Post-Nanowrimo 2015: Malcontent

There’s always a lull. Scratch that: there are always lulls, plural. At least if you keep writing; running out of steam is not a sign that you are a bad or lazy or non-committal writer. It’s a sign that you write a lot. It’s a sign, in other words, that you’re doing it right.

Today is Sunday, and even if it wasn’t Sunday I would be in the mood to do something other than write my Nano project, which still sits at just over 51k words full told and probably has another 20k to go. I have a plan, but it’s not satisfying me, not scratching that itch for taking the first thing that pops into my head and making it work, which is the entire premise of this exercise, because it’s an exercise in learning to trust and train myself to allow for the first thing that pops into my head to be good enough to make a start.

At least assuming that the first thing that pops into my head is a story-element of some kind. Which is the part that feels like is currently missing. I have stuff that works well enough, but it doesn’t quite feel the way I want it to feel, and now I’m wondering if I’m actually content to write a generic Bildungsroman with werewolves, or if I’m craving something a little more specific. Not more original, just more specific.

This comes from the fact that the first two texts that inspired this werewolf novel were Wolves, a truly awful yet entertaining and surprisingly subversive werewolf film with Jason Momoa as the Big Bad, and The Maze Runner, which has fuck all to do with werewolves but everything to do with Male-As-Default and, specifically, a group of default males. I took the group element from Maze Runner and the alpha male gender politics of Wolves and ran with it, and the result was the inspiration for this shitty YA werewolf project.

Now I don’t really know what it is, whether it’s that I’m just a bit bored after working on it for a straight month and need a break, whether the ideas I put into a plan of action were just a bit too bland as opposed to generic – tropes exist and are re-used for a reason, and it’s not (just) to save time – or some other thing, but what I suspect is that it’s because I’ve deviated from those two original points of inspiration. Which is not a bad thing. There’s a story developing here, one with actual characters and shit that did not arise out of my “first thing that pops into my head” strategy, although they have definitely been enabled by it. It’s a vision of a more original story, and one that I would quite like not just to write, but to read. The most powerful piece of writing advice I ever came across was to write the books that you want to read. This shitty YA werewolf thing is not that story for me, but it might become it eventually. Right now, though, it feels stiff, predictable, dry, time-wasting – all the things that you might assume go hand-in-hand with the word “generic” and “iterative”, but they’re actually their own thing.

I mean this is all subjective obviously, but go watch Star Wars and tell me that’s not a fun time. Then tell me it’s the most original, inspired, creative, off-the-wall, outside-the-box thing you’ve ever seen. I love Star Wars and I can’t tell you either of those things, because they’re not true. It’s a by-the-numbers Heroes Journey infused with passion, energy and clarity of purpose, not to mention wit and charm. It’s not like there’s nothing creative or original about it; it’s that those elements mainly serve to accentuate the very solid, generic foundation that dictates the majority of the story. It’s proof that when it comes to storytelling, “how” is just as important as “what”.

Right now, I am feeling a decided lack of interesting “how”, even though I’ve got a completely workable “what”.

But the other thing is that, when I think about it, even the “how” that I’ve got … it’s pretty good. It works; it’s got potential to be engaging – I just haven’t given it a chance to work. Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t given myself a chance to breathe; maybe I need to go away for a while, then come back and come up with these ideas all over again. Yes, you heard me: maybe I need to go away and then come up with exactly the same ideas that I’ve just had. 

I think the problem might just be that I came up with those ideas just to try and reassure myself that I had something to work with at a point in the writing process when I felt lost, rather than a point where I felt inspired and energised. It might not be so much the ideas themselves, the “what”, but the mindset that I was in when I committed myself to them, the “how”. I did it for the purposes of calming myself down, and right now I don’t need something to calm me down; I need something to fire me up.

And maybe for that to work …

I just need a break.

I like the idea of getting this thing written in the next week, and I know it can be done. But I’m not feeling remotely passionate about it to make it work within that timeframe. If I were as inspired as I was when I first started piecing this story/writing exercise together, I think I could finish it tomorrow. I’m nowhere near that level of inspired. I’m kind of the opposite of inspired right now. I’m not content with what I’ve given myself to work with, and I think it’s because of the spirit in which it was given.

And that’s really what I mean about going away only to come back and have the exact same ideas all over again; it’s like an apology. If you apologise to somebody – or somebody apologises to you – in bad spirits, where the words are laboured and sarcastic and catty, then it doesn’t matter what’s been said. It’s how it’s been said. And the way to fix that is probably for the apologising party to go away, sort their shit out and do exactly the same thing again, but this time in good spirits. In earnest. Because they mean it.

I just don’t mean it right now.

And that has to be okay. It’s just writing. It can wait.

In the meantime, hopefully I can find something to recharge the batteries …

What the hell is Dragon Lore: Curse of the Shadow?

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