Weekly Words 3-9/12/2018

3/12/2018: 1644

Co-writing doesn’t count.

I mean, yes, I count it here, but I mean it doesn’t count as “I won’t do any writing this first week of December” writing. Because it’s not just about me writing; it’s me and my friend, a mutual commitment – and also it’s fun. Today’s writing actually felt a bit like the fantasy of good writing that I have apparently decided is just a fantasy and to stop pursuing it – but I think the issue is that, actually, I have never pursued it. I’ve just wanted it a lot, and when I put zero thought or effort into achieving this specific goal, surprise surprise, I feel like it’ll never happen. Important distinction.

But yes. It felt good to write this scene to completion. It’s a key scene in the show, where the two leads meet and start getting to know each other, and it gave me the opportunity to explore them a bit more as people because they don’t know each other at this stage. How well did I do?

Well that’s not the point; the point is that it felt good to write because of what I was doing, not how well it was done. I think that part is probably not going to be something that I can gauge through emotional state alone, if at all. But just enjoying the process of writing, rather than hanging out for validation for the product of it, is something I think I may be getting a bit better at.

I said this month was going to be about intentionality. Well, I have this shimmery fantasy about how writing is the most euphoric and self-sustaining habit I could possibly get into.

Let’s make this month about that.

4/12/2018: 2950

Everybody loves sequels, right?

Because apparently I love sequels, and if I love sequels, then everyone must love sequels, because that’s how human brains work apparently, it’s super great.

Tonight, I shifted my focus from the reboot of my shitty YA werewolf novel Wolf Gang to a shitty YA werewolf sequel, and I have to say it gave me an energy boost. The issue with the reboot, as it currently stands, is that I’ve written a lot of words and nothing has fucking happened. Yes, it’s a zero draft, zero drafts are full of filler and shit and that’s all well and good and it’s healthy to accept less-than-perfect when you’re still figuring things out, that’s how we learn, etc. But that’s not what this project is. That’s not what I need it to be. I need it to be fast, punchy, spontaneous, not something laboured and planned and, I dunno, important. I said I was thinking of making it a serious project, and that I had my own style of writing that wasn’t just “write it really fast and don’t care about the quality to begin with”. Tonight I realised that I wasn’t actually following my own advice; I was agonising over the quality, trying to think of what happens next and trying to make it “good”, trying to fit a plan into my unplanned writing exercise and killing my momentum dead before I could get started. It’s amazing to me that I’ve managed to persevere with it for the past two months; honestly, that’s an achievement in itself. And I’m not saying that I’m completely abandoning the reboot effort. It’s just that, well, this isn’t a “serious project” even as a reboot, so the sequel thing – it’s just another thing to throw at the wall and see if it sticks.

Besides, I’ve had the idea for a sequel – a series of sequels in fact – even since before I finished the original manuscript, as something fun I could do to entertain myself with. I could have my very own YA novel series. Publishing and stuff – not important. Just making it exist is enough for me right now.

Which is sort of the issue with the reboot: I’m starting to think of it in terms of what happens with it after I’ve written it, and I think those expectations I’m setting myself up to meet or not meet is what’s killing my momentum and passion. It’s hard to have fun when you know you’re being judged for it, especially when you are the judge. It becomes an exercise in futility, trying to have fun you are judging yourself for having because that fun doesn’t come with good enough results, according to some invisible, unspoken metric that you just have a gut feeling about rather than an actual set of guidelines or specific prerequisites. And until I can step away from that at least, this sequel exists on a different plane of existence to my greedy, jealous, perfectionist inner critic. I don’t know how to rescue my reboot from it; I don’t know if I can. But I know that I enjoyed the hell out of writing this sequel tonight.

And I think I’m looking forward to writing more of it.

Besides, you’re apparently expected to have a whole series in the works when you try to get a YA novel published, so having a whole series written should be even better, right? That’s totally how that works, I bet. And it means I’ll be able to go back and revise the entire series for continuity and such before release. Whatever “release” means.

Speaking of going back: I read Tithe by Holly Black yesterday, in about 3 hours. It’s one of her older books – published in 2002 – and what struck me was that I could tell the difference. I’ve found that Holly Black’s books are incredibly consistent in terms of voice (a voice I really like), and Tithe was interesting because it seemed like a prototype of that voice. The story, too, seemed a bit … rough. Elements of it definitely echo the fact that this was a book not written at any point in the past five years: the awkward and unfortunate use of the one gay character as a Refrigerated person, whom the main character did not seem to actually care about that much to begin with; the uncomfortable romanticisation of what these days we (hopefully) recognise as blatant sexual assault; the Orientalism; the fact that everybody is not constantly on their phones and have no idea how to interact with other people without them … I may be projecting on that last one …

What’s interesting about this to me is the fact that I’ve also recently read The Cruel Prince, which has some similar elements. There is, thankfully, no token gay character to get Fridged in order to provide a plot-point that the characters don’t even seem to particularly care about resolving (but then again, there are no non-straight characters period), but there is some non-consensual kissing and undressing. In Tithe, every single time that consent is violated, it’s made out to be either both upsetting and hot, or just hot. The one exception is the token gay character, who spends pretty much the entire book under the mind-control of a sadistic rapist faerie who has enchanted him to like it. At least at the end he stabs said faerie to death, or maybe after he was already dead, the time of death is a little fuzzy – anyway. That’s Tithe. In The Cruel Prince, it’s all made out to be a bad thing.

And I appreciate that not only because, like, it is a bad thing, but also because it’s something that the lead character participates in as a display of dominance, because she’s seriously fucked up – which is what I really love about The Cruel Prince, and honestly all of Holly Black’s stuff. Her leads are not always nice or good people, and it’s really refreshing to read a story that commits to that, rather than dressing up abhorrent behaviour as titillating. I say this with the understanding and acceptance that fantasies are healthy and good and normal, even if their content is twisted, because fantasies are not intentions. But a private fantasy is not the same thing as a published novel, and while I’m not trying to hate on anyone (including Holly Black) for however they feel about Tithe and similar tales, I definitely prefer The Cruel Prince for taking those behaviours and character motives and using them to create a compelling character who, while perhaps sympathetic, is definitely not good. It fits Holly Black’s faerie-tale proclivities very well, and her penchant for writing stories about fucked-up people to begin with. Commitment. I like commitment.

5/12/2018: 1852

Sooo much telling.

That seems to be a very zero draft thing. It’s not just that elegant, meaningful sentence structure doesn’t come to me; it’s that blocks of text info-dumping stuff that could potentially be interesting if delivered in a more engaging manner does come to me, and so that’s what I write, because you can only write what you can think to write. And it’s fine. That’s how it goes; and with this project in particular it actually feels appropriate, because while not a satire or parody, I’m definitely reveling in how these badly-written zero draft werewolf manuscripts actually read scarily like published YA books I have read.

Which, to be honest, is the core appeal of this writing project to me, like its predecessor – and why the reboot just wasn’t doing it for me. I also don’t know how to make the reboot feel more fun; it’s a different story, inasmuch as I actually have a story thought out for it, and it just doesn’t suit this tone, this authorial voice. But it has gotten me to looking forward to this full-series revision undertaking, if and when that ever happens, which will be when the entire five-book shitty YA werewolf saga has been completed in zero draft form …

What the fuck am I doing? How is this my plan?

Because it’s awesome, that’s fucking why.

7/12/2018: 3528

“Maybe I’ll take the first week of December off from writing”. Uh-huh.

The sequel effort is going pretty well so far.

Alas, my reading efforts … well, on the one hand, I read all of Magic Triumphs, the tenth and final installment in the Kate Daniels saga by wife-husband writing team Ilona Andrews in three hours, and it was a bit bittersweet. Ten books is a hell of a commitment. I then spent the better part of this afternoon trying to power-read The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong, which I was really enjoying with some ambivalent edges until I had to go catch the bus to return it and a bunch of other books to the library. I suppose I could have waited a day and just taken the late fee, but I prefer to keep a clean slate with the library now that I’m an adult and stuff. It does mean I didn’t get to finish it, though, and I could have finished it if I’d forgone YouTube trawling for one day today. Habits are hard to break, but at least now I have experienced the consequences of allowing them to get the better of me: not being able to finish library books before they’re due.

And yes, I tried renewing it; turns out other people also use the library from time to time.

I am still in search for some YA werewolf lit that doesn’t either 1) make me feel befouled for reading it somehow, or 2) have the infuriating bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold trope that I cannot freaking stand. Specifically what I can’t stand is the constant goddamn consent violations that go hand-in-hand with the trope. To be fair, The Gathering subverts that to a large extent, and even openly engages with the issue of consent, and even does it in what seems to be a responsible, respectful, sane way – which was a nice surprise in more ways than one. The only other book of Kelley Armstrong’s that I’ve read is Bitten, and I had a good old rant about consent issues in that book back when I read it. Maybe because this is YA, maybe because we are living in a post-#MeToo world, maybe because Armstrong has evolved as a storyteller; whatever the reason for why The Gathering doing a better job with consent, I’m glad that it does, and am interested in reading the rest of the series. Though the whole Native American thing … well, I’m not Native so I have no real way to know if it’s done well or not, but there’s always going to be some discomfort for me reading books by white authors about characters from marginalised cultures and/or ethnicities, however well-intentioned or even well-executed those books may be. But again, it seems promising, and was fun to read before I had to stop two-thirds of the way through. There’s always next year.

I still have Raised By Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes to chew on, but other than that I have actually not been able to find a ton of YA werewolf lit – at least none that made me feel like I would not be reading something I’d 1) already read before and 2) not enjoyed because goddammit just figure out consent already for fuck’s sake … but who knows? Maybe times have changed, and the Urban Fantasy that gets published in a year’s time from now will show me that the genre can and will up its game on that front. I would certainly appreciate it, because besides that one minor annoyance that makes me want to strangle people it’s probably my favourite genre right now.

At least I don’t have to deal with that shit in my YA werewolf series. Write the books you want to read and all that, right?

8/12/2018: 2644

I’m up to chapter 2 with this thing already. Clearly this was the correct decision.

Until a better one comes along, but that’s life I guess.

really enjoy writing something that reads like other things I’ve read, something that feels like it fits in with what I find familiar, something that I understand. Being able to emulate that effect pleases me to no end, and is extremely motivating.

Less motivating is the fact that, of all of the werewolf YA novels I’ve sampled from the library over the past month or so, they’re all just so … exasperating. Cool werewolf lore, most of the time; some really challenging and thought-provoking themes of power and hierarchy and gender and sexuality, always; and also almost always why why why the fuck is there always a fucking built-in justification for the normalisation of patriarchy and misogyny in fucking werewolf books?

In YOUNG ADULT WEREWOLF BOOKS?????

And look, I know that I have a tendency to make mountains of molehills with my analysis of media in general when it comes to reading bigotry and abuse in a media text. I think certain things count as, for instance, an example of rape culture that other people might disagree with or think is taking things too far, seeing problems where there aren’t any – or acknowledging that, yes, it’s related but overall not that big of a deal. But when I see it, I don’t care if it’s a mountain, a molehill, or a freckle on the back of a tardigrade; I cannot fucking take this shit. In any measure. It grates on me, and it pisses me off, and it gets to the point where even the slightest acknowledgement and attempt to address it, such as in The Gathering, sends me into a goddamn euphoric frenzy, even if afterwards I look back on it and realise that it’s actually still gross and bad and kind of just makes things worse, such as in The Gathering, I need to finish it now just to figure out whether or not I think it’s perpetuating rape culture or not and this is not why I want to elect to read books.

I just want to read about fucking werewolves without having to worry about whether or not the author thinks that women cannot and should not do things without the say-so of an alpha male father/lover figure. A lot of stories try to have their cake and eat it too in this regard, where the plucky heroine will outwardly reject and challenge the authority of the alpha male character, but ultimately by the end of the story said alpha male will be proven right for their overbearing, patronising, controlling, manipulative, and most importantly jealous behaviour, all will be forgiven, blah blah shoot me I hate it.

And the thing is, it does make sense for werewolves, so long as the story is about being unable to escape the influence of a charismatic, authoritarian cult leader who has conditioned someone into subservience so powerfully that even their attempts to rebel ultimately lead back to them accepting the patriarch’s word as law. But they’re not. They’re stories about freedom and liberation and independence, or they’re supposed to be anyway, and just …

Just …

Who would ever want to be a werewolf, if this is what it’s like?

Like, seriously, what the fuck is the appeal? The latest book I’ve read on the subject, Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, certainly has a unique answer to this question. Our heroine, Bryn, is a human girl raised by werewolves yet is still part of the pack, and ends the book by becoming the alpha of a pack of super-werewolves that she liberates from the pack-bonds of their sadistic alpha because she has a totally-not-a-superpower that lets her do that … which, to be honest, is quite cool, I like that part of the book. I like the werewolf lore in general; I don’t like the fact that it’s another example of “most werewolves are male because females are inherently weaker” lycanthropy, or the fact that some people have “knacks” a-la Twilight and it’s only introduced like two-thirds into the book, but at least it actually serves a narrative purpose in this story. Kind of. Unlike in Blood and Chocolate.

And Bryn never becomes a werewolf. It’s interesting. It’s also really unappealing. Mind you, being a werewolf in this story’s world also seems really goddamn unappealing; and it’s led me to wondering if maybe I’m coming at werewolf literature from entirely the wrong angle. I have had this assumption – probably because of Teen Wolf and Underworld – that werewolves tend to be a power fantasy for most people, rather than a metaphor for how much the patriarchy sucks except when it’s awesome make up your fucking mind and, because of this, I’m thinking that I may have to re-evaluate my reading of most of the werewolf lit I have read. Ultimately, this is why I keep coming back for more: no matter how much Urban Fantasy paranormal novels tend to piss me off with their not-exactly-progressive gender politics, they also never fail to challenge me and make me reconsider my assumptions about my own tastes, sensibilities, and comfort levels. In this case, the werewolf novels that I’ve read suggest to me that, just maybe, not all writers have the same ideas about werewolves as me, let alone each other. Maybe not every thinks that werewolves are a power fantasy.

But that’s base heresy and shall not be tolerated on this blog.

Glad that problem’s solved; now to consider how all of this applies to my werewolves. My werewolves, for the record, are not interesting. I had an interesting idea for the reboot which I may retcon into the series; I will probably retcon what I’ve written of my reboot already into the series anyway, because it’s way more interesting lore-wise. But what’s interesting, now that I’ve thrown my little fit, is that I actually can’t quite identify what the power fantasy appeal of being a werewolf is, either. I would assume it’s along the same general lines as the superhero power fantasy, or the Dragon Ball Z power fantasy: you are stronger than your enemies and you can destroy them if they dare to cross you, they’ll be sorry they ever doubted you, you’re the alpha now, etc. Which is extremely banal and boring; I think maybe I’ve found the problem.

Well, fuck. What do I do with that?

Pretend it doesn’t exist?

I really am a genius sometimes.

And okay, there are some good werewolf books out there. The Kitty Norville series did not drive me into an apoplectic fit, and the issues that I have with the books are issues that I feel I’m supposed to have, issues that the writer put there intentionally to be issues. I love those books, even if the werewolf lore is not really my style. And werewolves are not so much a power fantasy in that story as much as they are a belonging fantasy. I mean, a bit of a power fantasy, too, especially in the first book. They’re just good books, okay? Go read them. Maybe should just read them again instead of trying to find new good werewolf books that don’t exist.

9/12/2018: 1837

Man, taking this first week of December off from writing was such a good idea that I totally committed to.

Co-writing to start the week, and co-writing to close things out. My friend and I had an epic brainstorming/planning session today, and everything is planned out; all that’s left is to actually get it written. Those 1837 words all came from the writing (and completion) of one of my three remaining scenes, and results in a weekly total of …

Weekly Total: 18248

… I’ll take it. I don’t know how it got here, but now that it is here, I will take it.

I know I’ve said it before, but this year has gone by way too fast. I tried to be optimistic and put it down to the fact that I’ve had more fun this year than I have in a long time, but even accounting for that trick of brain chemistry I think there must be some sort of dark magic involved. Someone is trying to speed us towards some kind of deadline, and I’m not sure I want to know what happens when we get to it. Then again, there are certain truths about the state of the world that I would not mind fast-forwarding through.

But even if next year does slow down to a more normal pace, all years have felt pretty short to me since I hit my 20s. It makes me grateful for this blog, and my friends and family, and generally all the stuff that I’ve got going on, even if a lot of the time I feel like I want or need more. It’s a good foundation to build on.

And this year in particular it has been reassuring to know that, whatever comes my way, there will always be writing to get me through it.

Lots of writing, if this week is anything to go by …

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Monthly Words: November 2018

Monthly Total: 33971

“The only thing that matters to me is that I write a lot this month, however much “a lot” ends up being.” – me, 5/11/2018

I think this qualifies.

Three things stood out to me from reading back over my writing process this past week:

  1. I reflected back on and learnt about my own writing process in ways I never have before
  2. I actually did a lot of writing, even though my process sometimes felt quite erratic and inconsistent
  3. I should never, ever write a book review ever again, ever

Well, maybe one day, when I am in the right frame of mind for it, which is not the frame of mind I’ve been in while writing this one. I also made myself watch some Netflix this month, which makes it sound like a chore – and it kind of is, but it’s an important one, because I do actually enjoy it, it helps me relax, and it’s chillout time that isn’t just distracting myself browsing YouTube all day to fill the void in my soul where the desire to be an enthusiastic consumer is supposed to be.

But yeah, this month’s results raise … a question, I’ll frame it that way. The question of, after years of wishing for a time to come where my writing experience will be one of feeling how well I’m doing at writing while I’m doing it and being able to use that feeling to guide my writing, whether or not that can ever possibly actually happen. Because to memory, there has never been a time when I’ve felt that way. I’ve felt highs and lows, I’ve felt plenty of apathy, but the one thing I’ve never felt is some tangible connection between how I’m feeling while I’m writing and the quality of that writing, the prose that comes out of it.

And I think the answer is, actually yes – just not the way I’ve been fantasising about it. I will definitely not have the feeling of “this writing that I am doing is going to be received well by people who read it”. Taste is not something that I can control. But I can feel – and have in the past felt – really into what I’m writing as I’m writing it, because I’m enjoying the verb writing, as opposed to the … uh … the other thing that isn’t a verb.

I’m a writer, not an English professor.

But I am an English major, and no that will never stop being funny to me.

In short: yeah, it’s a fantasy, a pleasant fantasy about how one day my emotions will somehow directly relate to and give an indication of the objective quality of the writing that I am producing and how well it encapsulates the ideas that I intend to express. About how one day the desire to write will possess me and not leave me from that point on, and I’ll just live out the rest of my days in a blissy writing-trance where I feel my achievements as I make them. But it is a fantasy; my experience of writing has been that feelings don’t matter one way or another when it comes to how “good” my writing actually is when it’s done, and I have to fucking grind my spirit up a slope of serrated knives just to get started a lot of the time, and I hate all of my ideas and think that I have no capacity to be creative or interesting with them – and yet, writing gets done when I do it, and sometimes it feels satisfying, and sometimes it leaves me feeling frustrated and disappointed. But when I look back on it and see that it’s been done, that always feels good. I’m going to have to learn to trust that this is how it works, and to embrace it, if I want to move past the point of fantasy and start exploring what’s actually real about writing.

On that note, while I’m going to be writing this month, right now I think that I might take this first week of December off and just see what comes of it. It might be that I want to fill my time with writing after all, or it might be that I have other things to do. The important thing for this month, I have decided, to close out the year – intentionality. If I do something with my time, for it to be because I considered it and made a decision to do it, not because I have defaulted to it. Default habits aren’t ever going to go away; human beings just do that. But we can shake ourselves up, change what those habits are, and some are better than others. I would like to at least broaden my scope of possibility in that area.

And finish watching Sabrina. It’s a bit, shall we say, white, but the things it does well it does very well. And Kiernan Shipka is very excellent. Apparently she’s from Mad Men, which I’ve never watched; what else has she been in …

Oh.

I think I’m good with Sabrina for now …

Weekly Words 26/11-02/12/2018

27/11/2018: 2074

23396. That’s how many words I need to write this week if I want to hit my 50k goal.

I mean, it’s good to know, right?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is proving to be a very compelling and entertaining watch; I’m only 2 episodes in, but if it continues the way it’s started I am looking forward to a new addition to my list of favourite TV shows. Nothing will ever beat Teen Wolf, at least the first 3 seasons, but at the same time I wouldn’t want Teen Wolf to be the only TV show that I ever have fond feelings for.

One downside though: Sabrina existing makes it really hard for me to want to invest much time or energy into my own witch story now. Not that I’ve gotten very far with it over the four years that I’ve had the idea, mind you – I guess by the time I get around to it, Sabrina may not be on the air any longer.

Also, I suppose I shouldn’t think of my own unfinished, unwritten stories as competing for the public’s attention with shows that have already gone to air, books that have already been published, etc. I default to this way of thinking because I guess I’m equal parts narcissistic and unrealistic (though narcissism already requires a certain level of disconnect from reality, I suppose, so maybe just narcissistic) – and also maybe because I want to feel like I’m in the company of peers with the stories that I’m thinking of telling. I can see how this could, in the right mindset, be a helpful thing, something to spur me on and fuel my ambitions and determination. It doesn’t really have that effect, though, so it’s really just depressing when an idea I have half-formed and remains half-formed after several years of kicking it around in my head is compared to a fully-realised text – TV show, film, book, game, whatever.

Maybe I should have done Nano properly after all, tried getting into the forums and stuff. I don’t know if people use them very much or what the sense of community is like, but I definitely feel like that’s something I’m missing for the majority of my writing time. Also probably one of the main reasons for why the co-writing project has been so enjoyable of an undertaking for pretty much all of this year. And maybe why I spend too much time watching YouTube – YouTubers, to be specific. It’s almost like having company.

I think I just made myself depressed, excuse me for a moment …

Less depressing: I did more writing today, after a couple of days of feeling unable to pick up where I’d left off. I am aware that I am in making-shit-up mode at the moment, which is not the same as telling-a-story mode, and I’m just focusing on letting it be what it is. It’s something that is making me feel more and more like rebooting this reboot – and back in the day, that would have been a frustration. But now I realise that it’s actually fine for me to write as though I’m starting over without actually going back and undoing all of the work I’ve done up to this point – because everything is going to be fixed in revision if this is a “serious” project anyway, and if it’s not, then it doesn’t matter.

I think I’ve realised that I need this reboot just the way it is. I don’t have to try to make it a “serious” project for it to be worth doing. I’m learning about my writing process, what’s been working for me so far that works with this project, and what’s been difficult for me that I seem to be slowly learning to improve on. All in all, it’s pretty hopeful.

Maybe hopeful enough to hit that ridiculous word-count goal – but even if not, I’m glad I’m still writing it.

30/11/2018: 729

That book review is starting to take shape, two weeks after starting it.

Why am I doing this again?

Perhaps because my attempts to get other things going are failing and each successive failure disheartens me further in an unending loop of maladaptive behaviour.

On the bright side, though, I do seem to be moving closer to a writing process that works for me. It’s a challenging process in itself, recognising what I find useful versus what I have grown used to insisting I should find useful, but I think I’m getting there slowly. There’s stuff that I’ve written that I like enough to build on, but it comes with stuff that I want to ditch entirely. Normally I’d go back and cut out the bits that I don’t want to keep (in a new copy-and-paste document, of course) and write my new continuity from that point on – however, recently, as in within the past few days, I’m coming to realise that it works way better for me if I change nothing at all and just write as though I’d made all the changes that I wanted to make. What will probably help this strategy is getting into the habit of making notes for myself so that I can follow my own constantly-evolving continuity in the zero draft, so that I know where and why I made continuity changes and can make an informed decision about how to tackle that in revision.

I think that’s what a zero draft should be for, in the spirit of just getting the fucking thing written: a well-organised mess, stream-of-consciousness as a process in itself as opposed to an aesthetic or genre consideration. I am only hesitant because of the nightmare scenario of trying to unpack it all once it’s been written and I want to get serious about the story being, like, intelligible and stuff – but, again, I have at least one idea of how to make that easier.

And so, with this month rolling to a close and my self-directed 50k word-count goal nowhere near close to reached, I prepare for the next ambitious task: putting this plan into action. It’ll help me continue with my werewolf reboot, which I am disappointed has proven so difficult to concoct in terms of what it’s actually about and what’s happening, especially compared to the pre-reboot version; and it should also help me get off the ground with another project that I’d really like to make exist. I know they both could stand to benefit from some better planning-out, so I might give that a go as well. We’ll see how I feel.

1/11/2018: 4810

I did a lot of reading today, mostly article-hopping, and it shook me out of my perpetual stir-craziness-induced stupor for long enough to make me think I actually might be able to condense my book review into something of a reasonable length while still giving a clear, coherent overview of my thoughts and feelings about the book.

I was wrong.

But that’s fine, because I also, after reading this Atlantic article about how young people are having less sex that made me despair of men ever being worth anything ever, did some honest-to-Baphomet writing, as evidenced above. It only took about 3 hours, so that’s, what, 1.5k words per hour?

I’m quite pleased with this result, I must say. This was all my Suicide Squad I-can’t-legally-monetise-fanfiction project; in writing it I not only gave it some much-desired momentum, but actually got me to thinking about the plot and characters and their roles in the story, like I’ve wanted to be able to do since I came up with this idea almost a year ago. I’m excited to keep it going.

And it all worked out like I hoped it would: I just wrote the scene that I had in mind, making it up as I went where I needed to, but honestly a lot of it wrote itself, as they say. It feels like a mission statement; this scene is almost a plan for the entire story all on its own. It sets up the main plot, the core dramatic tension, the key players, all while establishing and introducing the cast and showing them off – a bit. Obviously, revision is ever the writer’s friend, but considering this is a very zero-draft sort of effort I’m pretty impressed with what I managed to accomplish. I feel like this is how my writing process works when I let myself just do what feels right for me to do, rather than trying to adhere to some set of rules I’ve decided must be the correct way to Be A Writer by following.

Also, I’ve done more writing in the last 3 hours than I’ve done in some weeks, which also pleases me.

Not a bad way to kick off December.

2/12/2018: 9441

These past two weeks, seriously. I’m on some kind of roll here

If only I felt like I was on a roll.

But, the results speak for themselves, and while I may not have hit 50k this month I still did way better than I expected. I also found a way to make a difficult project start working for me, and while that goddamn book review isn’t done yet and probably won’t get done for a while now because other library books that I have not read are due back earlier, those books might get reviews. Though they will probably just be woven into my next Weekly Words post, as I have four days to read four books. Which I can do. I might not get much else done, but then again after last night’s writing-sprint I could do with a bit of a breather.

Tomorrow, though, is a co-writing session and I am looking forward to it. My energy for co-writing doesn’t seem to be the same energy that I use for everything else; it’s almost like loading a different save file, one where I have all my HP and mana. I’m just generally ready for co-writing. Not always, but generally. Much more than I am for my own writing.

But I’m finding ways to get energy for my own writing, and if that means taking a break every now and then is something I’ll have to work into the equation, that’s fine. I’ve actually never even considered that writing is something I might need to take a break from while I’m on a roll, like working out, or any other thing, really. Taking a break doesn’t mean taking a hiatus. It makes sense to me now.

Also how the hell is it December already? I like the thought of trying to do something special for December. My co-author friend and I are already hoping to get this first season of our show written (zero draft) for the end of the year, which would be awesome, but I think I want a personal goal for myself as well. Not necessarily a writing goal, just something I would really like to spend some time doing to wrap up 2018. I will have a think.

Weekly Words 19-25/11/2018

19/11/2018: 1457

20/11/2018: 1458

21/11/2018: 1457

22/11/2018: 1458

Well, that’s unusual.

This week, I have not been working on my werewolf novel, or my Suicide Squad fix-fic-inspired dark fantasy satire parody, or my co-writing project, or any of the three completed manuscripts that I could be working on revising. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding them actively; it’s that I’ve been so consumed by the thing that I have been working on instead that it’s been difficult to get myself to even think about any of those projects.

So, what have I been writing?

A book review.

Book reviews are, for me, a strange enterprise. They’re for me, primarily – I mean this entire blog is primarily for me, but even more so are book reviews. They’re for me to vent, to analyse, to process my thoughts and feelings about what I’ve read and try to come to a satisfying conclusion for myself. It’s difficult because more than anything else I’ve done with this blog over the years, I feel the least certain about whether or not anybody else cares about my book reviews. I can’t imagine many people do; I know my friends who read my blog have been interested enough to start discussions about those books, and that’s been cool – but people I don’t know? Not that this blog is huge on “engagement” to begin with, because I have no idea how to do it without coming off as horrendously disingenuous, which I would be because yay social anxiety – but that’s just even more reason for me to feel unsure about whether or not it’s worth writing book reviews.

But I think that’s just because I have imported my mindset from my Tumblr days, where I would actually usually get most of my likes and whatnot from my film reviews, so I just got used to doing that for validation. It’s different with this blog, and I figure I just need to get with the program.

Which starts by counting this book review as a thing I’ve been writing, which I wasn’t even going to do until today.

And the reason I decided to count it is not because I feel, sincerely, that it “counts” towards the writing that I am counting, even though I am pretty sure by my own standards that it should. I am counting it because I just want to know, after all of my self-worth angst is laid out for me to get a clearer picture of, just how much writing is produced as a result of this process of self-inflicted emotional turmoil. How much effort, in terms of words written, actually goes into this enterprise that I have elected to invest myself in?

So far, it’s about the same as my writing ratio for the past few months.

It feels wrong, given how much more turbulent my mindset has been while working on this review, how much more intense and chaotic my feelings, how much self-doubt and second-guessing goes into this process. The word-count is deceptive – but it’s also eye-opening. All of this effort yields about the same result, words-wise, as the relatively comfortable process of working on things that I find less confrontational on the level of my self-esteem. Mindset is so important for writing, not necessarily because of how much writing you do, but because of how much work goes into producing the amount of writing that you actually get done on a regular basis.

I mean, that’s my thought. Although to be fair, those daily word-counts are a mathematical average, not the specific daily word-counts I accrued over the week up to this point. Who knows how much I’ve actually gotten done on a day-to-day basis. Maybe on days when I felt less stressed I did more writing; maybe I did more writing on those days. Maybe it wasn’t about stress, but what time I started writing, what my mindset was going into my session, that sort of thing.

Anyway: the book I’ve been trying to review/analyse/snark on is The Wereling by Stephen Cole. It’s the first of my pile of library-borrowed YA werewolf novels that I read through to completion, and I have some thoughts about it. Very few of them are charitable; but I will say that it was definitely valuable for me in terms of my own lycanthropic literary aspirations. It’s not the first one that I tried reading; Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter was the first, and after I think three rather short chapters full of slut-shaming, sex-shaming and general holier-than-though misogyny and virtue fetishisation I gave up. It’s not even about a werewolf; there’s just a werewolf in the love-triangle. For all its faults, at least Wereling doesn’t have a love-triangle – not yet anyway. There are two more books to go, and while I actively dislike The Wereling, I am kind of morbidly fascinated to see how it turns out. I can’t imagine it will be particular pleasing.

Well, this was good. I feel motivated to get back to work on my writing that “counts” after this – and a little less disheartened about my choice to write stuff that I find a use for, even if nobody else does, and to let it “count”, too. I am here to write, after all. It shouldn’t matter too much what kind of writing it is.

23/11/2018: 2549

Werewolves ahoy!

I realised today that I’m actually putting quite a lot of effort into this werewolf project. I’ve borrowed library books to read examples of similar stories in the same genre/marketing niche; I’ve been consistently working on this project for the past month and a half or so; I keep pushing myself to continue working on it …

How did this happen?

Well, it happened because I made it happen, and am continuing to make it happen, and I am forced to acknowledge that I am now committed to this shitty YA werewolf novel – and that makes me want to take it a bit more seriously. I mean, I really like werewolves. I am still enjoying writing this thing. It’s not what I thought I’d be working on; I thought I’d be done with my werewolf infatuation when I finally finished the original shitty YA werewolf novel almost two years ago. And yet here I am, working on a reboot that I actually care about, still considering doing a PhD focusing on werewolves and why I find them interesting in our current historical moment, and I wonder what this story might look like if I started thinking about it … seriously.

But honestly, I think that would hurt it.

Because I have a tendency to take my serious projects a bit too seriously. At the very least, I can’t give this project the same kind of “serious” treatment as I’m used to giving my other projects. I either need to just keep doing what I’m doing, not thinking too hard about it and just muddling my way through for fun and hoping it turns out well, or I need to find a new way of being serious, one that builds on what I like about a project and gets me excited to do it rather than leading me to think that there’s no way I could ever do it justice. I want my excitement for my projects to help them, not turn into over-thinking and perfectionism that makes me too nervous to even try writing them.

But most importantly, I think I just need to keep writing this thing, because I want to. I feel that’s probably enough of a plan for now.

24/11/2018: 1102

And the book review is finished. It’s not very good, but it’s finished, and hey, as an aspiring author I should be able to accept that nothing I write will ever be perfect and I need to put it out into the world sometime, right? And that goes for 6k-word-long snarky, uncharitable book reviews written for my own pleasure/emotional venting purposes too, right?

Well, whether or not I publish it I’m still counting it, because it’s what I spent most of this week writing. And because it was valuable – it made me see part of my review-writing process and attitude that I find makes the end product suffer, and I’ve had some ideas about how to improve that in future. Because, I mean, I do run a blog. I like sharing my thoughts and opinions; I’d just like to be able to do it in a way that I’m happy with, rather than one where I never quite feel like I’ve made my point but do manage to be really harsh and pedantic.

Part of that is just time, though, the opportunity to write it all out, look at it, and then see what works and what doesn’t. Revision, in other words; and as with novels and essays, so too with book reviews. It’s so energy-consuming. The actual time I’ve spent on this review, trying to organise my thoughts and synthesise my arguments, is probably not that much more than the amount of time I’ve just been winging my way through my werewolf novel reboot. But it feels like it’s taken so much longer. Maybe that’s just the tunnel-vision speaking, which I always get when I’m grappling with my thoughts and trying to turn them into articulate sentences that link together coherently. It’s really hard, so hard that it’s discouraging to think that, after all this work I’ve done, there’s still so much left to do before it’s what I’ll be happy with it being.

I guess I think of book reviews in terms of online “critics”, who deliver their arguments through some mixture of irony, outrage, snark, sarcasm, and overall meanness. It’s certainly catchy. I certainly enjoy indulging in it in the moment. But afterwards, it’s still there for me to deal with – and I really just don’t want to. I think I need the opportunity to vent, but I’ll only be happy that I’ve got a decent analysis if I then take the time to think through my ventilations and get to the heart of the matter. When I’m able to do that, I always come up with a more concise way to make my point, which becomes more well-developed. I occasionally even change my mind.

All of which is a very roundabout and redundant way of saying that you should think before you speak, and especially before you hit “publish”, but it’s hard and I don’t wanna.

Except that I do wanna. That’s what all of this week’s words have taught me, so for that alone they were well worth writing, and absolutely count.

Weekly Total: 12439

I keep saying “that’s more like it” or something whenever I break 10k these days. But I don’t really try very hard to replicate it.

It certainly is cool, though.

And a lot of it came from this freaking Wereling book review, which I have found so exhausting and nerve-wracking, but I also know that I’ve only even started to get to the bottom of where I stand on it. As I was saying to my co-writing friend today, I find that there’s a point when I take on a difficult project where, if it’s too hard initially, my reaction is to bounce off it like a rubber ball off a hard surface. It’s too stressful, I need less stress in my life, I need to step away – makes sense, right? This is compounded by me wanting to be better about self-care, but it’s also definitely stemming from my long history of avoidant behaviour. I’ve realised lately, though, that what I actually want is to do the opposite: to keep at it, because however long it takes for me to break through the crust of my own disorganised thoughts, feelings and random spontaneous decisions, there is a point that I’m trying to make, there is a goal I’m reaching for. It’s just that reaching this goal requires me to persist, and that goes against years of ingrained habits.

I’m seeing how this affects my more “serious” writing, too. This werewolf novel could be a “serious” project of mine, and yesterday I thought I needed to redefine what a “serious” project looks like for me. Now, though, I think it’s just that I haven’t been serious about a project for a really long time. I don’t know how to make myself serious about a project either, how to get myself to the place where I’m excited to try things out and see how they go. Maybe it just eventually comes with commitment; maybe it doesn’t come all the time. And I already know for a fact that my mood doesn’t affect how well I write. But it’s not just about the writing; it’s about my thought process, my ideas, the way that I think while I’m writing. For the longest time it’s felt so hard to even find ideas that feel appropriate to what I’m writing, to the point where I’ve tried to train myself to adopt the “write now edit later” approach that so many authors swear by. I know that it does “work”, as in “you get something written”, if you stick to it. But it still just feels … wrong. Like I’m settling for something that no amount of revision will fix without completely changing things – like I’m cutting myself off short before I even try to reach for better ideas, more ambitious attempts.

And more fun, too.

These werewolf books are opening my eyes to something: most of the werewolves I’ve encountered in literature just aren’t fun. The lore is sometimes cool, but being a werewolf just never feels like an appealing prospect. I’m not so much talking about it from a character perspective, because different characters feel differently about their own lycanthropy (or that of others). I’m talking about, as a reader (and writer), I don’t see the appeal. It’s not something I want to imitate, or even play around with, on my own time. There’s a focus on pack dynamics and hierarchy – and often sexual politics – that is often interesting, but is also often really unpleasant to deal with. It’s a fascinating example of how these topics can be explored through allegory and metaphor, and the fact that I find it hard to deal with honestly is part of the appeal – but beyond it being different to the kinds of stories I generally gravitate to, werewolf literature just doesn’t feel like it’s for me, in the same way that Fantastic Beasts isn’t for me, even though it seems like it should be.

But in a way, that’s heartening – it means that, at the very least, I’m probably not running the risk of stealing anyone else’s ideas. Not that taking inspiration from the ideas of others is something that I think is wrong or bad; I’ve said multiple times that “ripping shit off” is not just fun but vital to the creative process, and I stand by that. But it means that, in the world of YA werewolf novels, shitty or otherwise, I might actually have something new, or at least novel, to offer.

If my plan is to make this werewolf novel a publishing option … and to be honest, much as I love werewolves, I don’t think this is the vehicle I’d use if I did want to introduce my own strain of lycanthropy into the canon. I’d want something a lot more original than “teenager becomes a werewolf and has to deal with it”. I’m sure that might be part of it, but right now it’s the only part.

And maybe that’s why I’m finding it hard to be excited about this story – it’s just not that exciting. But that’s fine. I think if I haven’t already come up with my own take on werewolves after spending the past two years being pretty infatuated with them, then it’s not a problem that I need to worry about solving.

Although there is also the fact that I have not one, but two co-writing projects that involve werewolves. Besides the one I’ve been co-writing all of this year (for which we’ve come up with some very cool werewolf lore that I am very proud of, mostly the awesome idea of my co-author), I have another one with my best friend that, while we haven’t worked on at all since coming up with the concept, we are pretty excited about. I don’t know if we’ll ever work on it, but the fact that I have two other werewolf-related story commitments makes it that much harder for me to think of a unique take on the subject. Then again, they are both co-authored ideas, so I am still free to come up with an idea that’s all my own.

In any case, this week was a good week for writing, even if it felt like a slog for most of it. It’s gotten me looking forward to next week’s writing … which is my last chance to hit those Nano numbers on my word-count for this month, too. I doubt I’m going to really make the attempt to hit 50k words; that would be, like 30k words at least this week, which is 6k words per day. I could do it, but the words wouldn’t matter. And I’m realising more and more that I need the words to matter when I write them, and that that’s okay. Even if it takes a little longer than “right now” to get there. And I’m looking forward to exploring that.

If there’s anything that I ought to have learnt from Weekly Words by now, it is that it’s all about commitment, and ow important it is to be able to look back at where you’ve come from. It makes the path ahead that much more exciting to start walking.

Weekly Words 12-18/11/2018

13/11/2018: 1190

PRIOR TO WRITING …

Sometimes, you know what you want to write about, but not how to write it.

And by “sometimes”, I mean “this is the essence of being a writer”. Or I hope it is anyway, because if not then I’m just bad at it.

I am more aware this year than in any year previous that my writing habits – specifically, the best way to gauge whether or not I will be doing writing at any given time – is dictated heavily by my mood. I’m not great at getting myself to write if I’m not in the mood for it; for years I have lamented my own lack of discipline, the ability to just get started, regardless of my mood – which is infuriating, not only because I keep fantasising about how much more writing I could have gotten done by this point if I had cultivated this habit, but also because after I get started, everything falls into place. Mood does not make my writing better or worse, either; if I go back and look at writing that I’ve done when I was inspired and energisied versus writing that I did while I was in a slump and wracking my brain just trying to figure out how to link sentences together coherently, I can’t tell which is which just by reading it. Forcing myself to write has the same result as being swept up on a wave of inspiration, in terms of the quality of the writing that gets produced.

That’s not the only way in which my writing habits are attuned to my feelings, though. Ever since I parted ways with my scumbag best friend from ages 12-20 and reconnected with myself, the stories that I’m the most passionate about have stood out because of the feeling I get when I think of them. They each have a specific tone, a particular vibe that compels me to maintain the thought of one day realising this feeling through my writing. Mark and Jessie is the big one, but Tallulah has it, too, though it’s shifted over the years; my reboot of Wolf Gang has it – hell, even the original Wolf Gang had it – my one vampire novel that I haven’t started work on since having the idea five years ago has it; my D&D-inspired story that will never get written has it; and a whole bunch of random stories that I started and discarded over the intervening years all have it, too. It’s a particular quality of my stories, and it drives me to distraction feeling like I have to find a way to put their particular mood into words, or I’m not doing it right.

The feelings, though, are not really feelings that I can even articulate. It might be due to the constraints of the English language; it might be that I’m overthinking it; it might be that the feelings I’m having aren’t actually about the stories at all, but rather the reflection of some part of my life that I see in the story. It’s always a wistful feeling, a sort of melancholic longing, but in a nice way. Nice melancholy, whatever the appropriate word for that is. Is it just that the stories I’m telling seem more appealing than the life that I live, and these “vibes” that I attribute to my various writing projects are actually moments of distorted recognition of my sense of unfulfilled desire, of life unlived?

I mean, yes, obviously it is. But I think it’s more than that, too. I think it’s me lingering on feelings and shutting myself off from taking action so that I can absorb them more deeply. I think this is why I don’t get as much writing done as I’d like, why I let opportunities slip by, moments of inspiration that I don’t leap on and follow through with; I think this is why I feel like I miss out on a lot of things in general. I just like feeling.

And what I think I’m ready to put into words now is this: it’s not enough to just feel.

There’s that philosophical question that I came across in my youth upon seeing The Matrix: how can you tell the difference between reality and a really immersive illusion? It’s all just electrical signals being interpreted by our brains, isn’t it? Well even without an intravenous digital simulation of physical reality being imposed upon me, I think I’m definitely someone who falls for the allure of electrical signals more easily than is healthy. I don’t need to be a test-tube clone swimming in a vat of liquefied human corpses (for those who haven’t seen The Matrix, no, I am not mixing any metaphors here) to be too easily contented by what I can feel as opposed to what I can do, or what could happen. I have this fear, I think, that if I try to act on these feelings, they’ll disappear. I’ll scare them off somehow, like trying to sneak up on a unicorn. So to make sure it stays where I can see it, experience it even if only from afar, I just stay still and let it be what it is.

It is not enough.

I guess maybe this is another way of me recognising that writing is never going to be enough to sustain me. I don’t know what is, or even what part of that is. I just have these feelings, these unrealised potential experiences that my brain translates into imperatives to write evocative prose. I think these kinds of feelings only really come to people who are passive and feel like they miss out on things. I think that if I become more active at some point in my life, I’ll stop having these feelings altogether, and feel different things instead. And that’s scary. It makes me kind of sad.

Don’t know why, seeing as I’m doing positively jack shit to actually make that sort of a lifestyle change, but whatever brain.

I know I see it as a barrier to my writing; I know that I use it as a private excuse for why I can’t write whatever project I currently have these wistful feels for. If I can’t write the right words, then no words will do. But I guess I’ve written a thousand words about how I need the right words, so I’ve gotten started – and that means the rest is about to fall into place.

Right?

AFTER WRITING …

God I’m dramatic sometimes.

Did I write the feeling? No. Which, I now realise, would have been impossible anyway, because these feelings aren’t a part of the story that is crying out for my attention. They are sort of like a canvas. Not a blank canvas; it is the story, but it’s the story before it’s been told. It’s the entire story calling out for my attention, saying “hey, you, writer person, come and put words here” …

And it’s not about the right words. It’s just about stories needing words in order to be told, to become more than just a thought or fantasy. I mean sure, there are stories you can tell without words, plenty of them; but my stories use words, because that’s how I tell them. My point is that these feelings – I’m the one looking for the right words, but that’s not what the stories are asking for. They’re just asking to be told. And they feel different because they’re different stories.

Simple. Demystified.

Yet still so alluring … oh well. One more element of my nebulous inner workings decoded. On to the next one, I guess.

14/11/2018: 657

I forget sometimes that this co-writing project is the main reason for why my word-count for the first few months of Weekly Words was so gratifyingly thicc. Yes, thicc can apply to word-count, I just applied it to word-count, and I’m a writer so I would know.

18/11/2018: 1732

Three days out of seven is …

Next week. Next week, I will have decided whether I am going to get serious about writing this month. But for this week …

Weekly Total: 5245

I have planned many stories over the years, and most of them I have never even started. Planning stories, as I have said before on this blog, is really its own project for me; it’s not really ever connected to a story, but some self-contained mental exercise that I do every now and then so that I can give myself a fantasy cookie and pat myself on the back for being “productive”. Plans don’t do anything for me, unless I have a deadline I have to meet and only a plan is going to save me from imploding from nerves and anxiety.

That, or ambition.

Ambition gets shit done, and it is, I now realise, the driving force behind all of my stories that have gotten written, and definitely the ones that I’ve been the most excited about. So, rather than seeing if I can come up with a plan for my current writing projects and seeing if that kicks me into gear, I’m going to try to get some ambition going. Go big or go home, and I’m already home. Not really; I’m writing this from my co-writing friend’s house, but it’s a home, so I guess it counts, right?

Ambition is the only way I’m going to get shit done. I haven’t got any right now – but that’s partly because I’ve been distracting myself with various trivial time-wasting activities that derail whatever ambitions I do have. And I do have at least some for these projects. So, next week is going to be all about getting back in touch with that ambition, and seeing where it leads. Because it would be really cool to do a lot of writing this month.

And while I am not going to be able to get a book ready for submission this year, I think I can finish a zero draft.

I daresay, that almost sounds like a plan.

 

Weekly Words 05-11/11/2018

05/11/2018: 1462

For those of you who care about this sort of thing, you might have noticed that I have, indeed, set this week’s Weekly Word to count Monday through Sunday as one week, as opposed to the usual Sunday through Saturday. Why is that?

Because that’s how my calendar does it, and while I liked the idea of having a “weekend” for myself back at the beginning of this experiment, I have decided that I’ll actually be much more relaxed if I am not trying to mentally juggle several different methods of “counting” a week every time I want to log my writing progress. Monday through Sunday is the new norm.

Also because I did no writing this Sunday anyway.

Last month was all about the werewolf reboot, and I was glad to find that. But this month is all about hitting 50k – and like last year’s Nano, which in many ways set the groundwork for Weekly Words as I hopped between a number of different writing projects, I want to take advantage of the fact that, last month, I found that I actually really liked having that feeling of several projects going on at once. Werewolf project feels like it’s in a good place; I’ve got another one, a dark fantasy parody/satire that is totally not an angry response to the blatantly squandered potential of Suicide Squad in any regard whatsoever, which I really love the premise of but am stuck on how best to tell the story, or even what the best story to tell with the premise might be. Similar to where I was with werewolves last month, but with more of a plan, characters that I actually really like (and a bunch that don’t matter and I really feel it, that’s one big thing I want to fix), and a killer soundtrack that I’ve been compiling ever since coming up with the concept. The entire project mostly got started with me discovering that I actually really like “Hypnotize” by Biggie, despite the horrendously problematic lyrics, so that’s the theme song at the moment, wow you care so much about all of this stop pestering me already, so anyway I have a few things that I am keen to pour my attention into this month …

And at the same time, if all I end up doing is progressing my werewolf book, I think I’ll be pretty happy. The only thing that matters to me is that I write a lot this month, however much “a lot” ends up being.

Also, while I did say last month that I didn’t know who this werewolf book is “for”, I’m starting to realise that it actually has one novel element to it: it’s a YA novel about werewolves where the lead is a guy and there is no love-triangle. I’m a fucking revolutionary over here. But at the same time, all of my werewolf info is coming from films, MTV’s reboot of Teen Wolf, and urban fantasy novels. I haven’t actually ready any YA novels where werewolves are the central focus … oh, no, wait, I did read Blood and Chocolate. I daresay that I rather liked it except for the really gross ending. Nothing quite like hooking up your 16-year-old protagonist with a 24-something-year-old alpha male who blatantly sexually assaults her during before they end up together and frame it as a happy ending. In urban fantasy, I’ll roll my eyes and move on. In YA, I’ll complain a bit louder. This shit is not cool.

So on top of everything else: November 2018 is about research, which hopefully will turn up something a bit more, uh, progressive than that last example. Time to hit the library, which already doesn’t have two of the more interesting (I use the term broadly) titles I found while trawling Goodreads, including one that has a male lead. Then again, if I don’t read it, nobody can accuse me of ripping it off muahahahaha …

08/11/2018: 1654

When I did my calculations, on the 6th, my calculations told me that I had to write 2k words a day, every day, to reach my goal of 50k words.

I mean, it’s nice to have options …

This night’s writing session took my werewolf reboot in another direction I wasn’t planning on, but this time it’s actually one that I rather like, and one that I think I can do something interesting with considering how I’ve set things up. This is slowly turning into a murder mystery, and considering how big of an influence Harry Potter has been on me I am only now surprised to realise that I’ve never tried my hand at one before. I do still want to have the horror elements I was so excited about when I watched It Follows, and I think a murder mystery vibe will help to weave those into the story a bit more organically than the plan I had before. Which didn’t exist. I have a plan for how to incorporate the horror elements into my book now, is what I’m saying.

Good job, me.

I have also been watching My Hero Academia because I am an adult, and appreciating both how much better it is than Dragon Ball Z and how much less classic it is than Dragon Ball ZMy Hero Academia is very slick, just self-aware enough to be refreshing without getting bogged down in a pretentious deconstruction of itself a-la the Zack Snyder DCU, has some great character moments (and some great characters), and nothing fucking happens. It’s entertaining; it’s highly watchable – it’s just that, even when things do happen, it feels like nothing has happened. I think it’s because the villains are really lacklustre compared to the main cast; when the big bad shows up he’s reasonably compelling because he has a relationship with the main character’s mentor, a-la Vader and Obi-Wan, and the rest of the time they’re 1) barely in it and 2) don’t really seem to have a purpose for being there except for the fact that there are superheroes in this show, and therefore there must also be supervillains, right?

The show is pretty great with its characters; the female characters don’t get enough to do (when do they ever), but they do get more to do than other shows where the female characters don’t get enough to do; the action scenes are pretty great (as is the animation in general); and it is eminently watchable. But it lacks a clear focus up to this point, three seasons in. I hear from my brother that, according to the manga it’s based off, the next season should be a bit more coherent in terms of what exactly is going on and why it matters, so I’m looking forward to that. But regardless of whether or not it does live up to its potential, it has given me an opportunity to reflect on some of my own difficulties with certain writing projects with a new perspective. I find that villains in particular are very hit-and-miss for me: either they come to me really naturally and I really like them, or they’re flat and uninspiring and feel like a waste of imaginative space. Looking at My Hero Academia, I honestly think it would be much stronger without the villains; there is already a clear antagonist character for the lead to contend with, and with an antagonist you don’t really need a villain. There is that one villain who works, so sure, keep them – but bring them in way earlier. They show up about 50 episodes in, in the middle of season 3, which is comparable to if Voldemort had only been introduced in The Prisoner of Azkaban. It doesn’t feel good. So, something for me to bear in mind is that sometimes the things that a story seems like it needs are actually getting in the way, and to embrace the possibilities that can arise from just … not including them. Even if they seem like an essential part of the formula.

That or just do the damn formula properly.

Which is the other issue with MHA: the villains are a clear symptom of the underlying focus issue of the show, but focus in general is the main issue. The show is definitely at its strongest when it delves into each character’s personality, backstory and relationships to flesh them out and develop them, and while a lot of characters who seem really interesting (most the girls) don’t get as much of this special treatment as others, when they do the show gains its X-factor. But there’s also the villain arcs that seem to come out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly; there are random asides showing characters who don’t strictly matter doing things that also don’t matter just to remind you that they’re there (also mostly villains); there are characters who show up to do something quite significant and then pretty much never show up again, making their appearances feel more distracting than anything … a lot goes on in this show, and the balancing act does not always go smoothly. The lesson here: know what the hell your story is about, and then make sure it is actually about that thing.

10/11/2018: 1366

Speaking of which: yesterday’s writing efforts were spent making notes on one of my projects trying to figure out exactly that – and I think it’s worked. Werewolf thing has progressed since last time, though I ended up chickening out of committing hard to the brilliant new direction I found myself going in; I do think I’ve stumbled into a great idea, but I feel unable to pull it off. I also think that, however interesting the idea is, it’s still a distraction. I have noticed though that I don’t really think about these exciting new developments when I come across them, specifically not thinking about how they might work – or not – with what I already had in mind. I just see a new direction to go in and that becomes the new be-all and end-all of my writing intentions. Makes a little more sense as to why I get stalled so easily and so often while writing.

The ideal of 50k words this month really sank in the other day, doing the math on how much I’ll have to do now in order to hit that goal – I realised that, basically, I’d have to write an entire novel. Which, after thinking about it for about one second, made me realise that wow my brain is slow sometimes. I’m not “doing” Nano this year, but 50k words in a month sounds pretty damn Nano-esque to me. Can I do it? With my werewolf novel, specifically?

No.

I mean, I could write 50k words for my werewolf novel, but they wouldn’t constitute a finished manuscript. They’d be, like, a third of a finished zero draft manuscript that I would then have to painstakingly comb through for revision. However, spread across a number of different projects, I think it’s relatively achievable. Maybe not likely, but far more likely than getting one novel written this month. Besides, I don’t have the focus or intent to put all my effort into a single project at the moment.

God this year turned out to be a mess writing-wise. I was supposed to use this year to get Tallulah ready for submission to an agent – not happening. I was then supposed to focus on getting Mark and Jessie ready for revision – also not happening. Now I’m juggling a number of different writing projects, which is happening, but it’s just so … what’s the point? Where does this get me? I suppose it doesn’t have to get me anywhere; I’m enjoying the process …

The writing isn’t the problem. It’s everything else. But, if everything else was going well, I’d still be writing.

So I guess I’ll keep writing.

Weekly Total: 6846

One year. One year, I will do Nanowrimo properly again. Last time, in 2016, I got most of the first iteration of Wolf Gang written, for funsies. The next time I have some big writing project that I actually give any semblance of a fuck about, Nano could be a really helpful tool for focusing my efforts.

But it is not this year.

And hey, the year is almost over, and while every year since around 2006 has felt fairly short to me, this year felt especially short. I’m still adjusting to the superhero calendar hanging on my wall that I got for Christmas last year; that’s how short this year feels to me. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and this year …

Huh.

I actually have had a lot of fun this year.

Like, maybe not by the standards of normal, healthy people, but by my standards I’ve turned into a fucking party animal this year. So maybe that’s it. The co-writing project has been a blast; D&D is a whole new experience in terms of having something to do with myself that isn’t writing, gaming, procrastinating or brooding; Youthline has had its ups and downs and I don’t know if I’m going to continue after this year but it’s been an incredibly valuable experience one way or another; recent health issues led to a lot of important revelations and had quite a few silver linings …

Yeah. It has actually been a pretty good year.

But it’s not over yet – and fuck it, maybe I will give Nano the old college try. Not by doing Nano officially, like through the website or whatever, because if I’m going to do that then I’m going to do it from the start of the month so that I can get all the trophies because I’m an efficient gamer goddammit, but through Weekly Words. I can fumble my way through this novel like I did the first time; I can work on the three main writing projects that I have going and get back into morning pages and freewriting. This entire year was supposed to be me focusing on one writing project to prepare for submission; I can focus on writing for one month.

And even if I don’t, it felt good to write it down with conviction, and really, isn’t that what’s most important?

Monthly Words: October 2018

Monthly Total: 27405

I realised, looking back at Weekly Words this month, that I should pay a bit more attention to my spelling. It’s not that typos are the worst thing in the world, it’s just that I know I can do better, and that typing “mean” instead of “meant” for instance can totally change the context or destroy the meaning of a sentence.

It’s also that it can give me stupendously high hopes that I somehow magically wrote more than I did, such as this gem: “13/10/2018: 10475”. One of those numbers is not supposed to be there. I think it’s the zero.

I mean, I’m fairly sure I didn’t write 10k words in a single day. I know I’ve written 7k in a single day, but that was the day, except maybe a few hours between waking and eating lunch beforehand.

This month, it was all about the werewolf reboot, which means that October is the first time since … Nanowrimo 2016, wow. It’s the first time since then that I’ve spent a full month dedicated to working on one project.

Which is not entirely accurate, because this month I also tinkered with some other projects and discovered that not having A Project was actually a great feeling, and the second-to-last week of October was really, really bad in terms of getting writing of any kind done … but still. I discovered long-forgotten emotional highs that trick me into thinking that there is a meaning of life and that I’ve found it; I then discovered that, upon losing this euphoric miasma distorting my perception of reality, I no longer fall into an inconsolable slump as I used to do when such occurrences would … occur … which suggests personal growth of some sort, and being a writer I am all kinds of about that. I took care of myself health-wise, and have recently started an actual diet-type thing that seems to be … well, in terms of weight loss I have no idea because we don’t have working scales at home (which might be a good thing), but I know that I genuinely feel better for doing it, so I’m saying it’s working.

Most importantly for my writing, though, I have finally come up with a sentence to explain why it is that “just write it” doesn’t quite work for me, nor does “I need a plan”. What I need is to “just write it” – and fix it up as I go.

And this is with regards to the zero draft stage, specifically. (From now on I am going to consistently refer to the first produced writing of a story the “zero draft” rather than the “first draft”, as it gets confusing otherwise.) I am, I think, what is sometimes referred to as a “discovery writer”; I have a broad idea of the story and premise and maybe some scenes that I want to fit in somewhere, and hopefully some characters that I give something resembling a fuck about, but everything else I pretty much just come up with as I go. How it all fits together, sub-plots, plot hooks, supporting cast – and sometimes even changes to the foundation of ideas that get me started on a story. So “just write” doesn’t work for me and my process, because I often get started writing well before I have anything resembling a plan – and that’s just how I like doing things. Most of the time at least. Mark and Jessie is sort of an exception, and that’s why I hate how it turned out so much. I need to write my way to a good idea, and then be able to go back a few sentences and re-word things so that the idea links in more strongly. I have to be able to stop and start a bit at the beginning.

And letting myself do that is the only reason why I’m still writing this werewolf novel. I would agree that stopping and starting is a great way to make sure you never get anywhere – if you have clear ideas on where it is that you’re going. If you have a pretty clear plan, even if it’s only a broad plan and the little details haven’t been worked out yet, then even if you go off on tangents during the writing process you can 1) write your way back to the plan and 2) iron out all the kinks in revision. But if you don’t have a plan, then stopping and starting is inevitably going to be part of the process, because it’s how you link your ideas together more strongly. It is, in effect, making the plan as you write, instead of doing it beforehand.

Because when you’re coming up with a plan for a story, you’re going to change things, go back and work in your new and better ideas when you come up with them, and in general restart and reboot and reimagine your writing plan in numerous ways, all before you even start “writing”. The only difference between “pantsing” and “planning” is whether or not your planning phase coincides with your zero draft phase. For me, it does, because I have done the long planning phase before. I did a 15-year-long planning phase. Guess how well that turned out. If I had been writing and letting myself stop and start as I went, things might have gone better for me. Also if the story hadn’t been unwritable because I kept shifting the goalposts for myself, but my point is that I thrive on making up a story as I go. I won’t even bother starting on a story unless I have some kind of premise, obviously, but I don’t need – or want – much more than a premise, a couple of ideas for how it ends, some characters, maybe a twist – because any more than that and I start over-thinking, over-planning, and for that reason alone I need to get to the writing part real quick-like.

For this realisation alone, this month has been a good one writing-wise, because this exact moment is one that I’ve been hoping for for a very long time: the moment when I figure out how I write, and specifically how I get myself to write instead of just making plans about what I’m going to, hypothetically, write at some point. How to break my habit of over-planning.

And now that I’ve found it, I aim to enjoy it.