Bridging Suspension

My ability to keep up with course readings continues to exist, and now I’m well on my way to actually achieving my goal of being ahead with readings. As such, I am also quite happy to stop studying around 6 or 7 in the evenings (I will lock in a time eventually just for consistency’s sake) to pick up drafting.

The issues that I’ve had with Tallulah are issues that have kept cropping up all throughout its development, and most of them pertain to the issue that many stories suffer from, which is that of how to make the Third Act a worthy finale, a satisfying payoff to what is hopefully an engaging setup.

I have decided that I’m not calling this next step Draft 2 anymore, after hearing my mother’s thoughts on the matter – she has different reasons for not calling anything past the First a Draft, but mine are that, well, ‘draft’ suggests something self-contained, and the process from here looks to be pretty serialised. So I’ll just call this the First Revision.

I thought I was getting somewhere when I finished this plan for the First Revision, and it’s too early to say definitively that I haven’t gotten somewhere. In fact, no, it’s totally unfair; I have gotten somewhere. It’s just that ‘somewhere’ has turned out to be a bit beyond my reach. I need a stepladder.

Currently, my stepladder is tangled in an enchanted hedge of thorns known as the Forest of Plot Overload.

I think that’s the issue, anyway.

The point is that, at this point, yes redundant word are redundant shut up it’s 12:11am, I am going around in circles, the path has looped back around upon itself, and the only thing that I can think of to break this cycle is to just write. No, the solution has not yet been found with regards to these recurring issues. But it’s not getting found either. It feels like I get closer every time I make a new plan, and for that reason mostly I want to keep planning in the hopes that I will just eventually stumble upon the solution through sheer effort, but what if it doesn’t happen at all?

Because my suspicion right now – more than a suspicion; my growing certainty – is that there actually is no way to resolve this mess, except for cleaning it up. The thing is that I already came to this conclusion, thought about making this book into a series, found what seemed to be a solution at the time, decided to keep it as one story, and then wrote out a plan for how to write that one story and this happened.

It could just be that the Huge Change I made was actually even Huger than I thought, of course, and that’s what’s throwing me off-balance. Perhaps the way I had it originally will work through willing suspension of disbelief – assuming I am able to craft an engaging enough story so that readers will want to suspend disbelief. I mean I’m a stickler for realism in a lot of ways so I don’t want to rely on it, but it is part of storytelling anyway. If there’s no willing suspension of disbelief, it’s not so much a story as an argument.

So perhaps that’s the solution – learning to trust that suspension of disbelief will actually come in when I need it to, and to just make my peace with it. I still want to be thorough enough to not need it, but it does actually sum up what my issues with the story are in its current state.

I would love to have a story where suspension of disbelief is not needed to make the story work. But there is some part of me, as a reader, that enjoys having to suspend disbelief to make a story work. Not if it’s too ridiculous, but it is something that I will totally do if I like the payoff enough, and if it’s done with good intentions – basically if it doesn’t feel like the story’s treating me like I’m stupid for letting it get away with whatever cheats or shortcuts it’s trying to get away with, then I’ll happily do a bit of imaginative labour on the story’s behalf.

Harry Potter, for example, I still love even though the issue of House Elf assassins was never broached – they can Apparate in and out of Hogwarts willy-nilly, pretty much, so you can’t tell me it can’t have been an option. Same deal with time-turners, the ultimate Deus ex Machina; it almost would have been better if they had just never been mentioned again, instead of having them all destroyed in Order of the Phoenix, just because it reminded us that they were a thing. Like Midi-Chlorians. Post-Menace, they never reared their ugly, magic-ruining heads again.

In fact Midi-Chlorians are pretty much the definitive example of taking the idea that suspension of disbelief is lazy storytelling that needs to be compensated for to the extreme. The Force was more of a symbol than a mechanic in the original films, and it operates by that logic even after Midi-Chlorians are introduced by way of explaining how the whole thing works – it actually ruins the whole thing, because now that there’s a scientific basis for The Force, it’s even more obvious that it’s a load of crap, because it’s not used scientifically; it’s used as a plot-device – it’s used narratively.

Then there are the times where it goes too far the other way, and most of them are pretty cliche – the whole thing with Uncle Ben dying just after he and Peter have had some kind of falling-out and they never got to resolve it; the thing where the young/adolescent protagonist keeps their parents in the dark about whatever horrible stuff they’re trying to deal with until it’s basically too late and then there’s a sort of Deus ex Machina ring to the whole affair; the thing where the protagonist has to do some arbitrary thing that really anybody could do and in fact there are generally much better-qualified people around who could do it instead because it’s their destiny – these all rely on willing suspension of disbelief to work.

To cite Harry Potter again, in The Philosopher’s Stone, Harry, Ron and Hermione decide not to tell Dumbledore what’s going on because … uh … what was it again?

Oh, right, because Ron said Dumbledore was probably testing them to see if they could handle it.

I mean don’t get me wrong, he may well have been doing exactly that, because Dumbledore’s a bit of an arrogant nutjob when you get right down to it, and for me it was just so hilarious upon re-reading it last year that I let it slide purely for amusement’s sake. But it is such a thinly-veiled plothole that one almost cannot help but glare at it accusingly, just to make sure it knows we disapprove, thoroughly, before moving on with the rest of the story.

It’s the issue of cliche that I’m dealing with now, and it is this issue that the Huge Change I made was meant to address – without the Huge Change it requires a similar kind of willing suspension of disbelief as the Harry Potter example. Not quite the same, but in the same vein. With the Huge Change, however …

Well, I don’t know. At least some of the tension disappears, or at least changes, and the stakes do not feel like they’re as high as they could be heading into the Third Act, by which point the stakes should be as high as they’re ever going to get. I know I say I try not to give writing advice, but this is how I know how to tell stories; I learnt about Fourth Cinema today though, and some generalised differences between written and oral traditions of storytelling, so after that I’m even more of an advocate of the Do Whatever You Want school of storytelling. But I’m talking about me as an audience member, too, and I like the three-act structure. I’m comfortable with it. I know it well.

Hence why I want these stakes to be sky-fricking-high to lead into the Third Act, and the Huge Change does away with that option.

I’ll trust that this is the core of the issue, and write my other First Revision plan that does not have the Huge Change, and see if the stakes feel a little better.

And see if I can trust that, even if I do have to rely on willing suspension of disbelief, I can still get there creatively, and that the answers will come if I just try and tell the story that I want to tell.

One down, something to go

I’m up-to-speed with readings for one of my papers, and I’ve got two more days before I have to be up-to-speed with the others, so I’m in fairly good shape. I mean compared to my history of academic commitment it’s like I’m a different person.

And I am, really. Writing Tallulah has changed me in a lot of little ways, which can be summed up as ‘for the better’ quite accurately. I’m more optimistic, more self-motivated, and more committed. And more interested. I think that’s a big one.

Now I’ve finished one of my two plans for Draft 2, the one with the huge change.

It worked out much better than I thought it would.

It could be better. I think the huge change that I made – or, more specifically, the part of the story that was reason I made it to begin with – is going to be awkward almost no matter what way I spin it. The one way I can think of spinning it that is not also awkward necessitates a huge character change, and I will happily admit that I care far more about my characters than my plot. Of course part of that preference comes with the belief that my beloved characters deserve a good plot to work with, so there is no getting away from the issue of trying to make this thing work better than it perhaps currently does.

And there’s still the option of splitting this into a series, and spreading out my narrative ‘nodes’, thus affording each of them a cleaner focus. Not to mention that the word-count would probably drop substantially and make prospective publishers happy. Or just more likely to look at my manuscript.

I am very worried about over-planning. At the same time, I have a whole bunch of university stuff that I’m going to have to take care of rather soon, and thus an intensive drafting programme may not even be feasible – but even so, I don’t want to be planning just to kill time. Even if I can only do drafting on the weekends, or for one hour every day while I’m working on assignments or whatever, I want it to be drafting, not planning the draft. I only want to plan as much as I absolutely have to – plan and clarify.

That’s really the issue now: clarification. What’s happening, and why, and whether it works. But if I spend too long on the hypothetical I’ll never actually see how it works in practice. I had to sort things out on the fly the first time around, after all, and it worked okay.

But only because I came back and made notes. Because I had a mind to revise. If I’m going to revise, then I want to do it properly.

Like I say, this plan worked quite well – there were a few issues, like losing some of the clarity of emphasis and the roles that characters played that I had in mind when I started writing it, just as a result of getting a bit sidetracked by just how huge the change was that I’d made – but actually in the end it didn’t change very much; it was just a big change, but it had relatively few effects on the overall story, which was very interesting – and quite heartening.

However, it did change the placement of a key piece of tension in the story, and its nature. Not necessarily for the worse, but it certainly changed it. What’s dawning on me now is actually just how telling that is; the rest of the story can actually function pretty much as it always has even allowing for this change – it makes fairly little difference. And in some ways it’s actually better for the tension with this change in play. I just looked at the change when I made it and thought: ‘Well, since I’ve made it, I may as well also change all of this other stuff to capitalise on it’, and now looking back at it those attempts to ‘capitalise’ on the change were actually totally unnecessary with regards to telling a solid story. Or as solid as I know how to tell one anyway.

That is another issue, and the main thing that is telling me that I need to actually start getting back to writing, to be mindful of falling into the trap of over-planning.

Another issue – probably the biggest one for me – is how each character ended up by the time the story finished, where they were at, what their just desserts were – and how they involved the other characters. I get annoyed when characters are rewarded for their heroism with other characters, especially when I think the character serving as the reward is too good for the one being rewarded with them (part of my issue with Anna Dressed in Blood, speaking of which I still have to find a time to read the sequel), and that doesn’t just mean romantically or sexually. It’s the same with the story making excuses for characters or giving them easy outs from difficult and serious dilemmas – that was my only major complaint with Silver Linings Playbook, which up until the third act was an absolutely fantastic film, and then because of the third act, specifically how it was set up, merely became a very good film let down by that final third. This plan ended up having a lot of these instances strewn throughout it where they didn’t use to be there at all, and they also turned out to not have to have been there. So at the moment this plan does look a bit scruffy, but it could easily be tidied-up.

And then I’ll write the other plan where the Huge Change does not occur, and just see how it feels.

On that note, I also need to get this planned out as soon as possible, because I’ve got assignments coming up, and I need to be able to, like, do them all without losing my mind. Specifically, I need to work out a drafting schedule that works around my scholarly commitments, giving myself enough time to actually work on assignments while keeping up some kind of momentum with the draft.

With regards to this plan, I have currently clocked in 23 chapters, so I’ve lost 5 somewhere along the line – which is good, in terms of compartmentalising my workload. It doesn’t necessarily mean that this story is going to be any shorter than it currently is, and in fact may well end up being longer, I have no clue. But so far it does actually feel to be about the same length. A lot of those ‘lost’ chapters are due to me combining chapters more than actually cutting chapters in terms of their content – I’ve tried to get rid of superfluous stuff, and one upside to this plan is that it does actually feel like it tells a story. I’ll see how many chapters I end up with via the other plan – I imagine probably the same, or slightly fewer – and then factor that in with when I have to make time for assignments and stuff.

I’ve got the show on as well, so that’s going to be interesting; to be fair I have a ton of free time even during rehearsals, so it should actually be totally fine. But still something to factor in.

It’s getting there, and it’s getting there fast. It doesn’t feel like it, but that could just be because I haven’t set myself a solid date to get started, which I do need to do. So I need to get this plan written.

And then, I need to write.

Which does actually make me incredibly anxious to think about.

Which is why I need a good plan.

I’m working on it.

Draft 2 Planning pt3

I survived not only getting up at 8am but actually possibly not even sleeping the night before; my lecture was thought-provoking and linked up beautifully with most of the other papers I’m taking, and I even made some headway with a particularly difficult reading that is now actually becoming rather enjoyable. Not as much study as I could have done, but it’s getting there, which is pretty much how everything about my return to studenthood can be summed up. It’s getting there.

And it’s after 6pm over here, which means it’s time to write while writing, and plan the everloving lasagne (my former favourite food, now a close second) out of this second draft.

~~~

So. Hindsight is 20/20, and what’s becoming apparent to me is that, while I love drama, I don’t like ‘drama’. Or, to be more specific, I like working with dramatic dynamics and writing dramatic scenes, but I don’t like the tropes of ‘drama’, specifically when it comes to characters fighting or falling out – when I think of the word ‘drama’ in that context it brings to mind big emotional outbursts that end in tears over something clear-cut and moralistic, whereby characters’ emotions are used to transmit the author’s agenda, or agendas. Moralistic melodrama, I suppose. Not my thing.

However, to be fair, I’m rather overstating how much I don’t like the clearer kinds of interpersonal disputes that characters end up getting into, and I think it’s just because where I left off last night was at a point where one of the things I’d decided to change was to add in was a big dramatic emotional moralistic scene.

I do like emotions, however, and I like ambiguity, and there is nothing as upsetting as an honest emotional reaction to something confusing and unclear that is in and of itself confused and unclarified. A literal outburst, rather than an argument packaged in tears and/or heightened sound levels.

Put simply: I like fights where the people in them don’t necessarily know whether they did the right thing or not by holding up their side of the equation, sometimes even as the fight is taking place. Or, at least, I like the idea of having one at this part of the story, rather than what I’ve currently got in its place, which is much more straightforward and … story-ish. Just … generic. It feels lazy of me, I guess, like I can do better, and as such I don’t much like it.

I’m trying to think clearly about why I don’t like it now, though, before I make a definitive decision. One reason is just that it is rather generic in the way in which it is dramatic. But it does something that I wanted to find a way into doing a little more clearly, which was to give Tallulah actual character flaws. It really is dawning on me that I’m still finding it hard to commit to giving her these things that I have, repeatedly, criticised other main characters in other people’s stories for not having enough of to feel well-rounded or believable enough for me to want to care about or invest in them as ‘serious’ characters; and it kind of comes back to what I mean when I say I don’t like ‘drama’: the idea of ‘character flaws’ comes, to me, with as much of moral agenda and simplistic narrative presentation as the emotionally-charged arguments and pleas I’m so used to seeing and reading that are used to convey conflict. It’s not like they can’t work or be effective, and that’s another reason I’m trying to really think about why I don’t like my inclusion of such a scene, because it may well be that it does actually fit, but at the end of the day I just don’t like it, for whatever reason, and I may as well roll with that – I am trying to tell the story that I want to tell, after all.

And that is the other part of why I don’t like it, really: it’s just not a very Tallulah thing to do. I wanted – and still want – this draft to be where I really start letting her voice come through more, and if it doesn’t feel like something she’d do, or like it’s something that belongs in this story about her, then it doesn’t belong there. To be fair I was rather tired when I left off last night, more than I realised, so it’s fine – it was a useful bookmark to have, if nothing else.

As with the kinds of character conflicts I’m interested in, I’m interested in character flaws that do not feel like they’re just there to ‘balance out’ a character as a sort of utilitarian function of their existence; I like character flaws that are subjective within the story – people do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons, and we don’t just have ‘bad parts’ that crop up in order to ‘balance us out’. Personality flaws are things that we and other people read into our habits and temperament, not objective facts about us, and as such it is entirely possible that some people won’t see the same flaws in the same person – what one person takes for a flaw another may take for a strength, or simply not notice at all, perhaps more affected by some other aspect of what they are able to discern of that person’s personality.

I like character flaws that are not objectively or universally regarded as flaws through the way that the story is told and the characters are presented within it. I think that’s what I’m trying to say. And as such, I like fights where the sides are likewise not objectively sorted into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ within the narrative framework of the story itself, whatever the characters may think or feel about it.

And I do like the other kind as well, really – it just depends how and why they’re used, and the nature of the story being told.  I don’t like it in this part of this story, and neither does Tallulah.

And that’s really all that matters. Well, that makes things simple then …

~~~

Well, I just made ANOTHER huge change.

It addresses an issue that I’ve had from day one, but one that I haven’t really seriously considered until now. It needs to be addressed. I may as well tackle it head-on.

It doesn’t feel like it quite fits the tone of the story is the only thing, and it also feels like bad pacing considering the events that come before it to bring it up like this at this point in the story, but to do it any later also feels like bad pacing – can both be true? Perhaps … then on top of that, introducing this new element kind of necessitates bringing in another story element earlier, much earlier, than I’d like, which is essentially the lead-in to the climax of the story – I’m sure I don’t have to do this, but that’s what it feels like right now. So I’m a bit stuck. I will write the rest of this plan as though I’m keeping it, though, and see how it turns out. Who knows? It might just work. Learn by doing.

~~~

Now it’s getting into no-man’s land a bit, and that’s exciting. I’ve cut out 5 chapters. Six if I count that chapter that I split into two parts as two separate chapters, which given the way they were written doesn’t quite work but whatever.

In fact a lot of the chapters I’ve ‘cut out’ I’ve just packed into other chapters – which is part of what I wanted to do anyway, for some parts, but some of these chapters feel a bit long, like they could be split. But that can be something to worry about later.

Also, I just ran into an issue with the huge change I made, in that it cancels out a rather major part of the story and Tallulah’s character-development. Or, rather, I’ll have to work very hard to keep it in. Which I can do. I like a challenge. But it’s at this point that I have to start thinking about what I’m trying to keep in because it’s already in there and I’m used to having it there and I’m just rather attached to it, and what actually helps to tell the story and move it forward.

~~~

So, having taken some notes, like a good writer and non-hypocrite, I have a solution to the huge change I came up with – as in I have a plan for how to work it in.

It is very different to both my current manuscript and the vision of this story that I had in my head, as well as the characters, but it makes a really random part of the story actually make sense and actually feels like it sustains and builds on the tone of the story that I currently have written, and the characters as well. Pros and cons. It’s a perfectly valid option, but it is a LOT of new stuff to manage. Perhaps I’ll write it out in terms of how many chapters I think it’s going to take and see how I go …

Nope, didn’t do it. But I do think I’ll have to write out a version for this new take on things as well as a version sticking closer to what I’ve had planned, to see them in a longer, more structured form. I guess it also depends how much I value the image of Tallulah in my head vs what I’ve learnt about her from writing her, and working out how much from each contributes to who she is.

All right. Two new documents … gonna follow this through …

~~~

Probably a good place to stop for the night. Well, for this post anyway. I’ll probably keep writing, starting with the HUGE CHANGE option and following that through to conclusion, but that seems like about all I’m going to need to process via this blog …

~~~

Nope! Totally stumbled upon an implication for the story that I’d never even considered, and it’s HUGE! WHY IS EVERYTHING SO HUGE!

Anyway, that need sorting out – more notes! It actually turns out that this too solves a persistent issue I’ve been having with this story; this is turning out to be a very generative night indeed!

There is one big concern, and it has to do with Tallulah’s voice again; this new version of events cuts off the momentum of her agency pretty hard, and her increased agency was an idea for this second draft – although I don’t know if I’ll actually call it a draft, might do what my mother does and call it a revision as that’s what it’s feeling like more so than a draft – that had me really motivated to do it. Although agency does not equal momentum; a frustrated protagonist, with energy but nowhere to direct it but inwards, can be a very good thing indeed. And that does actually feel very much like Tallulah.

And I’ll end it there.

~~~

Good work for the night! And now to go get dinner, at 10pm. I love being a writer.

Draft 2 Planning pt2

I had a plan for what I was going to do today, but I decided not to, and I’ve been feeling the aftershocks ever since. I did get the stuff done, but that feeling of unfinished business was unwilling to leave. I think it’s just that I finally started feeling like a university student again, worrying about making the people who are grading me happy with my work, and that my work is good enough.

I hate that feeling.

I mean I can’t know what ‘good enough’ is according to other people anyway, and I want to keep this focused on me, my parameters – to just get it done and move on, and not try and burrow into it and take up residence for the winter. I want to treat this as an activity, not a political manoeuvre (that’s how we spell “maneuver” in NZ, for those who don’t live here); I picked these papers because they were a way for me to pursue some of my interests, and that’s the level of investment I want to put into it.

This does mean that I’m starting to push up against the dreaded Wall of Denial, or it feels like it anyway – trying to feel honestly, this stress, this aim to please, is what is ‘honestly’ going on with me. But at the same time, just because it’s honest doesn’t mean it’s healthy or helpful. It means that I’ve got a reason for it, but it doesn’t mean the reason’s good.

Gotta trust myself to stay the course here; another part of it is simply that I haven’t gotten all the work done that I wanted to. But I’ve still got three days before the week is really up. It’s just a matter of followthrough. And I can do that.

Speaking of which: I left off at a critical juncture with Draft 2 planning last night, so it’s time to pick it back up. I found a solution to my roadblock, so I guess I’ll start there.

~~~

For those of you who are familiar with Final Fantasy X, I have this pipe-dream of retelling it as a graphic novel, one day when I’m an amazing illustrator and somehow get permission from Square Enix to do this thing. It’s fanfiction essentially, but the images of how I’d draw it kind of get me pumped. Also I’m taking a paper on comics this semester, so I guess that might be why I ended up thinking of it.

But being a fanfiction/revision of an existing narrative, I’m taking certain liberties with it, and because the thing’s so bloody long I thought that it would be best to divide it up into episodes, and I spent about an hour last night, unable to sleep, trying to find natural stopping-points. There are actually a lot, and that’s good. It’s one of the skills you can get from doing a revision/fanfic/any kind of re-telling of an existing story, becoming aware of where these points are. And this turned out to be the solution for me as well with this road-block; there was a random-feeling ending to one of my chapters that I wasn’t sure whether to keep or not, and then suddenly, looking at this obstacle and thinking of how to work around it, I thought I’d change the beginning of the chapter to be the end of a discarded draft of a different chapter, and as it so happens that discarded beginning and the random ending work together to make a very sound-feeling chapter, because they link up. All I have to do is link them up throughout the body of the chapter as well – which should be pretty easy – and suddenly what were once three disparate elements now feel like they’ve never been anything but a cohesive whole.

ALWAYS KEEP EVERYTHING.

ahem.

~~~

The solutions keep rolling in; this is looking quite different to my other plans up to this point, but I think that’s a good thing. And I mean I can always change it if I want. It feels pretty solid, though.

I’m trying to go with the image of what this story could be in my head while writing this plan, and to catch myself out when I start getting hung up on how things currently are in the manuscript. I’m also not sure quite how self-contained I want each chapter to feel – I do like me an episodic format, but I also like chapters that work more as thematically-connected scenes without that self-contained feeling. Again, I can change it later – I’m just worried I’m getting a bit trigger-happy with the ideas here without being able to see them through to conclusion.

Oh well. It’s worked well enough for me so far I guess.

~~~

Now in really seriously uncharted territory with this plan. I changed a thing because it feels like the right thing to do, and now I’m stuck. But I’m rolling with it. This may actually give me an excuse to add in a couple of scenes I have kicking around in my head that didn’t fit before.

But I do think this is a good stopping-point for the night – lots of possible directions to go in.

Getting there. I’m almost at what is currently the halfway-point of my manuscript, only I’ve shaved off four or five chapters with this plan. There are quite a few chapters that really just don’t do anything, and it’s rather astonishing seeing how true that is by doing this and just working kind of from memory of what happens, and working with the idea of what I want to happen.

I’ve also left out some things that I really like, so I’ll think about how to get them back in – tomorrow! For now, I must sleep, or at least rest, before waking up long before every ingrained habit in me is even remotely happy about, the same time I had planned to wake up this morning. 8am.

If I make it, I’ll see y’all on the otherside for more draft planning.

Draft 2 Planning pt1

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN I HAVE TO –

Ahem.

So, going with what I’ve already got, which is something I’m trying to accustom myself around to doing by default, I am going to take inventory.

I have:

  • A chapter-by-chapter summary of the story in its first-draft form, complete with opinions/notes
  • A summary of what this first draft might look like if I took parts of it and shifted them around
  • A list of all the big changes that I want to make

I don’t have anything more specific than that when it comes to the new stuff. I need to get specific here, like scene-specific, freaking line-specific most likely. I have to go in deep.

If I’m already going in deep, might I not just as well have a set of guidelines, in particular this set of guidelines, and rather than making another list or whatever just …

Write the next draft?

I mean what’s the worst that could happen? I could discover that it’s a horribly inefficient way to do things and have to come up with something else; the last time that happened it lead to a huge breakthrough that made everything I was trying to do so much more easy, even easier than I’d hoped it could be.

But okay. I have 28 chapters, and there are 23 weeks left in the year. I’d like to have draft 3 finished by the end of the year; I’d like to have draft 2 finished just before exams start, which gives me 12 weeks, including this week. Then there are two chapters that I want to make part of other, longer chapters, and some other chapters that I just want to get rid of altogether because they serve no purpose, with any relevant parts of them being likewise re-incorporated into existing chapters.

So either I can work out which chapters I’m just flat-out getting rid of and make a chapter-count, and then determine how long I want to take fixing them up and adding to them (and whether I need to make allowances for possible new chapters), or I can edit the manuscript in the sense of just shifting around the scenes that I’d intended to shift around anyway and then start working out how many chapters I have to work with (and which ones need changing), or I can just wing it and see how it goes.

I do think, either way, that I want a chapter-count of how things currently stand if I assume that those chapters I intended to get rid of are not going to be there. So …

~~~

Lists make everything better.

Well, effective lists do. Currently I’m making a list of exactly what I said above and a post or two ago: just listing all of the changes I want to make to each chapter, where they are being made, assuming that the manuscript says the way that it currently is, while also using options I had for shifting things around to fill in some of the gaps. So far I’ve gotten rid of one chapter, and possibly two through merging a couple together, and identified a major character issue that needs resolving before I can write this thing. It was an issue I was already aware of, but now it’s totes official and stuff.

If I do indeed get rid of those two chapters, and my chapter numbers for the rest of the draft stay the same, then including this week I have exactly enough weeks to get this done at a rate of 2 chapters/week. And that’s not even including the inter-semester break; I totally forgot about that … so that’s another 2 weeks of leeway. Awesome!

~~~

This is also now telling me that it’s really important to have your notes as consolidated as possible right from the start; I’m drawing from three different Word documents here to try and make this outline, and they’re not quite as complimentary as I’d like, and it’s scrambling my efforts to make a concise list of what I want to happen just a bit. But then again, they are pretty concise in and of themselves, so I suppose what this is also telling me is that some actual work is going to have to be done every now and then – these documents were fine for what I wanted to use them for at the time, but now that I want to do something else, I need to put in some extra time to make it work the way I want it to. Fair enough.

~~~

Hit a speedbump, and I’m taking that as my cue to call it a night. Feedback, folks. It’s good.

Basically those three documents I’m working from are:

  1. Chapter-by-chapter summary + thoughts
  2. Proposal of how draft 2 would look with some shifting of events for better continuity and narrative flow
  3. List of discarded drafts of certain chapters that looked like they could be useful

And working with all three at the same time is proving rather disruptive and a bit confusing; it’s stretching my focus to the point where now I’m snagged between current continuity and potential future continuity.

So I think tomorrow I’ll pick up by going with how things currently are and inserting the changes that I want to make into that series of events. After that’s done I’ll start shuffling things around according to that proposal and see how it fits; it could be that some of the proposed changes actually won’t be relevant anymore given the new stuff that I want to add in, in which case that’s fantastic.

Alternatively, I actually have the option at this point to make another change and cut out a whole bunch of stuff that happens; it’s a bit of a shortcut, but it gets a certain aspect of the drama rolling a bit faster, and I’ll make a note on it now so that I remember it … done. I’ll see how it goes.

I have been buzzing all week, and I wasn’t at all expecting to be. It’s all coming together. So far anyway, but I’ll deal with what I’ve got right now and let the rest fill itself in as it comes. I’m making progress with Tallulah that actually feels like progress. I’m actually interested in these papers I’m taking so far, and actually want to put effort into studying. Simultaneously, I feel that having a 6pm cut-off point for study is one of my best ideas ever. The days have just felt fuller this week, and I think I’ve been sleeping better, my evidence for this being the fact that I actually felt quite happy waking up in the morning today. It’s all working out about as well as it could be, given the hiccoughs I’m still feeling the aftershocks of. And it feels comfortable. It feels like this was the right decision to make.

Can’t ask for much more than that.

The Next First Step

Today was spent mostly trying to sort out as much as I could with my messy enrolment situation, and it seems that things are moving towards a satisfactory conclusion. But in terms of actual study or writing …

Well, the good news is that I got some ‘writing’ done. Planning more like. My current idea is that, since most of the changes that I want to make are more clarifications than actual changes, I need to know six things:

  1. What will be a totally new addition
  2. What will add to what already exists
  3. Where these changes need to take place
  4. How these additions and changes will affect the continuity
  5. What I can leave as it is
  6. What needs to be removed

I’m not sure if this is a weekend job or something to do in increments over the remaining few days I have available this week, which I also want to use for catching up with study – I’m not going to worry about ‘getting ahead’ with readings because as of yet I’m still not even enroled in all of my papers, and I’ve had to spend so much time mucking around trying to get that sorted out. Hopefully by next week it’ll be sorted out, but who knows. This is the first time I’ve had such a major malfunction happen during my study, and in a sense I’m quite glad it’s happening; I had a pretty smooth run the first time through. Nothing like perspective. And for some reason I still feel rather optimistic. Perhaps because I’m actually following up with it instead of just wallowing in self-pity about it. Though I guess to be fair I didn’t just wallow in self-pity when things went wrong in this kind of way before now. I can wallow and take affirmative action at the same time. I can multitask.

I like the idea of kind of leapfrogging through these chapters and tacking new stuff onto them, shifting things around – but it feels messy, and while it also feels spontaneous, mess is not what I think will help me at this point. I think a solid plan and a flexible timeframe is what’s going to work. Lots of ‘I think’s here. Making that plan is probably as far as I really want to urge myself to get this week, just so that I do have some time spent on actual academic stuff.

Speaking of which: I only got to read a few pages of a very long reading, and I just skimmed over it anyway, picking up the gist of it, trying to take the simplest reading out of a wall of academic vernacular. It kind of worked. I did feel that I was being a bit too casual about it, so I shall make a habit of taking notes while reading, just so that I have to focus a bit. I’m still trying to ‘feel honestly’ at this point, and it did feel like I was forcing the blase attitude today while reading, thinking about how I didn’t want to get so invested that I lost interest in Tallulah. With this whole study/writing balance thing, I feel that I’ve just gotta be doing what I’m doing and trust that it’ll work out, rather than worrying about what might happen as a result.

And, like, adjust if things do go south. There’s no point in being inflexible when the world – and our place within it – keeps changing.

I don’t think this is going to feel like a new beginning. I think this is the part of the drafting process where I really start to understand that this is work, not just the Muse coming down and tapping enthusiasm into you through the shoulder.

And if I’m right, and I can write my way through it, then that will be a new beginning.

For its own sake

I feel like I’m on-track to sorting out this university garbage at last, and my first day back didn’t feel like I was actually ‘at’ university at all, for which I was very grateful. It’s so interesting being out of the system for so long and then coming back into it, and gauging just how much I’ve come to rely on and actually trust myself.

Some of the things that were said in the lecture today, specifically about not taking the lecturer to be contradicting herself just because she said two seemingly contradictory things about the same concept in different weeks, was just obvious to me after a year and a half of doing my own ‘research’ – reading articles online, drafting a novel, and I guess also having already done an arts degree. It felt good. Also the lecture was really interesting and relevant to my life in this digital age of ours, and it’s starting to feel like media studies is indeed the subject I’ve been searching for, something that I actually want to learn about and get invested in.

Tomorrow is going to be the real test for me in terms of finding a balance between study and drafting. I have no lectures tomorrow, so it’s all going to be self-directed study and drafting until my film festival movie in the evening – a fine opportunity to test just how on-task I can keep myself. I want to cut myself off from studying after 6pm, but I still like my idea about having flexibility with my time-keeping so I’ll see how I go.

I’m really just writing this so that I keep up the habits I’ve developed and want to keep in shape, and regular blogging is one of them. Fittingly enough, one of my papers requires me to submit blog posts as part of my coursework, so that should be interesting.

But tomorrow I am going to try and nut out this draft. I think I know what I have to do, and now it’s just a matter of making a plan for it. I’ve got to identify which chapters need changing and which ones are basically fine the way they are, and then incorporating the changes that I want to make on top of those. It’ll be a combination of new writing and re-wording to make the continuity work, and I want to be able to compartmentalise it so that I’ve got some kind of organisational system in place for it. My goal is to be done with draft 2 by the final week of lectures so that I don’t have to worry about it while I’m doing exam study; I know that at least one of my papers doesn’t even have an exam though, so that’s already one less thing to worry about. I’ve always thought Arts papers shouldn’t have exams anyway, as it’s all about conducting and applying research anyway, so this is definitely a plus.

I also caught up with a friend, and together we saw Maidentrip, a film about Laura Dekker, and the things she had to say about being alone at sea, the way it shaped her worldview and her sense of self-reliance, really resonated with me. It reminded me of the writing process quite a bit actually – a lot of isolation and loneliness, but you also get so much opportunity to explore yourself, to be tested purely on your own terms and make your own success with what you alone have to hand. To a point, of course, and I’m not suggesting that sailing and writing are analogous to each other, but still. It was motivational to say the least, even if Laura herself has some undisclosed issues with the film. All that I took away from it is that she is a total BAMF. (That totally doesn’t count as breaking my no-heavy-swearing rule. It’s an acronym. Acronyms don’t count.) And it also kind of makes me want to go sailing. After learning how, of course. That would probably help.

I shall let you know how studying/writing works out tomorrow. I am still really motivated to get ahead with all my readings this week while I don’t have to worry about tutorials. I still really want this to work. But now that it’s actually started, I also no longer feel the panic, or the urgency. And I have to say that I really don’t mind it. I don’t think I need it anymore.