Weekly Words 18-24/03/2019

18/03/2019

Revision

God I hate this fucking dogshit manuscript.

But, my best friend told me to be kinder to my past self, and while I do enjoy the catharsis of hating on the awfulbad of the manuscript that is the current incarnation of Mark and Jessie’s Christmas, I figured she had a point – not just in terms of self-care, but also in terms of potentially getting more out of this readthrough than I might with a more negative attitude. So I gave it a go, and lo and behold I actually found a scene – a whole scene – that I would actually like to carry forward into whatever revision/reboot process I undertake as part of this project.

It’s also forcing me to get perspective: trying to remember the mindset I was in, my decision-making process all those years ago, is helping me not only to see the ideas presented in a more generous and thorough light, but also allowing me to see how far I’ve come since then … and, honestly, how much I still have left to learn. I’m all for accountability, and in this case being a snark-junkie is actually holding me back from being truly analytical and critical when it comes to this readthrough. So there you have it folks: kindness and generosity are actually essential components in a truly critical mindset.

19/03/2019

Revision

Tallulah. The passion project of mine that I don’t hate to within an inch of my life.

It’s still pretty bad.

But, hey, generosity and all that; I’ve only read the first chapter – the first four pages – and I’m trying to read it as though I had picked up a book to read. So far it’s over-written in some places, which is distracting; the writing style is … technically it’s written fairly well, but it feels kind of disconnected, and the third-person perspective is weird for such an intimate narrative voice; and also I kind of don’t care about the main character, like, at all. There are also four characters introduced in these four pages, and it feels a bit like overload.

Still.

I hestitate to say that I’m happy with this first chapter – but I did write it seven years ago, after all. True, I did touch it up a bit when I did my first (and so far only, with any writing project of mine) revision pass, but I didn’t change very much about it, I don’t think. It’s just sort of a nothing chapter for the first half; there’s a dull introduction to Tallulah herself, a random and seemingly important but also incredibly brief introduction to another character, and then Tallulah’s parents. Tallulah’s parents are the catalyst for something to actually happen in the chapter, which makes me think, well, it should probably just start there.

What I’m saying is that it’s been, like, a year, maybe two since I looked at Tallulah, and already the feels are back in full force. I still care about this story; it still engages me and gets me to invest. I could put it down again, but I could also not. It’s not going anywhere is what I’m saying, and I’m happy to know that.

Writing (2180)

From reading an older work where my anxiety over being a 20-something-year-old male writer trying to tap into the psychology of a teenage girl, to being a 31-year-old male writing a bit of two different projects, one of which being a book 0.1 novella from the perspective of a teenage girl – today’s been an exercise in coming full-circle, writing-related-stuff-wise. I also did a little bit of work on my still-struggling-to-go-anywhere Suicide Squad-inspired project, but the bulk of those 2180 words (1706 of them, to be exact) went into my Wolf Gang prequel novella. I dare say, so far I’m quite proud of it. Mostly the fact that it’s getting written at all. When I went back and read Wolf Gang … last year? This year? Well it was recent anyway, and I remember thinking that the female lead really deserved to have her own story told, to see things from her point of view, and honestly the entire story should have been from her point of view. This novella is sort of a trial run of that potential revision of Wolf Gang, to see if I can create something I’m happy enough with to do more of. The point of Wolf Gang was to make things easy for myself, and a generic teenage male blank slate protagonist is about as easy as it gets, so in that sense I don’t regret the decision or even necessarily think it was the wrong one – but still. I do like to be a little more than as basic as possible sometimes. Only sometimes, mind you. But at the very least, I want to write this prequel novella; I want to get this character’s perspective put into writing. After all the shit I put her through in Wolf Gang, I figure I kind of owe her at least that much.

Writer feelings. Are there any feelings more existential?

20/03/2019

Revision

I’ve started to find myself getting a bit more serious about my prospects of getting a manuscript ready to submit to agents by the end of this year, with the actual submission process starting probably around this time next year. And Wolf Gang, honestly, is the closest I’ve got to making that prospect into a reality by far. It needs the least work, it has the cleanest, tightest structure, and while it’s problematic as fuck and part of the reason I love it so much is because I have allowed myself to not analyse it critically up to this point, even then, that’s stuff that I can fix in revision.

But as I was making my revision notes this evening, in a bit of a rush after realising that I had spent most of the day watching either YouTube for my latest Critical Role marathon or Gotham on Netflix with my family in the living room, I found my notes were distressingly similar to the ones I was making for the co-writing project, and even the snarkfest I’m committing to finishing for Mark and Jessie‘s revision notes.

And that bothers me – but it also tells me that, actually, I’m not quite ready to look at it and think about a Wolf Gangrevision.

And the main reason for this – and the clear solution – is because I am still writing this episode 0.1 novella for Wolf Gang, where the female lead is now just the lead, and this is in part a trial run to see if I could be confident enough to reboot Wolf Gang with her in the lead role …

Writing (1420)

And also a chance to try some new things out that I am thinking of adding into the story. Things that I think will make it a bit better, deeper, richer, somewhat less generic and derivative. Yes, the entire point of me writing Wolf Gang was to indulge my inner hack and allow myself to be as derivative as I felt I needed or wanted to be for the sake of just getting a damn book written; but I’ve always known that I wouldn’t be comfortable with actually publishing a story like that.

Except that now, I think that’s changing.

Which is all the more reason for me to wait before I start making any serious revision notes, because I need to process this new attitude of mine and try to think through the consequences of it. I care about what other authors choose to put out into the world, and I want to hold myself to the same standards – honestly I could probably be a bit less harsh all around, but that’s part of the balance that I think I need to find before committing to a revision.

But, in saying that – I want to get this done this year. And it’s already a quarter of the way through. I think I might just have a read-through and see how I feel about making tiny, minimalist, technical changes – checking for continuity, more or less, spelling errors, and maybe changing a few character names or tightening up awkward sentences/dialogue here and there, rather than trying to de-problematise the story. I think I’ll take this opportunity to see what I’ve actually got and think of how to work with it, and then see how I feel about that plan, once it’s made. And in the meantime, I have this prequel novella to experiment with all the new ideas and big changes that I’m thinking of implementing because I think (at the moment anyway) that they’d make the story better by their inclusion.

It sounds like a lot of work.

But I think I really, really want to do it.

My shitty YA werewolf book. Who would have thought?

(If you would have thought then congratulations you’re very smart shut up)

21/03/2019

Writing (4191)

So that’s, what, 2k works per hour?

And this is when I’m not even that inspired, to be honest … maybe this is the secret to why all of those obnoxious prequel novellas exist to begin with?

I was agonising yesterday over the level of quality in the writing of this novella; specifically, I was agonising over my reliance on more than a few truly hackneyed gender cliches to drive the plot forward. “I’m a better writer than this,” I told myself. “I shouldn’t settle for this barrel-scraping, regressive garbage. I should be challenging myself to be the kind of writer I want other writers to aspire to be; I should be the change I want to see in this world.”

And then I remembered that the entire point of Wolf Gang is to just do what seems most obvious at the time, no matter how trite, and the idea that I ever thought that I wasn’t doing that with this novella became hysterically funny. Which I guess is better than being crushed under the weight of my own existential shame, which would have been the other option. Emotional coping skills for the win.

And in any case, if any of this ever makes it to publishing, there’s the whole revision thing to fix all of this – but, on that note, I also realise that it’s way easier to work with what you’ve already got rather than waiting until after you’ve written your book to try and fit in all the stuff you actually want. I have wanted to be a bit more intentional with my writing for a long time now, and I find it to be a struggle to really just sit and deliberate and make an effort to … well, make an effort. And I feel like that’s what I should be doing …

But on the other hand I wrote over four thousand words tonight, so fuck it. Hackneyed sexist cliches it is.

… no, not really. And the only way to combat that problem is for writers everywhere to make a concerted effort to stop leaning on them, even to subvert them and point out how bad they are – if they’re so fucking bad (and they are), then just stop fucking using them, and show writers – and readers – that there are other options out there. I was embarrassed to come out of Captain Marvel feeling like the scope of my imagination had broadened just from seeing a film starring a woman that didn’t have a love-interest in it, where she wasn’t wearing fetish gear half the time, and where her closest male friend was just that: a friend. They had some fun banter; they had great chemistry; and it wasn’t forced to be a romance.

And I shouldn’t feel like that was a breath of fresh air, but goddammit that’s exactly how it feels, and that is indicative of how badly we need to change things. I’d love to live in a world where, one day, I see a generation of people who grow up not even knowing that the cliche of the Damsel in Distress or the token girl/POC/gay best friend even exists, because they grow up on stories that are more imaginative than that, more inclusive, more … better. I want better stories, goddammit. And I want them now.

Not enough to write them as a zero draft, but hey, baby steps.

22/03/2019

Fridays are free, and I have been using my free Friday to scuttle back and forth across the adhesive strands of the interweb, collecting the residual information left to clutter those silken highways and backroads on my … feet? What is metaphors even?

Anyway, I know now even less about the distinction between High and Epic Fantasy than I used to. I decided to do some research today because 1) I was bored and 2) fuck getting things done amirite? Basically, after a couple of hours of research that inevitably led to other topics of research because I’m not not going to clink on links, I have come to the conclusion that the rest of the world is just as confused as I am.

However.

The source of this confusion has also led to some clarity for me. It’s the fact that, between the three blog posts I came across discussing the distinction, I discovered a range of different stances and possible opinions that got me to thinking. In particular, the first blog’s description of Swords and Sorcery as “heroic fantasy’s pulpy cousin” helped me realise that my lack of hardcore world-building and magic-system-creation for my Suicide Squad totally-not-a-fixfic project is, in fact, a Swords and Sorcery novel, and I’m actually doing it right by making it pulpy as fuck – if anything, it needs to be even more pulpier, and I realise now that I am very much about that. As for the whole High/Epic thing, what makes sense to me is treating them as two different measurements, with High as a measurement of how much “fantasy stuff” is included – magic, classical fantasy “races” and creatures, a secondary world setting, etc. – that can range from High to Low; and with Epic as a measurement of the scope of the story, and while I’m not sure what the other end of the scale would be called – Intimate? I kinda like the sound of Intimate Fantasy, or maybe Subtle Fantasy – I think it still works well. I doubt that this is an original idea of how to categorise fiction genres that I’m having here, but hey, it’s a way to spend an afternoon.

I also saw, while perusing Goodreads as part of my I-was-totally-doing-research internet surfing, that there is such a thing as a reading challenge for the year, which made me curious about how many books I’ve actually read. This year, so far, I’ve read 8, which is, what, 2.3 per month? Last year I read 29, which is a bit more than one book a fortnight. In 2017, though, I read 55, which is a bit more than one book a week. I wondered what the cause of this discrepancy was, until I saw that a large portion of the books that I read in 2017 belonged to part of a series. I was reading The Dresden Files, the Iron Druid Chronicles, the Kate Daniels series, the Dark Swan series, and getting into a bunch of other ones – 2017 was the year I discovered Urban Fantasy, and dove in headfirst. 2018 was the year after I discovered Urban Fantasy, and realised that, actually, I could use a bit of variety, but didn’t want to admit it to myself because that would mean I would have to commit to putting in effort while searching for books to read and, like, consider what it is that I want to read.

Maybe even do research.

Which I kinda did. I still want to read more werewolf books, for instance, though now it’s more for general interest and less because I want to steal ideas for Wolf Gang. I think the werewolf lore of Wolf Gang is basic as fuck and, while one day I would like to stretch myself a bit in that regard, today is not that day. But I can always start by seeing how other writers have played with the legend; so far I haven’t seen a take on lycanthropy that’s made me go “oh yes, that, that’s the one I like” – it’s all pretty boring. And often incredibly sexist, too, so that doesn’t help.

I should really do some writing, shouldn’t I?

Writing (4171)

Well, I don’t know if it’s quite pulpy enough, but then again I am starting to think that I may need to do some research into just what the term “pulpy” means to begin with.

In any case, this is the most of my Suicide Squad so-not-a-fixfic project that I’ve written in a very long time. Also eerily close to my writing total yesterday – just 20 words shy; and this time it was a full … chapter? Episode? Scene? A completed sequence, let’s say. I don’t know if it’s going to end up being canon, but it gave me a chance to try out one of my characters who I am very fond of, and very unsure about my ability to write properly – in fact, it was very much the same kind of experiment that my Wolf Gang novella is, right down to trying out a different lead character – also female.

I’m sensing a trend. A while ago, not long after finishing the zero draft of Tallulah, I couldn’t not have a female protagonist for my stories. I think Wolf Gang tipped the balance in the opposite direction as I embraced my inner normative hack – but, even though I’d need to read over it to know for sure, I’m fairly certain that what I’ve written this week definitely still falls into the “hack” category. And for these particular projects, I feel that it’s … I hesitate to say “fine”, because as I ranted about earlier in this post I think I have a moral duty to offer a solution to the trite, cliched, outdated storytelling conventions that our culture still perpetuates en mass, though it is slowly continuing to shift in a healthier direction. But if not “fine”, then “good enough for a zero draft to get off the ground”, and right now that’s all I’m after. Continuing from last year, I just want to get good at getting shit written, so that I can look back over it and decided what to do next, and see what needs fixing and improving. I just don’t want to fall back on this as an excuse, and I can see that potentially happening. Constant vigilance, as a wise fictional man once said. Well, more than once. Fat lot of good it did him, actually, now that I think about it …

23/03/2019

Gotham is a bad show.

It’s a bad show that, over the past few days, I have co-binged-watched most of with my sister, with other family members popping in and out during the process. We’re halfway through season 3 of 4 right now, and … well, it was never great to begin with, but the cracks are showing now.

I’ve been hemming and hawing about writing tired cliche garbage this week, my “moral duty” as a storyteller to do better, set the example that I want myself and others to follow, that sort of thing, while also insisting that, no matter how shit it is, you must write your book. You must put it down in writing, and do away with any consideration of how problematic it might or might not be. You can always fix it in revision.

But I think of Gotham, which has a pretty great premise: what was Bruce Wayne’s life like before he became Batman? Never mind that this was covered in Batman Begins in 2006; true, the show focuses more on Gordon’s origins (they make no fucking sense in terms of showing how he becomes the Gordon we all know and love, though to be fair there are a few versions of Gordon to pick from), but even that’s interesting – and, of course, the rogues gallery … it’s a good premise. It could be so interesting and eye-opening and revelatory.

And it’s the most generic, predictable, cliched pulp you could not bother expending brain cells imagining, because that would take too much effort. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the only remotely original-esque idea is one particular ship (and even then, just google “fandom” and learn a thing).

It’s making me think harder about my decisions as a writer, and the binary I’ve shifted between the two poles of over the years. One is the approach where I really try and put the thought in, the planning, the consideration and earnest attempt to do something original and creative and interesting. I have three main examples of this. The first, of course, is my high fantasy author-insert self-fanfic Realm of the Myth, which I spent 17 years trying to make work and, even today, still can’t quite let go of on the off-chance I might somehow randomly happen upon the version of my life where I get it to work, and exists more in notes and rants than novel format (and that’s after I wrote a full zero draft). The second is Mark and Jessie, where I really, earnestly cared, truly felt like I had a compelling and original premise, and what I ended up with was a mix of banal filler and more hackneyed cliche than I’m capable of nowadays when I’m trying to be cliche. The third is Tallulah, which worked the best out of my attempts, to the point where I even made one pass of revisions on it – and what’s happening with that now? I don’t know how to fix it; I don’t know how to turn it into a story that feels like a story without just telling an entirely new story, and at that point … well, it’s an entirely new story. So right now, it’s looking like I just flat-out failed. I’m still going to look at the manuscript again and take my revision notes, so this isn’t me giving up, but this is me looking at how things currently stand. And it’s not looking great.

On the other hand, I have the projects that I just picked the closest ideas and ran with them, regardless of what they were. This is honestly the one that I’ve spent most of my writing hobby life practicing, and it’s probably worked the best, except for the fact that I get burnt out really fast. These ideas just don’t turn into anything most of the time; I realise now that perhaps that’s something I should have learnt to expect and just accept long ago, to just take down ideas and see if maybe they’ll work somewhere else in the future, rather than agonising over the stories that could have been. But the fact remains that, in terms of getting full manuscripts written, this isn’t the way that works for me … except for Wolf Gang. That shit came together like no writing project I’ve ever undertaken ever has. My Mortal Instruments totally-not-a-ripoff project, the precursor to Wolf Gang, went really well for about six months, but at the end of that period I had 4 chapters to show for it and no sense that I was capable of continuing. I still hope to do something with it some day. But Wolf Gang went the distance, and I’m still interested in doing something with it …

But the question now is what, exactly, that might be. Because this was written with the strategy of “this will never be published ever so it doesn’t even matter” – and it worked. But now it’s morphing into “how can I redeem this garbagefest so that it’s suitable for human consumption”, and the more I look at it, the more I see that the only way to do that is to tell a completely different story.

So, what’s the takeaway? Split the difference between these two writing strategies – putting in effort vs being a hack – and what do I get?

Nothing. There is no difference. Whether I try my hardest to do something creative and original or I give in to my inner hack and generations of iterative laziness, the result is the same. Try to do something original and it won’t happen; try to do something iterative and I’ll hate it.

And this is 19 years of my life. Since I was 13 years old, I have wanted to be a published author; I have wanted to tell and share stories, engaging stories that make people feel something real, whether it’s just a fun thrill or something more subtle and confronting. 18 years, and this is the best I can do. I can’t win. So what do I do?

I think, honestly, I realise that I have only just begun to realise what it means to be a writer.

And yes, it’s taken 19 years, and yes, that is a very long time that in an ideal world would have been much shorter. That’s not what I get, though. I get 19 years of learning not so much the hard way, just the slow way. And that’s so much worse. That could be a source of despair and doubt and hopelessness, and if I was thinking this instead of writing it, perhaps it would be. This is prime shame-trip material right here.

I thinks it means that I don’t even know the level of effort it takes to actually make a story come to life in the way that I want it to. I think no matter what my strategy is, it’s going to take that level of effort to tell the story I mean to tell in the way that I mean to tell it – and that my plans might change, or even fall apart, over the course of that process, and that every story might be a different one. I think it means that I don’t know shit about being a writer.

And I think it means that I have to just keep writing, and see what happens, and learn something from it.

Yes, Mark and Jessie is disappointing as fuck to me right now; but I wrote it over a decade ago, and I’ve written two zero draft novel manuscripts and a fucking master’s thesis since then. It’s just possible that if I made the attempt again now, things would come out a bit better.

Yes, Wolf Gang is problematic as hell and I wouldn’t want to endorse the author if it was a book that I read; I’d honestly probably hate it about as much as the Wereling series (still deliberating over whether or not I think I can compose a level-headed review of that series). But it came out pretty much exactly the way that I envisioned it – and this was a story that was supposed to be a month-long writing exercise, and ended up taking over a year and half to complete. From start to finish, my vision for the story remained virtually unchanged (because it was basic as fuck, yes, but still), and long after it stopped being fun and it felt pointless to even bother trying to finish, I succeeded in realising it. And reading it back over now, I can’t tell the difference between the parts that were a hellish drudgery to force myself through, and which parts were written in a state of giddy euphoria. The quality is probably the most consistent of any story I have ever written. For what it is, it works.

What this tells me is that, regardless of how much I have yet to learn, if I do in fact want to get my stories told, I am on the right track.

And that if I want to keep learning, I need to get my shit written.

24/03/2019

Revision

Today’s focus, as it is every Sunday, was the co-writing project. I think I’ll put some extra time aside this week to do a bit of catching up, though, because I’ve been stuck on episode 1 for over a month and I really do want to get through it all.

But even if I haven’t gotten through that many pages so far (relatively speaking at least), I’ve been having some good ideas, and also seeing what already works. My fellow co-author and I have been enjoying a few good brainstorms for the revision to follow every Sunday, which helps to keep up momentum even if the progress isn’t quite as fast as I’d ideally like … but ideals are just ideals. They don’t have to come to fruition for things to be going well, and I think they’re going pretty well.

Weekly Total

Writing (17922)

Now, this total is including the word-count of this blog post, but in terms of project-writing it’s still a very validating 11962 words written this week.

Which proves, once again, that the one tried-and-true method of getting writing done is to get writing done. There isn’t a secret; there’s writing, and there’s not-writing. I think I’ve finally started believing that taking a break from writing is fine and healthy and, most importantly, very normal, and because of that I’m more able to enjoy and appreciate my periods of good writing. This week has been one of those periods. The Wolf Gang novella is proving very easy and enjoyable to write (and I’m almost done, unless I decide to expand on it, which I think I will at the moment, so no I’m not almost done never mind); my Suicide Squad-inspired project is continuing to clarify in my mind after only 13 months of not getting the fuck anywhere; I’m feeling like I’m gaining a deeper understanding of what good storytelling is … it’s just sort of coming together right now. Feels good.

And feels like a good way to wrap up the week.

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Weekly Words 11-17/03/2019

11/03/2019

Revision

Having impulsively decided that I am now going to arrange my weekly activities through process of alliteration, this day became my first Mark and Jessie Monday.

My outrage continues.

However, reading back over my outraged revision notes has been quite hilarious and uplifting, and the one character in the manuscript who actually – kind of – works continues to give me hope that this project can be more than just salvaged. It’s important to be kind to ourselves when referring back to our earlier works, and I do think that perhaps I have been a tad harsh on my younger self – not only could I stand to be nicer to myself in general, but I realise now that it is actually the main reason for why these revision notes have down-spiraled into rage-ranting and are becoming increasingly unhelpful for the revision process. So I’m going to try. I do care about this story, I do want it to be written one day, and I think it can be done. For the sake of all these hopes that I have, I need to have a revision process that actually works, and currently that’s not what I’ve got. Better late than never, right?

Also tomorrow is Tallulah Tuesday, so looking forward to seeing how I react to that experience.

12/03/2019

Revision

“Experience” is maybe a strong word …

I mean, I looked at the PDF document of the latest manuscript, which I created back in 2017. I actually have a revision plan written down that I can just follow. This project is kind of ready to roll.

But it’s making me think of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which is 1) a fantastic book, and 2) an idea that he’d had for over 20 years before he finally put it out into the world. According to an interview that I can’t find, he explained it as having the idea but wanting/having to work on other things first, and this turning into waiting until he was a good enough writer to do the book justice, and then 20 years passed and he felt like he wasn’t getting any better so he might as well just write the damn thing.

That 20 years hasn’t happened for me with Tallulah, but it’s how I’m feeling about it: I don’t think I’m a good enough writer to tell the story properly. More to the point, I don’t think I’m an experienced enough person to tell this story properly. But I also know that I have a bad habit of looking for excuses to avoid things that confront me, and I know that this is probably one of those excuses.

There is also the less-excusey factor of feeling like I’ve outgrown this particular version of the story, which I talked about during my last round of attempted revisions. Similarly to Mark and Jessie, I wrote Tallulah when I was basically a different person – or, if not basically a different person, a very different writer. My style has changed; my tastes have changed. I still like the story hook and the general feeling that comes to me when I envision it, and Tallulah herself. But this isn’t a story I would try to tell now, and while I’m remembering that this was actually part of the appeal when I set out to write it in 2012, it seems like a sort of unnecessary challenge to try and meet now. I think it did me a lot of good, pushing myself to try something I wasn’t at all comfortable with, and I learnt so many valuable lessons about who I am as a writer and what I’m capable of …

But yeah, any version of this story that gets told has to be told by me as I am when I tell it. I’ve told the version of Tallulah that I could when I was 25 years old. I’m 32 now. Well, this April. Dear god why. My point is that even if I wanted to (and I don’t), I couldn’t re-create the mindset or re-invest in the specific intrigue or excitement that I had when faced with the prospect of telling this story the first time. I can’t re-create the same working conditions, and while I could just take the manuscript and do the whole workhorse thing and work with what I’ve got, in terms of having something to submit to agents by the start of next year, I would honestly rather submit something else. It doesn’t feel like it represents me as a writer anymore; even if it did get picked up and was really successful or whatever – like, no, I wouldn’t complain about it if it made me a ton of money, obviously, but there would be the regret that this story would be what people expect of me for the next one.

Which sort of brings me to Werewolf Wednesday, which is actually meant to be me reading through the various and sundry werewolf-related books I got myself last Christmas in anticipation of submitting a PhD proposal – but I should probably actually read them first and see if this is a PhD topic I actually want to commit to. Also, my alliteration-themed weekly schedule has left me no place to fit in my own werewolf project, a zero draft of which is currently in existence, just waiting to be worked on, so that’s something I need to fix. I’ll try and do both, I think.

I mean I guess I’ll just have to try and do both. It’s not like I have anything else that I want to do tomorrow. And I have to return a library book, so that actually gives me a natural break between one and the other …

13/03/2019

Writing (48)

I did say I wanted to make myself write 1 word every day in one of my projects, and I’m glad that I’ve stuck to that; I’m am annoyed that today it meant I had to break my “no media after 10pm” self-imposed curfew, but hey, 10:30 isn’t too bad.

I definitely need to start writing earlier in the day, though, if I’m going to do it. I used to be great at night-writing; honestly without this self-imposed curfew I still could be, but I think going screen-less after 10pm has been good for me – as long as I actually stick to it, which I did not last night and I felt it this morning when I woke up, because it was the afternoon, not the morning.

Reading

So not a lot of writing done today, except for writing that does not count. I almost want to put it in brackets or something, because it is what I spent the majority of today doing, soothing my persistently frayed geek-nerves.

I also did some geeky reading of werewolf academia, and it’s pretty intriguing, I must admit – though much more interesting to me as a storyteller than an academic as the moment. I might have to go back and watch the entirety of Teen Wolf for the, what, fourth time? But with these new ideas kicking around I should see if there’s any new spark of scholarly intrigue waiting to ignite.

Otherwise I guess I just have some inspiration for my shitty YA werewolf book series, it’s a series now, and hey, I do want to have a submission-ready manuscript by December 24 this year …

Though not quite enough to actually do any work on it today. I guess I’m still allowed to work on my various projects during the days when it’s not alliteration-based … well, regardless, I think I could chew through this werewolf book pretty quickly if I wanted to. I kind of do.

And I think this plan of mine, for the three days that it’s been put into practice, is actually working pretty well for what I want to accomplish: a nice, slow, low-impact easing-back-in to my habit of regular writing, and writing-related activity.

14/03/2019

Writing (1534)

Holy Prequel Cash-In Batman!

I have decided 2 things today. The first: I need to finally write the chapter 0.5 novella tie-in for my shitty YA werewolf novel. I hate it when other authors do it, so naturally I feel indecent with excitement at the prospect of doing it myself. Also in this case it’s the sort of novella I’d actually be interested in reading if I was a fan of this series, which honestly I don’t think I would be – not yet, anyway.

Which brings me to decision the second, sort of: Wolf Gang is, indeed, going to be Worked On this year. I have also subsequently decided that my alliterative weekly writing plan is ingenious but imperfect, and will be implementing the first revision of the formula starting next week: Werewolf Wednesdays will be devoted to Wolf Gang revision stuff, while Theory Thursdays will be devoted to poring through my tomes of lycanthropic lore, potentially in preparation for submitting a PhD proposal at some stage, but first and foremost because I am a werewolf geek and yet do not know literally all the things about my chosen cultural fetish, and this must be rectified.

What was Thursday going to be originally, you ask?

Smut.

“Thirsty Thursdays”, if you must know.

I mean, hey, it’s part of the writer’s craft, being able to write a sex/makeout scene here or there; it’s certainly not important for every story to have such a scene or scenes, but when it’s called for … well, I’d like to think that I know at least a bit of what to do and how to do it in those situations, and then it was Thursday and I chickened out and also legitimately realised that I actually do kind of want to see if Wolf Gang will go somewhere but yes it totally served as a very convenient and timely excuse to just not have to make myself try and write things that I feel extraordinarily underqualified to write.

But, then again, pushing myself out of my writing comfort zone has, to memory, always worked out well for me. So …

Whatever, two days a week I will be a werewolf geek, that sounds like a plan to me.

15/03/2019

I went for a walk today, because I thought I should. I saw something on the news about a shooting in Christchurch. I put it out of my mind, because in the moment I was intent on going for a walk, after agonising about not doing enough exercise, enough life management, enough anything that I say I want to get done with my life.

Only when I got home from the walk and saw that it was still on the news, only when my parents drew my attention to it by asking “have you seen this” did I realise that something had actually happened. I remembered that I have friends and family in Christchurch (safe, thankfully), and I realised that something horrific had happened in the country where I live. I don’t feel terrified. I don’t feel panicked. I feel a little bit sick, and sad, and angry. And yes, a bit scared, because somebody just killed 40 people in broad daylight in the middle of the third-largest city in the country. But mostly I just feel numb. I can feel myself shutting down, shutting everything out. Looking for distractions I still haven’t fixed the 5E ranger. I started a Critical Role re-watch the other night; I might as well continue. Hey, Arkham Knight might be fun, I did buy it so I may as well get my money’s worth. I have so much that I want to get off my chest, and so much of it delves into topics that I feel strongly about and yet also feel sorely uneducated about. But more than that, I can feel so vividly the fact that I don’t own any of my beliefs and convictions. I don’t own what I know. I don’t own what I care about. I want the world to be better. I want the people who survived this horror to be cared for and welcomed and helped to find the peace and justice that they deserve. I want to know that something is going to shift in the world, and that it will start getting better and not stop. But I don’t know what to do to help, and I’m too scared to think of a solution. I feel so spent every moment of my life; I feel like I barely have anything for myself, let alone anyone else. And I feel nobody would want it from me if I knew what to offer, either.

I think that it’s time to try to find a way to stop thinking and feeling and acting like a victim.

We are all victims of something. It may be relatively mild; it may be a trauma that shakes our identity to its core and comes to define us in ways that makes us unable to stand ourselves. It may be both, and more. We can’t undo what has been done. But we can make what is to come better than it has been. And yes, that does mean that we have to give something of ourselves to make it happen.

This is what I expect, morally from the rest of the world. This is what I demand.

I feel it’s time that I learnt how to do it myself.

16/03/2019

I saw Captain Marvel today. I liked it. I like Brie Larson a lot; I feel like I’ve seen her in something before, but I haven’t seen Room and I honestly haven’t seen many non-superhero movies in the past couple of years so I can’t think of what it would be. But she killed it. To be honest I think she’s probably the best female superhero we’ve had so far, in terms of writing as well as the performance. Don’t get me wrong, Wondy is still my #1 – but the movie, which I also enjoyed, definitely left some things to be desired. Captain Marvel isn’t a brilliant film by any means, but it’s pretty solid, has more energy and verve than I’ve had the heart to hope for in a superhero film in a long time, and again, Larson kills it, takes what she has to work with (which, while certainly not bad, isn’t exactly ground-breaking) and infuses it with natural charisma and commitment. If she is Marvel’s replacement for Iron Man when the time inevitably comes for the Avengers to elect a new face, I’m all for it.

Also, by the way, the rest of the cast was great too; I very much appreciated that there was no generic, distracting love-interest subplot to drag things down – it’s fine in Wonder Woman, and it’s a tribute to the original blah blah blah, but they also had Ares from a decidedly post-Marston era of the character, in which Wondy was not even in a relationship with Steve Rogers – I mean Trevor – I’m saying the picked the wrong cherry in that regard. Perhaps because Carol Danvers is comparatively unknown to a wider filmgoing audience, the filmmakers felt like they had the opportunity to take a bit more of an original approach to telling her origin story. She has a very enjoyable buddy-cop dynamic with Nick Fury, in which there is no underlying sexual tension or anything romantic at all and, like, yes, it can be fucking done, remember this Hollywood; her humanising influence is her best buddy Maria, a fellow airforce pilot, and Maria’s daugher, who Carol lovingly refers to as “Lieutenant Trouble”, and while I think Maria definitely could have had a bigger and better-developed role, it was still very welcome seeing that Carol’s central emotional bond was with another woman instead of a dude (I mean arguably Fury, they’re definitely tight by the end of the film, but I’m leaning towards Maria). Also, Ben Mendelsohn and Annette Bening in the same film. This pleases me.

However – I am really over action scenes right now. It’s a shame, too, because good action scenes are … well, they’re good. As my brother put it as we were coming out of the theatre, there’s just no narrative to the fight scenes. Nothing feels like it’s at stake; you’re not really following any kind of emotional thread; it’s just two or more semi-CGI’d figures trading blows with flashy yet often lazy choreography. It’s either a curbstomp or a glorified arm-wrestling match. This wasn’t always the case, either; true, Marvel films have been criticised many times over the years for dropping the ball with their climactic hero-villain fight scenes, and I’m definitely one of the critics. But ever since The Winter Soldier, they seem to have put more effort into making the fights “cooler” – but to be honest, that was never really the problem. Okay, to be fair, that was part of the problem, but the part of the problem that remains unsolved is that, again, they just don’t feel like they matter. It’s a fight, someone wins, the end. Star Wars

No, okay, this rant has gone on long enough. Go see Captain Marvel if you haven’t, enjoy it’s great ’90s classic soundtrack among its list of other good features …

And be safe. For yourself, and others.

Weekly Total

Writing (4566)

It’s been a week.

As a wise man once said, I have things I must see to. They are things that have needed seeing to for a very long time, too long. And, well, I feel like I’m out of excuses. Not in a guilt-trip kind of way, though: I just … need to get this shit done. And I feel like I’m on the verge of becoming a better writer than I ever have before.

Take care of yourselves, and let’s take care of each other, too. I’m fucking sick of apathy and “it’s just a joke” and all this other hate-enabling cowardice, especially when it comes from myself. It’s clear that I need help in learning to overcome it. So, I’d better go get it.

Weekly Words 4-10/03/2019

09/03/2019

Writing (11)

Well look, some writing got done.

I’m writing this immediately after my Monthly Words post for February, and I’m trying to re-frame today’s 11 words of writing (these current words only count at the end of the week) in the spirit of taking the pressure off myself. And it’s kind of working.

I have trouble finding a healthy balance between taking the pressure off and being kind to myself and making sure that I don’t just lose all self control and energy/enthusiasm that I have for certain things. And it’s mostly just the amount of distraction that I have at my fingertips at all times. Tale as old as time at this point, right? It’s all very well to be aware of it, but what does one do about it?

Well, tonight, I’m writing this at 9:55 PM so in five minutes I am forcing myself offline, and off-screen, for the rest of the night. I think it’s a fantastic idea; I’ve also been waking up at later hours than I’d like for a while now (though to be fair the weather has been really chaotic now that Autumn is starting up), and I think this will probably help with that, too.

Well, this month is an experiment. Let’s get started.

10/03/2019

Writing (1027)

The experiment is beginning with some success.

What I wrote today was pretty tolerable zero-draft material, which I’m going to hope I one day get used to being able to just write and put aside and not worry about it very much – but it also gave me an idea about how to make it much better, and since it’s the opening monologue/prologue sort of scene, anything to make it better would help. I mean I could also just not start things off that way, but that would require that I have an imagination or something, so let’s not get carried away.

Weekly Total

Writing (535)

I have also finally finished reading the Wereling series by Stephen Cole, and apparently he edits children’s books. I’m not sure how to figure that piece of information into my impression of The Wereling, but regardless I do feel a book review/critique/rant coming on at some point in the future, though I’m not committing to anything at this stage – it’s a lot of work, trying to get my hyper-critical thoughts in order, and while I have a lot to say about the series, I could also just sum it up as “trite, problematic, and disappointing”. I have not yet ventured back to my note-taking catastrophe for Mark and Jessie, nor the wall-headbutting marathon that has been trying to figure out how to get Tallulah to finally come together. I did have a brainwave about it the last time I gave myself a concussion during that process, so I hope I wrote it down somewhere. Maybe it’ll be enough.

In any case, one week ends, another begins – and I’m feeling a bit better about it than I have in a while. That’s a good place to start, I feel.

Monthly Words February 2019

Monthly Total (34472)

What a difference lowering your standards for science makes.

No okay but despite how it felt to actually live through last month – agitated and guilty – looking back on the blog posts it inspired, it didn’t seem all bad. And there’s one big reason for that.

I’m not a professional author.

I don’t do this shit for a living; all of my angst about “man, I should really be working on project X” is just so … funny. It’s not funny to be going through, but looking back on it and getting perspective it’s just … dude. Chill the fuck out.

And also do some other things with your life, because you clearly want/need to, desperately.

I also think I came to some important conclusions last month, and maybe the most useful one was that when I’m feeling like I’m not taking full advantage on my own ideas, it’s probably because I’m not, and I often get really stuck in the fantasy phase, just sort of dreaming up set pieces and scenes and moods without anything concrete to put them to. Again, it’s kind of silly to be wracking my brain about this shit when I consider that this is literally my hobby, I am the only person who stands to benefit or not from things getting done – and I can just do something the fuck else, at any time, for any reason, because there is literally nothing at stake here. Yes, a far cry from last year’s “I will be finishing a fucking book this year goddammit” mission, and I do still want to have a book ready to submit by the end of this year …

But it’s clear that my current strategy is not getting me to that point. A huge part of it is just how I spend my time, and the lack of discipline that goes with that. I think that’s due in large part to the way I tend to think about discipline, where I’m some kind of stoic champion who pushes through apathy, depression, frustration and just not having any fucking ideas to produce work, and at the end of it all it just pays off in some nebulous way.

I seem to have had a different goal for each month so far this year, and why stop now? For the month of March, I will be focusing my efforts on this blog on one thing only: managing my expectations.

I’m going to write, every single fucking day. But I will be fighting against this bizarre Ubermensch fantasy I have of myself as this unfeeling, unyielding writing machine made flesh, and expecting that because I’m burnt out in some very crucial way that I still don’t fully comprehend, the amount of writing I actually get done this month might be one word per day.

I’m going to do things to try to push this up, of course. For starters, writing down this mission statement to begin with. Then I’ve got my “writing wheel” strategy that worked really well a grand total of the one time I bothered to try it out. I’ve got inspiration from an old friend who is turning her phone/computer/screens in general off at 10pm every night, and I’m going to follow suit. I’m also going to plant myself in front of my laptop every day after I have breakfast, roll that d6 to see which project I’ll be working on that day, and write a word. Every day.

And I’ll just see how that goes.

Yes, that is the entirety of my expectations of myself writing-wise for March, because I came to another important revelation last month, too: this blog can only be a good record for certain things, and there are more things that I want to do than I can record with Weekly Words. So while managing my expectations for writing comes in the form of setting the bar as low as I’ve been happy to set it since I decided to take a whole week off, outside of writing, I’m setting them a little higher – or, rather, broader.

It helped so much last year to have a number of projects to bounce back and forth between. It took the pressure off and encouraged me to just mess around with different projects without having to worry about making any of them “go somewhere”. This year, my ambition is to have a book ready to roll by December 24th, which means realistically the whole submission thing will start maybe around this time next year. This means I’m probably returning to that slogfest of making revision notes on Mark and Jessie’s Christmas – and yes, probably returning to Tallulah. I’ve had a couple of months to fuck around and deviate from this original plan of mine for 2019, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing I’m happy with.

But that’s not writing, and that kind of makes it good, because this year I think I actually need to take the focus off making words. I still want to keep track of it, but given what I want to get out of my work this year, it’s pretty apparent that it can’t be the primary focus of my efforts. It won’t help me do the things that I want to do.

Which brings me to the things-other-than-writing side – I gotta have more of them in my life. I don’t have enough of them, straight up. I need to use the strategy of having a bunch of different projects to bounce between and apply that to things that aren’t writing, and there are two big reasons for it, the first and most obvious one being that writing just isn’t enough on its own. I need more to my life, and it’s high time I started getting it.

And on the other hand: I want to enjoy writing again goddammit, and I figure the less pressure I put on myself to enjoy writing mostly because I don’t have any other options, the freer I will be to actually enjoy and look forward to doing it. I have said before that whatever I end up doing with myself, even if writing is not a career for me, I’d still do it just for my own satisfaction. I think that’s still true.

And I think this year is where I need to test that hypothesis as hard as I can.

Weekly Words 25/02-03/03/2019

The Whole Useless Fragging Week

Writing (0/7420)

You know why that second number doesn’t “count”?

It’s because it’s all just me being a bored pedant and trying to “fix” the ranger class in D&D 5E, for the I-don’t-even-know-anymore-th time.

Here’s a problem I identified the other night, staring languidly into the middle distance of my bedroom ceiling as my body failed to relax into the uncomfortable temperature of my room that was simultaneously too warm and too cool: my creative psychology is based on riffing more than making shit up lately. I tend to see something in a story, think “that’s neat” and fantasise about copying it. If this results in some appropriation-giddy writing, fantastic, I could write another Wolf Gang that way. But most of the time it’s just a thought, a “hey that would be neat” kind of idea. I see existing ideas and have thoughts about how I would have done them differently.

Now, in a sense, this is a good thing. That’s pretty much the whole oral tradition of storytelling, right? Tailoring it to suit your audience – but also yourself. Maybe I don’t know anything about the oral tradition, but fuck it I’m sticking with the analogy. Even besides that, there are stories that are obvious “responses” to others that I rather like. Kick-Ass for instance, which is a movie I’ve cooled on over the years and a comic that I have many conflicted feelings about, but that’s more to do with the creator than the comic itself (which I still have conflicted feelings about). There’s The Magicians, which I thought was pretentious ass-wanking the first time I glimpsed inside the Amazon online “read more” function, then changed my tune to it being the most amazebest thing evar when I for some reason decided to buy it and read it, and now am back to thinking it’s pretentious and wanky. There’s the whole Marvel/DC thing, the Disney/Warner Brothers thing of yesteryear, the Disney/Dreamworks thing of a less remote yesteryear. There’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer following in the footsteps of teen horror/slasher films and shaking up the formula by having the petite blonde cheerleader be the action hero who kills all the evil monsters. There’s My Hero Academia following in the footsteps of Dragonball and shaking up the formula by giving the girls something to do but only sometimes okay let’s not go crazy. There’s The Matrix following on from Neuromancer and some poorly-interpreted Baudrillard. There’s Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson cashing in on Harry Potter. There’s Jason Bourne sticking it to James Bond. Riffing is how stories get made.

And having now listed some examples …

You know, I just can’t feel excited for stories that only exist to copy or improve on other stories.

Like, I get a little excited at the prospect of doing it myself. That whole “if I was in charge” fantasy, the kind of fantasy and sometimes – oftentimes – frustration that leads to fix-fic and fan-fic and just general fickery coughrangersaregarbagecough. Tallulah, the book project that gave rise to this very blog back in the day, was inspired by my speculating about what the life of a child left behind by a selkie mother might be like. The project I keep trying to get excited to work on inspired by how infuriated I was and still am that Suicide Squad was a hilariously inept film when it should and could have easily been at least pretty decent – well, yeah, there you go. Grist for the mill.

But the problem is that every time I think about the things that actually interest me given that premise, I find that they’re actually not interesting enough. They’re basic as fuck. Yes, that’s part of the appeal – but it’s only appealing so long as I’m not actually writing it. And when I start to think about how to make it more interesting for my own purposes, I seize up at the realisation that I’m moving away from the original premise, which is a really basic one, veering off into uncharted territory that, frankly, I’m not even interested in anyway.

And it’s mainly this project that has been getting me down for the past … I don’t even know. Six months? I’ve been trying to get it off the ground since I had the idea last January, and all of my attempts just seem destined to fail, and I hate it. I want it to work. I want to be the person who can make it work. The premise is so pure and unfettered, it seems impossible to mess up. So why is it that I can’t seem to wrap my head around it?

And it’s the same for all of my stories: they exist in hypothetical space, entertaining to consider and speculate about, but when it comes to trying to write them into being I just draw a big fat blank. I have nothing – somehow. Despite all the hundreds, thousands perhaps of hours I have spent over the course of my life fantasising about some of these stories, I somehow have absolutely nothing to write when I sit down to do it.

I know this all means that I’m uninspired and distracted and pushing myself in the wrong direction. If any of these projects are going to get off the ground, I need to work on them, not just think about how great they could hypothetically turn out because daydreaming smooths over the glaring holes in any plan, and even conceals the utter lack of a plan to begin with. I don’t just need a plan. I need to be a planner. I know I can be, too.

I’m just so fucking done with everything.

All I want to do is exist in my bedroom for the rest of eternity. I think I would have a nervous breakdown if I tried to confront myself about how, exactly, I got to this point; I’m sure that as a child I used to have fun, enjoy doing things, was a bit adventurous – but no, that’s bullshit. I was always a homebody, and shied away from anything unpleasant that I could hypothesise about the catastrophic consequences of. That is not a successful life strategy for somebody living in the real world, unless that somebody is also an heir to a vast fortune and can literally afford to just sit on their ass all day doing nothing else with their life.

Goddammit, I have dreams and hopes for my life, don’t I?

Don’t I?

And then there’s the whole mental illness thing and just, fuck, I can’t think my way through every relevant aspect of the slump I’m in. I need to do planning. Some serious fucking planning; I need to plan like I’ve planned extensively throughout my entire life and actually know what I’m doing when I do it. I need to go even further beyond.

But most of all, I just need to do something. Anything. Anything that feels like it’s getting me somewhere I’d hope to be.

03/03/2019

Writing (0/409)

Okay, something’s happening.

My co-writing friend has been very inspired with her own writing lately, and hearing her talk about it got me inspired, too. I had a little brainstorm that is still ongoing – specifically, though, I started thinking about the premise of this Suicide Squad fix-fic-inspired project of mine, and what the best way to take advantage of that premise might be, regardless of what tasty little darlings I’ve dreamt up in the year since the original premise descended from the heavens and rewired my cerebral cortex.

It’s going rather well, for what it is, which is a breath of fresh air. I’ve had fresher, but at the same time shit has been real stale for the past couple of months, so hey, I’m happy.

Revision

Revision notes on the co-writing project continue to be difficult to focus on, but I’m slowly finding a balance between indulging my rant-ready brain and actually making some critical, intentional revision notes. It’s happening. It’s slow, but it’s happening – and I do want to get it done. I want to see how this thing holds together when it’s all said and done. Maybe I should just read it without making notes, as I’ve done with some of my own projects; it’s worked pretty well in those instances, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with this one.

Reading

I don’t know if I’ll ever do a proper book “review” again; I’m never really happy with them when I’ve done them in the past. They’re more just venting sessions held together by dubious rhetorical devices. If I don’t like the book, I feel like I’ve been too harsh; if I do like the book, I still feel like I’ve been too harsh.

But if there’s one series I’m unlikely to feel guilty for hating on, it is The Wereling by Stephen Cole. It’s icky enough to bother me in general, but when you also consider that it is 1) a YA novel series, and 2) predicated on the threat of the lead female character being raped … yeah. Not digging it.

And it’s about werewolves, and yet there is absolutely no reason to actually have werewolves in this story instead of, like, devil-worshippers, or neo-nazis, or Hollywood personalities. So on top of it just being hideously generic, problematic, and offensively cliche, it is also basically false advertising.

And I’m reading the whole three-part series. I’ll say this: they’re quick reads, so if you want to get some reading done and don’t really care what it is that you’re actually reading, The Wereling will get the job done. It’s just that, like, Emma is also quite the page-turner, or so I found when I read it for undergrad, and it’s decidedly less god-awful than this shit.

I don’t really like hating on a book series, just because I know how hard writing is already without having even been through the publishing process, or the process of finding an agent, or, fuck, writing because I have a contract to produce X number of books by deadline Y. I can’t even imagine the stress and work and effort that takes, and even if your book is bad, I can’t not give you a least some modicum of respect for going through that whole process …

But at the same time, I’m sure it was hard work making Birth of a Nation, no The Wereling is not on the same level as Birth of a Nation, but my point is that just because something took hard work and dedication doesn’t make it worth admiring. I guess I just don’t want my criticism to come off as hate for the author as opposed to their vile, useless book that probably took them years of their life to produce.

But, and also at the same time, I have no issue whatsoever dishing out hate for bad films and even shitting on their makers at the same time, so … hypocrisy? Double standard? I might have to work with some of these people one day if I’m serious about being an author? Who knows. But so far I have a lot to say about The Wereling and I think I do need to set aside a blog post or three to say it all, rather than just including it in my weekly spiel.

Weekly Total

9798

I guess the lesson for this week – and a pretty good one to round up the month with – is that there is always, always a way out of a slump. For me, it’s been being able to step out of my head for a bit and hang out/write/internet deep-dive with a friend. I don’t think I can say I’m back on the wagon just yet, but I can say that I’m at least reaching out a hand to climb aboard.