Here’s the plan.
During the daytime, I will be focusing on reading back over my completed manuscripts; the energy to actually write and create doesn’t seem to be with me while the sun is high, but doing something more analytical – like making revision notes – is exactly what I’m in the mood for. I didn’t stick to that plan today or yesterday or the day before, but I think it will work.
As for when actual writing will happen: fucked if I know, but that’s sort of the beauty of Weekly Words, isn’t it? The flexibility? That was the whole idea when I came up with this initiative; I think I’ve lost sight of that as I settled into a sort of routine and loosened up on my weekly word-count goals, so maybe just to kick myself out of this post-holiday rut I’ll bring back word-count goals just for a little while. I’ll aim for 5k a week and see how it goes.
So, why update today? Well, as I mentioned previously, I need the regularity of Weekly Words; I have come to rely on it to organise my entire life and mood, pretty much, and without it everything goes to shit. I have some stuff that I want to do, like book reviews – maybe “review” is too formal of a concept for what I actually want to do, which is just to kind of spew my opinions and responses and thoughts and feelings, not so much to do any kind of actual critical analysis. Not to be mean, but to have as little excuse as possible for over-thinking things. I did that with The Wereling and now it’s been three months since I read it and still the review feels … wrong. It’s too structured of a format. I want something a bit more informal. So I’m going to have a go at that.
And that’s going to count towards a weekly word-count total, because, I mean, I’m going to publish those “reviews” or whatever they are; “rants”, I guess. I miss my rants. I like the idea of getting back into the habit – hopefully with some applied wisdom and experience that I didn’t have when I was at my most prolific stage of rantery.
Also because, to be real, I do not have the energy passion or cerebral acuity to actually think about my writing projects right now. In some ways that should be a good thing; not being so serious about it could help loosen me up and get some fun balls rolling, so I will not say no to trying that out. But the focus for me is going to just be this blog for a little while, at least until the end of January I think, as a nice gentle way to get back into the swing of weekly wording without having to think about the huge obligations of book-writing that I have set myself.
Tonight, I finally returned to Mark and Jessie, just like I said I would, and boy did I pick a bad point to return to … or the perfect spot to jump back in, depending. The 5 pages I managed to force myself through tonight basically summed up the previous 364 that, taken together, made me quit my read-through last October. I’m past the halfway point at least; it’s a 622-page manuscript once formatted to the size of regular novel pages, or whatever random measurements I found online when I looked up “novel page size”, so at least that’s something. I have less volume of self-inflicted torture to wade through for this half of the read-through.
It’s also been interesting to find that the things that I find so disgusting about this manuscript are actually the kind of things that I have come to value about my writing process over the past couple of months – specifically, experimentation. My most successful writing this year has been accomplished one of two ways. The first, and best, is having external accountability paired with mutual enthusiasm, i.e. the co-writing project. And let’s be real, it wasn’t all smooth sailing – until I compared it to my own self-directed writing, at which point it’s hard to be realistic about the times when I did struggle to write my contributions to the project because in comparison it literally wrote itself as I thought the words into existence without having to lift a fucking finger. Which brings me to the second way I have succeeded at writing this year: making myself sit down and write, and letting myself just fuck around once I got started. Yes, technically that’s also how I got my co-writing installments written, but it’s worth acknowledging that this method did still work when I wasn’t also benefiting from the shared responsibility and investment of a co-author to bounce off. It just worked less often, because it’s still about enthusiasm either way, and without a second person to be enthusiastic through vicariously, when my enthusiasm isn’t there, it’s not fucking there.
But the decision I made when I came back to Wolf Gang, initially as a horror reboot after being very impressed with It Follows, then as a sequel attempt, and now sort of both at the same time huh maybe that’s why I’ve lost momentum it’s almost like trying to do tons of things at once isn’t good for maintaining focus or something …
The decision to just let myself stop and start as often as felt right really, really helped. It’s not enough on its own, and I’ve learnt that over the past few weeks of trying to use that logic to reassure myself that the writing will go fine once I get started, only to find that I just can’t be fucked getting started at all. I need something else, too, not just permission to write how I want – I need a reason to start writing to begin with.
Which is where Mark and Jessie gives me another crucial insight through its sheer unrelenting awfulness: if I experiment too much, I end up stuck in a hole of “maybe this will work” that I can’t get out of, at least not without taking a break – and that’s kind of the problem, because even the solution to this stalling comes at the cost of killing my momentum. Which is where I’m at with all of my projects right now: I’ve stalled. I’ve hit a wall and run out of gas. I’m excited at the prospect of continuing the trip, but at the moment I simply don’t have the means to do so. It’s been frustrating.
So I’m hoping that just focusing on the blog for the rest of the month, not stopping myself from working on my other shit but definitely not making it a priority, will give me a chance to refuel. I like being excited to write; I miss being excited to write, as I’ve said a few times on this blog. But I also know that it’s not all just about emotion, and while I’ve made justifications and rationalisations in the past about how I’m not getting paid for this shit etc., I’ve also found that I actually feel better about myself when I know that I actually have the capacity to just make myself sit the fuck down and do some goddamn writing, whether the excitement is there or not. So I’m not just looking for enthusiasm. I’m looking for purpose.
Because without purpose, it doesn’t matter how good my discipline is: if you don’t got nothing to write, you won’t write nothing.
Or you’ll write Mark and Jessie, and set yourself up for unspeakable horrors that will haunt your soul for all eternity upon attempting to make revision notes on your attempts to craft a story about of ideas you haven’t had yet. So that’s what I want out of this break: not enthusiasm, not excitement, not passion. Just ideas. I have a lot of energy and nothing to spend it on right now. I am hoping to reopen my idea factory by the time February rolls around.
But I’ll stick it out regardless of how long it takes. And in the meantime, I’ll find other things to write and expand my suite of writing skills. Win-win. Hell, maybe I’ll actually keep up with morning pages this year.
Why god why am I responsible for this despicable fucking manuscript why does this have to be a thing that I made with my time energy and passion because I actually thought it was good why did you let me believe that why is it so fucking shit why why whyyyyy
I have 18 pages of notes on this zero draft. To be fair, I don’t know how to “properly” make revision notes, so I have absolutely no clue if this is an unusually high number, a rather small number, a sort of average number, or if every project varies quite a bit. All I know is that 18 pages is a lot for notes on a book that, to be completely honest, does not warrant 18 pages of thought or consideration devoted to its contents. “It’s shit.” There. I finished my revision notes. It’s funny, I always complain about how I have no time-management skills and yet, after a hundred years …
NO I’M NOT FINISHED I’M STILL READING THIS GARBAGE BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT I HAVE TO WORK WITH THIS IS WHAT I GAVE MYSELF TO WORK WITH I REAP WHAT I SOW WHY LORD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
I’m not sure why I feel so much animosity towards God right now. I mean, I’m not religious, I don’t actually believe in God, and yet I’m still here blaming/imploring him like there’s somebody listening … to be fair, if there was someone God wasn’t going to respond to, someone who gave up on Him 23 years ago is probably a good bet.
Though if I hadn’t given up then I think looking at this trainfire dumpster-wreck of a manuscript would be enough to test my faith, easily. Some people see it as a test from God when they get a serious illness, or get fired, or get dumped, or are beset by a plague of locusts. I get to see the evidence of my own imagination and enthusiasm turned against me, my only hate springing from my only love.
But, that’s writing. Also, time. Because I have read this manuscript before; I’ve read it twice, I believe, before this current read-through, and neither of those times did I pick up on all of the bad that it is comprised of. It would be heartbreaking if it wasn’t so funny just how utterly irredeemable this zero draft is, but the amusement value does not detract from just how much work it is to make myself read these sentences and acknowledge these characters, plot-twists, Deus ex Machinae, this hollow world-building and shallow, fitful lore. It is exhausting.
And the worst part?
Once I’m done with this read-through, I’m going to have to read through it all over again.
Because I have made a commitment, dammit. This book is getting revised and, one day, submitted for publishing. That’s happening. And these “revision notes” I’m making? They’re garbage. I knew this from the start and I know it now; these aren’t revision notes. They’re therapy. I need to evacuate these reactions, these feelings of disgust and outrage and , frankly, disbelief at the fact that the thing I am reading actually exists to be read in the first place. That all of my effort, my passion – my love for this fucking story – came out so warped and twisted and utterly unenjoyable, and I have 622 pages of proof of it.
Which tells me that I am in no state to make any kind of critical decision about this manuscript. This is me giving free rein to my feelings as I feel them; I need to do this, this is a good thing – it’s just also an immensely fucking time-consuming thing. But it has to be done, because if this was actually my attempt to make sense of the writing I’ve done and compile a set of legible, clear, actionable revision notes, it would be a failed fucking attempt.
And I am not going to have a failed attempt.
So, I will go through my process, and I will ensure that I give this project the best chance at success that I am able to by getting this painful gut-reading out of the way. I will exorcise myself of hatred, bile, and fits of deranged cackling at the sheer heights of awful I somehow managed to attain over the course of the writing of this zero draft manuscript, and when I have drained the infection fully, then the real work can begin.
Or I dunno I’ll move on to a different project that doesn’t suck.
That’s quite a freeing thought, actually. So for now, I’m just going to leave this decision-making process here.
I’m actually writing this on the 28th because I stayed up extremely late last night/this morning to watch the YouTube vods of the Dragonball Fighterz World Tour Grand Final, including the four Last Chance Qualifier tournaments held the day before. It’s a lot to explain that really has nothing to do with my writing at all, except that it is the reason for me not having written my check-in for the 27th until the 28th. I’ve never been big into conventional sports – I did use to stay up until 2am with dad so that we could watch formula 1 racing together when I was about 14, and I followed cricket extremely casually when I was a pre-teen, and of course went along to my younger brother’s soccer games when he played – but eSports are a slightly different matter. At least they are where Dragonball Fighterz is concerned, because it’s Dragonball Z with bits of Super included because hey marketing, it’s a total nostalgia rush for me, the game itself is really satisfying to play (at least in training mode where nobody can fight back) and really fun to watch, and yeah okay back to the writing stuff. I’ll say this though: those Last Chance Qualifiers tournaments made for some extremely compelling IRL narrative arcs. If you feel like you’re lost for inspiration, real life can be a pretty good resource.
Writing-wise, I have managed to force myself back to the Wolf Gang sequel. Talking with my co-writing friend yesterday (who had some very awesome brainwaves during our writing session), I realised that my problems with this sequel, the constant getting stuck-ness in particular, was down to me feeling obligated to maintain continuity between the stories, and thus unable to write as freely and dynamically as I did with the first one. Initially, I balked at this being the solution, because continuity is good, right? But then I remembered that this entire story is not good, not quite on purpose but certainly not against my purpose in writing it to begin with – which was to have some fucking fun. I still only managed 607 words, but I also did some copy-pasting that I’m pretty pleased with, and feel like I’ve set myself up with some good momentum that I plan on following through with … today.
This really doesn’t work as well if I don’t get these posts out on time.
Weekly Total: 3630
Not my best effort – actually this might be my lowest weekly word-count result since the last time I just straight-up took a week off – but some important stuff got done this week that can’t be measured in word-count, and hey, Weekly Words is all about acknowledging the process for what it is and being able to appreciate the parts of it that are more quality than quantity. I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot right now in terms of my mindset and enthusiasm for writing, both in terms of working on newer projects and maintaining my commitment to my older ones …
Which, honestly, I’m still thinking about ditching and moving on to something new. Free up some imaginative real estate. I keep coming back to this issue of having so many ideas that are just really old, or old to me anyway, and seeing as I’m only 32 years old that’s not necessarily a very long time at all – but the point stands that I have different ideas, sensibilities, tastes, and values now than I did when I initially decided that X project would totally Be A Thing. Some of them have stood the test of time pretty damn well, but others – well, let’s just say they’re not working for me at the moment. And it may well just be a matter of needing some momentum and a pair of fresh eyes, but I don’t want to stop myself from giving up on a project if I can feel that it’s not going to go anywhere. I’ve learnt the hard way that letting go of things that you have invested yourself into not just intensely but for a long time can become so deeply ingrained into your sense of self that you talk yourself out of moving on, even when all the signs point to that being the best thing for you to do. I don’t want to be in that place with any of my stories, because I love stories. I want my relationship with them to be a healthy one – and to know when it’s unhealthy, too, and to be able to walk away. I won’t say without regret, because I think regret is pretty natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Just to be able to move on is enough, no matter how hard it is.
Though having said that, I haven’t given up on certain projects just yet. Illnesses can be cured sometimes, and it’s worth giving it a shot. So I’m doing that. I said I don’t want to have a failed attempt with Mark and Jessie, and I meant that – but hey, we don’t always get what we want, and sometimes what we want isn’t what we need, and that is as true in writing as it is with anything else.