Weekly Words 10-16/06/2019

10-13/06/2019

Sweet Fuck All

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

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

I owe so much to that shitty YA werewolf novel …

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

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

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

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

15/06/2019

Writing: 3151

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

I think the experiment is working.

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

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

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

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

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

Onward and upward.

16/06/2019

Revision

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

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

Weekly Total

Writing: 4917

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

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

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

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

Heave ho …

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Monthly Words May 2019

Monthly Total

Writing: 18010

Weekly Words was really good for me last year, but this year it’s Monthly Words that’s doing the heavy lifting.

I wasn’t going to write this Monthly Words installment today (well, yesterday, by the time it’ll actually get published). I was instead going to write this big, depressive rant about how this week has been awful and my brain is awful and my life is awful and everything’s awful and there’s nothing I will ever choose to do about it because I’m awful, etc. I wrote most of it, in fact.

And then I went back and read over the last 5 Weekly Words, and realised, as I always-except-for-that-one-month do, that I’m actually doing pretty well.

I fucking needed that today.

Not just to cheer me up, in fact not even mostly to cheer me up, but just to get some fucking perspective – which, fittingly enough, is the entire premise behind Weekly Words. Yes, the quantity of Words has lessened from week to week compared to last year, but the consistency and, not to get mushy, but the intent that I see in my posts is quite …

I swear this isn’t me finding an excuse to blow my own horn.

I don’t need an excuse to blow my own horn holy shit have you met me?

I’m sometimes amused by how I can turn on a dime from thinking I’m the residual scum of all the useless elements of the universe one moment, to thinking I’m what God wants to be when He grows up the next. But the less-amusing part of it is that in order for that switch to happen, I have to actually do something to make it happen. And I very almost didn’t today. I almost ended today, this week, on a sour, flat, sad note. There’s what goes on in my head when I’m in the moment and have no external influences, and there’s what happens when I expose myself to, say, evidence of things that I’ve done. Things that I beat myself up for when I’m brooding over my failure of an existence become things that I feel compelled to be forgiving about when I read them in my Weekly Words posts. It’s so fucking stupid.

But it also fucking works, and it always-except-for-that-one-month does. So it’s just as well that I did it today.

However, this week – because this is going to be my Weekly Words post for 03-09/06/2019, too – has been … I won’t say shit, but that was how I evaluated it before I made myself get perspective just now. And that’s because I did 1) no writing, 2) lots of gaming, and 3) didn’t follow up on a bunch of things that I had thoughts about following up on last week. And over last month as a whole, actually. Like writing “short stories”, really just one-and-done writing exercises if you pressed me to be specific/honest about it; like writing Mark and Jessie as a new book and pretending the current manuscript doesn’t even exist for the most part; like writing some fucking High Fantasy after my Dragonlance reunion (I’ve now read the second book, too, and I must have read that one without realising it as well because I recognised a whole bunch of scenes and events while I was reading it); like exploring options other than writing in terms of giving myself meaningful stuff to do – it’s the age-old problem for me, of not having follow-through.

And actually, I think that’s connected to why I feel so un-motivated to do any writing at the moment. Yes, the psychologist appointment I had put some shit into perspective and that shunted writing down to below the bottom of my priorities list for a bit, but as I’ve repeatedly come to realise (and then not so much forget as fail to fight off my unhealthy habit of forcing myself to only ever be thinking about writing and whether I’m doing enough of it), a huge part of my writing burnout comes from the fact that I keep forcing myself to only ever be thinking about writing and whether I’m doing enough of it.

And that comes from this weird thing I started doing … you know, I can’t quite remember when it started, but at some point between now and when I started university back in 2008, I decided that what I really needed was to Get Organised, and ever since then I’ve had these same stupid ideas and initiative, making myself focus on doing X because it’ll be good for me or productive of me or some inane propaganda-sounding shit like that. And that’s my fucking life right now. I don’t stick to schedules well, but I keep fucking making them, some diseased part of my brain insisting that, yes, really, this is what’s going to solve all of my problems.

When I tried to take a week off this May in preparation for making a psychologist appointment, foreseeing my need for a big old cushion of self-care to fall back on when the bottom inevitably fell out as a consequence of undertaking such an intense task, I ended up just spending the week doing nothing – and yes, I did make the psychologist appointment. But not because I was successfully looking after myself. I did it because I realised that I wasn’t looking after myself, just distracting myself, and didn’t even have my intended goal to show for it by that Friday, so that Friday was when I made the appointment. You could argue that my plan for self-care was sorely in need of some structure – but I think my problem in general, when it comes to how I not only spend my time but how I think of spending my time, is that it’s too structured of an approach. Never mind that I work best with broad organisation systems, like Weekly Words, as opposed to the kinds of rigid time-management I kept trying to impose on myself throughout university and then … well, now … but even that isn’t easy for me to keep up. But I keep telling myself that it’s necessary, and when I ask myself why, the answer is a really vague “it’ll be good for you”.

Well, you know what, it hasn’t been so far. Weekly Words is the one that’s worked; meeting my friend to work on our co-writing project and then playing D&D on Sundays has worked. Youthline worked last year, and that was tough sometimes, even just being once a week (and eventually once a fortnight). Having implied structure works for me, too, like having a new library book to read – gotta put time aside to read it “at some point”, and you know what, I fucking do that. I read my library books. I goddamn devour them. Unless they’re unbearable, and then I don’t bother myself with them.

And thinking about my life right now, the way that I’m sick of writing while also pining for the good old days when writing came so naturally and I was excited to do it, the way I “don’t have anything to do” except for writing, the way I keep trying to convince myself, on the one hand, that a rigid structured plan is what’s going to save me from getting the mental illness that I already fucking have, and on the other, the way that taking an entire week off the one thing that I do try to commit to doing with myself for “self care” is definitely a plan that will work and not fail for miserably predictable reasons …

And I think all of this planning shit, this fretting over being good at time management, this justification that I use for it being that it’s “good for me” in some nebulous way, is what’s really fucking me up.

If this is the way that I try to look after myself, then I need to look after myself less.

Which, of course, is another way of saying that I need to actually look after myself, because this has never worked and has perpetually never worked for as long as I’ve tried to force it to be the thing that I need to work for me or I’ll never get better.

And that means that, actually, I do need to do some planning and time-management – but only for things that actually need it. The rest of the time, I need to start trusting myself to actually be all right if left to my own devices. The state of my life right now is such that I simply don’t have much need for a schedule of any kind, and yet I’ve been trying to live it as though that need is dire and pressing and never-ending, because I dunno it’s good preparation for when I eventually get a job like a normal person.

Because jobs in the modern age are totally predictable and are based on good time-management as opposed to living in a constant state of uncertainty as to whether or not you’ll actually get any work this week, let alone when this week, being unable to plan around it at all and probably having even more stress and anxiety than I am currently seeking professional help for the dealing of with of, I’m an English major go fuck yourself.

Basically what I’m saying is that, going forward, Weekly Words might be a bit less Weekly. Now, to be real, I do actually think that it’s a good discipline for me to maintain, and being able to commit to a writing project is a good thing, and if I am ever going to end up with a writing career then consistency is going to be a big part of what gets me there. But, at the same time – enough is enough, and it’s way past that now. I can’t just write. I can’t organise my whole life around writing. I do think that I have to organise my writing, but the way I do it needs to change; and that includes how highly I prioritise it.

Which leads me to my experiment for this month: figuring out how to best work writing into my life, because what I’ve been doing up until now has been unreliable at best. Weekly Words helped last year, but that was last year. This year I need something different if I’m going to get my writing done; this year’s end-goal of having a manuscript ready to submit to publishers … well, that’s included in what I’m experimenting with this month. I am going to start off by *gasp* planning out a novel and then *even more gasp* seeing how I go with actually writing it …

And I will also do Other Stuff, and this is the important part. My plan for the novel? That’s my plan for the novel. It’s not my plan for my entire goddamn month, as it would have been in Weekly Words past. The rest of this month, the rest of my time – I know too much freedom disrupts my shit something fierce, just as too much structure does, so I’m going to be focusing on taking initiative this month. Seizing the moment and, sometimes (but not all the time), pressing the issue if no opportunities present themselves organically. To just follow through with something I’m interested in, even if I’m only mildly interested in it.

And I’m thinking, with all of this, that Weekly Words might cease to be a self-contained series of blog posts and might instead become a section of my blog posts. I’m not saying this is going to happen; I’m saying that I’m open to something like that.

This is a writing blog, but I think when you decide that you’re going to live your life in such a way that you have things to blog about, you need to fucking stop.

I have lots of fancies and hypothetical “that would be so cool” scenarios regarding my writing, and they are not goals or plans. This month is going to be starting the process of finding a method of goal-setting that actually works for me – and I’m starting with motive. What good is a goal if I have no reason to reach it? I need to get real about why I write, what I write for, because lately it’s not myself, and the only thing I can think of besides that is, like, a publishing deal. And I ain’t got none of those.

Let’s see how it goes.

Weekly Words 27/05-02/06/2019

27/05/2019

Writing: 1274

Mark and Jessie is getting WROTE.

Well, little moments that I have in my imagination are getting written at least, and I think that’s how I’ll strive to continue. After all, the entire inspiration for the story – and most stories I have ideas for – came from moments or events that I thought up after the initial broad premise. I realised last night – not for the first time, but as usual I keep forgetting – that a big issue for me when it comes to follow-through is that I have a tendency to think beyond the story, start getting hung-up on things like backstory and world-building as separate aspects of the project that “need” development in isolation from the “real” project – or that the “real” project won’t work unless these things exist in some robust form in their own right first.

Which pisses me off, because that’s not how I think stories work, and this therefore makes me a filthy hypocrite. I think stories work for readers when they seem like an elaborate puzzle being put together before your eyes; but for writers, stories work when there are no separate pieces, and there’s just the story. I don’t need to know how the economy of my fantasy world works unless that’s part of the story, and even then, that’s not the fantasy economy; that’s the story. I remember that I used to have a really holistic approach to how I thought about my own stories; all that mattered was what happened, rather than trying to account for everything that could happen, hypothetically, if this fictional reality happened to also be a sandbox MMO. It’s a really fucking bad habit, and I need to shake it for the sake of being able to write the way that I want to.

This is worrying me with regards to the writing I did today, too, because if I’m being honest that’s exactly the kind of writing it was: engaging in the hypothetic, conceptual exercise of “what if X were to happen/be shown”, as opposed to just telling the goddamn story. It’s what my various writing endeavours with the Wolf Gang reboot and the few bursts of effort I’ve put into my Suicide Squad response-turned-novel-project, and why they ultimately didn’t go anywhere.

I either have a story, or I don’t. And I can write stuff if I don’t have a story – but, for what should be much more obvious reasons to me, that stuff won’t be the story.

And I’m just missing out on so much fun, too, approaching my projects in this big-picture-for-the-sake-of-appeasing-hypothetical-overly-critical-readers way: it’s fucking fun to have a narrow focus, to think of exactly what’s going to happen with no regard to any consequences in terms of “well, if that happened, then that means that X also has to happen, otherwise it’s not realistic”, why am I paranoid about strawperson critics who haven’t read my unwritten books, why is this affecting my zero-draft-writing process, why is my brain so fucking inefficient, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

But, hey, knowing is half the battle. And writing got done, whatever its nature or the motive behind it. After two weeks of nothing, it’s a good enough start.

29/05/2019

Revision

After almost 3 weeks of no progress on the Wolf Gang revision, I finally dove back into it and, well, it’s not a good book – but to be fair it was absolutely never meant to be anything even close to a good book, so I can’t complain, really. I still do, to myself, but I know it’s kind of silly.

The last chapter I made notes on was frustrating because there were too many potentially good ideas for the core drama of the story, and in this chapter it was the same sort of thing, but this time with the Lowest Point – and subsequent Redemption – of the main character in his character-arc. I think I’ve finally figured out what it needs to be, though, so that’s … good?

The bigger issue with this project – how to keep the pulpy fun feel while not also compromising my morals as a human being – still has no solution, so in a way it’s all kind of moot. I still don’t know if I’ll do anything with this manuscript even after I go through the trouble of typing up these revision notes. But, since the manuscript is the result of a writing exercise taken too far, maybe I should look at this as a revision exercise, a test-drive on how to revise a novel. I don’t think I’m doing a great job of it, to be honest; it’s mostly just … commentary. Analysis, ideas, brainstorms … shit that I’m used to doing. Not actual revision notes.

I mean, I guess it doesn’t really matter anyway, considering that this is my no-obligations project that I just work on for my own satisfaction.

Also because Acrobat Reader wasn’t letting me save I had to give up on all of my notes that I made on that last chapter; oh well, I should probably have just been making them in my Word file anyway. I should really work on having a cleaner writing process.

Also I have now got that psychologist appointment this Saturday and have to do a bunch of stuff to prepare for it that has nothing to do with the session or what I want to talk about and everything to do with getting people to fill out an application form so that I might actually be able to afford to see the psychologist after this initial session, and it’s fucking annoying. I do feel a bit better about myself for doing it, though. More able and competent, or something to that effect, which I won’t complain about. It’s pretty good as silver linings go.

30/05-01/06/2019

Life Shit

So, I saw the psychologist. I am glad that I went. I had to do a bunch of last-minute running around on Friday because of stuff that I realised on Tuesday (that I didn’t have the paperwork that I thought I did), and then on Thursday evening realised that I hadn’t sorted it out in time for the already last-minute running around on Friday and had to run around even more on Friday to compensate … but it got done.

Nothing else got done, but nothing else needed to get done.

02/06/2019

Reading/Revision

Making revision notes on the co-writing project, I think I definitely have an issue keeping my focus on making revision notes as opposed to brainstorming in the margins. On the other hand, this isn’t an urgent task or anything, and I do think I’m managing to make enough salient points amidst all the random tangents I go on to aid in the process of making revision notes that are actually useable.

Also I read the first Dragonlance book, and …

I had forgotten.

Because I’ve read Dragonlance novels before. I think I randomly read the third book not knowing where it fit into the overall story, and then I also read the second trilogy where the focus is on Raistlin and Caramon. And the writing is so … strange. It’s the tone; it never changes, whether the story is detailing the totally-not-a-hobbit Tasslehoff’s latest happy-go-lucky shenanigans, expositing on a one-scene character’s brief yet detailed backstory, or delving into Tanis the half-elf ranger’s existential angst over being a child of rape and a half-elf and being in love with two women (one’s human, one’s elvish, it’s really subtle). Perspective changes mid-paragraph with not so much as a line-break to indicate the switch; and to be fair, it’s very readable, and not at all confusing. It’s not bad writing, and it’s not the kind of dry, dense, prattling prose that I’m accustomed to with a lot of fantasy. It’s just weird.

And also, now that I’ve been playing D&D once a week for over a year, it’s a little too easy to imagine the story as the novelisation of a campaign being run by a DM who really likes The Lord of the Rings and treats it as the manifesto for how one is required to tell a High Fantasy story, right down to having the heroes enter the Elvish City to transition between the second and third acts, and played by a bunch of enthusiastic role-players who are committed to their characters but aren’t particularly imaginative with them. And also where no hilarious die-rolls throw a spanner in the works.

So, y’know, nothing that resembles the actual experience of playing D&D in any way.

Although, having said that, there is a point in the story where a character says the actual line: “We have a cleric now, and that will come in handy”, which is a pretty fucking D&D thing to say. Yes, it definitely broke my suspension of disbelief, and I’m actually glad that Dragonlance isn’t a self-referential half-parody of fantasy tropes that constantly lampshades itself in terms of being basically a D&D campaign (and given the commercial history of the Dragonlance franchise and its ties to Wizards of the Coast, and the fact that the original concept was inspired, in part, by the authors getting together with some people and playing D&D, I’d say that’s a pretty apt analysis), but this moment was still extremely welcome in an otherwise very predictable example of LoTR knockoff high fantasy.

Yet somehow it’s not boring, either. It clips along at a nice pace, and after spending the past 2 years reading pretty much nothing but Urban Fantasy I have embraced the fact that I really do care about presentation, and a good tight pace is part of that. The writing, while very strange, is still solid and clean (though someone was definitely overusing their thesaurus in places). The characters … a lot of their backstory and motivation is told instead of shown, and that is a shame, but at the same time they’re so generic that it’s almost refreshing that there’s no pretense of their life stories being interesting enough to warrant actual character interactions to bring out the information. And the fact that it’s such a large party of generic but instantly-recognisable character types … it works.

And yes, this was written in 1984 and fantasy has evolved since then and this sort of writing is very old-fashioned – but, honestly, it lends the story a certain charm. And I’ll definitely read more. I feel rather validated for making the choice to return to Dragonlance in an effort to see if there was anything in high fantasy for me – I think there is. And I think the fact that Dragonlance is so generic in so many ways is actually more helpful in that sense than it would be were it more original.

So much so, in fact, that I kind of feel like writing some high fantasy myself.

Weekly Total

Writing: 3634

It’s been a pretty eventful week for me, almost traumatically so. But I’ve come out of it feeling uncomfortable yet encouraged. I have a lot of things to consider, and some long-put-off confrontations to embark upon.

One of which has to do with writing. I do feel like writing me some high fantasy; in general, when I read books in a genre that I like, I want to write a book in that genre. I’m pretty basic like that, and I think that’s fine. But after seeing the psychologist on Saturday, I came away from it feeling extremely removed from my writing habit, the pressure I tend to put on myself to always be writing or thinking about writing or just concerning myself with writing in general. It felt amazingly unimportant, to the point where I almost felt silly for ever thinking it mattered at all.

I think that’s a sign that I need to have a think about the way that I write.

Which I know is something I’ve needed to do for a long time. I definitely put way too much pressure on myself when it comes to what I’m accomplishing with my writing efforts, and ultimately it only matters at all to me – and sometimes it just doesn’t matter at all. Those are the times where I’m most likely to make myself upset, run guilt-trips, back myself into a moral corner where if I don’t strive to do my writing I’ll have to live with being a bad person until I can overcome this severe character flaw. So the fact that a single one-hour session with a psychologist I’ve never met before could take me to a place of such radical apathy towards my writing suggests that, yeah, I could do with not just a break, but a total re-evaluation.

Having said that – I do still want to work on Mark and Jessie and Wolf Gang. I do still want to write. But as I figured out a few years ago, echoing what happened this Saturday, writing can’t be all there is to my sense of self and self-worth. Because, if I’m being honest, it never has been. The thought that it should be has been pretty all-consuming, but that’s just unhealthy habits and low self-esteem at work. Doesn’t make it any easier to deal with to know what it is, but it does make me want to actively seek ways of undermining that mental process, and I think the best way to break this bad habit, as always, is to replace it with a better one.

Like …

Uh …

… hey it’s Mark and Jessie Monday tomorrow that’s sort of high fantasy time to scratch this itch man I sure do love writing and doing absolutely nothing else with my life ever I mean that has to be why I do it right it can’t be because I’m afraid to try anything else in case I get it wrong and you aren’t allowed to get things wrong only bad people get things wrong and you shouldn’t be a bad person that’s disruptive to society what kind of a monster are you don’t you have any initiative what about the children in Africa you selfish fuck why do you even bother waking up in the morning we could use all that oxygen to save burn victims …

Honestly, a werewolf PhD isn’t sounding too bad right now.

Weekly Words 20-26/05/2019

20-24/05/2019

I Did It Sort Of

Yes, it did indeed take me until today, Friday, to get in touch with one of the psychologists recommended to me by the first psychologist I got in touch with who wasn’t able to see me because they didn’t have any free appointments – but hey, at least I fucking did it, right?

Now to wait and see. I like to think I’m more prepared for a range of potential responses that normal human minds would be able to process and deal with, such as this psychologist also being too busy to see me, perhaps having to wait a bit longer for a response than I might hope – I think I’d even be able to handle it if, somehow, the email that I sent through the psychologist website I used to specifically get in touch with this particular psychologist gets sent to the wrong person and I have to start all over again. I’m feeling that robust.

I really need to see a psychologist.

And hey, I’m heading in that direction. I keep forgetting that emails exist; I keep thinking that getting in touch with a psychologist means having to use the phone, whether it’s because my panic response to an anxiety-inducing hypothetical situation is to frame it in as confrontational and anxiety-inducing terms as my mind possibly can, or because I have some sort of self-sabotaging compulsion to “prove myself” by doing things in the most difficult way possible so that it’s less likely that I’ll actually do it. But, regardless, the email has been sent, and …

I’ve done absolutely fucking nothing this week.

Well, some reading. I’m wrapping up my Anita Blake read, and after trying to write out my thoughts on the series up to this point (I’m almost done with book 9, the last “good” book according to many fans of the series) I realised that, actually, the problematic elements in the series are more than I want to stomach. I can stomach them, I just don’t want to anymore. I’ve also realised, much to my shame, that if this was a series written by a man, I would have given up after the first book for these particular problematic elements. Bloody Bones was more gritty than edgy, and I appreciated that – but from that point on, everything “dark” that has happened has fallen much more on the “edgy” side of things, and I am not about that. Also if I have to read about how a dark-skinned person looks “ethnic” one more fucking time …

Well, I don’t, and won’t, after this book, at least not in any series written by this particular author. But perhaps because of this, and perhaps because of taking this week off to chill and maybe doing more personal reflection than I’d thought, I’ve decided to try branching out in my reading again …

By looking into Dragonlance.

Full disclosure: I have in fact read the Dragonlance: Legends trilogy, way back in the day, and … well, I read the whole trilogy. This was back when I actually sought out high fantasy to read; that and it was all that my at-the-time-best-friend was reading, he had the books at his place, so I read them when he was done with them. I read not 1 but 2 full David Eddings sagas that way, too.

The reason I’m going back is not because I feel like high fantasy (especially high fantasy from 30 years ago) is somehow more … progressive, I guess, than the urban fantasy that gives me moral headaches every time I commit myself to reading it. It’s just because, goddammit, the potential of high fantasy is so great, and maybe there’s something in there that’ll inspire me to want to put things right, take the good and leave the bad … maybe it’ll actually make me want to write something.

Also because I could just use a change of pace. Sadly, my library doesn’t have the third book of the original Dragonlance trilogy, so I’ve just requested Autumn Twilight to start with. If that goes well … well, I’ll see if it goes well. I’m also subtly trying to get myself in the mood to finally pick up The Name of the Wind, which I have borrowed from the library twice and read neither time. Everyone says it’s really good, and it seems like it might even be good in a way that I’d agree with. But D&D seems like a natural gateway high fantasy book for me to ease myself back into the genre with, given my love of playing the game over the past year or so. Also my potential D&D-inspired book series that I still don’t feel up to writing; perhaps Dragonlance will shine a light on that problem for me and help in finding a solution.

Also I just got a reply to my email and it looks like I might have an appointment I am going to scream internally for a moment please hold …

26/05/2019

Revision

More work on the co-writing project … and this upcoming week I need to get back into gear.

At the time of writing I am still awaiting confirmation that my psychologist appointment is a-go; at the time of writing I am pretty confident that it will be, and maybe if I’d emailed on Thursday instead of Friday I might not have set myself up to wait for a whole 2 extra days before getting confirmation. But oh well, live and learn.

Weekly Total

Writing: 1561

This week has been boring as shit, by the way. The plan was to watch a bunch of Netflix and play some games and just kind of do things that help me to chill out; I did some reading, which is better than either of those things in terms of just chilling out, and I’m glad that I did. I’m also continuing with my Witcher 3 NG+ playthrough, in which I make all (or many) of the decisions I didn’t make in my first playthrough. I think that means I’m evil in this NG+, but hey, that’s what games are for.

But taking this week off has given me some distance from the weekly grind that I’ve set up for myself over the past year-and-a-quarter, and I achieved my one goal: to get in touch with a psychologist. So that’s a success for me. Not just in terms of making the appointment, but in terms of what I’m doing going forward. Mark and Jessie is now a writing project more so than a revision project; Wolf Gang is now my revision-plan focus and, armed with my Anita Blake reading experience, I feel that if I put the brainpower in I can crack the code of writing pulp without it also being gross; my totally-not-a-Suicide-Squad-fixfic project remains impenetrable but I did make some headway a couple of weeks ago …

You know, it’s hard not having my Metamorphoses of the Werewolf to look forward to reading. I almost feel like just going back and reading it again. Sort of like how after playing Hollow Knight I immediately wanted to play it again just to re-experience the initial wonder and fascination and enthusiasm that I had for it. Also, werewolf lore is really interesting and I want more of it. I do have another werewolf book to read, and I guess I should be disciplined and just read that this Thursday, but man I want Metamorphoses back. I just want to not be finished reading it yet.

But maybe this is a sign that I need to be doing more, where I can, to push out of my comfort zone. I think this week has been proof that my comfort zone is pretty fucking dull – or that my actual comfort zone is a bit less comfortable than this week has been. I’m starting to see how a lot of my difficulties with writing, especially taking on new projects, comes from just wanting something familiar and safe and predictable to fall back on, and a really irrational fear of losing it if I stray too far from it. I wonder if that’s what my perfectionism is: a mask for my anxiety to operate under the cover of, and so when I’m reluctant to take on a new writing project (or a new anything) because I’m afraid I’ll fuck it up, it’s really just wanting an excuse to not extend beyond what I’m comfortable with.

What do I even need a psychologist for?

This next week, I am going to spend some time reflecting. I think I did this last year as well, just spent a weekend taking stock of my projects and getting really honest about what was and wasn’t working. I think I need that for my current projects. I need a retrospective on my entire writing career and habits; I need to game the weird, maladaptive systems that I operate on, figure out where things go wrong and brainstorm some solutions.

And do some writing, because yeah, it’s been too long. Just stuff. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s something I feel like writing. I used to do that, and it worked out, like 14 years ago. I pursued writing and the ideas that I had because they interested me, when they interested me. And it worked.

Maybe I need a little less retrospection, on second thought.

But I do need to write.

Weekly Words 13-19/05/2019

13-14/05/2019

Revision

So seeing as I’ve basically given up on Tallulah again, Tuesdays are free, and I used this Tuesday – the day on which I write this section of this post – to mostly continue my self-care regimen from yesterday, but also to have a quick look at the Mark and Jessie notes, and to continue trying to come up with a revision/reboot plan.

It’s not going well.

Or at least the planning isn’t going well. But from struggling with it I’ve come to recognise that there is some base-level stuff in this project that I need to figure out before I can actually plan anything – and I’m starting to think that maybe a plan isn’t actually what I need. I’ve been saying that a full reboot is what’s needed to make this project work – so, maybe that’s how I should approach it, in my typical fashion: just start writing and see what I end up with. I have this bunch of ideas that inspire me and all the problems that I’ve had with the current manuscript, and maybe that’s enough to go on to start with. I can hold off on planning until I’ve got something to work with worth making a plan for.

This is pretty radical for me, and I’m eager to try it out – and, since this is now a writing project instead of a revision project, no need to wait until next Monday. I mean I probably will anyway because this week is one of those rare weeks where I have a social life, but I also have that fantasy of being super-efficient with my time and shit, so I can try and figure it out.

And with my Wolf Gang readthrough nearing the final stages, and my decision of whether to make it a reboot, revision, or just a bit of fun that doesn’t need to be revisited – I’m feeling a bit excited right now. Not to count any chickens before they hatch, but yeah, I’m a little hype at the minute.

15-19/05/2019

Nothing At All

Feels right for this week.

Did a couple of social things this week (took best friend out for early BDay dinner on Wednesday, then went to concert with two other dear friends on Thursday), which were very rewarding and I’m glad that I did them and I just had no energy or desire to do anything else afterwards, so I didn’t.

Next week, I’m preparing for a ton of self-care cushioning because I am going to make that goddamn psychologist appointment goddammit, and because doing that last time caused me to lose 2 days to just recovering from the shock of putting myself through that scenario, I have decided that this next week just needs to be a big fluffy fucking pillow for me. If I get some writing-related shit done then that’s fantastic, but it’ll be a cherry on top kind of thing. I’ll just have to let the project-writing excitement from Monday go for now, because in the short-term this is much more important for me to do. And if the excitement doesn’t come back … I’ll live.

Mark and Jessie is a new project to me; basically I wrote an entire 622-page manuscript that taught me the valuable lessons of 1) I am capable of writing a 622-page manuscript, and 2) sometimes you can spend a lot of time and energy doing a ton of work that doesn’t amount to as much as you want it to in the end – but still get something out of it. I feel like I know what I need to do in order to continue with this story premise that I’ve loved for so long: I need to start over. The manuscript can’t help me, really, except for being a long list of lessons of mistakes to try not to repeat the next time around. That’s definitely something.

Revision

And okay I did a little bit of revision. The co-writing project has been easier to make revision notes on ever since getting past the episode 1 roadblock, and I’m hoping to wrap up episode 4 next Sunday. Or maybe even over this week, since I’m suspending my obligation to work on my own writing projects.

Weekly Total

Writing: 894

I have also decided that I do actually want to write my The Wereling review/s, and also finish my Steel review. Hell, maybe finish a few much older book reviews that I started years ago and never got around to completing …

Or experiment with something other than a review or a rant. Some other format that lets me reflect on my reading experience but doesn’t come with so many pitfalls that I so easily and frequently stumble into. I’ve said in the past that I want to step away from being a snarky dick when I write about the books I read, while at the same time still wanting to be honest, and much of the time snark is how my honesty comes out. Maybe that’s the issue to focus on; maybe it’s just that I need to examine the reasons for why I’m such an asshole when I get into Review Mode, why it’s enjoyable at the time and then regrettable later on. If nothing else it’s something I can ruminate over while forcing myself to contact mental health professionals so that I can get help rehabilitating my brain.

Wish me luck!

Weekly Words 06-12/05/2019

Revision

So I opened up the revision note document for Mark and Jessie. It’s 20240 words long.

Y’know, I feel when there’s half of a master’s thesis worth of notes made on a zero draft manuscript, it’s maybe a sign that there are issues with said manuscript.

I am not reading this shit.

Yes I am because THIS IS WHAT I GAVE MYSELF TO WORK WITH BECAUSE I AM A FUCKING MORON but them’s the brakes let’s hustle.

Ugh these revision notes need their own set of revision notes …

***

Okay, that’s quite enough masochism for today.

On the upside: I do actually have the beginnings of a plan now, and it’s even keeping some stuff – not necessarily writing, but stuff nonetheless – from the manuscript. Go me.

No seriously, fucking go me. I deserve twelve concurrent lifetime stipends for making any sense of this useless jumble of notes on this useless jumble of a manuscript. I regretted not moving on to the revision/reboot plan last Monday, but now that I’ve started I think I actually needed the break to get a clear perspective on what it is that I’m actually working with.

Thus, this week is off to a decent start writing-wise. Now for the rest of the week.

07/05/2019

Writing: 533

Hey, more writing.

This Wolf Gang prequel novella – I still like the idea, I still want to tell the story, but it’s not remotely tropey enough for my liking. Which in turn is making me think that I might be right after all in being worried about Wolf Gang losing its, dare I say it, identity if I follow through with my current revision notes as a revision plan. I think I’ve thought of some neat stuff, but I also think that I need to try and keep it feeling pulpy and trashy to some extent, because that’s kind of all that it has going for it in my mind – unless it’s a full reboot.

To that end, now that I’ve gotten started on making a revision/reboot plan for Mark and Jessie, I also think I’m getting a clearer sense of judgement as to which option is better for a given project. And to be honest, I don’t think Wolf Gang is due for a reboot. But I do think I’m a little more interested in telling a new werewolf story, one that’s not just a writing exercise. One where I put in, like, effort and shit.

Yes, last week any and all thoughts of putting effort into a writing project filled me with dread and despair and utter apathy to boot, but the more I think about what kinds of stories I want to spend my time telling, I don’t think I have a lot of room for stories like Wolf Gang – at least not where werewolves are concerned. I actually really like werewolves, and the more I learn about the stories and legends the more awesome I think they are. Trying to express my love of lycanthropes by focusing all of it into a trashy-but-fun YA urban fantasy novel series just feels like a wasted opportunities – actually, more like several wasted opportunities.

At the same time, though – fuck it, I do love pulp. I want to get good at writing it well; I want to push the limits of that type of storytelling and what it can be used to accomplish. And since I’ve already got a project in that vein with Wolf Gang, it seems silly to write it off entirely as a glorified writing exercise just because my first revision instinct is to try and turn it into a “respectable” story. I mean, pulp doesn’t have to be “respectable” to avoid the pitfalls of all the old problematic cliches and narrative devices, does it? Surely I, with my Ubermenschian mindbrain, can devise a solution to this seeming mutual exclusivity.

And in the meantime, perhaps I can use this prequel novella as a testing-ground for how to do exactly that. Because at the moment, this prequel is … well, it starts as sort of pulpy, but then devolves into dry-as-sandpaper … stuff. Stuff’s happening, the plot is progressing, theoretically at least, but it’s just so dull. I had the same issue with Wolf Gang initially; that’s why I decided to skip the boring stuff I knew I would have to eventually write and got started on the second half almost immediately – though it did then take me another year to write the final 4 chapters. 2 of which were already using bits and pieces I’d written and not found a place to put at the time.

I would ideally like to use the Suicide Squad-inspired project for this, but being real I haven’t had a great track record with getting it written, and going hack-mode on it hasn’t produced results that I liked. I ran into a wall and couldn’t get over it; now over a year later I’m still stumped, and besides a few quick writing sessions to try and get the ball rolling again it’s just ground to a halt.

Maybe I need to take more of my own advice than I’ve been doing so far; maybe I need to skip ahead in the story. I mean, that’s actually the part of the story that I feel the most confident about …

God, are all of my problems this stupidly easy to fix? I hope not. I hope I have legitimate reasons for not being able to figure basic shit out.

08/05/2019

Revision

Okay. My ambition, starting at 3:19pm today, is to complete my revision notes for Wolf Gang by the end of the day. I have 160 pages left to read and make notes on; I finished about that much across 2 days with Mark and Jessie, and could have done it in 1 if I’d really put my mind to it …

The difference, though, is that I was skim-reading with Mark and Jessie, and Wolf Gang is very simply a better-written manuscript that I won’t need to skim-read just to remain sane. Although, having said that, it might be good enough that I don’t need to make a ton of notes, either.

Okay. Let’s revise that ambition in light of this dawning realisation: my ambition, starting at 3:22pm today, is to see where I get to by 4:30pm and take it from there. I’d also like to do some writing today, but my revision projects are my main focus right now, so if I don’t have enough time to write without cutting into my revision momentum then I will forgo writing today.

All righty, parameters set – let’s revise this thing.

***

So, taking a break now at 4:27pm because I’ve finished reading and making notes on a chapter.

I’m lost.

This chapter is where the core tension of the story comes to light, which is good – except for the fact that there are, like, 5 different ways I could take the story in, and all of them work. Just not together. In addition, it also tells a bunch of interesting story elements that are never shown or even hinted at (because the previous 4 chapter were written about a year after this one), and they’re distracting me, like an enticing field of wildflowers waiting just off the beaten path through the forest. So, I’ve got a lot of thinking to do between this and the previous chapter in terms of what direction to take this project going forward, and a lot of potential darlings to smother in their sleep – or build a reboot around.

The good news, though, is that I’m pretty sure the remaining 4 chapters are incredibly straightforward and actually probably don’t need to be changed so much as tidied up. I’ll still read them because there’s no need for me to assume when I can just read them, and I can probably read them really fast, too.

I might just be able to fit in my writing today after all.

Writing: 1711

Yusss.

I didn’t bother skipping to later chapters, either; this glorified Suicide Squad fix-fic is continuing from where it left off, and I’m becoming excited at the prospect of completing another zero draft this year, the last one being Wolf Gang at the start of 2017. It took waaay too long to write Wolf Gang though, and the main reason for that was that I left the least-fun stuff to write until last. This time I’m going to try and power through it – for now anyway – and let the Hack guide me.

Which is the general gameplan with the Wolf Gang revision notes, too – I was torn between “pulp” and “good” yesterday, but reading that chapter today made me realise that if I want a “good” werewolf novel, it’s not this one, no matter how many scenes I shift around or pieces of dialogue I de-problematise. Which is not to say that I don’t want to write a “good” werewolf book – at some stage. Maybe even this year, concurrently with Not Another Suicide Squad and Mark and Jessie‘s reboot/revision pass, but definitely not a priority for me right now.

Well, I think I’ve managed to sustain the momentum that I gained last week pretty well so far; I’m feeling good right now. And tomorrow is Thursday, which means I get to read scholarly writing on werewolves, which has been one of the highlights of my week ever since I started. Last week though the chapter I read – for most of that day – was super long, so I think I went from about 40% to 70% in that one session, which means I’m almost done. Which is sad. But, I did buy more than one werewolf book last Christmas, and I’m interested to find more after reading through this one. Regardless of whether or not a PhD comes about as a result of all of this time invested into researching werewolves, I think I’ve found myself a new hobby.

09/05/2019

Reading

79%, as it turned out.

And now I’m done and I feel a little bit sad. That was a fun book. I will definitely return to it.

Until then, I have other werewolf books to look at – 2 others, to be exact, one of which contains 2 books, one of those 2 books being the same as the other book I have on werewolves because I should never be allowed to buy anything online ever. Maybe just not on the Kindle story; they looked like different books, but are in fact not. One has nicer formatting than the other; sadly it is the book that only contains one book, so …

Bottom line: I have more werewolf shit to read, and I’m interested in finding more to add to my collection.

Speaking of having werewolf shit to read, I am continuing with my Anita Blake read, and this book (The Killing Dance) is, so far, very much about the werewolf side of things. A lot of what differentiates one brand of urban fantasy werewolf/shifter from another boils down to what, exactly, they can transform into, and under what conditions – but in effect, the difference tends to boil down to character names. The Anita Blake shifters, however, have a couple of characteristics that set them apart from (what I can remember about) their UF kin. For one, alphas can control their shape-shifting so perfectly that they can alter their body more subtly. Not sure if there’s going to be an instance of them using this to, say, impersonate some political figure or something, but it’s neat nonetheless. Also it’s an idea that my friend and I came up with for our co-writing project long before I got around to reading Anita Blake so that’s kind of funny and I hope not a copyright issue.

For another, bloodlust and plain old lust seem to be one and the same for shifters. At the very least, the sight of violence turns them on, and when they’re in the mood they also become more violent.

Given the extent to which urban fantasy explores the intersection of sexuality, violence, and power, this is a pretty fitting characterisation for UF shifters. It also means that, unlike a lot of modern depictions of “good” werewolves, they’re not just humans but stronger and furrier: these are monsters, and I appreciate that a lot. Sure, our werewolf love-interest Richard hasn’t really done anything monstrous to date (that I can recall), and has huge, infuriating compunctions about taking a life, any life, including those of people (well, actually, other shifters) who repeatedly and unrepentantly abuse, torture, and murder the people around them, including people that Richard has sworn to protect. I say “infuriating” in the context of this being fiction, of course; the fact that a person isn’t willing to take a life shouldn’t be a sign that they’re weak – but in fiction, it often comes off as sanctimonious and selfish, especially when expressed by people who supposedly want to protect the innocent from those who would do them harm.

However, Richard does eventually explain why he’s so hesitant to take lives: it’s because he’s a werewolf, and he’s afraid that if he starts he won’t be able to stop, because he’ll like it too much. Which, I mean, you could say that of certain humans as well, but given the unique psychology and biochemistry that lycanthropes in the Blakeverse possess, it seems more like a physiological concern than a moral one – or at least as well as a moral one. And more to the point, it means that the Blakeverse werewolves are, like, monsters. This isn’t Teen Wolf, where any threat werewolves pose to humanity by virtue of being werewolves is hand-waved away by season 2. Yes, that is my favourite TV show of all time, but I never said it was perfect. Losing the monstrous aspect of what it means to be a werewolf, to me, loses a core part of the appeal of werewolves: engaging with that monstrosity – which Anita Blake does, and I am very appreciative.

However, I am a little leery, let’s say, of the fact that this is how the story offers Richard a valid reason to not want to kill people: it being immoral isn’t enough of a justification, especially since the people Richard has made enemies of are serial killers, rapists, and abusers of all shades (and are also shifters), and much is made of the fact that he has sworn to protect the people they’re victimising, yet is unwilling to do the one thing that would guarantee their safety. He’s also challenged the current alpha and defeated him, but not killed him, which according to werewolf law means he isn’t now the new alpha, leaving the pack in chaos – and antagonising the alpha and his (of course) more dangerous and sadistic mate, putting Richard’s allies in danger. He puts me in mind of a protest voter back in 2016: ideals over reality, and fuck the consequences. As far as the events of the story go, I’m not on Richard’s side here.

But that’s a problem in the sense that the story frames Richard’s reluctance to kill a bit like Superman’s in Man of Steel, like he should want to kill because don’t you know genre tropes dude? The tension is less what’s going on in the story and more what’s going on, and has been going on, in the entirety of the Western literary canon, every time the good guy refuses to take the life of the bad guy and makes some self-righteous speech about “sinking to your level” or “there’s a better way” or “revenge isn’t justice”, while the audience knows that the bad guy is going to come back, kill more people, be caught and not dealt with in any kind of permanent way, rinse and repeat until it’s no longer profitable. It’s a very meta problem, and it’s a bit transparent – and a bit concerning that it’s so pro-killing-people. To be fair, though, Anita takes this opportunity to reflect on the fact that she feels literally nothing when she kills people, and I’m interested to see if/how this develops over time.

I’ll say this: everything I’m reading at the moment is definitely holding my attention. And it is nice to be reading some dark shit for a change. It’s been a while.

Weekly Total

Writing: 2244

A quiet week, all told, but I think maybe I needed it.

I am writing this on the 13th, which I will outline in the next post, but it’s been a day off. I’m planning to compensate by migrating my schedule for this week forward by one day, starting tomorrow – I think today was basically an extended weekend for me. I had a pretty shit night mental health-wise on Saturday, and I don’t think I recovered as well as I thought I had. Generally I just wake up the next morning/afternoon and actually feel better for having ridden out the dark wave, but this time not so much.

And no, I still haven’t followed up with the whole psychologist appointment thing that I said I would definitely do this week, and yes, it is definitely continuing to take a toll on me the longer I leave it. The joys of looking for help dealing with mental illness while living with mental illness are pretty fucking indescribable, and if I don’t want to feel any worse than I already do, they’ll stay that way for the time being.

Ugh. Whatever. The week is over, and overall I am happy with what I accomplished. This week started on a bit of a low-energy note, but I do think that I needed it. And now I need to take advantage of it.

Also, the little bits of writing that I did this and last week remind me that, actually, I do miss writing regularly, as much as focusing on reading and revision-notes has been good for my mindset. Time to get back into the old habit, I think.

Weekly Words 29/04-05/05/2019

29-30/04/2019

Life Is Hard

So, got a reply text from the psychologist. She’s got a full slate and can’t see me; I imagine this is probably a relatively common occurrence for psychologists and that’s fine. She recommended a couple of other psychologists I could try instead and that’s my next step.

Well, no, my next step is to regain my balance after being so emotionally thrown by this incredibly easy-to-prepare-for scenario that I in no way shape or form prepared for, and both yesterday and today have been spent waiting for myself to un-lurch, basically.

Be prepared. A lesson that I learnt the hard way last year, and a great Disney villain song to boot. I did consider possible outcomes yesterday, but I also knew that if I spent too much time doing that then I’d lose whatever spark of energy I had that allowed me to actually make the phone call in the first place, so while I know I can plan better in future, I think I did the right thing going in less than fully prepared for the outcome. In other words: I think I learnt a thing.

As for writing things: not so much, not even revision notes. I haven’t even started on the revision/reboot plan for Mark and Jessie, and as today was Tryhard Tuesday I consider it a failed experiment because, well, I didn’t try very hard at all, on anything. I might have to narrow down what it is exactly that I’ll be trying hard to do on Tuesdays, but it’s also possible that, given that I keep coming to this exact same conclusion, I really shouldn’t be trying to write anything new right now. With the possible exception of finishing my Wolf Gang prequel novella thing, which really does need to be wrapped up.

I’m considering turning to short stories to try and fill the void going forward; there aren’t any big, “real” writing projects that I feel compelled or competent enough to try and tackle at the moment, but I do have a lot of small ideas, and short stories seem like a good way to bridge the gap between wanting to get some writing in for the sake of good habit-forming on the one hand, and not making myself commit to huge, unrealistic expectations on the other.

And I’m also considering, not for the first time, whether maybe I should go take a writing/publishing degree from … someplace. I mean, I love the fantasy of being the autonomous ubermenschly autodidact who tackles every challenge independently and without external input, but it’s been 32 years and shit hasn’t exactly panned out that way for me. It’s not even that I think I’d learn anything valuable that I couldn’t find out on my own; it’s that I feel like I won’t find out on my own unless I conscript myself into a course of some kind, intentionally place myself in an environment where that’s expected of me – otherwise I’ll just continue to wallow in existential angst for the rest of eternity. This is not how I want things to be, but it’s what I’ve spent my life learning how to do.

Well, I can either let this week continue to play out according to a fairly predictable off-the-rails procrastination marathon, or I can make a plan.

The Plan

Tomorrow is all about werewolves, specifically Wolf Gang, and I’m sticking to it. I’ve already lost 2 days to having my mind blown by embarassingly trivial things, though I suppose after 17 years of my particular neuroses I should probably adjust my parameters for identifying “embarrassing” outcomes for myself, shouldn’t I? My point is that, yes, I have some life-management shit to take care of, but I also have these good habits that I want to keep going as strongly as possible, so let’s compromise.

Friday and Saturday are my days off from my self-imposed “work” schedule, so that’s when I have free time to continue with the Psychologist Appointment Saga. Over the course of those two days I will formulate a plan of attack, consider some potential outcomes that I need to be prepared to deal with, and set some limits around doing these things so that I can also have some day-off time. Until then: business as usual. These shitty werewolf novels ain’t gonna write and revise themselves.

01/05/2019

Reading

Limits? What are those?

I started reading my Wednesdaily chapter of Metamorphoses of the Werewolf at about 3:30pm today, and have finally finished now at 9:15pm. True, that is because I was also taking frequent breaks to read random Rolling Stone articles and continue editing my main Spotify playlist, but that is because this fucking chapter is stupidly long – but interesting enough to keep me engaged for a good almost-6-hours.

Honestly, while I do want to be able to put time aside each day to do things other than my self-imposed writing-related labour, I really enjoyed just getting stuck into this chapter and spending the day on it, so it sort of counts as both work and downtime for me. Love what you do and all that; this only further serves to validate my belief that werewolves are the best.

I’m also starting to have some more interesting and comprehensive ideas about a Wolf Gang reboot, which wouldn’t just be fun pulpy trash and, for that reason, will probably never get written – but still, I’m liking these ideas. Metamorphoses is starting to get into the witch trail era of European history, and I’m starting to see some possible links between the modern depiction of werewolves as working-class vs upperclass vampires and how poor people were accused of witchcraft/being werewolves and eating people. I would of course need to do a lot more research to see if this holds up historically, but even if not, I write fiction, and poor people have gotten the short end of the stick throughout history.

Also shit today was supposed to be my Wolf Gang day; alliteration is supposed to help me remember my arbitrary schedule, dammit! Oh well. It is an arbitrary schedule. And honestly I think I needed today after how this week started out for me.

02/05/2019

Revision

Wanna pick up the pace with this revision-note-making process, so I might actually forgo my days off this week just to get around to it. And no, not as a way to put off having to deal with looking into the two psychologists I’ve had recommended to me; I will still be doing that. But this was another all-day affair, and …

Well, part of it was because this latest chapter, chapter 5, was quite tricky to make notes on. I came to the conclusion that I could 1) shift half of the scenes to another new chapter that I have decided needs to exist and then merge the remaining half with the following chapter, or 2) take certain elements of this chapter and turn them into their own chapters. I feel like option 2 is the “better” one, but besides having to write a whole bunch of new material – well, this book is over 80k words as it is, and I hear YA novels are supposed to be between 50-80k words in terms of submissions. Then again, they’re probably going to tell me to add/cut/change a whole bunch of shit if it ever gets to that point anyway, so I may as well do whatever the hell I want while I can, right?

It’s also the chapter that forced me to really start grappling with the glaring holes and inconsistencies and just plain bad writing in this glorified writing exercise … which, I mean, I have to grapple with that, too. I’m committed to treating this as a serious contender for the project that I pour my energy into for the rest of the year, getting it ready for submission to an agent. All the excuses that were totally fine when it was just a writing exercise don’t hold water anymore – and that means that a lot of the charm of this project also doesn’t hold up to this new scrutiny. Which makes me wonder how wise this decision is. Perhaps I should be trying to make it even “worse”? I mean, the “shit” in “shitty YA werewolf novel” is basically the entire appeal of this project, and I’m starting to wonder if it has anything at all going for it without that element. Which is the element my revision notes have been working towards eliminating, to make it “good”, to make it less “problematic” …

Might I just as well write an entirely new werewolf novel (the werewolf part is non-negotiable) from scratch?

Because I do have some ideas for that, ideas that would even fit pretty smoothly in the event that I do decide to stick with Wolf Gang as is and “make something of it”. Besides my It Follows-inspired horror reboot attempt from last year, Metamorphoses of the Werewolf continues to inspire me as well. It’s just …

God I’m tired of trying to make new things lately. There is something about my approach that puts me off my own ideas, and until I figure out what that is I doubt I’m getting much of anything done. I’m getting worried, actually; I already flaked out on starting my revision plan for Mark and Jessie this Monday, and I know that I have to hit that nail on the head next Monday or risk losing my momentum altogether. It’s so easy to just keep putting things off, and I have a history of doing it with my long-term writing projects in particular. I now worry that even if I do make a real push to get these revision notes for Wolf Gang made, say, by the end of this Saturday, I’ll come out of it on the other side with absolutely no desire to continue.

But then maybe that’s not my process; maybe it’s the project itself. Already the seams are splitting; if it’s not pulpy trashy fun then … what the fuck is it? Reading chapter 5 today I realised just how dark the story actually is, which clashes with the tone something fierce, and …

Shit. Honestly, this is stumping me harder than I thought it would when I sat down to write this. I think I can’t worry too much about it right now, but once I’m done I’m going to have a decision to make between either choosing the pulpy-trash-fun tone or the more serious, darker, more … mature? themes and events of the manuscript – or finding some way to reconcile the two. Or of course just reboot, take the general werewolf idea and do something more substantial with it, which I don’t want or have to do so why would I even …

Argh.

Maybe what will come about as a result of me making all of these revision notes is the realisation that I need to do something with my life other than focus on writing, capital “W” or otherwise.

Oh well. What’s a Hero’s Journey if you don’t go on it?

03/05/2019

Writing: 2001

Holy shit I did some writing.

This was basically a writing exercise, so I’m not sure if I’ll count it for the weekly total, but for now it’s momentous enough that I actually did some goddamn writing, for the first time in … like, four weeks? Well that’s what my document that exists to track such things tells me anyway; and that’s worth tallying right now.

It was, without going into detail, a sex scene. The question of how to write a “good” sex scene is one that I am aware many, if not most, writers struggle with – which, really, is the same as trying to write a “good” scene of any kind. What works? What doesn’t? How much is too much/little, and why? What is exactly the right word/phrase to evoke the appropriate response/set the right tone? I don’t know if I figured out any of the answers to those questions during this writing exercise, but more important to me is the fact that I pushed through the anxiety-wall and actually got some writing done.

This also tells me that my idea of focusing on writing short-story-style projects, rather than trying to funnel my energies into huge projects that I don’t feel ready to commit to, has some merit. I am also comfortable with the idea of just not writing anything new for a while – but only to a point. I do actually want to, like, continue learning and improving as a writer, and I can’t do that if I don’t actually write, right?

Valuable learning has happened today. That’s worth recording, even if the word-count isn’t.

04/05/2019

Writing: 2654

WHAT IS HAPPENING.

So, this was another attempt at getting my Suicide Squad snapback project off the ground, and I realise now that my approach so far – writing little excerpts, stand-alone scenes – works well with my plan to do “short stories”. At the very least, this is a step up from compiling planning notes, because actual project-writing is happening here: dialogue and characterisation and plot and shit is being written, and it’s all stuff that I could actually, potentially, put into a zero draft manuscript.

It’s all still an experiment, though. I haven’t settled on a continuity that I’m happy with; the big problem with this project is that it could be so many different things, and I’m incredibly reluctant to commit to any of them – none of them feel quite enough to me. I don’t know what the correct way to handle this kind of problem is, because it’s a problem that I only ever seem to fail to address with my projects, but I do know that my response so far with this one has been to just write these little snippets of action and … well, yeah. Just write it. Not even “write it and see what happens”; I’m just writing this stuff and moving on.

Well, maybe that’s the next step. I’ve got a few of these now; maybe I should write a few more and then read them over and have a think about how – or if – I want to move forward with the project.

Well, in any event, actual fucking writing. And the only reason I can think of for why this is happening is that I’m making an effort to do regular exercise again, because it makes me feel like I’m actually a living human being that exists and can therefore do things. Maybe that’s the secret: if you have writer’s block, go work out. I don’t know if that’s how it works, but it is also possible that exercise has benefits beyond breaking writer’s block. Definitely possible.

05/05/2019

Revision

I started making my revision notes on episode 3 of the co-writing project today at a quarter-past 2, and finished about 5 minutes ago at 5pm.

What is with this week?

After spending the past couple of months feeling like shit, this one week feels … well for one pretty long, but more importantly reminded me that, hey, I am capable of doing the things that I set out to do.

Of course I did that over the past couple of weeks as well, just without the positive mental outlook, and that’s what’s changed this week – good timing, too. I think if you’re ever due for a mental reset to get into a better frame of mind, your birthday is the time for the universe to deliver. I think I have to take some credit, though: I did intentionally make a big effort to get shit moving this past couple of weeks – it’s just that this week is when it all seemed to start paying off. There are still things I need to do (psychologist appointment still needs to be made for instance), but fuck it whatever, this week is better than the last bunch of weeks, and I feel good about myself, this isn’t a positivity blog but it is about the writing process and, holy shit, sometimes writers can feel good about themselves? What blasphemy is this?

Weekly Total

Writing: 7597

Time goes slowly when you’re doing lots with it, and that’s how I wanna live my lyf, fam.

Yeah no more of that the point is that this week has been pretty damn great, in my humble scientifically objective assessment of reality. Knocked many of my goals out of the park, made starts on a few initiatives that I was ready to give up on, and updated the fuck out of my main Spotify playlist because, well, why not?

Now I have next week to work with – I had a plan for this past week, and after losing momentum on Monday and not picking it up again until Wednesday I am not keen to repeat the experience tomorrow. This psychologist appointment stuff can wait until Friday, when it’s not going to throw me off my game – also means I can use Monday through Thursday to prepare myself emotionally, physically, spiritually, lycanthropically …

Speaking of which: I really want to get my revision notes for Wolf Gang finished this week, as well as the prequel novella, as well as to at least start a revision plan for Mark and Jessie. It’s going to be a big week. Maybe too big; maybe I’ll spread those out over the month …

Anyway. I have lots to do, but am feeling more optimistic about actually being able to get it done than I have for a long time. Just goes to show how much you can get done when you have a plan, take care of yourself, and I dunno the universe rolled a natural 20 on your behalf. I’ll take it.

This feels like a wave – time to ride it.