Weekly Words 4-10/11/2019, Nanowrimo 2019

Okay. It’s Nano. I’ve given up on it – but having gotten that out of my system, I now feel much freer to consider what I could do with it, even if it’s not what I had originally intended.

Given how my current priority is Bad Guys and, due to the volume of ideas I have for it right now, it is basically a rewrite – well, I could just use it for that. I think I’m going to be recycling plenty of my zero draft (and earlier) already-written material throughout this second draft, but hey, that word-count-counter doesn’t have to reflect new words written.

Also, being real: there is no way I’m going to be finished with this second draft by the end of the month. Like, no way in the nine layers of hell is that going to be a thing. So I can afford to set myself a nice comfortable word-count goal that seems both achievable and useful for building up the momentum I’ll need to keep going with this second draft.

Herein lies my current idea-that’s-going-to-solve-everything, though, and I want to take a moment to consider it. During the zero draft, I just wrote. I tried not to stop to think or consider what I was going to write next; I just wanted the thing to be written, and I was willing to de-prioritise things like “quality” and “taste” and “continuity” in order to achieve that goal. I think it worked pretty beautifully, to be honest.

But this time, I care a bit more about what I’m writing. A lot more, actually. I care about what’s going to end up in this draft; I don’t want to repeat the experience of the zero draft, of putting things on the page that don’t necessarily reflect my ideas, the ones that I’m passionate about, and lose sight of my vision in the rush of speed-writing for the sake of pumping out a foundation to work from going forward. I’ve already done that. The zero draft – honestly, it doesn’t matter a lot. It does have some interesting ideas in it that I’ve come to be quite fond of, but it was a means to an end, and it’s served its purpose.

I don’t want this second draft to be like that. I want to put all my ideas out there, and I want to have the energy to do it.

So I think this time around, I’m going to be more deliberate. I’m going to write slowly, thinking of exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it, unless it’s so clear to me that I don’t need to wait for the right words or the right idea to fall into place in my thoughts, ready for transcription. I think that’s the right approach to take.

Only one thing is holding me back: momentum. What if instead of too much momentum, I lose sight of the big picture because I’m taking too long to deliberate over individual scenes? I don’t really have a plan; I’ve pretty much given up on working from a completed plan – it’s plan-as-I-go this time, just like with the zero draft. And I think that’s the right thing to do, even being more deliberate, because I have a lot of ideas and they don’t all necessarily add up to a story when put together. And that’s fine. I just want to be able to look back on this process and know that I did everything that I wanted to do with it.

Yet still, there’s this “big picture” I’m afraid of losing. I think it’s more of a feeling than a story outline, this “big picture” of mine. When it comes right down to it, what I’m afraid of is that if I take too long, I’ll stop caring. I care right now, and that’s great.

But what happens when I stop caring?

Well …

I think that’s also a risk I’m going to have to take.

And hey, I can just experiment today, write this one scene that I’ve got a lot of thoughts and excitement about and see how it goes. I also did record my zero draft experience on this very blog specifically so that I could refer back to it for future reference, so hey, there’s that option, too. I seem to recall something about “making my own momentum”, which might be just what I need to alleviate this fear of mine.

For now, though, the only momentum I need to build is the sit-down-and-write kind.

Let’s get moving.

Writing: 2143

All righty!

That’s more than I expected, but kind of less than I’d hoped – overall, though, I think it’s what I needed today. A healthy start without overdoing it, and leaving me wanting to do more.

Part of the trepidation that I have with not doing more today was the fact that tomorrow is Tuesday, and Tuesday is “get nothing done day” for me. Doesn’t mean that’s going to happen, but it often does. This is due to the fact that Tuesday is when Critical Role‘s YouTube channel updates with the latest episode, and, yeah, that’s my day’s productivity gone.

But then again, I did keep up with the show throughout the zero draft. I think it’s just going to take a while for me to get back into the swing of things; I had enthusiasm today, and I’m still feeling it, but that’s not the same as momentum, which can carry you when enthusiasm runs out. I’m worried that, after starting strong today, after starting really not strong last week, I’m just not going to get my momentum up tomorrow like I need to.

Still, this is all more speculation, and as I’ve become aware of recently, I can get very stuck on speculation. I know there are temptations coming up tomorrow that could knock me off-course, will knock me off-course if I let them. And the thing is that I want to let them. Instant gratification and all that. But I do also want to keep writing – all I have to do, then, is make time for all the things I want to do tomorrow. Maybe spread them out across the week.

This is such a simple problem to fix, it’s just the fact that it’s going against how I feel, and man do I not have a good track record with that. That’s what I’m afraid of.

I suppose the real solution here is to compromise – and work towards setting myself a good example to follow in future. There’s gonna be a few more Tuesdays in my future.


Writing: 2033


Except that I’m pretty sure I’m going to replace all of this wonderful writing I’ve done. The only question is whether to do it now or later.

My gut tells me … well, it’s actually telling me two things; or perhaps I have two guts. Perhaps I’m actually a Minotaur. Regardless, on the one hand I’m getting a “just keep going” message, for the sake of momentum. That’s what I did for the zero draft, and, hey, it got written. To go more in-depth with why this is significant: I don’t think it would have gotten written if I hadn’t “just kept going”, even when I wanted to rewrite certain bits.

On the other hand – this is the draft where I want to be more deliberate with what I write, rather than speeding my way through. I want to take my time to find the right words, or at least know what I’m trying to say with whatever words I can find. I’ve already done my “don’t give a fuck” draft – now, this is my “do give a fuck” draft. I care about how it’s written.

And right now, it’s written wrong.

Though having said that, there’s a lot that I’ve written that I like – I’ll find a way to keep the bits that work; and hey, as I say: never throw anything away. I’ve gotten quite “lost” with this current bit of story I’m writing – it’s a prologue, because while Bad Guys is primarily a satire/parody/comedy, it is still Fantasy – and a big part of that is because I’m writing it from the POV of a character who was meant to be really central in the zero draft, but ended up getting left behind for most of it. So my ambition of writing “deliberately” may be challenging given that I’m currently writing a character I have only written from the POV of on two other occasions – neither of which felt right, either.

However, there is also another main priority for me with Bad Guys draft 2, and it’s from the POV of the current lead character, who’s most likely shifting to co-lead with this other character, which is pretty much how I originally envisioned the story being. So if I’m in want of something a bit “safer” to dig into while still building up momentum, I might go for that tomorrow.

I also think I’m going to experiment with shorter writing sessions throughout the week – or, if not throughout the week, then as a strategy that I can employ some days. I’m feeling like I need to get some High Fantasy writing done that isn’t Bad Guys, which is High Fantasy but I don’t count as High Fantasy because it’s not really fitting my fantasy of the genre, what I want to get out of it. I want to scratch my specific itch, and Bad Guys is not the tool for the job. Yet I also don’t want to lose momentum with Bad Guys.

So, tomorrow, I’m going to try and limit my writing sessions to, like, half an hour at most, and see how that goes. My theory is that I’ll find a sweet-spot between speed and deliberation with a shorter, predictable timeframe, not so long that I end up spending a whole hour trying to put one sentence together, but long enough so that I can build up some momentum. Maybe forty five minutes; my point is that I want it to be pretty short – but also frequent – and to swap between projects, scratching multiple itches. I’m apparently very itchy at the moment. Maybe I should find some kind of spray.

And one of these itches is that of finding a way to use Nanowrimo for its intended purpose, even if it is starting a week late. Maybe that’s not practical, but maybe it still has some use for me, and it would be nice to find one. Not vital, not even important – just nice. And I like nice things.


Writing: 2362

Okay, maybe this tomorrow.

I had such a lazy day today that I was pretty close to writing off doing any … writing … until my co-writing buddy messaged me and I realised that I had the power to define this day for myself through my decisions, and decided to do some writing.

Some rewriting.

It was supposed to just be a 5-minute edit, just to see how it went, because I was afraid that starting to rewrite what I’ve spent the past two days working on would kill not just my momentum, but my passion for this second draft. Two and a quarter hours later, I know a bit more about dresses than I did before this evening …

And I feel even more motivated to continue with this second draft, because it’s closer than it was yesterday to being what I want it to be.

Deliberation for the win!

Not that I did a lot of deliberating really; it was more like the last couple of days’ worth of writing was just me cleaning the gunk out of my system, because tonight it all came to me pretty smoothly – and didn’t go off-track. Mind you, it was also coming pretty smoothly the past couple of days; but I did go off-track, and right at the start, too, so it’s a little frustrating to think that I could have avoided this scenario if I’d just corrected myself right then and there. But I’m not upset, because at least I know for sure now that a bit of backtracking is not only not going to set me back with this second draft, but is actually exactly what I need to do – and, of course, now I know to be aware of when I’m setting myself to want to do it, and to be able to make sure I stay on-track going forward. That’s the theory at least. One way or another, though, I feel like I did what I needed to do tonight, and that’s what matters.

Tomorrow, I’m going to give this multiple-short-writing-sessions-throughout-the-day experiment a go, because I really do want to get suck into this High Fantasy … something that’s consuming part of me lately. I was particularly frustrated about it today, because while I know what works when I’m just imagining the sort of scenario I’d like to experience in my mind, when it comes to trying to think of how I’d write it, or why it matters to me that I write it, I come up blank. This always happens with my High Fantasy ideas in general: I have an idea or scenario that feels exciting, but when I sit down to write it the excitement is replaced with confusion – where do I start? How do I set this up? Do I even understand what’s going on or how it works? Is this going to matter to anyone?

But I’m going to have to be aware of and fight against that kind of doubt, because it only has to matter to me right now. I am also worried that once I get started writing, the second that magic is involved, I’m going to want to start deep-diving into a magic system, and I’m going to go off the rails. Well, I’m going to have to fight against that, too, and trust that if it’s interesting enough to stick with me, then I can figure out a magic system – after I’ve written the scene, or chapter, or whatever it is that I want to write out of my system.

And I’m going to do it tomorrow, to prove that I can do it, because it’s been like this for years and I really don’t want such a stupid problem to persist any longer than it already has. It doesn’t have to be a problem. Because I can be the solution.

Big day tomorrow, it looks like.



Look, this idea of using sprints to enable me to bounce between different projects – it’s a good idea. But it’s not what I need right now. And after however many years of trying to force things to work, only to inevitably learn that trying to force things to work doesn’t work, only to inevitably try forcing something else to work a little later down the line, rinse and repeat – let’s try and get ahead of the curve this time. I’ll use it when I think it’ll help, and it is now “when” right now.

That being said: it’s taking too long to write this second draft. I know that now, and that’s fine. I still want this deliberate pace – but I realised today that, actually, I’m writing so much new stuff that being “deliberate” can only take me so far. What I’m writing at the moment for Bad Guys draft 2 is all experimental, making this basically another zero draft with a few recycled and revised bits from the current zero draft thrown in.

Which means that, actually, I can afford to write a hell of a lot faster than this. The sooner I get these experimental ideas down in writing, the sooner I’ll have the opportunity to take stock of them and think about whether or not they work for the story I’m trying to tell.

… on the other hand: I’m not sure I really managed that with the zero draft I already have. Like, it’s fine, and I am actually keeping a lot of the ideas – and the fact that I’m not keeping others isn’t a sign of failure. It’s a sign of them not being the ideas that I want to use. But my god it’s been hard to gauge whether or not I’m doing this … properly. Properly? Maybe not properly; maybe just, I dunno, healthily. I’m not sure that I’m doing the best thing for this story and my telling of it. And I’m not sure that writing at full-tilt is actually the best way to write a zero draft.

Which I’ve been considering all throughout this year, and it comes from exactly this issue of not keeping a ton of ideas after I’ve spent time bothering to write them down. In a sense, aiming to write a zero draft super-duper fast makes sense, because if I’m just going to discard a ton of ideas anyway then I’d rather have it over and done with in a month or two, as opposed to waiting a year or more, like with Mark and Jessie. I spent time writing that damn thing, and while in broad strokes I like the kind of shape of the story, the actual events are not at all what I want – they’re actually pretty far off the mark. From that experience, I took away the lesson that, no matter how hard I try, I’m always going to be discarding some ideas throughout the revision process. Sounds obvious, is obvious on paper, but I’ve had to go through it first-hand to figure it out, as you do. And if I’m destined to be discarding ideas, again, I don’t want to be spending a lot of time on getting them down in writing.

… except that, if I write too quickly, then I’m running the risk – the high risk – of not getting my ideas down in writing at all, and the ideas that I’m discarding aren’t being discarded because I thought they’d work and they actually don’t, but because they were random shit that I just threw at the page for the sake of keeping up momentum and had no intended longevity beyond that purpose.

Which is not to say that some random shit isn’t, sometimes, actually really good for a story – but after Bad Guys take 1, and after Mark and Jessie, I really don’t want to spend time and energy drafting a novel full of events that I don’t even care about. If I’m going to discard ideas, then I want it to be for the right reasons, not because they were disposable to begin with.

Or maybe that’s exactly what I want and I don’t know what I’m doing aaarrrggghhh.

Well, that’s been the story of this week, and these first seven days of Nano: I’ve just been really lost. Yes, the writing has been going well, but I am going to run out of energy for it if it keeps taking me this damn long to move on from a single scene. Like, at the moment, a single interaction between two characters. It’s taking so damn long and it’s not meant to be long. Maybe it’ll be shorted when I read it, but I doubt it. It’s tons of exposition and filler and, I mean, it’s because it’s a new POV that I’m working with and so on and so on; I know why it’s taking so long, it’s actually fine that it’s taking so long in that context …

But in the wider context of me just wanting this second draft to just move already, I need to pick up the pace.

Which was the whole reason I had the idea for using sprints to allow me to shift between projects in the first place: so that I could keep my “deliberate” pace with Bad Guys without feeling like I was devoting all of my time and energy to a project that moved at a glacial pace; so that I could put some time and energy into something that just goes without abandoning the second draft that needs a bit more thinking before acting. But on reflection, I think I overestimated just how slowly I need to go with this second draft. I can go fast. I just need to take enough time to make sure that the ideas I’m working with are actually the ideas I want to be working with – and then start building up speed.

And …

I do think I need that second project, actually. Now that I’ve said all of this, I do definitely think I’m getting a bit fixated and frustrated with this one project not being everything I want it to be; that’s not fair to the project, and it’s not fair to me. I need more than it can give, and I know that if I try to make it fill in for all of my needs, I’ll ruin the project. That happened with Realm of the Myth; I don’t want it to happen to another project of mine, ever.

Today is a write-off; I need to get some distance from this rut of mine, and come back to it refreshed. Also, I have a statement of research intent to draft! This PhD enrollment isn’t going to apply for itself.

But I think I am actually going to use Nanowrimo for Bad Guys after all – I’m not counting only new words, just however many words the project is currently at, which seems … really obvious, because it’s supposed to be a measure of the size of the project …

I need a break. Let’s start now, shall we?


Writing: 648

So, because irony is not only inevitable but incredibly predictable, today is the day I finally used a sprint. Not to jump between projects, mind you, just to get started with picking up the pace. It worked well. I did delete about two-thirds of what I ended up writing and then rewrote back to roughly the same point, because this draft is all about being DELIBERATE and how long before I get sick of using that word well let’s find out together.

The point is that I got some writing done, I feel good about it – and I’ve been very silly this week, I feel. Not in a way where I feel bad about myself, but just acknowledging that the huge amount pressure and stakes-raising I’ve done to myself over the past few days for the sake of trying to seem like I’m Taking This Seriously has been pretty ridiculous. And also hasn’t helped, either, which is the key factor in this “silly” verdict.

Speaking of silly things: I think I might actually be read to write Realm of The Myth now.

Yeah, I’m not going to stake my name on it or anything; I’ve been here before more than a few times by now. But having managed to balance both writing fast and writing deliberately in the same session, being willing to walk back bits that don’t work while still embracing how useful it is to just write a whole bunch of something for the sake of momentum and warming up … it’s got me feeling optimistic.

And if there is any project of mine that requires optimism, it is the behemothic High Fantasy epic that I started writing when I was 14 and refused to give up on for over a decade afterwards due to sheer bad habit.

Besides, if there’s a project I want to “not care about”, it’s Realm of the Myth. In theory it should be like Wolf Gang times a billion, but it does require a bit of deliberation – some scenes for this story I’ve had in mind, practically unchanged, for almost twenty years now, god that is a bit sad given the nature of this particular project, anyway the thing is that now I feel much more prepared to tackle a project like this, and make it work. I do think the most recent strategy that I came up with for writing it still makes sense, which is to write it in the spirit of every other vehicle for an authorial self-insert main character that has ever been written by someone who never got over their yearning for the classic teen experience narrative that they never got to live out, plus a healthy dose of shonen anime sensibility.

I’m feeling pretty ambitious right now. I think that’s the essence of what I’m getting at here. Let’s see how it plays out.


Writing: 3186


I’m impressed.

That’s all for Realm of the Myth, by the way. It was my intention to finish this chapter/scene of Bad Guys I’ve been stuck on all of this week today, but I think I’ll save it for later, finish it after I’ve done something a bit more fun and immediately gratifying, like updating one of the zero draft chapters I’ve been wanting to update basically since I wrote it.

And write more of this High Fantasy novel that, well, I’ve managed to write some of today.

Thinking about it today, looking over some of my notes for various High Fantasy projects and ideas that I’ve had recently, I’ve come to a conclusion: I’m a bit tired of the tropes – elves, dwarves, orcs, the whole Tolkien playground – in terms of what I want to give my “real” focus and effort to. But I do still like them – and I realised that, if I’m going to use them, then I actually just have to embrace the fact that whatever I end up writing, it’s not going to be original or interesting or innovative at all, and that’s why I’m using these particular tropes and cliches. Because if I want it to be original and interesting, I’m going to use something else.

Well, that’s been my thought today anyway, but we’ll see how it goes. It’s also given me some food for thought on Bad Guys, which is ostensibly a High Fantasy … well, the setting is pretty High Fantasy. But I wonder now if that’s actually the best thing for the story – and if it is, if I am leaning into that enough. I don’t think I am. I need to think about this, given that this second draft is all DELIBERATE and stuff.

But shit, I wrote a whole thing today, a High Fantasy thing at that, which is such a spectre of failure for me: every time I try to get myself to write some High Fantay I find some excuse to stop myself before I even get started. But not this time. Not this time, precious. Perhaps partly because I spent an ungodly amount of time between yesterday and today fleshing out a magic system so that I wouldn’t be going in blind, and had tools to improv with if I needed them. I think it’s worked out okay – and considering that, if this goes anywhere, it’s most definitely a zero draft, it probably actually worked out really well.

I am not getting my hopes up.

And, in fact, I think that while I’m very, very happy that I’ve succeeded in writing some High Fantasy today, probably happier than I’m actually able to recognise right now at 1:13 AM, I also think that I’m not going to be restricting myself to Realm of the Myth and it’s unimaginative use of elves and orcs and maybe dwarves. I’ve got other ideas, too, and I like them, and I’ve wanted them to exist for a while now – and maybe I was right the other day. Maybe I am capable now in a way that I wasn’t before. Maybe it’s finally time.

Maybe I’m really, finally ready.

But whatever I may or may not be in that regard, one thing’s for certain: I got up at 8:30 today and, while I’m legitimately enjoying how early I’ve been waking up lately, I am very bloody ready for some sleep.


Writing: 1439

Brainstorming: quite some time (probably like 4 hours)

I had some angst today.

I wrote that big chunk of oh-my-god-is-this-actually-getting-written writing last night, and felt good about it. I still feel good about it, because it felt like I was finally breaking a vicious cycle of self-doubt and self-sabotage; it was written, I had done it, I had succeeded, also all of these ideas would be way more interesting in this other project I should just stop this one now before I commit any more time and energy to something I know I’m just going to abandon eventually and oh god DAMN it I haven’t done it the cycle isn’t broken I still can’t fucking write this fucking thing god fuck it.

And yeah, that was my day.

No, okay; I had a good long rant about it to myself – along with how the difference between coming up with my magic system and then actually writing it made me realise that it’s a fantastic magic system, hence why I thought it would be way more interesting in another project that I might actually care about, but anyway – and came to the conclusion that, even if it is a project that I’m only going to abandon …

Well, that’s all it really need to be.

Because Realm of the Myth is not the song of my heart; it’s this project that I keep thinking should be, but every time I set out to write it, it just doesn’t feel enough – and I don’t want it to be, if I’m honest. It’s become an idea factory in practice, where if I write something interesting for it, I’ll immediately start thinking of how much better it would work somewhere else. But it is something that I keep coming back to, keep thinking “hey, maybe I’m ready to write this thing now” – and now I see that the problem is that I just don’t want to commit to it. Which is a fine problem to have, because it’s just not very good – or at least this current version of it that I started writing last night isn’t.

But I think I’m going to stick with it anyway, because it can still serve a purpose. Dual purposes, in fact. It can help me get it out of my system, and it can also help me workshop this super interesting magic system that is interesting not necessarily because of how the magic works, but because of how it’s written. It’s a system where none of the characters in the story actually understand magic properly, and have their own beliefs and assumptions and taboos around how it works, none of which get at the full picture. It turned out to be way more fun and engaging than I’d anticipated.

And given that I’ve been thinking of RoTM as basically a shonen manga crossed with a shameless self-insert YA fantasy novel for the past year or so, this is not the magic system I’m looking for. I’m looking for something a bit more … basic. Like the good old, tried-and-true “four elements” system (though there will obviously be a fifth, superior one that the hero learns to use that the villain can also use); or something like the Harry Potter system where you do things and magic happens, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it, really; or the ubiquitous “will”-based magic system, where everything is a matter of willpower and that’s that, it’s basically the Force only with flashier visuals … something that you don’t have to think about, something that doesn’t detract from the shiny explosions and righteous entitled teenage male fury happening on-page.

Yet in saying that – “getting it out of my system” includes taking it way too seriously, making a bigger deal of what I’m doing than it actually is – it’s more sincere that way, and hey, I’m trying to do things that I care about even if they’re embarrassing over here; I think this fancy magic system that doesn’t really fit with the story I have in mind is actually incredibly appropriate for this particular project in that regard.

So, I have options. I solved that problem.

Which left me with Bad Guys, because holy hell did I get a good dose of self-doubt about this project today …

The thing is, it’s all stuff that I’ve been uncertain about from the very beginning, and it’s taking me back to Tallulah, the conflicting ideas that I refused to resolve for way too long and it ended up making it impossible to continue with the story because I had to give something up. Until I figured out how to combine them … and then didn’t write it down anywhere, and forgot … and I’m sort of at that point with Bad Guys now. There are so many things this story could be about, and I don’t want to choose.

Maybe that’s actually for the best, though. This is the draft where I want to make sure that I try out all of my ideas, and that’s more of a priority than telling a coherent story by the time I’m done – that’s what revision is for, and this is not a revision. This is me getting Serious about this shit.

Which means I’m also applying my write-what-I-care-about-even-if-it’s-embarrassing ethos to Bad Guys now, which I wasn’t planning to. Mostly because I was cocky enough to believe that, the premise being so simple and basic and pulpy, it would all sort itself out without me having to care. Not quite, as it turns out.

And it’s gotten me to the point where this whole plan to revise Bad Guys over Nanowrimo has gone totally out the window. I’m still doing it, but I don’t think Nanowrimo is helpful this year. I’ve gone back and forth on the idea, and ultimately I’m doing this for me now, and Nanowrimo is not the accountability tool that I hoped it would be, because it can’t keep me accountable for the thing I want it to, which is commitment. You can’t really measure commitment with a word-count; you can’t cheat commitment, and I can cheat the Nanowrimo word-counter, really easily. I write a lot of shit. I could just copy-and-paste all of my D&D 5E “this is how rangers should work” rants and win Nanowrimo for the next decade.

But, having said that, even if it’s not going the way I hoped it would I do have some momentum, and I want to keep it. This second draft might be a longer haul than the zero draft, and I’ll need to adjust my mindset to compensate for that – but I think I care enough about this story to try and make it work.

Either that or I’ll jump over to Mark and Jessie, which I have slightly clearer ideas about restructuring, and either ditch Bad Guys – for now at least – or pull a Wolf Gang and just work with what I’ve got instead of trying to make it better/different and fitting the grand-yet-vague vision that I have for what it could be – well, not so much “vague” as “multiple mutually exclusive options”, at least until I figure out how to combine them. Which, I mean, that would just be lovely.

Until then, though …

Weekly Totals

Writing: 17232

Brainstorming: probably 4 hours

11811 words of this week’s writing were devoted to actual writing projects; the rest has been this honestly quite fraught blog post.

Still, it’s a change of pace from the doldrums of the past couple of months, and that has some value in and of itself – and this is all without even getting into the PhD thing, which I aim to put some time aside and get sorted out tomorrow – or start getting sorted out at least. Thankfully my proposed supervisor is super supportive and helpful and is there to guide me through this new, alien process – and I have some library books to read, too. This next week might be quite light on the writing front, and maybe that’s a good thing. I have some things to consider and evaluate.

And while I want to keep my momentum, I am unhappy with how all of my fretting and worrying and second-guessing has taken up valuable self-care time, including reading those library books. I did get a lot of exercise done this week, so that’s a big bonus; now to reintroduce reading to my activity planner as well. That’s the next step.

This has been a long week for me. I think back over the amount of things I feel have happened to me, and it seems more like a month’s worth of … well, drama, to be honest. Not all bad drama, but definitely drama.

I kind of like this, though; I’m not quite in The Zone yet, but my commitment to this second draft and experimenting with other projects is holding up, even with things feeling like they’re taking way longer than I want them to – all this week has been spent writing and rewriting a single new chapter/prologue for Bad Guys, plus I’ve been waking up way earlier than usual while keeping a similar bedtime, so I guess it’s also just literally been a longer week for me in terms of time spent conscious.

But it also feels like I’m getting more things done, that my life is a bit fuller. And even with the ridiculous, histrionic drama I’m going through with these writing projects, I am grateful for this sense of fullness. It feels right.

More of this, please.

Monthly Words October 2019

Monthly Totals

Writing: 18458

Manuscript Readthrough: 19 hours 44 minutes

PhD Research: 3 hours

Revision Notes/Planning/Brainstorming: 39 hours 40 minutes

Caring Too Much: maybe it’s time to move (even further) beyond DBZ memes

This “totals” format I have is super messy and I am definitely shifting focus next year. Progress and “place”, I think, is more important to me than just making a number really big. By “place” I mean a “where I’m at with project X” sort of thing, which I probably don’t need a whole categorisation system to record.

But do I want one? That’s the real question.

Writing this post after yesterday’s report on the pitfalls of having my brain for a brain, I have a sense of anticipation and dread, waiting for the floor to fall out from under my feet when I finally come fact to face with everything I’ve been doing this month – because I think I screwed up a good thing. I had momentum, I had a plan, I had a freaking vision for what I was going to do with myself, and then I had to go to stupid therapy and learn things that changed my perspective on my life and values for the better and it ruined everything.

Or did it?

I was hoping to get perspective with this post, and looking back over the past five weeks – yeah, I can see the problem.

There isn’t one.

This was a fucking great month! There were frustrations along the way, yes, and I must acknowledge them because it would be disingenuous not to do so and being disingenuous harms my soul; but seriously on the whole I did so many things this month, and they were all things that I cared about doing. They didn’t all work out the way I might have liked them to – but thankfully they also didn’t do any harm by virtue of not working out the way I might have liked them to; and hey, some of them did work out nicely.

Like going to see my old masters supervisor and hearing that 1) my PhD topic sounded “very interesting” and 2) he’s very interested in being my PhD supervisor based on it.

Like re-reading both Bad Guys and Wolf Gang, even my thought-to-be-hopeless revision notes on Mark and Jessie, and finding that, hey, there’s some really good, promising stuff here – and also, more importantly, finding which of these projects I do and don’t care about right now.

Like finally, finally completing my revision notes for the co-writing project, which I was in fact hoping to accomplish before the end of this year – and would you look at that, I fucking did. Go me.

And like learning this whole “means and ends” framework which has been equal parts useful and infuriating, just like everything I’ve gotten out of therapy so far; but each time I learn more and more about the “frustration” side of things and how it comes from me more than anything else, and through learning this I’m also learning how to make things less frustrating for myself.

Also, as I found yesterday – sometimes it’s kinda fun to be frustrated. Sometimes, mind you; but during those times I think it’s important to just acknowledge that, hey, it is one of those times, and everything’s okay.

The big problem of this month was tunnel-vision and stubbornness, and not being able to see my stubbornness because I had tunnel-vision. Bad Guys in particular has suffered from this over the past few days; in trying to focus on getting ready for Nano, I moved farther and farther away from what I learnt during the zero draft, about what worked, how I got through that zero draft, which threw plenty of its own obstacles at me – obstacles that, as it so happens, are pretty much the same ones I’m facing now.

And the most important one for me to remember right now is that, however much I can think of solutions to problems that I can see with the story … at this stage of the project, both the problems and the solutions are all in my mind. They’re not on the page. And if they’re not on the page, then there’s actually nothing I can do about them, because they’re not there to have anything done to them.

In a sense, the way to solve these problems is to cause them – but the more accurate way to put it is that I have to write, risk causing these problems, trust that I will be able to handle them if they come up …

And actually acknowledge that there is such a huge gulf between thinking of a story and holding it in my mind and actually writing it down that, for all I know, these problems won’t even come up at all.

Also, on the flipside, while I definitely got stuck in the prep/planning phase over the past three days due to a combination of taking my latest therapy lesson a little too far (again, it’s been fun, regardless of how frustrating it’s also been) and prioritising my speculation about what this story will be over what it currently is … I’ve kind of enjoyed getting so speculative, opening up new possibilities for where I could take it, how I could mash things together. I think I’ve actually come up with some new solutions to problems that do actually exist by doing so.

I think, while it hasn’t solved the specific problems I intended to try and solve, this process has actually helped me get a better handle on this project.

It’s helped me to realise what it is that I actually care about with Bad Guys. And how so much of that stuff has yet to be written.

I think it’s time to write it.

Weekly Words 28/10-3/11/2019


Manuscript Reading: 1 hour 45 minutes

So, I read through Bad Guys in, all told, 3 hours and 45 minutes. That’s a pretty quick read.

Seems a little too quick.

And I have discovered something kind of depressing, but only because it’s so, weirdly, validating: this story feels pretty soulless.

But yes, validating, because in writing this book – as with Wolf Gang before it – I was pretty much trying to write a book that was a bit soulless. A giddy, unapologetic recycling of tropes and cliches for its own sake – and it reads like that. It reads like a book that has nothing to offer that hasn’t already been offered, and probably better, in some other book. So, basically, I succeeded in doing what I set out to accomplish with Bad Guys.

And now I have to decide if that’s good enough.

Because it could be. It could be fine to have this hacktastic story just be hacktastic, to not try and find ways of making it more interesting or original or whatever the opposite of “soulless” is, and just embrace it being a pretty cheap, derivative bit of fluff that you might buy to read on a plane. No substance, all someone else’s style.

Or it could be that, as has happened before, the second readthrough is always quite a bit harsher than the first one, and considerably more harsh than the third.

Having said that, though, I know that I had ideas that weren’t soulless and uninspired for this project – I just didn’t push myself to write them, because I was afraid of getting them ‘wrong’. But that means that this might actually be the perfect time for me to write them, when I’m looking for an opportunity to write something that I care about even if it’s potentially going to embarrass me that I wrote it.

It might be a sign that I should go with a rewrite instead of a revision.

Then again – it’s nothing super detailed, but I have started having ideas for little scenes and events that could potentially evolve into stories. And even if not, I’m finding that I care about these ideas, which says to me that I should take the opportunity to write them while I have the passion for them, before it runs out. So it could also be a sign that this is the perfect time to just follow through with the original plan of revising Bad Guys, letting it be kind of trash, and simultaneously be working on these bits and pieces of potential story material that, regardless of their potential, I do actually care about.

Basically, I see two options for Nanowrimo: full focus on Bad Guys and striving to make it a story that I care about on the one hand, and on the other a “just for kicks” revision exercise to compliment a series of writing exercises to get me in the habit of writing down my story-like ideas when I have them, while I care about them, and giving them the opportunity to grow into something larger (without trying to force it to happen).

They both seem like pretty good options.

I have two days to choose – either way, though, I’m doing something with Bad Guys, so I guess it’s time to make a decision.

In the morning. Because it’s like 1:30 in the morning right now and I want this decision to count.


Revision Brainstorm: 1 hour 20 minutes

You know what I discovered/rediscovered today? The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon TV series from the ’80s. Man I am not excited to watch any more of it than the 4-ish minutes I committed to the first episode of this show – and yet …

Reading Dragonlance Chronicles earlier this year, I found myself presented with an unexpected reading experience that, broadly speaking, I would describe as “weird”. It put me in mind of a D&D game session that someone turned into a novel, but it also reminded me of The Lord of the Rings, both in terms of blatant copy-and-paste events and stakes throughout the story, and in terms of the pacing – not so much the books, but the Peter Jackson film adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Because everything that happens, happens very quickly. They’re in Solace; they escape Solace. They get to Qualinesti; they leave Qualinesti. They go to some temple; there’s a dragon in the temple; now they’re not in the temple anymore but there’s this old ruined castle and there’s a sword and a giant spider and hey wait another fortress with another dragon and just …

The Fellowship of the Ring is my favourite of the LoTR film trilogy, and that’s even despite the fact that, in terms of pacing and especially editing, it often feels like a 3-hour-long trailer of itself. This may be due to the fact that I read the books before I saw the films (specifically to prepare for seeing the films), but regardless, the first time I saw the film I was very unexpectedly aware of how the pacing and editing coloured my perception of the story. I still loved it, and as time went on only grew to love it more, though now thanks to a certain prequel trilogy that love has been more than a little tarnished, and yes I am bitter as hell about it.

Dragonlance, I suppose, might have the same effect upon repeat readings, wherein spending more of my time on the events and characters in the hit-and-run series of events that constitutes the trilogy makes it seem like the stories themselves are devoting more of their time to fleshing them out, when really it’s me doing all the heavy lifting. And to be clear, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I just definitely don’t think it’s a good thing. If you need to read a book again to really enjoy the experience, then that’s not the book for me – neither as a reader or a writer.

Which brings me to Bad Guys, and how upon finishing my second readthrough the other day I concluded that it felt a bit “soulless”, because that “soulless” quality came from this same issue of pacing – or, perhaps more accurately, the issue of nothing that happens feeling like it matters in the grand scheme of things. Though to be fair, I’m trying to meaningfully compare an edited and published series of book to my zero draft manuscript completed in two months. I suppose the fact that I saw such a strong similarity to begin with reveals my general opinion of Dragonlance – and yeah, it’s not my favourite.

But …

There is something about it, something about this sort of by-the-numbers High Fantasy trope-peddling that appeals to me at a core level. I like elves and dragons and wizards; I like evil empires, and chosen ones, and princesses provided that there are other women characters who are afforded meaningful participation in the story and aren’t restricted to being sultry temptresses – I like the trappings of High Fantasy, and I even like some of the cliches of High Fantasy.

As a writer.

And while I’m busy trying to decide whether to stage a full-on rewrite of Bad Guys or instead take a more conservative, safe, stable option in the form of a second draft/revision, while simultaneously not really feeling like I care that much about the story at this exact moment, this High Fantasy shit is getting me kinda hype. I am relishing the prospect of starting off a story where all the central members of the soon-to-be-fellowship are gathered at a fucking tavern, where some kind of mysterious stranger shows up and brings news of unsettling events happening closer to home than anyone cares to acknowledge, where one of the characters is the subject or inheritor of a world-saving prophecy/object/power and they’re Called to Adventure, and then they go out into the fucking woods and there are monsters and they meet a princess and there are some kind of ringwraith-stubstitutes who chase them, basically I want to write Eragon it sounds like …

I am about that right now.

And this is not the first time I’ve felt like this right around Nano time, or even during it. Today I was having a look at my Nanowrimo page and, after finally discovering how to look at all of my projects (yes, I did click the “projects” option but it only showed me my very first one for some reason), decided to take a trip down memory lane and look at some of my older blog posts. Specifically, I wanted to look back on my experiences of Nanowrimos past and see how I was doing at the time. In so doing, I was reacquainted with a particular moment in my 2017 Nano experience where I had decided to create a story that existed within the story I was telling, a film franchise to basically stand in for Star Wars. And this “moment” was me deciding that, actually, that story was so much better than the one I was writing, and I should write it instead.

This story-within-a-story was, in fact, a High Fantasy story about a young boy who was transported from the modern world into a High Fantasy world that he was Chosen to save because he was good and brave and true and look you get it, right, this was not original, nor was it intended to be. Not in terms of the plot anyway – I actually am still very invested in the particular world-building I did for it, the magic system, the aesthetic – the SFX, in other words, which tells me that, in terms of creating an ’80s High Fantasy film trilogy, I am right the fuck on the money. I spent a day devoted to writing as much of this story as I could, testing it out, getting the ball rolling, and letting myself get hype about diving into this High Fantasy world, writing tropes for the sheer giddy sake of writing High Fantasy tropes, and just generally setting out to have some goddamn fun.

And the very next post, I was there to report that, after trying exactly that, the new story actually wasn’t that interesting and I couldn’t take it anymore.

And this reminds me of the way that, when I was fourteen years old, I came up with another High Fantasy story that I called, super-imaginatively, Realm of the Myth, and it turned out to be about as imaginative and original and, how can I put this, worthwhile as that title might suggest, which is to say that even at the tender and impulsive age of fourteen I could tell that this story just didn’t have anywhere to go. I indulged in some tropes, even tried to play with them and do something original with them, and at the end of the day I just couldn’t keep caring after I had started out so excited.

And this is what tends to happen every single time I set out to write High Fantasy. The initial investment is there; I like staring out in a High Fantasy world, getting the ball rolling – there’s something quite satisfying about it. Yet once it comes time to actually set out on the Adventure, I lose all interest. I foresee the rest of the story and, for some reason, those particular tropes don’t appeal to me as much as the ones that kick off any self-respecting, blatantly derivative High Fantasy narrative.

But maybe that’s because I don’t actually want to write these tropes; I just want to experience them. Like, right now, I want to indulge in some good old-fashioned High Fantasy feels – and I’ve had LoTR ruined for me, plus I’ve already seen it well over a hundred times by now …

Well, there’s a Netflix show called The Dragon Prince. Not being super into CGI TV shows not called Reboot, I kind of wrote it off as soon as I saw the trailer a couple of years ago, but today I feel like giving it a go. Maybe this will scratch the itch.


The Dragon Prince did not, in fact, scratch the itch.

Here’s what it did do: made me very keenly aware of how far we haven’t come, when the creators of Avatar, who are outwardly all aboard the woke-train, create a High Fantasy world in which the king is black, two brave rulers of a neighbouring kingdom are lesbian queens, and proceed to kill all three of them off within an episode of introducing them.

… and okay to be fair I did watch both currently-available seasons, and while it’s literally just reskinned, less-interesting Avatar it is absolutely watchable …

But come on, guys. Come the fuck on.

It’s also … I mean, yes, it’s a series, but the episodic feel just really isn’t doing it for me. Perhaps especially so after being reminded of Dragonlance and how I wasn’t exactly in love with the episodic nature of the story there, either.

I guess, though, all of this reflection upon High Fantasy narratives and my own recurring urges to start a High Fantasy story, even if I can’t bring myself to finish, is giving me a clearer idea of what it is, exactly, that’s going on with me here.

Oh also therapy.

Which is, basically, that I tend to approach many things in life – maybe everything – as a means to an end. If I’m trying to create a writing “plan”, it’s the means by which I meet the end of having written a book. If I’m trying to make a schedule by which to organise my life, it’s the means by which I meet the end of feeling less anxious and guilty. If I’m angsting about having nothing interesting to say or anything to offer another human being by way of an interesting interaction, it is the means by which I meet the end of either 1) trying to figure out how to manipulate some person into giving me emotional validation by acknowledging my existence or 2) excusing myself from a social situation in which I feel uncomfortable so that I can justify hermiting it up in my room.

Which is pretty miserable and unsatisfying, even though the logic is clear. Doing X results in Y. Sure.

It’s just that X is kind of shitty, and Y isn’t even necessarily what I want – and that’s what I’m thinking about my predicament with High Fantasy. Also my life in general, but I am sticking to the thin excuse of this blog being a “writing blog” as the means by which I meet the end of justifying not going TMI mode in this particular blog post.

Wolf Gang was, I now realise, such a pivotal moment for me as both a writer and a human being because I wrote it for its own sake. I was interested to play with the tropes for the sake of playing with the tropes; and the reason that, after skipping the “boring” chapters that I “needed” to make the story “feel complete”, I found that it took another full fucking year to complete those chapters after finishing the majority of the project, is because those chapters were the means by which I met the end of having “finished the book”.

But finishing the book wasn’t really what I wanted. What I wanted was to enjoy playing with tropes, and by the time I’d written the first two-thirds of what is now the completed manuscript, I had done that already. Much like how with Realm of the Myth, when I first set out to write it at age fourteen, I had my fun writing the bits that I wrote, got to the part where the “real story” was going to begin, and realised that, actually, I’d gotten everything that I wanted to get out of the experience, and anything beyond that would be pointless – in terms of being honest about what I actually wanted.

But because that also wasn’t a completed book, and I had this dream of being a published author as a young person because I was in fact a young person and was really feeling myself, this lack of interest in doing something “more” with the project became a problem – because I made it a problem. I conflated “writing a novel to completion” with “writing being worthwhile”. And I’ve been realising over the years that this kind of thinking is wrongheaded and the source of so many of my ongoing issues, but not until today’s therapy session, where my wonderful therapist recommended – and read a bit from – a book called Everything Is F*cked by Mark Manson, yes I’m taken in this shit is so appealing to me I am a total sheep etc. …

It’s a really useful way to think about it.

Because now I realise, where my High Fantasy itches are concerned, that the part of the High Fantasy formula that I most gravitate towards – the start – is the part that I most gravitate towards, and that’s enough.

… yeah that does feel unsatisfying.

I mean, no, I don’t think that I should continue the habit of shaming myself into “believing” that finishing novels is more important than enjoying them, and I do think that being able to acknowledge that, even if it seems like only an incomplete part of a greater undertaking, my getting enjoyment and satisfaction out of the start of a High Fantasy story is fine as an end in and of itself. It’s great, even, because it’s actually not like I even have any ideas that I like for a complete High Fantasy story. Maybe I can’t monetize this shit – but then again, if I put my mind to it, maybe I can! And regardless of that, I can enjoy doing it for its own sake.

But at the same time – well, it’s actually another end in and of itself, to be fair. I like the challenge of getting stuck on a story, of having gotten to the point where I’ve had all the fun I set out to have, and then pushing myself to go farther. I relish that – certainly looking back, if not in the moment itself. But it’s a moment of challenge and tension, of meeting my current limits, and that is also a moment of immense creative energy to take advantage of. Writing Bad Guys over Camp Nano and August was the best of both worlds, where I had a ton of fun writing it for its own sake, and also got the opportunity – many times – to push through periods of doubt and frustration, finding creative solutions to the problem of, simply, running out of ideas.

I ran out of ideas with Realm of the Myth when I was fourteen and left it alone – but a year later, I got more ideas and came back. To be fair, I also ran out of steam that time because, actually, I was coming up with too many ideas to comfortably fit into a single story, or at least too fast for me to be able to effectively process those ideas with my writing strategies at the time. And that just became overwhelming. I refused to give up, though, because I saw my inability to fit every single goddamn idea that I had into the story as a failure on my part, and the whole project became an exercise in trying to maintain enough shame over not managing to find a way to “make it work” to keep trying to “make it work”, even though absolutely nothing that I did actually worked, and I knew it – that was what kept me feeling ashamed of myself, after all.

And actually, this is the first time I’ve been able to see it this way. I didn’t fail at the project because the ideas were bad, or the story was weak, or it was too self-indulgent: I failed at it because I became so fixated on the problem of “how to write this stupid fucking High Fantasy series that is supposed to be giving me joy” that the cycle of self-shaming and refusing to “quit” became the project, the goal of “finishing” an unsatisfactory end that I employed the means of treating myself like a malfunctioning robot in order to reach. I moved away from writing for the sake of writing itself, having fun with the ideas that I did have and liked, to something utilitarian and utterly divorced from any actual desire to do it in the first place.

And also because I didn’t have very good strategies of managing the onslaught of ideas; to be fair I don’t think they’re too much better now, either – but at the same time …

They might be good enough.

I keep coming back to this project, this general concept for a story – at least the start of one. I keep getting this feeling, this uplifting swell of possibility and excitement and, I dunno, romance when the story finds its way back to the forefront of my mind, or when I have an idea that I think would fit with it. I gave up on it “for real” back in 2011, and I gave it up for the right reason: it wasn’t working, hadn’t been working for years, and insisting on keeping the project alive while feeling utterly hopeless about it was only making me miserable. I gave up for the right reasons – but still without actually understanding why it wasn’t working. I think I do now.

And if I know why it wasn’t working …

I’m writing Bad Guys.

Revision Planning: 5 hours-ish

I had to make a lot of executive decisions with this Nano plan for Bad Guys. I’m still actually not quite ready, because I’m so close to making a bunch of ideas that I thought were incompatible, uh, compatible, and I feel like diving into the second draft process (different to a revision process, in my mind anyway: revision is editing, drafting is somewhere between revision and rewriting) with the plan I have currently means giving up on bringing those ideas together.

Yet at the same time, I am not here to sabotage myself. I gotta get started – the means by which I meet the end of yeah look it’s really useful, truly, I am having so many epiphanies right now, I am really happy that my therapist put me on to this, and sometimes you just need to employ some ends-justify-the-means thinking to get shit done.

But, having said that, I think there’s actually a solution here that lets me have my ends-cake and eat it, too.

I just write this thing out of order.

I know most of the plan – let me call it what it is: a novel outline, not really a plan because I’m still figuring that part out – for this second draft; I know that most of the scenes/chapters that I want to include actually don’t impact this big crucial could-solve-everything decision. So if I jump ahead a bit in terms of the chronology of the story, or just kick myself off by writing the parts that I know I am definitely keeping, then I can buy some time to come up with this genius will-solve-everything plan and get started on this second draft.

I mean …

It’s smart. It’s practical. It’s a compromise, but it gets me two things that I, on paper, want.

But if I’m being honest, I just want to solve this goddamn problem. I want to know what, exactly, I’m committing to, in terms of what to expect out of myself, in terms of setting up a plan to make it easy and achievable for myself, and in terms of what I’m looking forward to achieving by undertaking this Nanowrimo process. Which has already frustrated me a little bit by not being as flexible in its goal-setting system as Camp Nanowrimo, so my goal is 120,000 words rather than a certain number of hours, when I wanted a certain number of hours for a goal. I should probably just not even bother with the Nanowrimo goal-tracking process and use it solely for … well I don’t even know. No cabins this time around so group accountability/support is not the same as it was in July, though my co-writing buddy is participating as well to revise her novel and I’m glad we have each other to lean on …

Yeah, I have to sort this out before I start. Or, rather, I’m going to sort this out before I start. Yes I’ll miss out on one of those fucking badges or whatever, but my goal is bullshit anyway, this isn’t the year that I win Nanowrimo. Maybe next year. This is the end that I want, and there are no arbitrary means that I need to undertake to achieve it …

And now that I’ve said that, I kind of want the compromise, because I like the feeling of being efficient and practical sometimes, and …

You know what? I’ll do something, and I’ll get there. It’ll be fine. But only once I wrap up this part of the post.

Okay. Nanowrimo 2019 Day One – let’s roll.


Writing: 1240

So I’ve got two Nanowrimo projects now.

Yesterday I just gave up on, and I think in a sense I was right to do so. I want to resolve this conflict with my plan for Bad Guys, and it’s not so that I can clear the way to get started – this is how I get started. Because whatever the resolution to this conflict ends up being, it is the answer to the question of what story I’m telling. And I want to feel clear with this project. All this ends/means shit – it’s useful, it’s enlightening, and I’m way too new at thinking about it to employ it casually.

However – while my Bad Guys plan is a bit ends-justify-means-y and I’m actually happy about that at this stage in the process, I do also want something to write just for its own sake. And after reflecting on Realm of the Myth and the feeling of possibility that I get from High Fantasy – a feeling that gives me a hope that the genre itself very rarely, if ever, actually lives up to – I realise that there’s no need for me to stop myself from just indulging in some High Fantasy writing.

Specifically, world-building, and writing first chapters and/or prologues that never get a follow-up, and just random little scenes and events that take my fancy. I’m about that right now.

So that’s my “real” Nanowrimo project – because it’s the one that I can measure with a word-count and have it feel meaningful.

Bad Guys, on the other hand, is … well, I could do it that way, but it would feel dishonest. This is a second draft, which means to me that while there’s a lot of re-using and re-purposing existing things that I’ve written, for all intents and purposes it is a new story. I’m even thinking that one way to solve the current conflict I’m facing is to make it longer, make it a serial story – yes, “episodic”, but episodes that all serve to tell a single, coherent story, rather than each episode feeling pretty self-contained and isolated from the rest. I think it’s probably too much work, but given how much stuff I have with this story that I feel attached to, it might be the right work. At the very least, it’s good to have the option in mind.

But being honest, I like this story as a novel, it feels right – and I am sure that I can find a resolution to this story conflict I’m having. I just need time to do it …

And, yeah, I need to get started. The sooner the better, because it feels bad to have skipped day 1 of Nanowrimo, not because I’m a horrible person for not doing it, but because I made a commitment to myself that I would do it, and I have failed in that commitment. I have let myself down. It’s not the end of the world, but still, it doesn’t feel great.

But whatever; I enjoyed doing my little worldbuilding, scene-setting High Fantasy writing today, and I do think this will probably end up being my opportunity to explore this concept of “High Urban Fantasy” I’ve had in mind for a while now. It’s weird – I’m generally frustrated with High Fantasy that focuses on the worldbuilding, but I think that’s just because it’s often at the expense of characters and meaningful events. If I can have all of that … well, that’s what I think I want out of High Fantasy, and if I can’t find it “out there”, I guess I’ll have to provide for myself.

I’m rather looking forward to this.

Second Draft Brainstorming: I dunno a lot

Probably over 5 hours at this point because I keep going around in circles and this is stupid and I just need to write what I’ve got, even though it doesn’t quite make sense and the sequence of events is all wrong, I just need to get started or it’s not going to happen. And I want this to happen.

Besides, I can just draft it again, right? Or maybe I’ll come up with solutions as I go. It’s been known to happen on occasion.

But yeah, I’ve almost come to a solution so many times just today, only to have some other fiddly detail trip me up, and it’s gotten to the point where I’m pretty sure that the problem isn’t actually meshing my ideas together comfortably, it’s being unwilling to let go of some really iconic moments that I want to have happen that just don’t work together. So, essentially, the same issue as the zero draft.

I guess that means the same solution has a decent chance of working here, right?

It’s better than just going around in circles – and at least now I have this secondary project to work on when I need a break from the self-made mindgames I’m getting caught up in with Bad Guys. It’s such a simple, beautiful premise, and I’m ruining it by being both a perfectionist and completely indecisive. I’m too afraid to get it wrong.

And what’s my whole thing these days?

Care, and show that you care, even if it embarrasses you. Time to take my own advice.


Second Draft Brainstorming: 4 hours


Weekly Totals

Brainstorming/Planning: 17 hours-ish

Writing: 7333

No, let’s be precise: this is what happens when you don’t have a plan – or when you do have one, but it’s very vague, and then you learn all this philosophical shit about “means and ends” and you get really obsessed about achieving ideological purity because you’re a fucking lemming and apparently going through undergrad wasn’t quite enough to get the taking-theories-about-how-to-live-a-perfect-life-way-too-fucking-literally out of your system because in this day and age even evolution has to cut corners somewhere …

I have to admit, though, I actually don’t feel bad about this. I just feel frustrated with myself, but that’s just out of principle.

I’m kind of enjoying myself, gotta be honest.

I have spent over ten hours this week just trying to write and think my way to a successful, perfect, foolproof plan for the Bad Guys second draft. Nanowrimo’s stupid rigid goal-setting parameters threw me off-course; therapy threw me off-course; and the optimism that I had – and still have – for being able to “figure it out” and have my cake and eat it too with this project has thrown me way the fuck off-course. Every time I feel like I’m getting close to a solution, I somehow end up veering so far in the other direction that it makes the overarching problem of “how to get started with this thing” even worse because I just end up finding a new obstacle to getting started that needs its own solution, rinse and repeat ever since I started trying to make this fucking revision/second draft plan.

I’m intelligent, but it seems I’m not very smart, because I’ve been spending the past three days making the same mistakes over and over and over the fuck again. But hey, it’s time for Monthly Words; maybe upon reflection and taking a step back to look at the bigger picture I’ll finally be able to see what the pattern is, and put a stop to this nonsense.

I am just pretty done with Nanowrimo right now, and it’s barely even begun, just because all of my plans and preparation for diving headlong into it have been completely destabilised by this new “I must only ever do things that I see as ends in and of themselves and always avoid doing things that are means to other ends” thing, because I’m desperate for a quick fix to the inane baggage carousel that is my life. Ironically, but more importantly predictably, it has only made things harder to deal with.

I am seeing a pattern.

And yet, again, I don’t feel bad about myself for doing this. I think it’s important, more important that Nano, even more important than upholding my commitment to myself to do this fucking revision or second draft or whatever the fuck I’m not doing because gotta have that plan, that perfect goddamn plan that will solve all the problems, which I’m constantly trying to sabotage as I try to make it probably because the plan is a means to an end and not an end in and of itself which makes it evil or whatever …

But you see, the irony is, brain, that you are now using this whole “only do things that are ends in and of themselves” thing as a means to an end. You fool! You have become the very thing you swore to destroy!


So you know what?

Fuck Nanowrimo. This year at least. I thought it was going to be something that it turned out not to be: useful to this specific stage in my writing process with Bad Guys. I really need a Camp Nano for what I’m trying to do here; the zero draft, ideally, would have been “real” Nano – but I was not about to wait four months to get started when I’d worked myself up to it.

I’m a bit pissed that I did work myself up to this revision only to stall out when push came to shove, but I also just was so wrongheaded about my decision-making this week in general. I wasn’t decisive enough with Bad Guys to build up meaningful momentum; I haven’t been honest enough with myself about what’s really holding me back from choosing a “plan” for this draft …

Which is that I don’t have one to choose, and I just need to start writing and fucking deal with it.

I used to detest that phrase thanks to the frequency with which a certain ex-best-friend of mine used to say it to me; it’s so fucking condescending. But now I realise that, since I’m the one using it and I can read my own mind, I know that it comes with a level of trust, trust that I can deal with it if I throw myself into it.

My expectations for Nanowrimo were not met and that makes me angry and upset; but overall I’m actually in a pretty great mood. I’ve enjoyed being a stupid giddy naive looking-for-a-shortcut philosophy undergrad student for the past few days, even if it’s fucked everything else up – because I can deal with this.

And I’m pretty done with my High Fantasy writing exercises for now, I think …

But kind of ready to just write some High Fantasy, for its own sake. I think planning for “writing exercises” wasn’t enough of a commitment; I actually want commitment, as I’ve been saying over and over for the past … year, I think. Might pay to listen to myself.

As for Bad Guys? Well, I have enough of a plan, I have enough of a vision to get started at least. I’m open to planning as I need it, as I go, which is an idea I’ve had and felt very excited about many times – and hey, it kind of worked with the zero draft! But no more stalling. Even if all I end up with is a bunch of disconnected scenes that don’t fit together in the shape of a story, I got some ideas and I’m eager to get them out of my head and into writing.

Okay. No more stalling.

… after Monthly Words at least boom gotcha … myself … well done …

Weekly Words 21-27/10/2019


Revision Notes: 3.5 hours

That’s an estimate by the way, it could actually be closer to 4 hours, but I had to do stuff like cook food and eat it somewhere in there.

One episode of the co-writing project left to make notes on – and I finally took my own advice today and made a separate document to note down my ideas with! I still left comments on the episode itself, but I think that’s just a habit. For this final episode I’m going to try and not do that at all, and instead just note page numbers. It might be that this isn’t actually that much more helpful, but I want to give it a go and just test the theory that it is, because I think that’s correct.


Revision Notes/Brainstorming: 5 hour 50 minutes

I still haven’t finished reading Wolf Gang, or even started reading Bad Guys, so I’m going to have to do some prioritising.

But I’m a bit distracted this week, because on Tuesday I met with my Masters supervisor to discuss the possibility of doing a PhD with him supervising and, in fact, it went really well and he’s very interested. So … yeah. I have that to think about now, on top of everything else.

Great timing, me.

But hey, it’s a good kind of distraction, so even though it’s a bit annoying with regards to what my plans were for the week, it’s still fine.

And also: I have finally, fucking finally, finished making revision notes on the co-writing project! It was definitely the right idea to make a separate document for notes and comments; I will stick to that method in future.

This also means that I am now out of excuses for not reading Bad Guys and, potentially, Wolf Gang – so, on to that. Oh well I guess I do have a library book to read, but I can do both. I think. I’m going to try.

Because if this PhD thing does happen I’m going to be doing a lot of reading that isn’t directly related to my novel-writing aspirations, and I’m going to want to feel capable of giving attention to both projects. I did write Wolf Gang during my masters, so I’ve proven that I can do it – I just don’t feel that confident right now. And I have a pretty bad track record, overall … though to be fair, as time went on I got better at finding time and energy for both.

I’m sure it’ll be fine.

I’m sure of no such thing; but I think that, regardless of how I feel, if I just do what I need to do to make it work, it will work. And that’s good enough, I guess.


Reading: 6 hours

Well, Wolf Gang has been read …

This isn’t a story.

I dunno; I’ve been here before, and yet this still feels like a revelation to me – so I’m going to take it that way. I feel pretty done with this project, at least in its current form … which is that of a writing exercise. And hey, a really fun and rewarding one that I am very, very happy that I undertook. I learnt a ton from it, and there are definitely parts of it that I’m interested in migrating to some new werewolf project.

One that I care about. And that’s really the salient point here: reading Wolf Gang made me realise that, as much fun as it was to write it and even make moves towards potentially revising it, I just don’t really care about it, at least not in the sense that I’m invested in making it more than it already is. Because as a writing exercise, it’s one of the things I’m proudest of myself for having done with my life. It’s been invaluable in teaching me about the importance of following my creative interests, and being willing to not just withhold judgement on my own writing as I’m writing, but to fight against that critical side of myself for the sake of getting the writing done – being willing to walk the talk when it comes to prioritising my actual writing over my word choice, sentence structure, and clever similies. To have some fun and not care too much.

It’s just that, as has been the theme of this month, I want to care again. And reading Wolf Gang has made me realise that I do care about werewolves and telling a good werewolf story – just not this one. I could edit and revise it, reshape it into a story-ish shape, and it might even be fairly decent. But I’d want it to be good, and there is no way in hell that I can think of to make this particular story good.

The plan now is to go back to Bad Guys, but right now this wanting-to-care feeling is kind of consuming me, distracting me, and I don’t think the feeling is for Bad Guys. Which I do care about, but … it’s not the same. This is the feeling I had when I wrote Mark and Jessie, that horrendous magnum opus of my earliest adulthood, so edgy and overwritten and fantastically tone-dissonant I almost feel like I deserve an award of some kind for the achievement. I remember going back and reading it this year and thinking, throughout the whole process, that there might not actually be a point in re-reading it at all, because I already knew that it wasn’t the story I was trying to tell. I feel the same way about Bad Guys: while the plan is to go back and read it over one more time, just to see if it sparks any problem-solving ideas that I haven’t come up with in the interim – and to be working directly with the manuscript for the purposes of making a revision plan – it didn’t work with Mark and Jessie, but then again Mark and Jessie is practically unreadable. To the point where even the comments I made on it are probably unreadable; and that’s a big reason why I decided not to forge ahead with the project this year – I didn’t give myself anything useful to work with in terms of writing a revision.

Or, well … I mean it’s a lot of writing. My main issue is that it would just take so long to read through them that it would be too exhausting to extract anything of use from it, but … I’m not feeling particularly tired, even after spending most of the day just reading …

And it is a project that I care about, deeply …

And it was the plan, originally, to read over my projects this month to see if, potentially, there was one that I cared about more than Bad Guys

And I do keep saying “stick to the plan” …


Reading Revision Notes: 2 hours 10 minutes

This is not necessarily a good plan.

Though be fair, it’s not necessarily a bad one, either.

Normally I don’t “count” days rolling over until I’ve fallen asleep and woken up again, but in this case, at 2:25 AM, I’ll make an arbitrary exception because I feel like it.

Specifically, I felt like testing my theory of the notes that I made for Mark and Jessie being too long and filled with angry (and hilarious) ranting about how god-awful the manuscript is to read to be of any use.

And while I think I was actually wrong on that count – it took me 2 hours and 10 minutes to read. For comparison, the revision notes I made for Tallulah take about 10 minutes to read, if that.

But Tallulah didn’t make me this … hateful. In a funny way, but still.

Nevertheless, it turns out that there is actually quite a bit in this zero draft that I want to keep and build on. I put this down to me having a decent instinct for evocative locations and settings, as well as the fluke of having one, exactly one, actually-pretty-solid character who even had a character-arc, somehow. I still don’t quite know how it worked out so well.

Yet the prospect of trying again with this book, right now at least – well, much as I feel like Bad Guys isn’t the book inside me trying desperately to get out, I still very much want to write it. I don’t want to kill my momentum just for the sake of nosalgia – and yeah, it’s more than just nostalgia, but even though this wanting-to-care feeling is something that I associate with Mark and Jessie, I don’t think that I’m feeling it for that story right now. It’s for something that I haven’t thought of yet. And I want to leave that space open for when it finally comes to me.

In the meantime …

Reading: 2 hours

Halfway-ish through Bad Guys – it’s going by quickly, so that’s a good sign.

Though I don’t think I’ve quite got the mindset of a reader for this, which is perhaps inevitable, but knowing that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Then again, I kind of know what the general issues are anyway: starts off well, the only real fault being that it could be even better; there’s then this weird foreshadowing that hints very strongly at a certain thing happening that then doesn’t happen; the dialogue in a very key character-building and story-setting scene doesn’t quite work but is heading in a generally favourable direction – and then the story begins, and while it’s not a bad story, it’s also not quite the one I want to tell. The issue is pacing and the fact that I had not thought out what I was going to write before I wrote it (which probably covers the pacing issue). The ideas themselves are pretty much the ideas that I want to play around with.

But as I was reading it – well, I already feel like it’s high time I had a project to really care about again, as a writer. This time, I found that I wanted to care as a reader as well, that what I was reading was getting there in terms of being a story that I’d care about, but just didn’t quite hit the mark.

Which is actually great. Not only is this a zero draft, but it’s also a story that I’ve felt ambivalent about for the full two years that the idea has been germinating, unwilling to make any firm decision about what it was – and what it wasn’t. Yet what’s been written is enough to make me want to care about what I’m reading, which indicates that, hey, I’ve got something here.

The one thing that’s missing, though, is what my main character wants. That’s probably been the biggest source of indecision for me, and it’s a hell of a thing to not have decided for a story that’s been taking shape for two years.

Weekly Totals

Project Reading: 8 hours 10 minutes

Revision Note-Making/Brainstorming: 9 hours 40 minutes

Revision Note Reading: 2 hours 10 minutes

Writing: 2124

Well, at the time of writing it is in fact the following Tuesday and I still haven’t finished reading Bad Guys, nor have I finished making my revision plan for it. But hey, that’s life sometimes. I had a bit of decision-congestion as the due-date for one of my library books and I tried – and failed – to conjure the motivation to actually read it before it was due back. The Calculating Stars is just going to have to wait until after Nanowrimo.

Still, that makes it very clear what I have to do this week: read and make a plan for Bad Guys. Or, rather, make a decision between revision and rewriting, and then make a plan for that. On the one hand, I think revision is definitely the safer option, and having ideas to work with saves a hell of a lot of time and energy trying to come up with those ideas to begin with. On the other hand, I already know that the current version of the story is not the one I want to tell – and the idea of telling the story a different way is actually kind of exciting to me. I might just be in a certain mood today, but that’s what I’m working with.

Either way, I gotta finish reading this PDF and make my decision based on that. And I’m going to have to exercise some judgement, because while I know that the story in the manuscript isn’t what I want, it’s got parts of what I want, enough so that I wouldn’t mind revising it. But I don’t want to say “yes” to “I wouldn’t mind”. I want to say “yes” to “I want to do this thing” – whatever that “thing” might be. Even if it’s not Bad Guys.

Time to find out.

Weekly Words 14-20/10/2019


Project Brainstorming: yes

PhD prep: sure why not

So it turns out that for the past, I dunno, three years, the things I thought I had to do in order to apply to enroll in a PhD are not the things that I have to do in order to apply to enroll in a PhD. The actual things are much easier than the ones I thought they were.

Which is a nice consolation prize, because after three years of being stressed about, fixated upon and convinced of the wrong fucking thing, I am pretty emotionally and psychologically done right now.

But hey, life goes on, and at least now I know – well, sort of. The actual things are things that I’m not familiar with so I’ll need to find out who to get in touch with so that I can have them explained to me, after I have recovered from the psychic trauma of being wrong for three years. It doesn’t feel good.

Yet it does mean that I have need for self-care – and as it so happens, the most recent creative exercises that I’ve been engaging in do double duty as self-soothing strategies, that’s a lot of alliteration I wasn’t expecting to be responsible for …

I have continued rolling D&D characters to represent my characters for a certain project, and it’s been surprisingly helpful in terms of character development and insight, and has led to some world-building and plot-related development as well. I say surprising because I am very literal-minded, and thinking of using D&D classes to represent characters who do not exist in the D&D universe is, initially, an impossible conundrum to parts of my brain that I just kind of feel resigned to at this stage. But once I get past that and start to think thoughts like “I wonder what D&D classes the characters from Sleepless in Seattle would be”, the point of the exercise begins to become apparent. (Also that’s a way more interesting example than I was expecting, I may have to actually do that one …)

I also read a … romance? book called Dragon, Actually, which is … amazing? And strangely … classy? (relatively speaking) After I was thinking of how to write relationships last week and how to make them “work”, reading this book … well it didn’t directly address that question, but it did give me a new perspective on what counts as “working”. And to be fair, I did buy into the relationship between the two leads – after I decided to suspend my disbelief and judgement on certain, uh, elements of said relationship. Another aspect of writing “romance” that I have some, well, difficulties with.

Nevertheless, I feel that my perspective has broadened, and despite everything I did legitimately enjoy the book. Now hopefully I can finish my other library books, and also enjoy them, before they’re due in ten days.


Revision: 44 minutes

Brainstorming Exercises: 3 hours

Episode 7 of the co-writing project is now replete with my personal revision notes; 3 to go!

So, I emailed my old masters supervisor today to ask if they would be willing to be my PhD supervisor, and ask them some general PhD prep advice. Next step is to get in touch with the PhD advisor for the department and learn what the hell I actually need to do in order to apply to enrol.

And the step after that is to find a way to deal with the sudden anxiety about potentially committing to at least three years of intensive academic work after three years spent away from academia.

Well, as my mother has said many times and I have been starting to discover is true for myself, anxiety is just a form of excitement. And it does seem to be the case that often, when I’m anxious about doing something, it’s often due to not taking it as seriously as I know I ought to take it in order to make it work. So I need to be aware of how I’m feeling very avoidant right now when there are all of these steps I need to take, new information to learn, process and implement, and basically changing my entire lifestyle.

Okay, maybe there’s some legit anxiety in here, too. But the point is that I’ve gotten the ball rolling now – and I am actually looking forward to at least finding out what’s required insofar as the enrollment process is concerned.

And, I mean, my current “lifestyle” is not one that I feel is sustainable, or one that I even want to sustain if I think about my life in big picture terms. Moment-to-moment it’s fine, but I know that it’s not something I want to be doing forever. I want things to change – and even though a PhD isn’t the solution to that, I do think it’s a solution, and that’s better than none. At the very least, it’s something to do with myself that could lead to job opportunities in the long-term; and in the short-term, fuck it, I get to spend three years being paid to learn – and write – about werewolves, both pastimes that have already proven well worth pursuing further.

This is assuming that guaranteed scholarship thing happens. If it doesn’t happen, then I’ll have to find some other way to turn being a werewolf fanboy into a career.

Speaking of which: those three hours of “brainstorming exercises” were, in fact, me rolling D&D characters to represent the cast of Wolf Gang, and once again D&D proves to be an invaluable storytelling resource. Having to assign stats to your characters and think about how that affects their personalities, agendas, skills, flaws, and basically everything about them – restrictions foster creativity, y’all, and I feel like I got pretty creative in the wee hours of this morning.

Having said that, I’m still not sure about the future of Wolf Gang. I do think that I want to write some kind of werewolf book series, and I want it to be something that I don’t have to think super hard about and can just write for fun (and, in an ideal world, enough profit to live off), but I’m not sure if Wolf Gang – in its current form – is it.

Can’t hurt to think about, though. I might actually give it another read like I planned for this month originally; I do have a revision plan, but I don’t really like how extensive it is. It seems like way too much effort for what I want this series to be for me as a writer – but then again, maybe it’s just that I’m not putting enough effort in.

Which is fair enough, because right now I’m still more or less in full-on Bad Guys mode. I also have pretty extensive revision ideas for that project, but the difference here is that I actually want it to be quite different. This is a story that I do, like, care about …

Well, maybe that’s the issue with Wolf Gang. I just don’t care that much – and this week’s goal was to start working on something that I care about.

Maybe I already have that.

Worth pondering.


Revision: 3 hours

Brainstorming: 1 hour

PhD research: 1 hour

I got shit DID today.

Well, yesterday and today. It’s the 20th now, technically, but I don’t acknowledge the passage of clock or calendar time until I have fallen unconscious and subsequently regained it between night and morning/afternoon.

Revision was devoted to the co-writing project, and I am starting to feel like all my efforts to make notes are kind of in vain because of how badly-organised they are. Time will tell if the idea for each of us to separately make revision notes on these episodes, instead of going through them together, was the right idea – part of it is just scheduling and practicality, but I also know that I wanted to make my own notes and have my own thoughts about what we’d created, and now I’m in serious doubt as to how useful of a suggestion it was to make.

But it’s a bit late for regrets now – actually no, it’s never to late for regrets; there’s always time for regrets because regrets can, sometimes, be helpful. Like if you regret agreeing to be in a currently-toxic relationship, that can help you recognise that you should maybe, like, not be in that relationship anymore and seek a way out. Regret hurts, but it’s not always a bad thing – sometimes it’s just a lesson waiting to be unpacked.

I dunno I’m not a motivational blogger I’m really not happy with how I’ve managed my notes for this revision and I’m starting to think I might literally just start all over again and do it “properly” this time. I don’t think I’m actually capable of making worthwhile notes after reading over something just once …

It’s just taking so damn long. And Nano is coming up and I want all my energy focused on Bad Guys pretty much from now until then, and any time I want to shift focus to something else I don’t want it to be a source of stressful organisation to deal with. Unless it’s fun stressful organisation, which my note-taking for the co-writing project is not.

But it is kind of fun, I have to admit, in the same way that it’s always kind of fun to read back over something you’ve written and go, hey, it’s not that bad. The issue though is that I can’t see as many solutions to problems as I’d like – I’m not really reading it honestly, and even more than bad note-taking I think this is what’s been holding me back. So I need to do some thinking about that.

In the meantime, though, I’ve almost finished the notes for episode 8, and that feels good.

I’ve also finished reading the werewolf book I borrowed from the library as a potential PhD resource, and it’s proven to be very useful in that regard. It’s the perfect academic resource actually, in that it discusses things that relate to my chosen topic/thesis and gives me a ton of ideas of how I could develop it while not being my chosen topic/thesis, thus leaving me free to claim it for myself. I don’t know how long my luck will hold in that regard, but I guess that’s part of the process. And whatever my eventual destination, the journey part is still proving to be fun; I still like reading analytical, critical, theory-based writing about werewolves. It’s fun as hell.

As for more creative writing: the book references a bunch of other werewolf books that sound quite interesting, and I think I could stand to revive my werewolf kick – at some point. Right now I’m not really in reading-mode, though, so I’ll have to work up to that. I’m in more of a create-shit mode – but to bridge the gap, I think that I will in fact use tomorrow as an opportunity to read Wolf Gang again, and just kind of read it. No notes, no agenda, just read a werewolf book that I happened to write and not edit at all because it’s a zero draft that I wrote while doing my masters because I’m fucking awesome.

And as for the brainstorming: that was also for the co-writing project. We came up with some fun stuff today. It was fun.

I’m going to write for a living one day.

Maybe one day sooner than my nonexistent career-fantasy end-date suggests, if this PhD thing winds up panning out.

Things are happening this week, and this month, and I am happy for this change of pace from the month before. Gotta remember this so I can recreate it when needed, or just wanted.


Revision: 1 hour 10 minutes

Another co-writing episode’s notes made, two more to go! We are now also co-writing a play about gardening, because that’s just how we roll.

As for Wolf Gang

I did start reading it tonight, and while I didn’t quite stick to my plan to not make notes, they weren’t revision notes. I think taking notes while reading is a habit I want to get into no matter what it is that I’m reading, because 1) I miss using my brain and 2) I’m quite possibly going to be embarking on a PhD in the near future so I’d benefit from getting into the habit. But mostly the first one, as the second one will take care of itself if this PhD thing does in fact happen.

So I’m just reading it to read it, really …

And it’s so unfinished.

Which, I mean, no shit. It’s a fucking zero draft; what was I expecting? But I realise now that, actually, I was expecting to have the same reaction that I’ve had, broadly speaking, the past couple of times I’ve read it, which is a mixture of typical disgust at the complete garbage I have no way to not be responsible for producing, and a sense of pride at that parts of it that actually work – and work the way I intended for them to work. I was expecting to think “you know what, good effort past me” – which, I now realise, is because I’ve only ever read this as a writer.

Now, reading it as a reader – which I don’t think I’ve had enough distance from the project for to accomplish until now anyway – it’s so incredibly apparent that this story is nowhere near finished. It’s so thin, so one-note, so skeletal that I’m amazed I was ever impressed with it – but that’s just some mental arithmetic and gear-shifting I haven’t done yet. The main thing I’ve taken away from this readthrogh so far is how much I actually want to read good stories, and that in turns has rasied the question of what a “good story” actually is to me. Right now, I don’t have a checklist or anything, but I know that I want it to feel whole. I don’t want to be asking questions the whole time – well, certain kinds of questions, like “why the fuck should I care about this?” or “why couldn’t the author have thought of a more interesting way to introduce X idea?” or “why is it that, even though things are happening, it feels like nothing’s happening?”

And yes, it is a zero draft, and this level of scrutiny isn’t necessarily helpful – yet at the same time, I don’t think it’s unhelpful either, because to be perfectly honest I have read published books that aren’t much better than this zero draft manuscript, if they’re better at all. And it’s not like I was trying to clear a high bar when I wrote Wolf Gang. I’ve always said that what I like about Wolf Gang is that it’s low-maintenance; I keep calling it a “writing exercise”, and until now that’s all I’ve wanted out of this shitty YA werewolf novel project. I’ve said how nice it would be to have an ongoing project that isn’t something I have to care very much about, and can just dip my toes in whenever I want something to do to keep up my creative momentum without having to make a huge commitment or emotional investment.

Except, reading it now, as a reader instead of a writer …

I want to care. And because the writer of this book clearly didn’t care (beyond the giddy excitement of being a trope-monger), I find it very hard to care myself – in fact I find it impossible.

And when I switch back to being a writer and hold this thought, I realise that I don’t want to waste my time telling stories that I don’t care enough to try and tell well.

Which is not to say that I’m only going to write deep, meaningful, “literary” stories or whatever. I just mean that, in keeping with the theme of this month, I want to fucking care. Not just to feel care, but to practice care. I want to be a care-full writer. Fear of “getting it wrong” is the demon I was trying to defeat by writing Wolf Gang the way I did, and hey, I needed that, and it worked. I did it again with Bad Guys; it maybe worked even better, at the very least considering that I finished Wolf Gang in a year and a half, and finished Bad Guys (the nanowrimo version) in two months. I kicked selfconsciousness’s ass with those books.

But I really don’t want it to be a battle. I want to be able to feel embarrassed and still write; I want to be able to feel afraid that I’m messing it up or getting it wrong or whatever and still write, to let my commitment to doing something I care about win out over my fear that I’ll not live up to my own expectations, or those of others (or what I, unhelpfully, imagine them to be). Wolf Gang and Bad Guys were exercises in pre-empting my embarrassment and being a bit cringe and a bit “bad” intentionally. (And with Bad Guys that is part of the tone, though I definitely exaggerated.) You know what? I still ended up embarrassed, and about things that weren’t intentionally bad or cringe-inducing. It’s inevitable.

Yet there were also good things that came out of them – that seems inevitable, too.

So I might as well care, right?

Weekly Totals

Revision: 5 hours

Brainstorming: 4++ hours

PhD Research: 1+ hours

Writing: 3231

Now shit’s all up in the air in my head again; do I really care about Bad Guys? Well, right now it’s hard to care, because I don’t have a clear vision for what it is. I think despite how well I learnt to adapt and embrace new ideas during Camp Nano, I’m still holding on to so many old, rigid notions of what the project should be, and that’s still really holding me back. I also still don’t really feel like it’s my story yet; something’s missing, my “signature”, and it’s the same with Wolf Gang. Not in the writing; all my zero drafts actually have a very strong family resemblance, despite the very different methods used to write them sometimes. I quite like that. But in terms of how I feel about them, what makes me care about them. I still haven’t found that with either Wolf Gang or Bad Guys, and until I find a reason to care …

Well, I need to find a reason to care.

And I’m going to give myself that chance by reading both of them this week; I’m not going to make plans for Wolf Gang, because my commitment is to Bad Guys – and however much I may not be “feeling it”, I want my commitment to mean more than just strong feelings. I want to practice care, not just feel it. I’m going to read it again, have thoughts, take notes, and make a plan.

And I’m going to really, really try to be open about what the story could be, and to identify the parts where I want to care but don’t, and let myself think of solutions to them, even if those solutions mean giving up on ideas I’ve had for this project since day one.

That actually sounds like a lot of work; I’m not sure I can do all of that in just one week.

Good thing I’ve got (almost) two before Nano starts then, right?

Weekly Words 7-13/10/2019


Caring Too Much: Over 9,000

Today’s goal: stop caring so much.

More specifically and, therefore, helpfully: stop caring if the writing sucks. I’ve managed to make myself do this once I’m deep in The Zone with writing, but have yet to master the art of starting from that mindset before embarking on the journey to enter The Zone – and today, that’s what I want to accomplish.

Enter the power of word-sprints! Today I’m feeling particularly self-conscious about writing attraction; I have read so much UF and YA over the past half decade or so, most if not all of it covering the subject of romance, yet for all that none of it seems to have stuck with me when it comes to finding ways of getting characters together.

It doesn’t help that I’m also very much a person who retains the creative influence of whatever the last film/show/book I’ve experienced is, and for me this was Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is finally on NZ Netflix and I spent the past five days binge-watching. It’s a good show, I kind of get why so many people lose their shit over it and proclaim it one of, if not the, greatest television show ever created though it’s not quite on that level for me …

But boy oh boy that romance subplot.

Or subplots, I should say. None of them are particularly, like, good. Sokka and Yue is the most obvious not-good example, but Aang and Katara isn’t too far behind – and honestly feels worse to me because them Finally Getting Together is the capstone of the entire series and it’s just so … rote. And I think a lot has changed between the air date of that final episode and now in terms of how romance is written in popular media, and that could be why this felt so jarring to me seeing it now – but yeah, it was really jarring.

Sokka and Suki is better, but that’s not saying much; at the very least we get a bit of development with their relationship, some interaction between them that lets them get to know each other – and see each other change – as people. That’s part of the issue, though: Sokka undergoes quite a lot of change over the course of the show, whereas Suki is pretty much static throughout – the relationship suffers from being so one-sided in terms of who we, the audience, get the opportunity to see as a fully-realised character and person (Sokka), and who we don’t (Suki), and as such it doesn’t feel like a relationship between equals.

I think, honestly, the most convincing romantic relationship in the show is Zuko and Mai (which, given the phonetic rules of the show, should be spelled “Mei”, but whatever) – and I think that’s partly because we don’t see them getting together, just thrown into them already being together in season three, seeing why they break up, and then seeing them reunite after it’s established that they have, like, chemistry. We get to see more of Mai than Suki, and the circumstances under which we get to see Mai are just a bit more revealing, in terms of character, than what we get with Suki. Also, unlike Suki, Mai does change. It’s only a little, but it’s there, and it makes her a bit more dynamic, meaning that while it still could have been better, it’s the closest that I think the show comes to portraying a romantic relationship between equals.

Close – but no cigar. TL;DR: none of these are examples of what I’m currently trying to wrap my writerly brain around, which is how to bring Character A and Character B together, romantically, and having it feel believable. Which is infuriating, because it’s not like I’ve never come across a love story that worked for me. I think the most recent one would be Jane and Vincent in the Glamourist Histories series by Mary Robinette-Kowal, which is an especially gratitude-inducing example because not only is the initial build-up to the relationship in the first book believable, but then the following four books chronicle their relationship as a married couple, which is just lovely, seriously read these goddamn books if you haven’t already.

But much as I can remember that this particular fictional relationship worked for me, I don’t think I understand why enough to create one of my own. Which comes down to my not really paying attention to the “craft” side of things when I’m indulging in a story, and much as I’ve come to accept and embrace the fact that I’m pretty easy to please, it does come at the cost of this kind of useful analytical thinking.

Thus, I’m thinking that I might stand to benefit by iterating on the concept of an ideas journal, by expanding it to include other people’s ideas. Which I am a bit surprised I didn’t think of sooner, given how I’ve been spending the past four-ish years trying to cultivate and embrace my inner hack.

And what made me embrace my inner hack was the sense of personal, spiritual, and artistic liberation that came from just writing any old shit and, rather than concerning myself with whether or not it was good, just doing whatever felt like it would work as I was writing. I think it’s time to take it to the next level, though – and rewind the clock a little. One important thing I took away from the last Monthly Words was recognising that maybe it’s actually okay to be embarrassed, and to do things that I’m embarrassed to have done.

Even things that really mean something to me, and that other people might find hilarious and tragic that anybody would find it really meaningful. I think that is the risk I have to be open to taking to push my writing to the next level, or maybe just bring back some of my early-days fearlessness. Yes, this does mean that I might write another Mark and Jessie where it’s so bad it literally makes me scream while trying to read it after it’s been written; I may even write a Garden State or Twilight – and, granted, both of those stories have a ton of fans. But they are the kinds of stories that, if I had written them out of the passion of my heart, I would be embarrassed to have to my name. Not in terms of why people like them, but because of everything else about them that is a bit, let’s say, unhelpful.

But, I mean – people do embarrassing things all the time. Most are lucky enough to not have theirs become an international talking-point with a decades-long shelf-life, but there will be some people who remember (and some who will never let them live it down). It’s just part of life. Not a nice part of life, but also not something that has to define your entire life.

I guess what I’m realising is the extent to which I let fear dictate my decisions, and that, after 32 years of waiting and hoping to wake up one day and find that I’m so sick of it that it rouses me to fight against it, I find that instead I’m just ready to accept that some of the things that I’m afraid of might, in fact, happen – and to know that I’ll survive them. I think I’ll survive producing a bad piece of writing that nobody else will ever read, if that’s the story that I want to write. And maybe even if other people do read it.

I’m feeling ready to leave behind my habit of avoiding decisions that might potentially embarrass me, because they might also potentially work out well.

At least with regards to writing. Baby steps …

Scene-Blocking: 3 hours 45 minutes

Which in this case is just doing something totally different.

I do need to do this; I have been wanting to get my ideas for Bad Guys down in writing so that I have things to work with that aren’t just thoughts and fantasies in my head. It’s good that I’ve done this. But I absolutely used that excuse to justify avoiding tackling the things I just spent a whole bunch of words outlining my anxiety about.

Still, things are happening, and I’m doing them, and that’s good. I have come up with some really good ideas – and what’s just as good, realised that some really good ideas already existed within the framework of ideas I’ve already established, just waiting for me to find them. I now know what’s going to happen, broadly speaking, if I decide to turn Bad Guys into a series, got some neat character-arcs that are a mixture of hijinks and pathos …

And, you know what? I care about them. And they might be the most embarrassing things I’ll ever write, but goddammit I care about these ideas. In fact not only do I care about these ideas, but realising that I care about them and have embraced that fact has gotten me thinking about other ideas that, without thinking about it, I’ve sort of written off because they feel embarrassing to even think about. I think I’ll write down those ones next.

Well, right after writing some super unconvincing romance stuff. Gotta stick to the plan.


PhD Research: 50 minutes

Man I have missed reading about werewolves. They’re so damn cool.

And by “cool” I mean here “intellectually stimulating”, which is, in fact, cool. Not only do I have more ideas for my PhD thesis, but I also have more ideas for my non-academic werewolf works.

As for the whole writing-without-fear-of-embarrassment thing, and the word-sprints thing – yeah, maybe tomorrow. Today was … distracting. Also not great for mental well-being in general, though it did also give me a brand-new insight that I’m very grateful for. But not at all conducive to actually getting any writing done, or reading beyond the werewolf book chapter.

What actually threw me a lot was the fact that it was a really nice day today, and I spent all of it inside. I thought about going outside but there was always some excuse – I don’t want to have two showers today; it’s too hot; it’s too cold; it’s too dark – and so I just opened the windows in my room. And I thought about this recurring creative frustration that I have, which is trying to find a way to capture the feeling that comes from living day-to-day life, the minor discomforts and unwanted obligations that actually don’t get in the way, and strangely add to the bounty of what there is to enjoy – having friends over for dinner, a sort of dull conversation unexpectedly turning interesting, people forming and leaving and re-forming groups over the course of a day …

So there’s two things I don’t know how to write now, and two things that I really want to know how to write.

And this is taking me back. I used to really obsess over this stuff when I was in my teens, the search for a technique or strategy for writing the experience of – well, any experience, really, how to Make It Real. I stopped caring some years ago because I was so bad at emotional health at university that despite the copious amounts of free time that I had, I always felt like I had no time or energy for anything outside of what it took to scrape by from day to day. I felt kind of liberated for letting go of that, and writing Wolf Gang and leaning on tropes to propel me at top speed through writing a zero draft, instead of taking the time to try and carefully construct specific feelings and experiences with my writing, was probably the pinnacle of my not-caring-ness. It wasn’t just liberating: it was fun – and just like this feeling is from my past, the sense of fun in writing that I was exploring and managed to experience anew with Wolf Gang was also part of my “how writing used to be” renaissance. I needed to move away from the super-serious, everything-has-to-be-deep-and-meaningful-all-the-time self-imposed restriction on my creative endeavours, and remember that it could be fun to write, just toy around with ideas, even unoriginal ones, for the simple fact that it’s fun to do that.

Also because, when I cared the most, I was also at my lowest point in terms of mental and emotional health (also probably physical health), and as this memory of my abandoned ambition returns to me today, I find that the association is still quite painful, and that I want to avoid it.

But, avoidance is not the answer. Today was an avoidance day – but it’s done now, nothing I can do to change that. Tomorrow can be different, and I think I’m sensing a pattern emerging this week.

I’m starting to care more than I have in a very long time.

And, yes, I did start this week trying to get myself to not care – but this is different. I do want to not-care about being embarrassed, or about maybe, potentially, at some point feeling a sense of failure. But I want to care about writing what I want to write, striving to achieve something that I care about achieving, finding a way to break through my limits and learn how to do something better than I currently can, or something entirely new.

Or, in this case, something old and worth remembering. Only this time, it won’t come at the expense of the fun stuff. I think I’m ready to balance them now.

I think I’m ready to put it to the test.

Weekly Totals

PhD research: 2 hours-ish

Brainstorming/Scene-Blocking: 8 hours-ish

Writing: 3229

It’s nice to count things that matter.

Less nice to regret not jumping at the chance to test out one’s readiness for new things – but, really, that’s a lot of pressure to put on the events of one single week. I definitely do feel that the iron is not longer hot and I am a bit frustrated with myself for letting this happen, but at the same time I don’t need the feeling. I am thinking differently this week, and that’s been valuable enough all on its own.

Bad Guys is getting a lot of my attention even though I’m not in revision mode just yet; I want to do a bit more brainstorming before reading it through again and then – then – the revision planning shall begin.

I’ve also detected some themes in the zero draft, which I was pleasantly surprised to discover existed, and gave me some much-needed insight into how to solve some of the big storytelling problems the zero draft has. Another thing that’s been helping today in particular (the 13th, holy shit I’m finishing one of these Weekly Words posts during the week it’s supposed to be covering what is happening) has been thinking about a potential sequel. I have a rather large cast of characters that I’d like to give some time in the limelight to, and not all of them can fit in just one book comfortably – at least not this first one. It’s been hard saying goodbye to some of my darlings, but just throwing ideas around I found that they actually work quite well together in a separate story. And who knows if this other story will ever get told, or how serious I am about Bad Guys being A Thing in general; but it is the Thing I am currently working on making an A at the moment, and it’s quite nice to have some prospects for its potential future.

But okay. I have waited and procrastinated long enough; this excitement about writing and, more importantly, trying that I’ve had this week – I want something to come of that. I want to write something that I care deeply and passionately about and not care if it turns out to be complete shit when all’s said and done and enjoy the challenge of trying to make it good, as good as I think it deserves to because it’s something that I care about.

This feel right – but I can feel myself going into plan-mode, and as I’ve come to recognise, my plans are rigid and unyielding and they don’t work. It’s a bad habit, not because it’s bad to have plans, but because my “plans” – they’re restrictions that I’m imposing on myself, and I am starting to realise that, while I’ve been aware of how much it doesn’t work yet keep on doing it, I’m also feeling more capable of coming up with solutions that do work.

I also think that it’s because I have been conflating goals with plans. In the past, I would have set the “plan” for myself to “write something this week that I care about writing despite how embarrassing it might be”, when that’s actually a goal. I might have also built on this “plan” with something that is actually a plan, like “at 2pm every day this week I will sit down to write at least 200 words of this thing that I care about despite how embarrassing it might be” – which, yes, is a plan, but it’s also very rigid, and I don’t work well with rigid. It’s an arbitrary restriction on how I can accomplish my goal, and I’m realising that this is the approach I keep taking. It’s much clearer to me now why I find it so hard to Get Stuff Done.

The reasoning is fair enough, though: having a predictable, stable plan means that I have a clear means of accomplishing my goal, and also a clear means by which I can measure my progress towards achieving it. On paper, it’s very effective, because if I do it then I will achieve my goal. But I don’t do things that way, not unless I want to – and, hey, long time no see internalised shame, reminding me of how immature and impractical it is to live life based on want alone, don’t I have any self-discipline or desire to improve my mind, this is why no-one will ever love me …

And the plan sort of goes off the rails, and becomes a woeful rumination on my impulsivity rather than an attempt to accomplish a goal that I want to accomplish. Again, there’s some sound reasoning – but it never helps. And if it doesn’t help, then I can’t help but think it’s actually not that reasonable.

Seriously. Therapy. It’s pretty good.

So, this week, my goal is to write something this week that I care about writing despite how embarrassing it might be. As for the plan

Well, I think that’s for next week (or this week, at the time of writing; one day I will release Weekly Words during the week it’s covering, honest). For now, I just want to start the way I intend to finish, and that is being open to things happening the way that they happen, and being present for it.

Also to keep putting time aside to brainstorm, and not just Bad Guys (though definitely Bad Guys). My plan to read some of my other manuscripts before Nano to “give them a chance” really hasn’t panned out – but instead it’s just so happened that I’ve been brainstorming some other projects of mine anyway and am starting to get a bit invested. I have a good feeling about this.

Weekly Words 30-9/6/10/2019


Manuscript Readthrough: 2 hours

Not quite “revision notes”, because I want this to be an initial readthrough just to get my knee-jerk reactions out of my system – but I ended up taking notes because I felt myself not trusting myself to think the very keen, insightful things I was thinking while reading these first 25 pages over the course of said two hours, and really I think that’s sign enough that I need to be approaching this initial read-through differently.

But, I must say, I’m pretty pleasantly surprised with how much I like about it – and how eager I am to get back to writing, and specifically rewriting this project. The ideas that I have for a rewrite, now being compared to what’s actually been written, feel complimentary to the ideas that I put down in writing rather than a substitution or replacement; they feel like a natural evolution of the ideas in this manuscript, and as such it feels like I wouldn’t be losing anything in a rewrite other than specific events that feel like …

Well, like a zero draft.

In other words, it’s going well so far.


Manuscript Readthrough: 1.5 hours

I got about three times as much reading done in three-quarters of the time compared to yesterday, I’m counting this as a success.

I am very conscious of how much my ideas for how I want to build on the ideas that I have for the revision are colouring my responses to this manuscript, and for that reason I’m definitely thinking I’m going to read it again before I commit to a revision pass – so hopefully I can finish this read-through this week and leave myself some time to re-read some other projects I’m potentially interested in returning to. Not for Nano, most likely – but I want to be open to the possibility.

Honestly, though, I am really in the mood for Bad Guys to be a thing. I think the next step is to do some scene-blocking, because I’m finding that the set pieces I have in this book are quite good, and that the rest of the story could benefit from similarly specific plotting of events, getting really detailed about what does – and does not – happen. This sounds like the kind of plan that generally doesn’t work for me, but I think given the nature of this story it will work this time.

Or maybe I’ll find after reading it that it needs a less rigid plan. Either way, the read-through is a bit fraught, but I think still going well.

Now to think about doing other things with myself this week.


Manuscript Readthrough: 2.5 hours

I am a little under halfway through the manuscript now and, I have to say, there’s a lot more to like here than I thought – and I already thought there was a decent bit, from what I’ve read so far.

Also, it’s just kind of … fun. I’m enjoying the story; I’m kind of looking forward to reading it again before Nano, even though I’m reading it with the very clear goal of changing that story between now and whenever I decide it’s ready for submission to agents – or self-publishing, whichever path I decide to take. But this isn’t like other zero drafts of mine that I’ve read and it’s been very hard – sometimes actually impossible – to keep myself from screaming in rage at how bad and needing to die they are. This is promising, and given how much entertainment value I’m getting out of it even in its zero draft stage, I am very optimistic that this is absolutely something that I can craft into an actual story.

And I actually want to.

So while I am still going to have a look over some of my other projects before Nano rolls around, right now my mind is pretty much made up: Bad Guys is getting the special treatment, and will become the second novel I’ve ever done revisions of in … 19 years.

Man, I really need to get this dream-of-being-a-published-author ball rolling …


Manuscript Readthrough: 2 hours

A slower session today, given that I only got through one chapter, but also got some very important ideas for how to shuffle events around to make the story work better out of it, so definitely worth the more deliberate pace.

It’s also quite interesting that the halfway point in this manuscript – which I reached and passed today – doesn’t feel like the halfway point. It’s like this manuscript has an act one, and then goes right into act three – well, it is a zero draft so that’s hardly surprising, but given the length of the manuscript it’s just an interesting reading experience.

And you just don’t get that with published, edited books. Usually.

Hopefully not with this one.


Manuscript Readthrough: 3 hours 34 minutes

And I’m done …

And I’ve identified a pattern!

My zero drafts tend to follow the trend of starting quite strong, everything leading up to the second act point quite well – and then just sort of skipping to right before the third act. I definitely don’t do it consciously, yet my ideas tend to be best at either end of the narrative extreme: I can do quite good openings, and I love being on the home stretch and find that a lot of my best ideas and writing gets done at that point in the writing process. It’s the middle that’s tricky, and with this story maybe more than any other I’ve tackled, it’s also the most important part by far.

Basically, I don’t think I can get this all done just in November.

Still, I also am now certain that Bad Guys is a keeper, and I’m in it for the long haul, so it won’t be just November that I’m working on it going forward. This zero draft is maybe the most solid I’ve ever written, at least up there with Wolf Gang – and ironically, while I went into Bad Guys hoping for the same writing process, emotionally at least, and found something quite different, the actual result is pretty similar. So that’s amusing, and since I don’t know what else I should take away from discovering this information, amusing is good enough.

And I have a ton of ideas now for making things better – and some that just make it different, and I think my best bet is to just write them all down and not worry about how/if they’ll all fit together in a sequence to make a story out of and give myself plenty of time before Nano starts to make a decision. Though I’m pretty dead-set on a broad outline and the key features of a plan at the moment anyway, so now I just need some material to work with. Happily there’s a lot of material I can and probably will recycle for the revision …

Kind of. The issue is that a lot of it just isn’t very well-developed, too many interesting points being skipped over or just forgotten about, and the end result is that, actually, this story isn’t long enough. So I’d better do some research about submitting manuscripts to agents/publishers according to genre – and figure out what genre this is – and have a think about where I want to go with this project.

It’s a lot of work to do, but I’m quite eager to do it.

Weekly Totals

Manuscript Readthrough: 11 hours 34 minutes

Writing: 1584

A shorter post this week, because there’s really not much to report on the writing front – I didn’t really do any. The readthrough was insightful and inspiring and quite enjoyable.

I just sort of had a pretty good week.

Wow, this is awkward. I usually have more to complain about.

But, if less content is because of less things to complain about – it’s not like this is a monetized blog that I depend on for income or something. I’ll take that trade.

I was planning – well, thinking about – reading some of my other completed novel manuscripts just to get a sense of where I’m at with those projects over the next couple of weeks, before making a decision for what I’ll be working on for Nano. I’ve had a look at almost all of my manuscripts this year, only excluding the very first one I ever wrote because I’ve pretty much written it off. Then again, I’m looking to broaden my scope, and I’ve read Wolf Gang pretty recently – maybe it’s worth going back, even if just for curiosity’s sake.

To be honest, though, I am fired the hell up about Bad Guys right now, and ready to do some preparing. As opposed to planning. I’m not ready to plan yet; I have way too many ideas and, at the moment anyway, not all of them fit together – most aren’t even fully-formed ideas yet either. I just want to get them down in writing, out of my head where I can engage with them with better leverage, and potentially see where and how they can be moved in more interesting ways.

I’m trying very hard not to plan or commit to anything right now, given that the past three months have all been lessons in not-planning and its success in making my life less annoying to live through. But preparation, on the other hand, is very much something that I’d benefit from – so, I’d better go do some of that, because however obvious the answers seem right now in terms of how to transform this zero draft into a “real story”, it’s not going to write itself.