When a plan comes together, take 2

I have a plan.

It’s only detailed in any great … detail … up to chapter 5, but I have a broad idea and some key moments that I want to happen beyond that; I’ve made the story longer and may have given it 4 acts instead of 3, and I’m looking forward to it.

I am really looking forward to it.

This feels like the story I wanted to tell, even though I know it isn’t. We’ll see where that gets me. I may well come up with another plan tomorrow, or whenever the next time is that I have time to work on my novel; I never did go back to basics and see what I could do with the original story idea that I came up with, and I fear that it may come back to bite me and spread the poison of regret through my veins – until that time, though, I’m pretty stoked with what I’ve got.

It’s been a lot of shifting things around in small but specific increments: a scene from chapter X getting put in chapter Y, the modified chapter Y swapping places with chapter H, that sort of thing. And, again, all of this so far only adds up to 5 planned chapters, and then a broad, skeletal overview to follow. But I think it’s enough to work with. I’ve increased the role of certain key points that just didn’t feel key, diminished the roles of others that were a bit too key, and hopefully this will all result in the key point – the main character and her story – being the most vital and potent element, the thing that holds everything together and that the story lives or dies by, and strong and compelling enough to not just live but thrive. I am excited to find out.

I have an odd dilemma in terms of worldbuilding though: I feel like I need to put some more dudes in the story. I don’t really want to because I’ve had enough stories with dudes in them to last me several lifetimes, but it does feel a bit conspicuous how few of the characters and extras in this story aren’t girls or women. Also it’s set at a co-ed high school, so one would expect there’d be a few male specimens here and there. I’m definitely not talking main characters because fuck knows I have probably too many of those already, but I may just want to point out that, y’know, they do exist. Just in the background, where most people at high school are. Or so I imagine, having never actually been to high school. I guess I’ll just have to trust that my university experience is analogous enough to make it seem authentic.

Or, y’know, research. But what self-respecting author has time for that shit, amirite?

Anyway I’m EXCITED THIS IS GOING TO BE SO FUN AND COOL AND DEAR GOD I WILL NEVER HAVE TIME TO DO ANY OF IT BUT I’M GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I’m going to force myself to do it, so look forward to more regular, book-writing-related posts in the near future. Which I’m also looking forward to. It’s been so long that I’ve kinda forgotten that I do actually enjoy letting you guys know how my writing is going; it just hasn’t been going for the past year or so. It’s time to change that. It’s time to get back into gear.

Writer-mode activate!

 

 

Advertisements

Origirony

Because I’m going to write about originality while feeling like I have absolutely nothing original to say about it. I think that’s how irony works. Alanis Morissette really messed me up.

Here is today’s conversation-piece. Some key points:

  • The future will be horrible
  • The future will be horrible specifically because oppression will finally affect white people
  • The future will be horrible in all the ways it is horrible now plus many of the ways it was horrible in the past PLUS all the new ways we find to make things horrible in the future
  • The future looks strangely similar to the last time we saw it

I think Star Wars made a good decision by setting itself a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away: it gets all the benefits of fantasy nostalgia by being set in the past (and using the Hero’s Journey, which is drawn from ancient myths, legends and folktales), and is able to be speculative without being put into the realm of prophecy – at least if we take that framing device seriously. I don’t expect many people do so it may be a moot point, but that is merely an opinion.

In any case, I agree with the notion that our recent boom in films about dystopian futures is getting kinda old. I mean it’s not bad enough that they’re adapting novels that have already gone out of style in the literary world, they have to reboot fucking Mad Max as well? Not to mention the almost comically dystopian imagery, soundtrack and dialogue in the Age of Ultron trailers. I am very concerned that this film is going to be dark for the sake of being dark rather than because it’s a good storytelling decision – I trust Whedon, but only to a point. He’s got his blind spots (tormented waif fetish anyone?) that irritate me, and while I assume he’s able to subvert dystopian cliches as much as any other kind of cliche, he does like his dark angsty melodrama, and for whatever reason I don’t like when he indulges in it. Time will tell I guess.

Why is dystopia so popular right now? I think social media has something to do with it; obviously 9/11 effects the Hollywood side of things, as well as the fact that adapting films from books is easier than coming up with original scripts, and then the 2008 economic crash may well fill in the rest. We live in a world where atrocities are no longer as well-hidden as they were even a decade ago, and aside from what that does to us politically, it also gives our storytellers a lot of material to work with, ghoulish as that sounds. A lot of being a storyteller is quite ghoulish, honestly. It’s why I try and take my ethics seriously when picking and choosing what to write about.

For example: I am particularly sick of the trope of the post-apocalyptic landscape being populated with marauding bands of murderer rapist cannibals; thankfully, since much of our dystopian film fare comes from YA novels, this particular cliche is kind of off the table of late. Yet at the same time it is a concept that bears consideration; if society did break down, if our social norms were scattered to the wind because social structure was effectively annihilated, one would imagine that rape would be a fairly serious threat, right? Well that’s the thing; rape is already a serious threat. We don’t need a dystopian narrative to tell us that, and in fact the way that so many well-known post-apocalyptic dystopias use rape as drama says to me that the threat of rape that we face in our own society is even worse than what’s portrayed in these stories, because in those stories at least it’s out in the open and everyone is aware of it. Even something as “realistic” as The Road falls into this trap; the bad guys are obvious anonymous strangers, and they are so outrageously deviant that they may as well be animals. Dystopia is hardly the only genre responsible for this, but it certainly has a unique way of framing it: as an epidemic that is as sensationalised as it is predictable – it’s prolific, but you can see it coming from a mile away, and everybody is aware of it. There is a consensus on what it means, and the only ones who disagree are so obviously evil that it basically doesn’t matter. It’s neatly packaged and easy to understand, and everybody agrees on that one understanding.

Right now, in the real world, we still have rape apologists and rape culture to contend with, never mind the actual rapists, who are not organised into roving bands of nameless sociopaths but, by and large, are our friends, family members and other people who know their chosen victims, who largely operate alone and slip under the radar, shielded by our consensus that certain toxic and dangerous sexual behaviours and attitudes are “just how things are” and “not a big deal”, swept under the rug and regarded as something of a social blasphemy to even think about discussing – it’s changing, of course, but that vein of our culture is still very much alive and well. Dystopia’s horrors are hardly resticted to rape, but I do think that in the same way as the use of rape as a narrative “flavour”, as a bit of “atmosphere” to make things seem really Dark and Edgy, so many of the horrors that our current dystopian narratives offer are horrors that we already face, only much more simplified and therefore nowhere near as terrifying as what we’re currently dealing with. In fact in a lot of ways, dystopia is quite utopian compared to what we’ve got right now, because dystopia is not often about deceit. Not clever deceit anyway. We know the bad guys, we know what they’re doing, and we can solve the problem through violence fueled by the power of love, individuality and being one half of a white, able-bodied, cisgender breeding pair.

This is just one reason why I feel dystopia, kind of like high fantasy, is letting us down as audiences by letting itself down in not really pushing the idea beyond an established parameter of tropes and conventions. But it’s also not the most pressing one to me; I don’t really want to pick on the obvious targets of race, gender, sexuality, age and ability to discuss “originality” or a lack thereof. I want to pick on the notion shared by all of these narratives that the future – and specifically the post-apocalyptic future – must necessarily be a horrible one. I mean seriously, what better way to unite all of mankind than to throw them in the blender together? If people were looting and raping and murdering all the time then nobody would trust one another, and that would not lead to a stable society – and we would be working towards a stable society, because history has shown that that’s what human beings do. Why would an apocalypse change that, unless it also changed our neurology in a fundamental way? Why wouldn’t we all band together and be nice to each other, for the best chance of survival?

Not all of us, because no society has ever been like that, but some of us, surely. It’s just never really explored; the closest analogue to that I’ve seen is something like THG’s District 12 where even the Peacekeepers have fallen in with the local community and everybody, while far from being the totally-subtle Amish analogue of Amity in the Divergent series, does get along and look out for one another, as much as they can. And even then it’s just not explored at all; it’s there, it’s a thing, and it is a thing precisely so that it can then be replaced by a worse thing and build tension.

So in light of this new, mind-blowing, totally commonsense and objective evidence, why are dystopias all dark and gritty and hopeless? Well, let’s look at some basic storytelling shit. Any good story needs conflict; that’s what They All Say, and if They All say it it must be true. Never mind that certain cultures tell stories almost entirely without conflict, such as Japanese narratives (from what I’ve briefly learnt at uni at any rate; anybody from Japan feel free to correct me), and that writing advice is often constructed with a mind to sell a story rather than tell a story, whether the advice-givers are aware of that or not. So if we need conflict, what better source of conflict than the end of the fucking world and having everybody, even the white people, living under an oppressive regime?

(Quick aside: yes, white people do live in oppressive situations; but not because they’re white. Not in the West at any rate. It’ll be because they’re poor, or uneducated, or queer, or disabled, or whatever. NOT because they’re white. Maybe you can argue that within a micro-community, like a predominantly black ghetto in America, the small white population might be marginalised because of racial tensions in wider society, where non-white people are treated like shit for being non-white. A wider society that includes and defines the racial politics of this hypothetical micro-community. Just so we’re clear on that.)

Why is nobody disabled in dystopia, unless they’re also evil or destined to die? Why do all our heroes in dystopia look pretty much the same as our heroes in every other genre, despite the massive variance in settings and worldbuilding between them? (That question obviously applies to said other genres, too.) Why does the entire world devolve into this dog-eat-dog mentality in the wake of an apocalypse, and why do they never get past it? I mean there’s the fact that, again, that’s how life is right now and there seems no great reason for why that should change – but at the same time, even in our current dog-eat-dog world there is still room for friendship, for love, for camaraderie and empathy. I would actually think that in the desperate scenario of an apocalypse, those qualities would be just as galvanised as the negative ones, if not even more so, because everybody is suffering together. The people who tried to manipulate others for material gain would be shunned once they were discovered, because that kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated in a life-or-death situation where you’re depending on others for your own safety. That just makes sense to me.

So okay, there’s one way to put an original twist on dystopia: take the one thing that makes dystopia feel dystopian and then just invert it. You can still have people living in a shithole without having it so that everybody suffers from Post-Apocalyptic Asshole Syndrome; there can still be horror and uncertainty without it having to make everybody and everything so bleak and heavy. There’s this cliche about how you only ever really know a person/yourself when everything goes to shit, but so often the answer to that is “they’ll eat each other”, and it’s just so narrow – and disingenuous, both in terms of not relating to reality but also in terms of dropping the ball completely in terms of storytelling and using your imagination. There’s nothing wrong about grimdark futures where everything sucks, but it’s like anything else: take it in moderation.

Another thing that could happen is that they could not only explain how the world got into its sorry totalitarian state, but make that the entire story. There’s a fair bit of evidence that fear causes people to vote conservative, for instance, so in that light it makes sense that people may well consent to the formation of a totalitarian state, or at least not outright rebel against it and just passively let it happen. That’s something to explore, because there’s also the opportunity to see what possible alternative world-rebuilding plans people tried to make work before the totalitarian regime ultimately won out, how that divided people, etc. A dystopian post-apocalyptic story where the premise is not overthrowing the Galactic Empire but simply different people with different approaches to trying to rebuild the world – or, of course, build a new one – seems like a much better use of the genre to me. For that reason I really need to make time to read Parable of the Sower, because that seems like what it’s about. My point is that only ever coming in after things have been already set up takes a lot of potential idea-exploration out of the story, and it would be nice to see it get more focus.

I’d really like to see what a post-apocalyptic dystopian world might be like from the point of view of somebody who was already visibly marginalised and vulnerable in the pre-apocalyptic world. Somebody living with disability or mental illness, for example; somebody who isn’t white, straight, cisgender etc.; somebody who may already live in what is effectively a dystopian world before the rest of humanity joins them. Again, Parable of the Sower seems like it ticks all the boxes in some way or another.

And I would really like to see a dystopian future story that isn’t so monolithic; how did different regions and cultures adapt to the change? Surely it wouldn’t all have been exactly the same across the world. I mean what is the world like beyond Panem, for instance? What do other governments look like? That was the one cool thing about World War Z (the film, as I haven’t read the book that I hear is a collection of short stories rather than a single unified narrative) that no other zombie film I can think of ever bothered with: it showed us how the world was reacting to the fallout. Not in any real depth, but at least it was incorporated into the story.

And yes, these are all ideas I’ve got kicking around for my own, eventual, One Day When I Have Time post-apocalyptic dystopian story. If only I could be this original when it comes to superheroes …

I saw Insurgent the other night, and while it was perfectly watchable and quite entertaining, it just didn’t seem particularly important. I like the way that the dystopian and totalitarian setting serves as a metaphor for how teenagers are viewed by society (certainly if you are a teenager yourself, though who knows perhaps that’s changed since my own teen years, but I doubt it) and think it really does work, but in terms of the setting in a more literal sense … it’s pretty basic. And it doesn’t have to be. I think that’s the main thing; these stories don’t have to be so samey, perhaps even less so than high fantasy, because high fantasy has been entrenched in our popular culture for a lot longer and therefore has a harder time unshackling itself from the stereotypes it helped to create.

I hope it changes. Because if even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is heading towards grimdark dystopia, we’re gonna need some kind of variety.

Or I guess we could just stop watching movies.

Just keep your grimdark dystopia the hell away from my Star Wars, Disney …

A planner am I (apparently)

I don’t know that I like the idea of categorising onesself as either a “planner” or a “pantser”, not only because it is a false dichotomy but also because even between those two dichotomous zones there is so much room for variation. Nevertheless, as conceptual goalposts they can be quite useful. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time today working on a plan for Revision 2 of Tallulah, and not only did it finally dawn on me today that this means I have officially planned out something I was going to write before I’d written it, but that I’d done it before – with this book, no less.

What I didn’t do, and why it didn’t really occur to me like it did today before now, was plan it out before I started the writing process. I just ranted my thoughts into Word documents as they came to me, tried a few chapters, scrapped them, tried some more until I found one that I liked and just sort of continued like that. Any planning that was done was 1: generally very speculative, more a case of me wrestling with some obstacle that had arisen as a byproduct of whatever I was writing at the time, and 2: after I had already started writing. The writing process itself, and how it started, was stream-of-consciousness to a large degree; part of that stream-of-consciousness was self-consciousness and that led to rewrites and all sorts of derailments, but my point is that however organised I have become, I was not organised to start with. I was in full pantsing-mode to start things off with, and to me, for fairly shallow reasons, that means that this entire project is a pantsed project.

But then aren’t notes, scattered and lacking in bullet-points and their own organisational narrative progression as they might be, still a form of planning? And didn’t I start with notes? And not as in the response-based, solution-oriented kind of notes; I mean noting-downs of my thoughts and feelings about the story, as it was taking shape, long before I ever actually sat down to begin writing the first chapter? Well … yes. I’ve actually been planning Tallulah for about five years, only writing it properly for three, if that counts as planning – and I suppose it really does. It’s preparation; it’s organising your thoughts around how the story will pan out before it has been written, before writing on the book proper has even begun. That’s planning, no matter how informally-written those plans are. I think “planning” and I think of spreadsheets and spider-charts and bullet-points and all of those other semiotic indicators, the tropes of the concept our culture agrees upon constituting “planning”. But even though my wonderings and what-ifs do not resemble those very much if at all, they are still most definitely examples of planning: they are suggestions for potential plot-structure, characters and their biographies/roles in the story, themes, setting, world-building – yeah. I’ve actually always been a planner.

But, on the other hand, the “tropes” still matter: they aren’t just interchangeable symbols with no inherent meaning. If you use spider-charts instead of bullet-points, you planning is going to look, feel and work in a very specific way. All planning is also planned itself; a plan, as in a spider-chart or flow-chart or what-have-you, is a product, and in order to create a product one must have plan upon which the creation of that product can be founded. I say I was a planner, but then again my planning itself was very stream-of-consciousness, and it was only once I had the whole first draft written and finished that I started getting more organised, started “properly” planning.

My point is that … I dunno. Maybe I don’t have one. But I think it’s interesting to think about different strategies to writing, and seeing how much overlap and interplay between them there can be, how one writer can go from using one strategy to another, pick certain aspects of different plans and mush them together to create new ones as the project demands. To me it’s less about having a “style” and more about having available resources to draw on in order to operate the machinery of your writing project. The two big ones I keep seeing online are “pantsing” and “planning”, and while they’re useful, they are also narrowing terms, not least in the way that they narrow the space round them to zero and posit themselves as the only two possible extremes, with all other possibilities falling somewhere within. I mean maybe that’s totally true, but so much is in how we think about and frame things regardless of if they’re true or not, and I find this particular framework quite limiting.

But still useful. And right now I feel like I’m very much in the official “planning” zone, and it’s working really well, so it can’t be all bad.

Full Steam Around

I mean yes, it’s pushing my progress bar up, and we all know progress bars only go “up” or “down” so, techincally, this is a case of “full steam ahead” but …

Maybe I should start somewhere else, actually …

So this afternoon I have been working on my chapter summarising for the second revision of Tallulah. It’s going well; I’ve got new toys to play with in an old playpen, and that feels very right. So much of what I’ve already got is actually perfectly fine, and just wants a bit of rearranging and recolouring to fit together in the way I want them to.

The reason why I’m thinking around is more appropriate than ahead is because of this focus on rearrangement as opposed to what I’d call “changes”; most of this story is going to stay the same in terms of its content, plot etc., but the story is changing, because its voice is undergoing a transformation – hitting puberty I guess – and while many events are staying the same, they’re being shifted around and given different emphasis to what they currently have. Some scenes will be filled-in more, some will be pared-down so that they take up less affective space. I’m recognising that the emotional impact of this story is a limited resource, and that I need to manage it carefully, and therefore that’s very much what I’m attempting to do with this revision: to re-negotiate the emotional stakes and how they’re offered to the audience, not so much what they are.

Although, yes, there is going to be some of that. I can’t just move things around; certain scenes may have to go altogether – I can think of a few – that I kept in for the first and only revision I’ve done so far because they approximated the emotional link that I needed between one scene/plot-point and another, if I twisted them a bit and packaged them a bit differently. And while that repackaging is exactly what I’m aiming to do with this second revision, I’m also going to be cutting a lot more ruthlessly, though not before thoroughly going through everything and identifying why it needs to go (or stay).

It is odd to do what you want to do and then find out that you don’t actually want to do it. Useful as well, but very odd. You’re supposed to know these things innately, aren’t you? You’re supposed to know not only what you want, but that you want it, as opposed to just liking the idea. But I suppose I should definitely know better by now, particularly when it comes to writing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve danced this same dance to this same tune, and that’s with this novel alone. It’s been a long three years, and I’m still going, and so much of it is the same. This revision is very much the same as the last revision in terms of content; I’m just looking to revise toward a different final product. Every task you can systematise is iterative to a large degree. One more reason this feels like going “around” rather than “ahead”.

But I know that it’s still going ahead, however it feels to me. And that’s good enough. I don’t have to feel it to be able to do it.

Back on track

I made a personal blog a couple of days ago, both to make up for signing off Tumblr and hopefully not returning until I have recovered my critical thinking faculties, and because this blog is not supposed to be about my personal life. It’s supposed to be about me writing. Now that the pressure’s off: let the Writing About Writing resume!

The last concerted effort I made to continue work on Tallulah was to try writing a “draft made of chapter summaries”. I did four such summaries and ran into a brick wall, and I’m putting that down to just not really wanting to write any more summaries. It wasn’t because I’d already written a whole draft and then revised that draft and turning to summaries just feels insignificant; that didn’t occur to me. It was just that I had the ideas in mind that I was comfortable with already, and putting them down in writing didn’t do much to spark any new ideas or light up the old ones, nothing that pushed me forward. I won’t say it didn’t work; I’ll say I found out how it works to write a draft made of chapter summaries, and the result – for this book anyway – is that it tells me where I’m stuck.

I’m stuck because I already know what I want to happen, and have just not been letting myself write that version of events.

A big part of it is that I’ve already written a lot of that story. The revision that I wrote off completely either late last year or early this year – I’m thinking it’s actually more useful than I gave it credit for; even though it swung in the exact opposite direction that I wanted to go in when I first envisioned this story, there’s a lot there that I like. The ideas at least, not so much their execution.

For instance: one of the main issues with the story was that it was divided between two plots, each belonging to a different secondary character, and each plot/character neatly split the story in half, leaving one of them feeling like their potential was wasted and making the other seem like a distraction because they came in right when things with the other character were heating up.

It’s easy enough to say that this second character needed to be introduced earlier; it would solve a lot of problems, but it might also solve a lot of problems to get rid of them altogether. Same for the other character. At least that has been the dichotomy I’ve been working with for the past two years. But now I’m starting to feel more optimistic about the idea of simply de-emphasising both of their roles, because in the end this story is called Tallulah, not A Bunch Of Characters. Although I am totally reserving the right to use that name for a story at a later date.

The urge that I had to make the story less down and more humourous is still there, but when I first had it it meant changing a whole lot of events. I tried putting it into practice by writing a new Chapter 1 and after 7 iterations it still wasn’t working, so I think the answer is not that I need to change individual events as much as I want to change the overall tone of the story. Just adding in or re-wording little things, little asides in the dialogue and narration; to build on what’s already there rather than uprooting vast tracts of narrative land to replace them with something completely new and untested.

I have a lot more faith in that revision now than I did three months ago; I have faith that it can actually help get me back on track, despite it being the result of my going off track. I got tunnel-vision and made it work in the way I could see it working; now I can see it working differently. And this is good, because it means there’s a whole heap of writing that I don’t have to do. I don’t have to start over from scratch after all. I can just change things in a different way.

So this is pretty great. And since I read that manuscript 3 or 4 times last year I can still remember it pretty well; I may not even have to read it again. I’m sure I will anyway, just to be thorough, but if I need that time for study – which I probably do – then I can probably work from memory and draft up another chapter summary plan, shifting events around and changing emphasis and things.

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, huge empty spaces to be filled in and filler to be excavated. It’s not going to be easy getting stuck back in and overhauling the things that need to be overhauled; some of it does need to be changed and uprooted, and I don’t know what goes in its place yet. So this isn’t going to be an easy task by any means. But it does feel doable now. It feels like it’s moved out of the purely hypothetical realm and into the realm of potential. I can do this. Maybe not fast, but I can do it.

Guess I’m writing my book again.

Consistency

Me in 2012:

  • I’m learning so much by writing a novel, teaching myself how to do it by actually doing it instead of sitting around and thinking about it and keeping myself on-track with a wall planner that holds me accountable to my own self-directed goals as well as recording my progress and success rate as a source of instant encouragement! I never knew I could be this productive; Mum was right, I just needed some structure and discipline, it’s like fucking magic!
  • I’m really excited to see what the end product is like and I don’t care that it’s not a well-structured narrative because I’m just writing it as it comes to me and I’ll look at it later and make up my mind once it’s all put together! And maybe I’ll write three different endings just because I can! Anything goes and creativity is awesome!

Me in 2013:

  • This story is so fucking shitty the main character is literally just me with a girl’s name there is no story just copy-pasted angst from my real life it’s a fucking LiveJournal blog I’ve never even had a LiveJournal blog and I know that that’s exactly what this fucking is how did I physically endure the process of writing this how did my shame not devour me from the inside-out as I vomited this garbage from my brain-space into legible documents and how did I then SEND IT TO OTHER PEOPLE TO READ how did I not DIE FROM HUMILIATION AT MY OWN INADEQUACY WHY WAS I ALLOWED TO DO THIS
  • Fuck this shit I obviously need to stop writing and stop myself from making an even bigger mess of this big shitty fucking messfuck also I need to go and walk for 40 minutes every day because I’m fat and worthless hey that song is catchy how about I let my feelings about it dictate every single plot point of this new version of my novel which will be better and more coherent and have better structure it’s so obvious thank god I’m going to start writing again and make everything better
  • OH MY GOD I CAN’T WRITE ANYTHING I AM FAILURE INCARNATE HOW DARE I CALL MYSELF A WRITER WHERE IS MY DISCIPLINE WHY DIDN’T I HAVE STRICTER PARENTS OBVIOUSLY THIS IS ALL THEIR FAULT THAT MY IDEAS ALL SUCK AND I CAN’T FOCUS OR PLAN ANYTHING WHERE IS THAT SONG IT COMFORTS ME TIME TO FACECLAIM SOME ACTORS FOR MY CHARACTERS
  • Buuuuuut now that I actually sit down and read it through it’s really obvious what all of the problems are and holy shit that would solve everything perfectly if I just change this thing and move this bit over here and well look at that I actually have a solid plan that turns this pool of fetid precum into a somewhat coherent narrative good work me it’s only three quarters of the way through the year there’s still time to put some shit together good job
  • … wow, I actually did it. I was actually right. This did work better; this story does hold together better; sure there are still problems but, like, holy crap I just had to read it a few times and make basic summaries of what happened in each chapters and then copy-and-paste a whole bunch and it was just so easy, seriously maybe I can do this maybe I can actually be a writer! And the further along I get with this book the more excited I am to write my other books eventually, committing to a project and sticking to it literally just makes everything better and teaches you that your limits are actually way higher than you ever imagined; this is so great I love writing!

Me in 2014:

  • Now I’ll just read this manuscript a bunch of times to get nice and familiar with the structure and prepare for the next revision – and I have all of these exciting new scenes that could really bring it to life and add some extra dimension and depth; I’ll just write them down in documents so that I have them recorded but don’t commit myself to anything before I know the whole situation. Awesome! Also I like this Scrivener programme maybe I’ll use it to trace every single character’s character-arc through the story and isolate them and treat them each like stories of their own with proper character progression and three-act structure and Hero’s Journey this shit right the hell up. I guess I’ll have to take it easy once semester starts but this is great I’m feeling great, a little worried that I don’t know exactly what to focus on for this next revision but I’ll work it out, I’ve done it before I can do it again!
  • moving house is kinda exciting but also I’m useless and can’t turn in assignments on time but also I’m awesome and get stupidly high marks for these absurdly late assignments and therefore it all balances out guess I’m doing Honours but I feel really shitty because these were actually really interesting papers and I just didn’t care about anything oh well I was moving house and am also depressed and lonely so it’s not my fault though maybe I should go see a counselor as for working on that novel I’ve been trying to write for the last 2 years hahAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhAhhaaHAAHHAHAHAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaA
  • I hate this story. I hate it. It is literally the exact fucking story I didn’t want to write when I first started out; I wrote fucking documents dedicated to how much I did not want the story to go this way and then it FUCKING WENT THIS WAY what’s the fucking point, if I can’t even write my own goddamn story my own goddamn way, what is the point if I’ve spent all this time writing something I hate, I could reshuffle the events of this manuscript and keep working at it until it flows properly and yes a lot of it works better and the characters are evolving but I never actually experimented like I wanted to with the first draft, never explored all of my options and instead ended up with this mess and decided to work with it because at least it was written and therefore physically available to work with and now I just can’t fucking stand it even if I did polish it up and made it the most coherent narrative to ever exist I would still hate it because I hate this story, I hate that I wrote it, I hate that it’s not what I wanted to write, I hate the fact that I never had a clear plan for this story to begin with and I let myself try to write it anyway, I hate that that was the correct decision and it just turned out badly and that I spent all that fucking time and energy on something I HATE and I don’t know what to do anymore
  • I have never realised how angry writing makes me until now. How much I rely on it to solve all of my problems when it actually just makes those problems worse. How there are all of these things that I want to do with my life that I haven’t been letting myself try because I’m A Writer and also because I have no inherent worth as a human being and, just, wow I have problems, I need a break.
  • Shit. I need to stop writing. I need to stop writing. I need to stop doing the thing I’ve been making myself do for the past 15 years, because the only reason I did it was that I decided at age 13 that I was going to Be A Writer and let myself be ruled by that ever since. I need to take a break from Tallulah. A proper break, where I don’t even think about it much less write notes or try to continue revising it. I need to take a break from writing altogether. I need to stop, and find myself in whatever’s left.
  • … I’m not a writer. I’m just a person. And I’m finally letting myself be just a person. I’ve never felt this free, this liberated, this – I know this is shallow, but this young; I’ve spent so much of my life waiting to have an ephphany that would solve anything, so much time thinking about how when it finally happens it’ll be too late to fix so many things that went wrong, but now that it’s happened I’m not disappointed, I’m just happy, because I’ll have this knowledge for the rest of my life. I can’t go back now. I can’t fall back into the sad patterns of denial and desperation that I once lived in exclusively; I have learnt something, and that’s for life. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Me in 2015:

  • God I don’t want to write my novel again
  • God I want to write my novel again
  • God I want to do other things with my life than write
  • God I wish this blog were a little better-maintained and professional and actually about writing like it was supposed to be
  • God I need to stop playing fucking World of Warcraft there was a reason I quit in the first place try learning something for once brain for fuck’s sake
  • I’m gonna write a satirical political thriller with vampires
  • I’M GONNA WRITE MAGICAL PORN

*

That’s the best summary I can come up with of my writer’s journey over the course of this blog, up to the present date. I have no idea why so many of you still follow me. But thanks. I do appreciate it.

I predict that my violent swinging back and forth from one agenda to the next on a near-daily basis are not going to stop either, and I do apologise for that. I feel uncomfortable in the way I have turned my very understandable uncertainty into an exercise in polemics, the way I seem to be politicising my own inconsistency and making it seem worse than it really is. But the truth is that this is the strangest, most turbulent rut I’ve ever been stuck in, in life and in writing; I can’t seem to see ahead with anything I do or want to do, only the murky present moment, and as such it’s hard to try and make plans or lay down foundations for better things to come. Everything’s so up in the air and I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going to end up. Every time I change my mind lately, especially concerning writing, it’s a massive, extreme, paradigm-shifting upheaval, which I think is because I’m really kinda lost without having the objective of Being A Writer to guide me. I think that’s also why I’ve let myself fall back on it so much in the past week or so, because it’s always been a crutch when I needed it.

I guess what I can learn from this is that learning is a slow, repetitive, frustrating process, but you’ve still gotta do it. And it does work. And I did get some writing done today, and it did make me feel a bit more open and relaxed. I did feel more productive today than I have in a long time, and I’d like that to continue. I just have to learn that I don’t have to instantly channel it into writing. That can’t be the answer anymore.

I want to use it to plan, to be smart, to lay down some solid groundwork and start building up some resources I need. This blog is one of them; I want to use this as a planning-gym, only posting things that I’ve thought about and laid-out in order beforehand as much as possible. And my stories are another. I do still want to work on them and push them forward, and Tallulah is back at the top of the list, at least for now. I want a plan for it, and I know I can make one. I just have to not try and force it like I’m used to doing. I’ve got other things to do as well.

Like the reading response for tomorrow, which I also need to print out to bring to class. So I guess that’s my immediate plan.

One day. I’ll get there one day. And then keep on going.

Refreshed Perspective

So I got to sleep at about 3am last night, and woke up just after 5am. I spent the next 2 hours refreshing my laptop to try and resolve some of the problems that had been going on with it since the past forever, and another 2 hours after that re-installing all my things (at least the load-up time seems to have gotten better). Then I went back to bed for 5 hours, spent most of that in a not-quite-asleep daze, slept for about an hour and woke up at 2:20pm.

If you gathered from this that I did not get a lot of writing done during this time, you would be correct.

I’ve already sworn off looking to my writing as the source of all happiness in my life, because it just hasn’t worked, and at the ripe old age of almost-28 it seems fairly apparent as to why it hasn’t worked: it’s just writing. Anyone can do it if they have the time or inclination, and many, many people do. It’s not a cure for anything that was making me unhappy and seeking sources of happiness to begin with, and it never will be. But having said that, I do actually want to write, and just because I don’t want to be writing all the time doesn’t mean I have to let it slide completely.

I guess I’ve changed my tune from the start of the year: I do want to be more on top of my writing, and just be on top of it comfortable in the knowledge that it is also not the be-all and end-all of my existence. I want to get on top of it and stay there so that I don’t have to worry about it either way.

Hence, in my refreshened state of erratic sleeping patterns and a clean-slated laptop upon which to work, and for some reason feeling more awake and motivated than I have in quite some time, I have decided to try a few things:

  • The new exercise routine I started needs a cardio element, and my bike needs riding, so I can make two omelettes with one egg there
  • I need to keep trying to wake up in the mornings
  • I’m going to write something I don’t feel comfortable writing because I don’t feel comfortable writing it, and because I feel like it

It seems kind of counter-productive to have a writing blog where I don’t actually talk about what I’m writing, just how I’m feeling in and around the process of it. If anything this blog has become my “anything but writing” blog over the past … year? It’s been a slow change, but noticeable. When things started out I was all Tallulah this and Tallulah that and it was great, because I was actually writing Tallulah. Now I’m not, and while I do want to put my lessons in allowing myself to use formulaic ideas as building-blocks to get where I want to go into practice and use them to hopefully improve the Tallulah situation, I also want to write other things. I do think that deciding to take a break from Tallulah had the effect of making me far less excited about getting started on my other projects once I was done with Tallulah, and I still feel that my writing has to be a different priority to what it was even four months ago because, to be frank, I ain’t getting paid to do it. But I still think taking a break was the right decision, and that continuing that break – at least for today – is also the right decision.

So. This thing I’m going to write today is an idea that I’ve had for … wow, 12 years. I had not realised I’d had this idea for so long. It’s evolved over time to be less problematic, as the youths are so fond of saying nowadays, but at its core it is still pretty contentious. I’m okay with that.

Basically it’s High Fantasy Erotica, using one to critique and parody the other. The High Fantasy that I’ve come across feels very insular and self-important; with the exception of God Stalk by P.C. Hodgell and the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, it’s just very … dry. Which includes the sex, and I can only assume that the words “dry” and “sex” are not words that get used together in ideal situations. Then there’s Erotica; I am far less well-read in that genre, but Richelle Mead has her Succubus Blues series that has a pretty hilarious sex scene involving the lead character’s shape-shifting powers. This is more Urban Fantasy than Erotica honestly; the book I read, Succubus Shadows, is about twice the length of The Boss and yet has about 1/10th of the smut. But it was still used effectively for the most part, and is about the closest I’ve gotten to finding an example of what I want to try with this project of mine.

My idea for this story came from a conversation I had with my sister wherein she complained that, while she liked LoTR, there wasn’t enough sex in it. I had never thought about it that way prior to this conversation, but the idea stuck, and quickly turned into the story I titled Melronicles, named after its main character, Melron Norlem, a young half-elf nobleman who gets into interesting situations and compromising positions on a regular basis.

That’s the idea, anyway. I like the world-building aspect of High Fantasy, but I am far less of a fan of how overbearing and serious it so easily becomes, not to mention the deeply ingrained misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism that so many of its conventions and tropes are predicated on. Hence Erotica, which I’m sure has many of the same problems but is, as far as I’m concerned, also a potentially fantastic tool for dismantling the air of elitist piety that High Fantasy tends to conduct itself with. My reasoning is that sex in fiction is so often used as a tool of cheap drama/titillation, and combining this common usage with the common severity of High Fantasy would lead to hilarious and thought-provoking outcomes. Only time will tell, obviously, but that’s my thesis statement and I’m interested to see where I end up with it.

And having written all of that, I’d better go and actually write some of this before I lose my nerve and whatever vital energies have germinated within me today. I’m feeling productive. I’d better go make something of it.