So the other day I did a bit of world-building for that Nanowrimo project I managed to write a chapter and a half of before the month was up. It’s not a traditional high fantasy setting, but it’s high fantasy enough to warrant some detailed world-building, and it put me in a good mood. Not just a good mood actually; it put me in a fantastic mood. I’m used to thinking of my stories in very general, non-specific ways, which is to say I imagine them kind of like live-action DBZ fight scenes: there’s a nondescript landscape that may as well just be a flat plane, and then lots of hyperkinetic, utterly unrealistic combat, because DBZ will rot your brain never watch it seriously go read Dante’s Inferno instead just not Paradiso because Beatrice is preachy as hell it’s so patronising anyway so I actually made myself sit down (well, I was already sitting down, because that’s more or less my natural state), focus on what I wanted to happen and make it particular instead of general. Having just seen the second The Force Awakens trailer and being inspired by the bit where the Tie Fighter is shooting things in that hangar bay, I ended up designing a “stage” where one of the big fights in my story was going to take place, and ended up spending the entire day building it up, which extended into the task of plotting out to the rest of the city and involved looking at a lot of pictures of water bridges and Venice. I’m well on my way to working out the economic and political system of the area; it’s like I’m becoming an actual fantasy writer, the very thing I swore I would never become.
But regardless of whether I’ve truly turned to the Dark Side or not, the point is that this exercise in intentionality through world-building really started something; I felt vibrant, alive, motivated and excited at the prospect of this world and this story, and not least because the world-building even got me to thinking about the magic system, the part of this particular story that I’ve been twiddling my thumbs over and refusing to decide anything about for 14 years. I wanted this year to be the year of taking risks; now I’m adding specificity to that list. A whole two things that I want this year to be about. That’s twice as ambitious as it was before, so well done me!
Which brings me to the novel I’m “currently writing”, Tallulah. I looked at it tonight and just thought: “where’s the story? What’s supposed to be happening here? Why?” And then closed the document in despair, because that specificity, that intentionality was nowhere to be found in the plan I’d laid out for it or what I’d written of it.
Tallulah … it was always going to be an experiment, in my mind. It was a premise like nothing I’d ever come up with before or thought I would ever come up with, and for that reason I approached writing it with an experimental mindset. Which I think was probably a decent decision. Not the only one, but a decent one. The issue was that I didn’t think my voice suited it, and then when I finished writing the first draft I didn’t like what my voice had done to it. It wasn’t the story I had expected it to be, and yes I’ve talked about this a hundred times before, moving on – right now, I’m frustrated because I realise that I’ve never actually thought about Tallulah with the same level of intention that I summoned up for that bit of world-building on a book I’m not even writing, and which has inspired me in dozens of tiny ways since doing it. It makes me think that I might actually be better served by putting Tallulah on the back-burner and writing something else – yes it means a longer wait until I send something for publishing, but it also means doing something enjoyable and specific instead of wrangling generalities.
The other option, of course, is to keep working on Tallulah and just make myself get particular with it. And actually …
Actually, that’s not the problem. The problem is that the particulars just aren’t very compelling.
Basically I’m at the point, again, where I’m thinking that starting Tallulah over completely from scratch would be a really good idea.
How many times is that now? Three? Four? The reason I find it hard to move forward with Tallulah is because I feel like the right thing to do for the integrity of the story is to do a full reboot, but I’ve already put so much time and energy into it that I want to be able to use whatever I can that I already have that will save me extra effort.
But I suppose the truth is that it doesn’t matter how much time or effort I can theoretically save by recycling pre-existing elements if I’m not going to write. Because then all the planning in the world isn’t going to get it any closer to publication.
So I have some things to think about. I may be back to taking a break from writing. I thought I was ready to start again – and maybe I was, back when I said that. But this semester – like all semesters – has just killed my momentum stone-dead. Whatever inspiration I once had is now in tatters, and it’s so frustrating because it was there, it was real, it was happening, and then I fucked it up through habitually self-sabotaging time management and procrastination.
I don’t know what to do now. I know what I enjoy, which is continuing with the bit of world-building I started a couple of days ago. I enjoy the thought of getting back into the slipstream of writing flat-out. I think that, come tomorrow, I’ll probably feel less defeatist about this whole situation and be in a better mood to try and get going again. Specificity has worked for me once, why not again? Why not see if I can apply it to the rest of this semester, not just with study but with writing and reading and exercise and all the other things I want to see if I can fit in at the same time?
But that’s for tomorrow and onwards. Right now I just feel stuck and wheezy. I definitely think I’ve lost my Night Owl aptitude. It’s the diurnal life for me, it seems.
Well, that’s okay. Since the shitty mood is more or less guaranteed to vanish come morning, I can take away the fact that I am resolved to be more intentional and specific in how I think about my books. I need to know what happens, in its particulars, so that I feel excited to write it. Generalities are fine for daydreams, but this is serious business now. Shit just got real.
If I don’t end up doing some Tallulah revision tomorrow, I guess I’ll come blog about that. It’s good to have a plan.