Out of order

I …

I just got it.

The whole “you don’t have to write your story in chronological order” thing. I get it now.

This plan I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks and freaking out over for the past couple of days has been stalling and staggering because I’m trying to plan things out in order. And there are just some part of it that get stuck, and when I try and untangle that mess I drive all of my energy and momentum into that task rather than continuing to plan. By the time I’m done, I’m exhausted mentally and don’t have anything left to give to the rest of the plan.

And what is the rest of the plan? Well, as I keep saying: the plan in my head is a collage, not a causal progression. It’s a bunch of scenes that I like, and I like their variations, and I like mixing and matching them with other scenes from other continuities without realising I’m doing it until later, when I realise that I don’t actually have a linear plan, because I don’t have a linear story that I actually want to tell.

So, using all of this evidence, I have come to the conclusion that the bits I get stuck on …

Can just fucking sit there and stay stuck for now.

And in the meantime, I’ll make plans for chapters that I want to “do up”, in the way that I want to “do them up” – even if it means breaking continuity within the overall story.

The plan I’ve been putting into action over the past few days/weeks is taking events that happen throughout the current working version of my story and recombining them – often in quite small ways, as it turns out. I’m fairly happy with the general gist of what happens in this story, up to a certain point. Which is great. Less work for me. The first part of my story is much more solid, much easier to get a handle on working how to improve, than the second and third parts, so that’s what I’ve been working on – and that’s where I’ve gotten up to and hit the wall.

Or been restrained from hitting the wall. I need to remember the metaphors I use.

But it seems now like I did actually hit the brick wall, and it was just as helpful of an experience as I wanted it to be.

What I have realised today is that the parts of the plan that have worked have been chapter revisions, not the total sum of chapter revisions amounting to a full manuscript revision. The parts of the plan that have worked have been the parts where I’ve done what I wanted to do, not the bits where I struggled with trying to do with what I thought I should do.

I know what chapters I want to revise for the first third of the story – so I do have a plan. It is a plan that excludes two-thirds of the book, but that doesn’t make it any less of a plan. If anything, that’s a very useful plan because its arcitecture makes it honest: I don’t know what the fuck to do with certain parts of my story, how to fix them, make them better, use them as joints in the story to help it move. That is the situation that I’m in, and being able to recognise that also enables me to see why this plan has been giving me so much grief.

And I had to go back and re-read one of my very first posts in order to get that perspective, one in which I confess that I can’t stand the idea of writing in a non-linear fashion. Funny how things change.

Never delete anything.

Just open a new document.

S0 – fantastic. I have a strategy as well as a plan now:

  • Continue constructing revisions for chapters, and don’t worry about getting every chapter in there.
  • Said revisions don’t have to link to each other – this isn’t a plan for the whole story: this is a plan for each individual chapter being revised in keeping with how I would like that individual chapter to play out. Fuck continuity for now.
  • By fucking said continuity, I will gain a clearer picture of which parts are in dire need of fixing: after completing these chapter revisions I will go back and read the whole thing as a complete story, and the jarring discontinuities should (theoretically) grab my attention and draw my focus to them.

And if this strategy changes? Then it changes. The point is that it’s there and I stand to gain something from it, even if it’s just to come up with a better plan. Much like what has happened today.

If you keep going, you can’t help but eventually end up somewhere.


So angry. So angry. Just chill, dude.

The planning stage of this next draft – it is working. It’s going slowly and I’m getting distracted, but even if it’s not as lightning-in-a-bottle as I’d like, it’s happening. I know this because right after I wrote that last infuriated rant I went back to the plan I’ve been working on for the past few days and, for the most part, I liked where it was at and where it was going. Yes, I hit a roadblock, but that doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong. It means I’m not finished planning yet.

And I suppose building up a head of steam and having to vent is just part of that process. There is so much freaking work to do, and I want it to be easy and feel natural and organic and smooth, and it isn’t, and it doesn’t. But that’s not the same thing as not getting anywhere or doing the wrong thing. I’ve just realised that. I’m 27 years old and I’ve literally just realised that. Just because I can’t see where I’m going doesn’t mean I’m going the wrong way; just because it’s not instantly rewarding and reassuring doesn’t mean it’s not working for me.

Over time, we all come to have personal experiences that finally make sense of seemingly generic and half-baked cultural wisdom, like “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”, or “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. In this case it’s not just seemingly generic and half-baked cultural wisdom, but the chorus of a George Michael song: “I gotta have faith”. Being a non-religious person, “faith” carries a lot of connotations that I can’t really mesh with, but it’s not quite “trust” that I’m talking about here – faith is a bit more than trust. Trust doesn’t quite have the conviction of faith, which is maybe why I’m more comfortable with it. But faith is what I think I’m stepping into now with this planning process not feeling the way I want it to feel. Because I do think it’s working. It just needs time. I just need time. I may be flying blind while I do it, but I’m confident now that I will actually end up somewhere I want to be, just as long as I can keep going.

While doing those huge research essays over the next four weeks.


Just let it all out

This story is hopeless it has no direction no plot several different plots all of which rely on other bits of plot from unrelated plots to have any form of cohesion to begin with I have no idea what I’m doing this book only got written because the first chapter got really positive feedback and I liked the praise the actual story could be told in like twenty thousand words at most why have I even spent all this time trying to get it to work it’s not even a story it’s a collage of yeast I scraped out from under my fingernails all this time I could have been writing an actual story and it might actually be done by now because it would be an ACTUAL FUCKING STORY THREE YEARS THREE FUCKING YEARS AND IT’S BEEN ONE ZERO DRAFT AND A SINGLE REVISION I WILL NEVER FINISH THIS BOOK I CAN’T EVEN THINK OF HOW TO REVISE IT I CAN’T MAKE DECISIONS THERE IS NO DECISION TO MAKE BECAUSE THIS STORY IS A NON-THING WHY DID I EVEN TRY WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT EVEN


Writing Tallulah has taught me a lot of things. It taught me how good it feels to stick to a plan, and how important it is that you allow yourself to change that plan as it unfolds. It taught me not to give out my very first draft for feedback, certainly not while I’m in the middle of writing the damn thing. It taught me that some plot-holes don’t want to be gotten rid of. It taught me the joy of actually fucking writing something, of having accomplished something I set out to do and more or less made up as I went along. It taught me how euphoric it feels to be writing. And it taught me that I can write things I don’t think I’m capable of writing.

So many times in the past few weeks I’ve felt like I’ve had The Breakthrough, and every single time it’s been superseded by the next one, until now I’m congested with Breakthroughs that I have to pick and choose amongst in order to move forward, or try and mix them together into something coherent, take the best bits from all of them and hope it works as a story.

It could be that it’s actually working, and I just won’t be able to tell that it’s working until I’ve done it and can look back on the end result. Which is annoying, because while I’m in the process of doing it and I’m unconvinced, I’m trying to find a thought, a decision that will convince me, and I have yet to find one of those.

I have two major plot-holes and then a bunch of priorities to sort out. The plot-holes enable me to structure the story I want to structure it, but in terms of being a Good Writer I should replace them with something that isn’t a hole. I just can’t think of anything. Or rather I can, but I prefer the sweeping changes I’ve thought up to replace them, and now …

Yeah, there’s the problem. Pretty fucking obvious. Planning in ink is all very well in the present, but I’m working with almost three years of story that has all been planned in pencil.

I want it to be different. That’s going to take work. I’m not thinking it through. I’m thinking of what I’ve got, which is already done, and in my mind the process of swapping X for Y is absolutely nothing. It requires almost no effort, except for creating Y in the first place, and I do that shit my every waking moment. I don’t think of how it’s going to be to actually have to sit the fuck down and type out this shit for hours and weeks and possibly another year until it’s even finished and ready for me to re-read, and then judge, and analyse, and make notes on, and think of how I can then start the entire fucking process all over again. I don’t think of the toll this shit takes on my mind and my body and my energy when I actually do it, because I’m not actually doing it, and I have zero imagination, apparently, or just so context-sensitive as to be useless.

But okay. I’m imagining now. I loved being in the flow of writing during the zero draft, even though it drove me insane half the time and there were stalls all along the way. That’s just part of the flow. I was writing it all from scratch, with no pre-existing material to draw from. That was part of what made it so exciting; it was all completely fresh, new creation.

I’m way past that now. I’m a draft and a revision in, and it’s not writing I’m going to be doing: it’s rewriting. And if I was going to just rewrite all of it from scratch, maybe that’d be something, but there’s no point in doing that when I have a lot of material that is perfectly useable. And it was a tense, miserable, uncertain slog a lot of the time with the last revision – not the actual process of revision, but just working myself up to revise at all. I hated trying to make myself revise; I never wanted to do it that I can remember, just wanted to want to do it and used the word “want” to mean “have decided that I should”.

I am stuck, and I don’t know how to get un-stuck.

Maybe just keep doing shit and see how it goes.

Maybe stop planning, even though it’s been going all right, and just get to rewriting without a plan, and make up the plan as I rewrite.

Seriously, I don’t see how that’s any worse than what I’m doing right now.

I judge this process incredibly harshly. I judge every decision I make, from the writing strategies and ethics I deploy to the contents of the story itself, their codes and symbolic significances and representations of reality. I try to use real-world cause-and-effect instead of trusting the conventions of fiction to carry me through, because I’m terrified of being criticised.

I don’t just do the fucking work.

Okay, not true. Obviously at some point I do actually get around to the actual work, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am. But so much time is spent just fretting.

I don’t think I’m going to get anywhere tonight, so I’ll just stop here. I guess this post is just going to be a venting rant. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got in you.

Planning in pencil and ink

Something occurred to me today about my creative process. I was carefully considering my current predicament (having to plan out and then actually write a second draft of Tallulah) and how it relates to another issue I have: the fact that my current “plan” for Tallulah, the one that I started missing upon attempting to start the third draft a week or so ago, is not a complete story in any way, shape or form. It is, as it has been since the beginning, a collage of scenes and impressions, with dialogue and actual events sometimes being persistent but always feeling temporary – like the lines some illustrators trace with a pencil before doing the real illustrating with ink and making their decisions permanent.

This feeling of “planning in pencil” is not unique to Tallulah. It’s basically one of the only things that my stories all have in common. I think of possibilities and let them remain possibilities; I make plans, but those plans are meant to be temporary, placeholders, until I can come up with something better – but then those plans are also placeholders and, well, you can see where this is going. I have a commitment problem. And not only does it break one of my core tenets of writing, which is to both commit to your decisions and always be free to change your mind, but it also leads to a lot of very weak, indecisive storytelling.

I hate it.

This isn’t some kind of snide, scornful hate; this is leeching, disappointed hate, the kind of hate that only comes from realising that, for the past ten years, I could have been doing things better if I’d just … well, I dunno. I mean I’ve had (and probably still have) depression and social anxiety, which are the perfect candidates to serve as the parents of abysmally low self-esteem and ambition.

But I do remember now, thinking back on it, the stress that came with always making plans that were “locked in”, because they would always change, and I felt so inconsistent, so uncommitted. I guess maybe my current planning in pencil habit was formed out of my prolonged practice of planning more of my stories than I actually told, and because nothing got done I never got to transfer my permanent plans into committed, “actual” writing. So maybe anxiety and depression were less to blame than I think.

Regardless, the fact remains that I want this shit to stop. I’ve told the story of how one night when I was 13 I stayed awake all night and “wrote” an entire book, word-for-word, in my head. It took like eight hours, but it was all written, not just a movie-in-my-head. It was planned in ink, so to speak, as were all of my earliest stories, and those were the ones that had the most staying power. Not to discount the fact that the ideas I liked best were the ones I even bothered to plan to begin with, making it all a bit circular – but I like this story, and for the past almost-three years it hasn’t actually been a story at all, and that needs to change.

So now it might be a case of taking the bits and pieces I’ve currently got and repackaging them as much as I can to turn them into a coherent story, or take the general theme and setting and characters and start over from scratch with a fully laid-out plan, or some combination of the two. I’m thinking the last one. I’m also thinking how the huge revolutionary plan I had the other day is a bit too distracted and pulling me away from the “actual story”, but it’s the same damn anxiety I’ve had about this story that’s recurred so many times before. I need something new to start recurring, which means I have to put something new into action. I need to make this plan, and I need it to be planned in ink; and then I have to actually follow through with it.

I don’t need to re-read my story at this point. I know it well enough. What I need to do is find the story that I actually want to tell. And maybe it’s not the kind of story that I think it will be. Maybe it won’t live up to my standards. Maybe it’ll be really problematic in a lot of ways I don’t forgive other stories for being. But if that’s the case I need to be able to stomach it, rather than denying it and making excuses and going around in evasive circles, getting nowhere fast.

And I miss planning in ink. It feels better. It always felt better. It always feels good to make a decision, whatever it is, in the long run.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman’s voice is very well-suited to the retelling of a fictional childhood. He really captures the perspective of a young boy, where each person is impossible to pin down in any one, static identity, and the world is relentless and inescapable; the book is starkly primordial in a way that only childhood memories are, and while the tone of this story leans rather heavily towards the horrific, it is an authentic, childhood horror, unsentimental while at the same time heart-achingly nostalgic. Reading this book made sense of his other work in a new way, too, specifically because his voice works so well here. Not that it doesn’t work well in his other books; I’d say Anansi Boys is the exception there, but then again I didn’t really like Anansi Boys. Can’t win ’em all I guess.

What was particularly resonant to me was the role of the women and girls in this story. The narrative’s mise-en-scene is dominated by women, and all the characters of any importance besides the main character, whose name I can’t even remember, are female. There’s Lettie, the older girl who lives at the End of the Lane who our main character rather adores; there’s her mother and grandmother; there’s the main villain who isn’t really a woman but takes the form of one in order to infiltrate and corrupt the main character’s fragile world. There is a running theme – though calling it a “theme” is like saying that the colour orange is the “theme” of an orange – of women (and Lettie) who define and create the world that the main character lives in, commanding powers that literally reshape reality almost on a whim. There is something almost Lovecraftian about the awe and terror embodied by the female characters, only highlighted further by the main character’s utter dependence on Lettie for safety, his completely useless parents (oblivious to the supernatural goings-on), and his total powerlessness overall.

In a sense it’s not even really his story; the combination of not just “strong” female characters but almost unfathomably powerful women (and Lettie), along with the main character’s dependence on them, really affected me, because the feelings that this story evoked for me are eerily similar to what I feel when I delve back into my own childhood memories. I was surrounded by women growing up, probably because most of my parents’ friends are my mother’s friends and most of them are women, and also I was a Playcentre kid, surrounded by other kids’ mothers. And from a very young age my best friend was a girl, we were pretty inseparable … there are so many parallels that it’s almost concerning.

So why do I say that this story is “boy-centric”? Well, these women (and Lettie) are all distinctly Other for our little soldier; he is in awe of them, whether that awe is adoring or terrified, but he never really understands them. That undoubtedly has to do with the fact that he’s very young, like about 5 years old or something, but throw in the supernatural powers and the knowledge that this story is at least semi-autobiographical and I’m left with the impression of women as more of a force of nature than as people. Lettie is both in the end, as she’s our hero’s only real friend and also would be considered the hero in a typical narrative (except for the fact that “typical narratives” are heinously sexist). And at the same time, she ends up dying to protect him – he’s powerless, and she’s super-special, and in the end she’s willing to sacrifice herself for his benefit, because she cares about him. Which is very sweet, though also a bit women-are-nurturers stereotypical – and also she doesn’t really die because she’s part of the very fabric of reality or something look I dunno it’s Neil Gaiman it’s weird.

And deeply personal, to the point of confrontation. It draws on a male mythology that involves women insofar as they constitute the environment, the narrative. But I wouldn’t say it outright objectifies women. It instead evokes that mindset of knowing that somebody else is, indeed, somebody else, a whole other person, but one that you can’t fathom and therefore can’t help but objectify a little, more to cope with the unknown than because you can’t see them as a human being, a symptom of your lack of understanding. It’s not a critical take on this gendered phenomenon by any means, but it is an authentic one, for me anyway. I don’t know how many other men have this kind of emotional, highly gender-differentiated childhood genesis that serves as the foundation of their very existence, and I would say that all of this review has been much more me talking about myself than trying to cast any particular aspersions on Neil Gaiman, however autobiographical of a work it may be.

For all that, it’s almost a story I’d say you’re not missing anything by not reading. He’s told more exciting stories, funnier stories, stories that feel a bit fuller, and he’s got more on the way. But this is a book that I’ll definitely remember, because it told me things about myself that I thought only I knew.

And this is probably the most true-ringing of Gaiman’s books I’ve ever read. Not my favourite, but it might be the one I’m the gladdest he wrote. It’s definitely the one that confronted and yet comforted me the most, reflecting my own experiences back onto me when I wasn’t expecting it, in ways I’m not entirely comfortable with, and I always appreciate that. The fact that it came from my favourite author doesn’t hurt any, either.

It is perhaps the definitive Neil Gaiman story. Make of that what you will. I’m just interested to see how the hell he’s gonna follow it up.

Oh. Interesting …

Selkie Girl

In my ongoing search to discover that I am, in fact, the most original, innovative, trailblazing writer to ever grace the world with his existence, there will inevitably be bumps in the road. Such was my consternation upon discovering that other people had written stories about selkies. And one of these books was Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks (and yes, she is related).

The first rival selkie story I ever read/reviewed was Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley. It was … well, it was reassuring. It was absolutely nothing like what I wanted to write, but it did at least take the selkie mythos and adapt it pretty well to its intended purpose (though as I said in my review, it really missed an opportunity by not having an annoying love-triangle – this is the selkie mythos after all). It was also reassuring in that it was one potential threat to my story crossed off the list – however, that left me with Selkie Girl to contend with, and because it was not available at the library, since I live in New Zealand, I had to buy it from book depository. Gotta spend money to make money.

I have yet to make any money.

This had better be worth it.

And to be fair, it’s not a bad book. It’s deceptively short and very easy to read; the only downside was that it had what seemed like a similar premise to my own story, hence why I had to read it. As it turned out, a premise is nowhere near the same thing as an end result, and that’s for the best. The writing style simultaneously annoyed me and drew me in. It’s not how I’d ever like to write, but still a voice that I can respect for its sense of identity; having given the prose a Scottish accent in my head, I assume it’s meant to be read that way, because without the accent it feels very stilted.

This story veers from magical realism to outright fantasy and back again without warning, and it kind of irrated me. I’m totally down with selkies, because for the past almost-three years they have very much been my thing. But trows? It’s not that I have anything against aquatic troll/goblin things, but some kind of leadup would have been nice. Instead we get:

Sea Trows! Covered in seaweed hair, the stocky little men slide through the water, their stubby webbed hands and feet churning the sea at terrifying speed. Smaller than the trolls of Norse legend, these equally devious ceratures have human-like characteristics but are not human at all.

That is page 131, and it is the first time we’ve ever  heard mention of “sea-trows”. As such they feel a contrivance in the story, there for no narrative purpose other than to provide a moment of tension in an otherwise pretty unnecessary chapter, and remind me of the random shit I end up having to cut out of my zero drafts (when I get around to editing them, which has happened a grand total of once). They feel like filler, in other words, and the fact that they come with their very own exposition-dump makes them really burdensome filler to boot. I could have done without them.

The selkie culture, however, is pretty neat. It’s very “that’s the way it is”, giving it a very fairytale kind of feel, and indeed the story that this reminded me of the most was not my own or even Seven Tears, but The Little Mermaid – the Hans Christian-Andersen original. But more on that later.

Selkie culture reminded me of, of all things, a Tumblr fandom – not because selkies are all human fangirls or anything (also there are male selkies), but because they take their stories really fucking seriously. Their culture revolves around storytelling, mapping narratives onto real-life, and it is as frustrating and seductive as it sounds. Life is not a story, as I have said time and again (and not just me either), but this story is definitely a story, and because of that and the somewhat self-aware fairytale framing the device works. There is indeed a prophecy in this book, and the frustration that our protagonist Elin Jean endures trying to work out what the fuck it is was written really well – again, not such a fan of the style, but it worked very well for this aspect of it.

The other part it worked well for was Elin Jean’s angst, and that’s the cue to draw parallels with The Little Mermaid.

If you’ve ever read that “children’s classic”, you will know that it is not a story you ever, ever fucking read to your kids.

This is not some kind of prudish stance on my behalf; I’m all for telling kids upsetting stories, so long as there’s a point to it beyond “yeah let’s scare the shit out of them”. The Little Mermaid has no point to it whatsoever unless you want to make your kids depressed, specifically to teach them that having romantic/sexual feelings for somebody will lead to a lifetime of utter misery and injustice, particularly if they’re girls. I think we could do with a lot less of that particular kind of sexist bullshit in the world.

But that brand of feminine suffering, the powerless prisoner of fate with no true friend in the world – that’s the carryover from Mermaid to Selkie Girl. It is the literary trend that I sniffed out in that one uni paper where I was expected to read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and the reason that I very purposefully did not read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, because reading a story with no aim in mind other than to inflict suffering is not something that I relish. I just don’t see how it makes anything better. I absolutely understand and agree that drawing attention to injustice requires representing it faithfully so that people know what’s at stake; where I draw the line is where it devolves into angst-porn.

Selkie Girl hovers precariously on the edge of that precipice for the first third of the story, where Elin Jean is nicknamed “Selkie Girl” by the cruel villagers and her webbed hands and isolated family mark her out as a freak. She discovers that her mither (mother) (hence the Scottish reading accent) is a selkie whose pelt was stolen by her fither (pet goat) (I’m kidding but this drove me fucking insane), and the whole family situation is really messed-up and I did appreciate how messed-up it was. I can certainly respect some well-written angst, especially when it stretches beyond the typical myopic formulation and encompasses an entire cast of characters, as it does here. But it was because it was so well-executed that it was hard to read, because I experienced it so vividly that I found it hard to take seriously in places. It’s hard to say whether it’s well-written or drama for drama’s sake, and what makes that distinction harder for me to make is the fact that this story of the martyred heroine is very much a tale as old as time.


A lot of stuff in this story makes little to no real-world sense, and operates instead on the logic of melodrama: if it hurts, do it harder. But it does resonate with the selkie mythos, and it also intersects very effectively with the fairytale vibe. My favourite part of the story is definitely Elin Jean after she’s become a selkie (though her human hands are somehow attached to her flippers, making her doubly a freak), trying to figure out what the fuck the prophecy is and being really frustrated that nobody will help her try to solve the problem (and her one selkie pal who is assigned to her to guide her through her “solus”, which is basically a selkie coming-of-age ritual, is equally clueless). It was very well-written, and was incredibly teen-angsty. If that’s your thing, then you’ll have a good time here – and if it’s not, well, like I said, this book is deceptively short.

I did get a bit irritated when she starts to eat seaweed instead of fish because she hates killing living things (what a loser), to the point where she even feels guilty about eating seaweed; I definitely sense shades of PETA in this book, but not necessarily in a bad way – I do have to agree that seal-clubbing is pretty barbaric, and if this book was trying to make an argument for that, well, there’s a scene where a bunch of literally newborn seal pups are clubbed to death.

And what makes it really infuriating is that this is all excused as being part of Elin Jean’s journey of self-discovery – because if she had been helped along the way she never would have discovered her true purpose blah blah blah who cares if the baby selkies might have y’know lived if she’d been given a few extra pointers but whatever I mean Dumbledore did heaps of horrible manipulative shit and look how awesome he is OH WAIT NO HE’S NOT HE’S AN ASSHOLE –

*deep breaths*

It’s story-logic, not logic-logic; it’s the same logic that justified Dumbledore leaving Harry, Ron and Hermione to figure out the whole Philosopher’s Stone thing on their own, and if that bothers you then get out while you can. But if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief/outrage, then for what it is, Selkie Girl is really a pretty good read.

And best of all: it’s still nothing like what I want to do.

It does almost steal a couple of bits of scenery from my story, but I guess when it comes to rugged coastal regions in semi-Gothic story settings there’s only so much variety in the collective cultural unconscious. And the whole half-selkie half-human thing was something I was sure would be unique to my story, even though it’s not unique at all in selkie lore. But it was executed entirely differently to what I’ve got planned (insofar as I have anything planned), and explored options that I wasn’t at all interested in, allowing me to see the opportunities I could have taken without having to actually take them, and reassuring me that, no, I never really wanted to.

Such as the love interest. Like Seven Tears, this book neglects to put in a love-triangle, and unlike Seven Tears I actually would have liked a love-triangle in this one, because it would have made sense. But also unlike Seven Tears, I didn’t feel like the story was missing any opportunities by omitting that element, although the argument could certainly be made.

No, instead we have Tam, a gypsy boy who is another social outcast like Elin, and who has typical problematic romantic-lead issues like forcibly kissing our heroine and just being kind of a dick. I know he’s meant to be dysfunctional and shit, and it does work with that angle, but again, it happens so often that I really would like to see something else. Which is why there is no romantic angle in Tallulah, and oh god if I have to write one in to get it published I’m going to flip a table.

Or just self-publish. I guess I could do that.

So that’s another wiping of the brow and sighing of relief for me; I think there’s another selkie book – a series of them – that I could check out, but I’m pretty sure they’re also romance novels through and through, and because of that I am definitely safe. I do think I would recommend this book if you’re in a certain mood; if you are feeling a bit masochistic and really need to get your angsty-teenage-girl-saved-by-the-power-of-heteromantic-love on, look no further than Selkie Girl. And all kidding aside, this book does what it does well.

But again, the best part for me is that it does not do what I want to do very well, leaving me to do it instead. My search continues.


No turning back, except for that one time

“One time”. Yes.

Today and yesterday, I was perusing some older content of Tallulah and came across a piece of feedback. It pertained to a part of the story that gave me headaches and I ended up scrapping as a result; it didn’t work with the characters involved and ended up as a plot-hole.

However, things have changed, and reading that piece of feedback made me realise that, actually, if I wanted to, not only could I fit that story-element back in and not have it be a plothole – it could actually make the story better.

But only if I changed a whole bunch of other shit.

Having just gotten to a point where I was fairly happy to stop the story where it was, lock it in and just make do with what I had, this is a bit frustrating, in an existential sense. So I’ve been spending the past hour-ish trying to reconcile that “finalized” vision for my story with this new, rather radical reworking of it …

All things considered, it’s not going too bad.

The fact that I’m also trying to fit in time to do research for my two big research essays at the same time means that I have to be really careful about how I plan this thing out, because I always get caught up in my plans and hypotheticals and lose sight of the story in its current form. I wanted to make some changes anyway, and I think these are good changes that make the story stronger.

But it’s a lot of changes. A lot of new moving parts to get used to. It’s a time thing as well; I’ve said many times that I just want this whole thing to be over and done with, no matter how much purpose it gives me. And in fact if I stop to think about how much I rely on having this project to motivate me to keep going in general – well, now’s not a good time to think about that.

My point is that I want this story to be the best that it can be, and re-introducing this abandoned plot-element does seriously have the potential to give this story the last bit of kick it needs to start feeling really coherent, to tie everything together. But it’ll take time. And I don’t know how much more time I want to put aside for this thing. I want it to be right, but I also want it to be one of many stories I get to work on in my life with the kind of focus and commitment that they deserve, rather than an energy-consuming black hole.

So yeah. Not sure.

#TeamKey #3moreyears – What does it really mean for New Zealanders?

Definitely not my usual fare, but probably more important. For those of you who are not in NZ: here’s a glimpse into what this clean green tourist destination of a country of mine is really all about.



John Key’s resounding success and the failure of left wing parties to draw significant support came as a shock to many once the numbers were counted on election night.

The most embarrassing defeat of the Labour Party in over 90 years saw them muster just over 25% of votes. Equally poor was The Green Party’s result, managing 10% and the Internet-Mana Party, who came through with a measly 1.2% and saw Hone Harawira lose his coveted seat in parliament.

National’s landslide victory means that they have an outright majority, and are technically able to govern our country without the need for input from other parties. However, they may still choose to work with ACT, Maori and United Future.

One statistic probably stands out as the most shocking – roughly 700,000 enrolled voters did not end up casting their vote. 77.04% of those eligible took part in the election, this is slightly higher than 2011’s abysmal 74.2%…

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Started re-reading, as per my intentions. Every time I set out to read my own work, I try to approach it as it is on the page, rather than how it is in my head. It’s not easy. When it works, there’s often a lot of fluctuation and stop-starting as I try to remind myself what I’m trying to do and get myself back on-track.

This time while I was reading it, I realised something that begs questions of me. I realised that this story, as it is on the page, is not the story that I started missing when I started re-writing a week or two ago. It’s actually nothing like the story that I want to tell. I mean the key events seem to be the same, but the story is just … I almost don’t recognise it.

I’ve gotten so attached to the story in my head, incomplete as it is, and so invested in the idea, or perhaps delusion, that this same story is the one contained in the printed words of my manuscript, that I’ve never fully seen the inconsistency until now.

Which means that, technically, my rewriting was not me missing my story as it’s written. It was missing the story that I haven’t written.

Now, to be fair, what I was re-writing was not that story either, so I guess it does make sense that I freaked out. But thinking that the story I wrote was the same as the one I want to have written (a first draft of it anyway) got me confused. And thus, my conclusion is that a fairly thorough rewrite wouldn’t actually be the worst thing in the world – in fact, it may well be the best thing in the world. I just need to rewrite it properly.

I need to actually figure out what the hell the story in my head is, from start to finish, and then write that.

Seems simple enough.

It always seems simple enough.

We’ve all had the experience – recurring experience – of not being able to properly articulate in writing the story we have in our heads. And it’s because once you put something in writing, once you take thoughts and turn them into something external from yourself, they’re no longer yours in the same way that a thought is; they’re not longer part of you, but your environment, and we interact with our thoughts and our environment very differently.

I don’t know how this insight helps me, exactly, but knowing is half the battle or whatever. My conclusion at the moment is that I’ll keep reading and sketching out plans (I like the current plan I’ve got, but then again I like planning for its own sake), and then by the end of it hopefully have a script that I will stick to – moving from pantsing to planning, and just trusting that the plan will work. And by “work” I mean “provide me with an environmental object that I can interact with and, though said interaction, gain insight that will inform my future decisions in the revision process”.

I don’t mind this story not being what I have in my head, because the story in my head has changed and multiplied, like a Hydra going from infancy to adolescence and now attempting to find its footing in adulthood, balancing all of its many heads. The many heads of this story are all still in my head, and each time I try to cut one off it just sprouts another iteration of itself. The story in my head is not consistent, is what I’m saying; it’s ideal, yes, but it’s not an ideal: it’s a constellation of idealised options, and that is what I need to get my head around.

That is why you have to actually write.

Because unless you do, it’ll all just be options. No wonder I can’t pin down the core essence of this story; “this story” doesn’t fucking exist. It’s starting to, though; I’m getting a good feeling about the direction I want to go in now, and while I know I can and will have other ideas, I think that natural or not, this has to be the stopping-point. After this next revision, unless I just fall off the wagon completely or there’s a major plot-hole or whatever, that’s it. The rest of the writing process will be editing, not rewriting. This next revision is going to be The Story, for better or for worse, because dear fucking hellhorses I need to finish this thing. I can’t just tell this story forever. I don’t want to, and it doesn’t want me to either.

The first time I wrote a zero draft of a novel, it was totally planned out from start to finish, and I stuck to it.

Time to prove I can do it again.