Writing While Writing – Round 1

Hahahahahahahahahaha I’ve been revising the same chapter for two weeks and a day this is so stupid and frustratinggggggggggggggggggggg

Seriously, this revision-block – a word that definitely has to be added to the writers’ lexicon – has been a result of nothing other than me crippling myself. Whatever momentum I hoped to have built up during the revising of this draft is now totally spent; I can’t even remember the last thing I read. I can’t actually remember reading anything of my manuscript at all. It is starting to dawn on me that this might actually be a totally normal experience, and that is kind of disappointing. Though I don’t know what I was expecting. I did write the thing, after all; it stands to reason that, upon reading it again, and for the purpose of revision rather than reading, I would not encounter anything that was not already in my memory-banks.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s taken so long to do.

Or both.

I don’t know.

So here’s a new plan: a new initiative/exercise in which I write a blog post while working on whatever my current main project is! The goal here is to try and take the pressure off doing one task by externalising my thoughts on the process and distributing the weight, so to speak. Let’s see how it goes.

~~~

It’s annoying not being able to identify exactly what it is that bothers me about something I’ve written, because then I can’t think of a clear solution to it.

I agree with the idea that, when doing a first pass on the revision of a manuscript, looking at things like syntax and grammar is not important, but I end up doing it anyway, because it just jumps out at me and my first instinct is to react to anything that does that. One day, if I can find a way to do it that is simple and non-intrusive, I might calculate how much time I spend on a first draft making certain kinds of revisions and notes, and see just how sidetracked I get, and when, and it might be useful. Although I don’t know if there is any possible way I could do that without it becoming an even bigger sidetrack.

~~~

So I’ve talked before about seeing characters do things that are quite, if not outright bad, then at least unfortunate, and that these things could be effective and interesting character flaws, but the narrative then plays it off like it’s fine and normalises it, e.g. Twilight. Now I’m at a bit in the manuscript where it feels like this is happening, but I know that it’s not meant to be normalised. I remember writing it and intending it to be a dubious situation.

It’s interesting. And I do wonder if any of my beta readers picked up on it in their notes. It could just be me. I’m horrible at keeping track of continuity of events in this read-through, which could be because it’s just not written to support such continuity very well, or because I can spend up to ten minutes making a single tangential note sometimes, and this constant stop-starting pace is affecting my retention of information. I may very well have to go back and read the manuscript just to read it after I’m done with making notes. Or maybe that would be overkill and I’d just make myself sick of the whole thing. Or maybe I should have waited longer before getting started on revision. Not sure.

~~~

Hmm, a dramatic moment that I wanted to be really big and story-changing just feels kind of awkward. Which is … kind of good. Thinking about it, it makes sense. And even though I could rework it to make it the Big Deal that I wanted it do be, I actually think it serves the story much better if it’s a relatively little, but still uncomfortable, moment, especially if I move it to happening much earlier in the story. It can push certain other things forward into the spotlight, and actually solves a big issue I’ve been having in terms of resolving – and initiating – one of the conflicts. Looks like I won’t be cutting a character after all! Yay!

I think this must be what people mean whey they say that a story ‘writes itself’- when you look back over it and just instantly recognise what the issue is, and also see a very clear and helpful solution.

Gotta say, I don’t hate it.

Four pages to go …

~~~

And the next moment I come up with a really good idea for how I could keep that moment exactly the way it is and just make it work better and be more important to the story. Ugh. But I think it would make it too distracting, so I probably won’t go with it. Still, ideas are good to have.

~~~

DAYMN. Tallulah doing some face-slapping up in here … forgot about that … a little out-of-character, but taken out of context it’s rather delicious.

Following on from the dramatic moment that doesn’t work is the fall-out of that moment that also doesn’t really work. Though it does work better

It’s one of those moments where characters are responding to things the other character is about to do, because the writer knows what’s about to happen, and so the characters’ reactions just feels a little off, a little too convenient. An issue that has cropped up in pretty much everything I’ve ever written, and I assume it’s a fairly common issue for writers. But hey, first draft and all that. Glad I spotted it …

~~~

This one I don’t really have an answer for: scenes with more than one person of the same sex, and use of the word s/he over and over again, or their name over and over again. I mean I guess the solution is to write very carefully so that it’s obvious who’s talking without having to get all flowery and say things like ‘the other man/woman’ or ‘the (enter identifying physical attribute/occupation/title/relationship to other character here)’ or whatever.

~~~

So also consistency is an important thing … if a character is vulnerable in one scene and then in the next they’re suddenly all cool and in control and there’s no readily-identifiable transition-point, and if it isn’t made out to just be a coping mechanism or something, it feels really out of character, when it may not be at all – it could just be the getting there that is the issue.

It also links up sometimes with the ‘character immunity’ thing that ends up happening a lot with writers, certainly with my writing, where I just don’t want my character to get hurt, so I end up either avoiding the issue or making them handle it far better than they should be able to, which makes them come across as unbelievable and also makes the story feel uneventful, the action unimportant. (Which is what is happening right now in the bit I’m reading.) It’s why Faramir was changed from the way he was in the book in The Two Towers – I don’t like either of them to be perfectly honest, but at least in the film he had some kind of inner conflict (and he gets better in Return of the King). Same deal with Aragorn; in the books he’s pretty static and is just utterly unfazed by anything and is, in all honesty, a big old Gary Stu. The one interesting thing about him is that he, like Gandalf and Bilbo, is a bit of a smart aleck, but while that can be entertaining, it’s not a conflict; it doesn’t really compromise him in any way or offer him a challenge. It could have been, like he does it to somebody he cares about and they get upset and he has to reflect on his actions or something, but sadly Aragorn has character immunity and can do no wrong. I don’t really like the conflict that they had for him in the films, his whole ‘I do not want that power’ thing, but again, at least it was something.

Always darkest before the dawn. That analogy works in storytelling (as opposed to real life, where it gradually gets lighter and lighter as dawn approaches), but it does also mean that for the dawn to mean anything, it has to be dark beforehand.

~~~

You know, there’s nothing quite like seeing your own lead protagonist transform into a complete Mary Sue right before your eyes. Ugh.

Not helped by the other character in the scene totally enabling them in this regard. I mean I knew that the way I ended the scene was pretty lame when I wrote it, but wow.

And character inconsistency after the scene ends that further enables it, having characters just switch tack entirely simply to suit whatever’s going on with the main character … I really do belong in YA … okay that was mean but seriously this is ridiculous …

On the plus-side, another obvious solution to another plot-moving issue I’ve been having has presented itself through this embarrassing lapse in authorial decency. Silver linings, right?

~~~

Oh my god, I just turned two of my characters, almost beat-for-beat, into Bella and Edward. What is wrong with Past Me?

Just for the record, I hate Edward FAR more than I hate Bella. As horrid as Bella is, she is most definitely the victim in that situation, and the fact that she ends up being more physically powerful than Edward by the end of the series is no counter to that as far as I’m concerned. Edward is literally the most disgusting piece of filth I’ve ever come across in a book, because of the fact that he’s meant to be the good guy.

Turns out I internalised his character traits a little too well … but at least I caught wind of it early on. My advocacy of writing a horrible, embarrassing, mind-vomit first draft only grows stronger the more disgusted I become with my own work, because the solutions become that much clearer.

I mean there’s … I’ve just literally turned two of my characters into psychopaths. Well, one of them is a psychopath. Tallulah, thankfully, is merely a total moron, Mary Sue and martyr rolled into one. The other character is insane. Or she would be if I had caught on to what I was writing and run with it.

It’s like watching myself curbstomp a litter of Pug puppies and being powerless to stop myself. This is horrible.

Sigh. One page to go …

~~~

And I’m done. Six chapters to go. And now I feel justified in taking two weeks to finish revising this one, because holy cow that ending was despicable. I had become the very thing I swore to destroy.

But it’s okay. It’s good learning. It is an effective use of a first draft. It’s even cathartic in a way. And the slump has been broken.

I’ve been in a dreadful slump over the past two weeks, actually; the revision was one thing, but WordPress has also not been showing me when people have visited this blog, which they obviously have, as some people have left likes on some of my posts during that time. I ended up writing and deleting at least one post during that time because I felt bad for having written it. I wrote it out of frustration and desperation because it seemed like nobody was reading what I was writing, and I don’t know if that’s true or not. Nor should it be that important, really. Obviously I care, but I went off the rails a bit.

I feel a bit iffy about my last post, too. I might end up taking it down. I think at least half of that post was not worth writing to begin with. I had a point to make, and I got there eventually, but I took my time doing it, and the means by which I got there may have actually been me overstepping my bounds in terms of what I have any authority to say. If I say I don’t really know anything about something, then I should probably not say a lot of things about it immediately afterwards. And especially when I’m just desperate to say something, just to feel important.

I did end up ordering the Wonder Woman comic, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Also The God Stalker Chronicles by P.C. Hodgell, which I hear good things about; it’s the first two books in a (so far) six-part High Fantasy series, written by a woman, with a female lead protagonist. And I actually don’t think I’ve ever actually read a book like that before, which is rather sad.

This was incredibly helpful for me. It did indeed help me get unstuck. I guess it’s a little bit like a livestream. I honestly have no idea how one would go about doing a writing livestream without either giving away huge spoilers, getting horribly distracted by chat, or boring everybody watching because all the livestream is is a person typing on a keyboard. I still want to try it, one day. Just to see what the logistics of it are.

I may do more of these. I would totally recommend it. 10/10.

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