Absence

So today I decided to go into town to write. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write; I have a few potential Interim Projects that I could dump my energies into. I also generally meet up with a friend to have breakfast on Wednesdays, but I set my alarm an hour later than I thought I had and ended up missing that, so when I got to the cafe I just sat there and had porridge. I actually really like porridge. And this porridge had milk, banana slices and brown sugar to accompany it, all the better to eat it with.

And while I was there, I came up with like five different Little Red Riding-Hood revisions that I could write.

The reason I did this was twofold. For one – I was in town, and wanted to do something with that opportunity, not being at home and inundated with distractions.

For another, I first had the idea of writing something different, a project of mine called Magician Boogaloo, which is basically Realm of the Myth, the fantasy epic that I gave up on last year and then had all the ideas for and nowhere to put them, in a new, episodic package. I knew the characters, I knew the first episode, I was prepared in every particularity to write this thing.

Two things happened.

One: I realised, or re-realised, how much the main character was an Author Avatar and literally felt sick at the prospect of writing him. So that’s something I need to look into – and also the whole premise of this series being ‘take stuff that used to go somewhere else and put it in here’, because I’m sure fresh ideas are probably better.

Two: I felt guilty about writing other characters who weren’t Tallulah.

That second one I think is kind of cute; it’s the kind of thing I would think of as ‘cute’ if I heard a friend talking about it, so I’ll go ahead and apply it to myself as well. And that’s kind of inevitable; I’ve been writing her for a year, and while I know she’s still an experiment at this stage, I’m still incredibly fond of her. I’m very much attached. And now I have to postpone our next engagement until I get the feedback and mindset needed to improve her story.

So, in short, Little Red Riding-Hood actually worked for me as an idea because she isn’t my character; this is like taking a vacation, basically, in terms of writing characters – I can just skip on out to somebody else’s creation and do my own thing with it, and see what comes of it.

I have also considered – for the first time since I was about 20 – returning to fan-fiction. For the purposes of distraction. Playing with other people’s stories is such good learning for telling your own, whether that’s through reading/watching the story as an audience member, analysing and critiquing it as a reviewer, or putting your own spin on it as a revisionist – which does include fan-fiction. And to be honest, if I think of allowing myself to write fan-fiction, the whole idea loses its appeal – it’s more the fact that I wasn’t allowing myself to write it that made it feel interesting.

Actually, maybe Twilight. I never quite gave up on my personal vision for what that story could have been.

But in any case, I’m at a point now where I’m still in Tallulah-mode but am not allowed to write any more Tallulah, because the draft is done, and it needs to sit. I need to go back and read the draft myself, and I need to collect feedback from my Beta Readers and process it, and I need to get into the mindset of looking at story structure critically, which is what I’m using my other blog for, and to also have it be a creative mindset, because the story needs to be improved, not simply downsized or ‘edited’ in that sense – it needs to grow, so I need both critical and creative tools at my disposal. So LRRH is serving as the ‘creative’ side of this brain-exercising coin; in particular, I want to see if I’m creative enough to come up with an adaptation that actually doesn’t have sex in it in any capacity without also making it ‘dry’ or ‘sanitised’ or whatever – our culture seems to have a certain ‘thing’ for this particular fairytale, and after all, it did start off as a cautionary tale to young women, I believe. So we’ll see just how far I can push myself here.

And this also has the distinct advantage of not feeling like I’m betraying Tallulah by writing other characters instead, and really, seeing as I do need to write something in the interim, that’s perhaps the most important thing.

Getting Restarted

It is done. The draft is done. I finished it in the wee hours of the morning, and was jubilant and ecstatic and all other kinds of positive-emotion-feeling, and I’m still happy today, just not as excited. Which is fine.

And now I have absolutely no idea what to do.

With regards to the draft, that is. I have many ideas about what to do with my life. But how long do I leave this thing sitting? Two weeks? Two months? What do I do in the interim? There’s other ‘life stuff’ that could be done in this interim space, and I do want to send this draft around to people for reading and evaluation.

I have been reading some stuff online today about how to avoid being scammed as a writer, in terms of what to expect from agents/publishers, and this is good, because this is the part that freaks me out: not knowing if I’m being taken for a ride. The paranoid part of me wants to know who’s watching the watchers, but that’s only to be expected. I will certainly research more than a couple of blogs before making a decision.

And I’ve also learnt – and this is a big thing – that one is not expected to submit a manuscript to an agent until it is ‘finished’. That means it is at a point where you are so okay with it that you’ve moved on to write something else, apparently.

The blog in question is the BookEnds LLC blog, which went dark on April 12th last year, and that’s another reason to do further research, but it’s helped me get over my anticipated anxiety over dealing with the process of learning authorial self-defence. I now know more about the publishing industry than I ever have, assuming it’s all true, of course, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and say it’s not trying to scam me and drive me towards getting scammed. Doing this kind of research is the part of ‘being a writer’ that I have been so light on that it’s not even light, it’s some kind of pre-photon particle that has long since ceased to exist at all.

The news that I’m actually meant to keep working on my draft is, actually, very comforting. I don’t have to worry about deciding whether or not to send in a first draft and get feedback, or doing my own thing and hoping it’s good enough to pass. I still have to look at submitting to editors and stuff, which I understand is different to submitting to an agent, but nevertheless, I am very pleased to have somebody tell me to keep writing, because to be honest, that’s what I want to do.

I will absolutely let Tallulah settle before I start looking for things to mix and match, because I think I need some critical space. I might wait until my birthday, just for arbitrary momentousness, but it’s more likely that I’ll be returning to it much sooner than that. At most I’d maybe take a Certificate of Proficiency at uni and do one paper that takes my fancy or something like that, just to keep my mind occupied. And, of course, find some kind of means of income.

But the idea that to keep writing is the right decision is so very validating for me, because I like having work that I like doing, and doing this draft has been such an endeavour. So the next step for me is to send this draft around to friends of mine who have offered to read it for me.

And this little ditch, this lurch in activity on my end, is actually quite exciting in its own right. It’s like a miniature of the sense of freedom and prospect that I experienced on my last day of lectures; I couldn’t remember what happened next, and that was because I didn’t know what happened next, after three and a half years of living out predictions and assumptions, and it was impossibly liberating. I do feel like a new person, in a new era. And even the fact that what I’m ‘meant to do’ is keep writing Tallulah does not change that – I have never written a second draft before. This is new. This is good.

And in the meantime, I have some reading to catch up on, and a fairytale revision to complete. I’m looking forward to that.

I’m looking forward to a lot of things.

Looking forward and seeing nothing that you recognise is pretty awesome.

Penultimatum

This feels very strange.

I have written the penultimate chapter of Tallulah.

My original plan was to stay up all last night and write it, but instead I watched two episodes of Sherlock – which is a fantastic show that I eagerly await the third season of – and ran out of momentum. Then today I made myself get back to writing in order to make up for what I’d lost in momentum with forward intention.

This is that part in a draft where the fact that it’s a draft – the fact that it isn’t ‘supposed’ to be perfect, or ‘right’, or ‘finished’ – doesn’t feel like quite enough justification to not go back and do it over, make it better, bigger, deeper, whatever it is that could be changed, that would be changed in a final draft, that I would expect to have been changed and refined and understood and perfected in the finished product.

I can’t make what doesn’t make sense make any more sense than it does.

But I can fill up this second-to-last part, this climax, with more words, with more data and information; I can make it stronger and richer and more … I can make it better.

And the question that I now face is whether or not I should.

The thing that I am worrying about is whether or not, if I just leave it as it is and then come back to it later, I will still be able to pick up on what needs changing, and why. I feel that being nearer to the moment of this particular story’s creation in time, I have a clearer understanding, a more vivid awareness of what it is that is lacking, what could be made up for, and the very idea that I will move further and further away from this period of immediacy fills me with doubts as to my future ability, my future capacity for getting right what I now think is right.

And maybe it’s because, like when I realised that I wouldn’t have this draft finished by the end of the year, I’m not looking at this draft for what it is.

It’s not just that it’s a draft. It’s not just that it’s a work in progress; it’s not just that I’m not telling a story as strongly and coherently as I am capable of doing in the long-run, because this is not yet the long-run, no matter how long it has taken me to write what I’ve written, or to tell the portions of the story that I have told.

It is not just a draft.

It is a commitment.

If I stop writing this draft now, I can focus on other things, and I am afraid that this very shift of focus will utterly eradicate whatever insight into my draft it is that I have right now.

And if I leave this chapter as it is, and just keep writing until this draft is done …

It’ll all be over so soon.

I don’t want it to end.

And I guess that’s it. I’m thinking of it ending.

I’m thinking of taking a break, of getting some space, of putting temporal distance between my awareness and the moments of my productivity in this endeavour. That is ‘the plan’: to ‘leave it’, to ‘let it sit’ so that I can ‘get perspective’. And it feels …

Sad. It really makes me feel sad.

And now, saying that …

I’m not even finished yet.

I’ve made some notes about what I didn’t put into this chapter – I didn’t go with the ‘only in a first draft’ ending after all, because it felt artificial, and it also made no sense in terms of how it took the story to the climax I had in mind. And the things that I didn’t put in were not put in because, actually, I had never even thought about how they would be put in to begin with. So actually, I pretty much wrote the climax that I had in mind.

Maybe I’ll write another one, though. I did want to write some alternative versions of the climax, so since I’ve already given myself permission to do that, I could very justifiably take advantage of it. This climax is not the one that I had in mind from the start. I don’t at all know that the one I did have in mind makes any sense, but I could still do it, just for my own purposes. Just to have done it.

Or is it all right to just leave it for a while?

And there’s no point in asking that. There is nobody to answer it. It’s just up to me.

Maybe what I think is ‘wrong’ with this climax is actually fine. Or maybe it’s just as obvious as I think it is, and that obviousness will not decay with time. Maybe I do actually know what I’m talking about when it comes to storytelling after all, and if I trust myself to be constant, I will be. Or maybe even if I don’t trust myself.

I don’t really trust myself, in case you hadn’t picked up on it.

So, actually, I think it’s time to start doing that.

I think that this will be a good story, in the end. I think that I may well feel this way even after I’ve sent it off to be published. I don’t know how I’ll be able to stand it if that is the case.

But this draft is almost done.

And I could have a book published.

And I have other obligations; I have other things that require my attention and time – I need to find some income – actually that’s it. I need to find a source of income that is not my parents. I need to pick up that particular slack so ease the financial pressures of our household. I may have to be in an uncomfortable position where I am writing and working full-time.

I have only ever considered that possibility with the outcome of failure and dismay, because I have never elected to do it; I have only been put in positions where I had not much choice in the matter, and leant back on the cushion of circumstance to counterbalance the inertia of being in that kind of position, and elected to just do one and not the other.

I don’t know if I can do both.

But right now, I think that I will. I think that it is going to take a lot more than mere discomfort to stop me from finishing this story.

I do feel the need, the obligation, to end these posts on a positive note. That’s more for my own sake than anything else. But also because I have a habit of negative self-fulfilling prophecies created by ending on a low note instead, so it makes sense that, if that’s the only real factor, ending on a high note would have the opposite effect.

And it comes down to all the mundane, little, morally-neutral things, like taking notes, always taking notes, and keeping them, like writing words, like taking a break to panic for a bit and then coming back with a fresh perspective I hadn’t planned for at all because I was too busy panicking – it’s about sticking to your guns, even though I so often have to remind myself what those guns are to begin with. It’s about developing habits. Being a writer is about developing a lifelong habit, and it is a habit made up of symptoms, like note-taking, like procrastinating out of doubt or worry or frustration, like worrying whether or not you’ve ‘done it properly’, and, of course, like writing. And writing. And writing.

I am a writer.

I am going to write.

Final push

I was hoping to draft today, but instead ended up writing infuriatingly circular notes about plot for a sci-fi thing I’ll try and write at some point in the indeterminate future, and I also planned out the rest of Tallulah.

I’ve talked about planning things out before and how, well, unhelpful it has been, but this time it actually feels good. It feels exciting. It feels like momentum; and it also feels like I’m taking advantage of the fact that this is a first draft and I can just mess around.

However, this was not so much planning as it was working out how to tie up some loose plot-ends and, as a result, finding myself with a plan of attack for the final push.

And now I’m sitting at home writing this, and it’s that time again …

I think this happened with Mark and Jessie as well; you start off with an idea, and then as the draft continues the original idea takes consecutively more backseats to the influx of new ideas, of changes and additions to that original idea, and then right before the end, it all suddenly somehow snaps back into place, and the original idea somehow manages to come back, the original spirit of the story, and despite all the changes that have happened since its inception, it also manages to work, perhaps even better than it did before.

Most of what I tied up in terms of loose ends is detailed in the last post; I have decided against going down that rather dark path and coming back to something more … I don’t know. Palatable I guess. And less distracting, which is the most important part; it’s in keeping with the tone of the story, and it is a return to the original idea, which thankfully still works. The rest of the stuff I made up was actually totally different to what I thought was going to happen – in terms of tone; but again, it’s the kind of stuff that I can come up with during a first draft. And I can change it later if it doesn’t work outside of a first draft, but it did tie up some loose ends in terms of the climax I was trying to work towards – in fact it ties them all up. And of course there are other ways to tie these ends up, but this is one such way, and it feels fun to me, so why not do it this way?

And now all that there is left to do is write it, and I can get this done in a week. I could be finished in a week.

That’s kind of overwhelming, considering how much time I’ve poured into this draft. This has taken six months, if I include the first three months of writing as being part of the last six, because there wasn’t very much writing going on until I got my schedule and quotas locked down. It feels wrong somehow that I could all be over so quickly.

But also good, because this has been going on for a LONG time. And I do want to finish it, and be able to sit back and see it as a whole. I want to see it finish, to wrap up. I know it won’t be a comfortable ending, because, again, it’s a first draft, but what I’m looking forward to is seeing why it isn’t comfortable, what I need to change to make it fit better; that’s kind of what this ending I’ve come up with is an exercise in – seeing if something works.

And then when it’s all finished I’ll have nothing to do but … look for something else to do.

Like get a job.

And that’ll be all other kinds of good for self-empowerment or, at least, ‘real-world perspective’, which I keep hearing is good if you’re in the storytelling trade, because people like to be able to see a reflection of their own world in a story – not necessarily the whole thing, but parts of the whole thing. So the more I can emotionally manipula – uh, I mean cater to my audience, the better stories I will be able to craft. And who knows what I’ll learn about myself along the way? Hopefully that I can write and hold a permanent part-time job simultaneously. And if certain stirrings today take root and blossom into full-blown motivation, that I can go back to study and write simultaneously. I’m thinking that just because university ‘happened’, it doesn’t mean it was special. And it doesn’t mean it’ll be special if I go back, either.

And actually I like that. It makes me feel better about not taking advantage of everything I could have, because when something is special, there’s a lot of pressure to ‘get it right’. Now it feels like something better than special; it feels real. And I can go back to something real.

Or not. We’ll see. Either way, this draft is almost done, and I’m excited to get there.

Flakes, fangs, fur

Man, I feel like such a flake sometimes.

Told a couple of people about my idea for satirical vampire fiction and now I’m thinking I probably won’t write it, because as was pointed out to me, there’s kind of an over-saturation of vampire media already. And yeah, I did kinda notice; and furthermore, other than for my own enjoyment, I really have nothing to contribute with a vampire story.

Not that writing things for one’s own amusement should be discouraged. But yeah, might be moving on from that idea.

TO WEREWOLVES.

I like the idea of werewolves, and what I do not like – at all – is how they’re constantly being pitted against vampires nowadays. Yes, when I was in my teen years and Underworld appeared on my radar, I experienced something of a conceptual orgasm, but it’s become so samey.

The other issue that I have with werewolves is, well, the whole ‘animal’ thing. And it’s kind of because, of all the animals you could anthropomorphose (I’m sure I’ve seen that used as a word somewhere) into, why would you pick a wolf?

I get it from a cultural and historical point of view, but in terms of pure mechanics, wolves are hardly the most dangerous animals around. Why not a tiger, or a bear? Perhaps I’m taking this too literally, because after all, if I’m complaining about wolves, why do I let bats off the hook? And I think this is the thing that puts me off the most: vampires, unless they are of the shape-shifting variety, are only thematically similar to bats, whereas werewolves – well, they’re werewolves; a vampire is not a ‘werebat’, it’s a vampire, and even if it can transform into a bat, while in vampire-form, it still retains all of its powers, everything that makes it a vampire, which is why so many of the modern variety eschew bat-form altogether. And yes, I know that werewolves and vampires were originally the same thing, but I’m talking about the archetypes from the horror genre, not folklore (which is kind of cooler). Ultimately, what we know of as werewolves are a little too literal to quite pique my interest.

What interests me far more is the idea of a character like the Big Bad Wolf, because he’s just a wolf – only he can talk. And crossdress. And do mean impersonations, to the point where he can actually fool people into thinking he’s not just human, but specific people, or at least naive pre-teen girls. There is nothing literal about this, nothing pseudo-scientific; he’s just a wolf that talks. That is far more up my alley.

And so, after a year or so, I have finally come back to my interest in writing a revision of Little Red Riding-Hood, and trying to dump every single Gothic trope I have ever learnt about into it. And that involves, of course, the Big Bad Wolf.

My Big Bad Wolf, however, is … I mean in terms of being a villain, he’s a bit of a Mary-Sue, and I’ll admit I’m guilty of a bit of idol-worship of this particular archetype – or more specifically, the version of it that I want it to be. And this is yet another instance where I feel rather flaky.

I showed the first couple of chapters to some friends, and yes, this was long before the ‘don’t show anybody the first draft’ resolution kicked in – but to be fair, I do actually think it’s useful to show a couple of chapters to other people, just to gague general reactions and see if you’re ‘onto something’. One piece of feedback that stayed with me was that the Big Bad Wolf seemed like he was going to be a unique subversion of the character, but then just turned back into a typical monster – and that’s true. And now I’m torn between loyalty to my own personal vision of the Big Bad Wolf – which to be perfectly fair is not very original – or taking this feedback on board, and doing something that, quite frankly, I don’t want to do.

And why should that be a dilemma? Why should I ever consider doing something that I don’t want to, when it comes to one of my stories?

Well … it’s to do with taste, mostly.

I’m pretty predictable when it comes to my ideas a lot of the time, and this version of the BBW is no exception. Therefore, hearing that I may have, however unwittingly, stumbled upon something original in his design is, well, flattering, but also frustrating, because it wasn’t my intention. And that brings up the always wonderful conflict of: ‘what should I want to do?’

Which is a dumb question; there is no ‘should’ when it comes to wanting things, only doing things, and only doing things that particularly affect other people at that. And I guess my main issue is that I want to take credit for this accident and turn it into something cool that people will approve of – and I have to take credit, because if I don’t then it’s not my idea, and if it’s not my idea then it’s somebody else’s creativity that I’m working into my own work, admitting that I can’t actually come up with anything better myself, which makes me feel really inferior and insecure about my own work and ideas, which makes me want to stick to my original, unoriginal idea just because it’s my idea and not somebody else’s so as to maintain a sense of control, not to mention self-esteem.

It’s these kinds of dilemmas that, if and when I spell them out to myself, seem really stupid – it’s not a big deal. I can write something unoriginal, and that’ll be fine; it’ll just be unoriginal. It doesn’t mean it won’t be good. Or I can explore this other idea and see if there is something along that path of enquiry that actually comes to mind without feeling like I’m resorting to taking instructions from other people because I’m a hack.

And after all, in the end, isn’t all storytelling just using other people’s work anyway? Well – yes and no. There’s a difference between stealing something outright and then taking somebody else’s work and putting a new twist on it, or using it for a new purpose, or in a new context. And then there’s feeling like you’re getting hand-outs, and honestly I feel horrible feeling so insecure about this, because it was good feedback and it was well-meant, but I guess I’m just incredibly touchy about my own ideas and what people say about them.

And it’s not that I feel like I don’t have a thick enough skin or whatever; that’s another issue entirely. This is to do with not feeling like my ideas are any good, and that things I’ve done unintentionally might end up being more enjoyable to an audience than the things I’m actually putting all of my efforts into trying to make work. This is to do with actually feeling like a phony (I don’t think I’ve ever written than word before) with nothing original or interesting to say.

So, the question I face is: what do I do as a writer when this kind of anxiety takes hold? Because this is hardly the first time it’s happened, and I haven’t come up with a solution yet, but hey, I’m older and wiser now, right? Surely there’s something I can think of.

… I guess I could just … write. And see what happens with it.

And so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to finish this draft of Tallulah, and then I’m going to finish my Little Red Riding-Hood revision as a reward/break, and see how it goes. I’ve got the feedback for the BBW swirling around in my mind, and I’ve still got my original idea, and it is quite possible that in the time between now and when I start writing it again I will have other influences to add to the cauldron as well.

Tallulah, by the way, I also discussed with a friend today, and it was rather helpful to get some outside perspective – not on the story so much as on the process of writing it, and getting a whole host of gender-related anxiety off my chest. For now, anyway. It tends to build up, kind of like the writer’s equivalent of plaque. So I guess that makes my friend a … toothbrush? I’ll go with a dentist, out of respect. Friends are not things, people.

It is alarming, though, at how relieving it was today to be writing a chapter that was not from Tallulah’s perspective, and even though it was that thing that I hate rather a lot – exposition – it was also telling a story, a backstory, and it was so relieving to not be trying desperately to make Tallulah interesting and realistic, which are not always even remotely related – and, once again, feeling like a flake for not seeming to being able to make up my mind with what I want to do with her, a conclusion drawn from re-reading some stuff and panicked assumptions about how other people are going to react to her. She needs focus. I guess she is the most important part of the story, so it makes sense that she’d take the longest to ‘get right’, because that’s what the story stands or falls on the strength of. I mean the idea behind her was so simple at first … but I’ve always known that trying to make her unexpected and interesting has always been incredibly hit-and-miss, something else that was clarified for me today thanks to socialising with other human beings. And hey, first draft; I kinda have to throw a lot of darts. Because Tallulah is so integral, she deserves the most attention, and consequently, the most mess.

So yeah. Possible werewolf fiction coming out of me. And I may still do the vampire thing, because who knows, maybe it’ll be the best thing ever. I also want to use minotaurs at some point, being a Taurus and everything, plus minotaurs just being cool in their own right. And do it originally. Somehow.

Work work work.

Going for the gold

This is a bit of a downer post. But I don’t know that it should be, really. I think I’m just in a downer kind of mood and focusing on things that will keep me there. It happens.

Anyway, to get to the point: it seems that the stuff I like writing about – really emotional stuff – and really want to be visceral and realistic and mature – would probably be absolutely fantastic if I’d written it for a soap opera.

Yeah I dunno, maybe it’s fine; maybe it’s a first draft and just needs more work. Maybe I need more ‘life experience’. But that’s how I’m feeling right now: that all of my heartfelt emotional viscera can only articulate itself in writing as melodramatic pulp. Perhaps I just have no idea what I’m talking about, despite what I think I understand. There are few things as soul-crushingly disappointing as finding out that you’re nowhere near as good – however you measure that – as you think you are.

So I guess if I decide I want to write for Mills and Boon again, all I have to do is come up with a story that means something to me and that I want to be really serious and realistic, and I’ll know I’m on the right track.

But on the other hand … I mean I do enjoy writing this stuff, however it turns out. I enjoy the choices of words I use, the specific language. True, I’d like to be less wordy, but that’s another solution that drafting provides. So even if it is ‘garbage’, if I enjoy writing it … and if I’m good at writing it …

Maybe I need to write some melodrama, intentionally.

Maybe I’d really enjoy it.

And hey, that stuff sells like hotcakes, right?

I dunno. I have this idea that if I just insist on being serious, eventually it will manifest in my writing. If I just keep trying, surely my sheer force of will and want will eventually bring me the desired success. But maybe I’m just deluding myself. And maybe it’s not actually what I want anyway. Maybe I just want to have some dumb fun.

Speaking of which, I have recently decided that I’m going to turn my initial prediction of how Twilight was going to end, from my assumptions after seeing the first film, into a series of metacritical erotic vampire novels. So maybe this is what I’ve been waiting for all along.

I don’t know. I don’t feel like I should enjoy melodrama – or settle for it being all I’m good at writing, because I love realism and ‘naturalistic’ characters and stories and want to be able to do it myself.  And simultaneously, I don’t really feel good about suggesting that melodrama is synonymous with ‘something nobody should enjoy if they have any measure of self-respect’, because judging people by what kind of stories they like is pretty shallow, I feel.

And again, maybe it’s fine, and maybe I’m just being hyper-critical, and my writing is just as true-to-life as I fantastise about it being.

On the other hand … if I can do both …

I don’t think I’d complain if I was good at both …

And maybe effort is enough to get there in the end. Maybe wanting it badly enough helps. Maybe I just need to look in more directions in order to find it, to compliment this wanting.

It’s always the unknown that trips you up, especially when you think you know it, to the point where you kind of take it for granted. But to be fair, I’ve felt this way about my writing ever since I saw Before Sunrise, and then there were films like 13,and shows like Prime Suspect and The Office, and it just seemed so unattainable, that level of believability, of validity – of credibility. And of course Neil Gaiman, and then The Changeover, and how they brought that to the fantasy genre, which is exactly what I’m trying to do with Tallulah …

And it’s not like things that aren’t written ‘true to life’ can’t actually be ‘true to life’ – stories are symbolic, after all, and if the story is something people relate to, the truth will be read into it. And whether that’s done in dramatic, melodramatic, operatic, realistic, or any other kind of prose, if it works, then that’s a story that’s done its job. I guess I just want to be known as a writer who can write really believable characters with really believable conflicts and responses and motivations and all that stuff. And I guess I should know that ‘believable’ and ‘realistic’ are not the same thing. Realism is just one way of doing things.

I don’t know. But maybe this conflict is okay to just have. Maybe it’ll make me try harder, and look closer at what I’m writing.

That sounds about right, actually.

I still feel pretty shaken. It’s kind of silly, how much I still invest in my own writerly self-image.

I say while watching the ‘Kiss The Girl’ music video, Ashley Tisdale’s rendition no less.

Vampire fiction away!

Getting Away With It

Got back to the writings today, for the first time since Christmas Eve. It felt horribly awkward at first, because this is the most awkward – and arguably the most important – part of the entire story. It’s a big dramatic moment and involves this whole painful misunderstanding that was caused by other misunderstandings and assumptions and just in general the whole thing is a big juicy angst-cluster, and I do like it.

To start off, though, because even the thought of trying to write this scene was awkward to handle, I decided to instead ease into it by trying to plan it out, hit all the notes, make all the considerations, and most importantly, clarify Sinead’s motivations. I actually changed her intentions and motives from what they originally were in this note-taking phase, and it felt very synergistic; it slotted into the empty places around the situation and gave the skeleton some flesh, and so I kept it, and was rather pleased with what I had managed to come up with.

And as per usual, as soon as I’d finished and started to write, it all began to bore me.

There is this wonderful show on the YouTube channel Geek and Sundry, called The Story Board, which is hosted by Patrick Rothfuss, whose novels I have come to believe I am required to read in order to call myself a fantasy author (though I’m not at all sure that’s what I want to be called, but regardless his stuff sounds interesting), and other guest authors as well. It’s rather good for advice on writing, as you might expect, but what it is particularly good for is hearing writers talk about themselves and their processes, rather than direct advice.

One such nugget of experiential wisdom imparted to me via this episode was that Patrick also gets bored when he plans things out too much, and that part of the fun of writing is in making it up as you go. and this was nice to hear; it’s not an explanation for why, but it is still confirmation that I am not alone in this regard, and in a sense that’s even better.

There is no way that you can write a story without having a plot in mind. Story and plot are individuated in the linked episode as thus: plot is what happens, story is how those events are presented, and story also encompasses characters and the setting and everything else – story is what you get told, and therefore also how you get told. And so when I made my big plan for what I was going to do, that was ‘plotting’, and in my mind, there was some rule implied by the writing of this that meant that I had to also treat this as story.

I deviated from this plan in defiance of its rigid structure, and now looking back at what I wrote I wish that I hadn’t – not that it’s a huge deal, because drafting pretty much renders all drama of a nature such as this pretty durn irrelevant, but the point is that my plan was good.

The thing that made me recoil from it so strongly was because, again, in my mind I had planned out not just ‘what happens next’ but also ‘how it happens next’ and, most importantly, ‘how I’m going to present what happens next’. and while the first thing is absolutely something that needs to be done before any sort of traditional narrative can exist, the other two do not need to be planned out, and it is these other two that are the ‘story’, and it is the story that I have so much fun making up as I go along. It just gets to a point where the story takes over and starts adding things into the plot that wasn’t there before; and again, filler happens, and filler represents a necessary element of any storytelling endeavour that just hasn’t been fully-realised yet, and in telling a story you will find heaps of empty spaces that need filling, and that is fine and good and important. But of course, it doesn’t only fill those empty spaces, and can end up taking a plot that you’ve planned out and that you like and that you actually want to use and make you do something different instead, because it will maintain whatever the current ‘mood’ your storytelling is evoking, and this is such a seductive thing, which makes it all the more easy to just follow it through, regardless of what you know is smart or good or whatever.

And again, it’s a first draft, so it’s not a big deal at this stage. But it is something that I’ve literally only today started to really consider; I’ve been having a lot of those realisations lately, and I think that’s good – it means I’m learning, I assume. And it’s something to be aware of.

I think that having fun while writing is absolutely essential to good writing, and good storytelling. I saw this quote somewhere – probably on Tumblr – which read something like: never regret anything you’ve done, because at one point it was exactly what you wanted. And especially for drafting a novel and exploring your ‘voice’, I think that this is absolutely vital information.

I plotted today, and I deviated from that plot because I felt like following things in a different direction, because it was fun to do so at the time. And that’s fine. That’s good. That’s learning. It’s not so bad to pick up after yourself. In fact it can be quite nice that you let yourself do these ‘messy’ things, just because you can. It is a feeling of generosity that works much better with other people involved, but it’s still pretty good by yourself, particularly if you feel that telling a good story is a worthwhile endeavour, because only you can tell your story, so you may as well give yourself every advantage and freedom that you can.

And it is dawning on me more and more, as I write these posts and quantify the feelings in my head, that writing is actually ‘meant’ to be about having fun, insofar as it is ‘meant’ to be about anything. Because ultimately, if you’re not doing it for yourself, you can’t do it for anybody else.

A story is such a personal thing, and I don’t mean that in the sense that it’s sensitive to the touch and must not be exposed directly to sunlight or other people’s opinions lest its creator suffer a panic attack; I mean ‘personal’ in the sense that a person who tells a story is revealing what story they are capable of telling. They are revealing their skills, their limits, their experiences, their truths, their doubts, their ignorance, their recognition, their empathy and biases and traditions and values – about storytelling. I’m not saying you can know a person in every aspect of their life just by experiencing a story they came up with, because that is a ridiculous, wishy-washy notion that romanticises the reality of storytelling; but you can most certainly be assured that they told that story that way for the sole reason that they are who they are, and if they were someone different, the story would also be different. Whether the story is a ‘deeply personal work’ or a ‘soulless derivative cash-in’ or a knock-knock joke, if they came up with it, then it was made within the framework of their capacities and constraints.

The reason that this is important to bear in mind when writing is because fun is personal in the same way. And pain, and sorrow, and joy, and boredom, and confusion – it’s all down to how we’re made up of the various influences that we are, and our responses to them, the way we cope with their inhabiting of our selves. So the reason you tell a story a certain way is because that’s how stories come out of you.

And it can change. I have learnt so much about myself while writing this draft; and on one hand, nothing has changed except for my level of awareness, because these things have been realisations, not changes. And the way I write has not changed directly as a result of every one of these recognitions.

On the other hand, both I and my stories are constantly changing and adapting, sometimes separately, sometimes convergent and contingent on one another. It’s unpredictable, and often seems unrelated, whatever the underlying mechanics may reveal with time: the point is, I don’t know now.

And so instead, I look to have fun. That is what I have learnt; if I’m stuck, I either give up, or try to make it fun. And that is another reason why this draft keeps getting away from me – fun is about engagement, not playing connect-the-dots. These two things are neither mutually exclusive or inclusive, and thus they are both.

And it’s all very heady and abstract and, in the end, perhaps interesting to ponder, but also doesn’t really change anything.

So have fun in the interim, because there is always an interim.

And in fact, just have fun in general. It’s a good way, in combination with patience, dedication, ambition and generosity, to get things done.

And for ‘telling a story’ – well, the most fun I’m having is working out how I want to tell it, and at the end of the day, that’s really what the drafts are for, I think. Not the what: the what gets you started, and while it can change, for me it remains relatively solid, and is simply added to and refined. But the telling is the part that changes the most, because it is the part that matters the most.

To me anyway.

It’s good to be writing again.

And it was good to take a break. Absence makes the heart grow fonder …