And that’s it, because today is The Lost Day Off and I intend to fucking take it.
To ponder for me in the meantime: writing slowly gives you time to think. I tend to write on a laptop basically exclusively, the only exceptions being my little notebooks that I jot down my plans and goals for the day in, and now my therapy journal. I know there are writers (I’m thinking specifically of Neil Gaiman) who write their zero draft with pen and paper, and then revise on a computer. I really like the thought of that, but the thought of trying to find somewhere to put all that fucking paper really puts me off. Because I don’t ever throw away any of my writing, as a rule, and it’s a rule that I don’t want to break – besides, having everything on my computer makes it a lot more accessible.
But, on the other hand, writing by hand seems like a good way to be more deliberate with my writing. Maybe not for a zero draft; maybe for the revision process, actually. So, after today, I think it might be worth my time to see what I can manage with my Wacom Bamboo tablet in Microsoft Word.
Something to look forward to, after I spend today doing things that aren’t writing, or thinking about writing, or worrying about not doing any writing … I need this.
I have a new plan.
There is no way in hell I’m hitting 50k by the 31st – but, I think I’m fine with that now. I’ve learnt some important things about this project: it’s not Wolf Gang and I can’t expect to have the same glorious, giddy, writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experience that I had with it; it’s not the trope treasure-trove I expected it to me, not one of those stories that writes itself – I have to be the one to show up and make shit happen; it’s open and vague and new, despite also being two years old, and that’s caught me off-guard …
And it’s fun. I am having fun with this project, and what’s more I had to make my own fun with this project, because unlike Wolf Gang the process didn’t bring it to me right from the get-go. The initial idea was fun, and the ideas that I’ve been having since writing it are fun, but it was up to me to bridge the gap and make it all fit.
I’m also excited by the very things that bothered me about it for so long: how undefined it is, how open; I had thought for so long that this was a problem of me getting “sidetracked” whenever I sat down to try and put my ideas into writing, but now I realise that 1) that was inevitable because my ideas were so vague to begin with, and 2) it’s not me getting sidetracked, but having to create the track to stick to in the first place. And I’m having fun doing that.
And it’s also reminded me what a zero draft is, and what it isn’t: it is the process by which you get down your base ideas for the story, in whatever form is necessary for them to be written at all, and after that’s all been done you can start getting to work on the “real” story. It isn’t where you will create the majority of the material that you will end up keeping, necessarily, and therefore is not the time or place where that should be your concern. I’m sure there are projects that come so fully-formed that they can be written in one shot, and if you have a project like that then, yeah, go do that, congrats. But if you need to discover the story as you go because you have a good idea but aren’t certain about what kind of story will come from it, then I think you have to do it like this. Or at least this is how I have to do it.
I have learnt to be less precious with this process, and with this month of Camp Nano where I dedicate my time and energy to building up a full head of steam to propel this project through to completion, however long that might take. And I have learnt to be less precious with the iconic, OG ideas that came to me on that first day, listening to Hypnotize on repeat because goddamn that shit is catchy – they’re fun ideas, but they’re not a story. And while it would be really nice to have them be part of the final product, I have learnt to be okay with the idea that, in fact, they might not be. I’ve started to feel excited at what might end up being that final product, too, and I have finally gotten to the point where I want to get there more than I want to cling on to the creation myth of this project – which is the only thing I’ve had to work with for the past two years, to be fair. But I have more now, and I’m enjoying working with it.
So, the plan is to take these ideas of mine, embrace the openness inherent in this project being so new in terms of actually being worked on by me as its author, and just explore the shit out of those ideas. Where might they go? How might they link up to other ideas, or lead into new, better ones? What new ideas will I have while discovery-writing? I think this Camp Nano has been my best discovery-writing since I was in my early teens and just writing for the fun of it, a big part of which was precisely the joy of my own discovery. It’s even taking that silly double-dip, cheat-code-for-writing idea and making it a more manageable, actually-possible plan, where I get to explore the story by spring-boarding off the ideas that I do have, while also embracing the fact that those ideas aren’t fully-formed on their own and giving me the opportunity to fill them in creatively, no longer restrained by some weird, perfectionist compulsion to “get it right” – I know now that I never had any idea what “right” looked like, and am instead now excited to find out.
And in terms of word-count: 1.4k per day, from now until/including the 31st. I’ve already exceeded that expectation, and that’s fine; I’m happy to exceed this goal, but I’m also happy just to meet it, and I think it’s reasonable to expect of myself that I will meet it. Not only can I do it, but I also feel that my level of enthusiasm is such that I would be dissatisfied with less – on the whole. I don’t have to write exactly 1.4k per day; I just want that as the average. I want to have written 7k words by this Sunday, and another 4.2 by the end of the 31st. That’s about 32k words all told for Camp Nano, which, while nowhere near 50k, is still a very impressive amount in my estimation.
And, I mean, after accounting for these Camp Nanowrimo Edition blog posts, it might actually hit 50k. Who knows? I won’t count it for Nano, but I will sure as shit count it for me.
And … yeah. I’m just kind of excited. The writing that I did tonight was actually kinda tropey, so I’m getting excited about that, as it’s something I’ve felt has been lacking from the Camp Nano draft of Bad Guys up until now.
Looking forward to more tomorrow. So much so that I don’t even know if I’ll do my Wolf Gang revision. I might save that until Camp is over.
I have found a project that I want to invest in again – and, unlike the last one, I had to make that desire on my own, and I did make it.
Man. Is this what being A Writer is like?
Is this what being A Writer is like?
When I do write my next Monthly Words, which will have to encompass both June and July, I am rather looking forward to trying to reconcile one of the worst-feeling months that I’ve had in a long time (June) with one of the best (July), not just for feelings but for writing.
Because, I’m fairly sure, 6621 is just slightly above the 1400 daily word-count goal I set for myself on, um, Monday.
This new plan, dudes. Seriously. I have been hype since it emerged from the fetid marshes of my brain like some sort of Swamp-Christ to rescue me from years of toxic writing habits, or at least add to the ongoing process. I finished at around 1800 words today before heading off to see my psychologist, took longer to get home than I had anticipated and had an upsetting experience on the bus (nothing happened to me, just to be clear, not even a “nothing happened” kind of thing, I was just present for a situation and was confused/upset by it and still don’t quite know what to make of it but anyway), and kind of expected today to be like the last post-psychologist-session Wednesday, where the whole day would be shot and I’d spend it in downtime and self-care.
But fuck, maybe that is what I’ve done, because right now Bad Guys is giving me LIIIFFFEEE.
Bad Guys, of all things; the little project that couldn’t, for the past two years, and now, with nothing more than a time-constraint, word-sprints, an active cabin and an awesome writing buddy, it fucking can, and it can can harder than most projects I’ve ever worked on.
Like, I set my Camp Nano goal to 32k words last night; today I’m over 29k. I have a daily word-count average of just over 300 necessary to meet my goal.
But I don’t want to stop writing.
Which was the entire reason I decided to write Bad Guys for my Camp Nano project.
This thing, where you have a plan, and then do the plan, and it happens?
It feels nice.
Also, it feels possible.
All right, enough gushing; this is great and fantastic and happening now, and whatever happens next I am very pleased and grateful that this is where I am today with this project, and very proud of myself that I managed to get myself to this point, by doing things that I know work, even when I wanted to do other things out of fear or panic or genuinely thinking “hey, this other thing that isn’t my plan, yeah, that’ll work better”. I have altered the plan, but in broad strokes it’s still the same plan, just with more added to it – it was a very short-term plan, now that I’m able to think back to the start of Camp and where my expectations were sitting. But now that I’m here, and have accomplished what I’ve accomplished …
I said that this project wasn’t Wolf Gang and that I couldn’t expect to write it the same way. Which, I still think, is right and true.
But it feels just as good.
Hell, it might actually feel better.
And I feel better, just in general, for working on this project, finding a way to make it work that came from my efforts, and finding that it’s rewarded me in ways that I couldn’t possibly have foreseen. I think I’ll have to make a note to return to this series of blog posts when things get tough with other projects, just to remind myself that I can make shit work – and how I have made it work. But, then again, just like Bad Guys can’t be Wolf Gang, the next project can’t be Bad Guys, either.
Also, I am not finished yet; I don’t want to count my eggs before they hatch. It’s just, right now …
Damn I feel good. I didn’t know that I would. But going forward, I now know that I can. And that’s …
Good. It’s very good.
Well, I am definitely off the reservation now: I have written past the point where I had some sort of plan for how to proceed. Which is fine; I’m just trying to maintain the momentum that I have built up so far, and …
Yeah, I do need to start expanding outward.
The Camp Nano draft “version” of Bad Guys – I’m pretty much finished with it, because it’s really just an introduction to the story and lead character, and that’s all happened now. I’m on to the introduction to perhaps the most important character, the one I feel the least comfortable writing and the most perfectionist anxiety about “getting right” – but, they too need the benefit of my being able to suspend judgement and expectation and just explore my ideas, of which they are one.
I still have these other events that haven’t been fully formed or explored very much at all, and I am eager to see what I can do with them. But I still feel anxious about getting started on them, partly because of how they very much represent The Unknown to me, and partly because I am worried about losing my momentum if I start. It also doesn’t help that I’m having huge doubts about how I ended the last chapter; I had a neat idea of how to introduce this super-important character and ended up not doing it, and now I have regret and feel like I should change what I did to compensate for it. I decided, in the end, to stick with the plan because that’s what’s been consistently working, and just not worry about what I’ve “missed out on” – there’s always revision for that. But it’s still a challenge to make myself do it, just as it’s a challenge to make myself confront these unformed ideas and be okay with seeing what comes from exploring them.
So, I think that’s my plan for tomorrow: get started on those scenes, and risk losing momentum with what I have got – because it’s starting to devolve into filler. And filler is okay for a zero draft, but honestly as much as that is true, it’s just fucking hard to be enthusiastic at the prospect of writing it, and I feel like that’s what I’m going to end up doing if I keep forging ahead. I’m not sure where the end-point for this new chapter is, so that’s something for me to consider as well – probably after tomorrow. I’ll give myself the chance to work on some other idea that does sort of have a plan to it, even if it’s incomplete, and hopefully return to the current chapter with a fresh perspective on how to approach it.
But, while I’ve got a lot of doubt and anxiety right at this moment, I still feel very positive about how the project is going. And I’m less than one thousand words off my Camp Nano goal! So, whatever way I decide to forge ahead tomorrow and for the rest of the week, at least I’m going to win Nanowrimo – for the first time ever, I think. I might have won the last time I tried it, but only by including a whole bunch of writing that didn’t “count”. All of this writing will count, though, and I’m excited about that.
It’s going well, even though it’s rough going tonight. It’s nice to know that I can handle it being both.
I’ve won Camp Nanowrimo.
I’m not actually going to claim the win just yet because I’m finding postponing it quite good for motivation – brain-hacks for the win – but, yeah, totally won.
With sprints! Sprints are great. Go try them if you haven’t.
So, that went well. Another chapter finished; another bunch of notes made – and, actually, another huge, project-redefining brainwave to manage responsibly. Which I did; I wrote it down right away, put it in a separate document all to itself …
And just kept working with what I had.
I’m very comfortable with this draft now, which I assume is why this massive revelation didn’t upturn everything I’d been working towards like the last one did. It’s actually an even better idea, one that solves one of the two major issues with this project: the fact that there isn’t really a story, just a plot and a bunch of vaguely-defined turning-point events and a cast of characters I really like and want to do justice to. This idea brings the story; it also shifts up my “plans” for this project – but, hey, I’m here to experiment, right? Explore and imagine and speculate and discovery-write my way to victory?
Well, now that I’ve finished this chapter – that’s honestly the end of the line for the Camp Nano iteration of Bad Guys. I’ve covered a lot of ground, made a lot of progress; and from this point it it basically merged back into the “main” version of the story anyway, so the next step is to do all of that exploration of my original ideas and see where they lead, at long last. I haven’t done it so far because, to be frank, it was more important to keep up momentum. I’m not saying that I won’t continue writing this version of the story; but I am saying that I am out of ideas for where to go next, because the ideas that come “next” are the ideas that I’ve had from day one, and I actually really want to play with them. In fact I’m looking forward to taking this opportunity to “revert” back to the original “version” of Bad Guys, step away from this new vein and get re-grounded in the initial tone of the project …
But, having said that, I am pretty invested in this new version; and in the spirit of exploration and discovery-writing and whatnot, I don’t feel like it would be wrong to continue with it.
I have options, is what I’m saying. Maybe I just need to step away from the project for a bit and get some perspective before making up my mind (read: doing whatever I feel like when it next comes time to write).
And wouldn’t you know it, tomorrow is my day off, and having learnt my lesson from last week I am taking the day the fuck off this time around. I will still do a bit of writing in the … morning? God, I might even wake up in the morning; today I woke up in the morning and it felt quite nice. I had forgotten that feeling. At least partly because it’s winter and I fucking hate waking up in the morning in winter.
But, whatever – I done good, by George, and tomorrow is going to be good for entirely different reasons, and I’m going to indulge the fuck out of myself. I might even try watching the rest of The Order, which is so amazingly basic and problematic that I can’t help but be a little inspired by it. Maybe there will come a day, when I’m as used to revising as I am powering through zero drafts without pausing to reflect, when such media does not inspire me; but it is not this day.
Also, on that note: I did take those good notes today, but I was also reminded of the big pitfall of taking too many notes while writing: it can start to become a list of revision notes, and that’s not what you want while working on your zero draft. Definitely take notes of moments of inspiration so that you can give them their moment without losing momentum with what you’re writing – but, just do it responsibly. Be aware of how much time and energy is going into those notes, and trust yourself to be able to come back to and understand them even if you don’t go into exacting detail. Be concise. Yes, this is me advising myself; I’m hoping you might find it useful as well.
And if not, well, this is Vevacha, where we write about writing, and I should probably find a new tagline at this point because that one is definitely taken.
… ah hell I’ll just claim my win.
So, my word-count total came up slightly short (but still enough to win), as part of it consists of non-starter attempts that I made on the first couple of days; but I’ve already validated it, I’ve won, and I can’t be bothered winning even harder than I already did. I know I wrote those extra thousand or so words. Maybe if I keep pushing and try for 50k I’ll add them back in.
But I got the facebook banner and digital certificate, and at the end of the day that’s what really matters.
I’m getting pretty good at navigating the recurring obstacle of feeling like I have to plot out exactly where I’m going and how I’m going to get there with Bad Guys. I start getting into my head about the ideas that I have, where they’re leading, how it doesn’t quite make sense, how I should probably fix that …
And then remember that none of that actually matters, because none of it is written, so I can’t actually do anything with it or about it yet. So it’s not a problem at all, and I should just write.
That being said, there was an episode of Writing Excuses that covered a bit of the issue behind the advice “just write”, which I appreciated – there are a lot of different factors that go into writer’s block and lack of motivation, and responding to someone expressing this difficulty with “just write” is incredibly dismissive of what’s really going on with them. To be fair, nobody is a mind-reader, and sometimes it is just a matter of needing the discipline to make yourself get started writing, after which the words will start to flow and the process will sort itself out. But a lot of the time it’s something totally unrelated to writing – mental illness, unresolved conflict or trauma, plain old exhaustion and/or fatigue – that, when we’re in the mindset of Needing To Write, we find hard to acknowledge (and even without that mindset, may find it difficult, or it may not even occur to us that one of these reasons might apply).
I do think that “just write” has been appropriate advice for my writing process during Camp Nano, but I also know I’ve used it very dismissively in the (sometimes very recent) past to myself – and I hope I haven’t done it to anyone else. And I want to acknowledge this issue because, well, we should be good to ourselves and each other, and being dismissive is shitty. If it’s helpful, then use it for yourself; but if you’ve got other shit to deal with and Just Write isn’t right for you, then remember that, like any other piece of writing advice, it’s just a tool, and we should all feel free to choose how we use it – or choose not to.
As for what I’m now writing – the Camp Nano line of continuity for Bad Guys has pretty much ended, and now I’m in a position where it can merge pretty neatly with the original thread of continuity I began writing last year; that version I feel is more suited to a sequel (and I am thinking of this as a potential series, but we’ll see how this first one goes), but the nice thing for being at this part of the draft is that I could use either – and what I’ve got left to write is just a couple of thorny bits, and then actually surprisingly smooth sailing from then on out.
So, I’m employing the Wolf Gang strategy of skipping the awkward bits and getting right to the meat of the matter. It’s also made me realise that yet another part of my “plan” was holding me back from actual writing, holding my process ransom to meeting particular goals that aren’t good for the story. And yes, I have just said that getting hung up on continuity in a zero draft is kind of pointless, and I agree with that – but at the same time, it’s good to have some consideration of the connective tissue of your story even at the zero draft stage. It certainly doesn’t have to be a fully-fledged, in-depth plan or plot summary, but if you can identify a dead end before you end up writing it, I don’t think acting on that information is a bad thing.
Also, choosing to skip this particular part of the “story” has made me aware of where the story actually resides within my little portfolio of story-seed ideas for this project, and I think focusing on expanding in those areas and not being afraid to ditch ideas that only lead to dead ends (including the way in which they make it very easy to give up on even trying to get started writing) is the way forward.
But, more on that tomorrow, because today is my day off, and I have already spent too much of it thinking about writing. Time for something completely different.
Momentum is a wonderful thing.
I’m enjoying getting stuck into a closer approximation of my original ideas for these characters, and at the same time it still feel like, if I wanted to, I could quite easily fit it in with the Camp Nano continuity in terms of their characterisation. It’s been a very easy transition, and I was worried that it wouldn’t be, that I’d be too nervous to give up on the Camp Nano continuity because of how much momentum I’d gained with it, and would lose it if I tried. Instead, the shift to a slightly different tone feels very natural. I do love it when things just work out.
Also, my co-writing friend finished her novel, which is awesome! I am intending to finish this zero draft of Bad Guys this year; I haven’t made a timeline for myself or anything, but if I keep up this pace I’d expect to be done around about the end of September. I’m keeping “real” Nanowrimo in the back pocket for a final push, though, and I definitely want that to be the absolute last resort if I need to use it to wrap things up. Ideally I’d like to use it to either revise something, or try my hand at another project – something like Bad Guys, a project that I’ve been wanting to write for ages but just haven’t quite been able to find my way into in a way that sticks. I’m feeling very confident in my abilities at the moment, and while I know confidence, like any other feeling, comes and goes, I also now know that, well, it comes as well as goes. I have a bit more faith in myself than I did a month ago, and that’s nice.
Revision: 15 minutes(?)
Also the co-writing project still exists; I think it’s been really good having a different project to focus on, so that I can come back to making those revision notes all refreshed and energised and whatnot. Feels healthy.
Revision: 15 minutes(?)
And of that writing total, 16538 words were devoted to Bad Guys. A banner week, this has been. Not complaining.
And you know what? For this week, I think I’ll leave it there.