Co-writing doesn’t count.
I mean, yes, I count it here, but I mean it doesn’t count as “I won’t do any writing this first week of December” writing. Because it’s not just about me writing; it’s me and my friend, a mutual commitment – and also it’s fun. Today’s writing actually felt a bit like the fantasy of good writing that I have apparently decided is just a fantasy and to stop pursuing it – but I think the issue is that, actually, I have never pursued it. I’ve just wanted it a lot, and when I put zero thought or effort into achieving this specific goal, surprise surprise, I feel like it’ll never happen. Important distinction.
But yes. It felt good to write this scene to completion. It’s a key scene in the show, where the two leads meet and start getting to know each other, and it gave me the opportunity to explore them a bit more as people because they don’t know each other at this stage. How well did I do?
Well that’s not the point; the point is that it felt good to write because of what I was doing, not how well it was done. I think that part is probably not going to be something that I can gauge through emotional state alone, if at all. But just enjoying the process of writing, rather than hanging out for validation for the product of it, is something I think I may be getting a bit better at.
I said this month was going to be about intentionality. Well, I have this shimmery fantasy about how writing is the most euphoric and self-sustaining habit I could possibly get into.
Let’s make this month about that.
Everybody loves sequels, right?
Because apparently I love sequels, and if I love sequels, then everyone must love sequels, because that’s how human brains work apparently, it’s super great.
Tonight, I shifted my focus from the reboot of my shitty YA werewolf novel Wolf Gang to a shitty YA werewolf sequel, and I have to say it gave me an energy boost. The issue with the reboot, as it currently stands, is that I’ve written a lot of words and nothing has fucking happened. Yes, it’s a zero draft, zero drafts are full of filler and shit and that’s all well and good and it’s healthy to accept less-than-perfect when you’re still figuring things out, that’s how we learn, etc. But that’s not what this project is. That’s not what I need it to be. I need it to be fast, punchy, spontaneous, not something laboured and planned and, I dunno, important. I said I was thinking of making it a serious project, and that I had my own style of writing that wasn’t just “write it really fast and don’t care about the quality to begin with”. Tonight I realised that I wasn’t actually following my own advice; I was agonising over the quality, trying to think of what happens next and trying to make it “good”, trying to fit a plan into my unplanned writing exercise and killing my momentum dead before I could get started. It’s amazing to me that I’ve managed to persevere with it for the past two months; honestly, that’s an achievement in itself. And I’m not saying that I’m completely abandoning the reboot effort. It’s just that, well, this isn’t a “serious project” even as a reboot, so the sequel thing – it’s just another thing to throw at the wall and see if it sticks.
Besides, I’ve had the idea for a sequel – a series of sequels in fact – even since before I finished the original manuscript, as something fun I could do to entertain myself with. I could have my very own YA novel series. Publishing and stuff – not important. Just making it exist is enough for me right now.
Which is sort of the issue with the reboot: I’m starting to think of it in terms of what happens with it after I’ve written it, and I think those expectations I’m setting myself up to meet or not meet is what’s killing my momentum and passion. It’s hard to have fun when you know you’re being judged for it, especially when you are the judge. It becomes an exercise in futility, trying to have fun you are judging yourself for having because that fun doesn’t come with good enough results, according to some invisible, unspoken metric that you just have a gut feeling about rather than an actual set of guidelines or specific prerequisites. And until I can step away from that at least, this sequel exists on a different plane of existence to my greedy, jealous, perfectionist inner critic. I don’t know how to rescue my reboot from it; I don’t know if I can. But I know that I enjoyed the hell out of writing this sequel tonight.
And I think I’m looking forward to writing more of it.
Besides, you’re apparently expected to have a whole series in the works when you try to get a YA novel published, so having a whole series written should be even better, right? That’s totally how that works, I bet. And it means I’ll be able to go back and revise the entire series for continuity and such before release. Whatever “release” means.
Speaking of going back: I read Tithe by Holly Black yesterday, in about 3 hours. It’s one of her older books – published in 2002 – and what struck me was that I could tell the difference. I’ve found that Holly Black’s books are incredibly consistent in terms of voice (a voice I really like), and Tithe was interesting because it seemed like a prototype of that voice. The story, too, seemed a bit … rough. Elements of it definitely echo the fact that this was a book not written at any point in the past five years: the awkward and unfortunate use of the one gay character as a Refrigerated person, whom the main character did not seem to actually care about that much to begin with; the uncomfortable romanticisation of what these days we (hopefully) recognise as blatant sexual assault; the Orientalism; the fact that everybody is not constantly on their phones and have no idea how to interact with other people without them … I may be projecting on that last one …
What’s interesting about this to me is the fact that I’ve also recently read The Cruel Prince, which has some similar elements. There is, thankfully, no token gay character to get Fridged in order to provide a plot-point that the characters don’t even seem to particularly care about resolving (but then again, there are no non-straight characters period), but there is some non-consensual kissing and undressing. In Tithe, every single time that consent is violated, it’s made out to be either both upsetting and hot, or just hot. The one exception is the token gay character, who spends pretty much the entire book under the mind-control of a sadistic rapist faerie who has enchanted him to like it. At least at the end he stabs said faerie to death, or maybe after he was already dead, the time of death is a little fuzzy – anyway. That’s Tithe. In The Cruel Prince, it’s all made out to be a bad thing.
And I appreciate that not only because, like, it is a bad thing, but also because it’s something that the lead character participates in as a display of dominance, because she’s seriously fucked up – which is what I really love about The Cruel Prince, and honestly all of Holly Black’s stuff. Her leads are not always nice or good people, and it’s really refreshing to read a story that commits to that, rather than dressing up abhorrent behaviour as titillating. I say this with the understanding and acceptance that fantasies are healthy and good and normal, even if their content is twisted, because fantasies are not intentions. But a private fantasy is not the same thing as a published novel, and while I’m not trying to hate on anyone (including Holly Black) for however they feel about Tithe and similar tales, I definitely prefer The Cruel Prince for taking those behaviours and character motives and using them to create a compelling character who, while perhaps sympathetic, is definitely not good. It fits Holly Black’s faerie-tale proclivities very well, and her penchant for writing stories about fucked-up people to begin with. Commitment. I like commitment.
Sooo much telling.
That seems to be a very zero draft thing. It’s not just that elegant, meaningful sentence structure doesn’t come to me; it’s that blocks of text info-dumping stuff that could potentially be interesting if delivered in a more engaging manner does come to me, and so that’s what I write, because you can only write what you can think to write. And it’s fine. That’s how it goes; and with this project in particular it actually feels appropriate, because while not a satire or parody, I’m definitely reveling in how these badly-written zero draft werewolf manuscripts actually read scarily like published YA books I have read.
Which, to be honest, is the core appeal of this writing project to me, like its predecessor – and why the reboot just wasn’t doing it for me. I also don’t know how to make the reboot feel more fun; it’s a different story, inasmuch as I actually have a story thought out for it, and it just doesn’t suit this tone, this authorial voice. But it has gotten me to looking forward to this full-series revision undertaking, if and when that ever happens, which will be when the entire five-book shitty YA werewolf saga has been completed in zero draft form …
What the fuck am I doing? How is this my plan?
Because it’s awesome, that’s fucking why.
“Maybe I’ll take the first week of December off from writing”. Uh-huh.
The sequel effort is going pretty well so far.
Alas, my reading efforts … well, on the one hand, I read all of Magic Triumphs, the tenth and final installment in the Kate Daniels saga by wife-husband writing team Ilona Andrews in three hours, and it was a bit bittersweet. Ten books is a hell of a commitment. I then spent the better part of this afternoon trying to power-read The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong, which I was really enjoying with some ambivalent edges until I had to go catch the bus to return it and a bunch of other books to the library. I suppose I could have waited a day and just taken the late fee, but I prefer to keep a clean slate with the library now that I’m an adult and stuff. It does mean I didn’t get to finish it, though, and I could have finished it if I’d forgone YouTube trawling for one day today. Habits are hard to break, but at least now I have experienced the consequences of allowing them to get the better of me: not being able to finish library books before they’re due.
And yes, I tried renewing it; turns out other people also use the library from time to time.
I am still in search for some YA werewolf lit that doesn’t either 1) make me feel befouled for reading it somehow, or 2) have the infuriating bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold trope that I cannot freaking stand. Specifically what I can’t stand is the constant goddamn consent violations that go hand-in-hand with the trope. To be fair, The Gathering subverts that to a large extent, and even openly engages with the issue of consent, and even does it in what seems to be a responsible, respectful, sane way – which was a nice surprise in more ways than one. The only other book of Kelley Armstrong’s that I’ve read is Bitten, and I had a good old rant about consent issues in that book back when I read it. Maybe because this is YA, maybe because we are living in a post-#MeToo world, maybe because Armstrong has evolved as a storyteller; whatever the reason for why The Gathering doing a better job with consent, I’m glad that it does, and am interested in reading the rest of the series. Though the whole Native American thing … well, I’m not Native so I have no real way to know if it’s done well or not, but there’s always going to be some discomfort for me reading books by white authors about characters from marginalised cultures and/or ethnicities, however well-intentioned or even well-executed those books may be. But again, it seems promising, and was fun to read before I had to stop two-thirds of the way through. There’s always next year.
I still have Raised By Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes to chew on, but other than that I have actually not been able to find a ton of YA werewolf lit – at least none that made me feel like I would not be reading something I’d 1) already read before and 2) not enjoyed because goddammit just figure out consent already for fuck’s sake … but who knows? Maybe times have changed, and the Urban Fantasy that gets published in a year’s time from now will show me that the genre can and will up its game on that front. I would certainly appreciate it, because besides that one minor annoyance that makes me want to strangle people it’s probably my favourite genre right now.
At least I don’t have to deal with that shit in my YA werewolf series. Write the books you want to read and all that, right?
I’m up to chapter 2 with this thing already. Clearly this was the correct decision.
Until a better one comes along, but that’s life I guess.
I really enjoy writing something that reads like other things I’ve read, something that feels like it fits in with what I find familiar, something that I understand. Being able to emulate that effect pleases me to no end, and is extremely motivating.
Less motivating is the fact that, of all of the werewolf YA novels I’ve sampled from the library over the past month or so, they’re all just so … exasperating. Cool werewolf lore, most of the time; some really challenging and thought-provoking themes of power and hierarchy and gender and sexuality, always; and also almost always why why why the fuck is there always a fucking built-in justification for the normalisation of patriarchy and misogyny in fucking werewolf books?
In YOUNG ADULT WEREWOLF BOOKS?????
And look, I know that I have a tendency to make mountains of molehills with my analysis of media in general when it comes to reading bigotry and abuse in a media text. I think certain things count as, for instance, an example of rape culture that other people might disagree with or think is taking things too far, seeing problems where there aren’t any – or acknowledging that, yes, it’s related but overall not that big of a deal. But when I see it, I don’t care if it’s a mountain, a molehill, or a freckle on the back of a tardigrade; I cannot fucking take this shit. In any measure. It grates on me, and it pisses me off, and it gets to the point where even the slightest acknowledgement and attempt to address it, such as in The Gathering, sends me into a goddamn euphoric frenzy, even if afterwards I look back on it and realise that it’s actually still gross and bad and kind of just makes things worse, such as in The Gathering, I need to finish it now just to figure out whether or not I think it’s perpetuating rape culture or not and this is not why I want to elect to read books.
I just want to read about fucking werewolves without having to worry about whether or not the author thinks that women cannot and should not do things without the say-so of an alpha male father/lover figure. A lot of stories try to have their cake and eat it too in this regard, where the plucky heroine will outwardly reject and challenge the authority of the alpha male character, but ultimately by the end of the story said alpha male will be proven right for their overbearing, patronising, controlling, manipulative, and most importantly jealous behaviour, all will be forgiven, blah blah shoot me I hate it.
And the thing is, it does make sense for werewolves, so long as the story is about being unable to escape the influence of a charismatic, authoritarian cult leader who has conditioned someone into subservience so powerfully that even their attempts to rebel ultimately lead back to them accepting the patriarch’s word as law. But they’re not. They’re stories about freedom and liberation and independence, or they’re supposed to be anyway, and just …
Who would ever want to be a werewolf, if this is what it’s like?
Like, seriously, what the fuck is the appeal? The latest book I’ve read on the subject, Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, certainly has a unique answer to this question. Our heroine, Bryn, is a human girl raised by werewolves yet is still part of the pack, and ends the book by becoming the alpha of a pack of super-werewolves that she liberates from the pack-bonds of their sadistic alpha because she has a totally-not-a-superpower that lets her do that … which, to be honest, is quite cool, I like that part of the book. I like the werewolf lore in general; I don’t like the fact that it’s another example of “most werewolves are male because females are inherently weaker” lycanthropy, or the fact that some people have “knacks” a-la Twilight and it’s only introduced like two-thirds into the book, but at least it actually serves a narrative purpose in this story. Kind of. Unlike in Blood and Chocolate.
And Bryn never becomes a werewolf. It’s interesting. It’s also really unappealing. Mind you, being a werewolf in this story’s world also seems really goddamn unappealing; and it’s led me to wondering if maybe I’m coming at werewolf literature from entirely the wrong angle. I have had this assumption – probably because of Teen Wolf and Underworld – that werewolves tend to be a power fantasy for most people, rather than a metaphor for how much the patriarchy sucks except when it’s awesome make up your fucking mind and, because of this, I’m thinking that I may have to re-evaluate my reading of most of the werewolf lit I have read. Ultimately, this is why I keep coming back for more: no matter how much Urban Fantasy paranormal novels tend to piss me off with their not-exactly-progressive gender politics, they also never fail to challenge me and make me reconsider my assumptions about my own tastes, sensibilities, and comfort levels. In this case, the werewolf novels that I’ve read suggest to me that, just maybe, not all writers have the same ideas about werewolves as me, let alone each other. Maybe not every thinks that werewolves are a power fantasy.
But that’s base heresy and shall not be tolerated on this blog.
Glad that problem’s solved; now to consider how all of this applies to my werewolves. My werewolves, for the record, are not interesting. I had an interesting idea for the reboot which I may retcon into the series; I will probably retcon what I’ve written of my reboot already into the series anyway, because it’s way more interesting lore-wise. But what’s interesting, now that I’ve thrown my little fit, is that I actually can’t quite identify what the power fantasy appeal of being a werewolf is, either. I would assume it’s along the same general lines as the superhero power fantasy, or the Dragon Ball Z power fantasy: you are stronger than your enemies and you can destroy them if they dare to cross you, they’ll be sorry they ever doubted you, you’re the alpha now, etc. Which is extremely banal and boring; I think maybe I’ve found the problem.
Well, fuck. What do I do with that?
Pretend it doesn’t exist?
I really am a genius sometimes.
And okay, there are some good werewolf books out there. The Kitty Norville series did not drive me into an apoplectic fit, and the issues that I have with the books are issues that I feel I’m supposed to have, issues that the writer put there intentionally to be issues. I love those books, even if the werewolf lore is not really my style. And werewolves are not so much a power fantasy in that story as much as they are a belonging fantasy. I mean, a bit of a power fantasy, too, especially in the first book. They’re just good books, okay? Go read them. Maybe I should just read them again instead of trying to find new good werewolf books that don’t exist.
Man, taking this first week of December off from writing was such a good idea that I totally committed to.
Co-writing to start the week, and co-writing to close things out. My friend and I had an epic brainstorming/planning session today, and everything is planned out; all that’s left is to actually get it written. Those 1837 words all came from the writing (and completion) of one of my three remaining scenes, and results in a weekly total of …
Weekly Total: 18248
… I’ll take it. I don’t know how it got here, but now that it is here, I will take it.
I know I’ve said it before, but this year has gone by way too fast. I tried to be optimistic and put it down to the fact that I’ve had more fun this year than I have in a long time, but even accounting for that trick of brain chemistry I think there must be some sort of dark magic involved. Someone is trying to speed us towards some kind of deadline, and I’m not sure I want to know what happens when we get to it. Then again, there are certain truths about the state of the world that I would not mind fast-forwarding through.
But even if next year does slow down to a more normal pace, all years have felt pretty short to me since I hit my 20s. It makes me grateful for this blog, and my friends and family, and generally all the stuff that I’ve got going on, even if a lot of the time I feel like I want or need more. It’s a good foundation to build on.
And this year in particular it has been reassuring to know that, whatever comes my way, there will always be writing to get me through it.
Lots of writing, if this week is anything to go by …