Camp Nanowrimo 2016 Redux: 434

You know what? It’s fine.

I am not going to try and push myself to finish Camp Nano; this is my birthday dinner day and I’m still recovering from last night’s all-time low in terms of anxiety medication-induced sleep issues. Which has only been happening for the past 11 days, but that’s more than enough.

This writing project, I think, has definitely reached a terminal point in its usefulness to me as a writing exercise. I will finish it, but I am going to stop trying to make it “work”. I’m just going to write what feels most obvious to me in terms of this being me copying werewolf tropes that I’m familiar with, rather than being the most obvious thing to happen in a solid, coherent story. Because otherwise it’s not going to get written. And I do want it to be written.

I don’t think I’ll be sending it off for publishing or anything, though. I will probably do a revision just to get all the events in the right order, but the next time I try this write-as-fast-as-possible experiment it’s going to be with a new project, rather than continuing with this one. Maybe another werewolf story, because I really do have a thing for writing werewolves, but the point is that it won’t be this werewolf story.

And despite everything, I am glad that I gave Camp Nano a shot. No, it really didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but it did get me to focus on writing and try a few things out for a month, and that’s no bad thing. I’ll just hope that when real Nano rolls around this year, I’ll be in a better position to take advantage of it.

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Camp Nanowrimo Redux 2016: 1369

It’s gooooooooooiiiiiiiiinnnnnnggg …

I am stuck again though, because I need to come up with another way to convey information in an interesting way, and I just don’t have any ideas on that front. Might be the drugs. They’re making me sleep weirdly, so I’m sure that’s having other effects on my psyche.

I don’t know. I just don’t feel like having very much down-time in this story, at least not yet, but it would be pretty contrived to have the stuff that needs to happen right now be conveyed through action. I think. I need to think harder, because I have no ideas right now except for an info-dump, and I don’t want that. It’s also annoying because I no longer know what the most obvious thing to do is, so not only can I not write fast but I can’t write the story the way I want to write it, either. I just don’t know what the right thing to do is.

But that’s for tomorrow. For tonight … well I have 1 day left to win Camp Nano, which is tomorrow, which is also the day I’m having my birthday dinner. So not only will I need to write over 9k words before then, but I need to either find the most obvious 9k words to write off the top of my head, or …

I’ll need to plan them out.

I really don’t want to do that.

But, again, I can deal with that tomorrow.

Camp Nanowrimo 2016 Redux: 2755

Getting there.

I am so fucked with this MA chapter though. I have precisely zero motivation or energy to get it done. I already know that what works for me is to just allow my writing to be shitty; I’ve done it before and every time I’ve done it it has worked. Every single time. I just lost that perspective with this chapter and, as a result, slipped back into my perfectionist habits and anxious procrastination, and now I have run out of time to write a bad chapter.

Well, I can deal with that tomorrow. Tonight, I have finished the second chapter of my shitty YA werewolf novel, which I never thought I would be able to find a way to do that was not incredibly dull and boring and passive. Honestly, it was hard enough to do it this way. I wonder if that’s the anxiety medication I’ve started taking effect; apparently it can make it harder to be creative. Whatever that means. I honestly think that sounds like a load of crap, but on the other hand it would be nice to be able to blame my future creative slumps on drugs.

I still have over 11k words to write by the 30th; I can do it, but I don’t think I can. I have to get this MA chapter written. But I am definitely going to finish this novel. I am so close now. I just have one more tricky chapter to contend with, and once I work out how to deal with it … I mean, it’s pretty much revision time after that.

Shit. I’ve almost finished another novel.

That is pretty awesome.

Feelin’ 29

Just doesn’t have the same ring to it …

I am 29 years old today and I’m trying to stop thinking about age in general. At least to stop thinking about it the way I’m used to thinking about it, which is the way I picked up from randomly seeing an Ally McBeal ad when I was a kid where she was freaking out about turning 30. You wanna talk about media effects? Talk to me. I was raised by media effects.

I had this whole huge rant I was going to post that I spent over an hour writing last night. I took so long to write it that I literally aged a year before I stopped, because after 3k words I still hadn’t come to any sort of resolution and, while I don’t think every post needs a resolution or narrative arc or whatever, I still like it better if it does. For my own sake, if nobody else’s. It just makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

The reason I didn’t post it is because it’s the kind of post you write when you have a problem, know what it is and then write about it in order to gain some sense of mastery over yourself, but all the while you feel like you’re just starting a self-fulfilling prophecy, that by “getting it off your chest” you are, ironically, making it even more of a problem, making it that much harder to detach yourself from. And I think it’s because if you write something it becomes more real; you have to reckon with it outside of the infinite possibility of your own mind, and once it’s taken on a solid form – the form of the written word in this case – then that’s it. All other options are closed. And even with a bit of narrative resolution to top it all off, it feels like you’ve just sold yourself out somehow, like instead of acknowledging and dislodging the problem you’ve just given yourself an excuse to keep it alive, and that writing about it was just a momentary escape to distract yourself from getting at the root of what’s troubling you.

Maybe that’s just me, but I get that feeling a lot with my big ranty posts, or journal entries, or whatever kind of soul-baring scribework I feel compelled to undertake. What does work, though, is letting myself write those huge ranty pieces and then not finishing them, or publishing them, or ever looking at them again. Because sometimes you just need to get it out in the open and not try to find a resolution. And you don’t have to share it, either. You can just do it for yourself.

So today, I’m feeling pretty damn good. I was all freaked out about turning 29, one year closer to 30, too old to start a professional sports career outside of golf or billiards – not that I want to do any of those things, but the option is now closed is my point. All of these options being closed just because I’ve been in existence for almost 3 decades. It’s such bullshit.

And now, I really do feel that it is all bullshit, as in nothing I should be even remotely concerned about – and I’m not. I’m thinking about what to write.

One thing that came out of my huge ramble last night was feeling like I was getting closer to reconnecting with “how I used to do things”, one of those “back in the day” sorts of things – I really am getting old – and my shitty YA werewolf novel was one of the catalysts. I didn’t write any of it yesterday; I didn’t write anything yesterday except for that one blog post and then the big rant. I was in a generally shitty kind of mood, restless and dissatisfied and unmotivated. But that doesn’t really matter. The point is that I was thinking about my shitty YA werewolf novel and how it’s just not even remotely original, and how I was kind of disappointed in that regard.

Now this is interesting to me, because the entire point of this shitty YA werewolf thing was that it was the most iterative, derivative, generic tripe I could pull off in as short a period of time as possible, because that was what seemed like a fun idea to me at the time, a neat little experiment. As I’ve said before, I failed that experiment; it’s taken 10 months for me to get it almost-finished, when it should have been done in, like, a night. Maybe over the course of a few days. It was not meant to be some kind of thoughtful exploration of werewolf mythology or tropes; it was meant to be me adding one more werewolf story to the world that would change nothing and just kind of stretch my storytelling muscles a little bit. Like standards for musicians, I guess. Play the hits, do a good job, nothing groundbreaking – just do it to show that you understand what makes them work. That’s what this werewolf novel was supposed to be, and what it has very much stopped being at this stage. I simply could not write it fast enough, and now it’s outgrown its original purpose, and I’m getting disappointed with it. It was not designed to withstand the kind of scrutiny I’m throwing at it, which is the scrutiny of somebody who actually likes their stories to be the slightest bit original most of the time, particularly if I’m the one writing the story in question.

On the other hand, I am starting to feel more like I’m ready to actually try and write something more original, something I have to grapple with a bit as opposed to a speed-run through trope central. I mean, I still like that idea, but this werewolf novel has also stopped being that. I’m still going to finish it because I’m so close, but after that?

I might actually try to rewrite it as something a bit more original.

I once called this novel more of a writing exercise than an actual story, but writing exercises are a tool writers use to get themselves into gear for writing actual stories. I mean not always; sometimes you just want to flex your writing muscles a little bit. But in my case, I think this could actually work out pretty well. It could be interesting to see what I can do with it. Mostly to see if there’s anything I can do to set it apart from Teen Wolf in a meaningful way, because while there are a lot of superficial differences, I could call this novel Teen Wolf and it would fit just as well. Teenager turns into a werewolf and has to deal with it. That’s the story. And while I’m not ashamed of it, I am starting to get a bit agitated. I know I can do better. I know that the point of this novel was not to do better but to just do – but I’m done with that now. The novelty of writing some by-the-numbers bullshit has worn off, and I’m slipping back into “write something good” mode.

And that’s why I’m feeling good today, because “back in the day”, this is how I used to write. I wrote because I was interested, and I wrote while looking to the future rather than getting hung up on what I hadn’t accomplished in the past. Mind you I was 13 at the time and didn’t have much of a past to draw on, certainly not with regards to my portfolio. But that forward-thinking attitude was what made all the work feel like play to me; I wrote a lot when I was 13, and it just didn’t feel like a chore. I also had fewer responsibilities than I do now, but still, there’s something to be said about not trying to improve on what you’ve already done but instead just writing yourself forward, always forward, to find out what comes next. Which is how I feel today.

I might write some more of my shitty YA werewolf novel today; I might write something entirely different, something a little more original. I honestly feel a bit spoilt for choice; I could write anything, and nothing is really standing out to me. Maybe it’s time for something entirely new.

In any case: it’s my party, and I’ll write what I want to. I just need to find out what it is.

Or not. Maybe I’ll just chill. It is my birthday.

(also I’m trying to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and I cannot fucking stand it I hate the writing I hate the character I just hate this fucking book so much sorry to all the fans I guess I should have read it 10 years ago)

Life’s Not Fair, Is It?

This evening, while poring over some thoughts I’d written down when I first started writing my shitty YA werewolf novel, I saw that it had started life as something quite different. Which makes sense. The thing that inspired me to write it at all was watching Wolves and thinking about how much more interesting Vampire Academy could have been if it was more like Fight Club. Not because of the violence, but because the Academy part could have been taken advantage of more. And out of those two ideas, plus watching The Maze Runner and deciding that I really needed to be the first person ever to tell a story starring nothing but male characters, my novel was born.

Once I started writing it, however, that all changed. I despise stories where straight white men outnumber everyone else, not because I have anything against straight white men (I do, but that’s not the reason), but because these stories all feel like they have something against anybody who isn’t one – if they didn’t, I would expect that people who are not men might show up more. And at least when we’re talking about mainstream media, these kinds of stories tend to be the default, where women, people of colour, people with disabilities, people who aren’t straight, etc., occupy a token position, if they occupy a position at all. As a result, most of the supporting cast of my novel became girls and women, simply because I am bored to death of sausage-fest ensembles and could not face the prospect of creating one myself, let alone writing it for however long it would take to actually finish the damn thing. I’m not complaining about that in terms of ethics or whatever, but I am complaining about it on the grounds that I actually had a point to making this story be all about dudes, and while I’m enjoying this story as the thing it’s morphed into, I do feel like I’ve missed my opportunity to tell that other story.

And thinking of that missed opportunity, I went back and read over what I’d written of my shitty YA witch novel before I decided to give up on it and return to werewolves. And …

It’s not bad.

It’s actually pretty good. I’d like to know what happens next.

And I realised something upon reading it that I’ve never seriously considered before now: that the stories I tell, the books I write, may never actually be that enjoyable for me. Maybe they’ll only be enjoyable to their audience. And because I’m the storyteller, maybe I’ll just never be in a position to enjoy them in the same way, or even at all.

Which is … I mean it’s stupid. Right? If storytellers didn’t enjoy the stories they were telling, they wouldn’t tell them. Unless they were being paid. I’m not being paid. I’m getting off-track here; the point is that, very often, storytellers tell their stories because they enjoy the telling. My witch novel, at least the 8k or so words that I manage to write of it, was a story that I did not enjoy telling. But I did enjoy reading it. It clicked. Or well enough at least; definitely well enough to warrant pursuing further.

That makes me so frustrated. I can remember the visceral discomfort I felt while writing it, and to go back and read what I wrote from that place of discomfort and finding that, actually, it works – it’s not fair. It’s really not fair.

The reason I keep thinking that I should write this book – not now, but someday – is a piece of advice I heard from … some author. A whole bunch of authors, actually, have all shared this piece of advice: write the books that you want to read. And when I think about the ideas going into my shitty YA witch book, I want to read that book. It’s just that either I don’t want to write it …

Or I’ve really messed up telling it and need to start over. Which I could do. I could do it with my werewolf book too, and it comes down to a question of what it’s worth to me. The witch book has just under 9k words written; the werewolf book has just over 51k. One of those will be far less emotionally and mentally taxing to start over from scratch with.

For now, though, I don’t have the energy. But it’s something I will be considering. Because while it’s not fair that I enjoy reading what I’ve written of this witch book more than I’ve enjoyed writing it, that doesn’t mean it has to be that way. I can try something else.

But later. I’m still not done with werewolves.

 

Camp Nanowrimo 2016 Redux: 3506

I started today’s Camp Nano writing expecting that I would run out of steam after 800 words. 2705 words later, I’m fairly impressed with myself.

This chapter is coming together pretty well; it’s at a point where I could finish it and start the next one, but that really depends on whether I want to split the events I have yet to write into two chapters or keep them in a single chapter. Since it would go against my efforts to train myself out of editing as I go to go back and read over it to see if it ends at a natural stopping-point, I’ll have to try and intuit what the right thing to do is. But regardless, the point is that I am over 1k words ahead of schedule to win Camp Nano with my new and improved, way-reduced word count goal of 20k. And I’m even starting to kind of get back to the giddy excitement I had when I first started writing this thing.

But I think the main reason it feels different now is because this chapter is quite a different beast to the sorts of stories I’m used to borrowing tropes from. Nothing seems quite the right fit, at least nothing that has that “so bad it’s classic” feel to it. This chapter is actually reasonably original, or at least that’s how I feel about it right now. Time and wider reading will tell, obviously, but for the moment I’m pretty happy to break with tradition – if that is in fact what I am doing – and follow this to its own conclusion.

And even if it did take me until the final week of Camp Nano, it really is nice to be writing something that I actually enjoy writing.

Camp Nanowrimo 2016 Redux: 1824

It’s going okay.

So far, the chapter is flowing pretty well. The best part for me is seeing that in order to finish on time I only have to write about 2.5k words per day, as opposed to the just-under-3k I was anticipating. I am bad at math. But 2.5k words per day I think I can handle.

It’s been kind of interesting returning to this project after leaving it around the end of January; I kept trying until well into February but didn’t manage to get anything done. Coming back to it now isn’t quite as exciting, and I haven’t recaptured that sense of writing on the fly, winging it, pulling the story together without stopping to think about the parts I’m using, so long as they feel like they fit. So long as it feels like a story.

But, on the other hand, lately I’ve been feeling a return to the good old days, the very start of my “I’m going to be a Writer” career when I did write on the fly, but I was also interested in doing things my way rather than taking formulas that I was familiar with and building something out of that – at least not to the extent that I have been with this particular project. And this chapter is benefiting from a little bit of that, a touch of the idiosyncratic things I used to do and miss doing. I have spent a long time trying to follow the crowd, or at least what I perceive the crowd to be. I learnt a lot by doing that, and I think there’s still more to learn. But I also think I’ve spent too long trying to not do things my own way. And I think I can find a way to do both.

For now, though, I’m just going to finish this chapter. So far the exposition has been fairly easy to show-don’t-tell, if not at a particularly impressive reading-level. But that’s not the point, of course. It’s getting written, and considering that not too long ago I had pretty much resigned myself to leaving this story in its unfinished state and assuming that I would never be able to come up with a satisfying way to put the final pieces together, it goes to show that, when it comes to writing, you need to remember to take a break every once in a while.

Since I’ve got 1.8k words already, I think I’ll try and push it up to that 2.5k mark. I might rediscover whatever I tapped into when I first started writing it. But if not, at least it’ll be more words. And with a first draft, that’s really the only thing that matters.