference between descriptive vs predictive planning, and that I work well with the former and terribly with the latter, and after struggling last week to figure out a way to keep myself in the writing game without stressing about doing tons of “real” writing, the idea of just jotting down the ideas for scenes that I do have for my stories, without trying to take that bundle of ideas and turn them into a plan, was immensely appealing.

So, I gave it a try. It’s hard work, even restricting myself to writing summaries of the scenes (which could have been way shorter) and some accompanying thoughts. The word-counts for these summaries proved way too many for the tiny cells the Nanowrimo spreadsheet template offered the space to fill, which I had assumed would happen, so I used a Word document instead. I found out that I had fewer ideas than I thought (or just tons that I’ve forgotten/dismissed as son as I thought of them for some reason or another). But it was so helpful, and generative, and that was just for Realm of the Myth, which I have officially relegated to the scrapheap. I have to do this with the rest of my projects now. I will do it.

And just as yesterday I was lamenting the lack of “channels” to focus my energies through, Nanowrimo came through again today with the perfect way for me to keep up momentum without the stress of having to actually be writing-writing. I’m calling today a win.

13/9/2019

More brainstorming today – in fact, specifically, word-building.

The world-building done was for Bad Guys; until today, I had intentionally tried to leave the world-building flat and nondescript, besides being some kind of generic high fantasy pastiche – which is what I want. And I think, for a zero draft, not having gone into much detail was probably a fine decision.

But for future revisions, I realised, I need it to be a high fantasy pastiche with intent. It’s still a world; it’s still a distinct setting, even if it is deliberately derivative and unoriginal in its construction – it still needs to be constructed. And part of the reason I never bothered with it before is because, to be perfectly honest, I don’t feel confident in my world-building abilities without derailing into pedantic minutia that detracts from the story rather than adding to it.

There’s this very common piece of writing advice, which is to make your setting a character. How one is to interpret this is, I guess, up to interpretation, but on the Writing Excuses podcast it was explained as making sure that your setting has an impact on the story. For instance, the bridge of Khazad-Dum: the narrow bridge over a vast chasm forces the Fellowship to take a huge risk in running across it, fleeing the Balrog – and forces Gandalf to make an equally huge sacrifice in choosing to not cross the bridge, instead buying Frodo and the others enough time to escape by staying on the bridge and fighting the Balrog until the bridge collapses and falls into the chasm, with Gandalf following soon after. If it had been a flat plane instead, or a tunnel, it’s possible that every member of the Fellowship would have been able to escape – or been horribly slaughtered with nowhere to hide. The environment, to a large extent, dictated the events of the story.

Contrast with something like Man of Steel; there are already more than enough jokes about the catastrophic loss of life and property damage that Superman’s fight with Zod must have caused – but despite this, the environment doesn’t really do anything in the story other than give us something to look at other than a blue screen. Superman and Zod are both too powerful to be affected by something as trivial as the physical environment of Metropolis; the closest we get to it is when the people Zod is trying to laser-snipe are huddled in a corner, forcing Superman to snap his neck in a certain direction to avoid them … never mind that, if you watch the scene, he actually twists Zod’s head towards the civilians to break his neck … the salient point here being that, in Man of Steel, the environment is largely just set-dressing. There’s the tornado scene and the bus scene, and arguably the bar scene, but other than this small handful of set pieces the setting in Man of Steel is not what I’d consider a “character” because it is, in a word, inconsequential to the story.

And what I realised with the world-building for Bad Guys is that, while I want it to be innocuous, I don’t want it to be irrelevant – which, at the moment, it is.

Again, zero draft, it’s fine – but it’s something that I want to change. So I spent the better part of six hours today just thinking and writing about the world and setting, and trying to figure out how to make it feel like a character.

I’m still figuring it out, and I don’t know that I can put into words what I’ve learnt so far, but one thing I feel very strongly is that, really, this stuff is very intuitive and doesn’t really need explaining. In fact, every time I’ve ever heard that line “make your setting a character”, it’s been more confusing to my poor, overly-literal mind than anything else. Make it a character? What, does it need a resolution to its backstory or something? Its own sub-plot? A love-interest?

But no – to make your setting a “character” in its own right, I think, is a matter of figuring out what your story needs from the world, and design it from that angle. Or, of course, if you have a neat idea for a unique setting, start with that and then think of a number of stories that arise from the mechanics of that setting. If the world is consequential, for good and/or ill with regard to those who live in it and the story you’re telling about them, I think that means you’re doing it right.

And hey, as long as I’m doing it right, everything’s fine.

Weekly Total

Revision: 55 minutes

Writing: 1892

A good week, I think, in terms of keeping up momentum and staying engaged with my writing without needing a word-count total to measure it with.

To be real, though, this has been a pretty revealing week in matters not involving writing. I had not one but two parties this week, one on each day of the weekend (this is being written on the Monday following, because things take energy). Two situations where my particular anxieties and discomfort levels were tested, back-to-back, in a week where I’ve been stressing about the future of my therapy sessions and general mental health management, where I’ve been thinking more and more about the viability of returning to study, whether to do my pet project werewolf PhD or something a little more serious-academic-topic; in a week where I’ve been forced to consider things about myself and my prospects in ways that I never have before. I’ve felt very emotionally fraught and more volatile than I have in a good while. And I’m not really sure how well I’ve come out of it.

Which is to say that I really am not in writing mode right now, and while I think that’s understandable, I also want to make sure that I don’t fall into the trap I was so intent on avoiding at the end of the zero draft process and take a break that I don’t need. And by the same token, I want to make sure that I take enough time to consider all the practical life-beyond-writing stuff that I need to, and don’t turn my writing into an escape from it. Or anything else.

Hey, at least I uninstalled WOW. That’s something.

I’ve felt weird this week, is what I think I’m saying, and also I’ve felt various different kinds of weird over the week. Not all bad necessarily, and in fact plenty of it was good, but … this is something new, and I’m not prepared for it, and I feel that quite keenly.

But, it’s happening now, and one way or another I’ll have to find a strategy for dealing with it. At least I have a bit of history with adapting to difficult, stressful situations in ways that works, but man I do not want things to get that bad before I find equilibrium. I think I need to do a life brainstorm to go with the writing ones that have, so far, worked out quite nicely.

I know one thing for sure anyway: none of this is helping with me being sick of hearing about myself, so maybe that’ll be next week’s project. Might help with the whole impending-existential-doom thing, too. Worth a shot?

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Monthly Words June/July/August 2019

Monthly Total(s)

Revision: 9.1 Hours

Writing: 140,837

Breaking it down, that’s: 9,483 words through June; 72,250 through July (and the start of August) (also holy shit); and 56,987 through (most of) August – and 2104 words writing this post.

My therapist said something to me during our last session that really stuck with me, partly because I’ve already known this for years, and partly because despite having known this for years, I’ve never put it to myself so, I dunno, pleasantly. It’s always a criticism or lamentation when I do it; I suppose it makes sense that it wouldn’t be that way coming from a therapist. But basically it’s that it’s very easy for me to be very self-centered – not selfish, per se, just that I tend to think of my life, the world, and everything in terms of how it all relates to me.

Part of me was very pleased to hear this and found it very helpful, and part of me is still throwing an incredible, triple-flavoured tantrum about it. I wish I had a camera that could capture my own internal state right now that would also make it somehow intelligible for a viewing audience; I bet I’d win an award for it.

See? I’m doing it again right now.

And that part of me that feels like it’s justified because, well, I’ve been duped and taken in and taken advantage of and taken for granted so many times in my life, and hey isn’t it about damn time that I got some consideration even if it’s only from myself, and also let’s look at the past three months’ worth of blog posts and see what I can glean from it and just …

I am so fucking done with myself right now.

I did a bunch of self-discovery and learnt some incredibly valuable lessons over the past three months, and that’s worth cataloguing just for posterity, and as a reminder to myself that it did actually happen, and that it happened because I put in the effort and made it happen. And also because my co-writing friend is awesome. Probably at least 50% that, to be honest.

But, god, it’s just so … stifling. Two months straight of just writing a novel, yeah, I get that it kind of would naturally be focused on my experience of it, I don’t regret that or anything – but the June posts in particular, when a whole bunch of absolutely nothing was going on? I was still just talking about myself, the prose equivalent of posting pictures of what I was eating, except all I was eating for all of June was the same two slices of toast, with the only variance being how I felt about it that day. And now that I’ve written that, that still sounds too interesting a metaphor to adequately convey the level of drain-circling, monotonous introspection that I decided was worth writing and publishing several entire blog posts about.

It’s boring.

And if this Monthly Words post only served to teach me that, yeah, maybe I need some new material, I think that’d have been worth it.

I think there’s more, though.

Throughout Camp Nano – and this is something that I’ve noticed about the experiences of mine that I record on this blog in general – I’ve picked up on a trend. When the writing is going well, I’ll be all like “this is awesome, I’m so glad I’m writing again”, and when I see a problem that I think needs fixing in my writing process, I’ll be all like “all right, this needs to change, I’m going to address this issue”.

I bring this up because this blog is meant to record my experience of writing, but this is all just what I was thinking at the time – I’m only recording my thoughts. Which, I mean, I don’t see how that isn’t inevitable; but in comparing my recorded thoughts to what I can remember of the actual experience … there’s something of a disparity in terms of what I state that I intend to do or how great it is that I’ve done X, and what’s actually going on when things are getting done.

This is infuriating. For as long as I can remember – in my writing career at least (I use the word “career” extremely facetiously) – I have been obsessed with perfect recall, being able to recall and relate my experiences with 100% accuracy, not just in terms of the facts, but in terms of really capturing the experience itself. I eventually found it too hard and too disappointing and gave up, but the drive is still there – and this discovery is triggering it.

So, time for some self-soothing, and also for posterity: what’s going on when I write almost every day for two months straight, and well over 1k words per day on average for one of those months, is that I make sure to capitalise on one of two things: my commitment to be writing consistently, or my enthusiasm to continue writing. I only need one of those two things – but it needs one extra ingredient, which is action. If I don’t feel enthusiasm but I have committed to writing, then I need to start writing for writing to happen. If I feel enthusiasm but haven’t decided “hey I’m going to be writing now/for the foreseeable future”, then I need to start writing for writing to happen. I have agonised over this third ingredient of action for well over a decade by now, asking myself rhetorical questions of why it isn’t present when I “need” it, why is it that I “can’t” just conjure it into being whenever I want, why it is that I can’t seem to “make myself” maintain this discipline – it’s gone as well as you might imagine (or, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, as well as you have seen some evidence of).

What this Monthly Words has taught me, on top of “I need to get out more”, is that I do need at least one of either enthusiasm or commitment in order for writing to be done – but either of those on their own is not enough to produce action. That has to come from some other place, and I don’t know what that place is. All I know is that, for the past two months, I accessed it frequently, and in the months leading up to them I did not.

A lot of the time, it’s just having someone else to share the experience with, which is sometimes a burden that is easier to carry with help. And not just sharing the experience with, but the responsibility for making the decision to write. Waaayyy easier with a buddy.

A stopwatch also helps.

Momentum helps.

Knowing that the end is in sight helps.

What this Monthly Words has taught me that, while enthusiasm and commitment come from pretty predictable sources – internal sources – the third component, action, often comes from without. Not always, of course, and one of the very valuable lessons I’ve learnt from the success of how I wrote Bad Guys is that just having either enthusiasm or commitment available to me to capitalise on as an opportunity can, sometimes, be enough. But not always.

“It takes a village” is what I’m realising this Monthly Words – and that I am not a village all on my own, and never have been. It’s never been something that I could have left all up to myself, every time I wanted the writing to happen, and realistically expected things to go the way I hoped they would.

So not only do I need to “get out more” to create more interesting blog posts, but also for my writing to continue thriving when I have either enthusiasm or commitment to capitalise on.

And, hey, I’ve been complaining for so long, years, about how I often sit on my motivation and desire to write and squash it until it goes away and stops bothering me – over the past two months, I did the exact opposite, and it was, just as I’d always imagined, pretty damn awesome.

Capitalise on the opportunities you have – and have far more than one strategy for making sure that you actually take that opportunity. It’s not all up to you, and it can’t be. So look beyond, for those times when going it alone isn’t getting you where you want to go.

And why yes, this does line up nicely with my most recent therapy lesson/insight/homework. I like to be efficient where I can.

That’s what Monthly Words has taught me.

… as well as the following lesson(s):

Yes, it took me a good 2.5 weeks to get into a good rhythm and build up sustainable momentum with Bad Guys – and even then, it was rough going. But the reason that it worked was because I found ways to stay involved; if a chapter wasn’t working for me, I made sure that I had a way of making notes on the chapter, taking down my thoughts about why it wasn’t working, what I thought would work better, how awful the story was and how it was a total waste of time – until I was done with that. I made sure that I actually spent my non-writing time (whether because I was done for the day or stuck with writer’s block) thinking about the difficult chapter, teasing at the ideas, fighting against the internal mantra of “this will never work” and forcing a confrontation, taking what I had that didn’t feel good enough and just messing with it until something did start to work, until the bland, banal sequence of events suddenly became funny, or scary, or classic, or adorable, or whatever.

I finished that zero draft not just because I showed up, but because once I did show up, I fucking stayed. I didn’t show up for the easy parts and bow out for the hard ones; I stuck it out and put my time to good use, focused on making the project work rather than trying to console myself for my perceived failure. I mean of course I did a bit of that, I’m only human (and also me), but I made sure that I took the important work seriously – and whenever I did, it worked, and hey, I wrote that fucking non-story of a book.

Which means that now it has the chance of becoming a real story, and that’s what I set out to do.

And on the flipside of that: I had so many good ideas while writing this extremely rewarding, often challenging zero draft. So even while I was complaining and fretting, especially (and ironically) about my ideas being shit, I was expressing those anxieties by having great ideas in my notes document. I always made sure that I had more than one channel through which to focus my energy: the draft for when things were going smoothly, the ideas document for when they got rough, and taking the time to stop and think when I needed to be done for a while. No matter the situation, I always made sure that there was an option for me to use the energy that I had, regardless of the kind of energy it was.

Also:

This is basically just a summary of the perspective Monthly Words has given me this time around, but the whole “be prepared” thing I’ve got going on now is basically the same as “be flexible”. Sometimes, the best plan is a whole bunch of different plans that you can choose from when you need them; one size does not fit all, and if you know that your needs change sizes frequently, then be responsible about it.

As sick as I am of hearing about myself right now (though sometimes I am pretty entertaining; I guess my writing experience and inner workings fall under the category of “sometimes food”), I must say that I am, above all, proud of myself for how responsible I was about making sure that Bad Guys worked – and, more to the point, that I worked, both as in making sure that I was functioning and taken care of, and as in putting in the level of effort and commitment required to complete the zero draft.

And … yeah. Here it is: Monthly Words, three months late, I have definitely forgotten how to “do” Monthly Words at this point … but it’s still valuable, and as per usual, I’m glad that I made myself do it.

Have options. Capitalise on opportunities (and recognise when you are the one providing it). Be prepared to be flexible. Look beyond yourself, because it’s not all up to you.

And be good to yourself. You deserve it.

Weekly Words 2-8/9/2019

2/9/2019

Writing: 6343

Yep, definitely going to “take a break from writing for a while”. That’s the plan.

Yep.

No.

The plan is to do what I want to do, and last night I wanted to write over 6k words, apparently, or wanted to write so much that it resulted in over 6k words by the time I was finished – and I’m not finished.

This was one of the new idea-babies that I had over the course of the past two months, and in writing these new ideas that I’ve spent no writing time with prior was enlightening. I knew that I’d learnt a lot from writing Bad Guys, but I didn’t realise just how much I wanted to apply what I’d learnt – specifically, the newfound confidence that I have in my own drafting process, the ability to “just write” and not worry about how it reads right now, but rather to just enjoy the opportunity to experiment and not be constrained by the need to “get it right” right away.

To trust that I’ve Got This – and that Having This doesn’t have to mean that I’ve Got It right now. I will Got This. And writing last night made me realise that I really wanted to prove that this is true for me now, when I’ve never believed that it’s been true before.

Will I write more tomorrow? No idea, but it was the right thing to do today, so I’m glad I did it. I need a break – from Bad Guys. And I’m taking it.

As for the rest?

3/9/2019

Writing: 8089

Well, I have finished a chapter of a new project and …

Weekly Total

Writing: 15097

Revision: 1 hour-ish

… also did some other stuff …

And yeah turns out maybe a break is what I’m doing after all.

Which is fine. Healthy, in fact, most likely. I’m noticing that, after having finished that marathon at the start of the week, my subsequent attempts to get myself to write have put me right back in the same old situation I always end up in when I try to force myself to be all about the writing, based on me giving myself an example of just how much I can do – if I want to.

I don’t want to right now.

I do have a ton of ideas that all seem worthy of being explored, and I do think that at least some of them are proving difficult because I’m finding incredibly weak excuses to not give them a try out of anxiety … and also the prospect of, after having just completed a full zero draft, having to start all over again from scratch. I think I have zero draft burnout, and I think taking the time to recover from it would not be the worst idea imaginable.

But I’m also finding that, as this week draws to a close, I’m feeling all kinds of down, and that’s something that focusing on writing alone isn’t going to help me cope with effectively. It’s going to require some serious discipline on my part, and I really am not ready for that, and that’s a dilemma.

But, writing-wise, even if this week has been a study in contrasts, I did get a whole ton of writing done, and if I’m looking to measure that sort of thing right now then that’s great. Having said that – I have no need to measure my writing or to push myself to do it: I have my plan to get back on the Bad Guys train in November, and until then I am a free agent. I think I really did not plan well enough to deal with this sudden lack of stuff to do with myself, and that’s a big part of what’s got me down right now. Be Prepared, I keep telling myself, but it’s not the mantra that’s the problem: it’s my follow-through that needs work.

I guess that’s something to do.

Hmm. Post-draft depression? Is that a thing? I think it’s a thing.

Weekly Words 26/8-1/9/2019

26/8/2019

Writing: 2532

Aaahhh! So close!

Well, it feels close anyway; word-count doesn’t really mean anything right now, except as a measure of how much writing I’ve done. It’ll mean something in terms of “where I’m at” when I’m thinking of submission guidelines.

I’m thinking another three or four chapters to cover what’s left yet to happen. Yes, I know I only have another six days (well, five, since Sundays are spoken for) to write those four chapters; they don’t need to be long chapters – but then again, I’m not averse to a bit of a writing blitz in this final week. I’ll see how I go. But I am finishing this zero draft this week, and I’m looking forward to it.

And right now, I feel like immediately after finishing it I’m going to put it aside until mid-to-late October and not even think about it until then, because holy fucking shit I have gone ham on this novel. TWO MONTHS. I’m going to have written a whole goddamn novel in two months, by the time this is done. A novel that I was afraid I was never going to get to write period. Yeah, sure, people write whole novels in one month during Nanowrimo, but hey, my former fastest time was Tallulah, since I wasn’t measuring the other two I wrote before that in terms of time, and that was, all told, about six months. So three times as long as Bad Guys has taken.

I probably shouldn’t celebrate before I’ve actually made it to the party – but, I mean, that’s that. I am done after this month. Even if I’m not done.

I’m going to be done, dammit; I cannot stand the thought of still being working on this fucking novel after this week; it will not be.

I love this book. I just really, really, really fucking need to be done writing it.

27/8/2019

Writing: 4234

Although, to get technical about it, it’s only really 4091 words because 143 of those words were copy-pasted from an earlier chapter for flashback purposes.

I wrote a chapter in three and a quarter-ish hours. But it’s only 4091 words of new writing. Don’t be too impressed.

Nah fuck it I wrote 4234 words, because I added 4234 words to the total word-count of this novel.

And now that I’m done with that extremely important transcription of my own internal monologue: I was not expecting to do this much writing today. I was almost expecting myself to not even do any writing today. Writing’s funny like that, and it’s part of the fun of being caught up in the writing process, surprising yourself in pleasant ways.

Also, I kind of feel like I’m owed a writing windfall – or maybe more like I’ve earned it. The first six months of this year were abysmal for my writing motivation, and I did try to get things back on-track for a while. I think recognising that I needed to take a break and being able to accept that fact made it possible for Camp Nano to work as well as it did, though by the same token I think not recognising that, at the end of 2018, I actually needed to keep writing because that was what I wanted to do was what caused this year’s slump and slump-related stresses. I didn’t have a way to transition out of the co-writing project and into some other writing project, and so I just made myself take a break when I wasn’t ready to stop. I want to have a plan this time. I want to be prepared.

I’m starting to sound like Scar – well, you know what, that extremely evil and twisted Disney villain had some valid points when it comes to time-management.

Okay, just the one. But it was very catchy.

A plan, though – I’ve learnt my lesson about prescriptive vs descriptive plans, and for that reason my “plan” for transitioning out of Bad Guys and into … well, whatever happens between this Saturday and October 19th is just to have options available for me to indulge exploring, until I find something – or things – that feel right. Even if that is just taking a break – but whatever it is, I want it to be the thing that I want to do, not the thing that I think would be smart or even wise to do. I can do that when the stakes are things that affect more people than just myself – but when it comes to writing, I think I’ve finally come to accept that it only works when I’m doing what I actually want to be doing, even if it seems stupid or runs the risk of burnout or “I have no ideas to work with” or whatever. I’ve proven that I can power through the bland patches to find the good ideas with Bad Guys (and honestly every writing project that I’ve stuck with for long enough), and I’m pretty sure it’s a universal truth that time flies when you’re having fun, and work doesn’t feel like work when you love what you’re doing – or, at least, it doesn’t make you feel like you really want to take a break. Even if it makes you tired, if you truly want to be doing it, you will somehow find the energy to be doing it.

In essence, my plan is to wait until I need the plan, and then trust my feelings. I’m going all Disney cliche on this one. Why the hell not? I think it’s been too long since I’ve done it. Like revisiting an old Disney film that I haven’t seen since I was a kid, I wonder what following my heart will be like when I go back to it.

28/8/2019

Writing: 1519

Started the penultimate chapter, in terms of chronology at least. I’ll finish the rest tomorrow.

Today was mostly spent reading The Way of Kings, trying to make enough headway to ensure that I’ll actually finish it before it’s due back. I’ve requested the sequel, along with The Fifth Season, but they won’t get here for a little while, so in the meantime I should probably stock up on something quick and fun and disposable.

I have re-learnt something from throwing myself into The Way of Kings: I enjoy how much time I have to spend reading High Fantasy books – if they reward the effort. So far, The Way of Kings is doing that for me. I’m now 700+ pages in, and I’m appreciating how un-critical I’m being as a reader. It’s something I’ve started to find real value in, this aspect of my personality: I love being analytical and critical and Absolutely Destroying problematic media – but I also love being generous, suspending disbelief and critical intent, and the fact that this is my default setting as a reader/audience member. Because it allows me to give any story the opportunity to be seen in its best light.

And if it still sucks, then I don’t even have to try to point out the problems, which means no effort wasted. Win-win.

And The Way of Kings certainly does not suck – though I will admit, I’ve already collected a handful of little scenes, turns of phrase, and narrative choices that have rubbed me the wrong way. But it is just that: a handful. And spaced out over 700 pages. Still there, but I’m seeing the benefit of having super-long books: if there are the same amount of problems as there are in a smaller book, they’re more spread out and seem much less significant. What a neat trick. I should keep that one in mind.

29/8/2019

Writing: 2056

It’s occurring to me that I might not actually finish this zero draft by the 31st.

Which is fine.

I think the simple fact that I’m almost finished is enough to keep me motivated to actually reach that point, however long it takes, because I know it shouldn’t take that long. I’ve been writing up a storm over the past couple of months, and overall I haven’t really slowed down – in fact if anything I’ve sped up, writing around 2k words per day for the past seven. It’s going well, and I know it’s going well; it’s not something I’m even thinking about. It’s a good place to be in.

Also, I finished The Way of Kings yesterday, reading about … 500 pages? Maybe only 400; the point is that I read many, many pages yesterday and it felt really good. The only downside is that now it’s over, and I don’t want it to be. Maybe I should have made a transition plan for this, too.

Oh well. I do have other books that I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and a bit of a gap before my next batch of library books comes in. I’m sure I’ll make do. And honestly, while it is totally fine if I don’t finish Bad Guys by the 31st – I still want to. And I know part of what’s holding me back is just not spending enough time on it, and not planning to spend enough time on it.

So tomorrow, I think, is going to be a bit of an all-in day, after I come back from meeting my friend for lunch in town. I have no books to read, the next Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour tournament won’t be on YouTube until Monday, She-Ra isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – the universe has basically cleared my schedule for me so that I can go all-in on finishing this novel.

No. I cleared my schedule. I read from noon yesterday until 5 a.m. this morning finishing The Way of Kings; I burnt myself out on Dragon Ball FighterZ content over the past … year and a half … I put this plan into motion, without even realising it. Almost like, without thinking …

I was getting prepared.

I knew it would work!

30/8/2019

Writing: 9280

I don’t think this is the first time I’ve made myself cry with my own writing, but it’s definitely been a while.

Two chapters finished tonight, and I have a decision to make: either I go ham tomorrow to wrap up both the final chapter/epilogue and the missing chapter that I skipped during Camp Nanowrimo, or I just do the final chapter/epilogue and leave the skipped chapter skipped, simply because it doesn’t really need to exist. This is a zero draft, and skipping it made me realise what I needed to prioritise about this story, and what I could afford to discard, and that chapter is one of the things I can afford to discard, because while it seems important, all it really does is fill time. Technically it explains how the characters get from point A to point B – but I could just tell the story better and not need a whole pointless filler chapter to do that.

Yeah, I think that’s the plan. Tomorrow, this shit is done

And I’ll have to figure out what I’m doing next.

31/8/2019

Writing: 6225

… and I’m done.

The full zero draft clocks in at 89,477 words long – so definitely on the higher end of my final word-count prediction scale – and is the first zero draft (or any draft) of a novel that I have completed in the space of two months. I am thirty-two years old at the time of achieving this milestone in my progress as a writer.

It feels fine.

Which is how it always feels; finishing a novel sometimes feels really awesome and satisfying and a little bit bittersweet but indisputably fulfilling – most of the time, though, it’s less of a feeling, more of a recognition that you’ve gotten something done, and, well, it’s done.

It seems silly, when you think of the amount of time and effort that actually goes into writing a novel, even if it only takes two months (or one, for all those of you who have ever actually won-won Nanowrimo). That’s not something that you “just do” – but it is when you do it. It’s not a fantasy anymore; you make it happen, and it’s happened, and you can’t just think about it in terms of how awesome it would be if you managed it, because you’ve managed it.

Now what?

Well, for me, I have created an A5 page-sized PDF version to peruse when I’m good and ready, which might be on Monday, or might be in October like I currently have planned for myself. In the meantime, I have a bunch of books that I’ve bought myself over the years and haven’t read – continuing my The Way of Kings-fuelled High Fantasy kick for the most part – and then by that point my next round of library books should come in …

Well, that’s for recreation. In terms of writing, I think I’m going to let myself feel out some new ideas that I’ve got. I’ve had this idea for a movie after getting into synthwave this week, which takes one of my older new magic system ideas that I’ve never been able to think of a good story to go with – I’ve got something resembling that now, and I’m keen to experiment with it, maybe as a screenplay. I’ve also got these “craft” books on writing sitting on my bookshelf, which I am fully intending to read and even take notes on, sort of treating them like a course, because I want to learn this shit, even if it’s just so that I know the terminology and can talk shop with other writers who have done more formal study than I have. But also because I like learning shit, and I like writing, so how the hell have I never done this before, exactly?

I’m also going to have to set some time aside to figure out what I want to do with myself that has absolutely nothing to do with writing, because in this two-thousand and nineteenth year of some people’s Lord I have decided that it is about goddamn time that I learn how to relax and enjoy myself like a normal human being. That’s what normal human beings do, right? I haven’t just been labouring under a delusion that I use to shame myself with this whole time?

And, at long last, I am going to write my fucking Monthly Words post, for June, July and August. Weekly Words will most likely skip a week next week, unless I do a bunch of unexpected writing – I do want to be aware of when I do and don’t need to take a break from writing, and honestly I’m just not sure what the status is on that one just yet. But whatever the answer is, I am not going to preemptively make that decision for myself. Yes, I’ve just done a full two months of virtually non-stop writing and some form of wisdom might say “hey, maybe it’s time for a break” – but if I don’t need a break, then I’m not going to force myself to take one. I’ll just have to see.

At the very least, Monthly Words will get written, and include itself in the monthly word-count. So there’s one writing project I am guaranteed to be working on post-Bad Guys.

I finished a novel in two months.

I finished another novel.

I think it’s starting to sink in …

Weekly Total

Writing: 28835

25846 of that was finishing Bad Guys.

I really like writing endings.

Speaking of endings: this three-month-long Weekly Words stint without a Monthly Words post to sum everything up and give myself perspective. These have been a really eventful past three months for me, and I’m still very much unaware of whatever toll it’s taken on me, except for the faint but distinct feeling that I am done with this writing project. My energy has run out for this writing project – not necessarily writing altogether, but that’s what next week is for: finding out.

But in the meantime, I need that goddamn perspective. Just like writing Bad Guys was an exercise in balancing breakneck pace writing-without-thinking and keeping enough perspective to not give in to the frequent bursts of despair and second-guessing whenever I had an idea that seemed better than the ones I’d written down (not hard, considering that I wasn’t giving myself time to think during this entire writing process). I managed it for Bad Guys, and I think that’s why I was able to finish it as I intended, sticking to my timekeeping goals.

But as for me, in general – I haven’t had that perspective. I have had some perspective, simply because I’ve been going to therapy once a fortnight, and honestly if I hadn’t had that I don’t know how well the past two months’ writing would have gone for me. But that’s something that I’m paying someone else to help me do – Monthly Words is all on me, and I need to get back into the habit of making sure that I actually do it for myself, because if I don’t, I wont get it. And I need to get it.

So, here’s to perspective. I now have five completed novel manuscripts that I can potentially turn into a Real Writing Project. That whole plan of having something ready to submit to agents by the end of the year? Not the plan anymore; no way can that be the plan anymore. I’m not remotely ready.

But I am much more ready than I was when I made that plan, and have learnt enough to know that I am not fully ready yet. And now that I have that knowledge, I intend to be responsible with it and continue pacing myself, as well as pushing my limits, because I think I now know just how successful I can be at doing it.

I am glad that I have learnt this about myself. I am glad that I took the time and put in the effort to learn it.

And I am glad that this goddamn, motherfucking zero draft is finally fucking finished.

Weekly Words 19-25/08/2019

19/8/2019

Writing: 1402

PLANNING I NEED PLANNING TO PLAN THE PLANS FOR MY PLAN, PLLLOOOONNNNNNNNNNN

Yes, well, bad habits die hard, and I should make a spreadsheet or something of things that I can and will do that are 1) exciting and interesting to me, 2) energy-consuming, and 3) have nothing to do with either writing Bad Guys (or any of my other projects) or watching YouTube in an attempt to numb myself to the endless disappointment of my self-imposed, anxiety-and-depression-facilitated hermetic life.

Go, brain, go!

21/8/2019

Writing: 1048

All righty.

Saw my therapist today, had a good session that I’ll be taking notes on over the coming days, and some big things to think about. I even managed to make a D&D metaphor that works well with what we were discussing about “chatter” – if you know what an Illithid is and how they reproduce, well, it’s not a bad analogy for how easy it is to let unhealthy thoughts dictate our reality.

Yes, I do like being smart, you’re welcome.

And on that note: I finally managed to put into words why it is that planning doesn’t work for me most of the time, but sometimes does. It’s a matter of prescriptive vs descriptive. When I plan, it tends to be a prescriptive plan: I will do this, I will meet this goal/deadline, I must stick to this plan, etc. That’s the kind of planning that has killed my passion for a project before it’s even gotten off the ground so many times over the years; the killer has a name, and it is prescriptive thinking.

Whereas the two times when I made a planned outline for a book and it worked – one being my first ever full-length novel zero draft, the other being the co-writing project – it was more descriptive. This is what we’re going to do; this is kind of actually just describing what we’re already in the process of doing. To be fair, the co-writing project has worked as well as it has so far because there’s two of us working on it, and that plan was quite prescriptive because, well, there are two of us working on it and we needed a way to make sure we were both working towards the same goals – but even so, so much of the success of my plans for writing projects (and just plans in general) comes down to whether I’m trying to give myself a list of commands, or just noting down what it is that I’m already set on doing.

It’s fitting that today’s therapy session ended up going in the direction that it did; I have been thinking about this for the past couple of days, since I sat down to actually make the “plan” for the rest of the Bad Guys zero draft and realised what was and wasn’t working, and then today’s focus on “chatter” and how to become aware of and manage it actively has made me even more aware of why my attempts to be a planner in my writing (and just in general) have more often than not resulted in resounding and disheartening failure. It’s because it’s shitty to be given orders, especially by yourself. “Should is shit”, as my mother says, and I wonder now if that’s a therapist thing because that’s part of the essence of what today’s session was about …

Well, as long as it helps me get my writing done, it’s worth it. That’s definitely the best and even sole reason for me to attend therapy. Yep. Got it all figured out.

Also I’ve started reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, which so far has had not one but two fucking prologues, and … I kinda love it. I’m surprised, very pleasantly so. I think it’s the fact that the way the magic is described is both 1) effective without feeling overly didactic and 2) brings to mind a videogame or music video heavily under the influence of the current wave of ’80s retro VFX (that are probably far too advanced to have actually existed in the ’80s), and I happen to have a bit of a thing for the whole ’80s fantasy film vibe – so, yeah. Maybe my hatred of High Fantasy is about to be overwhelmed by sheer unapologetic I-did-a-cool-thing-ness via Brandon Sanderson. I’m certainly open to the possibility.

22/8/2019

Writing: 1819

Well, I had hit a bit of a speed bump, but I’m over it now. I seem to have gotten better – by which I mostly mean quicker – at getting over those since Camp Nano. I am satisfied with this development.

I think I have put myself in a really predictable corner with this “home stretch” of Bad Guys by doing the thing that made it so hard to write it to begin with: I’ve been prescriptive with my plans for how I’m going to finish it. I’ve closed down options rather than left them open, and while I do think it’s going to work now that I’ve gotten over this hump, I also think that maybe it’s the wrong decision, even if it “works”. Because my goal right now is just to be done with the zero draft writing by the 31st, regardless of what actually does – or doesn’t – end up in the zero draft.

Still, I think that even if it is the “wrong” choice, it’s the one I can live with. I just don’t have the fucking energy to keep going; I honestly don’t even really have it right now. I wonder if maybe opening myself up to new ideas that would swerve me way off-course would actually give me a boost of energy and let me carry on for longer – but I just don’t want to be writing this thing for any longer than another … well, beyond the 31st. And hopefully I’ll actually be done well before that.

Incidentally, I do actually have energy for other writing projects that may be coming up, and that was part of my hopeful plan for transitioning out of Bad Guys zero draft-writing mode already, so go me! I had a wee brainstorm last night, throwing various ideas that I’ve had bouncing around for quite a few years now in ways that I hadn’t expected to, and I wrote them in my ideas notebook. God it had been a while since I had one of those, and there is no comparison. Digital just doesn’t cut it; maybe if I ever get a tablet and have some really good stylus technology it’ll be somewhat similar, but somehow I don’t think so – there is something about the “clunkiness” of pen and paper record-keeping that actually preserves what I record far better than the digital option, because I kind of have to try harder to remember it because paper is more, I guess, fragile than a computer file. If I spill water on it, accidentally tear it, if a dog eats it or I leave the window open on a windy day – I mean obviously digital information gets erased and corrupted every day, but it still seems so much more secure – and much less necessary to put the effort into remembering myself for that very reason.

These are very idea-ideas, with no story to them, and I’m going to stick to my guns and not try to force a story. I just like this awesome body of ideas I’ve come up with, this setting. It would suit either a high fantasy or science fiction story, too, which is pretty cool. I think the story will come to me when I work out what the jokes are, the parts of it that I can make fun with – right now it’s pretty dry, and I can’t tell a dry story. I need some juice to keep me going.

I really did not expect The Way of Kings to have this kind of effect on me. I don’t even know if I’ll manage to finish it before it’s due back; it’s 1001 words long, for crying out loud. Definitely living up to that particular High Fantasy cliche at least.

23/8/2019

Writing: 2144

Another speed bump eating my dust. I think the worst is over, for now.

And hey, the writing I did tonight felt a bit more … I dunno. Alive, maybe, than what I’ve managed up to this point. Feels good; this bodes well, I think.

Though it does bring up the issue of “is it worth it” with this zero draft, and me pushing to finish it so vehemently. I know that on the one hand, I have this idea that if I finish it by the end of this month, I’ll feel like I’ve achieved the goal I set out to achieve and that should be satisfying – but if it’s not, then it’ll just make me feel really validated in the worst way about the stuff on the other hand, which is me thinking that everything I’ve done up to this point, however fun and productive-for-a-while it’s been, has all been for nothing.

And, I mean, I don’t like to think of writing in all-or-nothing terms when it comes to value. I think all writing that we writers do is valuable, even if only for the lessons it can teach us about what not to do. I’m going to have a zero draft ready to read over and have thoughts and make revision notes about by the 31st, and it is looking like I’ll be done long before then – but, given what this zero draft actually is, I’m very apprehensive about what my reaction is going to be.

Which is me being all negative and pessimistic and trying to predict the future like it’s ever been helpful to me any of the millions of times I’ve done it; I’m working myself up for no good reason. This is fine. I’m afraid I’ll get to the end of this process, be disappointed and frustrated that I didn’t spend my limited energy doing a better job of exploring my ideas with this story before it ran out, be so disheartened by that fact and having nothing but a disappointing, didn’t-go-far-enough zero draft to show for it, and just throw in the towel, leaving Bad Guys as a bad job.

I’m afraid of that now.

But I’m not finished yet.

And also – maybe that is what will happen, and maybe that won’t be a bad thing. From the start, when I came up with this premise 2 years ago and felt inspired by it, I also knew that it wasn’t really a story, just a collection of fun fantasy scenarios that I was enjoying the experience of entertaining in the privacy of my own mind. None of my attempts to storify those sets of ideas or the inspiration that’s come from them have resulted, as of yet, in what I’d consider to be a “good” story, and I have to consider that this might just possibly be related to the fact that I have never actually had a story to tell here.

I originally hoped that writing Bad Guys would be like writing Wolf Gang, and while I was quickly disabused of that hopeful notion, I’m starting to think that I was actually right, just not in the way I hoped I would be. It hasn’t been as easy to write, and it hasn’t felt the same – but in the end, I think that Bad Guys is less a zero draft of a novel and more of an elaborate writing exercise, where I’ve tested out a bunch of ideas that I’ve had and chunked them together into what I intended to become a story. But that doesn’t mean that it is one – or ever will be.

And, to be honest, I think I’m actually all right with that.

I mean, since I’ve started writing it, I’ve had so many good ideas of how to tell a better story using just some of the ideas present in this zero draft – because there are a lot of ideas that just don’t go together right now, whether it’s because they’re sort of dissonant or because they compete for relevance in the sequence of events. I have a lot of darlings that I have yet to kill, and as freeing as it was to declare this project open and let go of all the assumptions and precious OG ideas that inspired the writing of this project, I find that I am still quite precious about it – and I know that if there is a good story to be told here, that’s something I’m going to have to get past before I can tell it.

And I’m not ready to be past it yet.

Which sounds like a shame, and maybe yesterday I would have kicked myself if I knew I was going to come to this conclusion – but, then again, maybe I just would have felt relieved one day sooner. I feel very relieved now. I feel free from my own expectations.

And, after all, it isn’t finished yet. Who knows what’ll happen when I actually do finish it and can read it over as a whole manuscript, start to finish, warts and all? I’m not sure how many words it’s going to clock in at, but I actually think this might be the shortest zero draft I’ve ever written.

And in two months. I’m going to have finished a manuscript in two months. That’s kind of awesome.

This project is what it is, and isn’t what it isn’t – and at the moment, it isn’t a story. I’ve made peace with that. I’ve given it a go, and even if the only thing that I learn from this whole process – about this project, because honestly I’ve learnt a ton about just being a writer in general over these past two months – is that Bad Guys simply isn’t meant to be, then that’ll be worth it. Two years of waiting to learn that is better than seventeen years; I’ve done that already. I don’t want to do it again. I’ve tried to take the ideas that I have that aren’t really suited to being put together as a story and tried to do it anyway, and I’m proud of myself for that, even if it was a futile effort. I’ll still get something out of it, and I’ll know that I’m capable and ready to give other ideas a try now.

And, with all that said …

It still might be a story.

One way or another, I think it’s definitely worth finding out.

24/8/2019

So, before doing tonight’s writing, the current zero draft of Bad Guys sits at 61639 words, not including the writing that I did on the first two days of Camp Nano that didn’t make it into this version of the story. Like a zero draft can be considered to be any sort of valid version of any story – but, regardless, I have now the knowledge of how long this book currently is, and can estimate roughly how long it’s going to be once it’s finished, which I think will be around 75k words, maybe 80k, depending on how much I deviate from what currently feels like a straight shoot from here to the final chapter.

Let’s push it up a little.

Writing: 2019

On-brand?

Whatever; it’s at 63658 now.

Aaand, that only took me about an hour and ten minutes to write, which is, what, 1800 words per hour? I continue to be rather pleased with my writing speed.

This feels good; this feels familiar. I’ve always enjoyed writing the endings of my novels the most during the zero draft stage. Everything else falls away, all doubts and second-guesses and what-if scenarios, and all that’s left is just to close the story to the best of my abilities – and enjoyment.

Tonight’s writing has all been part of a brand-new chapter. This chapter won’t be the final one, but it’s the beginning of the end; I guess it’s the start of act 3, or maybe the end of act 2, fuck it I have no idea if I even have discernible acts yet in this story, but this feels like the end, and I have always liked the process of bringing my stories to a close.

And I think that’s actually made this chapter snappier than the previous ones; I’ve felt much more certain about it, more sure in my footing and how I piece the sequence of events together, the narrative beats that I’m hitting (though I’m probably not using the term “narrative beats” properly, if that even is a term to be used properly to begin with) – this feels like a story, and I think that’s what I most enjoy about writing the ends of my books, because without fail they always feel like the ending of an actual story.

Whether they read like that afterwards is another matter – and one that doesn’t matter right now. I have been in such a slump for the past couple of weeks, and this is the shot of enthusiasm that I’ve needed to push myself over the finish-line. I probably have another chapter or two after this one to go – and then the one I skipped during Camp Nano – but, yeah, this feels good.

The home stretch. Via the scenic route.

Weekly Total

Writing: 12111

So, judging by my weekly averages for the past couple of months, I’ve hit somewhere between 8-10k per week (8432 words for Bad Guys this week), which means that I can look forward to the zero draft being about 71k words long once all is said and done … judging by weekly averages over the past couple of months.

However, this is the home stretch, and I always get a power-up during the home stretch of any novel-writing process. So I’ll say at least 71k words long. I know exactly what’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen even though I sort of screwed up my sequencing with yesterday’s writing – but that’s fine. I’m going to be tweaking a ton of shit in revision at the very least, and quite possibly writing an entirely new draft in place of this one.

Energy has been the prevailing concern of mine when I’ve been getting caught up in worrying about whether it’s “worth it” to even finish this zero draft, specifically not having enough energy to start over on the one hand, and not having enough energy to fit in all the ideas that I want to test out on the other. I have erred on the side of caution, I feel, by addressing the former problem by ignoring the latter. I’m finishing this thing this week, so I will definitely have energy to jump into revision …

But then I remembered that I won’t be doing that until November anyway. That’s been my plan since Camp Nano: finish the zero draft, maybe read it over once, make some notes, and then let it sit until maybe a week before Nano starts, which is when I can make the decision between revising and rebooting.

So I could have addressed the second problem, and pushed myself to use up all of my energy on throwing every idea I have into the zero draft to see how it comes out in the wash …

Except that, as soon as I came to this realisation, it was followed by the realisation that I don’t have that energy anyway – so I ended up making the correct decision regardless.

It’s nice when things work out like that.

And it’s going to be nice to have time and energy to work on other projects, probably go back to a bit more of a dabbling strategy, not committing too hard to any one project and giving myself the chance to test the waters with a bunch of ideas (such as my new High Fantasy idea, which I shared with my awesome co-writing friend, and she said it was really cool, and now I feel very validated) as a way of decompressing. Or, I could focus on finishing the revision notes for Wolf Gang, Mark and Jessie and/or the co-writing episodes that I have yet to read over, maybe even go back to Tallulah, yet again …

Or, of course, just focus on things other than writing. Got a bunch of books to read, some Netflix shows I’ve dipped into this week that I could binge on, some thoughts to have about what I want to do next year (I would say maybe this year, too, but I think I’m good with maintaining my extremely low-maintenance schedule for this year) – like whether or not the werewolf PhD will ever be a thing – and just take a break. I don’t think I’ll want to take a break from writing, after spending the first half of this year feeling very disconnected from my creative energy and now, having reconnected with it again, feeling loath to let it go just yet, but since November is locked-in for me as my next big writing push, I think I would feel okay investing in some downtime writing-wise.

Regardless, I do think I will benefit from being prepared for the end of the zero draft, giving myself some options and being ready to transition out of this intense two-month writing process that I really haven’t take then time to try and comprehend. It’s been very intense. I’ve had, I dunno, a week in total, spread out across the past eight weeks, where I haven’t written, and besides that it’s been writing every day, and writing well over a thousand words for the majority of that time. It’s been a lot of writing is what I’m saying, and while it doesn’t feel like that much effort, I objectively know that it has been a lot of effort – and, realistically, I may need to crash. And I want to make sure that I have a nice, big, fluffy pillow to catch me if that happens.

But, that’s for next month – for the final week of this month, I have one job, and that is to write the shit out of this zero draft.

My fifth one ever.

That’s kinda cool.

Weekly Words 12-18/8/2019

12/8/2019

On today’s episode of Jason Uses His “Writing” Blog Like A Stream-Of-Consciousness Day Planner …

Plan experiment time.

First of all: my goal for Bad Guys is to have the zero draft finished by August 31, which gives me 20 days including today to finish it. I have some things that I need to be mentally prepared for going forward in order to accomplish this, and the first of these is when I’m going to be writing every day.

Daytime works better than evening, and for that reason I’m actually giving myself today off because this entire day has been spent distracting myself and I am in no good headspace to do any writing. I also know that if I get a good, timely start that I can have my writing done fairly quickly, and feel much freer to spend the rest of the day doing things that I want to do. Wake up, miscellaneous post-wake-up activities, then write, and then whatever. Sounds good – I just have to do it.

However, I also have a ton of ideas about this project rattling around in my head and taking up imagination real estate, so evenings are my reflection and brainstorming time. Evening is a good time for speculation for me, not so much for productivity, so I’ll leverage that. This also sets me up to be mentally prepared for writing the following day, and will solve one of the issues that I have right now, which is feeling like I’m diving off a cliff with a blindfold on every time I sit down at my laptop to write.

And with those two tasks set out – let’s put a time-limit on them I think; no more than 2 hours for each – I can work in the rest of the stuff that I want to do in the day/week around them. Good. I feel a little better-prepared already.

That’s all I think I need right now; other needs may arise as I put this plan into action, and I’ll tackle those as they come. But, for now, here is my first draft at a successful writing month to come, and a completed Bad Guys manuscript come August 31. I’m looking forward to it.

13/8/2019

Writing: 2035

Sometimes, when you hit a wall, you brainstorm. You try to find a solution that you haven’t found yet, take ideas and try to expand on their implications for your project before you commit to them, to try and ensure that whatever you decide to do, it will be the choice that gives the most benefit to your project. You may go through this process a number of times, each time feeling just as hypothetical and lacking in assurance as the last, and have no idea how you’re going to proceed the next time you sit down to write.

And then you do, and while you’re writing you just kinda figure it out.

How do you solve writing problems? With writing.

That’s what I did today, and it felt good; this chapter that has been giving me hell is now giving me life, and I’m glad to be done with writing for the day – I think I even stuck to my deal with myself to only spend 2 hours max on writing in a day – as well as being glad with what I wrote. This is shit that might actually make it into the final manuscript.

And, most importantly, I have momentum back. Time to not let it slip away from me …

14/8/2019

Writing: 1461

Writing at 11:43 pm still counts. Momentum maintained. Ha!

And … that’s that chapter done.

I’m basically on the home stretch!

And no, nowhere near enough has happened in this story up to this point, but while on the one hand I do think that “more is more” when it comes to a zero draft, I also don’t honestly feel like I have more – not that I can write. I can start putting it down in writing, and what I am afraid will happen is that, because it’s so vague and uncertain and limited in my head, trying to write it will in and of itself actually slow my momentum to a crawl, just like this chapter did. This was a chapter where I took an idea that I thought was neat and wanted to expand on it, and it almost killed the project dead. I don’t want that to happen again.

Having said that, I do still have the better part of a month to play with. At the very least, I will finish this zero draft before the month is out – and, once that’s done, if I have time, I can use it to fit in some of this other stuff. Also there is a scene or chapter that I need to write in just to bridge a little continuity gap at some stage. Shouldn’t be too hard.

I think I was right, though, in thinking that, well, thinking about these ideas is what’s going to make this zero draft, and this project throughout its writing process, really come together. I do have good ideas, and when I have the time to develop and expand and explore them the project begins to come to life. I’m definitely in a bit of a brain-drain at the moment, and while part of that is due to dealing with the anxiety of the possibility that I might have lost all momentum yet again with this project, the other part is that I’m just keeping up a really brisk pace of writing. I’m fairly certain that, if I were to tally up my daily word-count average since I put my 1400-words-per-day goal into effect, I would be way over that, even with the 5 days between the 8th and the 12th basically being write-offs. And … I mean, that’s a lot.

Like, a lot. Especially in terms of my own metric for personal achievement; I remember starting Weekly Words and thinking that my 1000 words-per-day goal was astronomically huge, given my writing output history. Now 1400 words seems like it’s right in the centre of what I find comfortable; too much under and I feel like I’ve been undisciplined, while going over happens fairly often and naturally. Brain-drain aside, Bad Guys has been a really rewarding project to work on, and the pace is part of that. It feels good to be doing a ton of writing these days. I feel better about myself for doing it.

I just need to start thinking ahead to the portion of this writing process where I will need to be able to maybe even put writing aside for a day or two, or even more, and just give myself time to think my ideas up until they transform into exciting possibilities that I’m eager to explore, and then get back to writing – without losing momentum.

I think I need to make sure that my days off this week really are days off from writing – not necessarily Writing, but if for no other reason than that it’s fun for me to indulge in hypothetical revision plans while I’m in the midst of a zero draft that I’m really enthusiastic about … though I have to be careful about that, too. That might be part of the brain-drain, actually, spending too much time dwelling on the possibilities that will open up once I’m done. Yep. Good catch, brain. I need to focus more on this current zero draft, not less.

That’s where the good ideas will come from: writing. That’s what’s been proven true over the course of Camp Nano. Gotta remember these things.

Man, tunnel-vision is so … insidious. But I think I’m the most aware of my tendency to slip into it now that I’ve been in my whole life.

Fuck theory for now; I’ve got some practice to attend.

16/8/2019

I was sure I wrote something yesterday … hmm.

Oh well.

Writing: 1113

I am starting to consider the option of just leaving the rest of this zero draft for November. The enthusiasm I had throughout July has definitely dwindled – which is to be expected. And I think it’s fine, in terms of momentum, for me to take a break from this, focus on something/s else until November, and plan to wrap it up there. In terms of self-care, I think this is reasonable.

The only issue is that such a long break will probably be really evident when I come back to it, not remembering where I was going with it, and basically putting my brain into revision mode before the project is ready for it. Yes, it would “free up” my brain and I’d probably have new ideas for the project, but I’d rather save that creative burst for the revision process – much as I’ve been complaining about brain-drain recently, it is at least resulting in a zero draft that feels coherent and consistent within itself, and that’s going to be easier to work with in terms of revision.

Also, I was considering that before I made myself write tonight. Now that I really am into the part of the story that pretty much tells itself from this point on, the anticipation of getting to the end is taking over the role that enthusiasm has played up to this point, and I don’t want to cut myself off before I can take advantage of this. This is going to help me get the zero draft written, and that’s what I want one way or another – if I don’t need a break to accomplish that, then I don’t want to make myself arbitrarily take one because, out of context, it seems like maybe something I should consider doing.

But I do think I should plan on cutting back on my daily and weekly writing goals for the rest of the draft – 1400 words per day is, quite frankly, too damn much to sustain, at least at this part in the process. It worked wonders when I decided on it initially; it got me writing, it kept me writing; and now that Camp Nano is over, it’s done its job. I don’t actually need it as a goal anymore; my goal is now to be done writing this zero draft by the end of the day on the 31st, which is in two weeks. And to be honest, I don’t think a word-count goal is going to help me get there, because fuck knows how many words it’s going to take me to finish. It’s not going to be the number of words; it’s going to be the right words – and in a zero draft, that’s a bit of an issue.

It probably shouldn’t be my goal …

It’s just events. That’s all I’m doing now: ticking boxes on my story-event list. I should make that list. Yes. That is what I will do over this weekend, which will also serve as my source of days off for the week, even though I’ve already had two. I may still write, I’ll just not be intending to write. But I will sketch out the final remaining set of events, just so that I’m clear about what goals I’m moving towards, and when I’ve moved past each of them. No more word counts for the rest of this draft; we’re way beyond word count now.

Weekly Total

Writing: 6716

I need more hobbies.

Seriously, I think that’s it. I know what’s going to work with this zero draft. I know the first pass of revisions is basically when I start working on the Real Story, and that everything I’ve been doing up to this point has just been a very prolonged brainstorming session. I know this.

But I also know that this week, like most weeks, honestly, is just another return to the same part of the Jason’s Writing Process Spiral; this is the part where I have so much tunnel-vision from moment to moment and so little perspective from lack of downtime and just, like, doing shit that isn’t writing or braincell-killing distraction-crutches, that I’m losing sight of the goal, and the method of getting there, even though I know and have proved, many times, that they are solid and work when I use them.

So, while I do need to focus more on this draft than on what comes next in terms of my writing process, I also need to focus more on what I do with my time that has absolutely fucking nothing to do with writing – and that is engrossing and engaging and will actually be something that I spend not only time and energy but enthusiasm on doing.

That’s next week’s task. And for the good of this project, I should get to it.

Weekly Words 5-11/8/2019

5/8/2019

Revision: 16 minutes

Writing: 1701

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 …

6/8/2019

Writing: 1418

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.

7/8/2019

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.

Writing: 1662

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.

8/8/2019

Writing: 181

Be prepared. If I keep repeating this advice to myself, I will eventually feel like taking it. That’s how it works.

Yep.

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.

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.

9/8/2019

Writing: 208

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 …

10/8/2019

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?

Weekly Total

Revision: 1 hour 48 minutes

Writing: 9325

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.

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.