All right

Nanowrimo: didn’t happen.

Reading library books: didn’t happen.

Getting serious about exercise: did happen, but due to some serious stupidity on my part has stopped again so that my back doesn’t split in half.

Using my free time to draw/practice guitar/make that YouTube series: not happening yet. There is still time.

Finishing Vampire Academy: getting there. Currently on the sixth and final book.

Getting my shit together: getting there. Went to see a counselor for the first time in three or four years (one I’ve seen before) and had some serious perspective-shifting just from one session. It’s one thing to tell yourself something over and over again in the half-hearted but desperate hope that, eventually, you’ll start to believe it. It’s quite another for a mental health professional to say it to you without being prompted. Looking good.

Writing: like I said, Nano didn’t happen – but arrangements have been made with my best friend to do the whole writing-buddy thing AND due to her mishearing something I said to her and inadvertently giving us an awesome story title we are now co-writing a book/podcast/webseries/something. So that’s also looking good. I may not finish my Nano project by the end of this month, but I will definitely finish it, and having that commitment set in stone now feels good.

Improving study habits: it did happen. Not to the extent I would have liked, but it did happen. And I also got back stunning, stupendously good grades that I am still unable to quite fully believe are actually mine. And yet they are. I guess I’m pretty good at the whole academia thing when I want to be (and when I’m focusing on two interesting papers instead of a mixed bag of four). Honours study first semester went off with quite the bang.

And a lot of playing World of Warcraft also happened, as did two sleepless nights followed by getting to sleep the following noon. Which is not fantastic, but at least it got my ass into gear for trying to rectify it.

It’s interesting to be playing WOW again after swearing I’d never go back to it. I have a much less addictive personality now, and that’s a relief. Even so, I’m wary. I’m glad I only have another three-ish months of freedom to play it at all, and I’m predicting that I’ll be fairly bored of it by then. But for now it’s fun, and that’s the main thing. Also inspiring; it’s been a while since a videogame has been a creative aid rather than a creative detraction, but it’s gotten me quite invested in some of my old high fantasy ideas and I’m enjoying exploring them again. So it’s not all bad at all. As long as I’m sleeping and doing other things besides just mindlessly gaming, which is the next step in the end-of-year karmic cleanup plan.

The biggest part of that: waking up in the mornings. There’s a huge difference between stretching out your day into the early a.m. hours because you feel like you haven’t gotten enough done, and going to bed in anticipation of all the awesome shit you’ll get to do tomorrow with an early morning start to get the ball rolling.

I used to work better in the evenings (by “work” I mean “write” obviously); I genuinely used to get inspired and motivated during the magical theater hours that come after midnight. But I think that may have been because I was a teenager and my hormones were doing weird things to my internal feedback systems. Or something. The point is that now I actually work better in the daylight, and the more of it that I have to play with, the more motivated I am to actually use it. Also I hear waking up in the morning is actually healthy for you. I’ll have to investigate that claim at some point, but for now it’s just something I heard somewhere that I can use as further motivation to get me to do the thing.

And I’m just feeling pretty good, despite the sore back and frustrating lack of being able to get to sleep (I was so close last night and then it just kept not happening until about 8 a.m.). I take this to mean that whatever it is that I’m doing, it’s the right thing to do. Some areas can stand a bit of improvement, but in the end it’ll just allow me to do the same stuff better. So that’s good.

I haven’t thought about Tallulah for a little while now, and when I have thought about it it’s in a very casual, non-serious way. What strikes me is that these are the same thoughts I was having when I was super serious about it, which says to me that taking this break from writing it is definitely a good move. Something’s gotta give, needs to be dislodged or to click into place, and I think that can only happen if I leave it alone for a good long while. I do know that I definitely want to write it and get it published if I can, but I also know now that it might be a long way off. I might get something else published first. I’m not going to hold off on working on something else just out of principle; if something else really works for me I’m going to pursue it. We’ll see.

This year has been hectic as fuck for me, and yet right now at the end of it all it’s starting to feel like a really damn good one. It’s been resolving on a high note, and I’ve never had a year quite like this before, so full of chaos and uncertainty to start with, getting murky and difficult in the middle (moving house right when four final research essays are due will do that), and then ending with a bunch of failed experiments, unexpected affirmations and enticing new beginnings. It was quite the plot twist, and at the same time really reinforces how life does not follow a narrative structure. Sometimes things just get better on their own – or it’s because of the efforts you’ve put in, and you just don’t realise it until the very end, or even after the fact. Or because something totally out of the blue comes along to shake things up for the better. Or whatever. It’s probably all easy enough to explain if you know what to look for, but it doesn’t feel that way. There’s no sense of a three-act-structure coming to a satisfying resolution. But there is closure, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from. What matters is that it comes. And while it’s frustrating to hear “things get better” when things are currently shitty … sometimes they do get better. Not always. But sometimes. And then generalities go from annoying to empowering, from wondering how could this happen to me and how I’m not okay, to reflecting on the fact that life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face …

It’s all right. And I’m liking it.

I do now have the slight problem of differentiating my various fantasy worlds from each other, but what’s life without some ongoing self-imposed dilemmas …

Nanowrimo adventures: just another earth-shattering revelation of self-discovery

SO YOU GUYS

YOU GUYS

I JUST FIGURED OUT

THAT IF I WRITE 10K WORDS EVERY DAY FROM NOW UNTIL THE END OF NOVEMBER

I’LL HAVE A 104K-WORD ZERO DRAFT TO WORK WITH

I CAN HAVE A HUGE BOOK WRITTEN IN ONLY 10 DAYS

ISN’T THAT GOOD TO KNOW

LIKE REALLY HELPFUL THAT I NOW HAVE THIS NUMBER TO WORK WITH

NO THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HAVING WRITTEN NOTHING FOR THE PAST 4 DAYS

AND FEELING LIKE I’M FAILING AT MY SELF-ASSIGNED LIFE’S PURPOSE

10K A DAY LET’S DO THIS SHIT

~~~

It came to me the other day, thinking about why I’m writing what I’m writing, and why I’m writing it. I tend to have 2 strategies for writing stories:

  1. Have a particular part of a story that I want to tell and then plan to build a whole story around it relying on inspiration-induced momentum to get me through the rough parts
  2. Have a neat premise that I want to explore and then plan to build a whole story around it relying on inspiration-induced momentum to get me through the rough parts

And what I’ve realised is that I hardly ever write stories when I’m ready to write a story.

This isn’t just about planning or some magical feeling of “yeah I’m ready”; it’s about commitment. I think of my current projects now, all the stuff that I’m imagining is going to happen in them (and dialogue in particular) and it just feels so … noncommittal. With the exception of Tallulah, but I did spend almost 3 years writing it. Sometimes commitment comes afterwards.

So in terms of my current problem with Nanowrimo: I don’t feel committed. I have no galvanic impetus spurring me on toward its completion. And I can’t reasonably expect to be committed until I’ve spent a fair bit of time with this story, so in one sense that takes a lot of pressure off – but it also means that I might not be done with it by the end of November (spoiler: there ain’t no fucking way I’ll be done with it by the end of November). And this was supposed to be a kind of hit-it-and-quit-it affair where I’d just pump out an entire zero draft and then move on to the next thing, like a cool guy walking away from a giant explosion he caused without looking back at it, because he’s so cool.

I wanted to be a cool guy. But it seems that’s just not in the cards for me.

I guess I had misconceptions about how things would go: I had such a good premise that I assumed the rest of it would just fall into place. I thought I would fly through it by the seat of my pants, sustained by nothing more than momentum and self-indulgence. And I mean I even made a plan. I still have that plan; it still works as a plan. But once I start actually writing I slip so easily into the jealous clutches of debilitating perfectionism – now that it’s Really Happening everything has to be done Properly. For some reason. For some reason Properly isn’t, in this case, According To The Plan I Made Yes I Actually Made A Plan This Time.

I can’t get this draft finished by the end of November, I don’t think. It wouldn’t be a full enough story.

But then again, maybe that’s the problem: I’m trying to drag it out for better pacing, or what my brain tells me is better pacing, when in fact that goes against the plan that I made. The plan was not about pacing; it was about key moments. I guess I’ve been assuming the whole time that I’d fill in the blanks as I went along.

But why bother? Why not just get to the good stuff?

And actually, if I decide to write a short zero draft – I know it’s generally acknowledged that it’s better to have too much than too little, but bear with me here – might that improve upon my plan?

Like, a lot?

I think it might.

And if so, if I just get to the good stuff and stick with it while pacing takes a log flume to hell …

might actually finish this thing by the end of the month.

Huh.

It’s too good not to try.

Nanowrimo adventures: nananananananana nananananananana WORD COUNT

I FINISHED MY FREAKING CHAPTER AND WROTE A TOTAL OF 2496 WORDS TODAY HOLY CRAP

That feels good. It was a pretty typical writing session for me, realising that I’d set up a bunch of stuff that was more complicated than it needed to be as well as not setting up a bunch of stuff that really needed to have been set up and thus having to improvise on the fly; but it worked pretty well, certainly for a zero draft. And I crossed the 2k-word line.

And it was fun.

Yesterday I wrote like maybe four lines total, spending the rest of the day wondering how I could find a way to work Greek mythology into a story that hasn’t already been done a million times, and felt no guilt whatsoever.

No, seriously, no guilt. It was pretty awesome.

And obviously that was totally justified, because today was productivity incarnate. I’m pretty damn happy with how things are going thus far.

I think it’s a lesson in the importance of being kind to yourself as a self-proclaimed writer. If you don’t feel like writing, then don’t write. And when you do feel like writing, go hard. I know this goes against all conventional writing advice which is all about making yourself do the work even when you don’t want to instead of relying on inspiration to strike, and I’m certainly all for establishing writing habits. But I’m saying that taking breaks and letting yourself take them without guilt-tripping yourself about it is part of that habit-building practice. Because today I wanted to write; I’d been writing in drips and drabs up to this point and then, today, I just wanted to keep going. I wanted to do more. Kind of like the little workouts I’ve been doing in my room; yesterday my entire body said “hey, more of that”, and so I did more of that, and it was almost easy, even after making it slightly harder and adding to my repetitions and whatnot. So basically the lesson is that if you make yourself do something for long enough – and you don’t even have to make yourself do a lot of it – eventually you will find that you want to do it. And it’s been, what five days for me to get to this point? That’s not bad at all. I did force myself to do the work, just not a whole ton of it; just enough to keep things moving. And if days like this are going to be the reward at letting myself start off at a snail’s pace, then I’ll keep on slugging.

Except for when I don’t want to, and I think I’ve broken that barrier. I want to write more. I also want to plan just a little, because I always look forward to writing story that I enjoy, I’ve realised. It’s why I love writing final chapters so much, or just the general third act of any story; the story is all laid out before me and it’s what I want to make happen. I figure I can apply the same strategy to an entire book, where the whole story is something I’m looking forward to making happen.

In any event, I did good work today and I’m happy with myself for it; and it all came from making myself do the work even when I didn’t want to – while not making myself drag it out when the motivation wasn’t there, either. These are the kinds of writing habits I want to have.

So yeah. It’s going pretty well.

Nanowrimo adventures: and then all the cool shit happened

Like, seriously, these are magic words. Write them or some variant thereof in all caps whenever you get stuck and, lo and behold, you are unstuck, because literally nothing you write afterwards can compare to the sheer level of tone-dissonance of randomly dropping that into your book out of the blue.

I mean I don’t have the energy or focus to follow it up now, but having put it there I can’t go wrong when I get started again tomorrow. Later this morning. Whatever.

I have also discovered that, actually, I don’t like Slipknot. I like a couple of their songs and find Corey Taylor endearing, specifically the cover of “Dead Or Alive” he does, which I think is the best version of the song that exists.

This is important information.

I think once I get going with this “and then all the cool shit happened” thing this project will actually get off the ground. I’m rather excited about this prospect. I think once the story actually begins it’ll kind of write itself. I’m also not sure why I have a first chapter that is not, apparently, part of the story. But these are not the kinds of things one worries about during a zero draft. One worries about getting anything at all actually, physically written during a zero draft, and whether it’s any good or not can yes how many times have I said this now just FUCKING WRITE.

It’s going well. I was stuck, and now I am not. It’s going well.

 

Nanowrimo adventures: I wanna write the other thing

I mean, I don’t see this as a big deal or a problem or anything. It is what it is. I hate writing first chapters about as much as I love writing final chapters, and my current designated Nano project is no different. This first chapters is turning out to be a very High Fantasy first chapter, replete with world-building info-dumps and taking a really long fucking time to get to the goddamn point. This is because I decided that I had to introduce Other Characters before I could truly get the ball rolling, and then because I’m doing the smart thing and using real-life experiences to inform some of these characters’ relationships I ended up wanting to avoid even introducing certain characters at all just to put off certain things ever happening to begin with, so now there’s nothing actually happening in this chapter other than more hollow showing-off of world-building. And I know and firmly believe that a first draft is allowed to be utter shit, but that doesn’t help if I don’t even want to write it to begin with, and such is the case with this project right now.

Also my other project … just kinda feels like it fits this premise a bit better. The setting and everything. Also there are characters there that I actually want to write about.

The character I’m putting off introducing, by the way, is based on Wickham. And that’ll be obvious to anybody who knows me and my history who ends up reading this thing; it’s not supposed to be a secret or anything. It’s meant to be me doing whatever the fuck I want because it’s my story and my life and it belongs to me, goddammit. The only issue is that all of those experiences of mine really fucking sucked, and it’s uncomfortable and mildly anxiety-inducing to even consider writing them to begin with.

Having said that, I just thought of a fantastic way to introduce this character and I might go and do that now, just so that it’s done. But part of that is because it’s something I’ve already written – this character has been in existence ever since we started preparing to move to the house we currently live in, and I managed to write some uncomfortable stuff with them during our pre-move prep. I probably wrote about it here at some point. Trying to think of new things for this character to say or do is the hard part.

Which might mean that I haven’t quite claimed this character as my own creation. I mean any good villain – yeah spoilers he’s a villain – should be a character you look forward to writing because they’re a good villain, right? Or maybe I’m just scrabbling for an answer as to why I’m uncomfortable writing this character when I don’t really need one. It makes sense that I feel uncomfortable. Even now having vented about it for 477 words and subsequently come up with a few great ideas about how to improve this chapter and get things back on-track, I’m still uncomfortable.

And more to the point: I want to write the other thing.

This other thing is my “shitty YA thing” I was originally going to work on for Nanowrimo. And I mean fuck it, maybe I’ll write both. The whole point of Nano for me was getting away from Tallulah, so why not? If focusing on writing one different book is helpful, shouldn’t working on two different books be doubly helpful?

Although the other point of doing Nano was to prove to myself that I could sit my ass down and get shit done, and that consequently I’d come through with a completed zero draft, take the lessons learnt through writing it back with me when I go back to Tallulah and try to solve the storytelling problems I’m having with it. If I’m trying to write two books at once, either it’s going to be a long wait to get back to Tallulah because I’l have to finish at least one of them first, or neither of them are going to be finished and I won’t have the perspective I was hoping to gain before returning to it.

It also happens that I stopped writing the “shitty YA thing” because I got stuck with that as well, and that point is where it’s been left at. But I do want to write it. Or parts of it anyway.

Or maybe I just want to read the rest of Sweep. I probably just want to read the rest of Sweep. It gives me hope for humankind.

In either case, I’m kinda stuck with what I’m writing, and I suppose that means that today will be one of those days where I have to force myself to do the writing or it won’t get done. And that’s not so bad. I have recently discovered, much to my surprise, that I like Slipknot (or at least Corey Taylor), so I might also make a playlist to facilitate this forced writing.

And now, an hour and a half later, I’ll see if I can’t go do that.

Nanowrimo Adventures: a change of perspective

I have been reading Blood Promise over the past two days (book 4 in the Vampire Academy series and yes one day I will actually write that goddamn review that I started writing in October LAST YEAR), and enjoying it, aside from the really prevalent “last time on” sections that have thus far littered the book. I’ve only read up to halfway through chapter 9 and we’ve had at least five of these, and they aren’t the Harry Potter-style asides; this is verging on being a flashback episode, except that the actual stuff that is going on is interesting. It’s also annoying because the book already comes with a prologue which is nothing but “last time on”, so … yeah. Annoying.

The rest of it is good, though. I’m never going to be comfortable with Rose/Dimitri, and I really don’t care for Rose/Adrian as an alternative, but whatevs. Big plot-twisty things are happening, and the last couple of chapters have been really gratifying on the level of being an audience member and wishing that the characters would do X because it would be the smart thing to do – and they they fucking do it. Like – wow. So satisfying. More please.

And I assume that it was due to reading this book and (mostly) very much enjoying it that, upon sitting down to continue adding words to my Nanowrimo project, I mysteriously ended up writing in first-person.

I made a conscious decision to not write in first-person when I started this project. The reason for that was twofold: being a man writing female characters, I figured a third-person perspective would “disguise” my inevitable fuckups; and it’s much more High Fantasy than first-person. Also I just felt like writing in third-person, but I’m not counting that.

It actually worked to get things moving again, though now that I’ve done it and changed the font colour to indicate where first person changes to third person and vice versa, I’m kinda tempted to keep switching at my leisure throughout the draft. And … I’m not sure if this is a good idea.

I mean in terms of thinking in the now it’s a great idea, because it’s what I want to do, and this is a zero draft. This is where I get to do anything I want and not worry about the consequences.

In terms of thinking about the consequences, this seems like a horrible idea, an editorial nightmare. I’d have to go back through and change it all to either first or third-person perspective once I’ve decided on one, and while using different-coloured font to distinguish each type of perspective certainly makes that job easier, it doesn’t make it any less infuriating. It’s the kind of thing I would go back in time and slap myself for doing if I had a time-machine at my disposal, assuming I do it. So what I’m thinking is that I’ll play around with it in this first chapter, and then make a decision about which perspective to use for the rest of the book. And if I change my mind after that – tough.

Writing is so hard, you guys. So hard.

But it’s getting done, and that’s the main thing. It’s actually getting done. And I’m currently downloading Guild Wars 2, so that’s also getting done.

Nanowrimo continues: words miraculously appear in Word document

After going back and trying to inject a little bit more High Fantasy writing convention into my High Fantasy Nanowrimo project, I came away roughly doubling my word count from yesterday; I’m now at 1222 words, and will be writing more this evening – wanna see if I can’t pump it up to a nice even 2k. Writing in 2k-word segments just kinda feels good. That’s an average undergrad final essay.

I also ended up doing some drawing, that thing I keep telling myself I need to get good at in order to feel better about myself, and it was nice. Having visual aides is one of the great things about High Fantasy, where not only do you get the ubiquitous inside-cover map, but sometimes even illustrations by John Howe or Alan Lee. Whoever decided that pictures in books should only be for kids is a miserable asshole.

I would totally illustrate this book (and all my books) if I could do so to a standard that I was personally happy with, and not just because having a book for adults with honest-to-Frigga pictures in it would be a fantastic gimmick. Pictures just add that little bit of attention, I feel – while I love full-page spreads as much as the next person, one of my favourite type of illustrations is the lineart that happens in the margins, or that interrupts the text, forcing it into interesting shapes to accomodate the space that the illustration takes up, blending the two together in what is at once a glaringly obvious and completely seamless manner. I like illustrations that interact with the written text of the book, and basically do what comics do in treating that written text as a pictoral element, not just looking at grammar and syntax but also font size, font shape, and placement on the page. The dedication that opens The Deathly Hallows is a very ostentatious (though I think appropriate) use of this, where instead of Align Left or Justify it’s a lightning-bolt zig-zag down the page. I mean if it wasn’t the final book in the franchise I might have been a bit disapproving of how gimmicky it was, but it was the last book in the franchise, and for that reason I think it was completely appropriate.

I wonder how you’d factor illustrations into a word-count …

Going back and making the chapter a bit more High Fantasy conventional turned out to be … well, it was fairly easy, but that’s partly because I went back and realised that I didn’t actually have the wrong idea; it just could have been implemented better. I did take the time to explain the setting a bit, even tying it in with character-relevant information, but without getting all Prologue-y about it. It’s a very brisk kind of introduction to the world, and part of that is because, rather than explaining why things are they way they are, I’m just saying “here this is a thing please enjoy”; but I’m hoping that the words I’m using and the way I’m using them will entice readers to apply their imaginations to the setting and fill in the blanks that way, rather than having to pull a Tolkien to get my ideas across. As to whether I’ve been successful – only time and beta-readers will tell.

But I’m glad I wrote about my problems with the project and then went back and rewrote a little – I’d hardly written anything as it was, and it does feel a lot more solid for the edit. And I’m almost up to 2k words already.

… and stopping at just over 1900, simply because it’s a natural stopping-point. Cool. So that’s 1300+ words written today; that’s double what I wrote yesterday! We have the beginnings of a positive trend, folks.

I suppose I wish I’d started Nanowrimo ten days ago when I said I was going to, but now that the ball’s rolling it doesn’t really matter. It’s getting done, and at least when it comes to art, that’s all that ever really matters.