Weekly Words 14-20/10/2018

18/10/2018: revision notes

That is what I’m “supposed” to be doing, after all. Making revision notes. On this stupid, unreadable, tone-dissonant, creatively bankrupt, sexist …

It’s a perfect first draft.

I am being haunted by my own writing ethic. “First drafts are meant to be awful, that’s what makes the revision process work.” Great advice. I stand by it.

It’s just that when your first draft is 180k words worth of incoherent over-rationalisation connected by chunks of filler, what are you mean to even do with that?

Well, what I’ve been doing is making snarky revision notes. I complain and criticise and mock and every now and then note a potentially good idea with page number included, and only now do I realise that, no matter how bad this manuscript is, my notes are the problem with the revision. My notes are bad. I am taking bad notes, and I have been taking bad notes the entire time I’ve been trying to re-read this … I don’t even have slurs emphatic enough for my manuscript. I hate it.

But I’m not making things any easier for myself by taking shitty notes, so it’s time for me to just stop, take stock, and come up with a better approach. Because I want this story to work.

Or fuck it maybe I don’t maybe this werewolf YA novel is my future now here’s a funny story goddamn I was on a roll with that last week, and then ended on a really weird note that stalled me and now I’m just scared that if I try to go back and write it again I’ll just wind up using it as a journal entry for all of my various repressed frustrations in life, and I don’t want that to happen and I don’t really know how to make it not happen, so I’m just stuck.

Also apparently the “bug” I thought I had for the past 3 weeks is not a bug, it’s an ulcer. Yay. Finally went to the doctor and that was his diagnosis; got a blood test – and urine test, that was a fun experience – done and am waiting for results to see what’s up besides that, and in the meantime I’m just really hoping that whatever caused it is something that I can avoid. I thought maybe I had caused it by stressing about the marae weekend for Youthline, but apparently stress doesn’t cause ulcers, it just makes them worse. That puts a dampener in my plans to catastrophise about how my anxiety has now taken to manifest in physical symptoms beyond just the usual tension and panic. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find another opportunity soon.

If this book is going to ever get written as something that doesn’t disgust me, I need to start as I intend to finish: seriously. These notes are not serious, and therefore they are not really helpful. I think I need to revise my revision notes.

Or, like, take a hint and move on to something else.

Crazy talk, I know.

Weekly Total: These are Not Droids you are Looking For (1018)

It’s fine. I’ve had a bit of a turbulent week. Not as in upsetting, just as in it’s thrown me off-balance from my usual … maybe “balance” isn’t the right word. Routine, there we go. Seeing the doctor like a proper adult, after some gentle prompting from mum and a friend, was the correct thing to do, and it’s also completely trashed my momentum with regard to all things creative. And that’s fine. That’s how it is sometimes. I can write off a week of writing. Or not-writing, in this case. Actually that’s a good point: better to write off a week of no writing than a week full of writing that was all for nothing.

Though I do think that all writing serves some purpose, even if it’s just to bring you to the realisation that you’re taking X writing project in a direction that isn’t working out. I’m really torn at the moment, too, in terms of Mark and Jessie as my “main project”, because the more I read it, the more I’m convinced that reading it isn’t doing me any good whatsoever, and that’s upsetting, because I was relying on this re-read to re-ignite the spark of passion that I had for this story and instead it’s killed it dead. I got some good insights about it and ideas that could take it in a better direction …

But at the end of the day, I think I actually just don’t know what this story is about, why it matters, what’s important enough about it to make it worth writing, and I don’t want to admit that. And as long as I keep reading it, I don’t have to admit it, because I’m Doing It by reading it as Part Of The Revision Process.

I fucking loved this story. I loved it, I wrote it, and then I went to university and didn’t have the time, focus, or energy to continue working on it while I still loved it, to make it work in all the ways it needed to, and god fucking damn it I don’t want to have lost this opportunity. But I think I have. I just don’t care enough, and even if I were to take the position of “well just do it anyway because it’s the idea that you have and remember that one paragraph from the Robert McKee book you spent $50 on that got you all inspired for like 2 days are you just going to walk away from that”, the more pressing matter is that I do not have the ideas, the structure, the reason to tell this story anymore. I have ideas for scenes that happen, and I have an aesthetic, and that’s it. This should be a random series of illustrations with captions along the bottom for context of this story that will never be told in full, because it’s not a full story.

I hate this. But I think that it is where I am at.

Fuck.

What do I do now?

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Weekly Words 07-13/10/2018

07/10/2018: 1889

This revisitation of my shitty YA werewolf novel is going surprisingly well.

I think I’m definitely belabouring certain points, and normally upon noticing that I would start to feel deflated – but instead, I’m feeling motivated, because I’ve just finished the first chapter of this reboot and that means …

I have something to work with.

It feels real is what I’m saying, in a way that a lot of my experimental first chapters often don’t – in fact I can’t remember the last time I felt this way. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this way, actually, like what I’ve written is an actual Thing from chapter 1, as opposed to having to wait until either I’m almost finished or actually finished and looking back on it. I feel like I’ve just leveled up or something.

Time to grind some more XP.

08/10/18: 3015

This is quite startling, to be honest.

As it turns out, I had more to say than I thought I did in this first chapter, but it also kind of ruined that feeling of it being “real” that I had when I put it down the other day. All in all, though, this still feels like it’s heading in a good direction, one that I want to continue following in.

And it’s my shitty YA werewolf novel. How did this happen? Yes, it’s a reboot rather than a revision, so perhaps continuing to refer to it as my shitty YA werewolf novel is something I should stop doing. Though I still feel the description fits.

And while I do feel like I miss that sense of it being “real” from yesterday, I also now feel excited to get on to chapter 2, and for that to become “real”.

I’d been hoping, fantasising about getting that feeling of giddy excitement that I had when I first embarked on this project back in 2015, and that hasn’t happened – instead, I have a new feeling of giddy excitement, and it’s not for the writing process that I’m using, not for the fact that I’m forcing myself to write really fast and thoughtlessly and as a result also permitting myself to write whatever the hell I want with no judgement. I’m excited that I have a story to tell, and that I’m telling it.

Like, shit, when is the last time I felt this way?

I honestly think I haven’t felt this way since I was 13 years old, and decided that I wanted to be a writer.

And having now written it down and finding that a mild breeze has not blown it away, I’m taking that to be true.

I have wanted to feel this way for a really long time. I’ve obsessed over it, how to get it back, how to engineer circumstances to cause it to happen to me again. I’ve tried to come up with the perfect story, the most “me” story I could think of, tried to just let myself do whatever and have total freedom, tried to make myself stick to rigid schedules and regimens of writing to achieve this goal. And now I have no idea how to explain how this has happened, how to break it down into a formula so that I can repeat the experiment again in the future. I just know that I’m feeling it now, and that it’s fucking great and I’ll probably end up crying at some point in the near future because of it.

And really, isn’t that good enough?

I think it is.

09/10/2018: 1829

Didn’t end up crying, as it turns out, and the feeling is gone – but I’m fine with it, and that’s a first.

I’m fine with it because I’m pretty sure I’ll get it back again, sooner or later, because the one thing that I know about it is that it comes to me when I’m writing something that means something to me. And I feel like I’m getting a bit better at doing that.

For instance, today I did not work at all on the Wolf Gang reboot – but I did finally write out a film trailer that I dreamt up one day and served as more or less the main premise for the dark high fantasy comedy trope-playground I think I’ve mentioned obliquely a few times over the course of this year. I’ve tried to write it a few times and always gotten tripped up by my own overly-literal brain, trying to make me be all linear and fact-checking and proof-based and shit. However, as it turns out, it was actually very easy to make myself write this trailer, and I’m starting to think that being literal-minded is actually an advantage when it comes to writing down literally what I have in mind. I’ve always thought it was a weakness of mine, a personality flaw, a hindrance to my creative capacity – now, I’m starting to see how it can be an extremely useful tool, and (really obvious how-did-I-not-think-of-this-before) ways that I can turn this perceived weakness into a strength.

It also makes me want to work on this dark high fantasy comedy trope-playground project a bit more – I do think that my Wolf Gang reboot holds the majority share in my creative stock right now, but then again, I’ve always wanted to find a way to be working on more than one thing at a time and make it work.

I care about both of these projects is the point. I’ve been looking for a story that feels like it’s “mine” all year, and that was something quite specific, something I thought I would recognise when I found it. But I get the feeling that I was right when I started thinking that maybe it’s just about commitment, that if you stick with something and make the decision to hold to it, that’s where a sense of purpose and fulfillment comes from.

And of course, both of these stories are mine.

Meh, whatever. I should probably give up on trying to figure out how my brain works at this point, and just appreciate that over the years I’ve found some ways to get what I want out of the process. Also to appreciate how much fucking writing I’ve gotten done this week already. Not just time, but word-count too, really does fly when you’re having fun.

I like it a lot when writing is fun.

11/10/2018: 1221

Back to werewolf shenanigans.

This was supposed to be a horror reboot, but it turns out that it’s just a slightly less intentionally tropey shitty YA novel so far – which is okay. I’m fine with just having horror elements and trying to do them justice. So far it’s just the main dude complaining about his unrequited crush on his best friend, and before you ask if this is even remotely interesting the answer is that the best friend is a girl. I use the term shitty YA werewolf novel for a reason, folks.

But it’s getting written, and tomorrow I’ll probably start re-writing what I’ve written tonight purely because it’s not what I had in mind and feels like I’m getting off-track. I had a couple of false starts before I found my way to what is currently chapter 1, so I’m fine doing the same thing with chapter 2, and however many other chapters need a bit of troubleshooting before they find their identity. Part of it is also that, well, this story is uninteresting, and I have some ideas of how I can change that which I’d like to explore.

13/10/2018: 10475

Or not. Whatever.

So maybe this reboot isn’t as clear in my mind as I treat it as though it is. I thought for sure I had a scene to write, a determined sequence of events that could not happen any other way, and yet instead what came out was some out-of-left-field mess that I now have to deal with one way or another, and it’s just so …

It’s writing. It’s all writing. This is what writing is; this is what writing has always been and always will be, and the only difference between it working or not is sticking with it until it does.

Or having a plan but fuck that shit I ain’t getting paid for this!

Weekly Total: 8886

Well, hello to you, too.

I know I’ve hit 10k+ like one week out of four for the past few months; it’s a thing that I can still manage, and while the inspiration has certainly worn off a bit by now I think this week has been a really good momentum-growing endeavour. I don’t quite know what the best approach is for the werewolf reboot, or the high fantasy trope playground that is also my compromise to the part of myself that wants to fix Suicide Squad by writing a fix-fic, but the momentum is there, the ideas are still forming, and I’m writing, so it’s happening.

Though I do need to get back on track with Mark and Jessie. I really do think at this point that re-reading it is more or less entirely pointless in terms of keeping things, so I will just try to get an overview of events written down and see what I can shift, what I want to delete from existence, and where new stuff that is not the most unbearable writing I have ever done can slot in.

And I need to see my doctor, because while the “bug” has more or less gone I still feel weird, and after this long that is concerning.

See you next week, if I’m still alive.

Weekly Words: 30/09-06/10/2018

01/10/18: 2363

Do you know how hard it is to think of how to do werewolves in an original way?

This evening, feeling like my bug might have returned, I decided to try to make up for a day of procrastination and indecision by making myself actually give something a go, something I’ve been very hesitant about yet devoted a considerable amount of thought to: rebooting my shitty YA werewolf novel. I don’t know where it’s going, it’s not the same giddy, throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it, writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants euphoria as the first time around, but … I mean, I wrote, and I didn’t stop writing or really want to stop writing for a good 2 hours or so. It doesn’t have to be euphoria; I’ve already invented this wheel. Maybe now I can just enjoy seeing that it works.

I wrote basically two first chapters, or perhaps two prologues, alternate inciting incidents for my werewolf characters. I feel like if I’m going to do this, then I want to do it my way, and the question that I’m trying to answer right now is whether or not I have anything original to say about werewolves – or anything at all, really, that isn’t part of my potential PhD thesis, and if so how I want to say it.

In the meantime, though, it’s good to see that the taps are still running.

04/10/18: 38

I watched two films this week that have lent me some much-needed inspiration: It Follows, which is just a good movie that you should see if you haven’t already (I hadn’t until this week), and The Covenant, which is a decidedly poor movie that you should see if you haven’t already (this was my second time, and it was even more deliciously abysmal than the first time).

Basically, now I want to write a horror story.

Not necessarily a straight-up horror story; maybe more of a teen drama-comedy with horror elements – I’m thinking that this reboot/reimagining of my shitty YA werewolf novel could work pretty well in this regard, especially as the original concept that I had for the story actually resonates with these two movies as sources of inspiration.

The Covenant, for those who don’t know, was surprisingly enough made before the Twilight films, even though it seems like a flimsy attempt by a studio to make a “for boys” version, complete with classic tropes such as teenage boys speculating about what kind of underwear (if any) girls are wearing and then using their magic powers to, uh, verify, the main, queer-coded villain threatening the safety and/or sexual virtue of the main dude’s (female) love-interest, and the line “Harry Potter can kiss my ass”. I can see why it wasn’t a hit is what I’m saying here. But the premise is so fantastically basic: four teenage boys are descended from four of the Ipswitch families accused of witchcraft, the details of which have been dramatised in The Crucible, and spoiler warning they are actual witches – yes, boy witches, they stole my fucking idea, never mind – and there’s a fifth family that was supposedly wiped out but spoilers it wasn’t and that’s the main bad guy (played by a pre-Avengers Sebastian Stan chewing any and all scenery within a 5-mile radius). The “club” aspect is closer to the original idea that I had for my novel …

And the horror element is also closer to the tone that I had in mind, which thanks to It Follows I have gained new enthusiasm for trying out again. I think horror is hard to manage in any medium, and I feel like it works better on-screen than on-page, if for no other reason than that visuals can always be more literal and immediate than words. So maybe this will be a screenplay or something.

In any case, I’m looking forward to writing maybe a bit more than 38 words of this thing tomorrow.

05/10/2018: 2284

I’ve done the math, and 2284 is indeed more than 38.

So this new iteration of my shitty YA werewolf novel, Wolf Gang, is already much more predictable and cliched than the original, and I won’t say that it feels better, but it feels clearer. I have a better idea of where this story is going, because while the problem with cliches is that you’ve seen them a million times, that’s also a strength when you’re basically trying to vomit up a story as quickly and thoughtlessly as possible.

And it was relatively fast; I wrote that – minus the 38 from yesterday – in about an hour and forty, even though it felt like it took about three hours. I have a bit more of a plan for this one than the original manuscript, which was a very fun experiment that I’m just not going to try and replicate, regardless of how much I really, really miss that buzz of excitement and clarity of purpose and whatnot. But I’m going to go by the same principles – I want to focus on going with whatever idea feels the most story-ish to me, and try to not over-plan things, while at the same time allowing myself to think ahead just a little bit. I loved working out the story as I went and feeling like I had planned it out all along (because it was so predictable), but I also know that it’s very satisfying to have a plan and see it through to completion. I’m not going to try and completely shut down every original idea that I have; I’m just going to prioritise the ideas that come naturally to me in the story, and only concern myself with how obvious of an answer they are to me rather than how good of an idea they may or may not be. I just want to do it to a vague plan with a few semi-planned-out scenes that I have in mind.

And I want to make sure that I keep up with reading Mark and Jessie as well. It’s gotten to the point where I’m wondering if I just need to go back to Tallulah after all. But I can always read that over again after I’m done with Mark and Jessie, if I really want to. I doubt I’ll find any more answers than I did when I read it over last year, but it’s an option.

I still think I’d rather read my one and only completed manuscript of Realm of the Myth, though, if I am going to re-read something of mine instead of moving on to revision. Revision is the ideal plan; re-reading something else is a backup safety-net comfort-plan.

As for Wolf Gang – well, it was a writing exercise the first time around, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t use it as a writing exercise this time as well.

06/10/2018: 1074

Finished The Girl With All The Gifts today, partly because I was determined to not let it sit on my bookshelf until it was due back like the first time I hired it out, partly because I think this bug thing really might have returned and it made being slightly bedridden slightly bearable. Then I decided I really was committed to trying out this reboot of Wolf Gang, and it does feel good to have gotten this writing done.

Weekly Total: 7313

Despite feeling a bit crappy today, I’ve actually had a pretty great week health-wise – started off my exercise for the week with a 4 km walk, went for my usual 20-minute walk almost every day after that, with a shorter walk the day after. I’ve been drinking lots of water and eating more conscientiously, paying attention to how I feel I actually need to eat versus how much I feel I can eat, and trying to fill that quota. My friend bought a giant aquarium for her axolotls this week on a whim, and I found it a bit confronting – and revealing – that I related so strongly to this particular purchase. Even when I don’t own pets (I haven’t for the past 17 years), every now and then I’ll see a large pet enclosure of some kind and just want it. I have some primal urge to take big, well-defined spaces and just have them, and once I have them then I figure out what to fill them with. Similar to how I used to think of my book-writing process in terms of how many books would be in the series first, and only after that deciding what the actual stories would be about.

And, I now realise, similarly to how I approach feeding myself.

Which is really distressing, but also helpful, because now I can see the pattern and … well, it feels helpful. I feel like I have just that little bit more self-mastery than I did before I put this all together, however embarrassing it is to recognise that this is how I operate. Because I am also recently realising that I am not a limitless void that I can just shove anything into without any regard for what filling that space does to me. I have to care about it. I have to care about myself.

Shit’s hard, yo.

But important. And I feel like this has been a week of figuring out important things, and keeping important commitments.

Feels good.

Now I just need to not be contaminated with alien life-forms anymore and I can start enjoying it.

Monthly Words: September 2018

Monthly Total: 17592

This month was an important month in the history of Weekly Words. The goalposts were shifted, and while I generally have mild allergic reactions to shifting goalposts, this time it was necessary in order for this initiative to have any kind of meaningful purpose for me as a writer – in particular, any purpose related to me using my time and energy to keep my writing muscles nice and warm and limber, so that I can use them and stuff.

I will admit, though, that I absolutely miss those ~40,000 word-count totals at the end of each month, because goddamn big numbers do it for me. I like big sums and I cannot lie. Especially my own.

Ahem.

Adding to this little nostalgic mope of mine is the fact that I haven’t done very much freewriting or kept up with my morning pages this month. All of that “commitment” shit I was spouting a couple of weeks ago – I still think it matters, but the moment has definitely passed, and if everything following that moment has been the test of whatever lesson I thought I’d learnt that night then it is a test that I have definitely been failing.

But that’s okay, because the test is ongoing. In fact it doesn’t, and can’t, have an end-point. The end-point is when I die, because until that point I am going to be finding ways to put my stories into the world …

As well as other things.

I’ve had this revelation before; I’ve ranted about it way more than once; I need to do things other than write. This weekend away (coming home only to “sleep” between the two days) at the marae put me in touch with a wellspring of energy and commitment that I don’t often have access to because my life just doesn’t require it of me. I ate a lot less than I normally do while spending far more energy than I normally do; I was exhausted but couldn’t get to sleep because my head was buzzing with everything that had happened during the day and what might happen the next day … maybe I can call this weekend the “real test” of all that commitment stuff instead of the copious amounts of writing commitments I have not been keeping …

And my life just feels so small now, and I know in a day or two I’ll acclimate to it again, and that’s disappointing and distressing. I don’t think I could have taken any more than this weekend gave me, but at the same time I could stand to have it again sooner rather than later.

But then again, honestly, as much as I am glad that I went – which I am, no question – I don’t want to just remember what a good time it was and how good I felt being there and pine for it. I want to do what I can do get that energy in my life as I live it.

And that’s where the whole commitment thing comes in.

Also the “cutting out distractions” thing, the “actual down-time” thing, the “keep up with exercise” thing (this month has been absolutely garbage exercise-wise but at least it’s the end of winter now right), the “do things other than writing” thing … but the bottom line is still commitment. I have what I need to make these changes and make them stick: I have the time, I have the resources, and I have at least some of the knowledge. And as that quote said, only by using anything and everything at your disposal something something something emotional validation.

If you keep on learning the same lessons over and over again, it might be an idea to start paying attention.