Writing assignments has always been a struggle for me.

I mean I write mostly pretty good assignments, insofar as my grades are concerned. The content isn’t the problem. I’m a good writer. The problem is how I get there.

I’ve talked a couple of times about how I handle facing the prospect of something that I Have To Do: I procrastinate and make excuses as to why I Shouldn’t Have To until the deadline is finally unavoidable and I give in and just get the thing done. I tend to work pretty well under pressure, although as often as not it results in my missing the deadline, however narrowly.

And I think it’s finally, finally dawning on me just how important it is to be able to work without wanting to when it comes to writing.

The lesson I wanted to take away from last semester was to just be able to put something, anything, on the board. Screw quality, never mind if I even have any ideas that even remotely resemble originality: the goal is just to produce something, following the logic that something is better than nothing. That’s what I wanted to get comfortable with, and as yesterday I had an assignment due by midnight and I didn’t start writing it until yesterday (and just barely missed the deadline because I was 150 words short come midnight), I need to get on top of actually taking that lesson to heart.

And I think the way to do it is actually to just do it more.

I mean practice makes perfect, yeah? I think this is where I start learning more about what that means as well; I don’t just mean practicing what I preach, but to practice it in ways that I haven’t thought of before, but are blindingly obvious upon further consideration.

For instance: not only do I have assignments to meet, but I have a novel to revise, and there are a bunch of book reviews I said I’d do. So rather than just restricting the learning of this lesson to how I write assignments, I’ll apply it to my creative writing too, and blog maintenance, and get used to the discipline that that entails. On top of that, this is the year I want to really get serious about losing weight and getting fit and healthy, so there’s yet another opportunity to practice this whole ‘get something done’ ethic – and not just that, but also taking every opportunity to take work that I feel myself retreating from because it’s something that I feel I Have To Do and, instead, charge at it head-on. I predict a lot of uncomfortable feelings, of feeling like I’m really forcing everything I write and it not being what I really want or know how to say – and I’ll write it anyway. Because that’s the deal. I hereby assign myself the task of doing work that I Have To Do, even and especially when I don’t want to.

It’s kind of depressing that even writing that out makes me feel nervous. I will take this as a sign that this is something I really seriously need to do, a weakness I need to shore up. Ages ago I brought up the idea of a ‘life draft’, and I guess this is me finally trying to put it into effect.

And to that end – book review tomorrow. Beautiful Creatures. I have chapter-by-chapter rundowns and an almost-totally free day today to back me up there, so I have no excuse to not do it. That’ll be my start, after editing my late assignment and handing it in (thank Hephaestus for electronic submissions). And one thing that I have actually learnt, rather than just wanting to learn it, is that once I do actually follow through and do the work I’ve got to do, I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. And that is a feeling I could definitely get used to.

Seven Tears Into the Sea

Seven Tears is one of two books that I found on a list of alternative supernatural creatures on Tumblr, the point being to spread some awareness of paranormal beings other than vampires, werewolves, angels and faeries that could be featured in YA paranormal romance. The alternative in this case was of especial importance to me, because it was selkies, and my WIP novel of two+ years, Tallulah, just so happens to have selkies in it.

I’ve been worried for a while that somebody might have taken my idea and done it already; it’s a risk of trying something ‘new’, I guess – the danger of copying without realising it. At least with something like vampires or wizards, there’s already been a lot done, so being derivative isn’t quite as noticeable. If there’s just a couple of examples of something being done, though, and they’re rather similar, then ultimately only one of them is going to succeed in the public eye. I suppose I should probably worry about all this once the book is actually written and submitted for publishing – but then again, if I hadn’t been so paranoid about it I never would have read this book.

(All of that is, of course, ignoring wider narrative trends – just because you use swan-maidens instead of Jedi Knights doesn’t make your Hero’s Journey any less of a Hero’s Journey.

And because I am sticking to my ‘no snark’ rule when reviewing books, because I know how hard it is to both give and receive feedback on my own writing, I’m not going to make the joke I was going to make there. Let’s see how I get on.

Honestly I don’t have a lot to say about this book. It’s definitely not my idea, so in that sense I am glad I read it just for comfort. The story itself, particularly how it portrayed the romance angle, I found really unappealing, which is a shame as it’s the main focus of the story, but at the same time this was the reason I felt comforted for reading it.

Selkie stories are laden with problematic depictions of romantic and sexual agency; male selkies go around seducing unhappy housewives, and female selkies are subjected to what amounts to slavery. In the stories I’ve read of both male and female selkies, only the selkie women ever seem to have their seal-skins taken from them, which forces them to stay ‘happily married’ to their human husbands. The stories make a point of noting that selkie wives are faithful and even happy with their husbands, even though they are constantly longing to return to the sea, because of course you’d be happy with being kidnapped and forced into marriage and motherhood as a reward for daring to go sunbathe on the beach, right?

Selkie men on the other hand just seem to come and go as they please, occasionally getting killed in seal-form by their lovers’ husbands (often without said husbands realising what they’ve done). It is this variant of the selkie mythos that Seven Tears founds itself upon.

The story is told from the point of view of Gwen, a 17-year-old girl who has come to some seaside village resort town place thing to help her grandmother run her inn, as she’s injured her leg. When Gwen was 10 years old she wandered down to the sea and saw a naked man walking into the ocean; thinking he was going to drown himself she wept seven tears (I don’t know if that’s an exact number or what), and said naked man told her some cryptic rhyme about how he’d come back in seven years because of that. Well-meaning Thelma, pal of Gwen’s grandmother, found Gwen there and told people that she’d been with a child molester; due to this stigma Gwen has never been back to the seaside town where she grew up until now.

So already we’ve got some issues. First of all: that cryptic rhyme. “Beckon the sea, I’ll come to thee … shed seven tears, perchance seven years.” Although the language is vague as all hell, there’s definitely the implication that this guy is going to come back for her in seven years time. All this because she cried. That wasn’t intentional crying; she wasn’t crying seven tears to try and get this guy to return to her once she’s legal: she’s a ten-year-old crying because some guy looks like he’s trying to drown himself by going swimming in a storm.

Also, this being a selkie story, the ‘coming back’ part is basically guaranteed to be of a romantic/sexual nature. This is something she’s initiated without realising it, and it results in some kind of binding contract that she doesn’t get to agree or disagree to; she’s given no choice in the matter – and again, it’s so vague that it’s hard to tell what it actually means.

And, again: she’s ten.

Fast-forward to seven years later and Gwen is apprehensive about returning to this seaside community where everybody thinks she was molested as a child and, as a result, she feels like they all think she’s crazy for having told them what really happened. Throughout the book we get Grandma pushing her into facing these people when it’s abundantly clear that Gwen feels anxious and uncomfortable even thinking about them, and what’s almost worse is the fact that none of these interactions actually end up going bad. Nobody reminds her of what happened that night, nobody makes her feel like she’s crazy – nobody other than Thelma and Grandma, that is – and as a result, while it’s nice for her that she’s not being belittled by people, it feels too comfortable.

That’s nothing to the secrecy surrounding the whole selkie thing: turns out her parents and her grandmother actually knew exactly what was going on that night, and decided to keep it a secret from her because they didn’t think she’d be able to handle the truth, which was basically that she’s destined to fall in love with said selkie and be his mate forever. Now, granted, I would not be incredibly eager to tell my (hypothetical) ten-year-old daughter that she’s destined to shack up with a grown man in seven years, or anybody for that matter. But if that’s what’s destined to happen, well, forearmed is forewarned and all that. The excuse has some validity to it in that I can well imagine people acting that way, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating, especially when it’s been done so many times before.

And this time we’ve got Grandma’s scrying-pan, in which she sees the future and has no problems dishing out cryptic prophecies to her granddaughter, including when she’s ten years old. Grandma tells her, right before she leaves: “The power which commands the waves, will pull you back. Back to a reunion no mortal can imagine and no female can resist.” Sounds real promising, doesn’t it? And what exactly is the nature of this reunion?

Well, as you might imagine, that doesn’t become clear until Gwen actually meets the selkie again. He’s everything a YA romantic male lead generally is: forceful, persistent, constantly tells her to do things instead of asking, touches/grabs/kisses her without getting consent – and she is everything a YA female protagonist generally is: enamoured with his aggression, excited at the thought of him basically stalking her, unable to stop thinking about him and in no way whatsoever challenging his right to treat her this way, because she finds it to be the most romantic thing in the world.

I’ll give it this: selkies are perhaps the perfect supernatural being to use this formula with. The mythos supports it big-time. The only issue with that is the fact that the selkie mythos is basically the perfect example of rape-culture at work, and the book plays it totally straight, doing nothing to critique or deconstruct the mythos and its ideology of aggressive men and passive women as a romantic ideal whatsoever.

And there’s other stuff in the story, like Zack McCracken, a violent sociopath who hurts animals and … well, actually, he’s not the Third Wheel; there is no love-triangle in this book, and that was actually a missed opportunity with regards to going all-out with the selkie mythology. He’s never presented as anything other than violent and cruel, and while I think there are a couple of mentions of how he’s kinda hot because he’s jacked or whatever, all he does is terrorise Gwen, literally torturing her cat at one point, and thankfully this is never painted as appropriate or as some kind of ‘this is what boys do when they like you’ bullshit. It means he’s incredibly one-dimensional, but it is, in my eyes, the lesser evil.

There are also Shallow Friends, Jill and Mandi, who show up at the start and then right at the end for … some reason. They’re pretty useless to the overall plot, except to show how much Gwen has changed in the seven days since she’s met her selkie beau, which is to make her fall head-over-heels in infatuation with somebody who looks exactly the same as he did when she was ten years old, which is when he told her he’d be coming for her when she got older.

It ends with him returning to the sea, unable to resist, after begging her to take his skin and burn it so that he can never go back. She doesn’t do it because she sees how cruel this would be, and it’s the one part of the book that is kinda interesting, raising some kind of moral quandary about their relationship. But it’s still romanticised, and it’s all about how she has to struggle with how selfish she is for wanting him to stay. And, of course, totally reinforces the stereotype of men ‘not being able to control themselves’ around women.

In case it’s not clear: I don’t like this book. Right at the start, when Gwen was just getting settled in and feeling excited at the prospect of staying alone in her old house, was cool. It gave me the same kind of feeling that I got when I re-read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry is left alone at Diagon Alley to do whatever the hell he likes – it’s the fantasy of independence, and it’s something I’m a complete sucker for.

And in reading this book, I came to realise that that’s exactly what it is: an escapist fantasy, not a story. It lingers on the sexually-charged interactions between Gwen and whatshisface while absolutely nothing of interest happens; it indulges in the eroticism of their relationship without once looking into the ethical implications of it – it’s pure escapism. And while such fantasies are fine to have, this one really didn’t appeal to me. I need a bit of self-awareness in my fantasies, and most importantly I need a return to reality by the end and some kind of critical, insightful investigation of the fantasy. No such luck here.

I guess if you liked Twilight and want to try a quick read with selkies instead of vampires, check it out. I’m definitely not that person. But at least I know that’s one less book I have to worry about having used my idea for a selkie story before I did.

Another halfway point

The third character-arc map has been completed, and I did it all in one day.

It was, to be fair, MUCH less involved than the first two I did, and the next three are similarly light, two of them quite a lot more so. Progress is being made, and while there have been days where I’ve completed a larger volume of work, being able to start and finish a set objective in one go is hella rewarding.

I also rediscovered the joy of making narrative playlists today – basically just music playlists that centre around some theme, be it a mood or a current event – or a story – and the progression of the songs serving as a sort of narrative itself, or signalling pit-stops along the path of the narrative that the playlist represents, highlighting key events or themes. I’ve been listening to my music on shuffle for the past … I dunno, four years? It’s been refreshing to start listening to my music not just in linear fashion but in an order that was deliberately organised that way to be listened to in a linear fashion. It’s fun. It’s way too time-consuming, but it’s fun. And it’s even good for writing; it’s the same as organising a story by chapter, or scene, just on a much smaller scale and with other people’s songs instead of your own prose. It’s an exercise in using arbitrary limitations, and if you are interested to see just how generative that can be, give it a go. Plus you get to listen to music at the end of it (and throughout). Win-win.

Hell, you even end up drafting and editing playlists as you go, because inevitably some songs don’t fit where you thought they did initially, once you actually listen to them play in sequence.  Some have to be moved, some have to be replaced, some turn out to be redundant. And while there is certainly merit in playlists that you create specifically to listen to on shuffle, which is what I’d suggest you do if you’re actually writing a story, if you’re setting out specifically to listen to music then having it play in a specific sequence is really rewarding. A sonic theme-park. A DIY concept album.

It’s fun; go do it.

And I am feeling more like a real-life grown-up since making myself stick to schedules and stuff, so that’s nice. We bought a new house yesterday, and I’m freaking out a bit because of money and general massive life changes, but it’s a super-nice house, and it will be fantastic once we’re actually there, I feel. I just hope it’s a little further down the line so that I don’t have to juggle moving and essay-writing. But we’ll see. Extensions exist for a reason. And the stress and uncertainty also makes me feel like a real-life grown-up.

And I’m just really content. I’m glad that today happened the way it did. It was a chance for me to prove to myself that I can juggle study and writing and still have time to do other stuff, like make narrative playlists, and read this selkie novel that hits all the toxic YA notes that I’ve come to be so familiar with. To be fair, the selkie mythos does lend itself to such things, but when it’s not done cleverly or critically it’s just more of the same Bad Romance crap.

I don’t know if I can bothered finishing it, and if not then this weekend I will get those reviews written, and probably read Frostbite at long last. Or I might see if I can’t finish these character-maps over the next three days, and move on to the next stage of the draft, which is …

Making a lot of tough decisions about characters and plot and stuff.

I keep thinking: ‘Look, some really bad books have been published and done really well. I don’t have to make this book really good in order for it to be published, or even really successful.’ I could just slap a fresh coat of paint on what I’ve already got so that the continuity, like, continues, but I want to provide a better service than that. Best foot forward and all that.

But at the same time, I want to write other things. And I want to finish this before I move onto them. Maybe that’s unhelpful, but I don’t know that. I know that there’s so much I could do to make this book better, but also that there’s got to come a point where enough is enough, and I have to be the one who makes that decision. I don’t know if it’s true that a book is never finished. But I do know that I can drag things out forever, and I don’t want that to happen to Tallulah.

I’m at yet another halfway point of yet another micro-task in the ongoing process of my writing, and I’ll be at many more in the days and months and years to come. That’s fine. That’s good. I look forward to it.

I’d just like to speed it up a little …




Things that didn’t happen

One: those book reviews I said would happen over the weekend. Didn’t happen.

Two: continuing my character-arc maps for Tallulah. Nope.

Three: catching up on all the study I was meant to catch up on last week. Decidedly not a thing that happened.

Four: keeping up my 1000 words/day commitment. That would be a ‘no’.

Tell somebody like me to do something and they’ll put off doing it just to prove that they can, because that’s human nature for ya.

Me – I’m stubborn. I like to be able to not do things, and even when I dedicate myself to doing it, I’ll still find ways to derail myself.

That says a lot about what I consider ‘dedication’ to actually be. I think I need a re-definition.

You say: “Hey, it won’t actually be that hard, and think of all the time I’ll save later on down the line!”

Love to; I’d love to do that, but seriously how about the alternative where I have free time now and do the work later?

Me – I’m good at convincing myself, because I’m also really clingy when it comes to my precious procrastination time.

More and more recently, though, I’ve not only brought this up and said that I needed to do something to change it, but I’ve then brought it up again later on with the same issue still firmly in place.

I was thinking a couple of days ago of who I thought I’d be when I grew up, what kind of habits I’d have and the kind of schedule I’d keep and all that. I thought I’d be a Responsible Adult – Responsible in the sense that I’d have a schedule that I could manage, that it would be filled with things that were both duties I had to carry out as part of the social contract where we all do out bit (yeah, we sure do that don’t we) but also things that pushed me forward, took me along the road to my aspirations, aspirations that I was too young and blissfully vague to really consider very deeply. The schedule being something that I could manage was also a part of this imagined future Responsibility that I would embody; I’d be somebody who knew what he was capable of and what he wanted out of life, and would build a life and goals around a healthy acknowledgement of that set of limitations and capacities.

At least I imagine that’s what I thought I’d be as an adult. I didn’t fantasise about it or aspire to it or anything; it was more just an image that I had. And our childhood ideas of what we’re going to be when we grow up are always based on some level of incomplete information, because, well, we’re not those adults yet. We aren’t in our adult circumstances; we can’t see the future for what it will be, only what it could be, what it looks like from our current vantage-point.

It still disappoints me, though, that I’m not that adult, and what I realised when I started reflecting on this was that I’d given up caring what kind of adult I was. I mean I am an adult; why should I care what kind of adult I am if I already am one?

But that’s the thing – I’m not. Nobody is. That doesn’t happen; we don’t get the Adult Stamp of Approval upon reaching the legal age of adulthood – it’s something that we have to decide for ourselves.

And what I’m starting to decide, what I’m starting to try devoting myself to, is doing my little kid proud. Because regardless of the fact that he was not in a position to really dictate what was and was not possible for his adult self, he still had some pretty great ideas. They’re ideas that I don’t think are beyond my capacity to achieve, either. And I honestly think I’d be happier if I gave it a shot, rather than just accepting things the way they are, because while I’m not miserable or anything – in fact all things considered I’m pretty enthusiastic about where I’m at – there is a certain lack of forward momentum, of progress. And of command over myself. I don’t think it’s possible to really be independent; we’re either dependent on our parents, or we’re dependent on our lovers, or our friends, or our employers and landlords/ladies and the public transport system and the police and …

And that’s not the point. That’s not the goal; that’s not how I think you become an adult. I think you become an adult when you find responsibility … not exciting, per say, but rewarding. When you find that your ability to commit to not just doing something, but to sustaining a habit of doing something, is something that you control and initiate, rather than something that just happens to you without you noticing. I think it’s when you start living intentionally, and when you take on responsibility because you can and it’s there to be taken up, and as much as it’s required to be a decent person and all that, you do it for yourself.

A lot of this is just the same old adulthood rhetoric that gets thrown around uncritically to inspire people to feel unworthy because they don’t feel like they’re in control of their lives, and I don’t mean it that way. We don’t have a lot of control over our lives, all things considered. We have some, but other people do, too, and the thing is that each of us is always outnumbered. We’re always only one, and one is not always enough.

The comfort and solace that I imagined a life of discipline would bring me when I grew up – I think that was reasonable to think based on what I thought adulthood meant at the time. It’s not something that translates so well when you’re actually there. It’s something that hasn’t happened. But I still think it could. I think that I could get closer to that goal, if I tried. A hell of a lot closer. Maybe even close enough. And maybe end up with something even better.

So I’m gonna try.

I have a lot of work to do this week. I have so many things I need to catch up on, and so many goals that I haven’t met. Rather than just giving up on them, because there’s still time, I’m going to just go do them. I need to do another character-map; I’ll get started on that tomorrow. I need to finish two readings tonight; I’m almost done with one. I need to do readings and watch a movie tomorrow; that’ll happen before I go back to Tallulah. I need to get back into exercising; I’ll do that between watching the movie and writing Tallulah, or if I happen to wake up early I’ll do it in the morning. It’ll be a full day and I won’t really have time for anything else, other than meeting a friend in the afternoon for lunch. But that’s my commitment. And I get the whole of Thursday off as a reward.

And I can use it to finish reading this selkie book that has a lot of the same issues as Beautiful Creatures, but while it isn’t quite as engaging as BC was, it does at least allay my fear that my use of the selkie mythos has not yet been copied in a book about selkies that I’ve read. Hell, maybe I’ll read Vampire Academy again as well.

And if I get to Thursday having done one day’s worth of actually making myself do the things I’ve set out for myself to do, I’ll have taken one step closer to that sense of fulfilling responsibility that I used to think was my destiny. I don’t think it’ll ever be that way. But that’s not the point. It can be something close. And it can be something I pushed for and achieved. I can re-define what it means to be me.

Is this post really about writing? I guess not. But that goal I wasn’t specific about as a kid – now that I’m an adult, that goal is being a published, career author. Somebody who writes books, and perhaps plays and movies and webseries and TV and songs, for a living. With a bit of acting, directing, drawing, music and various other stuff on the side. And it’s all part of that responsibility I used to envision myself taking up, only it’s real now. It matters more now, because it’s no longer merely hypothetical. It’s my responsibility to myself, to my aspirations, to my ambitions, to the life I want to live and enjoy while I’m living it, a life I can take responsibility for.

And I want to do it. I want to make it happen.

I guess this is growing up.


Giving feedback is HARD.

I mean – I can’t be alone here; I’m definitely somebody who’s taken (probably far too much) influence from ‘internet critics’, who range from blandly neutral to scathingly (often hilariously) snarky, and because blandness doesn’t appeal to me I tend to go for snark instead. As a result, a lot of my reviews – especially of films – tend to be very acerbic in nature. It was something that I’d hoped to keep out of this blog in particular, but I do feel it slowly leaking in through sheer force of habit, and I’m not a fan.

That’s not quite ‘feedback’, though; ‘feedback’ to me implies that I’ve been asked to provide it, rather than just offering up an opinion on my own initiative. I go the opposite way with feedback, generally, in that I’m too afraid of hurting people’s feelings (mostly because of aforementioned habitual acerbic snarkery) and end up giving rather non-critical feedback – or I’ll veer too far the other way, trying to compensate for my too-nice ‘default mode’ of giving feedback and ending up being far too harsh, getting too personal – all the things that I pretty much insist nobody should ever do if they agree to give feedback on my work. Which I felt myself starting to do today, providing feedback on a friend’s work, and thus erased all of my comments and started over, opting to give a more general overview and base it on my reactions rather than trying to give suggestions or instructions. And apparently he found it constructive, so that’s very validating, and I’m grateful that he entrusted me with his work – I definitely know how hard that is. But it’s always a process of second-guessing myself, seeing if I’ve been hypocritical in my approach to providing said feedback when measured against my own needs as a feedback recipient, and wondering if what feedback I’ve given is actually in any way useful, critical or constructive.

And as such, I am once again very grateful to those who have given me feedback on my work, because it’s really damn hard and consumes far too much time. So, if any of you wonderful people are reading this: thank you again!

It’s also something I don’t really apply in making notes on my own work; I go to snark city on that shit, and while I find it rather amusing at the time, I do wonder if it has some kind of negative psychological effect on me when I go back and read it. Or, should I say, if I go back and read it. Because plenty of the time I just make the notes and then leave it. Which is fine in terms of getting my head clear and organising my thoughts while reading back over my stuff, but in terms of having long-term application, like acting as guidelines for things I want to change – I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out once I’m done with these character maps.

Oh, I finished the second (and largest) character map last weekend, so that’s pretty dope. Then I was sick on Monday so I missed half of my lectures for the week and it’s been a pretty fail week academically-speaking overall. I will give myself an off-week, because sick happens, but I didn’t get any more revision done in that time.

What I did get done was reading Beautiful Creatures, and holy gourds is the movie better than the book. Not as much better as, say, Twilight, which was almost unrecognisable, but still definitely better. It told an actual story, for one thing, a story in which there were stakes of some kind and …

And there I go again; the snark has gone from hunted to hunter. And I will review Beautiful Creatures, because it’s actually quite remarkable. It’s one of only two novels that I’ve read in one sitting since the Harry Potter era, the other being Mockingjay, and while I have huge issues with it, it was strangely engrossing, and anything that can hold my attention that strongly deserves to be talked about.

Said review will be my earnest attempt to actually give a critical, non-snarky analysis and review of the text. I’ll see how I get on. I mean I want it to be interesting to read/fun to write as well, so … yeah. Maybe this is an opportunity for me to expand my humour portfolio a bit and find ways of expressing myself other than vitriolic derision played for laughs.

Which – I mean I still find it funny. But I would really like to be less bitter, and you are what you eat. Or something. It’s not who you are inside, but what you do that defines you. So you’re not what – wait, but eating is doing something so …

Fuck it; Beautiful Creatures review coming in probably over the weekend, maybe even Vampire Academy because it’s been sitting in my drafts for ages and I really do want to talk about that book – and until then, I have a week’s worth of study to catch up on. Yay.

Many juggling

If by ‘juggling’ you mean ‘vehemently avoiding’, then juggling is exactly what I’m doing with all of the things I have to find time to do – namely studying and writing.

Honestly I do have time to do all of these things, which is fantastic. There was this strange thing that happened on Monday when I woke up at 8am to get to a 9am lecture: I felt like I’d been up for 2 days once it got to around midnight, and I felt so alive. I felt exhausted around 6pm but still wanting to keep going, and that feeling is so amazing that I think the key to success here is going to be waking up earlier and powering through all day long, rather than catching time to take a nap. Spend time to make time is the moral here I guess.

Because to that end, when I’ve had free time, I haven’t been using it, like it’s some precious resource I’m going to lose in a couple of days and I need to make the most of it while it’s here. And the thing is that it’s kinda true. Having the ability to do absolutely nothing is very liberating, but once you’re secure in that knowledge, suddenly you do want to do things. Mostly. Sometimes not. Sometimes nothing is exactly what you want to do. But my point is that I’ve been psyching myself out here and I don’t need to do that in order to achieve the sense of stability and control I’m afraid of losing to my schedule.

And if I’d just kept the ball rolling rather than letting it come to a stop because I could, I’d be done with these character-maps for Tallulah, so that’s what I’m going to work on today. I think the other issue with thinking ahead to all the work you need to get done is that, unless you have a limit on how much work you’re going to do, you’ll just find some other thing to get started on right away, and all free time will disintegrate like paper in water. So that’s going to be my goal for the next week, other than making a conscious effort to eat healthier: put limits on things. Have definite goals and stick to them. That way I will be forced to have free time, at least every now and then, and if I want to move on to the next thing when the time comes then so be it.

I’ve been reading Beautiful Creatures, for about an hour last night and then half an hour this morning. It’s so … unremarkable. Speed-reading has once again proven its worth here, but because of that I don’t know how good of a review I’ll be able to give of it – and this book deserves a review, even if only because it’s so unremarkable. It has things about it that are definitely worth talking about, like how Ethan’s narrative voice is about the most un-teenage-boy-ish narrative voice I could imagine, and the Gothic themes of supposedly definite boundaries being permeated – and the fact that there’s a gender-swap from the standard formula, as this time it’s a normal-but-special boy falling in love with a mysteriously-glamorous-but-socially-shunned girl with paranormal powers. And yet it’s all just so … bland. And somehow or other the boy still ends up being the stalkery one, even without powers.

I started reading The Summer Prince a couple of weeks ago and just couldn’t bring myself to continue after page … what, 3? Which is a huge disservice to any book, I feel, so when I have time I’ll try and get further with it. After seeing the Vampire Academy movie it reminded me that I still need to finish my review of the book, and that made me want to re-read the book, because seeing that movie made me remember how much I like the book, while also highlighting some weaknesses that I’d probably overlooked. Which could just be because the movie is almost nothing but weaknesses, and they are impossible to overlook. It’s unfortunate, but I was in just the right mood to laugh at a terrible book-to-film adaptation (even of a book I liked) so I got my time’s worth – just not in the way I would have liked to. I’ve just resigned myself to never liking another YA film adaptation ever again, at least until they start focusing on different genres within YA to filmify.

It has all made me rather aware of just how much YA I’ve been reading lately, though. Which was totally intentional, but it’s making me feel very isolated in my own story ideas, because it feels like there are no points of reference for me to draw on for inspiration or direction other than these YA narratives, and what I realise is that these are not the narratives that I want to perpetuate. Sweep is definitely a new favourite for that reason; it’s still drawing on a very recognisable body of tropes, but it also has a certain integrity that other YA paranormal stories don’t, possibly because it was  written pre-Twilight and that particular cash-cow formula wasn’t around to be exploited to begin with.

But it’s still not what I want to write. I think I need to venture back into the realm of not-young adult fiction. Maybe pick up Neuromancer at long last and see what all the fuss is about. I’m taking a sci-fi paper this semester, so I’m sure I’ll be more excited than ever to finally write that grandiose space opera I’ve had gestating for the last 6-ish years.

But I gotta finish Tallulah first, and the silver lining running along the edges of my procrastination cloud here is that it’s given me a chance to feel out this story in my own time, and once again I think that the simpler I can make it, the more to-the-point it’ll be, and that’s exactly what I want. I used to love labyrinthine plots and Machiavellian twists, but this story isn’t really about the plot. It’s about the characters. The main character in particular. And her story is really pretty simple.

So we’ll see how that goes once I’m elbow-deep in character-arcs and defence-mechanism hypotheses for how I could change things to make them fit together better. I’ll probably forget for a while that simpler is better, for this story anyway. And I guess that’s fine. Just part of the process. Hopefully once the mapping is done and I can look back over it all I’ll have a clearer sense of what needs to be done.

Now to actually do it.