1492

It’s been a while since I had a daily word-count to record. I could get used to it.

As the week has gone on, I have grown more and more inspired to write. It’s … familiar. It’s similar to how I used to feel about writing when I was a teenager, and a young teenager too, before the angst and hormones properly started to kick in. Gotta say, I don’t hate it.

It’s also reminiscent of my adolescent writing because I’m writing a couple of things at once, rather than forcing myself to focus on just one project. I’m interested in both of them, and I’m unsure about what I want to do with both of them, if they’re just temporary fancies or something I could actually see myself committing to. Normally this would be infuriating for me, because I’m so used to just thinking about projects like that instead of actually writing them. But I am actually writing them. I’m doing the thing I keep telling myself – and probably all of you, at one point or another – is best practice: to solve writing problems with writing, and if you’re unsure about a project, to write it and find out how it makes you feel. I haven’t done that for a very, very long time, and it’s a little embarrassing in an intellectual sense to think of just how long it’s been since I wrote because I had something that I wanted to write, how long it’s been since that was enough of a reason for me to do it.

In practice, though …

It just feels so good to be writing again, guys. I don’t really know what else to say. It’s awesome.

One of them is a new-ish idea, and I’m trying to keep it fairly new instead of using it as a new home for some abandoned ideas that I’m very fond of. I think I’m going to be able to do it. I’ve been trying to focus very hard on making sure that my stories all feel coherent, like every part of them feels like it belongs in that story and not just like a random cool thing that I threw in there because I had an idea and wanted to include it somewhere.

The only issue I have is that it’s such a new idea that most of what I’ve written so far is just exposition, setting up the world and the premise and the backstory – all telling, so far, and not a lot to show, because I honestly don’t know enough about this story yet to be comfortable with it. But I’m actually taking this as a good sign, not because it’s how I want this story to read when it’s finished, but because I’m allowing myself to write this badly just to get it written, prioritising writing itself over how good that writing is. I mean after I’m comfortable with all of this stuff, the info-dumping won’t be necessary anymore, because I’ll actually know what the hell I’m talking about.

So yeah, writing is actually happening. It feels good.

 

More Like It

This evening I met up with a friend to do some writing. She had a whole bunch of brainwaves while we were discussing our respective current works-in-progress, and I was very happy for her and very excited to be there as she was having these flashes of inspiration – it even rubbed off on me enough that I forced myself to go back to Tallulah and make some more notes, after about a week of putting it off after the grueling slog through those past 2 chapters.

It got better this chapter, I have to admit. It was pretty much exactly the opposite experience that I had with the past 2 chapters, because I actually enjoyed this one quite a lot. But the things about it that worked – clear focus, decent enough pacing, lack of filler – brought into keen focus the stuff that wasn’t working in the earlier chapters, and makes me worry about what I’ll find going forward. There’s a part of me that wants to put Tallulah aside until I’m done with my UF kick, because I’ve got the bug and Tallulah is not a story that should be told in typical UF fashion: it’s not about action, it’s not supposed to be fast-paced, it’s not about witty banter, simmering sexual tension and/or domineering alpha males claiming women like insurance, and I am in the mood to write me some of that. Perhaps it would be best for the story, and myself, to instead get this out of my system so that I can come back to Tallulah sometime later down the road in the correct mindset to make it work.

Then again, after the chapter 2 rant I made a couple of weeks ago, I went and read over a re-imagined chapter 2 that I wrote back in 2015, just before I decided to take my hiatus, and I really liked it. It did everything that I wanted the current official chapter 2 to do: it was coherent, it felt like the things that were happening were happening for a good reason, it seemed like there wasn’t any distracting filler, and it felt like there was a clear focus in terms of where the story was going and what I, as a read, could expect to get out of it. All of which is part of the allure of these UF novels I’m currently addicted to, despite how many, many ideological tensions as I have with them. So perhaps this is actually the best time I could have picked to get back to work on Tallulah. 

But ultimately, as I said a little while back, I really do feel like the main thing I want to do is just read, rather than write. I’m going to keep going with making revision notes with Tallulah – it’s mostly reading anyway, and I want to make a decision about this book. Because if I decide I am going to leave it for another little while, then I’ve got some options to explore if I want.

Or I’ll just continue to enjoy the most reading for pleasure I’ve done since my year-long YA kick a few years ago, and more reading than that entire year by several times already. I’ve branched out from the 2 series I was reading to start off with, and have gotten a bunch of first books of various different series out now to get a taste for what other fantastic beasts are lurking in the urban fantasy jungle. Thus far, I think Ilona Andrews is my new favourite, with her – or their, as I discovered, and I have to wonder if the co-authorship is what gives it a slightly more solid, well-realised feel than some of these other books so far – urban fantasy setting that is strikingly similar in premise to ideas I’ve had over the years. I’m not bitter that they did it before I did, though; it’s just inspired me to revisit that idea with some new vigour.

I may not have much motivation of my own to write these days, but more and more I’m finding that other people’s work is inspiring me, and I appreciate that a lot. It’s always nice to not have to just rely on your own steam to get things moving.

Holy Christ I Hate This Book

I don’t know now, looking back, how I let myself live after having the gall to write this goddamn book. I don’t know why, in particular, these ideas convinced me that they were good enough to commit to written language, let alone show other people – for those who have been here since the beginning or checked the archives, I did in fact show off my chapters to a select few readers/friends as they were written. Never mind that I got almost universally positive feedback; it’s a bad idea, because you start writing for your readers instead of for yourself, and while that seems like a good thing in a way, it’s really not. You are the one making the offer; your readers are the ones who decide if they can or cannot refuse.

I can’t quite wrap my brain around what in the pulsating green fuck motivated me to make this particular offer. I mean … nothing’s fucking happening. At all. Oh sure, plenty of “character stuff”, lots of delicious, mouth-watering “relationship drama”, and once upon a time I got the biggest fucking hard-on for this shit, and I just do not understand it anymore. It’s that simple. I don’t get my own fucking book, my fucking passion project. I can’t understand why I ever wanted to write any of the words that I am currently reading.

I have no “in” to something I’ve already fucking written.

But, as per usual with anything having to do with reading your own writing, this is a valuable learning exercise. Yesterday it was just my taste in prose; now it’s my taste in details to linger over and emphasise by giving them privileged space on the page. It’s just so fucking juvenile; I don’t know how else to describe this writing other than some thesaurus-derived variant of immature. I can’t fucking believe that I wrote this; I can’t stand it.

And what I’m learning from this is that the focus of this story needs to change, and it needs to change very fucking hard.

I can remember what was motivating me at the time: I wanted this story, so unlike any other I had ever envisioned writing, let alone actually bothering to write, to be more character-focused and specifically to move away from my general focus on action. I had become sick of my continued infatuation with Dragon Ball Z for a little while by the time Tallulah came to mind, and was bothered by how much that one piece of media dominated my creative palette. Tallulah was more than just a breath of fresh air; it was almost like a new identity, because in writing it I became somebody I never thought I would or could ever be. Just to be the kind of person who would commit to writing a story like Tallulah changed everything I thought about myself, and as I stuck with it over the course of the next 3 years, I continued to change. And for the better, I will say.

But what I see now is that those changes for the better were not remotely matched by better writing, because fuck my knees with a King James Bible this is bad. Yesterday I thought it was just words that were the problem; today I see that it’s both words and the content of those words, the scenes they create, the events that they encapsulate and draw attention to. The story, in short, is what is bad, because it focuses on this inane fucking bullshit where nothing fucking happens. It’s 88k words worth of filler masquerading as a story.

How. How could I permit this. Somebody tell me.

I’ll tell me: I was distracted, obviously, by the sensation of doing something different, breaking out of my comfort zone and creating something that I never would have imagined I would even think to create. Which was a great idea, and I’m glad that I did it, but Jesus Christ could I have learnt to fucking write first? Or had any sort of grasp of the meaning of staying on-point? Or just understood what in the algae-coated fuck my story was even about? This tells me that my big revelation about what I needed to change about the end of this book isn’t just right; it’s not right enough. I need to change … like … everything. I need to write a new fucking book is what I fucking need.

I can’t believe I’m saying this and meaning it, but I hate Tallulah. I hate it so fucking hard.

I can’t believe it.

I wonder how much of this is tied to the fact that I did in fact spend almost 2 years writing one of the more pulptastic things I’ve ever been possessed to write. Dear god, I actually wrote that shitty YA werewolf novel. Like, that’s a thing that I did. It’s finally starting to sink in; took long enough … but it’s action-focused, it’s pulpy and fast-paced; the character stuff does matter but it’s also inconsistent and distracting because, as I’m discovering pretty hard right now, I have a really hard time staying on-point or clearly understanding and sticking to my vision for what a story is when I have that vision. Probably has something to do with the fact that it took 2 goddamn years to write; Tallulah, festering mound of refuse that it apparently is, only took around 7 months once I started writing it “properly”, which is to say according to a daily routine that I checked off on my wall-planner. And for all the filler, at least the focus was fairly clear.

Here’s the thing, though: Tallulah feels salvageable. It would be a lot of work, but it would eventually work if I committed to it. My shitty YA werewolf novel, on the other hand – it could, but I wouldn’t see the benefit to doing so, and I do with Tallulah. This wrong-headed focus on trivial bullshit that doesn’t matter, introducing things at weird, irrelevant times and putting the emphasis on seemingly significant things that either don’t go anywhere or are only significant if you can read my mind and know all the invisible backstory that I have for these characters and their motives – if I got rid of that and re-focused on stuff that actually mattered (or, rather, actually included things that mattered to be focused on in the first place), then certain aspects of the style I’m finding here could work. It’s just … misdirected, I guess. The hard part is going to be the rewriting. I’m foreseeing that I’m going to have to do a lot of it. I’m not looking forward to it.

Actually, I’m really not looking forward to it. When I decided that I was going to commit to getting Tallulah ready for submission to agents by the end of the year, I had not yet begun to re-read it. I feel like if I had done that first, I wouldn’t have made that commitment, because I don’t think that I have the energy or discipline to meet that goal. I can’t help but feel like I could put my efforts into something else more rewarding instead of trying to salvage this unreadable train wreck of a manuscript.

I’m starting to wonder if Tallulah was doomed to just be another writing exercise, in retrospect. Because in retrospect, it actually has some pretty important things in common with my shitty YA werewolf novel, which was always intended to be a writing exercise. Mainly, they both came about from me getting excited about trying out something that I never had before, something that seemed very out-of-the-ordinary for me to even do to begin with. The specifics – tone, theme, pace, etc. – are completely different. But that’s just semantics. The driving force behind both of them was that they were experiments. Things that I didn’t know if I could do, and that’s why I wanted to do them. And I did.

And perhaps that’s where I should leave both of them. Perhaps this is me realising that, actually, I’ve been done with Tallulah from the moment I decided to take my hiatus. I can’t help but wonder if that would be for the best.

But I also can’t help but wonder what it would be like to continue as planned. I mean, I’ve been through rough patches with this book before. Lots of them. None of them were quite as off-putting as this one, but then I’ve had a whole 4 years of changing tastes to go through between then and now. I probably should have anticipated that I wouldn’t like what I found when I eventually came back to this fetid swamp of un-killed Darlings. That’s what the problem is, I think. Last time I read it, I remember thinking that there was still way too much filler – this is just compounding on that observation; it’s nothing but filler so far.

Maybe it gets better in later chapters. Maybe I just have to include something in my notes about, I dunno, how I feel about the chapter, or what I wish was happening instead, or some other way of recording the changes I feel need to be made or pointing out the problems that I have with the chapters. I’m not sure if those belong with my notes or not. I really don’t know what to do when it comes to revision, even though I’ve done it once already.

Promises, maybe. It does seem like a good thing to focus on, having finally gotten around to listening to the Writing Excuses podcast: identifying what promises I’m making to the reader, and then identifying where I keep and break those promises. I remember telling a friend, sometime during the hiatus, that the thing I was most concerned with about Tallulah was that I wasn’t keeping my promises. Now I think I just need to identify what those promises are, and whether or not I keep them – or want to keep them. Seems like a decent way to go.

God I hate this book – but I’m not giving up on it yet. Not until I know for sure why I hate it, and what I could do to change that, if anything. I want to be able to make an informed decision about this book, one way or another. I feel like I owe it that much, at least.

And also, seeing as I do kinda still like the idea of writing for a living, I suppose I had better get used to the idea that I might not always be totally head-over-heels in love with everything I ever write, and that I might have to put in a bit of effort – or more than a bit – to make it work in the long-run.

Commitment. Tallulah taught me a lot about that. Time to see if I learnt anything.

The Way Back

Okay. It has not been that long since I last worked on Tallulah. It’s been, like, 2 years, tops. It has not been that long.

Also how the hell is it halfway through 2017 already that is just wrong.

I read through the second chapter; it’s one of the longer ones and it didn’t take too long to get through, even while making notes, and this bodes well, I feel. I did discover a whole bunch of stuff about this chapter since the last time I looked at it, and that tells me that taking time off was absolutely the right idea.

What I discovered was that I hate this stupid, pointless, confusing, reminding-me-of-how-half-assed-my-planning-was-for-this-book chapter – and it’s not even that it’s confusing. It’s not even that the characters’ motivations and opinions of each other are confusing, especially given what I know I wanted those motivations and opinions to be, because I apparently ended up writing them in order to convey the exact opposite of what that was.

It’s that it’s written so. Fucking. Badly.

And, like, I only wrote this chapter about …

Oh.

I wrote this almost 4 years ago.

Well, that explains a few things …

But it feels like it shouldn’t. It feels like I’ve been actively working on Tallulah for longer than this four-year gap suggests. This does not seem correct; I’m experiencing some serious fucking temporal dissonance here …

Because it feels like my writing style shouldn’t have changed this much during the past 4 years. I don’t feel like I’ve changed much during the past 4 years. But I suppose that isn’t true, now that I think about it.

I guess it’s just odd to think about the possibility that my writing style has changed while not ever actually thinking about it as even being a possibility. I can’t understand how this has happened, let alone how it happened without my even knowing about it.

And all of this leads to me thinking that, while taking a break from Tallulah to get some distance and perspective was a good idea, it might also have been a bad idea because now, looking it over with my 4-years-older eyes, I’m starting to think that Tallulah might actually be too old for me to write anymore. It might not be the book for me.

And yes, I am basing all of this on one chapter, because seriously you guys it is so fucking bad. It’s like an in-joke with myself; I introduce central characters as though the reader is supposed to already know who they are, probably because I went into writing that chapter after spending a whole year building up my own idea of them and how I want to protray them and how I want people to think about them … it’s just so gross. That’s the word I’m looking for here; the writing is yucky. It repulses me; it makes my skin crawl, like the meaty stench of a suppurating corpse. I hate the way this chapter is written. It’s just …

It’s just bad.

And on top of that: my fucking writing style has changed! Or my writing tastes, or writing instincts, or just whatever; I’ve changed, and it’s caught me by surprise. The only thing I feel certain about at the moment regarding this existential speed-bump is that I do feel the difference in my sensibilities. It still doesn’t make sense to me that there is a difference to begin with, but it’s definitely there. I never want to write that way again. I mean … man, was this all because I wrote an MA and a shitty YA werewolf novel in the intervening almost-4 years? Did it make that much of a difference? Or was it just taking a break letting me see what I’d actually written, which turned out differently from what I was trying to write at the time?

And what does this mean for other “old” projects? Most of the stories I think about writing on a regular basis are ideas I’ve come up with in the past 4 years; most of them I also haven’t actually written any of, or much at least. I wonder if I would feel the same sense of dissonance about these projects if I did have them written, if I were to read them over again – would I find that they were no longer stories that I could tell?

And what about future projects? What’s the shelf-life on my story ideas? How long will it be between the moments of conception and expiry on any given premise I come up with?

And I suppose I could draw the clear and obvious distinction between writing style and ideas; they’re not the same thing. But having said that, the voice of a story kind of is the story. You could tell the story of Harry Potter in the style of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or Finnegan’s Wake, or The God of Small Things, and it would be an entirely different story. How a story is told tells you something about where that story is coming from, its angle, its agenda – you don’t have to agree with it or take it as written, but you can see where it’s trying to come from at the very least. Like with Tomorrow When the War Began, which is written like a children’s book but has the content of something much more mature; that tells you that it’s about childhood innocence being lost. Maybe. Maybe it’s actually telling you that the “YA voice” hadn’t been created at the point at which it was written, or that the writer just didn’t quite know how to craft an authentic-seeming adolescent voice, I know I wrote my review about that book like 2 years ago or something but I still feel flashes of annoyance for it like spontaneous allergic reactions that just come out of the blue and assail me … the point is that every idea comes with its own voice pre-packaged; you can’t separate an idea from the voice that it’s pitched in. It’s part of the idea.

But you can change it, right? Why am I asking rhetorical questions to myself? Maybe I just like panicking because I’m seriously screwy in the head and should really get around to making that therapist appointment I’ve been meaning to make for the past 5 months?

Yes, you can … which opens up some options that I have only been toying with up until this point. But that’s stuff for me to think about in private, I think. With regards to Tallulah specifically, though – it’s safe. I’m still going to write it. I know now that it doesn’t suit my voice, and perhaps during writing it I will find that it’s just not going to work out because the voice that suits the story and the voice that suits me almost 4 years later are incompatible, but up until I run into that brick wall I will indeed be running.

It feels a bit humbling, honestly, to have this realisation. It forces me to concede that I haven’t actually learnt everything there is to know about writing a novel; I never had any good reason to think that to begin with, and didn’t think that I thought it to begin with anyway, but upon discovering these things today it’s clear that I did. And that’s fine. Learning is always a good thing, and the more I can learn about this thing that I keep doing with my time, the better. I assume. I suppose I can only assume, because it also occurs to me that I might never actually learn everything there is to know about writing a book. Infinite learning. Which means, by my standards, infinite good!

And it’s also quite comforting, honestly, coming back to this project that I haven’t worked on for over 2 years and finding that I’m still connected to it in this way. Tallulah has taught me so much about myself as a writer, as a person in general, and even after this hiatus it seems I can just jump right back in and have things be exactly the same, like meeting an old friend after a long absence, one you know so well that your friendship is like muscle memory. And it reminds me that I don’t have this kind of relationship with any of my other books.

I’d like to change that.

I’m not sure of the full ramifications of what I’ve been realising over the course of the past 3 hours since finally finishing my notes on this despicably awfully-written chapter, but I want to find out.

Libraria

I don’t think I’ve used my local library this much in over 20 years. I also haven’t read this many books in quick succession in over 20 years. I definitely don’t feel like a kid again, partly given the kind of books I’m reading these days, but still, not complaining. I thought maybe university had ruined recreational reading for me, but apparently all I needed was to discover the world of pulpy paperback novels. Also probably to not be at university while reading them. That probably helps.

I’ve finished reading 7 Dresden Files novels at this point, and thanks to other people existing in the world and borrowing the books that I want to read I can’t actually continue with the series for probably another month or so. It’s pretty frustrating. And now, anxiety-inducing, because I have to read *deep breath* other books in order to fill the time. I’m sticking with Urban Fantasy just to make sure I don’t pop a vein or something.

I need help.

And also I only picked up 3 books, and I’ve put in requests for the next parts in these series already so that, with any luck, I’ll have more books to pick up by the time I’m done with them. Gonna give that Iron Druid book another chance; I hated it the first time I tried reading it (also there was a pubic hair on one of the pages, which I found pretty fitting given the rest of the content of said pages), but having seen just how much problematic content I am able to stomach perhaps I’ll have a different reaction the second time around.

It’s so … weird. I’ve never read books in this manner before; I’m binge-reading, and while it’s amazingly fun it’s also kind of … unsatisfying. It’s like a constant stream of snacks that can’t ever make you sick, but I can definitely imagine myself getting sick of them, and fairly quickly. The little bits and pieces I’ve read online about this genre is that you can encounter some pretty lethal burnout, mostly concerning the kinds of leads that tend to crop up again and again: tough, no-nonsense, leather-pants-wearing badasses who snark at everyone they meet and never quite seem to find a challenge that actually, like, challenges them. I think I may indeed get tired of that pretty quick.

But we’ll see. For now it’s enjoyable, and I do think writing something in this genre is something I’m interested in trying out in the fairly near future.

I haven’t worked on Tallulah since the last time I wrote about working on it. I think I need to set an alarm for myself or something. I think if I can just get past this second chapter – it’s always been a difficult one to deal with, for whatever reason – the note-making process will get easier. I think the issue is that this chapter is just boring as hell, which it probably shouldn’t be, seeing as it’s where we get the Inciting Incident – or it was, anyway. Now that I’m re-evaluating what this story is about and what I feel needs to be focused on for this second revision, this chapter is starting to seem really superfluous, maybe better-suited to being chopped up and having its various parts distributed across other chapters …

But, that’s easy to say before I’ve actually finished making notes, and I’m going to make an effort to stop making these kinds of blanket predictions/assumptions about the conclusions I’m going to come to for work I haven’t even done yet. It’s a very weird habit of mine, one I’m fairly sure is born out of years and years of acclimation to utter boredom and stir-craziness. I should probably stop it.

And the books are helping in that regard. They annoy me, so much, but they’re so freaking fun to read. Kind of like Game of Thrones; the show itself is not what I’d call fantastic, especially in the more recent seasons, but by Frigg is it fun to watch. It’s got a killer hook, and these books have that as well. Maybe if I turn my brain on a little more I’ll be able to work out what it is. This power must be mine. So sayeth the Ubermensch!

In the morning, though. I doubt I’m going to get to sleep anytime soon – another thing I need to work on – but at the very least I can stop staring at my gigantic glowing plasma screen that has given me these weird involuntary facial tics for the past month.