Weekly Words 24/30/12/2018

29/12/2018: 286

I don’t think I’m quite ready to get back to “real writing” yet, but I am keenly aware of taking too long of a break, letting myself burn out to a complete halt. I am actually considering doing no writing for all of January though, kind of like staying up all night to reset your internal clock after waking up really late for a while, there is absolutely no reason why that specific example came to mind I’m just spitballing here hey happy holidays everybody hope y’all had a good one …

I think I’ll just keep doing little bits of writing here and there, though, rather than completely swearing off it for an entire month. There is other stuff I want to sort out for the kind of start to the year that I want, and de-emphasising my writing efforts is definitely one way to help me focus on those things. But at the same time, I don’t have to. I have focus to spare, if I put some effort into getting myself organised. I think I’m just over-analysing my desire to blob out for the holidays and my seriously dysfuncitonal psyche is trying to find the moral wrongness of that desire. I don’t have to give in to that. I can just enjoy not having fuck all to do for the moment.

And I can still do a little bit while I’m at it.

30/12/2018: 3299

Not bad for my second-to-last day of 2018.

I not only did this rather-impressive-if-I-do-say-so-myself chunk of writing, I did it following up on a project I had at the end of last year/the start of this year, to complete a bunch of scenes from Realm of the Myth as a sort of funeral rite for the project. I’m lately of the opinion that, just maybe, it could be written – but also that that’s never been a useful priority for me. These scenes are the ones that I keep coming back to when I think about it, and are the only coherent elements of the story that I have in mind – so, I figure if I just write them as they are and see where I stand afterwards, then I might end up with enough of a foundation for an actual story that I can write at some stage, and at the very least I will have exorcised this creative demon that I have allowed myself to be possessed by for the past … holy shit, almost 19 years.

Definitely time to get it all out of my system.

And hey, if “all” of this project is encapsulated in this batch of scenes of varying degrees of thought-out-ness, then I might be done around this time next year, or even sooner. I saw Aquaman today, which was strangely inspiring despite being decidedly average in all respects and quite shoddy in others, so that’s some extra grist for the mill. I might even rewrite some of the scenes just for my own peace of mind. I might do that for Suicide Squad, too. Might give me some ideas for my other writing project inspired by my intense disappointment at Suicide Squad and frustration at its wasted potential. Might help me pinpoint exactly what the problem is that I want to address with the project.

Weekly Total: 4170

In any event, the year is almost over, and while it’s felt short and anti-climactic, I feel that the journey was worth going through. It’s been a pretty good year.

I feel like next year will be, too.

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Weekly Words 17-23/12/2018

Weekly Total: 0

Well, this blog post will count, but still. I did not writing this week, none that counts anyway – and it feels great.

Yes, this is the second-to-last week of the year, but so what? There will be other years. Many other years. It’s important to set goals and keep to them, but I feel like pushing myself to write this week when, honestly, I had no inclination to would be kind of like making a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym more often: feels good in the moment, and never amounts to anything significant. And I want my writing process to be more than that.

It’s like eating healthy, which I have been working on for the past two months-ish, and even after only two months-ish I can tell you that habits that don’t work don’t get built. Lofty, righteous fantasies of how “good” we’re going to be about insert-goal-here don’t mean anything if they’re not realistic; and I want to have good writing habits – and eating habits – that affect my real life rather than some hypothetical scenario where I am made of discipline and have never heard the words “sugar” or “salt” or “cheese”. And while I have always had the fantasy of being that writer who writes 2k words every day and never misses an entry …

I mean, it’s a nice fantasy. Fantasies are fine and good and healthy. But they are fucking fantasies. And I want something more than that.

2018 has been, honestly, a great year for me. It hasn’t been a great year overall; it’s been a pretty shit year in a lot of ways on the whole. But just in my little pocket of the universe, I found that I could do things that I never thought I could, stepped out of my comfort zone – and learnt more about where my limits actually are, and what they are, too. I know myself better this year. And with that knowledge, I know that I don’t see any value in trying to force myself to write for the rest of this year, because there’s nothing I desperately want to finish. Everything I’ve got going on is … ongoing. There’s no rush.

Feels good.

And it feels like the right way to end this year, when I’ve been working on building habits that I can keep going rather than just stuff that will work out this year. Start the way you intend to finish, yes, but also continue the way you intend to continue. And, well, I intend to continue. I’ve found some ways of doing things that work for me, and I want to keep them up. There are times when pushing yourself across the finish-line is necessary – but when it’s not, dude, fucking chill.

So for the rest of 2018, I’m going to chill. I might write, I might not. I have a lot of stuff that I want to work on next year – but that’s next year. And next year, I intend to be better about chilling out than I have been in the years leading up to it. This week off has been a really pleasant one, and while I’m only really taking time “off” from what amounts to a hobby I’ve kept up for 18 years, this year I’ve been putting more concerted effort into it than I have since I was working on the zero draft of Tallulah – and that was only for 6 months. This has been a whole year. It’s changed the way I think and feel about writing, for the better, and it’s made me realise just how futile my attempts to push and shame myself into being “more productive” have always been and will always be …

And, conversely, how good I actually am at getting shit done when I follow a system that actually works for me.

Which is why chilling out is exactly what I want to do. I will wait until January to do my much-anticipated (by me at least) Yearly Words recap, and will take the first couple of weeks of January pretty easy too on the writing front, though I will be making some writing plans during that time. This is not “I will not write at all during this period of time”; this is “writing is not going to be the priority for this period of time”. I have writing ambitions that, a year ago, I would not have ever thought would ever really be possible for me to achieve. Now I feel like they are – it’ll be hard, and I’m still finding that I have a lot of learning to do with what does and doesn’t work for me writing-wise, but I know that I’m on-track to getting to the point where I actually feel capable of tackling these projects. And I want to do it. I’m looking forward to it.

Next year.

Actual Weekly Total: 815

Weekly Words 10-16/12/2018

11/12/2018: 1626

Red six blue six …

I have been actually successfully doing the whole recreational activity thing for the past two days, as opposed to mindlessly distracting myself with YouTube videos that I’m barely watching to begin with because I’m also playing Dragon Ball FighterZ training mode at the same time. I’ve gotten to the point where I have to distract myself from my distractions.

So today and yesterday were a welcome and much-needed change of pace, which was set by me finally completing Rise of the Tomb Raider, after taking six months off. It was … fine. I didn’t like the close-quarters combat in the first one, and they’re not any better this time around; the quicktime events are gone, but so are the compelling writing and characters; the exploration is fun, but somehow the world feels less interesting than the previous game … I dunno. I didn’t hate it, but I also feel like I kind of wasted my time by playing it, so maybe I do hate it. I did enjoy the Blood Ties DLC, but it just made me wish the story content there had been incorporated into the main game. There was very little in terms of emotional engagement for me in the main game, and that more than anything was what made it feel like a let-down.

Still, I do feel like I’ve spent the last two days improving in an area that I sorely need to improve in: being intentional with how I spend my time. Even if I wish the way I’d spent it was more enjoyable, it still feels good to have set myself a goal and followed through with it – and, hey, there were definitely enjoyable parts of the experience. More valuably, though, it has taught me something about how I do not want to spend my recreational time: doing something that doesn’t feel satisfying. No patience for that shit no more. And I think I don’t get satisfaction from open-world games, even though Tomb Raider is not really an open-world game to begin with; it’s designed like an open-world game, with tons of side-quests and optional activities to fill up your time with and make you feel like you’re not getting anything fucking done because every new task you pick up kills whatever momentum you’ve built up for the previous one. It’s like being told to run a race and then having the organisers throw caltrops at you every hundred yards, while you’re running.

I think what I’ve identified is that I find open-world games distracting. And distraction is exactly what I’m trying to get away from.

So I’m glad that I got my writing done today. I almost didn’t, and especially after gaming I find writing really difficult to get into, but once again I set myself a goal and followed through, and the end result is that I now only have one scene left to write in this co-writing project and I am done. Until revisions, of course, but it’s going to feel good anyway, and I’m looking forward to it. Also gives me the chance to have a break from the werewolf sequel; I’m glad I decided to start writing it, but I definitely can’t just steam ahead with it with no pauses. My fantasy of euphoric tunnel-vision for a writing project is, I think, definitely only a fantasy.

12/12/2018: 677

And I am done. I have finished a freaking writing project this year! Well, my allotted fifty percent of a writing project; but that still counts!

One thing that I am pretty damn certain I will identify my Yearly Words post is just how much motherfucking writing I actually did in 2018. Just gonna call it now; this has been a really stellar year for me and writing, even just in terms of volume. It’s been stellar in other ways too, like being aware of how much effort I put into writing, awareness of my writing habits, etc. – but yeah, seriously, I have written a lot of words.

13/12/2018: 860

I don’t know how  many of you have seen Robin Hood, the 2018 film, but I have now seen it, and … I mean, it’s not the film I was expecting. In a lot of ways it was, but it felt different. It felt like I hadn’t lost 2 hours of my life that I could never get back, and I was not expecting that. It felt like this was actually as good as it possibly could have been, and I was expecting to be yearning for the better film that it easily could – and should – have been, and while there definitely could be and have been better Robin Hood films, I didn’t feel disappointed with this one. And I think the reason that I wasn’t disappointed is because it lived up to its potential. It accomplished its goals, it kept its promises, and it did what it set out to do.

It’s just that what it set out to do was be a really mediocre, tone-deaf, insubstantial film about an unlikeable, selfish brat who gets the support of the people by virtue of plot convenience rather than, like, doing anything for them, getting to know them at all, or not being a self-absorbed fuckboy.

It nailed the shit out of being that movie.

More importantly, though, is that at no point did I ever feel like if they’d just changed X thing or expanded on Y element, it would have elevated it in any way. It felt like a complete experience, so even if the experience itself was just not very good, I came away from it feeling, dare I say, satisfied. I would not recommend this film to anybody at all for any reason whatsoever, and I’m satisfied with having seeing it for myself.

It makes me wonder, though, why I am writing the things that I have been writing lately – “lately” being “throughout all of this year”. The co-writing project is because it’s really fun, but in terms of whether it will ever “go anywhere” – well, that’s something my friend and I will have lots of opportunities to discuss, and the fact that it’s only half my project makes it different to the projects that are purely my own work. Of those ones, I’ve been focusing my energy on two very low-mental-bandwidth, extremely self-indulgent projects that are more for my own amusement than anything else, and the one that is less purely for the sake of my own enjoyment has proven significantly harder to focus on.

And I think it’s because, kind of like Robin Hood, the purely self-indulgent project (my shitty YA werewolf sequel novel) is living up to its potential. It’s not very good, but that comes with the advantage of making it a much simpler thing to get the results that make it feel fully realised. There’s that old adage about never having to fail if you never try; that’s pretty much how I feel about Wolf Gang 2 Lycanthropic Boogaloo and Robin Hood: Assassin’s History Month. More so Wolf Gang 2, because it’s mine, and the effort I’m putting in is giving me the reward that I get out of it. It’s safe. And I kind of need that right now. I’ve had a great year, and I’ve had a really challenging year, and the two are absolutely connected – but yeah, it’s been challenging. I need something non-challenging to sink my teeth into as well.

I think, though, that it’s also my level right now, and if I don’t push myself then I will feel like it’s all that I’m capable of, and that’s definitely not what I want – but at the same time, I’m sick of feeling like every interesting idea that I have is doomed to failure because I lack the basic skills required to make it work. I just want to be able to do something and have it feel like it’s working right away, and that’s what Wolf Gang 2 is for me, much as the original was in 2016. But I also want to be able to handle failure, to know that it’s not going to destroy me. Presumably I should already know that; I’ve failed at plenty of things in my life, but every prospective failure feels like the first time all over again, and it sucks. It sucks to care about something only to have it not work out.

Maybe that’s why Robin Hood is the way that it is. It’s definitely why Wolf Gang is the way that it is.

Maybe I just need to stop thinking about this garbage movie.

15/12/2018: 3365

I forget how much writing can go into making very little actual story transpire. It’s quite frustrating. It is definitely the main cause of my reluctance to give new stories a try.

I am over a hurdle with Wolf Gang 2 now, and that’s good, but god that was an expensive leg-boost. I don’t regret it, but I still wish I was more efficient with my words during the zero draft phase. It’s all well and good to say “you can fix anything in revision” and “once it’s finished you’ll feel great for having followed through with your commitment”, but actually getting to that point is hard enough by virtue of being a process of badly writing poorly-considered ideas; the fact that it takes so much fucking time on top of that – I mean, there’s a reason I haven’t even started most of the story ideas I’ve had, let alone finished them. “Disheartening” is exactly the word for it, because it feels like you have had your heart removed and are unable to pump blood to the parts of your body that you use for doing things with.

And yet, I keep doing it, and I wonder what the mood was in the writer’s room for Robin Hood, and every other useless garbage story ever brainstormed. I don’t know if it’s just Wolf Gang or I’m actually developing as a writer, but it’s becoming easier to persevere through the morbidity of these thoughts of how much effort goes into so little work. And that’s the only way any work gets done; you just have to do it, regardless of how hard it is to get it done.

Unless it’s actually hopeless and needs to be ditched; and I think the way you find that out is by doing it anyway, and seeing if you get anywhere. If you do, then you know it’ll pay off eventually, and if you don’t, you know that it won’t. I’ve found that’s pretty universal, anyway; the bad projects show themselves to be bad pretty much right away, and it’s only stubbornness that kept me trying to prolong their lives beyond their natural expiration date. That’s the difficult part. But if you can learn to read the signs and take the hints, you can avoid my mistakes. If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work.

And if it does, then it does. And right now, I’ve got something that works.

Weekly Total: 9021

Today was interesting: I spent two hours rearranging my bedroom purely so that the glare from my drawn blinds will not hit my tv while I’m watching or playing things on it during the day, and I’m pretty sure I just ended up manoeuvring it into precisely the wrong position to make that happen but whatever it’s done I actually kind of like the layout on its own merit; and then I just spent 5 hours being around people and I feel good about it. Had a farewell dinner for my cousin before she moves down to Nelson with her boyfriend; it was fun. And probably the most sociable I’ve been all year. …

Which has actually been the most sociable I’ve been since I was, I dunno, eleven years old and didn’t yet have crippling social anxiety. I’m always terrified of trying to be around people and then just running out of energy and hating every moment of it but being unable to leave because politeness etc. But this did not happen. It was very enjoyable.

I don’t even feel guilty for not doing any writing today.

The thing is, I actually very rarely feel guilty about not writing for a whole day anymore. Weekly Words kind of fixed that issue for me; the guilt I felt was pretty much put-on as a (really bad) way of trying to enforce some kind of accountability for myself and my writing. Weekly Words fill that role now, except without the guilt part. Why the fuck didn’t I realise this was the best idea I’ve ever had like ten years ago?

I am also starting to think that these projects that I’m writing that “don’t matter” – it’s pretty obvious that they do matter, a lot. They keep me writing, for one thing, and honestly there doesn’t need to be anything besides that. But I remember writing the first Wolf Gang and wishing that I could apply that method of writing to Tallulah, a story that did and does “matter” to me, while knowing that I absolutely could not because it “wasn’t that type of story”. Wolf Gang was off-the-cuff, embracing my inner hack, pulpy garbage that I giddily excreted from my brain for fun, while Tallulah was this arduous, soul-searching, existential-crisis-inducing endeavour that I had plans for; I conjured and scrapped so many ideas, for like four months, before I even started writing it seriously. How could they be any more different?

But I realise now that that’s not the point of difference when it comes to being a writer. Clearly the stories are different, have different goals, make different promises, arose from different creative processes, etc. But that’s a reader’s perspective on the matter. As a writer, it’s the process of getting the story from concept to proof that matters, and the method – if you could call what I’m doing with Wolf Gang a method – is the only point of difference between one project and another. The ideas and themes and characters and setting and all that shit; that’s just the pieces I have to put together. But how I put them together is the part that matters, and until today I didn’t really realise that.

I realise now that, when I do eventually return to Tallulah, I can absolutely apply my “method” to it, because it’s my creative process. I’ll be working with different ideas and trying to evoke a different mood and striving for, let’s be real, a higher level of writing quality, but again, that’s all just technical stuff, that’s what I’m trying to do. I realise now that that isn’t actually an important part of my writing process; what’s important is how I do it.

I realise that, actually, I can write fucking anything.

And without committing to anything here and now, because what would be the point, I’ll just say that I am thinking of a few older projects in a brand new light right now, and I like it.

Weekly Words 3-9/12/2018

3/12/2018: 1644

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.

4/12/2018: 2950

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.

5/12/2018: 1852

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.

7/12/2018: 3528

“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?

8/12/2018: 2644

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.

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 …

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 should just read them again instead of trying to find new good werewolf books that don’t exist.

9/12/2018: 1837

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 …

Monthly Words: November 2018

Monthly Total: 33971

“The only thing that matters to me is that I write a lot this month, however much “a lot” ends up being.” – me, 5/11/2018

I think this qualifies.

Three things stood out to me from reading back over my writing process this past week:

  1. I reflected back on and learnt about my own writing process in ways I never have before
  2. I actually did a lot of writing, even though my process sometimes felt quite erratic and inconsistent
  3. I should never, ever write a book review ever again, ever

Well, maybe one day, when I am in the right frame of mind for it, which is not the frame of mind I’ve been in while writing this one. I also made myself watch some Netflix this month, which makes it sound like a chore – and it kind of is, but it’s an important one, because I do actually enjoy it, it helps me relax, and it’s chillout time that isn’t just distracting myself browsing YouTube all day to fill the void in my soul where the desire to be an enthusiastic consumer is supposed to be.

But yeah, this month’s results raise … a question, I’ll frame it that way. The question of, after years of wishing for a time to come where my writing experience will be one of feeling how well I’m doing at writing while I’m doing it and being able to use that feeling to guide my writing, whether or not that can ever possibly actually happen. Because to memory, there has never been a time when I’ve felt that way. I’ve felt highs and lows, I’ve felt plenty of apathy, but the one thing I’ve never felt is some tangible connection between how I’m feeling while I’m writing and the quality of that writing, the prose that comes out of it.

And I think the answer is, actually yes – just not the way I’ve been fantasising about it. I will definitely not have the feeling of “this writing that I am doing is going to be received well by people who read it”. Taste is not something that I can control. But I can feel – and have in the past felt – really into what I’m writing as I’m writing it, because I’m enjoying the verb writing, as opposed to the … uh … the other thing that isn’t a verb.

I’m a writer, not an English professor.

But I am an English major, and no that will never stop being funny to me.

In short: yeah, it’s a fantasy, a pleasant fantasy about how one day my emotions will somehow directly relate to and give an indication of the objective quality of the writing that I am producing and how well it encapsulates the ideas that I intend to express. About how one day the desire to write will possess me and not leave me from that point on, and I’ll just live out the rest of my days in a blissy writing-trance where I feel my achievements as I make them. But it is a fantasy; my experience of writing has been that feelings don’t matter one way or another when it comes to how “good” my writing actually is when it’s done, and I have to fucking grind my spirit up a slope of serrated knives just to get started a lot of the time, and I hate all of my ideas and think that I have no capacity to be creative or interesting with them – and yet, writing gets done when I do it, and sometimes it feels satisfying, and sometimes it leaves me feeling frustrated and disappointed. But when I look back on it and see that it’s been done, that always feels good. I’m going to have to learn to trust that this is how it works, and to embrace it, if I want to move past the point of fantasy and start exploring what’s actually real about writing.

On that note, while I’m going to be writing this month, right now I think that I might take this first week of December off and just see what comes of it. It might be that I want to fill my time with writing after all, or it might be that I have other things to do. The important thing for this month, I have decided, to close out the year – intentionality. If I do something with my time, for it to be because I considered it and made a decision to do it, not because I have defaulted to it. Default habits aren’t ever going to go away; human beings just do that. But we can shake ourselves up, change what those habits are, and some are better than others. I would like to at least broaden my scope of possibility in that area.

And finish watching Sabrina. It’s a bit, shall we say, white, but the things it does well it does very well. And Kiernan Shipka is very excellent. Apparently she’s from Mad Men, which I’ve never watched; what else has she been in …

Oh.

I think I’m good with Sabrina for now …

Weekly Words 26/11-02/12/2018

27/11/2018: 2074

23396. That’s how many words I need to write this week if I want to hit my 50k goal.

I mean, it’s good to know, right?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is proving to be a very compelling and entertaining watch; I’m only 2 episodes in, but if it continues the way it’s started I am looking forward to a new addition to my list of favourite TV shows. Nothing will ever beat Teen Wolf, at least the first 3 seasons, but at the same time I wouldn’t want Teen Wolf to be the only TV show that I ever have fond feelings for.

One downside though: Sabrina existing makes it really hard for me to want to invest much time or energy into my own witch story now. Not that I’ve gotten very far with it over the four years that I’ve had the idea, mind you – I guess by the time I get around to it, Sabrina may not be on the air any longer.

Also, I suppose I shouldn’t think of my own unfinished, unwritten stories as competing for the public’s attention with shows that have already gone to air, books that have already been published, etc. I default to this way of thinking because I guess I’m equal parts narcissistic and unrealistic (though narcissism already requires a certain level of disconnect from reality, I suppose, so maybe just narcissistic) – and also maybe because I want to feel like I’m in the company of peers with the stories that I’m thinking of telling. I can see how this could, in the right mindset, be a helpful thing, something to spur me on and fuel my ambitions and determination. It doesn’t really have that effect, though, so it’s really just depressing when an idea I have half-formed and remains half-formed after several years of kicking it around in my head is compared to a fully-realised text – TV show, film, book, game, whatever.

Maybe I should have done Nano properly after all, tried getting into the forums and stuff. I don’t know if people use them very much or what the sense of community is like, but I definitely feel like that’s something I’m missing for the majority of my writing time. Also probably one of the main reasons for why the co-writing project has been so enjoyable of an undertaking for pretty much all of this year. And maybe why I spend too much time watching YouTube – YouTubers, to be specific. It’s almost like having company.

I think I just made myself depressed, excuse me for a moment …

Less depressing: I did more writing today, after a couple of days of feeling unable to pick up where I’d left off. I am aware that I am in making-shit-up mode at the moment, which is not the same as telling-a-story mode, and I’m just focusing on letting it be what it is. It’s something that is making me feel more and more like rebooting this reboot – and back in the day, that would have been a frustration. But now I realise that it’s actually fine for me to write as though I’m starting over without actually going back and undoing all of the work I’ve done up to this point – because everything is going to be fixed in revision if this is a “serious” project anyway, and if it’s not, then it doesn’t matter.

I think I’ve realised that I need this reboot just the way it is. I don’t have to try to make it a “serious” project for it to be worth doing. I’m learning about my writing process, what’s been working for me so far that works with this project, and what’s been difficult for me that I seem to be slowly learning to improve on. All in all, it’s pretty hopeful.

Maybe hopeful enough to hit that ridiculous word-count goal – but even if not, I’m glad I’m still writing it.

30/11/2018: 729

That book review is starting to take shape, two weeks after starting it.

Why am I doing this again?

Perhaps because my attempts to get other things going are failing and each successive failure disheartens me further in an unending loop of maladaptive behaviour.

On the bright side, though, I do seem to be moving closer to a writing process that works for me. It’s a challenging process in itself, recognising what I find useful versus what I have grown used to insisting I should find useful, but I think I’m getting there slowly. There’s stuff that I’ve written that I like enough to build on, but it comes with stuff that I want to ditch entirely. Normally I’d go back and cut out the bits that I don’t want to keep (in a new copy-and-paste document, of course) and write my new continuity from that point on – however, recently, as in within the past few days, I’m coming to realise that it works way better for me if I change nothing at all and just write as though I’d made all the changes that I wanted to make. What will probably help this strategy is getting into the habit of making notes for myself so that I can follow my own constantly-evolving continuity in the zero draft, so that I know where and why I made continuity changes and can make an informed decision about how to tackle that in revision.

I think that’s what a zero draft should be for, in the spirit of just getting the fucking thing written: a well-organised mess, stream-of-consciousness as a process in itself as opposed to an aesthetic or genre consideration. I am only hesitant because of the nightmare scenario of trying to unpack it all once it’s been written and I want to get serious about the story being, like, intelligible and stuff – but, again, I have at least one idea of how to make that easier.

And so, with this month rolling to a close and my self-directed 50k word-count goal nowhere near close to reached, I prepare for the next ambitious task: putting this plan into action. It’ll help me continue with my werewolf reboot, which I am disappointed has proven so difficult to concoct in terms of what it’s actually about and what’s happening, especially compared to the pre-reboot version; and it should also help me get off the ground with another project that I’d really like to make exist. I know they both could stand to benefit from some better planning-out, so I might give that a go as well. We’ll see how I feel.

1/11/2018: 4810

I did a lot of reading today, mostly article-hopping, and it shook me out of my perpetual stir-craziness-induced stupor for long enough to make me think I actually might be able to condense my book review into something of a reasonable length while still giving a clear, coherent overview of my thoughts and feelings about the book.

I was wrong.

But that’s fine, because I also, after reading this Atlantic article about how young people are having less sex that made me despair of men ever being worth anything ever, did some honest-to-Baphomet writing, as evidenced above. It only took about 3 hours, so that’s, what, 1.5k words per hour?

I’m quite pleased with this result, I must say. This was all my Suicide Squad I-can’t-legally-monetise-fanfiction project; in writing it I not only gave it some much-desired momentum, but actually got me to thinking about the plot and characters and their roles in the story, like I’ve wanted to be able to do since I came up with this idea almost a year ago. I’m excited to keep it going.

And it all worked out like I hoped it would: I just wrote the scene that I had in mind, making it up as I went where I needed to, but honestly a lot of it wrote itself, as they say. It feels like a mission statement; this scene is almost a plan for the entire story all on its own. It sets up the main plot, the core dramatic tension, the key players, all while establishing and introducing the cast and showing them off – a bit. Obviously, revision is ever the writer’s friend, but considering this is a very zero-draft sort of effort I’m pretty impressed with what I managed to accomplish. I feel like this is how my writing process works when I let myself just do what feels right for me to do, rather than trying to adhere to some set of rules I’ve decided must be the correct way to Be A Writer by following.

Also, I’ve done more writing in the last 3 hours than I’ve done in some weeks, which also pleases me.

Not a bad way to kick off December.

2/12/2018: 9441

These past two weeks, seriously. I’m on some kind of roll here

If only I felt like I was on a roll.

But, the results speak for themselves, and while I may not have hit 50k this month I still did way better than I expected. I also found a way to make a difficult project start working for me, and while that goddamn book review isn’t done yet and probably won’t get done for a while now because other library books that I have not read are due back earlier, those books might get reviews. Though they will probably just be woven into my next Weekly Words post, as I have four days to read four books. Which I can do. I might not get much else done, but then again after last night’s writing-sprint I could do with a bit of a breather.

Tomorrow, though, is a co-writing session and I am looking forward to it. My energy for co-writing doesn’t seem to be the same energy that I use for everything else; it’s almost like loading a different save file, one where I have all my HP and mana. I’m just generally ready for co-writing. Not always, but generally. Much more than I am for my own writing.

But I’m finding ways to get energy for my own writing, and if that means taking a break every now and then is something I’ll have to work into the equation, that’s fine. I’ve actually never even considered that writing is something I might need to take a break from while I’m on a roll, like working out, or any other thing, really. Taking a break doesn’t mean taking a hiatus. It makes sense to me now.

Also how the hell is it December already? I like the thought of trying to do something special for December. My co-author friend and I are already hoping to get this first season of our show written (zero draft) for the end of the year, which would be awesome, but I think I want a personal goal for myself as well. Not necessarily a writing goal, just something I would really like to spend some time doing to wrap up 2018. I will have a think.