Weekly Words 23-29/9/2019

23/9/2019

Revision: 1 hour

Research: 1 hour

What’s this? A PLAN?!?!?

A plan WORKING??@?!?@>#*@(@?!L

Yes, something like that.

Today’s research for my potential PhD lit review (on the topic of werewolves) was one of those research experiences where you find an idea so similar to your own that you start to wonder if you should even bother. Well, this is why I’m doing the research: to find out if I should bother – with this topic at least. I do think a PhD is in my future one way or another, but even if it’s not, I actually want to put myself through this process of reading material that could be of interest/use to a potential thesis – after all, if nothing else, it’s something to do with myself until November.

I did end up just staying at home and moving to a different room in the house, and it worked fine. I do think I will branch out eventually, but today the slow and steady approach felt a bit less daunting. Adventure can come later – for now, I just want to know that this is work I will actually do.

So, that’s all well and good, and I’m feeling a bit productive after three weeks of very much not. With those areas of potential guilt assuaged, I feel comfortable now revealing my latest unexpected neurotic obsession: how to spot ghostwritten books.

I’m just becoming fascinated by the entire concept and enterprise of ghostwriting, particularly uncredited ghostwriting. It’s something that I suspect readers might look more kindly on in this day and age than in the past, if publishers and authors were more transparent about if and when ghostwriters are being employed. Yes, there is that “aura” of “authenticity” when you can associate a single authorial entity with the creation of a body of imaginative work – but if it’s not just one author, then what exactly does one lose by being open about that? Reputation? If you start off being transparent then that is your reputation, so I can’t quite buy that. Money? If it’s money then I can defiintely understand why to this day ghostwriters go uncredited, however wrong it feels to me as a business practice. Copyright? That might be tricky, but surely no trickier than having two named authors for a work? Like Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman co-authoring Good Omens?

It’s just interesting. It’s something I want to learn more about. And, I mean, as someone who wants a career as a writer, maybe this could turn out to have farther-reaching benefits than just sating my curiosity by following up on it.

I also, upon reflection, feel like I was rather ungenerous in the previous Weekly Words with what I had to say about Richelle Mead and the possibility of some of her books being ghostwritten – not because of whether it’s true or not, but because I made it seem like it would be a bad thing if it were true. Which, upon reflection, I really don’t think at all. Much like how I eventually grew out of my “book purist” mindset thanks to the Harry Potter films (though not, ironically, because I thought they were good films, because I really didn’t and still don’t), I think I’ve gotten over whatever prejudice I had against the concept of ghostwriters – which is mostly the sense of betrayal, of being “duped” into thinking “hey this author is amazing because look at all of this stuff that they do all on their own”, and never mind that no author does everything on their own to begin with (generally speaking) …

Although, having said that – there is still a sense of betrayal when ghostwriting goes uncredited and unacknowledged. Not just for us as readers for putting our trust in what, let’s be real, we should probably all be savvy enough at this point to understand is a brand more than an individual person who plays the role of creator for a work of art, but also for the ghostwriters, the people who do the grunt work. And from what I have gathered about ghostwriting, it’s not something that’s likely to change anytime soon specifically because publishers/authors benefit from the duplicity of their publicity being built on the image of the author as a solely responsible creator of art. And that does rub me the wrong way – especially since it just seems to me like such an unnecessary deception, if you’re just open about it from the outset.

All right, guess I totally contradicted myself there … I guess where I’m at right now is that 1) I think the entire concept of ghostwriting is fascinating and 2) while I’m not against the practice in the sense that I don’t think there should be a stigma around being a ghostwriter or even employing one (or more), I do think it’s shitty that there isn’t always transparency about it. There are some notable exceptions, like any new James Bond or Jason Bourne book that comes out these days – but I find it difficult to accept the notion that, in a world where it’s not only common but expected for any television series (or modern pop song) to have a writing staff where they’re all credited for their work and it doesn’t take away from the “authenticity” of the work, there would be some kind of huge public outcry if the book industry started doing the same when it comes to ghostwriters.

Partly because we all already know some of the biggest “offenders” anyway. But if I’m being honest – I don’t think there would be a big public outcry if this happened for new authors. Already established authors “exposing” themselves, however …

What I’m saying is that I guess I’ll hold off on announcing that this blog has been ghostwritten this entire time.

Mostly because nobody would believe it; I probably couldn’t pay someone to write with my perfected brand of myopic narcissism, even if I had the money.

Mmm. Money. Could really go for some of that right now.

26/9/2019

Revision: 1 hour

And even with two hours logged for revision this week so far, by far the most time and effort I’ve put into anything this week has been creating a playlist inspired by Georgina Kincaid’s … adventures? Well it proved pretty all-consuming yesterday, let me tell you. I still haven’t finished it.

Also: having a succubus character whose last name is pronounced “kink-aid” is the kind of genius I aspire to. I’ve been a fan of this series for, what, five years, and only just figured this out? You learn something new every day …

Like how my bookshelf really is more of an inconvenience than anything at this stage. Maybe it’s time for me to invest in a Kindle or something, whatever the hot new e-reader is now. If people are even still using e-readers; I feel like I missed out on that cultural moment. Isn’t it all just phones and/or tablets now? I did read the Dragonlance books on my phone, but 1) that was a lot of phone battery, 2) my phone is slow as hell so it wasn’t fun, and 3) the one time I actually had a go with a dedicated e-reading device it was actually rather pleasant because the screen was designed to be easy on the eyes, not as much glare – it was actually almost like reading off a physical page. I rather liked it. I don’t like the prospect of buying all my books all over again, though – but for future book purchasing considerations, maybe it’s finally time to join the digital revolution.

OH MY GOD I NEED TO WRITE SOMETHING.

I take it back: writing about myself? Not the problem. Writing about myself when I have nothing to write about is the problem, and hey, this is a writing blog – might help if I had some writing to write about, huh?

Well, I have been thinking more about Wolf Gang these past couple of days – in particular the horror reboot I was keen on last year after seeing It Follows for the first time. Though now I’m not thinking so much “reboot” as “I could be the werewolf dude who writes about werewolves and only werewolves ever”. YA book series? Werewolves. Stand-alone horror novel? Werewolves. Collection of essays about cultural imperialism and the fallacy of free market ideology?

Well no, I’d probably rather write about something else.

Like FUCKING WEREWOLVES so maybe this is the short-term answer to my writing angst, just indulge in the werewolves and let them happen.

Alternatively, I could have a crack at another one of those “I’ll never be able to write this projects” that writing Bad Guys inspired me to think about going back to. Only issue is that it’s not in a state where I feel like continuing the version of the story I’ve made a start on would serve the story well – which, fittingly enough, was exactly how I felt about Bad Guys when I decided it was going to be my Camp Nano project. And then I wrote it.

… okay, is this the point where it finally starts to sink in that I wrote an entire goddamn novel in two months? Really? Now?

I really want it to be November all of a sudden. I have shit to do, and I want to do it …

But yes. In the meantime, I do need to set myself some tasks to do or I will sink even deeper into the morass of frustration, procrastination, and stir-craziness that currently comprises my psychic environment. I actually wanted to have a look at some of my other projects and make notes on them, or at least record my thoughts about them – maybe this is self-sabotage, but I’ve decided to be open to the possibility that I won’t want to work on Bad Guys when November rolls around. I have other projects at the same stage of the revision process that I also want to have a shot at life one of these days, so I want to give them a chance to impress upon me their importance before I make my Nanowrimo commitment.

So, maybe it’s not werewolves. I’m certainly not crossing it off the list, though. In fact, I want to be pretty damn open to all possibilities.

But how to organise myself? Hmm. A different project every day? A loose commitment to a different project every week? And most importantly of all …

What alliteration will I use?

27/9/2019

Revision: 1 hour

I definitely don’t think these co-writing revision notes are going to be completed before November – but hey, I was looking for things to do …

So, for future reference, myself: whatever the hell this “plan” was for exiting the zero-draft-writing process? Not a good one.

Honestly, what I want to do is just go right back to work on Bad Guys. My decision to wait until halfway through October before even reading it – I think I definitely have needed a bit of a break from it, but these feelings of agitation over the past couple of weeks suggest that maybe it’s been long enough now. It might be time to jump back in already.

And, I mean, that wouldn’t be the worst thing. I’m just a bit disappointed that in the interim I just haven’t really done anything with myself. It bothers me that every time I’ve tried to sit down and do something – writing, more often than not – I have waited for the desire to write and not found it. I feel right now like everything I learnt about generating my own momentum and enthusiasm during Camp Nano has completely left my brain, and I fear that the reason is because I didn’t try hard enough to make sure it stayed.

Then again, I also think that trying to jump into another project right away would have been unwise – and perhaps that’s why the past few weeks have been as infuriating as they have, because writing-wise that’s kind of the only option I’ve given myself. All new stuff; all requiring a whole new commitment from me of time and emotional investment. It probably would have been better to identify some already in-progress projects to tinker with, or do something writing-related that wasn’t telling a story. Maybe I should have planned for a series of posts on this blog about some writing topic or current issues in the writing world or a book review or something.

I think the main issue has been that I haven’t been very open to feeling out what it is that I want and need, and have fallen into the same old pattern of telling myself what I should be doing, what I will be doing. I think the next Monthly Words is probably going to be very helpful to me, getting an overview of what I actually did this month, because while I’m aware of the general sense of unease and agitation that has pervaded the past four weeks, I am at a loss to actually remember what I’ve done – or not done – with my time, what my plans and intentions were.

I think it also didn’t help that I had a pretty intense therapy session (not that the therapy was intense, just my emotional state afterwards) that I still haven’t really processed properly, so I’ve been feeling very sensitive and avoiding things that might be a bit more stimulating than sitting around and watching YouTube or re-reading a favourite book series of mine. And I know that this sense of disquiet has to do with not doing things; I really want to be doing things – and at the same time I’ve been avoiding doing anything, really, or anything that I “count” as a thing that I’ve “done”. So maybe I’m just being a bit picky, and a bit demanding of myself in the wrong ways.

Well, all right, let’s try and fix that then, brain. What have I done this month? Fuck Monthly Words; that’s days away, and I need a goddamn pick-me-up right now.

  • Week 1: Wrote over 16k words across two days at the start of the month, then couldn’t write anything creative until … well, now
  • Week 2: got excited about brainstorming and writing out lists of scenes without trying to turn them into a blueprint for a story, survived two back-to-back parties without dying (but felt very raw after the second one), uninstalled WOW (a smart move, glad I remembered I did that)
  • Week 3: had aforementioned intense therapy experience, started rereading the Seattle Succubus series, read The Princess Bride, found enjoyment in the writing of others when I was too creative exhausted/agitated to produce any of my own, noted down a few more scenes that I have had in mind for years and never written down, rediscovered the joys of applying Freudian psychoanalysis to popular media texts

And along the way did a bunch of revision, did some exercise, brain-dumped some ideas for various projects, listened to my synthwave playlist ad nauseum, and thought about doing a whole bunch of shit, including:

  • Working towards preparing a PhD proposal
  • Doing more scene blocking/brainstorming/worldbuilding for my various projects
  • Writing short stories
  • Reconnect with the storytelling strategies I learnt by playing D&D
  • Getting back into morning pages
  • Self-directed therapy homework (I bet I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t do their therapy homework)
  • Reading The Name of The Wind before I have to return it in a few days
  • Writing book reviews on this blog
  • Finding places that aren’t my bedroom to use as writing spaces
  • Getting into yoga (my dad found me a book on it, I have it, haven’t used it yet)

So, really, the options are all there. I just haven’t been doing … well, I haven’t been doing all of them. And having said that, I’ve actually done quite a bit – mostly downtime activities, but hey, this is supposed to be my break from Bad Guys.

I think, honestly, what would have made this restless month less restless is if I had just done more of those things, and left myself plenty of time to do absolutely nothing. I do think that I am in desperate need of some de-cluttering when it comes to my list of time-killing habits; I want to spend my time, not kill it, even if all I’m spending it on is R&R. And, for the millionth time: I want to get better at downtime. I suck at self-care; I want to not suck at it anymore.

And I think that requires a schedule, which is one of those really counterintuitive things that you think can’t possibly be How It Works but totally is how it works – so now I just have to figure out what the hell a downtime activity is for me. Because I actually don’t think that I know. It’s not Netflix, because that always feels like a chore; if it’s listening to music then I should actually probably not listen to music except for during downtime (or working out, because I’m not that masochistic); if it’s reading then I just need to stock up on a ton of trashy shit to read …

I know that the answer to ridding myself of this feeling of wanting to do stuff is to just do stuff – but all the things that I’ve listed, or many of them anyway, just feel so meaningless. And I think that’s been the big issue for me: I don’t have any meaningful work to do. I just have stuff to do to fill the time until I’ve taken a long enough break from Bad Guys, according to the completely arbitrary self-imposed limits that I set a month ago, to go back to it.

Well, okay. This is where I’m at now – and I think that, rather than trying to supply an answer to this dilemma that I’m not really ready to provide right now, I’m just going to leave it here for now. I’ve got D&D and co-writing tomorrow, as we seem to have shifted from Sunday to Saturday (which certainly makes the bus commute easier), so until Sunday I’m going to put this shit out of my mind.

And then, on Sunday, I’m going to start really trying to figure it out, because I have way too many months like this one, or worse, and I need a better plan.

28/9/2019

Yep, I needed that.

There is a Netflix movie called Falling Inn Love about a Latinx-American woman who wins an inn through an online competition – and the inn is in New Zealand. It is one of the most profoundly lowest-common-denominator-driven films I have ever seen, in that special way that only New Zealand films can be, a bad impression of a bad Hollywood production.

It was pretty funny.

My co-writing friend and I, along with one of her flatmates, watched it after D&D, and added it to our continued commitment to watch every bad made-for-Netflix film there is on the platform. I still have to see Sierra Burges is a Loser and The Perfect Date, but after that I think I’m all caught up … oh and the Christmas Prince duology, of course. Though I hadn’t considered those part of the commitment initially, because we were mainly looking at what we consider to be the “YA” Netflix features like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Kissing Booth. Still waiting for something to knock The Kissing Booth off the top spot.

I also brainstormed a selection of activities that I can occupy myself with in between periods of intense writing, downtime activities – and I’m going to have to bear in mind that I really can’t set a specific amount of time to stick to the regimen with (also there are things on this list that I should probably just be doing regularly regardless of whatever else is going on with me). I have to be open to exploration and change; I have to be adaptable, ready to roll with it. It worked for Bad Guys, and it seems to be pretty much essential for coping with life in general – so, it’s time for life to imitate art.

29/9/2019

Today – well, yesterday, because I’m writing this on Monday – I got a whole bunch of activity done, I won’t say “work” because I don’t think this qualifies – but then again, maybe it does.

I rolled some characters for a book of mine as D&D classes, with the ambition of running them through a little scenario, doing some role-play, feeling them out as individual personalities and as a team. That part didn’t happen. However, just working to fit them into the existing D&D class system gave me some really helpful ideas about how I could write them, flesh them out both on their own and in relation to one another. Now I have some backstories, goals, motives, and flaws to build on, so in terms of a character-building exercise, I think it was a success.

Weekly Totals

Research: 1 hour

Revision: 3 hours

Writing: 3895

All right, I have survived the week, and I don’t want to repeat this experience.

Weekly Words has been a great time-management tool at times – most of 2018 for instance – and over time has sort of morphed into just another chore on top of the pile of expectations that I place on myself because … well, I need something to do.

I am working in a broken system of my own making and it is time for this nonsense to end!

This first week of October, I’m going to be looking at Bad Guys and making notes and all that fun stuff, but in terms of this blog I’m going to feel it out. I might take a week off to just focus on getting my shit together, so that weeks – and months – like this one become less likely to happen, where I drift aimlessly and seething with frustration from one day to the next and the only thing I have to talk about for my trouble is how aimless and frustrated I feel.

I’m starting to think that Weekly Words might have run its course – again. I’ve felt this way before, and have shifted my parameters to find a way to keep it going. I think this was the right decision at the time, and right now I think it’s worth taking a step back and evaluating what I actually need/want to get out of continuing with it. At the very least, in its current form, I think that Weekly Words has reached the limits of its usefulness. If I’m working on a writing project, then it’s fantastic – if I’m not, then it’s enabling me to indulge in my worse nature, complaining about things I’m not doing instead of, like, doing them. And while it’s great to check in every day/week just for my own purposes when I have something going on, when I don’t – well, there was a theory I had that having to find something to write about might motivate me to actually do that, and so far that theory has not resulted in confirmation. Unless you count finding things to complain about … well, actually, there’s my answer: it does work – I just don’t like how it works.

So, it’s time for a change. And I need some time to figure out what that change needs to be. Until then …

Hmm. Seven years of running this blog and I don’t have a sign-off.

Putting it on the list!

Weekly Words 16-22/9/2019

16/9/2019

Another brainstorming/world-building session today, and I can feel it all starting to slip away from me. I think I just need to take a break from the brainstorming and just do some thinking – some “blocking”, actually. I need to know what’s going to happen in this story, or at the very least what my ideas are for what could happen. If I start from that point, then the world-building can arise organically from that to support and enrichen it. If I instead start with the world-building, the lore and the history and some potential overarching plot, then I’m going to start trying to twist my ideas to suit this big picture framework instead, and I do not work well like that – I can write down the ideas and the plan, but I will never tell that story. History has shown it to be thus.

In other words: I’m not doing so great with the whole “looking beyond myself” plan for this week so far.

I have, however, started re-reading the Seattle Succubus series by Richelle Mead, because it’s just really easy to read and I know exactly what I’m getting out of it, unlike the two library books I have out currently. At least it’s a way to take my mind off my current projects and stresses and existential angst, even if its not quite “looking beyond myself”. I’m not even sure what that would even look like.

But I have therapy tomorrow, so maybe I’ll find out soon.

20/9/2019

Revision: 1 hour

Turns out when I don’t have myself to talk about, my Weekly Words posts get shorter. Makes sense; they are my Weekly Word after all …

Still, I have done some stuff this week. The 1 hour of revision took me through to the end of episode 6 of me and my co-writing friend’s screenplay, leaving just four more to go, which I am loosely aiming to complete before Nanowrimo but if not then it’s not a huge deal.

I’ve been “blocking” a bit for Bad Guys, and I’ve come up with some scenes and ideas for how to make the story move that I like; but there’s still the issue of the fact that there is way more than one way to tell this story and I haven’t really settled on one that I like yet – though that is probably because I’ve only tried one of them and everything else is hypothetical and could work equally well, at least in my estimation. I think I need to identify not just what the tone is, but what creates the tone, as well as what detracts from it, and then go with that. Tone is everything with this story, so I think if I can just figure that out, the rest will fall into place pretty naturally.

I also think I should probably expand my focus between now and November, because this is a real danger time for over-thinking and over-planning, getting all prescriptive as I let impatience get the better of me. And I’ve been thinking more about Mark and Jessie over this week, how it’s much less, I dunno, variable of a story than Bad Guys feels like right now, and might be something more productive for me to focus my scene-blocking energies upon. I do think I want to continue blocking Bad Guys scenes, just so that I get used to thinking in terms of specifics, because for a lot of my stories it’s the specifics that trip me up. I’m pretty decent with big picture, overarching plot stuff, but when it comes to the details I shy away from the methodical approach, find it very hard to focus my thoughts on it, even though I find it very rewarding to do.

And it’s getting easier, to be fair. Part of that might be that I read The Princess Bride, at long last, over the course of this week. I like it. It’s much more overtly meta than the film, constantly breaks the fourth wall via the author interjecting his thoughts on the story as he’s telling it, and it’s very clearly farcical and satirical in many respects. But just like the film, none of that detracts from its absolute sincerity in terms of how the relationships between the characters are portrayed, and the characters themselves are delightful.

Still, while it was really nice finding that these things that I love about the film are also present in the book, even if the weighting of their importance is lowered a bit to allow for the constant interjections of authorial snark (which I did enjoy rather a lot), the thing that really struck me about it – and reminded me of how the film had the same effect – is just how iconic the events of the story are. They say (who “they” are changes depending on my internal frame of reference which is too vague to bother even trying to explain intelligibly I should definitely be writing a blog about how to write) that every part of a story needs to feel necessary, and The Princess Bride feels exactly like that. It’s not just that they feel necessary, though; it’s that they feel distinct, while also feeling totally in harmony with one another in the sequence that they have been arranged into.

Basically what I’m saying is that I like set pieces, because when you get right down to it that’s what The Princess Bride is: a sequence of awesome, memorable set pieces with iconic dialogue and universal themes of love, grief, revenge and humour linking them all together. And just like D&D was the beginning of a whole new way of approaching storytelling for me way back in the day – man, 14 years ago now – reading The Princess Bride is starting to feel like that for me this week. I have a new perspective that I’m intrigued to apply to my current methods and see where it gets me.

And also, now that I think about it, I miss my D&D-inspired storytelling strategies and feel like returning to them couldn’t be a bad thing. I wonder if I still “get” it, a decade and a half later.

21/9/2019

Goddammit, this week’s plan was to THINK BEYOND MYSELF well it’s been a lousy fucking plan so far but that’s the task that I set myself and you know what I DO have one thing that I can think about that isn’t just me being caught in yet another cycle of the as-of-yet unbroken loop of falling into a slump, knowing what the solution to breaking it is, and refusing to that that solution because I just feel like feeling like crap for a bit.

Seattle Succubus, the Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy depending on who you ask series by one of my favourite authors I suspect of making use of ghost writers for some of her stuff, Richelle Mead. I would probably not put the Seattle Succubus series in that category, just to be clear – my money’s on Vampire Academy, for the last two books at least – and this past week I’ve found that this series might actually be even more enjoyable the second time around.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never considered this series to have much longevity because of how pulpy it feels. It’s good pulp, insofar as I am any kind of judge of such things; it’s compelling and memorable pulp – but still pulp. It’s trashy and fun and, honestly, not really trashy but definitely a blood relative of some kind. I guess I just threw in “disposable” as a response to it because it went with everything else I felt about it – but I think I was dead wrong. Yes, there are definitely parts of the series that have aged like an opened can of baked beans left at the back of the fridge, and some glaring hypocrisy when it comes to calling out certain kinds of bigotry, particularly by today’s standards – and the book I’m up to right now, number four, Succubus Heat, has both our anti-heroine Georgina and her OTP Seth Mortensen at their most unlikeable.

But goddammit, it’s just so fun.

In a week, almost a month, where I’ve felt incapable and inadequate to the task of creating anything worth the effort it takes to create it, it’s been such a release of tension to dive into somebody else’s world, let their ideas fill the void left by my own – probably while it recovers, let’s be fair; I did just do a whole shitload of writing recently and probably ought to be a bit nicer to myself about how I’m feeling right now. Nevertheless, even if I don’t have the energy or confidence I still have the urge, and Seattle Succubus has gone a long way to sating it. Not quite all the way, much like Georgie and Seth’s sex life, but enough so that I don’t just feel like human garbage.

Here’s the problem, though – and also where I start talking about myself again, this was not a plan destined for success I feel – I’m enjoying it so much that I want to write something like it myself. Or maybe just to write Seattle Succubus myself, just to have those ideas come from me, even if only in the way that light comes from the moon only by being reflected from the sun. I can’t bring myself to do it, though, because – well, frankly, it’s embarrassing. Not because of the sexytimes in and of themselves, but because, when it comes to writing said sexytimes, I just have no fucking clue what I’m doing.

Was the pun intended? It’s about the level of wit I’m at these days, so I’ll say yes. I’ll take whatever credit I can get for doing anything resembling creative work right now.

I may not be able to, but Mead certainly can, and she does it in a way that I haven’t come across in other books. To be fair, I am not exactly a purveyor of Paranormal Romance, so for all I know this is pretty standard fare; but I like to think I am at least an intrepid novice explorer in the world of Urban Fantasy, which, while not about sex and romance, does contain these elements, often casting them in major supporting roles if not straight-up leading ones. The closest comparison I can think of is one that I have not read for myself, which is the infamous “ardeur” of Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anitaverse – though from what I hear, the comparison begins and ends with the mechanics of needing sex to recharge one’s power, and subsequently gaining an otherworldly sexual allure that draws people in.

While some seriously kinky and outright unpleasant shit is said to take place thanks to the plot-device of the ardeur (and I’m sure many people would scoff at the word “plot” being used in the same sentence as the Anitaverse’s “ardeur”), Georgina’s succubusly charms are contained to their consequences for her love life, specifically that she can never mix love and sex for someone whose soul she doesn’t want to siphon years off the life expectancy of and condemn to eternal damnation, seeing as anyone she sleeps with – and thus steals a portion of life essence from – is automatically “corrupted”, and their soul is, if not guaranteed a one-way ticket to Hell, then at least bumped up on the wait-list. Thus, when we first meet Georgina, she has been on a scumbags-only kick for the past few years, something her demonic handler, Jerome, is not pleased with (though not displeased enough to order her to up her game, either). A succubus with a heart of gold.

Enter Seth Mortensen, an intense, introverted, wry, kind, gives-good-email bestselling author who just so happens to have come to her bookstore for a book signing, and has moved to Seattle to be closer to his extended family. Sparks fly, and while there’s a rival love-interest for the first book, by the end of it the SS Georgina and Seth is set to sail for the rest of the series.

And yes, Seth is someone whose soul is good and pure, and this I take a bit of issue with because, while he’s attentive and sweet and bumbling and adorable, he’s also a total fucking doormat on his best days – and a manipulative, self-centered, judgmental prick the rest of the time. Which is not much of the time, to be fair, but enough to make me wonder about the morality-based magic system in the series. But, I digress; the point of this is that Georgina and Seth, despite having great chemistry, cannot do the deed without Georgina at least risking Seth’s eternal damnation – as well as draining a number of years off his life every time they have sex, regardless of how many corruption points he accrues from the encounter. You also have to feel guilty, I think, about having sex with a succubus to be truly corrupted? It’s not quite clear; maybe it just gives more of your soul over to her and makes you more corrupted, more of a sliding scale than a binary system of corrupted/not-corrupted based on guilt. And Georgina, despite being a minion of hell, doesn’t actually like hell, nor is she rooting for her “side” to win. She doesn’t like the other side very much either, but for reasons I can’t fathom given that what we see of the heavenly creatures in this series, they don’t seem that much better in many ways, she does seem to align with them insofar as she aligns with either side. Again, the morality of Seattle Succubus raises a lot of questions, and never answers any of them.

Still, who cares about morals when smut is on the agenda? Georgina, as it turns out: she is not willing to risk Seth’s immortal soul for a good lay or even going beyond first base – not even when he learns about the supernatural shit he’s gotten caught up in and says that he is willing to forgo a bit of life-essence for the chance at scoring a home run (both of them scoring a home run, of course; Seth is a gentleman). But, because she’s a succubus, it’s not just her job to corrupt unsuspecting souls using her feminine wiles, as succubi actually require life-force to survive, in addition to how it serves to fuel their supernatural powers of shape-shifting (which includes clothes and accessories, but would that include weapons; answer my questions, book), invisibility, and advantage on Charisma ability checks – all of which, in turn, are used to seduce mortals and facilitate the draining of life-essence, and so on and so forth. Bottom line: even if she won’t fuck Seth, she has to fuck somebody.

And so, the series has her hooking up with a parade of this-is-how-I-got-my-SAG-card characters to get her fix, none of whom we ever meet again, most of whom she knows for as fleeting of a time as we do (though she does have one “regular” that she checks in with every so often, but he still only shows up once). And these encounters are interesting not just because of the contrast that they offer to her intimate, chaste (though they eventually find some creative-if-obvious work-arounds) relationship with Seth, but because of the fact that these trysts don’t add anything to the plot. They’re basically the equivalent of characters powering up for twenty consecutive minutes in Dragon Ball Z: it’s a mechanical requirement given the in-world magic system, but in terms of how it progresses the story – well, it doesn’t.

It’s not even like any of these flings come back to bite her, either, since thanks to her shape-shifting she’s (almost) always in a different body for each encounter. The sex is not just narratively removed from the events of the main plot, it’s physically removed as Georgina literally embodies a different role through which to play them out. I’ve imagined what this series would be like as a TV series (I don’t know if the term “TV series” actually means anything anymore, but you get what I mean), how these scenes would so often require a different actress every time – reading about it, it’s easy to suspend disbelief and maintain an unbroken emotional connection with Georgina, but if we literally saw her become a different person every time she went out to get laid, and it has nothing to do with the plot each time, I think that could be difficult to want to stick with as a viewer.

Yet there’s at least two of these encounters per book, up until the sixth and final book because she’s in court for most of it (the court is in Hell BTW), and it’s fascinating to me that the books not only portray Georgina’s sex life this way, so deliberately and, I dunno, clunkily segregating sex and love from each other, but from the plot itself. It’s not that there aren’t occasions where her going for a pony ride aren’t part of the plot – the final sex scene of the first book is actually exactly this – but those are instances where the sex isn’t about her survival or needing a top-up of supernatural power. The rest of the time, when it is about her needing to feed, the plot grinds (heh) to a halt in order to facilitate the event. It’s not like Jerome sends her to seduce a powerful politician that he wants to turn to the Dark Side who also happens to be a part-time demonologist and is actually the main villain of the story or something; these are random hookups of absolutely no consequence to the story or plot, fulfilling a purely mechanical need to the detriment of the flow of the narrative.

Which is, of course, a fantastic allegory for Georgina and Seth’s relationship dynamic, which is constantly disrupted by the fact that, according to the mechanics of succubusism, she needs to have sex and drain some poor mortal’s life-essence in order to survive/meet her corruption quota before she can resume her relationship with Seth, with whom she can’t have sex without it spoiling everything between them. And in that same vein, just as she could have sex with Seth at the risk of destroying their relationship, the series could just tell us that Georgie has her little trysts off-page and reserve the word-count for purely story-related business.

So the fact that not only does it not do this, but actually goes to considerable lengths to make these almost anti-narrative sex scenes quite memorable – often by virtue of the wry humour that pervades the series – fascinates me as a reader and a writer. Because this could have been the whole series, a sort of Red Shoe Diaries deal where Georgina recollects an immortal lifetime’s worth of sexual conquests – and you know what, it actually could have been done this way and still kept the same underlying plot that the series ends up following and resolving. Seattle Succubus could have gone all-in on the random hookup angle and done away with any of the supernatural intrigue beyond how it concerns Georgina herself.

As it is, Georgina acts as something of a private investigator throughout the series, uncovering and thwarting various supernatural schemes with and without using her powers of seduction to get the job done. These sub-plots – Georgina and Seth’s relationship is always center-stage – actually often feel even more arbitrary and intrusive than the random hookups, mostly because, like the MCU, very few (though not none) of them cause any lasting ramifications. Ironically, these parts of the story are kept separate (mostly) from the plot-agnostic sex scenes, meaning that both sex and “plot” are not only kept separate from the story, which is the story of Georgina’s relationship with Seth, but also separate from each other. When your book series is called Seattle Succubus, the title of each book in the series begins with the word “Succubus”, and the main character is said succubus … well, it’s confusing. Why aren’t these elements more interconnected? They all seem pretty integral to the core premise of the series, so while they’re all included, it seems so bizarre that they’re so non-inclusive of each other (especially in the events of Succubus On Top.) It’s sort of like how the title “Vampire Academy” feels like false advertising as soon as you actually start reading: yes they’re vampires, and yes they’re at an academy, but … why isn’t the connection more meaningful?

(I love Vampire Academy just for the record but seriously)

Yet having said all this, I can’t really say that it definitely would have improved the series if these disparate elements had been more interconnected. And really, it comes back to the heart of the series, which is Georgina’s relationship with Seth. The way it’s structured, the way sex and love and intrigue are all kept at arm’s length from each other, mirrors their relationship dynamic so well – perhaps especially in Succubus Heat, given the weird magic system destabilisation that is the ostensible plot of the book, where it all does actually start getting more interconnected – that while on the surface this seems like how to not write a book 101, it just feels so appropriate.

I think this may be the thing that fascinates me the most about the series, how on paper it seems like this should feel like bad storytelling, but in practice it actually feels so right that it’s structured like this, segregated into distinct, separate elements that have some thin excuse for interconnection – sometimes – that, when taken together (while separate), so perfectly embodies the experience of Georgina being unable to fully express or embody her love for Seth, the fact that her relationship is not a holistic one, but a scattered piece of an incomplete puzzle. All the pieces are there, but she can’t put them into place – not without ruining the experience. And I do honestly think that making the overall story “better” by making sure that all the pieces fit together “better” for the sake of ticking off boxes on the “how write book” checklist, it would ruin Georgina’s story. So, honestly, I’m actually really glad that the story is told the way that it is, appropriate to its subject, rather than some set of general guidelines that could be made to fit any story, because this isn’t any story. It’s this story, and this story should be told this way.

And maybe this is actually my position right now, in terms of my relationship to my creative endeavours. It’s a different way to look at it, at least – I can’t seem to bring myself to do anything creative, even though the urge is there to try. On paper, it seems like these two things should be unified, but maybe, right now at least, that’s actually exactly the wrong thing for me to try and do. Especially since, well, it keeps not working. Maybe that’s a sign that I need to stop trying to make it work – because maybe it’s already working, even if it doesn’t seem that way when I put it into words.

Maybe this is a part of my story that needs to be told badly in order to be told truthfully.

And I’d like to think that I’m up to that.

22/9/2019

Revision: 20 minutes

I mean, we had two hours in which we could have done more work on our co-writing project, but once we got to reminiscing about reading Freud back at undergrad there was no going back. Without going into too much detail, let me simply say that I will never see The Lord of the Rings the same way again.

Though honestly, I should have reached this point long before now. I guess today had remedial value as well as that of passing two hours in a very entertaining and enjoyable manner.

Weekly Totals

Revision: 1 hour 20 minutes

Writing: 4329

Okay, it turns out that I actually can talk about something other than myself, and quite a bit at that.

I’m counting it; this week is a win. So sayeth the Ubermensch!

I’m now on to the fifth Seattle Succubus book, Succubus Shadows – the book that started it all for me. Seriously, without this book – and without this series – I would never have had my YA kick, nor would I have had my Urban Fantasy kick, both of which enriched my life immeasurably. Furthermore, as a result of both said kicks, I have now read more books written by women than by men. I still own more books with male authors than female, but most of the books that I own I bought (or was gifted) long before I remembered that libraries exist and are a force for good in this world. And also I lack not only money but shelf-space, and given how much real estate I have to work with I think I already own too many books as it is.

Besides which: reading is not my primary objective right now. I have some life shit to start taking care of – starting tomorrow, in fact, where I will go wifi-hunting in my search for somewhere other than my house to do my writing. I might start small and just see if moving to the dining-room or even the back yard is enough of a scene change to get into the mindset for compiling a lit review for this PhD that I guess I’ve decided I’m going to do now – but I think that would be copping out, actually. I want to go find a cafe or a library or something for this. And in point of fact, I think having a bunch of different “office spaces” for my research work might actually be the best approach. It’s how I wrote the zero draft of Tallulah, now that I think about it. That was a fun time.

And after feeling rather out of sorts this month, I think I could go for a fun time.

Weekly Words 9-15/9/2019

11/9/2019

Revision: 40 minutes

Also some light brainstorming because I am coming unhinged with nothing to do I really needed to plan better for how to handle my post-Bad Guys phase …

Well, actually, I do have a plan, I’m just avoiding it for … well, I know why, but I know it’s stupid and it’s embarrassing to admit what it is, because it’s just that I am nervous about trying anything new right now. After two months of being able to power through my writer’s block, my doubts and second thoughts and all the rest of it …

Hmm. Well, I had help with that; I don’t have help right now. So maybe that’s what I should focus on, and in the meantime just not worry and do something else. Like read The Princess Bride, which so far is proving to be quite entertaining, and nothing like what I was expecting. I knew it was different to the film, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to be different. It makes sense, now that I’m reading it; I’m quite enjoying it … but I’m finding excuses to stall.

And it’s making me feel bad so okay, brain, enough. Let’s find a solution.

12/9/2019

Revision: 15 minutes

One solution has been found.

I got an email from Nanowrimo today, inviting me to get all prepped to be novel-ready for November. Following the link, I found that there was a PDF I could download, and true to my hoarder nature I did so. I had a flick through and thought that, hey, some of this stuff could be quite useful (though I never like character-creation questionnaires), found some of it a bit rudimentary but probably still useful as a primer …

And then I got to the plot/outline-creation section. There is a range of methods included in the guide, but the first one is the one that provided today’s solution. It’s just a huge spreadsheet of empty cells that you fill in with scene summaries.

And it’s perfect.

I’ve had ideas like this before – I had a plan to write out the scenes that I had in mind for Realm of the Myth as a way of getting something written as well as sort of saying goodbye to the project (or potentially discovering that I still wanted to make it work, though as it happened neither actually came to pass), and I’ve tried brainstorming many times over the years. But after coming to the realisation that there is a huge difference between descriptive vs predictive planning, and that I work well with the former and terribly with the latter, and after struggling last week to figure out a way to keep myself in the writing game without stressing about doing tons of “real” writing, the idea of just jotting down the ideas for scenes that I do have for my stories, without trying to take that bundle of ideas and turn them into a plan, was immensely appealing.

So, I gave it a try. It’s hard work, even restricting myself to writing summaries of the scenes (which could have been way shorter) and some accompanying thoughts. The word-counts for these summaries proved way too many for the tiny cells the Nanowrimo spreadsheet template offered the space to fill, which I had assumed would happen, so I used a Word document instead. I found out that I had fewer ideas than I thought (or just tons that I’ve forgotten/dismissed as son as I thought of them for some reason or another). But it was so helpful, and generative, and that was just for Realm of the Myth, which I have officially relegated to the scrapheap. I have to do this with the rest of my projects now. I will do it.

And just as yesterday I was lamenting the lack of “channels” to focus my energies through, Nanowrimo came through again today with the perfect way for me to keep up momentum without the stress of having to actually be writing-writing. I’m calling today a win.

13/9/2019

More brainstorming today – in fact, specifically, word-building.

The world-building done was for Bad Guys; until today, I had intentionally tried to leave the world-building flat and nondescript, besides being some kind of generic high fantasy pastiche – which is what I want. And I think, for a zero draft, not having gone into much detail was probably a fine decision.

But for future revisions, I realised, I need it to be a high fantasy pastiche with intent. It’s still a world; it’s still a distinct setting, even if it is deliberately derivative and unoriginal in its construction – it still needs to be constructed. And part of the reason I never bothered with it before is because, to be perfectly honest, I don’t feel confident in my world-building abilities without derailing into pedantic minutia that detracts from the story rather than adding to it.

There’s this very common piece of writing advice, which is to make your setting a character. How one is to interpret this is, I guess, up to interpretation, but on the Writing Excuses podcast it was explained as making sure that your setting has an impact on the story. For instance, the bridge of Khazad-Dum: the narrow bridge over a vast chasm forces the Fellowship to take a huge risk in running across it, fleeing the Balrog – and forces Gandalf to make an equally huge sacrifice in choosing to not cross the bridge, instead buying Frodo and the others enough time to escape by staying on the bridge and fighting the Balrog until the bridge collapses and falls into the chasm, with Gandalf following soon after. If it had been a flat plane instead, or a tunnel, it’s possible that every member of the Fellowship would have been able to escape – or been horribly slaughtered with nowhere to hide. The environment, to a large extent, dictated the events of the story.

Contrast with something like Man of Steel; there are already more than enough jokes about the catastrophic loss of life and property damage that Superman’s fight with Zod must have caused – but despite this, the environment doesn’t really do anything in the story other than give us something to look at other than a blue screen. Superman and Zod are both too powerful to be affected by something as trivial as the physical environment of Metropolis; the closest we get to it is when the people Zod is trying to laser-snipe are huddled in a corner, forcing Superman to snap his neck in a certain direction to avoid them … never mind that, if you watch the scene, he actually twists Zod’s head towards the civilians to break his neck … the salient point here being that, in Man of Steel, the environment is largely just set-dressing. There’s the tornado scene and the bus scene, and arguably the bar scene, but other than this small handful of set pieces the setting in Man of Steel is not what I’d consider a “character” because it is, in a word, inconsequential to the story.

And what I realised with the world-building for Bad Guys is that, while I want it to be innocuous, I don’t want it to be irrelevant – which, at the moment, it is.

Again, zero draft, it’s fine – but it’s something that I want to change. So I spent the better part of six hours today just thinking and writing about the world and setting, and trying to figure out how to make it feel like a character.

I’m still figuring it out, and I don’t know that I can put into words what I’ve learnt so far, but one thing I feel very strongly is that, really, this stuff is very intuitive and doesn’t really need explaining. In fact, every time I’ve ever heard that line “make your setting a character”, it’s been more confusing to my poor, overly-literal mind than anything else. Make it a character? What, does it need a resolution to its backstory or something? Its own sub-plot? A love-interest?

But no – to make your setting a “character” in its own right, I think, is a matter of figuring out what your story needs from the world, and design it from that angle. Or, of course, if you have a neat idea for a unique setting, start with that and then think of a number of stories that arise from the mechanics of that setting. If the world is consequential, for good and/or ill with regard to those who live in it and the story you’re telling about them, I think that means you’re doing it right.

And hey, as long as I’m doing it right, everything’s fine.

Weekly Total

Revision: 55 minutes

Writing: 1892

A good week, I think, in terms of keeping up momentum and staying engaged with my writing without needing a word-count total to measure it with.

To be real, though, this has been a pretty revealing week in matters not involving writing. I had not one but two parties this week, one on each day of the weekend (this is being written on the Monday following, because things take energy). Two situations where my particular anxieties and discomfort levels were tested, back-to-back, in a week where I’ve been stressing about the future of my therapy sessions and general mental health management, where I’ve been thinking more and more about the viability of returning to study, whether to do my pet project werewolf PhD or something a little more serious-academic-topic; in a week where I’ve been forced to consider things about myself and my prospects in ways that I never have before. I’ve felt very emotionally fraught and more volatile than I have in a good while. And I’m not really sure how well I’ve come out of it.

Which is to say that I really am not in writing mode right now, and while I think that’s understandable, I also want to make sure that I don’t fall into the trap I was so intent on avoiding at the end of the zero draft process and take a break that I don’t need. And by the same token, I want to make sure that I take enough time to consider all the practical life-beyond-writing stuff that I need to, and don’t turn my writing into an escape from it. Or anything else.

Hey, at least I uninstalled WOW. That’s something.

I’ve felt weird this week, is what I think I’m saying, and also I’ve felt various different kinds of weird over the week. Not all bad necessarily, and in fact plenty of it was good, but … this is something new, and I’m not prepared for it, and I feel that quite keenly.

But, it’s happening now, and one way or another I’ll have to find a strategy for dealing with it. At least I have a bit of history with adapting to difficult, stressful situations in ways that works, but man I do not want things to get that bad before I find equilibrium. I think I need to do a life brainstorm to go with the writing ones that have, so far, worked out quite nicely.

I know one thing for sure anyway: none of this is helping with me being sick of hearing about myself, so maybe that’ll be next week’s project. Might help with the whole impending-existential-doom thing, too. Worth a shot?

Monthly Words June/July/August 2019

Monthly Total(s)

Revision: 9.1 Hours

Writing: 140,837

Breaking it down, that’s: 9,483 words through June; 72,250 through July (and the start of August) (also holy shit); and 56,987 through (most of) August – and 2104 words writing this post.

My therapist said something to me during our last session that really stuck with me, partly because I’ve already known this for years, and partly because despite having known this for years, I’ve never put it to myself so, I dunno, pleasantly. It’s always a criticism or lamentation when I do it; I suppose it makes sense that it wouldn’t be that way coming from a therapist. But basically it’s that it’s very easy for me to be very self-centered – not selfish, per se, just that I tend to think of my life, the world, and everything in terms of how it all relates to me.

Part of me was very pleased to hear this and found it very helpful, and part of me is still throwing an incredible, triple-flavoured tantrum about it. I wish I had a camera that could capture my own internal state right now that would also make it somehow intelligible for a viewing audience; I bet I’d win an award for it.

See? I’m doing it again right now.

And that part of me that feels like it’s justified because, well, I’ve been duped and taken in and taken advantage of and taken for granted so many times in my life, and hey isn’t it about damn time that I got some consideration even if it’s only from myself, and also let’s look at the past three months’ worth of blog posts and see what I can glean from it and just …

I am so fucking done with myself right now.

I did a bunch of self-discovery and learnt some incredibly valuable lessons over the past three months, and that’s worth cataloguing just for posterity, and as a reminder to myself that it did actually happen, and that it happened because I put in the effort and made it happen. And also because my co-writing friend is awesome. Probably at least 50% that, to be honest.

But, god, it’s just so … stifling. Two months straight of just writing a novel, yeah, I get that it kind of would naturally be focused on my experience of it, I don’t regret that or anything – but the June posts in particular, when a whole bunch of absolutely nothing was going on? I was still just talking about myself, the prose equivalent of posting pictures of what I was eating, except all I was eating for all of June was the same two slices of toast, with the only variance being how I felt about it that day. And now that I’ve written that, that still sounds too interesting a metaphor to adequately convey the level of drain-circling, monotonous introspection that I decided was worth writing and publishing several entire blog posts about.

It’s boring.

And if this Monthly Words post only served to teach me that, yeah, maybe I need some new material, I think that’d have been worth it.

I think there’s more, though.

Throughout Camp Nano – and this is something that I’ve noticed about the experiences of mine that I record on this blog in general – I’ve picked up on a trend. When the writing is going well, I’ll be all like “this is awesome, I’m so glad I’m writing again”, and when I see a problem that I think needs fixing in my writing process, I’ll be all like “all right, this needs to change, I’m going to address this issue”.

I bring this up because this blog is meant to record my experience of writing, but this is all just what I was thinking at the time – I’m only recording my thoughts. Which, I mean, I don’t see how that isn’t inevitable; but in comparing my recorded thoughts to what I can remember of the actual experience … there’s something of a disparity in terms of what I state that I intend to do or how great it is that I’ve done X, and what’s actually going on when things are getting done.

This is infuriating. For as long as I can remember – in my writing career at least (I use the word “career” extremely facetiously) – I have been obsessed with perfect recall, being able to recall and relate my experiences with 100% accuracy, not just in terms of the facts, but in terms of really capturing the experience itself. I eventually found it too hard and too disappointing and gave up, but the drive is still there – and this discovery is triggering it.

So, time for some self-soothing, and also for posterity: what’s going on when I write almost every day for two months straight, and well over 1k words per day on average for one of those months, is that I make sure to capitalise on one of two things: my commitment to be writing consistently, or my enthusiasm to continue writing. I only need one of those two things – but it needs one extra ingredient, which is action. If I don’t feel enthusiasm but I have committed to writing, then I need to start writing for writing to happen. If I feel enthusiasm but haven’t decided “hey I’m going to be writing now/for the foreseeable future”, then I need to start writing for writing to happen. I have agonised over this third ingredient of action for well over a decade by now, asking myself rhetorical questions of why it isn’t present when I “need” it, why is it that I “can’t” just conjure it into being whenever I want, why it is that I can’t seem to “make myself” maintain this discipline – it’s gone as well as you might imagine (or, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, as well as you have seen some evidence of).

What this Monthly Words has taught me, on top of “I need to get out more”, is that I do need at least one of either enthusiasm or commitment in order for writing to be done – but either of those on their own is not enough to produce action. That has to come from some other place, and I don’t know what that place is. All I know is that, for the past two months, I accessed it frequently, and in the months leading up to them I did not.

A lot of the time, it’s just having someone else to share the experience with, which is sometimes a burden that is easier to carry with help. And not just sharing the experience with, but the responsibility for making the decision to write. Waaayyy easier with a buddy.

A stopwatch also helps.

Momentum helps.

Knowing that the end is in sight helps.

What this Monthly Words has taught me that, while enthusiasm and commitment come from pretty predictable sources – internal sources – the third component, action, often comes from without. Not always, of course, and one of the very valuable lessons I’ve learnt from the success of how I wrote Bad Guys is that just having either enthusiasm or commitment available to me to capitalise on as an opportunity can, sometimes, be enough. But not always.

“It takes a village” is what I’m realising this Monthly Words – and that I am not a village all on my own, and never have been. It’s never been something that I could have left all up to myself, every time I wanted the writing to happen, and realistically expected things to go the way I hoped they would.

So not only do I need to “get out more” to create more interesting blog posts, but also for my writing to continue thriving when I have either enthusiasm or commitment to capitalise on.

And, hey, I’ve been complaining for so long, years, about how I often sit on my motivation and desire to write and squash it until it goes away and stops bothering me – over the past two months, I did the exact opposite, and it was, just as I’d always imagined, pretty damn awesome.

Capitalise on the opportunities you have – and have far more than one strategy for making sure that you actually take that opportunity. It’s not all up to you, and it can’t be. So look beyond, for those times when going it alone isn’t getting you where you want to go.

And why yes, this does line up nicely with my most recent therapy lesson/insight/homework. I like to be efficient where I can.

That’s what Monthly Words has taught me.

… as well as the following lesson(s):

Yes, it took me a good 2.5 weeks to get into a good rhythm and build up sustainable momentum with Bad Guys – and even then, it was rough going. But the reason that it worked was because I found ways to stay involved; if a chapter wasn’t working for me, I made sure that I had a way of making notes on the chapter, taking down my thoughts about why it wasn’t working, what I thought would work better, how awful the story was and how it was a total waste of time – until I was done with that. I made sure that I actually spent my non-writing time (whether because I was done for the day or stuck with writer’s block) thinking about the difficult chapter, teasing at the ideas, fighting against the internal mantra of “this will never work” and forcing a confrontation, taking what I had that didn’t feel good enough and just messing with it until something did start to work, until the bland, banal sequence of events suddenly became funny, or scary, or classic, or adorable, or whatever.

I finished that zero draft not just because I showed up, but because once I did show up, I fucking stayed. I didn’t show up for the easy parts and bow out for the hard ones; I stuck it out and put my time to good use, focused on making the project work rather than trying to console myself for my perceived failure. I mean of course I did a bit of that, I’m only human (and also me), but I made sure that I took the important work seriously – and whenever I did, it worked, and hey, I wrote that fucking non-story of a book.

Which means that now it has the chance of becoming a real story, and that’s what I set out to do.

And on the flipside of that: I had so many good ideas while writing this extremely rewarding, often challenging zero draft. So even while I was complaining and fretting, especially (and ironically) about my ideas being shit, I was expressing those anxieties by having great ideas in my notes document. I always made sure that I had more than one channel through which to focus my energy: the draft for when things were going smoothly, the ideas document for when they got rough, and taking the time to stop and think when I needed to be done for a while. No matter the situation, I always made sure that there was an option for me to use the energy that I had, regardless of the kind of energy it was.

Also:

This is basically just a summary of the perspective Monthly Words has given me this time around, but the whole “be prepared” thing I’ve got going on now is basically the same as “be flexible”. Sometimes, the best plan is a whole bunch of different plans that you can choose from when you need them; one size does not fit all, and if you know that your needs change sizes frequently, then be responsible about it.

As sick as I am of hearing about myself right now (though sometimes I am pretty entertaining; I guess my writing experience and inner workings fall under the category of “sometimes food”), I must say that I am, above all, proud of myself for how responsible I was about making sure that Bad Guys worked – and, more to the point, that I worked, both as in making sure that I was functioning and taken care of, and as in putting in the level of effort and commitment required to complete the zero draft.

And … yeah. Here it is: Monthly Words, three months late, I have definitely forgotten how to “do” Monthly Words at this point … but it’s still valuable, and as per usual, I’m glad that I made myself do it.

Have options. Capitalise on opportunities (and recognise when you are the one providing it). Be prepared to be flexible. Look beyond yourself, because it’s not all up to you.

And be good to yourself. You deserve it.

Weekly Words 2-8/9/2019

2/9/2019

Writing: 6343

Yep, definitely going to “take a break from writing for a while”. That’s the plan.

Yep.

No.

The plan is to do what I want to do, and last night I wanted to write over 6k words, apparently, or wanted to write so much that it resulted in over 6k words by the time I was finished – and I’m not finished.

This was one of the new idea-babies that I had over the course of the past two months, and in writing these new ideas that I’ve spent no writing time with prior was enlightening. I knew that I’d learnt a lot from writing Bad Guys, but I didn’t realise just how much I wanted to apply what I’d learnt – specifically, the newfound confidence that I have in my own drafting process, the ability to “just write” and not worry about how it reads right now, but rather to just enjoy the opportunity to experiment and not be constrained by the need to “get it right” right away.

To trust that I’ve Got This – and that Having This doesn’t have to mean that I’ve Got It right now. I will Got This. And writing last night made me realise that I really wanted to prove that this is true for me now, when I’ve never believed that it’s been true before.

Will I write more tomorrow? No idea, but it was the right thing to do today, so I’m glad I did it. I need a break – from Bad Guys. And I’m taking it.

As for the rest?

3/9/2019

Writing: 8089

Well, I have finished a chapter of a new project and …

Weekly Total

Writing: 15097

Revision: 1 hour-ish

… also did some other stuff …

And yeah turns out maybe a break is what I’m doing after all.

Which is fine. Healthy, in fact, most likely. I’m noticing that, after having finished that marathon at the start of the week, my subsequent attempts to get myself to write have put me right back in the same old situation I always end up in when I try to force myself to be all about the writing, based on me giving myself an example of just how much I can do – if I want to.

I don’t want to right now.

I do have a ton of ideas that all seem worthy of being explored, and I do think that at least some of them are proving difficult because I’m finding incredibly weak excuses to not give them a try out of anxiety … and also the prospect of, after having just completed a full zero draft, having to start all over again from scratch. I think I have zero draft burnout, and I think taking the time to recover from it would not be the worst idea imaginable.

But I’m also finding that, as this week draws to a close, I’m feeling all kinds of down, and that’s something that focusing on writing alone isn’t going to help me cope with effectively. It’s going to require some serious discipline on my part, and I really am not ready for that, and that’s a dilemma.

But, writing-wise, even if this week has been a study in contrasts, I did get a whole ton of writing done, and if I’m looking to measure that sort of thing right now then that’s great. Having said that – I have no need to measure my writing or to push myself to do it: I have my plan to get back on the Bad Guys train in November, and until then I am a free agent. I think I really did not plan well enough to deal with this sudden lack of stuff to do with myself, and that’s a big part of what’s got me down right now. Be Prepared, I keep telling myself, but it’s not the mantra that’s the problem: it’s my follow-through that needs work.

I guess that’s something to do.

Hmm. Post-draft depression? Is that a thing? I think it’s a thing.

Weekly Words 26/8-1/9/2019

26/8/2019

Writing: 2532

Aaahhh! So close!

Well, it feels close anyway; word-count doesn’t really mean anything right now, except as a measure of how much writing I’ve done. It’ll mean something in terms of “where I’m at” when I’m thinking of submission guidelines.

I’m thinking another three or four chapters to cover what’s left yet to happen. Yes, I know I only have another six days (well, five, since Sundays are spoken for) to write those four chapters; they don’t need to be long chapters – but then again, I’m not averse to a bit of a writing blitz in this final week. I’ll see how I go. But I am finishing this zero draft this week, and I’m looking forward to it.

And right now, I feel like immediately after finishing it I’m going to put it aside until mid-to-late October and not even think about it until then, because holy fucking shit I have gone ham on this novel. TWO MONTHS. I’m going to have written a whole goddamn novel in two months, by the time this is done. A novel that I was afraid I was never going to get to write period. Yeah, sure, people write whole novels in one month during Nanowrimo, but hey, my former fastest time was Tallulah, since I wasn’t measuring the other two I wrote before that in terms of time, and that was, all told, about six months. So three times as long as Bad Guys has taken.

I probably shouldn’t celebrate before I’ve actually made it to the party – but, I mean, that’s that. I am done after this month. Even if I’m not done.

I’m going to be done, dammit; I cannot stand the thought of still being working on this fucking novel after this week; it will not be.

I love this book. I just really, really, really fucking need to be done writing it.

27/8/2019

Writing: 4234

Although, to get technical about it, it’s only really 4091 words because 143 of those words were copy-pasted from an earlier chapter for flashback purposes.

I wrote a chapter in three and a quarter-ish hours. But it’s only 4091 words of new writing. Don’t be too impressed.

Nah fuck it I wrote 4234 words, because I added 4234 words to the total word-count of this novel.

And now that I’m done with that extremely important transcription of my own internal monologue: I was not expecting to do this much writing today. I was almost expecting myself to not even do any writing today. Writing’s funny like that, and it’s part of the fun of being caught up in the writing process, surprising yourself in pleasant ways.

Also, I kind of feel like I’m owed a writing windfall – or maybe more like I’ve earned it. The first six months of this year were abysmal for my writing motivation, and I did try to get things back on-track for a while. I think recognising that I needed to take a break and being able to accept that fact made it possible for Camp Nano to work as well as it did, though by the same token I think not recognising that, at the end of 2018, I actually needed to keep writing because that was what I wanted to do was what caused this year’s slump and slump-related stresses. I didn’t have a way to transition out of the co-writing project and into some other writing project, and so I just made myself take a break when I wasn’t ready to stop. I want to have a plan this time. I want to be prepared.

I’m starting to sound like Scar – well, you know what, that extremely evil and twisted Disney villain had some valid points when it comes to time-management.

Okay, just the one. But it was very catchy.

A plan, though – I’ve learnt my lesson about prescriptive vs descriptive plans, and for that reason my “plan” for transitioning out of Bad Guys and into … well, whatever happens between this Saturday and October 19th is just to have options available for me to indulge exploring, until I find something – or things – that feel right. Even if that is just taking a break – but whatever it is, I want it to be the thing that I want to do, not the thing that I think would be smart or even wise to do. I can do that when the stakes are things that affect more people than just myself – but when it comes to writing, I think I’ve finally come to accept that it only works when I’m doing what I actually want to be doing, even if it seems stupid or runs the risk of burnout or “I have no ideas to work with” or whatever. I’ve proven that I can power through the bland patches to find the good ideas with Bad Guys (and honestly every writing project that I’ve stuck with for long enough), and I’m pretty sure it’s a universal truth that time flies when you’re having fun, and work doesn’t feel like work when you love what you’re doing – or, at least, it doesn’t make you feel like you really want to take a break. Even if it makes you tired, if you truly want to be doing it, you will somehow find the energy to be doing it.

In essence, my plan is to wait until I need the plan, and then trust my feelings. I’m going all Disney cliche on this one. Why the hell not? I think it’s been too long since I’ve done it. Like revisiting an old Disney film that I haven’t seen since I was a kid, I wonder what following my heart will be like when I go back to it.

28/8/2019

Writing: 1519

Started the penultimate chapter, in terms of chronology at least. I’ll finish the rest tomorrow.

Today was mostly spent reading The Way of Kings, trying to make enough headway to ensure that I’ll actually finish it before it’s due back. I’ve requested the sequel, along with The Fifth Season, but they won’t get here for a little while, so in the meantime I should probably stock up on something quick and fun and disposable.

I have re-learnt something from throwing myself into The Way of Kings: I enjoy how much time I have to spend reading High Fantasy books – if they reward the effort. So far, The Way of Kings is doing that for me. I’m now 700+ pages in, and I’m appreciating how un-critical I’m being as a reader. It’s something I’ve started to find real value in, this aspect of my personality: I love being analytical and critical and Absolutely Destroying problematic media – but I also love being generous, suspending disbelief and critical intent, and the fact that this is my default setting as a reader/audience member. Because it allows me to give any story the opportunity to be seen in its best light.

And if it still sucks, then I don’t even have to try to point out the problems, which means no effort wasted. Win-win.

And The Way of Kings certainly does not suck – though I will admit, I’ve already collected a handful of little scenes, turns of phrase, and narrative choices that have rubbed me the wrong way. But it is just that: a handful. And spaced out over 700 pages. Still there, but I’m seeing the benefit of having super-long books: if there are the same amount of problems as there are in a smaller book, they’re more spread out and seem much less significant. What a neat trick. I should keep that one in mind.

29/8/2019

Writing: 2056

It’s occurring to me that I might not actually finish this zero draft by the 31st.

Which is fine.

I think the simple fact that I’m almost finished is enough to keep me motivated to actually reach that point, however long it takes, because I know it shouldn’t take that long. I’ve been writing up a storm over the past couple of months, and overall I haven’t really slowed down – in fact if anything I’ve sped up, writing around 2k words per day for the past seven. It’s going well, and I know it’s going well; it’s not something I’m even thinking about. It’s a good place to be in.

Also, I finished The Way of Kings yesterday, reading about … 500 pages? Maybe only 400; the point is that I read many, many pages yesterday and it felt really good. The only downside is that now it’s over, and I don’t want it to be. Maybe I should have made a transition plan for this, too.

Oh well. I do have other books that I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and a bit of a gap before my next batch of library books comes in. I’m sure I’ll make do. And honestly, while it is totally fine if I don’t finish Bad Guys by the 31st – I still want to. And I know part of what’s holding me back is just not spending enough time on it, and not planning to spend enough time on it.

So tomorrow, I think, is going to be a bit of an all-in day, after I come back from meeting my friend for lunch in town. I have no books to read, the next Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour tournament won’t be on YouTube until Monday, She-Ra isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – the universe has basically cleared my schedule for me so that I can go all-in on finishing this novel.

No. I cleared my schedule. I read from noon yesterday until 5 a.m. this morning finishing The Way of Kings; I burnt myself out on Dragon Ball FighterZ content over the past … year and a half … I put this plan into motion, without even realising it. Almost like, without thinking …

I was getting prepared.

I knew it would work!

30/8/2019

Writing: 9280

I don’t think this is the first time I’ve made myself cry with my own writing, but it’s definitely been a while.

Two chapters finished tonight, and I have a decision to make: either I go ham tomorrow to wrap up both the final chapter/epilogue and the missing chapter that I skipped during Camp Nanowrimo, or I just do the final chapter/epilogue and leave the skipped chapter skipped, simply because it doesn’t really need to exist. This is a zero draft, and skipping it made me realise what I needed to prioritise about this story, and what I could afford to discard, and that chapter is one of the things I can afford to discard, because while it seems important, all it really does is fill time. Technically it explains how the characters get from point A to point B – but I could just tell the story better and not need a whole pointless filler chapter to do that.

Yeah, I think that’s the plan. Tomorrow, this shit is done

And I’ll have to figure out what I’m doing next.

31/8/2019

Writing: 6225

… and I’m done.

The full zero draft clocks in at 89,477 words long – so definitely on the higher end of my final word-count prediction scale – and is the first zero draft (or any draft) of a novel that I have completed in the space of two months. I am thirty-two years old at the time of achieving this milestone in my progress as a writer.

It feels fine.

Which is how it always feels; finishing a novel sometimes feels really awesome and satisfying and a little bit bittersweet but indisputably fulfilling – most of the time, though, it’s less of a feeling, more of a recognition that you’ve gotten something done, and, well, it’s done.

It seems silly, when you think of the amount of time and effort that actually goes into writing a novel, even if it only takes two months (or one, for all those of you who have ever actually won-won Nanowrimo). That’s not something that you “just do” – but it is when you do it. It’s not a fantasy anymore; you make it happen, and it’s happened, and you can’t just think about it in terms of how awesome it would be if you managed it, because you’ve managed it.

Now what?

Well, for me, I have created an A5 page-sized PDF version to peruse when I’m good and ready, which might be on Monday, or might be in October like I currently have planned for myself. In the meantime, I have a bunch of books that I’ve bought myself over the years and haven’t read – continuing my The Way of Kings-fuelled High Fantasy kick for the most part – and then by that point my next round of library books should come in …

Well, that’s for recreation. In terms of writing, I think I’m going to let myself feel out some new ideas that I’ve got. I’ve had this idea for a movie after getting into synthwave this week, which takes one of my older new magic system ideas that I’ve never been able to think of a good story to go with – I’ve got something resembling that now, and I’m keen to experiment with it, maybe as a screenplay. I’ve also got these “craft” books on writing sitting on my bookshelf, which I am fully intending to read and even take notes on, sort of treating them like a course, because I want to learn this shit, even if it’s just so that I know the terminology and can talk shop with other writers who have done more formal study than I have. But also because I like learning shit, and I like writing, so how the hell have I never done this before, exactly?

I’m also going to have to set some time aside to figure out what I want to do with myself that has absolutely nothing to do with writing, because in this two-thousand and nineteenth year of some people’s Lord I have decided that it is about goddamn time that I learn how to relax and enjoy myself like a normal human being. That’s what normal human beings do, right? I haven’t just been labouring under a delusion that I use to shame myself with this whole time?

And, at long last, I am going to write my fucking Monthly Words post, for June, July and August. Weekly Words will most likely skip a week next week, unless I do a bunch of unexpected writing – I do want to be aware of when I do and don’t need to take a break from writing, and honestly I’m just not sure what the status is on that one just yet. But whatever the answer is, I am not going to preemptively make that decision for myself. Yes, I’ve just done a full two months of virtually non-stop writing and some form of wisdom might say “hey, maybe it’s time for a break” – but if I don’t need a break, then I’m not going to force myself to take one. I’ll just have to see.

At the very least, Monthly Words will get written, and include itself in the monthly word-count. So there’s one writing project I am guaranteed to be working on post-Bad Guys.

I finished a novel in two months.

I finished another novel.

I think it’s starting to sink in …

Weekly Total

Writing: 28835

25846 of that was finishing Bad Guys.

I really like writing endings.

Speaking of endings: this three-month-long Weekly Words stint without a Monthly Words post to sum everything up and give myself perspective. These have been a really eventful past three months for me, and I’m still very much unaware of whatever toll it’s taken on me, except for the faint but distinct feeling that I am done with this writing project. My energy has run out for this writing project – not necessarily writing altogether, but that’s what next week is for: finding out.

But in the meantime, I need that goddamn perspective. Just like writing Bad Guys was an exercise in balancing breakneck pace writing-without-thinking and keeping enough perspective to not give in to the frequent bursts of despair and second-guessing whenever I had an idea that seemed better than the ones I’d written down (not hard, considering that I wasn’t giving myself time to think during this entire writing process). I managed it for Bad Guys, and I think that’s why I was able to finish it as I intended, sticking to my timekeeping goals.

But as for me, in general – I haven’t had that perspective. I have had some perspective, simply because I’ve been going to therapy once a fortnight, and honestly if I hadn’t had that I don’t know how well the past two months’ writing would have gone for me. But that’s something that I’m paying someone else to help me do – Monthly Words is all on me, and I need to get back into the habit of making sure that I actually do it for myself, because if I don’t, I wont get it. And I need to get it.

So, here’s to perspective. I now have five completed novel manuscripts that I can potentially turn into a Real Writing Project. That whole plan of having something ready to submit to agents by the end of the year? Not the plan anymore; no way can that be the plan anymore. I’m not remotely ready.

But I am much more ready than I was when I made that plan, and have learnt enough to know that I am not fully ready yet. And now that I have that knowledge, I intend to be responsible with it and continue pacing myself, as well as pushing my limits, because I think I now know just how successful I can be at doing it.

I am glad that I have learnt this about myself. I am glad that I took the time and put in the effort to learn it.

And I am glad that this goddamn, motherfucking zero draft is finally fucking finished.