Weekly Words 19-25/11/2018

19/11/2018: 1457

20/11/2018: 1458

21/11/2018: 1457

22/11/2018: 1458

Well, that’s unusual.

This week, I have not been working on my werewolf novel, or my Suicide Squad fix-fic-inspired dark fantasy satire parody, or my co-writing project, or any of the three completed manuscripts that I could be working on revising. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding them actively; it’s that I’ve been so consumed by the thing that I have been working on instead that it’s been difficult to get myself to even think about any of those projects.

So, what have I been writing?

A book review.

Book reviews are, for me, a strange enterprise. They’re for me, primarily – I mean this entire blog is primarily for me, but even more so are book reviews. They’re for me to vent, to analyse, to process my thoughts and feelings about what I’ve read and try to come to a satisfying conclusion for myself. It’s difficult because more than anything else I’ve done with this blog over the years, I feel the least certain about whether or not anybody else cares about my book reviews. I can’t imagine many people do; I know my friends who read my blog have been interested enough to start discussions about those books, and that’s been cool – but people I don’t know? Not that this blog is huge on “engagement” to begin with, because I have no idea how to do it without coming off as horrendously disingenuous, which I would be because yay social anxiety – but that’s just even more reason for me to feel unsure about whether or not it’s worth writing book reviews.

But I think that’s just because I have imported my mindset from my Tumblr days, where I would actually usually get most of my likes and whatnot from my film reviews, so I just got used to doing that for validation. It’s different with this blog, and I figure I just need to get with the program.

Which starts by counting this book review as a thing I’ve been writing, which I wasn’t even going to do until today.

And the reason I decided to count it is not because I feel, sincerely, that it “counts” towards the writing that I am counting, even though I am pretty sure by my own standards that it should. I am counting it because I just want to know, after all of my self-worth angst is laid out for me to get a clearer picture of, just how much writing is produced as a result of this process of self-inflicted emotional turmoil. How much effort, in terms of words written, actually goes into this enterprise that I have elected to invest myself in?

So far, it’s about the same as my writing ratio for the past few months.

It feels wrong, given how much more turbulent my mindset has been while working on this review, how much more intense and chaotic my feelings, how much self-doubt and second-guessing goes into this process. The word-count is deceptive – but it’s also eye-opening. All of this effort yields about the same result, words-wise, as the relatively comfortable process of working on things that I find less confrontational on the level of my self-esteem. Mindset is so important for writing, not necessarily because of how much writing you do, but because of how much work goes into producing the amount of writing that you actually get done on a regular basis.

I mean, that’s my thought. Although to be fair, those daily word-counts are a mathematical average, not the specific daily word-counts I accrued over the week up to this point. Who knows how much I’ve actually gotten done on a day-to-day basis. Maybe on days when I felt less stressed I did more writing; maybe I did more writing on those days. Maybe it wasn’t about stress, but what time I started writing, what my mindset was going into my session, that sort of thing.

Anyway: the book I’ve been trying to review/analyse/snark on is The Wereling by Stephen Cole. It’s the first of my pile of library-borrowed YA werewolf novels that I read through to completion, and I have some thoughts about it. Very few of them are charitable; but I will say that it was definitely valuable for me in terms of my own lycanthropic literary aspirations. It’s not the first one that I tried reading; Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter was the first, and after I think three rather short chapters full of slut-shaming, sex-shaming and general holier-than-though misogyny and virtue fetishisation I gave up. It’s not even about a werewolf; there’s just a werewolf in the love-triangle. For all its faults, at least Wereling doesn’t have a love-triangle – not yet anyway. There are two more books to go, and while I actively dislike The Wereling, I am kind of morbidly fascinated to see how it turns out. I can’t imagine it will be particular pleasing.

Well, this was good. I feel motivated to get back to work on my writing that “counts” after this – and a little less disheartened about my choice to write stuff that I find a use for, even if nobody else does, and to let it “count”, too. I am here to write, after all. It shouldn’t matter too much what kind of writing it is.

23/11/2018: 2549

Werewolves ahoy!

I realised today that I’m actually putting quite a lot of effort into this werewolf project. I’ve borrowed library books to read examples of similar stories in the same genre/marketing niche; I’ve been consistently working on this project for the past month and a half or so; I keep pushing myself to continue working on it …

How did this happen?

Well, it happened because I made it happen, and am continuing to make it happen, and I am forced to acknowledge that I am now committed to this shitty YA werewolf novel – and that makes me want to take it a bit more seriously. I mean, I really like werewolves. I am still enjoying writing this thing. It’s not what I thought I’d be working on; I thought I’d be done with my werewolf infatuation when I finally finished the original shitty YA werewolf novel almost two years ago. And yet here I am, working on a reboot that I actually care about, still considering doing a PhD focusing on werewolves and why I find them interesting in our current historical moment, and I wonder what this story might look like if I started thinking about it … seriously.

But honestly, I think that would hurt it.

Because I have a tendency to take my serious projects a bit too seriously. At the very least, I can’t give this project the same kind of “serious” treatment as I’m used to giving my other projects. I either need to just keep doing what I’m doing, not thinking too hard about it and just muddling my way through for fun and hoping it turns out well, or I need to find a new way of being serious, one that builds on what I like about a project and gets me excited to do it rather than leading me to think that there’s no way I could ever do it justice. I want my excitement for my projects to help them, not turn into over-thinking and perfectionism that makes me too nervous to even try writing them.

But most importantly, I think I just need to keep writing this thing, because I want to. I feel that’s probably enough of a plan for now.

24/11/2018: 1102

And the book review is finished. It’s not very good, but it’s finished, and hey, as an aspiring author I should be able to accept that nothing I write will ever be perfect and I need to put it out into the world sometime, right? And that goes for 6k-word-long snarky, uncharitable book reviews written for my own pleasure/emotional venting purposes too, right?

Well, whether or not I publish it I’m still counting it, because it’s what I spent most of this week writing. And because it was valuable – it made me see part of my review-writing process and attitude that I find makes the end product suffer, and I’ve had some ideas about how to improve that in future. Because, I mean, I do run a blog. I like sharing my thoughts and opinions; I’d just like to be able to do it in a way that I’m happy with, rather than one where I never quite feel like I’ve made my point but do manage to be really harsh and pedantic.

Part of that is just time, though, the opportunity to write it all out, look at it, and then see what works and what doesn’t. Revision, in other words; and as with novels and essays, so too with book reviews. It’s so energy-consuming. The actual time I’ve spent on this review, trying to organise my thoughts and synthesise my arguments, is probably not that much more than the amount of time I’ve just been winging my way through my werewolf novel reboot. But it feels like it’s taken so much longer. Maybe that’s just the tunnel-vision speaking, which I always get when I’m grappling with my thoughts and trying to turn them into articulate sentences that link together coherently. It’s really hard, so hard that it’s discouraging to think that, after all this work I’ve done, there’s still so much left to do before it’s what I’ll be happy with it being.

I guess I think of book reviews in terms of online “critics”, who deliver their arguments through some mixture of irony, outrage, snark, sarcasm, and overall meanness. It’s certainly catchy. I certainly enjoy indulging in it in the moment. But afterwards, it’s still there for me to deal with – and I really just don’t want to. I think I need the opportunity to vent, but I’ll only be happy that I’ve got a decent analysis if I then take the time to think through my ventilations and get to the heart of the matter. When I’m able to do that, I always come up with a more concise way to make my point, which becomes more well-developed. I occasionally even change my mind.

All of which is a very roundabout and redundant way of saying that you should think before you speak, and especially before you hit “publish”, but it’s hard and I don’t wanna.

Except that I do wanna. That’s what all of this week’s words have taught me, so for that alone they were well worth writing, and absolutely count.

Weekly Total: 12439

I keep saying “that’s more like it” or something whenever I break 10k these days. But I don’t really try very hard to replicate it.

It certainly is cool, though.

And a lot of it came from this freaking Wereling book review, which I have found so exhausting and nerve-wracking, but I also know that I’ve only even started to get to the bottom of where I stand on it. As I was saying to my co-writing friend today, I find that there’s a point when I take on a difficult project where, if it’s too hard initially, my reaction is to bounce off it like a rubber ball off a hard surface. It’s too stressful, I need less stress in my life, I need to step away – makes sense, right? This is compounded by me wanting to be better about self-care, but it’s also definitely stemming from my long history of avoidant behaviour. I’ve realised lately, though, that what I actually want is to do the opposite: to keep at it, because however long it takes for me to break through the crust of my own disorganised thoughts, feelings and random spontaneous decisions, there is a point that I’m trying to make, there is a goal I’m reaching for. It’s just that reaching this goal requires me to persist, and that goes against years of ingrained habits.

I’m seeing how this affects my more “serious” writing, too. This werewolf novel could be a “serious” project of mine, and yesterday I thought I needed to redefine what a “serious” project looks like for me. Now, though, I think it’s just that I haven’t been serious about a project for a really long time. I don’t know how to make myself serious about a project either, how to get myself to the place where I’m excited to try things out and see how they go. Maybe it just eventually comes with commitment; maybe it doesn’t come all the time. And I already know for a fact that my mood doesn’t affect how well I write. But it’s not just about the writing; it’s about my thought process, my ideas, the way that I think while I’m writing. For the longest time it’s felt so hard to even find ideas that feel appropriate to what I’m writing, to the point where I’ve tried to train myself to adopt the “write now edit later” approach that so many authors swear by. I know that it does “work”, as in “you get something written”, if you stick to it. But it still just feels … wrong. Like I’m settling for something that no amount of revision will fix without completely changing things – like I’m cutting myself off short before I even try to reach for better ideas, more ambitious attempts.

And more fun, too.

These werewolf books are opening my eyes to something: most of the werewolves I’ve encountered in literature just aren’t fun. The lore is sometimes cool, but being a werewolf just never feels like an appealing prospect. I’m not so much talking about it from a character perspective, because different characters feel differently about their own lycanthropy (or that of others). I’m talking about, as a reader (and writer), I don’t see the appeal. It’s not something I want to imitate, or even play around with, on my own time. There’s a focus on pack dynamics and hierarchy – and often sexual politics – that is often interesting, but is also often really unpleasant to deal with. It’s a fascinating example of how these topics can be explored through allegory and metaphor, and the fact that I find it hard to deal with honestly is part of the appeal – but beyond it being different to the kinds of stories I generally gravitate to, werewolf literature just doesn’t feel like it’s for me, in the same way that Fantastic Beasts isn’t for me, even though it seems like it should be.

But in a way, that’s heartening – it means that, at the very least, I’m probably not running the risk of stealing anyone else’s ideas. Not that taking inspiration from the ideas of others is something that I think is wrong or bad; I’ve said multiple times that “ripping shit off” is not just fun but vital to the creative process, and I stand by that. But it means that, in the world of YA werewolf novels, shitty or otherwise, I might actually have something new, or at least novel, to offer.

If my plan is to make this werewolf novel a publishing option … and to be honest, much as I love werewolves, I don’t think this is the vehicle I’d use if I did want to introduce my own strain of lycanthropy into the canon. I’d want something a lot more original than “teenager becomes a werewolf and has to deal with it”. I’m sure that might be part of it, but right now it’s the only part.

And maybe that’s why I’m finding it hard to be excited about this story – it’s just not that exciting. But that’s fine. I think if I haven’t already come up with my own take on werewolves after spending the past two years being pretty infatuated with them, then it’s not a problem that I need to worry about solving.

Although there is also the fact that I have not one, but two co-writing projects that involve werewolves. Besides the one I’ve been co-writing all of this year (for which we’ve come up with some very cool werewolf lore that I am very proud of, mostly the awesome idea of my co-author), I have another one with my best friend that, while we haven’t worked on at all since coming up with the concept, we are pretty excited about. I don’t know if we’ll ever work on it, but the fact that I have two other werewolf-related story commitments makes it that much harder for me to think of a unique take on the subject. Then again, they are both co-authored ideas, so I am still free to come up with an idea that’s all my own.

In any case, this week was a good week for writing, even if it felt like a slog for most of it. It’s gotten me looking forward to next week’s writing … which is my last chance to hit those Nano numbers on my word-count for this month, too. I doubt I’m going to really make the attempt to hit 50k words; that would be, like 30k words at least this week, which is 6k words per day. I could do it, but the words wouldn’t matter. And I’m realising more and more that I need the words to matter when I write them, and that that’s okay. Even if it takes a little longer than “right now” to get there. And I’m looking forward to exploring that.

If there’s anything that I ought to have learnt from Weekly Words by now, it is that it’s all about commitment, and ow important it is to be able to look back at where you’ve come from. It makes the path ahead that much more exciting to start walking.

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Weekly Words 12-18/11/2018

13/11/2018: 1190

PRIOR TO WRITING …

Sometimes, you know what you want to write about, but not how to write it.

And by “sometimes”, I mean “this is the essence of being a writer”. Or I hope it is anyway, because if not then I’m just bad at it.

I am more aware this year than in any year previous that my writing habits – specifically, the best way to gauge whether or not I will be doing writing at any given time – is dictated heavily by my mood. I’m not great at getting myself to write if I’m not in the mood for it; for years I have lamented my own lack of discipline, the ability to just get started, regardless of my mood – which is infuriating, not only because I keep fantasising about how much more writing I could have gotten done by this point if I had cultivated this habit, but also because after I get started, everything falls into place. Mood does not make my writing better or worse, either; if I go back and look at writing that I’ve done when I was inspired and energisied versus writing that I did while I was in a slump and wracking my brain just trying to figure out how to link sentences together coherently, I can’t tell which is which just by reading it. Forcing myself to write has the same result as being swept up on a wave of inspiration, in terms of the quality of the writing that gets produced.

That’s not the only way in which my writing habits are attuned to my feelings, though. Ever since I parted ways with my scumbag best friend from ages 12-20 and reconnected with myself, the stories that I’m the most passionate about have stood out because of the feeling I get when I think of them. They each have a specific tone, a particular vibe that compels me to maintain the thought of one day realising this feeling through my writing. Mark and Jessie is the big one, but Tallulah has it, too, though it’s shifted over the years; my reboot of Wolf Gang has it – hell, even the original Wolf Gang had it – my one vampire novel that I haven’t started work on since having the idea five years ago has it; my D&D-inspired story that will never get written has it; and a whole bunch of random stories that I started and discarded over the intervening years all have it, too. It’s a particular quality of my stories, and it drives me to distraction feeling like I have to find a way to put their particular mood into words, or I’m not doing it right.

The feelings, though, are not really feelings that I can even articulate. It might be due to the constraints of the English language; it might be that I’m overthinking it; it might be that the feelings I’m having aren’t actually about the stories at all, but rather the reflection of some part of my life that I see in the story. It’s always a wistful feeling, a sort of melancholic longing, but in a nice way. Nice melancholy, whatever the appropriate word for that is. Is it just that the stories I’m telling seem more appealing than the life that I live, and these “vibes” that I attribute to my various writing projects are actually moments of distorted recognition of my sense of unfulfilled desire, of life unlived?

I mean, yes, obviously it is. But I think it’s more than that, too. I think it’s me lingering on feelings and shutting myself off from taking action so that I can absorb them more deeply. I think this is why I don’t get as much writing done as I’d like, why I let opportunities slip by, moments of inspiration that I don’t leap on and follow through with; I think this is why I feel like I miss out on a lot of things in general. I just like feeling.

And what I think I’m ready to put into words now is this: it’s not enough to just feel.

There’s that philosophical question that I came across in my youth upon seeing The Matrix: how can you tell the difference between reality and a really immersive illusion? It’s all just electrical signals being interpreted by our brains, isn’t it? Well even without an intravenous digital simulation of physical reality being imposed upon me, I think I’m definitely someone who falls for the allure of electrical signals more easily than is healthy. I don’t need to be a test-tube clone swimming in a vat of liquefied human corpses (for those who haven’t seen The Matrix, no, I am not mixing any metaphors here) to be too easily contented by what I can feel as opposed to what I can do, or what could happen. I have this fear, I think, that if I try to act on these feelings, they’ll disappear. I’ll scare them off somehow, like trying to sneak up on a unicorn. So to make sure it stays where I can see it, experience it even if only from afar, I just stay still and let it be what it is.

It is not enough.

I guess maybe this is another way of me recognising that writing is never going to be enough to sustain me. I don’t know what is, or even what part of that is. I just have these feelings, these unrealised potential experiences that my brain translates into imperatives to write evocative prose. I think these kinds of feelings only really come to people who are passive and feel like they miss out on things. I think that if I become more active at some point in my life, I’ll stop having these feelings altogether, and feel different things instead. And that’s scary. It makes me kind of sad.

Don’t know why, seeing as I’m doing positively jack shit to actually make that sort of a lifestyle change, but whatever brain.

I know I see it as a barrier to my writing; I know that I use it as a private excuse for why I can’t write whatever project I currently have these wistful feels for. If I can’t write the right words, then no words will do. But I guess I’ve written a thousand words about how I need the right words, so I’ve gotten started – and that means the rest is about to fall into place.

Right?

AFTER WRITING …

God I’m dramatic sometimes.

Did I write the feeling? No. Which, I now realise, would have been impossible anyway, because these feelings aren’t a part of the story that is crying out for my attention. They are sort of like a canvas. Not a blank canvas; it is the story, but it’s the story before it’s been told. It’s the entire story calling out for my attention, saying “hey, you, writer person, come and put words here” …

And it’s not about the right words. It’s just about stories needing words in order to be told, to become more than just a thought or fantasy. I mean sure, there are stories you can tell without words, plenty of them; but my stories use words, because that’s how I tell them. My point is that these feelings – I’m the one looking for the right words, but that’s not what the stories are asking for. They’re just asking to be told. And they feel different because they’re different stories.

Simple. Demystified.

Yet still so alluring … oh well. One more element of my nebulous inner workings decoded. On to the next one, I guess.

14/11/2018: 657

I forget sometimes that this co-writing project is the main reason for why my word-count for the first few months of Weekly Words was so gratifyingly thicc. Yes, thicc can apply to word-count, I just applied it to word-count, and I’m a writer so I would know.

18/11/2018: 1732

Three days out of seven is …

Next week. Next week, I will have decided whether I am going to get serious about writing this month. But for this week …

Weekly Total: 5245

I have planned many stories over the years, and most of them I have never even started. Planning stories, as I have said before on this blog, is really its own project for me; it’s not really ever connected to a story, but some self-contained mental exercise that I do every now and then so that I can give myself a fantasy cookie and pat myself on the back for being “productive”. Plans don’t do anything for me, unless I have a deadline I have to meet and only a plan is going to save me from imploding from nerves and anxiety.

That, or ambition.

Ambition gets shit done, and it is, I now realise, the driving force behind all of my stories that have gotten written, and definitely the ones that I’ve been the most excited about. So, rather than seeing if I can come up with a plan for my current writing projects and seeing if that kicks me into gear, I’m going to try to get some ambition going. Go big or go home, and I’m already home. Not really; I’m writing this from my co-writing friend’s house, but it’s a home, so I guess it counts, right?

Ambition is the only way I’m going to get shit done. I haven’t got any right now – but that’s partly because I’ve been distracting myself with various trivial time-wasting activities that derail whatever ambitions I do have. And I do have at least some for these projects. So, next week is going to be all about getting back in touch with that ambition, and seeing where it leads. Because it would be really cool to do a lot of writing this month.

And while I am not going to be able to get a book ready for submission this year, I think I can finish a zero draft.

I daresay, that almost sounds like a plan.

 

Weekly Words 05-11/11/2018

05/11/2018: 1462

For those of you who care about this sort of thing, you might have noticed that I have, indeed, set this week’s Weekly Word to count Monday through Sunday as one week, as opposed to the usual Sunday through Saturday. Why is that?

Because that’s how my calendar does it, and while I liked the idea of having a “weekend” for myself back at the beginning of this experiment, I have decided that I’ll actually be much more relaxed if I am not trying to mentally juggle several different methods of “counting” a week every time I want to log my writing progress. Monday through Sunday is the new norm.

Also because I did no writing this Sunday anyway.

Last month was all about the werewolf reboot, and I was glad to find that. But this month is all about hitting 50k – and like last year’s Nano, which in many ways set the groundwork for Weekly Words as I hopped between a number of different writing projects, I want to take advantage of the fact that, last month, I found that I actually really liked having that feeling of several projects going on at once. Werewolf project feels like it’s in a good place; I’ve got another one, a dark fantasy parody/satire that is totally not an angry response to the blatantly squandered potential of Suicide Squad in any regard whatsoever, which I really love the premise of but am stuck on how best to tell the story, or even what the best story to tell with the premise might be. Similar to where I was with werewolves last month, but with more of a plan, characters that I actually really like (and a bunch that don’t matter and I really feel it, that’s one big thing I want to fix), and a killer soundtrack that I’ve been compiling ever since coming up with the concept. The entire project mostly got started with me discovering that I actually really like “Hypnotize” by Biggie, despite the horrendously problematic lyrics, so that’s the theme song at the moment, wow you care so much about all of this stop pestering me already, so anyway I have a few things that I am keen to pour my attention into this month …

And at the same time, if all I end up doing is progressing my werewolf book, I think I’ll be pretty happy. The only thing that matters to me is that I write a lot this month, however much “a lot” ends up being.

Also, while I did say last month that I didn’t know who this werewolf book is “for”, I’m starting to realise that it actually has one novel element to it: it’s a YA novel about werewolves where the lead is a guy and there is no love-triangle. I’m a fucking revolutionary over here. But at the same time, all of my werewolf info is coming from films, MTV’s reboot of Teen Wolf, and urban fantasy novels. I haven’t actually ready any YA novels where werewolves are the central focus … oh, no, wait, I did read Blood and Chocolate. I daresay that I rather liked it except for the really gross ending. Nothing quite like hooking up your 16-year-old protagonist with a 24-something-year-old alpha male who blatantly sexually assaults her during before they end up together and frame it as a happy ending. In urban fantasy, I’ll roll my eyes and move on. In YA, I’ll complain a bit louder. This shit is not cool.

So on top of everything else: November 2018 is about research, which hopefully will turn up something a bit more, uh, progressive than that last example. Time to hit the library, which already doesn’t have two of the more interesting (I use the term broadly) titles I found while trawling Goodreads, including one that has a male lead. Then again, if I don’t read it, nobody can accuse me of ripping it off muahahahaha …

08/11/2018: 1654

When I did my calculations, on the 6th, my calculations told me that I had to write 2k words a day, every day, to reach my goal of 50k words.

I mean, it’s nice to have options …

This night’s writing session took my werewolf reboot in another direction I wasn’t planning on, but this time it’s actually one that I rather like, and one that I think I can do something interesting with considering how I’ve set things up. This is slowly turning into a murder mystery, and considering how big of an influence Harry Potter has been on me I am only now surprised to realise that I’ve never tried my hand at one before. I do still want to have the horror elements I was so excited about when I watched It Follows, and I think a murder mystery vibe will help to weave those into the story a bit more organically than the plan I had before. Which didn’t exist. I have a plan for how to incorporate the horror elements into my book now, is what I’m saying.

Good job, me.

I have also been watching My Hero Academia because I am an adult, and appreciating both how much better it is than Dragon Ball Z and how much less classic it is than Dragon Ball ZMy Hero Academia is very slick, just self-aware enough to be refreshing without getting bogged down in a pretentious deconstruction of itself a-la the Zack Snyder DCU, has some great character moments (and some great characters), and nothing fucking happens. It’s entertaining; it’s highly watchable – it’s just that, even when things do happen, it feels like nothing has happened. I think it’s because the villains are really lacklustre compared to the main cast; when the big bad shows up he’s reasonably compelling because he has a relationship with the main character’s mentor, a-la Vader and Obi-Wan, and the rest of the time they’re 1) barely in it and 2) don’t really seem to have a purpose for being there except for the fact that there are superheroes in this show, and therefore there must also be supervillains, right?

The show is pretty great with its characters; the female characters don’t get enough to do (when do they ever), but they do get more to do than other shows where the female characters don’t get enough to do; the action scenes are pretty great (as is the animation in general); and it is eminently watchable. But it lacks a clear focus up to this point, three seasons in. I hear from my brother that, according to the manga it’s based off, the next season should be a bit more coherent in terms of what exactly is going on and why it matters, so I’m looking forward to that. But regardless of whether or not it does live up to its potential, it has given me an opportunity to reflect on some of my own difficulties with certain writing projects with a new perspective. I find that villains in particular are very hit-and-miss for me: either they come to me really naturally and I really like them, or they’re flat and uninspiring and feel like a waste of imaginative space. Looking at My Hero Academia, I honestly think it would be much stronger without the villains; there is already a clear antagonist character for the lead to contend with, and with an antagonist you don’t really need a villain. There is that one villain who works, so sure, keep them – but bring them in way earlier. They show up about 50 episodes in, in the middle of season 3, which is comparable to if Voldemort had only been introduced in The Prisoner of Azkaban. It doesn’t feel good. So, something for me to bear in mind is that sometimes the things that a story seems like it needs are actually getting in the way, and to embrace the possibilities that can arise from just … not including them. Even if they seem like an essential part of the formula.

That or just do the damn formula properly.

Which is the other issue with MHA: the villains are a clear symptom of the underlying focus issue of the show, but focus in general is the main issue. The show is definitely at its strongest when it delves into each character’s personality, backstory and relationships to flesh them out and develop them, and while a lot of characters who seem really interesting (most the girls) don’t get as much of this special treatment as others, when they do the show gains its X-factor. But there’s also the villain arcs that seem to come out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly; there are random asides showing characters who don’t strictly matter doing things that also don’t matter just to remind you that they’re there (also mostly villains); there are characters who show up to do something quite significant and then pretty much never show up again, making their appearances feel more distracting than anything … a lot goes on in this show, and the balancing act does not always go smoothly. The lesson here: know what the hell your story is about, and then make sure it is actually about that thing.

10/11/2018: 1366

Speaking of which: yesterday’s writing efforts were spent making notes on one of my projects trying to figure out exactly that – and I think it’s worked. Werewolf thing has progressed since last time, though I ended up chickening out of committing hard to the brilliant new direction I found myself going in; I do think I’ve stumbled into a great idea, but I feel unable to pull it off. I also think that, however interesting the idea is, it’s still a distraction. I have noticed though that I don’t really think about these exciting new developments when I come across them, specifically not thinking about how they might work – or not – with what I already had in mind. I just see a new direction to go in and that becomes the new be-all and end-all of my writing intentions. Makes a little more sense as to why I get stalled so easily and so often while writing.

The ideal of 50k words this month really sank in the other day, doing the math on how much I’ll have to do now in order to hit that goal – I realised that, basically, I’d have to write an entire novel. Which, after thinking about it for about one second, made me realise that wow my brain is slow sometimes. I’m not “doing” Nano this year, but 50k words in a month sounds pretty damn Nano-esque to me. Can I do it? With my werewolf novel, specifically?

No.

I mean, I could write 50k words for my werewolf novel, but they wouldn’t constitute a finished manuscript. They’d be, like, a third of a finished zero draft manuscript that I would then have to painstakingly comb through for revision. However, spread across a number of different projects, I think it’s relatively achievable. Maybe not likely, but far more likely than getting one novel written this month. Besides, I don’t have the focus or intent to put all my effort into a single project at the moment.

God this year turned out to be a mess writing-wise. I was supposed to use this year to get Tallulah ready for submission to an agent – not happening. I was then supposed to focus on getting Mark and Jessie ready for revision – also not happening. Now I’m juggling a number of different writing projects, which is happening, but it’s just so … what’s the point? Where does this get me? I suppose it doesn’t have to get me anywhere; I’m enjoying the process …

The writing isn’t the problem. It’s everything else. But, if everything else was going well, I’d still be writing.

So I guess I’ll keep writing.

Weekly Total: 6846

One year. One year, I will do Nanowrimo properly again. Last time, in 2016, I got most of the first iteration of Wolf Gang written, for funsies. The next time I have some big writing project that I actually give any semblance of a fuck about, Nano could be a really helpful tool for focusing my efforts.

But it is not this year.

And hey, the year is almost over, and while every year since around 2006 has felt fairly short to me, this year felt especially short. I’m still adjusting to the superhero calendar hanging on my wall that I got for Christmas last year; that’s how short this year feels to me. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and this year …

Huh.

I actually have had a lot of fun this year.

Like, maybe not by the standards of normal, healthy people, but by my standards I’ve turned into a fucking party animal this year. So maybe that’s it. The co-writing project has been a blast; D&D is a whole new experience in terms of having something to do with myself that isn’t writing, gaming, procrastinating or brooding; Youthline has had its ups and downs and I don’t know if I’m going to continue after this year but it’s been an incredibly valuable experience one way or another; recent health issues led to a lot of important revelations and had quite a few silver linings …

Yeah. It has actually been a pretty good year.

But it’s not over yet – and fuck it, maybe I will give Nano the old college try. Not by doing Nano officially, like through the website or whatever, because if I’m going to do that then I’m going to do it from the start of the month so that I can get all the trophies because I’m an efficient gamer goddammit, but through Weekly Words. I can fumble my way through this novel like I did the first time; I can work on the three main writing projects that I have going and get back into morning pages and freewriting. This entire year was supposed to be me focusing on one writing project to prepare for submission; I can focus on writing for one month.

And even if I don’t, it felt good to write it down with conviction, and really, isn’t that what’s most important?

Monthly Words: October 2018

Monthly Total: 27405

I realised, looking back at Weekly Words this month, that I should pay a bit more attention to my spelling. It’s not that typos are the worst thing in the world, it’s just that I know I can do better, and that typing “mean” instead of “meant” for instance can totally change the context or destroy the meaning of a sentence.

It’s also that it can give me stupendously high hopes that I somehow magically wrote more than I did, such as this gem: “13/10/2018: 10475”. One of those numbers is not supposed to be there. I think it’s the zero.

I mean, I’m fairly sure I didn’t write 10k words in a single day. I know I’ve written 7k in a single day, but that was the day, except maybe a few hours between waking and eating lunch beforehand.

This month, it was all about the werewolf reboot, which means that October is the first time since … Nanowrimo 2016, wow. It’s the first time since then that I’ve spent a full month dedicated to working on one project.

Which is not entirely accurate, because this month I also tinkered with some other projects and discovered that not having A Project was actually a great feeling, and the second-to-last week of October was really, really bad in terms of getting writing of any kind done … but still. I discovered long-forgotten emotional highs that trick me into thinking that there is a meaning of life and that I’ve found it; I then discovered that, upon losing this euphoric miasma distorting my perception of reality, I no longer fall into an inconsolable slump as I used to do when such occurrences would … occur … which suggests personal growth of some sort, and being a writer I am all kinds of about that. I took care of myself health-wise, and have recently started an actual diet-type thing that seems to be … well, in terms of weight loss I have no idea because we don’t have working scales at home (which might be a good thing), but I know that I genuinely feel better for doing it, so I’m saying it’s working.

Most importantly for my writing, though, I have finally come up with a sentence to explain why it is that “just write it” doesn’t quite work for me, nor does “I need a plan”. What I need is to “just write it” – and fix it up as I go.

And this is with regards to the zero draft stage, specifically. (From now on I am going to consistently refer to the first produced writing of a story the “zero draft” rather than the “first draft”, as it gets confusing otherwise.) I am, I think, what is sometimes referred to as a “discovery writer”; I have a broad idea of the story and premise and maybe some scenes that I want to fit in somewhere, and hopefully some characters that I give something resembling a fuck about, but everything else I pretty much just come up with as I go. How it all fits together, sub-plots, plot hooks, supporting cast – and sometimes even changes to the foundation of ideas that get me started on a story. So “just write” doesn’t work for me and my process, because I often get started writing well before I have anything resembling a plan – and that’s just how I like doing things. Most of the time at least. Mark and Jessie is sort of an exception, and that’s why I hate how it turned out so much. I need to write my way to a good idea, and then be able to go back a few sentences and re-word things so that the idea links in more strongly. I have to be able to stop and start a bit at the beginning.

And letting myself do that is the only reason why I’m still writing this werewolf novel. I would agree that stopping and starting is a great way to make sure you never get anywhere – if you have clear ideas on where it is that you’re going. If you have a pretty clear plan, even if it’s only a broad plan and the little details haven’t been worked out yet, then even if you go off on tangents during the writing process you can 1) write your way back to the plan and 2) iron out all the kinks in revision. But if you don’t have a plan, then stopping and starting is inevitably going to be part of the process, because it’s how you link your ideas together more strongly. It is, in effect, making the plan as you write, instead of doing it beforehand.

Because when you’re coming up with a plan for a story, you’re going to change things, go back and work in your new and better ideas when you come up with them, and in general restart and reboot and reimagine your writing plan in numerous ways, all before you even start “writing”. The only difference between “pantsing” and “planning” is whether or not your planning phase coincides with your zero draft phase. For me, it does, because I have done the long planning phase before. I did a 15-year-long planning phase. Guess how well that turned out. If I had been writing and letting myself stop and start as I went, things might have gone better for me. Also if the story hadn’t been unwritable because I kept shifting the goalposts for myself, but my point is that I thrive on making up a story as I go. I won’t even bother starting on a story unless I have some kind of premise, obviously, but I don’t need – or want – much more than a premise, a couple of ideas for how it ends, some characters, maybe a twist – because any more than that and I start over-thinking, over-planning, and for that reason alone I need to get to the writing part real quick-like.

For this realisation alone, this month has been a good one writing-wise, because this exact moment is one that I’ve been hoping for for a very long time: the moment when I figure out how I write, and specifically how I get myself to write instead of just making plans about what I’m going to, hypothetically, write at some point. How to break my habit of over-planning.

And now that I’ve found it, I aim to enjoy it.

Weekly Words 28/10-03/11/2018

28/10/2018: 1006

Nice start.

It’s strange. Weekly Words has only been around for, what, eight months or something, and yet it already feels like an old habit. I put some effort in at the start of the week, write something to try and cement whatever momentum that I have, and then taper off while making resolutions and observations about why and what I can do about it, if anything … it’s getting old. Which I don’t think is a bad thing, necessarily; any routine gets old, but that doesn’t mean it needs to stop.

It does tell me, though, that maybe trying to update very single day that I write something is exactly as contrived of a task as it sounds. I can just throw in a word-count and be done with it. I mean that’s the point, right? To just get shit written?

I did want to chronicle my mood and process and whatever for Weekly Words, but as it turns out I’m writing this the day after I did the writing, and thinking back on it the writing itself was nothing to, well, write home about. It was what happened around the writing that mattered, I think, and it was good stuff. My friend and I got some co-writing stuff done (hence the word-count), and she suggested that we start planning our writing snacks in the interests of promoting good health habits for both of us, which I have found that I am rather looking forward to. We then watched most of He’s Just Not That Into You, which has aged surprisingly well (in some ways at least), has made me appreciate just how good of an actor Bradley Cooper is when he’s playing an insecure coward who may or may not also be an actual sociopath, seriously go watch that movie again and tell me that’s someone you’d trust around your kids or small animals, and has reminded me how much I love Jennifer Connelly in literally everything I’ve ever seen her in because she is amazing. And then D&D where I introduced my latest character, who is a barbarian half-elf who for some reason talks with a vaguely Bronx/New Jersey accent. I don’t know where it came from, but it was entertaining and I like attention so it’s staying.

And the writing?

It does itself, right?

31/10/2018: 738

01/11/2018: 207

God, I am such a flake.

No judging, but I have come to realise that this is an undeniable fact about myself. I mean sure, I am doing writing consistently these days and have been since I got Weekly Words started, even if it’s not very much, and that is the point of Weekly Words when you get right down to it: the habit. It is quantity over quality, and writing first drafts in particular is one time when that is exactly the way you want to go.

Except when it’s not. Mark and Jessie has taught me this lesson so well that the very thought of trying to go back and read it (which I haven’t since the last time I said I had), and as I repeatedly throw myself at my werewolf novel reboot to increasingly diminishing returns I realise that, yeah, I was right when I started thinking that the whole philosophy of aiming to write complete garbage for the first draft because I’m just going to fix it all in revision anyway is not working for me. I need to care, I need to plan, I need a plan, even if it’s one that I make up on the spot. I have no plan for this story. It keeps going nowhere that I care about.

Which I think is fine in a “that’s life” sort of way, it’s just not ideal or satisfying.

And the reason is that I re-installed World of Warcraft.

Like, yeah, there is no getting around the fact that this one decision has pretty much fucked me with regards to writing and doing anything other than, well, that. It’s not even fun and I’m making myself do it because there’s some stuff I want to accomplish that is not fun to accomplish and once I accomplish it I probably won’t even enjoy it anyway …

Uninstalled. Again.

At least it was an easy decision.

So now I’m just back where I was two weeks ago, except I don’t have the excitement of having a story to tell because fuck this fucking nothing story that isn’t going anywhere and probably never will, I don’t think I even know how to tell stories anymore, if I ever did to begin with, which I am starting to think I did not.

liked this fucking non-story two weeks ago. Now I don’t. WOW did not help, and just in terms of general momentum and attention to spare it’s definitely the problem factor – but it’s not just that. It’s also the fact that, I think, this story isn’t for anyone. Like I can’t think of an audience, or even a person, who would be interested to read it. And this isn’t some marketing thing; this is me realising that the entire reason I like telling stories is because it’s a social thing, and I spend my life being pretty damn antisocial. I think that’s why my stories over the past few years just haven’t had that spark of life that drives me to write. The shitty YA werewolf novel kind of tapped into that just by being my attempt to write the most story-like story I could without thinking about it very hard, and having the I-just-discovered-werewolf-movies euphoria to carry me along for a good six months. I wasn’t writing “for” anyone, but at the same time I was using tropes and plot-hooks and character archetypes that I saw in the world around me. I was plugging in. And two weeks ago, I felt like I was doing that with this book too.

Look, this book isn’t important to me, but that feeling of having a story to tell is, and I had it for this book. Now I’ve lost it and I don’t know if it’s something I can even get back. I feel like the thing to do is go back to the beginning and start over again – I’m only two chapters in as it is, and barely anything has happened. After the disaster of trying to write Realm of the Myth in my teens years, first chapter after first chapter after abandoned first chapter for five fucking years, I am very leery of doing this. But unlike Realm of the Myth, this story does not mean very much to me. I don’t mind fucking it up. I mean I’ve already fucked it up because I’ve been using it to write about nothing, over and over again. I haven’t decided what it is. I am happy to figure it out as I write, but none of the things I’ve figured out yet are any good.

Hell, maybe I wasn’t excited about having a story to tell at all. Maybe I was excited about figuring out a new story. Either way, I feel like I haven’t left the drawing-board yet, and while I don’t want to get stuck there even with a story that I don’t care a whole ton about, I don’t have any ideas of how to get away from it yet. So perhaps churning out a few more chapters is exactly the right strategy for this situation. Pilot chapters. I don’t have enough of a plan to be numbering things at this minute.

And now that I don’t have WOW anymore – it really is quite great that it takes about 30 seconds to uninstall 50+ GBs of time-vampire from my hard drive – it’s not like I have anything better to do. Not that WOW is something better. In fact it is much worse.

And yet I keep coming back for more. But at least my habit of quitting is also growing stronger, that’s a good thing, surely … no way that could ever backfire in an unrelated situation …

02/11/2018: 3226

YESSSSSSSSSS.

I was right, goddammit. I went back to the test chapters of my werewolf reboot that I’ve written over the past month or so, discovered that one of the ones I had thrown out served as the foundation for a much more interesting story than the one I’ve been working on, took it and ran with it in a new document and … it just feels right.

The only issue is that no werewolves have shown up yet, but hey, vampires don’t show up in Twilight until like halfway through and that’s like the entire premise. Also this is a zero draft, and I intend to take advantage of that fact.

Also MyFitnessPal has informed me that, if every day is like today, I will lose 6 kgs over the next 5 weeks. That seems pretty desirable to me, and maybe even achievable. I have set my weight goal at 80 kgs, which is an intentionally massive goal – just under 40 kgs away – because I’m sort of testing the system and also being idealistic. Reach for the moon and even if you miss you’ll fall amongst the stars, or whatever that highly unscientific saying is.

Also also I have discovered the song “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles and have been listening to it non-stop all throughout my writing session tonight (which averaged out to just over 1.5k words per hour, which I’m quite pleased with). I may have to shoehorn it into my werewolf playlist even though it definitely doesn’t fit, because that’s how I roll.

I also roll with a lot of words written because I am the shit.

Fuck WOW.

03/11/2018: 1880

For a grand total of:

Weekly Total: 9121

This pleases me.

Another!

Well, we’ll see. If there is a month for me to redeem myself in terms of sheer volume of writing that I get done, it would be National Novel-Writing Month. I’m not “doing” Nano this year – but having said that, Weekly Words was partly born out of a desire to see just how much writing I could get done under my own steam on a regular basis, turning every month into a sort of pseudo-Nano. So this year, I’m setting my November word-count goal at 50k …

And we’ll see. It’s an ideal, not an ultimatum; I might write 50k, or 100k, or 5k, but the point is that I will aspire to 50k this month.

Because this shitty YA werewolf novel reboot is actually going fairly well since I decided to return to the drawing-board and see what was working there. It’s good to be able to persevere with a project even when it isn’t going perfectly, but it’s also good to know when you have a failed project on your hands, so that you can stop wasting your time with it and move on to something else. Failure isn’t a bad thing; it’s just frustrating to acknowledge that your efforts have been going into something that won’t work out the way you want it to. But it’s certainly better than not acknowledging it.

I’ve also decided that, yeah, I will finish reading Mark and Jessie, with no plans to revise at this stage. Just to read what I’ve written, take stock, get a general impression – and keep taking my snarky-ass notes that probably won’t be even a little bit helpful for revision because they’re so ranty and sprawling and will take forever to get anything useful out of. But it feels good to do in the moment, because bad things deserve unfettered hatred. And I’m not ashamed of having written a bad, long first draft of a book that I cared a lot about and wanted to be the best thing that I or anybody else had ever written or read. I do think that when I eventually do return to the project, it’ll be as a reboot, not a revision. There is so little of what I’ve actually written that I’d ever want to use that it would take less time to just write something entirely new, maybe copy-and-pasting a line or two here and there, but mostly taking broad ideas that work and using them as a foundation for a new thing that, hopefully, will work.

Here’s to making things work – and being able to move on when they don’t, so that you can have the opportunity to make the next thing work.