Weekly Words 8-14/07/2019 Camp Nanowrimo Edition

08/07/2019

Writing: 962

Definitely hit a snag today in terms of direction, not so much with writing as with just everything. Much as I was exulting in my plan-less-ness yesterday was far as Bad Guys is concerned, I do think that I need a bit more of a plan in terms of just getting the writing done. That being said, I did make a plan once I realised that I was lacking structure; I just found it really difficult to make myself stick to it. But that’s okay. I have my writing goal for this week, which I could easily hit tonight by doing a bit more writing but I’m going to leave it instead because … well, because I feel like it. Things feel very hard right now and I kind of want them to be hard. I want an excuse to not have to write at this moment.

I wonder why?

Oh right I have my psychologist appointment this Wednesday and, because I’m me, I am freaking out about it. I tend to freak about a lot of things that probably don’t warrant it, and it interferes with my ability to live a normal and healthy life. I should probably see someone about it.

I just feel … unprepared. How can you “prepare” to see a psychologist, anyway? Aren’t they supposed to be the ones to get you prepared for life and shit? Why is the onus of responsibility on me to get my shit together? That’s what the psychologist is for!

I don’t know which of the several/innumerable neurotic processes that masquerade as a psyche in this brain of mine is responsible for this spoke of panic and dread, but what I do know is that I need some self-care, stat. Thankfully, Stranger Things 3 is out on Netflix now, and since I do keep trying to force myself to chill out while watching Netflix (no but actually) …

I am actually really looking forward to working on Wolf Gang on Wednesday. And hey, I didn’t even think of that; that can be my reward for surviving my psychologist appointment. Nice work, extremely dysfunctional brain.

Oh well. I did get some writing done, and now I feel a bit better about how today has gone. I feel like I need to have been more productive with my life in the time between this psychologist meeting and the last, like I need to impress them with my initiative that I don’t have that I’m seeing them to help me improve with.

And I know that I can’t logic myself out of this little panicky hole, so I’m just going to stop trying and, instead, do something nice for myself. Hell, maybe I’ll go do some more work on the Wolf Gang novella that I still haven’t finished because I can’t think of how to end it; it’s not that I don’t know what happens, it’s that there’s no natural stopping-point for the events that I’m trying to present as a story. Guess this is a project that might actually need a step-by-step plan.

Not something for tonight, then.

09/07/2019

Writing: 1

I am getting that fucking trophy.

Technically I didn’t earn it, because that one word was written at 00:02 a.m., but it was updated to my Camp Nano word-count at 11:59 p.m., and as far as gamification algorithms are concerned that’s all that matters. And hey, I did actually write the word, and to me the day ends when I fall unconscious, not when some stupid clock tells me it ends.

Today has been an exercise in why planning is useful even when you don’t actually stick to the plan. My plan for today was to brush up on my “homework” that my psychologist gave me during our first session, which I will probably do on the drive over tomorrow before I go, or right after I finish writing this entry before going to bed. I was going to brush up, and I was going to make some notes based on my responses to that homework, and use that exercise as a warm-up to me making a list of the things that are at the forefront of my thoughts when thinking about what I want to get out of even seeing a psychologist in the first place. I need this to work.

More than that, I need me to work. I need to do what it takes to put myself in the best possible position to take advantage of this opportunity, blah blah blah, maximise potential, god I hate what has happened to me as a person on pretty much ever conceivable level, when the fuck did I get this way, how the fuck did I get this way, was this inevitable or was there something I could have done to prevent it like joined a sports team and learnt the value of alpha male aggression by way of male privilege maybe then I’d feel like I had some sort of intrinsic worth as a human being it would be a lie of course but what’s the harm in believing a lie if it gets you through the day that’s what our entire society is predicated on anyway right go do your shitty job that doesn’t fulfill you where you aren’t treated with respect and never will be and that makes you a Productive Member of Society because you contribute to The Economy by producing toxic waste labelled as “fast food” for people to pay money for the right to legally consume man why am I sad that I can’t even think about going to a job interview without getting triggered again I should be fucking ecstatic that this shit seems to be inimical to my psychological makeup I’m living the real truth out here that’s what social anxiety is I’ve finally figured it out it’s not that I’m unable to function like a normal human being because I’m irrationally afraid of people it’s that the world is a fucking shithole and I’m supposed to be okay with it well let me tell you something buster –

***

… and, like, I want to appreciate how Stranger Things 3 tries to do something a bit more original and break away from the whole ’80s retro pastiche nostalgia-cash-in that made it so popular to begin with, except that at this point while there are still plenty of references they’re not incorporated particularly well in many cases and the season 4 teaser ending just really highlights how it should have been a one-season show to begin with, just hit that nostalgia button hard and then leave it alone and not turn into another fucking endless franchise, the magic is gone is what I’m saying and while I did enjoy ST3 I can’t say I’d be sad to hear that a potential season 4 had been cancelled, shoutout to Cary Elwes though I can’t not love the shit out of that glorious man.

So I don’t want to see my psychologist tomorrow, and I didn’t do any of the preparations that I told myself I was going to do after panicking about it over the weekend and the past couple of days …

And it’s fine.

It’s good, even.

Because fuck it, I don’t know how the fuck you See A Psychologist; I’ve never done this before, and I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong by not being more prepared or if it’s exactly right that I shouldn’t be trying to prepare or know what’s expected of me on my end as the person trying to improve or recover or whatever the shit it is I’m supposed to be doing in my role as client/patient/whatever …

So the only issue, really, is the panic.

And I’m not panicking anymore.

Because I spent the day watching ST3, and it was fun. I enjoyed myself. I also got flying in the latest WOW expansion, after two weeks of daily quest grinding, and I achieved the in-game money milestone I was aiming for, and got to the point that I’ve been to many times before by now which is that, okay, I’ve reached the goal of being able to pay for more game-time not with real-life money but in-game money, this shit is great … if I want to keep playing WOW. Where my goal is to make enough in-game money to keep playing WOW. Where my goal is to make enough in-game money to keep playing WOW. Where my goal is to you know I think I may have a problem …

I had a plan.

I didn’t follow it.

But, I’m pretty sure it’s fine, and maybe even good. I just needed a way to control my panic, and the plan did that – not doing the plan, just having the plan. And sometimes that’s enough.

Mind you if I had been given an actual homework assignment or something then I would have done it but I wasn’t it was just very broad and general and I already completed it anyway I think I just panicked because I always panic and thought “hey I’m not doing enough there has to be something else I’m meant to have done by now this is totally a real problem that requires me to try and find a solution for it”, when really …

Yeah, I dunno. Maybe today was just a sign of how deeply dysfunctional and maladjusted and unable to participate in what we know as Real Life and I should have stuck to the plan and, more to the point, have been better-prepared long before today, or even this week, or even this month, this month has only been a week long look you know what I mean. I could be wrong. I have no idea.

I just know that I’m not panicking now, and it’s because I had a plan. Not because I followed the plan. Sometimes, the plan works because you follow it. But other times, the plan works because it gets you started. And sometimes that’s all you need the plan for.

And that’s how I feel. Yes, perhaps I did sabotage myself, but I genuinely don’t feel like I did. I think I handled this rather well.

This is a writing blog. I write about writing. Trust me on this.

10/07/2019

Writing: 191

And …

Revision: I forgot

I had a day today.

Of course when I say that, it’s probably about a tenth of what most people mean when they say they’ve “had a day”, but still, everything’s relative.

Saw my psychologist, had a really good session though it’s still clear we have a lot of ground to cover, did some soul-searching that I’m still sort of processing the potential ramifications of and trying not to jump to any conclusions …

And I had a Discord conversation with someone in my WOW guild that lasted for, like, an hour.

I don’t really know who I am anymore.

Okay that’s maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but maybe it’s not. The reason I had this conversation was because I was trying to get into a dungeon run with a group, and this person was trying to put the group together. I don’t do that, as in play WOW the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game with other players; the very idea of using a voice chat program terrifies me – and yet, today, it just didn’t. I decided that I actually wanted to get into this dungeon, and was willing to jump through the hoop of installing (and learning how to use) Discord in order to do so, because … well, that’s what’s bugging me. I don’t know what it was about today. Maybe it was the therapy session giving me more of a boost or change in perspective than I’d anticipated; maybe I finally just wore out my own reluctance to take certain risks in order to get what I want out of WOW.

In any event the group never actually came together so we’re thinking of trying again tomorrow, so we just chatted. More like he chatted and I listened, and it was quite surreal, and reminded me of being a teenager growing up with the internet as this brand new unexplored territory where all sorts of crazy shit could happen and the possibilities were endless and there were people online and you could talk to them. It’s been a trip. I’m questioning the very core of my identity.

I forgot today was Werewolf Wednesday.

But I also think that’s fine; tomorrow can be ‘Thrope Thursday or something, if I really must be so anal as to retain my alliteration-based organisation schedule. I definitely think that planning around needing time to recover from my psychologist appointments in future will serve me well. I also did actually do quite a lot of writing today, it’s just that it was all taking notes and writing out my thoughts after the session, debriefing and processing and whatnot. This might just be a slow week for writing as I take the time to regain my equilibrium and try and endure my confrontation with a few difficult questions I’m asking myself right now.

But, hey, that’s life sometimes. It’s not like I’ve never done anything “wild” before, even with really bad social anxiety (though maybe “wild” is a bit of an exaggeration), and perhaps this conversation with a person I met online will be the one huge life-threatening risk that I take this year and now I’m back to being a hermit again. I feel frustrated that I’m still on this same goddamn chapter with Bad Guys, the first chapter, and that I could have been so much farther ahead with just a little bit more discipline or motivation or whatever …

But it’s fine.

And I miss my werewolves.

11/07/2019

Writing: 583

This might just be a recovery week for me. That’s okay. We all have those. Therapy is hard.

I think plans are definitely important, though. I have made up my mind. I tend to think of plans as things that take the long-term into account, far-reaching organisational schemes that encompass the entirety of a project, task, undertaking, whatever it is that you’re using the plan for. But I realise now that that’s not the only kind of plan there is, and particularly in my case, short-term plans – the kind of plans that get made on the day, for instance – are the ones that work for me and my writing. At least with Bad Guys. And I didn’t do that today, so I spent far too much time distracting myself with Youtube and …

Yeah. It’s fine. It happens. I assume I will eventually get used to seeing a psychologist and not be totally bottomed-out for days at a time after each session, but clearly that’s not where I am at right now. And hey, I may have only written 583 words today, taking me up to a total of 11,547 words on day 11 when the goal if I want to reach 50k words by the end of the month is 17,741, but I finished the chapter at long, long last and can now move on to I hate this fucking project I don’t want to write it anymore it’s not fun it’s not exciting it’s not doing the things that I want it to do why did I ever think this was a good idea why do I ever think any of my ideas are good I should just go sit under a beached boat and wait for it to fall on top of me maybe that would “feel like a story” enough for my liking …

Le sigh.

I think it might be time for a time-skip, except that, goddammit, this project actually seems to require thought. I don’t want it to require thought. It’s just … so much is missing. So many opportunities aren’t being taken; so many elements aren’t being developed or explored or even acknowledged as I write right past them like they’re not even there. So many references gone un-referenced. I’m writing a story called Bad Guys for fuck’s sake; how can this not be the most fun I’ve ever had with a writing project?

I don’t think I need a plan for the plot; I think I need a plan for how the fuck to actually write this project at all. Yes, I’ve dumped 11.5k words into it so far, that is quite a bit, and taking my own advice would suggest that I just keep on truckin’ and not give credence to this pedantry – but at the same time, at least some of my anal retentive perfectionism is being triggered by the fact that I can almost feel the fun I’m missing out on by writing this book the way that I am.

On the other hand …

This is a zero draft.

Maybe I just need to calm down.

I felt like a fraud yesterday for doing something out of character for me that I would, ideally, like to feel that I’m able to do if I want to; I feel like a fraud today for being disappointed with the zero draft of a chapter of a book that I wrote and haven’t planned out and don’t have a clear overarching vision for. There is no logic here. I have no useful reason to be upset about any of this.

Then again, when has being upset ever been a matter of utility? I just am, all right? The feelings are too strong right now and I don’t like it.

Plans are good. My plan is to Just Write and Fix It All In Revision, which is the same advice that I try to pass on to anyone else who asks, because it’s the method that I think actually works based on prior experience.

So maybe I should just do that, regardless of how I feel right now, and just trust that I’m on to something with it.

… but also work out a way to have fun with this draft because.

Because.

If I can’t have fun while I’m writing it, then straight-up I’m just going to stop fucking writing it. So something here has to change …

NOTES.

I’m taking notes.

I’ll go add to them … ah fuck today was make-up Werewolf day wasn’t it, hang on a minute …

Revision: 30 minutes

All right, it’s getting a bit interesting now.

I have 2 new chapters … well, “planned” is a strong word, especially for me, but the premises have been established, and they should make the story feel more like a story when they are implemented.

I’m still avoiding the issue of whether or not to try and maintain the “pulpy” feel of this story; but to be real “pulpy” is not and never has been the right word, it’s “trashy”. So far I’m not planning around that; I’m planning around “make it feel like a story”, and beyond that honestly I’m sort of just leaving it up to fate.

But I’m sort of looking forward to the actual revision part of this revision process now, whenever that might happen.

I guess today hasn’t been a total loss. My Bad Guys notes have served the purpose of restoring my faith in myself as an ubermensch super-genius storyteller, so that’s good; the Wolf Gang revision is, if delayed a little, ticking along nicely …

And now I don’t know what to do for the rest of the evening. I wonder what trash is on Netflix that I can start bingeing …

12/07/2019

Writing: 2372

I thought today was going to be another slow one, difficult, stiff, uncooperative, and had kind of resigned myself to it. But I also decided to be pro-active and at least get some writing done. I thought, hey, if I can pump out a few hundred words tonight, at least that’s keeping momentum up, and that’s all that really matters.

I headed over to my Camp Nano cabin and announced that I was going to be doing a word-sprint, open to anyone who wanted to join. Someone else was online, so we did a 10-minute sprint, and I ended up with about 280 words. Not bad for ten minutes. Took a bit of a break, someone else wanted to join in for the next one; we went for 15 minutes, and I got over 600 words. I was quite pleased with myself. Had another break, yet another cabin-mate was keen, so we went for a final stretch of 15 minutes. I got past the 1k mark in total with that.

And I thought: hey, this sprinting thing (which is really intense if you’ve never done it, just fyi, learn by doing) is actually super useful, and I’m suddenly really glad that I have an active cabin and that I’ve taken the initiative to, like, reach out and make use of this support base. It’s actually awesome, and I didn’t think it would be, probably because of years of ingrained avoidant behaviour that I am now trying to unlearn with the help of a psychologist. In any event, I was pleased with myself, and feeling both chuffed and very grateful for my cabin, I was ready to call it a night.

But … I could always write a bit more … sure, the ideas aren’t quite as amazing as I’d like them to be, but I’ve got a lot of momentum here, I do have some ideas, and I’m actually having fun – also I do want to get my daily average up so that I can trick the Nano algorithm into thinking that I’ll actually finish 50k words on time …

And, voila! 2372 words tonight, momentum gained, an idea-wall pushed through and opened out into a new room full of new ideas that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t pushed myself, and had help from my fellow Campers doing it, hadn’t braved the waters of social interaction to follow through with my promises that I’ve made to myself …

Basically it’s been a good writing session tonight, I surprised myself, and Camp Nanowrimo and the people who do it are awesome.

And, shit, word sprints. You guys. You guys. They are amazing. I mean I don’t think they’re a one-size-fits-all panacea for writer’s block or anything – but then again maybe they are. I only really started using them tonight; I guess I did do a couple of sprints with my co-writing friend last Sunday, and that was also a very beneficial experience … yeah, maybe I’ve just discovered a stupidly effective way to break through writer’s block.

And it all comes back to writing buddies, and that’s no surprise. Also an obvious downside to the method: you need someone else for it to work. But, thankfully, I am in the fantastic position of having other people who I can write with as writing-buddies, so shit is getting did, yo.

I was actually more ambitious than even that today: I was going to do some more Wolf Gang revision, because I was feeling a bit down and thought it would give me a pick-me-up. But now I’m 1) very mentally drained and 2) picked-up way more than I had even hoped a hypothetical Wolf Gang revision-planning session would make me.

Tomorrow, though – well, tomorrow is my one fixed “day off” during Camp Nano, and while I will do a bit of writing anyway because that’s one of my writing goals for this month, the Wolf Gang revision might have to wait until next week. But, since I’m not really working on any other writing projects except for Bad Guys, I can devote pretty much any day – or every day – next week to a bit of Wolf Gang revision time, which I think could be a lot of fun. And quite exciting.

Guys. I have things going on in my life right now. Writing things. After the first half of this year, this feels good. Very good.

And I think I’ll leave it there for the night.

… okay one last thing the fact that I’ve found it really hard to come up with “good” ideas for Bad Guys while writing it thus far but found writing sprints really generative in terms of ideas proves a point for me: I was right when I set out to Just Write and Fix It All In Revision after all, because ideas come while you write as well. In fact often more than when you just kind of sit there trying to come up with ideas; ideas are grown, and to grow something you need somewhere to plant it, and something to feed it – like other ideas. Makes sense. I shall try to remember it.

But also, seriously, word sprints. Just Writing is all well and good, but just adding other people to the equation makes it actually … well, work. In a way that it really doesn’t, or hasn’t been for me so far, when I try it on my own. Wolf Gang, I think, was a special case, an exception, and that’s fine. This time, I need a bit of help, and I’m very grateful to have it.

13/07/2019

Writing: 228

Day of schmay off.

Where did that trope come from?

Anyway I did some writing. Now I can sleep at night, tonight, I probably won’t sleep my sleep patterns are horribly unhealthy, but whatever it’s done.

Also I got a haircut and rather like it. It’s the first haircut that I haven’t given myself, besides one that my mum gave me, in like two or three years. I was told that my hair was pretty healthy, which is quite validating considering that I haven’t used shampoo or conditioner for, also, about two or three years.

Writing blog. Totes.

14/07/2019

Writing: 500

I still haven’t my Monthly Words post for last month, have I?

I don’t think I’ll even bother at this point; I’ll do this month and last month in the same post after Camp Nano is over.

I’m thinking I’m almost certainly not going to hit 50k words by the end of the month – at least not from Bad Guys alone. Including whatever I write on the blog, it might add up to that, but that definitely doesn’t “count” for Camp Nano.

That’s fine, though. I have momentum now, and enthusiasm, too, which was equal parts unexpected and encouraging. My goal with Camp Nanowrimo is to finish having written enough of Bad Guys that I’ll feel encouraged to continue writing it after the month is up, and that I’ll have set a fast enough pace that I feel I can get to the revision process nice and quick. The one thing I want to ensure is that the pace is good, and to that end I do need to pick up said pace over the next couple of weeks – even if I don’t hit 50k by the end of the month, I want to have gotten a decent way into the story, too far to back out easily.

Which means that I also need a bit more of a plan than what I have. It’s pretty easy to write a whole bunch of words in a short span of time, much harder to have those words mean something. I could write 50k words of filler that doesn’t keep me invested in the slightest, and that’s what I want to avoid. So, this part of the story that I’m still working on – the beginning, the intro portion – I need to get past quickly. I want to be on to the next phase of the story by Friday, and hopefully the next phase after that by this time next week.

So, yes, some planning needs to be done. And that’s fine. Planning as I go does seem to be working fairly well, so I may as well continue with it.

Revision: 5 minutes

My co-writing friend and I 1) both got haircuts this week and 2) didn’t really feel like writing today for our weekly meet-up, so we discussed Stranger Things 3 instead. I also did the aforementioned five minutes of making revision notes on our co-writing project, and I feel like that was enough for this week.

Weekly Total

Writing: 9584

Revision: 35 minutes

What a week it’s been.

Not quite as epic of a word-count as last week, but hey, this was also a big self-care week for me and kind of needed to be. If I keep up this sort of pace over the month I’ll hit around 30k with Camp Nano (4837 words this week were devoted to Bad Guys), and that’s a pretty decent chunk. I’d like to hit closer to 40k though, so, yes, pace definitely needs picking up.

But for this week: done; done, and on to the next one.

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Weekly Words 01-07/07/2019, Camp Nanowrimo Edition

01/07/2019

Writing: 4595

Hoooly shit.

That feels GOOD.

And it’s almost all going to be thrown out, but after I finish this manuscruipt.

Okay, today was a good writing day, no question. This was me using the “All-In Method”, for those interested; I’m rather pleased with the results – having said that, though, the idea of word-sprints, with or without another writer to compete against, is appealing to me pretty hard. Think I’ll play around with them tomorrow.

I say that all the stuff I wrote today is going to be eventually thrown out, but that’s mainly because, through writing it, I got a better understand of what the core of the appeal of this entire premise is to me: the comedy side of things. I’ve been a bit fixed on the more serious, dramatic aspects of what semblance of a story I’ve managed to develop over the past year and a half – which is weird, because the original idea was literally a movie trailer that I arranged to “Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G. All in my head, of course, because to do it for real would require actors and sets and costumes and money and networking and … well, it’s cheaper this way. But it was most definitely not serious and dramatic and filled with pathos, and yet that’s what it’s slowly morphed into over time – and I don’t like it. More than anything, it’s just made it harder to actually start writing. I can write silly jokey crap pretty easily (whether or not it’s actually funny is another matter, but at least it gets written), but once it gets Serious then I get Serious and it has to Matter and, just, no. Not this time, dammit!

So, basically, I did a ton of writing today and came away from it with a better understanding of what this story ought to be if I want to enjoy writing it, and I’m pretty happy with that.

02/07/2019

Writing: 255

Didn’t want to take a day off today, but I did want to spend some time in a state of down, so I did. The writing that I did was from a little “window” of 5 minutes that I just kind of randomly set for myself while watching Critical Role; I like the idea of fitting in writing micro-sessions around doing other things – but, this is me, and “doing things” is not so much my, well, thing.

The salient point here being that, hey, maybe there is a massive deficit between the amount of writing that I did today compared to yesterday, but you know what? I still did writing both yesterday and today. In fact, I quite like the fact that I approached my daily writing process differently over the past two days; I feel so much more flexible and, honestly, capable for having put two different writing strategies into practice, to tackle two different days. Yesterday was all in on writing because I really had nothing else to do; today I was watching Critical Role and taking some time to play games to recover from the intensity of yesterday’s writing session, and I had a different strategy for writing on each day and they both worked. The writing was done! The situations were different, my mood was different, the strategies were different, and the writing got done.

I am now also a bit worried about this project, though, and well that’s kind of a lie, I have always been worried about this project and now I’m just, I dunno, less able to deny it or something and it feels more immediate and confronting – which, I mean, that’s good right? It’s forcing me to face the problem head-on, which means it’ll either get solved, which is great, or it won’t, in which case it actually still kind of gets solved because it means I will probably let it go and move on to something else that isn’t a problem and work on that instead, I don’t have a plan I thought I could write this stupid book that I don’t have a plan for without a plan and I found myself writing just utter nothing today because I have no fucking plan I don’t know what to do or why to do it I need a fucking plan.

So, tomorrow, when I will also be looking at making a revision plan for Wolf Gang, actually maybe I shouldn’t do that while Nano is on and I’m focusing on a different project, also it’s too early for a plan I don’t even have a good feel for this story or the characters or anything …

Yeah.

I think it’s all right, for this first week, to just get a feel for the project. Today I did so little writing that I can’t really judge where I’m “at” with it, if it’s going wrong or whatever; I think I’m just panicking and blowing things out of proportion because I’m very good at doing that, unfortunately. Today I got sidetracked because the vague plan that I had for what I’d write today didn’t appeal to me, and because I let myself follow that feeling of aversion I ended up writing something that I wasn’t happy with in the end.

However, that’s fine, because it was only 255 words. What I wrote yesterday, the stuff I said I would have to throw out – well, more like reframe. It’s actually pretty much how I had imagined things going, it just needs to be tweaked a bit. What I actually ought to do is follow on from that writing tomorrow, because insofar as I have any sort of plan or vision for this story, yesterday’s writing is taking me in that direction. Also, to be fair, what I wrote today – well, what I was trying to write today – also takes me in that direction; it’s just that 255 words isn’t a lot, and also I had no real idea going into it so it was mostly just filler as I stalled for time to come up with a brilliant idea. I gave myself 5 minutes so, yeah, no brilliant idea came, but I feel like I at least have a decent one now, looking back on it.

So, overall, I would say that today was also a success, and for the same reasons as yesterday: I learnt something. Somethings, in fact. I’m looking forward to being really busy with my writing projects tomorrow; I don’t know if Wolf Gang will actually be revised, but I do want to draw up a revision plan at the very least – and, as for Bad Guys, I think that as long as I can continue to recover from my inevitable fits of hysteria about it, it’s going to go well.

03/07/2019

Wolf Gang Revision Planning: 1 hour

It’s actually going quite well. I was afraid I was going to open my revision notes and find that they were totally useless, but they weren’t, and so I’ve managed to make the start of a revision plan. I think trying to do it all today is possible, but I also want to do more than just make revision plans today; I’m using the turn-about method so that I can get a bunch of things done or at least started. And it worked out that I ended my revision plan push with the start of the plan for an entirely new, and I feel very necessary, chapter – so that’s something to look forward to coming back to, and also something I will probably need some time to prepare for.

Writing: 1076

Much better.

I feel quite … irresponsible? I suppose that is exactly the right word, actually; I feel irresponsible for insisting on making Bad Guys my Camp Nano project when I really do not have any sort of a solid foundation to work from. It’s not even about having a plan; it’s the simple fact that I have nothing other than an imaginary movie trailer that I am way too pleased with myself for conjuring up …

And this is it. For a month.

However, what I’m finding so far is that, lost and unwise as I may be in this endeavour, the project is actually developing as I work on it. This isn’t a case of it being a doomed-to-failure project, where there’s just something about it inherently lacking that no amount of effort will ever compensate for. This is a project that is, I think I have to admit, a really bad investment at more than first glance – but even just in these past three days of committing to making it work somehow, it has started to actually work. Emphasis on the “started to”, but still.

It’s working.

Today I wrote something that didn’t follow on from either of the two bits of writing I did over the past two days; instead I actually followed on from the synopsis that I spent all that time writing in preparation for Camp Nano that gave me the closest semblance of a vision or plan for this project that has ever existed. Is the lesson simply to follow the goddamn plan from the start? I think it’s more about resilience. This is such an experimental project that I think “sticking to the plan” is kind of … empty, I guess, as a mission statement, because there is no plan. Not one that you could really follow, at any rate; so much is open, up in the air, yet-to-be-decided that the project is basically an improv exercise – much like Wolf Gang, the writing process for which I wish I could tap into the inspired euphoria of right now. I don’t know what it was about werewolves and werewolf story tropes that possessed me back in 2015 that isn’t doing it for me now with high fantasy villains. I guess I just really like werewolves.

Which, I mean, I do, and I’m actually really happy that I put some time and effort into Wolf Gang today. I just wonder if there is going to be a point with this project where that same giddy abandon will take hold again – but, even if it doesn’t, I think I’m proving to myself that I don’t need it in order to get shit done, and even enjoy it.

I guess it’s just going well.

Nice.

04/07/2019

Writing: 731

And this was supposed to be my day off, too.

To be fair, though, I wrote all of that in the last 20 minutes; it’s just gone midnight now, and all the rest of today has been spent doing decidedly un-productive things, so I feel okay about writing even though this was a day off. Besides, I want that Nano badge for updating every single day during the month. What can I say? Gamification works.

I’m also starting to get more imaginative with this project; after feeling very unprepared and, honestly, pretty uninspired yesterday, it’s starting to come together now. It’s starting to feel a bit more like a “me” project; it’s got a bit of “attitude” – I’m starting to have fun with it. I’ve also started taking notes as I go; I’m not going to revise as I go (or, rather, I’m going to try very hard not to revise as I go), so to compensate for all the “oh shit I should have done this” moments I’m inevitably going to have, a Word document for running commentary of exactly that sort has been created. And from that, the fun factor has already started to escalate. So simple; so effective. I’m a fan.

05/07/2019

Writing: 1656

I was also going to make this my day off, to make up for yesterday, but fuck it when you’re on a roll you’re on a roll, and when I’m on a roll I don’t need to make myself take time off.

Also because when I’m on a roll I write without thinking about how long it’s taking or what else I could be doing; as it happened I did spend a lot of time doing other non-writing things (gaming, shocking I know), and that to me feels even better, knowing that I wrote a nice big chunk and got in my recreation time and none of it felt like it was clashing or compromised or anything.

That’s all there is to say, really. Short and sweet; a day well spent in my estimation.

06/07/2019

Writing: 29

Okay. THIS is my day off.

Besides, tomorrow is Sunday, which means heading over to my co-writing friend’s place for our usual writing session EXCEPT it’s also Camp Nano and we’re both doing it so we’re going to be spending EVEN MORE TIME on our writing session, also probably some other stuff that has nothing to do with writing because that’s how we roll.

The only reason I even wrote those 29 words today is because I want that damn Nano badge; if I find out that Camp Nano doesn’t do badges then I shall be very put out – but, on the other hand, I could just check and I’m choosing not to do that, so let’s just get it out of the way right now: clearly I want to be writing every day. Or at least feel like I should write every day. And no, I don’t like doing things that I “should” do because it’s a horrible habit to get into when those “shoulds” are really nothing of the sort, but … I like the momentum. I like knowing that I’m keeping an iron in the fire, even when I’m taking a break.

I’m enjoying this project.

God, this is so weird; I haven’t been through this process in so long, starting a new project and getting into the groove of it and feeling not just the construction of the story but the feeling of doing that construction developing along the way … it feels good. Very good.

All right. Resuming day off.

07/07/2019

Writing: 1468

Today, my co-writing friend and I did a couple of word-sprints, each at 15 minutes long. We also then did a bit of extra writing after the second sprint; I got 590 words in first sprint and about 513 in the second, so that’s a thousand-plus words in half an hour. I am very excited with this result, and foresee many more word-sprints in my future.

No revision today, because we also watched The Last Summer, which we’ve been trying to organise ourselves enough to do for a little while now. It was … well, I’ll put it this way: of the made-for-Netflix films that I have watched that seem aimed at a young/new adult market, the bar set by The Kissing Booth still has yet to be cleared in my estimation. The Last Summer has professional adorable person Tyler Posey in it and even that isn’t enough to keep it from being perhaps the most pointless, unremarkable film I have seen … I think that’s the end of that sentence. Though to be fair, trying to remember what film that I’ve seen that could be more unremarkable than The Last Summer might be impossible, seeing as that level of unremarkability would be very difficult to sustain a working memory of. We both thought it was trying to be Love Actually or He’s Just Not That Into You for millennials, which fits in the sense that people old enough to be making movies are probably of the age that induces utter disdain towards millennials and refuses to treat them with any level of respect as human beings with functioning brains.

It got me thinking, though – maybe my writing project for November’s Nanowrimo will be to write a YA coming-of-age romantic comedy novel that I upload to Wattpad as I write it. I would say “it can’t be that hard” except for the fact that I know full well that trying to make myself write something as banal and lacking in effort as The Last Summer would never get past my inner critic, and might even be a situation in which my inner critic would actually come in handy.

Fuck it who am I kidding if you can’t let yourself write trash for fun and/or profit then what is even the point in being a writer?

Bad Guys is turning out to be … not as trashy as I had anticipated it being once it started being written. And kind of hoping for, but let’s be real I would need to actually have a plan for that level of coherence in the tone of this project, and I’m currently operating under the belief that consistent tone is something that has absolutely no place in a zero draft. I have also worked out a way to “plan” my writing for Bad Guys: checkpoints. I may not have a beat-by-beat plan, but I do have some key story events that I want to get to, and thinking about this the other day I realised that I could use this as both an impetus to do my weekly writing and a way to organise my writing, just by giving myself a goal to reach through doing the writing. It also leaves me free to interpret how I reach each of these story events while still giving me some kind of concrete method of measuring my progress.

It also makes me think that there is no way this novel is getting finished this Nano – which is fine. I wasn’t really expecting to; fifty thousand words is quite a lot to write over the span of a month, but not enough words to tell this story in. I mean even Wolf Gang, paint-by-numbers garbage though it aspires to be, clocks in at just over eighty thousand words. Tallulah – well, Tallulah‘s zero draft was quite ambitious stream-of-consciousness filler, so the zero draft was around 120k words, which I then whittled down to eight-eight thousand through revision. Fifty thousand, I feel, is never going to be long enough for me to tell one of my stories in (or, in the case of short stories, too long).

But I can get a big chunk of it done, and having Camp Nano to use as a way to just knuckle down and pump out some words has proven really valuable so far. After a year and a half of being unable to get any real momentum on this semi-passion project of mine, finally it is underway.

And I feel very strongly that it would not be the case if it were not for the fact that I was doing it with a friend. It is definitely the best way to write, and probably to do most things in life, really. Friends are good like that.

Weekly Total

Revision: 1 hour

Writing: 13122

And of that word-count total, 9810 words were all focused on my project. What was my original Weekly Words word-count goal, way back in the early days? Ten thousand? I mean, “goal” was a very symbolic, intentionally impractical and idealised word for the purposes of giving myself big aspirations to motivate me, but I did actually hit that goal pretty consistently for the first few months.

And now, here I am again. Yes, obviously this is counting the writing done in this here blog post, which I’m going to stay consistent with throughout the year because that’s how I started it – but wow. This feels good.

It feels like this is the right time for me to be writing again, focusing on word-count goals, keeping the ball rolling. I have had many experiences of getting stuck in a rut with writing, trying to break out and finding it hard to sustain momentum. Much rarer are the occasions where I come back to writing after a hiatus and re-discovering my love for it – but it does happen, eventually, and it looks like this is one of those occasions. The day that it stops happening is the day I stop writing, and I’m glad that today is not that day.

Day, week, whatever; it’s good to be back.

Flex Zone

Today is the first day of Camp Nanowrimo for July 2019, and I am already way behind where I want to be with my writing.

Still, writing block happens, and sometimes it’s not a lack of enthusiasm but the interruptions that come just from living life, little bumps and hiccups, twists and turns that we’re not expecting that throw us off-course regardless of our plans or intentions, yeah something weird happened today and I don’t feel as hyped up to write as I did about an hour ago – but, that’s life, and I’m here to write.

As I have said and experienced multiple times, a one-size-fits-all strategy for getting writing done simply doesn’t work for me, and I’m beginning to see how maybe I’m not even a little bit alone in that regard. Having options is good; being flexible increases one’s resilience, and resilience is definitely something I’m going to need to achieve my Camp Nano goals. So, here is a list of the strategies I have currently identified as being potentially helpful, based on past experience, in getting me through writer’s block, whatever it’s source. I hope you find them helpful, and to that end I may as well start with the best one I’ve found so far.

Writing Buddies

I thought I came up with this idea all on my own – and to be fair, I did, but I’m not the only person who got the bright idea to write in company. And, I mean, that’s basically it: find another person or a couple of people who are looking to get some words down in writing, make a time to meet up, and then write your stuff together. It’s not a critique group, it’s not a competition; it’s moral support and company for an undertaking that can be very isolating and lonely. Do it. It works. End of story.

Well, sort of. Like anything where other people are involved, it can be very easy to get sidetracked, even with the best of intentions and most steadfast self-control (which I don’t have). Therefore, it’s good to have something – or things – to fall back on when it looks like you’re getting off-track.

Windows Method

The Windows Method is one that I’ve talked about a bit before on this blog, and while I’m not at all sure that I’ve coined this phrase I haven’t heard it used anywhere else, so I’m definitely all right with taking the credit.

The general idea is very simple: you give yourself a window of opportunity in which X thing can be done – and outside of that window, it can’t. In terms of writing, this goes something like “Between 2 and 6 PM I can work on X writing project; before and after that window of time I must not work on X writing project”. This does two things: it establishes clear boundaries on your time and how you spend it, and it it gives you a time-crunch.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Windows Method is, at best, what scientists like to call “iffy”. But as time goes on I have kept working on it, and recently I’ve realised that it’s the length of time I’m giving myself that’s the problem. Hours-long windows are too long; it’s too easy to fall into the trap of procrastinating for the majority of your window so that, when it comes down to the last little bit, you tell yourself “well there’s basically no point now, I might as well not even bother”, and nothing gets done. So, for Camp Nanowrimo, I’m going to be putting a very strict, very short limit on the size of my windows, as in no longer than 15 minutes at a time (and probably much shorter than that anyway).

This brings me to the second method, which requires a partner but also sounds quite fun:

Word Sprinting

This is definitely not an original method of my own creation, and in fact I had to look it up to understand exactly what it means, after seeing the phrase used a few times (usually in connection to Nanowrimo events). The idea is similar to the Windows Method in that you set out to write for a set amount of time – however, in a Word Sprint, you are competing against another writer, or even competing in a group of writers, to see who can write the most words within the time-limit. I’m sort of a competitive person, but I have definitely had some not-great experiences with people who take competition a little too seriously. Nevertheless, with the right group of people any kind of activity can be fun and fulfilling, and this sounds like something I’d be keen to try out this Nano.

Everything’s Fine Method

I don’t know that this deserves to be called a “method”, per say, but the idea is what it says on the tin: when the going gets tough, sweep that shit under the rug (for now). For me, this pragmatic tactic became part of my repertoire while writing Wolf Gang, when I got to a part of the story that I found dull, boring, necessary but utterly uninspiring.

So I skipped it, and wrote the rest of the story first.

For anyone who’s been following this blog since those days, you will know that this did not come without downsides: it took me another year to finish that dull, boring, necessary but uninspiring part of the book, and it almost killed the project dead. But in terms of keeping up the momentum that I had, it was crucial to keeping the project going. This is a strategy to definitely use with caution, but a valuable one nonetheless – just remember, you will have to deal with all of that unpleasant writing at some point if you want your project to, like, exist in a completed form. But it could be that taking the easy way out is exactly what your project needs in the moment, and we should not be afraid to do just that.

As for the stuff we’re sweeping under the rug: take notes. Why is it unpleasant? What’s difficult/confronting/irritating about it that is causing such aversion to writing it? Make honest notes about these things, and put them aside somewhere that you can easily access them. It gives you the opportunity to come back to the problem when you’ve gotten some distance and have a fresh perspective – and it could well be that, through allowing yourself to just stick to the stuff that you like, you might come up with a solution to whatever the problem is. Positivity begets positivity.

Turn-About Method

Here’s one that’s definitely a work in progress for me in terms of practice, but the idea is one that appeals to me deeply: set a (manageable) number of specific, manageable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals, some of which are writing-related, and some of which are not. Then, alternate between them throughout the day.

This is definitely one to keep in the back pocket as far as I’m concerned, not something I’d use as a solid foundation for a daily routine – but certainly useful in those situations where I want but don’t necessarily need a break from writing. It’s basically a compromise system, where you get to make sure you’re sticking to your writing commitments while also getting what you need and want out of life beyond just sitting in front of a computer and typing for hours on end. And on a macro scale, that’s how writing should be anyway – this is just taking that guiding principle of work-life balance and condensing it into the activities of a single day.

All In Method

On the other hand, sometimes the way you get things done is to go to the extreme. This isn’t really a “method” so much as a fairly common tactic that people just intuitively employ, which is just to devote yourself to Getting Shit Done.

In this case, I have the most experience with this “method” from my academic life, both last year as a way of coping with the massive almost-panic-attack I had when I fell way behind with marking the comics paper, and during my masters degree when I had a lot of shit to get done. And it’s incredibly simple: you aren’t doing anything else today except for X thing – in this case, writing my goddamn book.

This is also why it often doesn’t work: it’s bleak. On the face of it, this is a horrible experience to put yourself through, especially if you’re at a low point in your writing enthusiasm and nothing could be more off-putting than the prospect of losing an entire day to running around in circles getting nowhere with your project while feeling increasingly guilty as time goes by and writing continues to not get done. It’s another back-pocket strategy, an emergency button that I’ve found most useful in periods of extreme enthusiasm (in which case I want to make the most of that enthusiasm), or periods of extreme reluctance (in which case I want to kick my ass into gear and get out of whatever rut I’m stuck in). It works because, as soon as you make the decision to sacrifice every other want and desire you could potentially follow through on that day, it’s incredibly freeing, even empowering, to have a single, clear goal to put all of your energy towards – for today.

And to be real, this isn’t a strict thing like the Windows Method or a word sprint; this is all about attitude. If we’re talking about SMART goals, this one is pretty much the antithesis of it; you’re going to burn out, especially if you try to do it over a prolonged period of time. Never mind that people might sometimes need to take breaks, eat, sleep, maybe experience human contact, that sort of thing. And that’s good. That’s healthy. This “method” doesn’t “fail” if you do any of those things; it succeeds when you get the kick that you need out of clearing the path before you, making the sacrifice of your free time for the sake of achieving an ambition of yours, and making a commitment to yourself that you care about keeping. It’s actually not about being hard on yourself, nor is it about literally doing nothing but writing for a whole day; it’s about giving yourself the benefit of the doubt, being your own cheerleader, and embracing your own willingness to make some sacrifices in the short-term to achieve your long-term goals. It’s about building a good-faith relationship with yourself that you can fall back on when times get tough, and build on with more good, self-empowering habits.

Breaks

And, at the other extreme: sometimes you just have to call it a day and do something other than write.

This is a hard one for a lot of writers, myself definitely included, because of the guilt that comes from not writing or being in a constant state of concern over whether or not writing is getting done. But we need breaks; we need to look after ourselves, and taking breaks is part of doing that successfully.

There is always the issue of taking too long of a break, and that’s what these other methods are here to try and counter – at least that’s my plan. I know I tend to take whatever I can get when it comes to avoidant behaviour, and that it’s definitely not good for me. But that doesn’t mean that taking breaks is wrong; it just means that I need to get better at taking meaningful time out that actually benefits me, lets me regroup and recharge so that I can come back to writing feeling refreshed and eager. And I think a big part of that is just making sure that you have a surefire way to get back on the wagon, because once you’re off it can be very tempting to stay off. And sometimes that is the right decision, but I think we all know when we’ve gone from recuperating to procrastinating – and that’s when strategies for getting yourself to write come into play.

That’s All (for now)

These are the ways of managing my writing time and energy that I’ve come up with over the past 19 years. Yeah, I thought I might have a few more by now, too. But hey, gotta start somewhere; and I’m looking forward to putting them to the test this Camp Nano, and finding more useful methods for staying on-target going forward.

How about you? What are some writing strategies that you’ve found useful? What makes them work? What are their shortcomings? I think the last time I explicitly asked for any kind of response to a blog post of mine was like a year ago because I am definitely not a Blogger, but I would genuinely be interested to hear other perspectives on this topic. It’s the bread and butter of how us writers do what we do, and having or not having the motivation to write is such a weird, existential, neurotic process sometimes, and I think keeping it to ourselves can make it even more difficult to deal with than it already is.

In any case, I hope something here has been helpful or made you think; good writing to you all – and for those of you participating in Camp Nano this year: good luck!

Weekly Words 24-30/06/2019

25/06/2019

Okay.

Last week was more “interesting” for me than the past few have been, but part of that was getting a sty in my lower eyelid, part of it was re-installing WOW as I tend to do when I get into a bad headspace …

And part of it was actually doing some shit to change this bad headspace into a better one, so I’ll start there.

First of all, my co-writing friend taking the initiative and asking if she and I could get an invite to a Camp Nanowrimo cabin gave me a much-needed kick of energy, and now I’m currently trying to decide whether I want to go with my shitty High Fantasy going-to-try-and-rip-off-Dragonlance project, or the slightly more ambitious dark fantasy satire project, Bad Guys (working title but honestly I probably won’t change it). I’ve ended up deferring this decision to how good of a synopsis I can write for either of these projects, and so today I’m going to be focusing on doing that.

Second of all, on either Friday or Saturday night I decided that I needed to start keeping an idea-journal again. I did this for a bit when I was in my late teens, and it led to my huge burst of inspired ideas that culminated in the most me-feeling story ideas I’ve ever conceived of to date, or such is my feeling on the subject. When I’ve lamented in the past that my story ideas don’t feel like they “come from me”, in some regard I am mentally comparing those ideas to the ones that I came up with almost ten years ago. Also, one of those ideas was a D&D-inspired High Fantasy story, and I do have the one episodic chapter that I wrote for that kicking around, so I will have a look at that and see if that’s the kick I need to get started on this shitty High Fantasy novel. To be fair, my idea-bubble also had other factors, such as partaking of my first ever alcoholic beverage which was also probably spiked with something because I was very quickly aware of the inhibition-blocker coming up – thankfully nothing bad happened, and in fact only good things happened, because I was chattier than I normally am and the next day is when the idea-bubble burst, and I reveled in my genius.

But the idea-journal thing is what I’m going to start with, and it’s a very simple concept that works very well: when you have an idea that you like, write it down.

The end.

What ends up happening is that you get really good ideas after a while; even if you normally have good ideas, your ideas will get even gooder, and if you don’t have what you consider to be good ideas, you’ll start liking what you come up with more. The important part here (I think) is that you just write the idea down; you don’t try to build on it or speculate on where it might lead, just write it down and move on. That way, you get used to 1) being able to have ideas without judgement or pressure on them to fulfill some sort of agenda or obligation to “do something” with them, and 2) you build a repository of ideas that you can mine for inspiration in the future. Also 3) you learn to be able to manage your time and energy and to let things go, and all of these things are things that I want to develop some more proficiency with.

Now I just need to give myself the opportunity to have ideas, which brings me to third of all: time-management. It’s schedule-time, and while I hate schedules I need one for this initiative, at least right now. As time goes on I may be able to take the training-wheels off and self-regulate, yes I said I need to stop trying to “manage” myself but no seriously I need it for this.

Starting today, I’m going to employ my tried-and-I-have-nothing-better-at-my-disposal “windows method” once again. Until 6 PM, I am not doing anything except for working on the synopses for my potential Nanowrimo projects. Because that will probably not take two and a half hours, I will also fit in a revisiting of that D&D-inspired story to see what, if anything, I can take away from it. If I still have some free time after that, I will continue to chip away at episode 5 of the co-writing project’s revision notes (and keep time so that I can quantify) – or, if I’m feeling particularly inspired after revisiting my old writing, I will start doing some pre-writing in preparation for Nanowrimo and get the ideas flowing.

And after 6, I will be free to indulge in my horrible WOW habit, because surprisingly I have actually found some fun to be had in the game this time around, and fun is acceptable. I will, however, also keep a notepad handy so that I can start identifying what it is that I keep coming back to with WOW that I can start looking for elsewhere – and not just in the form of games. Not that there is anything wrong with games, but with my history of using games as an escapist, self-distraction tactic, I feel that I should put some effort into broadening my horizons.

So, that’s today. Tomorrow will be the finishing touches on my Wolf Gang revision notes, and my god I will actually have revision notes for Wolf Gang, that’s an interesting thought. I have also dictated to myself that I have to watch one episode of a Netflix show every day during the week. Somehow, surely, this will make me better at not only taking downtime, but get me to thinking about what I actually want to do with it – to look forward to having it.

And then, goals! Goals are good, right? I have goals so that makes me a good person; my goals for this week are to 1) finish Wolf Gang‘s revision notes, 2) have decided on what my Nanowrimo project is going to be/get in touch with our potential cabin leader to let them know what that project is, 3) watch dat Netflix and start building up a “portfolio” of self-care options and needs, 4) give myself time/space/opportunity to have ideas through time-management (starting with windows today, but aiming to move on on to something a bit less rigid going forward) and keep that idea-journal handy to jot them down, 5) in the same vein keep a note of my mental health, noting context and triggers, and then separately keeping a note of how I coped with these instances (or didn’t), 6) re-commit to regular exercise and healthy eating habits, and 7) be able to look back on the week and see that I have done all of this. How much of it that I did is not important, I just want to see that I did it at all, because that’s how you start anything.

I’m feeling a bit ambitious, but also this part of this blog post has taken like forty minutes to write – so, on to those synopses.

Some Time Later …

It is now almost 6:20 and, holy shit, writing synopses is hard. But I think I’ve got it; I still want to trim it down but the general idea is there – and, holy shit, it actually helped me finally settle on an overarching plot for this story that I actually like. That’s been the problem for the past year and a half, because while the general premise has always seemed fun and alluring to me, coming up with any kind of actual structure that meant I had to make a decision has never gone well. I guess this goes back to that old bit of writing advice about pitching your story: if you can’t pitch your story in less than two sentences, your story needs work. I definitely took longer than two sentences (and like I said, I still want to trim it down), but there are different kinds of pitches, and a synopsis isn’t really a pitch – I’m just sort of making it one because that’s where my brain goes, and I’m all about catchy back-of-the-book blurbs.

And, I mean, a year and a half’s suffering resolved – in large part, if not total – over the course of two hours and change. If nothing else I want to achieve this week ends up happening, I think this victory is still going to taste pretty sweet.

Now to do literally anything except write for the rest of the day, just as soon as I hurriedly write down this one last idea seriously I will go play WOW right after this I promise I can take time off I am an adult …

26/06/2019

Revision: oh wait I’m supposed to be timing myself now

Well, there’s always tomorrow.

In any event: I now have a full set of revision notes for Wolf Gang! And just like the last time I read it through, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it holds together, on the whole, as a coherent story, and little bits and pieces here and there that could be shifted around or developed to flesh it out some more. The issue of whether or not to abandon the “pulpy” feel of the story for the sake of making it “actually good”, or if not good then at least something I wouldn’t mind people knowing that I was responsible for putting out into the world, has yet to be resolved – but whatever. I’ve accomplished a thing, and it feels pretty good.

It also feels pretty easy, I have to say. This was actually a pretty smooth experience; the actual revision itself, if and when that ever takes place, is another matter, but just reading and making notes was, honestly, quite enjoyable.

Now if I can just tighten up my synopsis/pitch for Bad Guys and finally get back to the potential Nanowrimo cabinmaster, I will consider this a day well-spent and totter off to do things that don’t involve writing for the rest of it. I think I do want to go with Bad Guys rather than a shitty High Fantasy novel, at least for Nanowrimo – and for the sake of just getting back to the cabinmaster in a relatively timely manner. I can always change my mind, but I don’t want to keep them hanging.

Man, look at me, being all pro-active and shit, relatively speaking at least. This week is already much more fulfilling to live through than the past … well, they are just that: past. Onward and … onward.

28/06/2019

Co-Writing Project Revision: 60-ish minutes

Rounding it up to an hour-ish, because only after I started did I realise that I was supposed to be timing myself, but it’s probably more like 55 minutes. Anyway, revision! I’m halfway through episode 5 now so will probably be able to wrap up on Sunday, and considering that I started last Sunday I am pleased at this prospect.

Yesterday was a day off, and tomorrow will be one as well, so today I’m keen to get some stuff done. Gonna have a go at writing a synopsis for my D&D-inspired high fantasy novel; I’ve settled on the Nano project, but writing that synopsis was a very productive exercise for me and I’d like to repeat it today – or see if it can be repeated at least.

Also, the more “flexible” schedule that I want to move on to – yesterday was just WOW all day, pretty much, and it got me thinking about what it is that I actually get out of the game. In a nutshell: self-set goals. No, that’s not the whole game, and in fact when you’re thinking of the “main” gameplay of WOW a lot of it isn’t that at all – but it is there. So, when my month’s subscription runs out, I’m looking for something/s that meet that need for me, because not only is it something I like doing in games, but it’s also something that I think could help me work out a more flexible schedule for writing (which is also a self-set goals-based activity). I don’t really like the whole “only write between the hours of X and Y, then do anything but write after that for the rest of the day” approach that I took over Tuesday and Wednesday – not for the whole week, at least. I like having set tasks to complete, and think I work much better under those conditions, rather than arbitrary time-limits.

Thus, I will do some experimenting today; I’ve done (roughly) an hour of revision and gotten halfway through episode 5’s revision notes, and that was not a clear goal but it was vaguely what I had in mind. I’ve got some WOW-related stuff that I want to get done, and I also want to get onto those synopses – and I also want to do a bit of character-writing for this D&D-inspired high fantasy project. I did go back yesterday and read that short story/episode that I wrote, and it actually did give me a bit of inspiration, so I’m keen to keep that momentum. But, after an hour of revision notes, I think I need a break from writing for a little bit.

And goals. Clear, specific, achievable goals. SMART goals or whatever. What does it stand for again? Specific, Manageable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely; well something like that is what I need right now. Where’s that notepad at …

Weekly Total

Revision: more than 60 minutes-ish

Writing: 2975

Doing things is hard.

Or maybe just annoying; but in any case, this week is over, and it wasn’t a bad one. Now for Camp nano and writing five days a week. I haven’t changed my goal from the default 50k words, but I’m thinking I might go for a goal of X hours across the month, like an hour a day or something. I like the idea of the Stephen King method of writing 5k words every day, but I really am not “there yet”.

But, regardless, I know that the important thing is just to get into a routine. This idea has been kicking around in my head for the past year and a half, and it is way past time that I just dove in. It’s not particularly well-developed or clear-cut in terms of what my writing process should be for this project, and I haven’t come up with a plan yet, like I kept saying I would. But I think that’s fine. I think I have what I need; I just need to trust myself a bit more. I can do this. I can tell this story. Or, rather, I can tell a story with this idea, and I can make it up as I go along.

And I miss doing that, honestly. I complain a lot about how I don’t have any story ideas and how trying to force random little ideas that I have into full-blown stories never works out, but this time I’m just going to focus on having some fun. I have a fun idea; I’m going to take it and run with it and see where I end up. I’m going to take what I learnt from writing Wolf Gang, which is 1) allow myself to write badly (but not insist on writing badly, because that doesn’t work), and 2) get it done quick. I tend to get my best ideas when I’m looking at a story told all the way through and can see how it could be improved as a whole package, rather than trying to make some kind of clear-cut plan from the start – which is a lot of long-term work. But that makes Nanowrimo a great opportunity to get into the habit of a writing process that might work better for me than what I’ve been doing up to this point.

Or maybe I’m full of shit and just making up meaningful-sounding excuses for not making a plan and sticking to it because it’s boring/scary. One of the two.

My plan to try a more “flexible” schedule, weaving in and out between writing-related goals and recreation-related goals … well, it went more in favour of recreation, let’s put it that way. I think it’s definitely a tool that I can use in terms of organising my time, but not a blanket approach that I’d want to have as my “default”, because quite frankly it doesn’t work very well in the long-term. But short-term, I think it’s not bad.

And for this July, I think I’m going to need a lot of strategies like that to come through the month with my goal of completing a manuscript achieved. I don’t think I can use a one-size-fits-all approach; I think I need to have some options to fall back on, to get the engine running again when it inevitably stalls. I think this is pretty common writing (and just general) advice for getting things done, so I do feel a bit silly for only starting to realise that it makes sense now. I’ve been very pig-headed about doing things a certain way and no other way for a very long time, and it hasn’t gotten me where I want to get to. It’s when I’ve been able to adapt and be flexible that I’ve found the most success.

So, on top of the writing-done goal that I have for July, my other goal is to be more flexible – and that means being prepared. I have a bunch of strategies that, while not long-term life-organising principles on their own, make for a robust collection of resources that I can draw on in different situations, and Camp Nano seems like a good opportunity to try them out. I foresee a lot of note-taking in my future, and I have to be honest, I’m sort of looking forward to it.

Forward we go!

Weekly Words 17-23/06/2019

17/06/2019

So.

One thing that I know has not just been a bad plan but made any attempt at establishing a good plan very difficult has been my incredibly horrible, no-good, very bad habit of insisting that I keep trying to do things that don’t work, because I have this idea that they should work – or, more to the point, that I should be able to make them work, and if I can’t then it’s because there’s something wrong with me, and if I want to prove that there isn’t something wrong with me then I’ll suck it up and make it happen, like a true alpha.

It does occur to me that if I knew of anyone being treated this way by another person, I would not take kindly to that other person, and if my self-esteem meter was full I might even go and have some stern words with/spread malicious but true rumours about them to make it stop, because that sounds like emotional abuse to me. I also wonder if part of the reason that I do this is because of my perfectionist streak, where I would rather cling onto to something that I’ve invested in the fantasy of even when the reality is not healthy rather than being willing to let it go and move on to something new. And when I say “I wonder if”, read “it is blatantly obvious that”.

Thus, whatever plan or plans I make going forward, not just this week but all weeks to follow, I will endeavour to follow the … following … philosophy: if it works, do it – and if it doesn’t, then fucking stop. I clearly need to make this explicit for myself, even if the first statement kind of implies the second one – because you could equally say “and if it doesn’t, then keep trying until it does”. I want to learn how to let things go without it being a big production; or hell, let it be a big production, but I still need to let shit go. I need to be able to know that I will let shit go if it’s not working, and while this could (and should) apply to things beyond writing – writing’s a pretty safe place to start, I think. More my speed.

19/06/2019

Werewolf Wednesday

After, what, 3 weeks? I have finally made myself return to Wolf Gang and … my god. I wrote that.

It’s so fucking bad, and it’s all mine.

2 chapters to go now, and it’s making me feel a bit more eager to get started on writing some stuff. My plan to make sure that I would stop doing things that don’t work is … in progress, let’s say; I do think I’ll be going back to that short-lived initiative of having a cut-off time for my screen-based activities, because that did work for the short time I stuck to it. It also gives me a bit of incentive to make the most of the time that I am allowed to be on-screen (you know what I mean), which I do think is going to have to be part of the self-care plan here: making sure that I make the most of my time, and respect the boundaries and limits that I set for myself around the various tasks and recreational activities that I want to undertake. Then I can have some “free days” where I can go ham on self-distraction if I really just feel like scratching that itch. I think that’s okay to have as part of my life – just not all of it.

And not tonight. Starting tomorrow; man, I might even make myself a schedule or something, planned activities for myself. Like that whole “take yourself on a date” concept, which I actually think is a really good idea for people to do, even those who have someone else to take on a date. You gotta spend some time on you.

As for this shitty High Fantasy novel – right now, I feel more compelled to just try writing the un-shitty High Fantasy novel that I have in mind and seeing where I get with that. I’ll keep the shitty one as an option, because just for the sake of self-satisfaction for having finished a project it could be a really good thing for me. Or maybe cyberpunk. Or whatever Nicholas Sparks writes. Or paranormal romance. Just something super basic and tropey and that can be written in a month or less. I’ve had this ambition before; this time I’m going to not let myself sit on that ambition. I’m going to go for it, face the fact that the reality of doing it is just a teensy bit more difficult to realise than the fantasy and just fucking see where it goes. I think a big thing for me, not just in writing, is exactly that disparity between fantasy and reality, and it’s such a basic thing that I should be able to handle that I can’t just let it stand. I have to attack this thing.

I have to attack it with self-care.

Weaponised self-care. Is that a thing? I’m sure I can find a HuffPo article about it if I can be fucked looking …

21/06/2019

Werewolf WeFriday

A day so nice I did it twice.

And now I only have 1 chapter/36 pages to go before this first earnest attempt to make revision notes on this glorified writing exercise reaches its conclusion …

It’s so funny how well this story holds together. Not when you zoom in, of course; a lot of the specifics are goofy, nonsensical, self-contradictory and just plain bad, but the overarching shape of the story … works. The ideas are there in the structure; there’s definitely room to crop some stuff and flesh out other stuff, but again, in terms of broad strokes I’m honestly pretty … impressed.

I wonder if I could do this with a High Fantasy novel …

Well, July is a Camp Nano, so that’s always an option. I am going to try for it at least; the rest of this month I’ll devote to planning out my High Fantasy novel (though if I finish before the end of the month then that’s great) and then, come July, actually set about writing it. And since I can’t bring myself to write a shitty High Fantasy novel, like I said before, I’ll just try and write a “good” one. It’ll probably end up being shitty, but hey, this isn’t about the end result; this is just about getting started, and it seems like I have to kind of give a shit before that can happen.

And I prefer doing things like that anyway; I prefer caring to not caring, when I’m in a healthy enough mental space. And I am feeling a bit better this week than I have been for the past few. No, the self-care plan hasn’t quite played out like I would have liked, but then I never did try to make a plan for it either. So that can be my weekend project this week.

I feel like this has been a pretty quiet week in general, but that there have also been little shifts here and there taking me in a better direction, and that’s good enough to count, I reckon.

23/06/2019

Revision: 1.5 hours

I mean, I’ve wanted to be able to quantify my revision process for a while, so this makes sense, right?

Also my co-writing friend and I decided to do Camp Nanowrimo together, and when I went to create my project I ended up entering my dark fantasy satire/comedy/Suicide Squad ripoff instead of my shitty High Fantasy project. Mostly because I didn’t have a synopsis for the shitty High Fantasy project, and I did have one for my SS ripoff – kind of. I still haven’t finished it; I’m writing this on Tuesday because I spent Sunday doing stuff and Monday re-acquainting myself with my impulse-control issues via WOW (which I have, yet again, reinstalled, and I think me saying “I think I may have a problem” would just be sad at this point), and I have to get back to the person running the cabin my friend applied to for the both of us because she’s good with things like that. Also she discovered all of these features on the Nanowrimo website yesterday that I haven’t found in my five years of being somewhat invested in it, and that’s what got me to decide to measure my revision in hours …

Which leads me to this week’s plan, but I’ll do that in the next post. For now …

Weekly Total

Writing: 1591

Revision: 1.5 + a bunch hours

All “writing” is this blog post, and I’m not sure if I want to keep counting them – but I’ve started the year counting them, and I think I’m going to throw myself off if I stop now.

It’s been an interesting week. I still feel like I’m in a slump, but that my efforts to get out of it have found some purchase, and now I’m in the uncomfortable stage where I have to keep putting in the effort without seeing any tangible results until the results become tangible, and I have no way of knowing how long that’s going to take which makes it really unappealing because it’s effort for nothing, and right now I am in a state of zero effort for also nothing, so …

But I know it’s not true; it will work, it always works, and what’s more I have a plan to make it work. So, let’s get to that.

Weekly Words 10-16/06/2019

10-13/06/2019

Sweet Fuck All

I’m writing this on Thursday (the 13th) because it’s the first day this week that I’ve actually tried to Do Something. What thing? Why, the plotting out of a High Fantasy novel. Why was it difficult? Why, the same reason it’s always been difficult for me to stick to a plan: I couldn’t make a fucking plan in the first place.

I did try to make a plan, and I may even have made some headway. But none of the ideas that I thought were going to serve as the foundation of a story turned out to work; they were all a bit too high maintenance, required too much consideration for me to feel comfortable just diving in with them and seeing how it all turned out – or, put another way, nothing that inspired me with some cool idea that I needed to start writing right away. It was all a bunch of hypotheticals, a lot of what-ifs that had answers that lead to some potentially interesting world-building, but not a story. By the time I had finished cooking dinner and whatever brainstorm I’d managed to get stirred up had fizzled out, I was left without a plan – but I did have a clearer idea of might make a plan work.

I owe so much to that shitty YA werewolf novel …

This can’t be a book, basically, in my frame of reference; this has to be a writing exercise. Which, I mean, I could have cottoned on to that as soon as I came up with this plan to write a High Fantasy novel, because the reason Wolf Gang worked for me is because I knew the tropes of … werewolf stories? The werewolf genre? Well whatever I knew the tropes of Teenage White Boy Is Special stories and how to deploy them – and it’s the same with High Fantasy (partly because, if that’s a genre, High Fantasy definitely falls under that umbrella). Except I probably know the tropes of High Fantasy even better than urban fantasy YA novels about kids who are, become, or encounter supernatural creatures, not least because my major complaint about High Fantasy is that it’s just the same tropes and cliches over and over again, with superficial differences. Oh, your elves are different, you say? Are your orcs not evil? Is that a non-princess woman I see in the main cast?

Well, not with this High Fantasy. The same philosophy that I took into Wolf Gang will go into this one: I don’t have to use the most cliched idea that comes to mind, but I do have to use the most obvious idea, holy shit I think I actually have a story this is going to be so ludicrously easy oh my god.

And no, I don’t know how this figures into my plan to have a manuscript ready for submission by December 24th, but you know what that’s a different project and I can spend different time on it …

And, as for this one, it’s taken up enough of my day already. Time to do something else for a while.

15/06/2019

Writing: 3151

I wrote a scene. It’s set in a tavern, where a mysterious stranger arrives and the patrons don’t know what to make of them and then weird things start happening and the word “coin” is used an indecent number of times.

I think the experiment is working.

Here’s the issue: yesterday, I actually did try to plan out this shitty High Fantasy novel, but what tripped me up was 1) forgoing my actual plan and trying to Make It Good (it didn’t go well, but perhaps it didn’t go badly either), and 2) I realised that the reason I feel so well-qualified to write a shitty High Fantasy novel due to being so familiar with the tropes is because I fucking hate all the High Fantasy tropes and want them to die, and as it turns out this feeling of animosity extends to my desire to spend any amount of my time writing such a story.

These shitty insert-genre-here books that I’m thinking of making a regular writing exercise out of – I think it’s a great idea, and if it’s the sort of thing I can knock out over the course of, say, a month, then I think it’s perfect. But when I have this much revulsion towards the very idea of even embarking on such an undertaking, it throws a spanner in the works; maybe High Fantasy is just a little too upsetting for me. Then again, I did write a scene set in a tavern where a mysterious stranger appears and causes the word “coin” to be repeated ad nauseum, so maybe I’m not as sick of the tropes as I think I am.

Also, the scene is done, but the chapter it’s a part of isn’t. That’s the part I need to finish – and to be honest, it’s still me trying to Make It Good by using ideas that I have that I actually kind of like and just letting them fall into a more generic setting than I originally had in mind. Which mightn’t be a bad thing if this turns out to be a project that I can morph into one of my more serious writing projects, I guess, but after going through the difficulties of taking Wolf Gang and trying to turn it into something Actually Good, I’m wary of taking that approach rather than starting how I intent to finish.

I think this exercise is worth a shot, though – it might just be that I need to broaden my awareness of the tropes I’m so supposedly sick of, and maybe find some that I’m not so sick of to work with instead. The idea of completing this book-writing exercise in a pretty short amount of time, like the writing process for Wolf Gang was supposed to be, is appealing to me for the sake of having a sense of accomplishment and follow-through, so I’m not giving up on this enterprise. I’m just trying to remain aware of the things that are making it difficult for me, and being open to the possibility that the fantasy of this project might be more fulfilling than the reality.

And, yeah, I do need to get back to Wolf Gang and Mark and Jessie. No, I don’t want books to be my be-all-and-end-all anymore, but I do still like writing them. Or at least fantasising about writing them. And it’s something to do.

Onward and upward.

16/06/2019

Revision

Finished making revision notes on episode 4 of the co-writing project, and if I want to be done making revision notes before the year is through … well, it’s not a huge priority time-wise, but still it would be nice. It would be something I’d have to work into my weekday schedule, rather than just doing it on Sundays for a couple of hours.

Still, it’s getting there, and that’s what counts …

Weekly Total

Writing: 4917

It only occurred to me once I went into my drafts to edit this post that I hadn’t done my Weekly Words for last week, and I honestly can’t remember what I did last week, but I do know that I did absolutely no “real” writing, so in terms of the purposes of this blog I didn’t miss out anything.

This past few weeks – honestly, since the beginning of May – I’ve felt really out of sorts. I think this is what might be called a state of depression, in fact; nothing is really bad or upsetting, but it’s not really anything else, either, and the only real disruptions of this emotional flatline have been the bouts of stress, panic, and uncertainty regarding trying to get myself to make a psychologist’s appointment and then, once it had been made, sorting out all the administrative stuff that would ensure that I could actually afford to do it – happily it’s all worked out, but I never really recovered from the ordeal. I fell out of my newly-formed habit of doing regular exercise at home; I well and truly fell out of the habit that I built up over all of last year of doing regular writing; and in general it’s just been kind of a shitty few months. It’s honestly just been kind of a shitty year, all things considered. Not bad, or even unpleasant, but just kind of sub-par. I’ve definitely enjoyed myself at times, Sundays being the things I look forward to most each week, but beyond that … yeah. I got nothing.

So, for this upcoming week, never mind my aspirations to write a shitty High Fantasy novel just for the hell of it, or keeping tabs on my in-progress writing projects that I was once so ambitious about getting ready for submission by December 24th this year – this upcoming week is all about getting back into my groove. I had such a good thing going last year, and it’s sad that it just kind of stopped dead in its tracks around November. I feel like part of that was just fatigue with such a samey, self-imposed schedule, but I know I also could have tried harder to keep it going, shaken it up a bit to keep it fresh or just stuck to my commitment – but whatever. It’s done now, and I can’t try just to recapture my success from last year. I have to focus on finding something that works for me not even this year, but just right now, and see how that goes. And I’ve got my writing plan. I’ve got my projects; I set that up months ago, with my alliteration-based schedule each week that I have well and truly fallen off the wagon with. I’ve got the shitty High Fantasy novel. It’s all there, if I just go back to it; that’s not what I need to focus on right now.

I need to focus on me. I don’t work well with a rigid schedule or tons of micro-management, but I also don’t do well with too much freedom. I think quotas work for me, flexible quotas that can be filled across a period of time – like a week – so that’s what I’m going to experiment with this week. I know I will need to push myself into action, and I know that I really, really don’t want to – and I know that’s because I have over two decades’ worth of bad habits on autopilot making me feel that way. I need a little nudge – or a big one – and I’m the only one who can provide it.

Heave ho …

Not-Writing Update

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaa.

My life is bad.

But that’s okay! Because I have received confirmation that I will, indeed, be able to afford to continue seeing the psychologist I saw a couple of weeks ago, and that means that all of my problems will be magically solved soon! That makes me happy. I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to know what life will be like without all of the bad, deeply-ingrained, self-sabotaging habits that constitute my entire identity. That will be nice.

And then I’ll get my Hogwarts letter! Couple of decades and change late, but hey, that’s bureaucracy for you.

So I have agreed to cook dinner tomorrow, and part of that is because I felt like I had to say yes, which is unhealthy, but part of it is also because I’ve spent the last 3 days watching YouTube and wishing that I had a life. Shit needs to change.

Also, as is usually the case, I was actually thinking of offering to do it myself before I was asked to do it, and only after I was asked to do it did I start to feel all anxious and yucky about it and scrambling to find a coping mechanism to cover it. Good thing WINZ got back to me today to confirm that they will, in fact, be helping to cover the cost of my going back to see the psychologist. I clearly need it.

And, also, as I’ve learnt and forgotten and learnt again a few times over the years: doing everything all at once actually works for me, when I actually do it. So tomorrow, while my “free time” is “compromised” for about 3 hours, I will also be planning this fucking High Fantasy novel that I said I would plan …

Because I actually want to plan it, and write it, which you might not think is the case given that I’ve spent my precious “free time” over the past 3 days (also my entire post-pubescent life, but anyway) watching YouTube, playing the stand-alone Gwent game (actually really fun), and wishing that I had a life. This is one of those situations where, addled as it is, my brain is going to have to be the grown-up here and force me to do some stuff that is healthy for me.

As for all that shit about not wanting to have writing be the only thing that I ever do with my life – you know what, right now that’s just an excuse to feel bad about my plan for tomorrow, and I don’t need that shit. It’s important, but it’s also important that I not spend any more time in the way that I’ve been spending it lately, which is not only self-distraction, but also sitting on my intentions when the prospect of acting on them seems like a foregone conclusion, an inevitable failure. Gotta just do that shit.

One the one hand, I do feel like I need to get out of the habit of constantly managing myself. On the other hand, it’s good to be able to manage myself, sometimes, like when my really bad, default habits are out of control, which they have been for … well, let’s not kick that dead horse. Tomorrow (or later today, if you want to get technical) is a new day, and a new opportunity to break this habit, or at least punch a hole in it.