Why the fuck not.
First of all: the chapter that I want to write is actually a chapter that I want to finish writing, and I have no idea where I put it so let the folder-hopping begin … I started it a few months ago and, while it was going resonably well, the fact that I didn’t have a clear plan for what was going to happen really tripped me up. I knew that I wanted “some awkward social stuff” to happen, but not what awkward social stuff, so I ended up killing my own momentum by writing and re-writing character interactions until I got frustrated that I wasn’t getting what I wanted and gave up.
What I realise now is that this is fine. Giving up is fine. Sometimes you just need to move on and do something else. And I don’t know how long it’s going to take for me to actually write Tallulah, but I do know that there’s not much point in getting frustrated every time I have a setback, because I can’t really go beyond my own limits. That’s kind of the definition of the word “limit”, right? A point you cannot go beyond? You can only hope to expand them, and that takes time and practice, and right now I think I have what I need to do that.
Also, I think I have what I need to just get this shit done: do what I’ve been doing for my werewolf thing and just allow myself to write complete and utter derivative shit, so long as it will make things happen, create a sense of flow and progression, and keeps me writing. This is going to be hard, because I have a serious hang-up with Tallulah on making it good and feminist and progressive and all of these other things that, I mean, I do want. But right now what I need to prioritise is laying down a foundation that holds together as well as it possibly can.
So, I am deeply sorry Tallulah, but you are about to become the most incredibly offensive story ever written. Probably. Because you’re a story about a teenage girl, and most of the stories we have about those are horrible, so those horrible ideas will probably be the ones I default to while writing at breakneck pace to just get shit moving. I really, really hate this, but that’s what editing is for. I promise I will come back and make everything morally acceptable.
Hang on tight.
I’d forgotten just how satisfying it is to inflict pain and misery upon fictional characters who are entirely under my control.
Also this took me about three hours to get around to so, yeah, no speed-writing for me today.
It’s going pretty great, though. I’ve written 858 words, and found that most of the ones I’d already written were actually not too bad. I like how this chapter is going so far. Just needs a big old tweak at its current stopping-point so that I can bring it back around to fitting in with one of my favourite scenes and …
Well, there’s a question I’ve asked myself a few times: how much do I need that scene? And also isn’t it kind of not particularly well-executed? It’s supposed to set up a mystery, but I never quite felt like that happened properly, or maybe just that I never followed through with it properly; one of my beta readers told me it created a sense of suspense so I guess I should trust that at least one person thought it worked.
Well, here’s the moment of truth as it’s the scene I’m about to copy-past into the chapter. Up to 1762 new words, all of which I’m even fairly happy with. Not ashamed to admit I picked up a few neat ideas from reading The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black; it wasn’t what I was expecting from the first 100 pages, but I really liked how it was written. She does good characters, and she also writes them well. Definitely recommended.
And: I have a twist! For this chapter, not The Darkest Part of the Forest. The thing that established the maybe-possibly suspense-setting bit – I’m going to change it! And it’s going to have all sorts of huge repercussions for the story and I DON’T CARE!
Okay maybe I do care a bit; maybe I’ll just leave it out. I’m not entirely sure. I should probably decide.
Also: holy shit, making myself stop worrying about whether what I’m writing is “good” or not and instead just writing what I have in my head is actually making my writing better. It’s more … to the point. I just have stuff that I want to write, and then I write it. I didn’t think it would work for Tallulah in the same way it worked for my werewolf thing, but so far it seems like it works at least as well, and possibly even better because I have three and a half years of work to build on. Which I also didn’t think would work; I thought it would get in the way and distract me from my goal. But I guess my goal is to write the rest of this chapter as I had it planned out a few months ago anyway … guess that explains my clarity of mind …
Did I actually learn anything here, or did I just make myself stop procrastinating and start writing?
Well, no, I did learn something: the rest of this draft/revision/whatever is actually doable. That’s where I can put my werewolf lessons into practice and just write exactly what I have in mind, the “too fast to think” method, where anything goes so long as it gets me where I want to go. But what I’m also learning is that what I tend to default to isn’t necessarily as horrible and derivative and politically regressive as I’d feared. I mean maybe as this draft goes on it’ll get that way as I start running out of stuff I’d planned and start looking for ways to bridge gaps I’ll only know about once I get to them, but in the meantime this is honestly going pretty well. I’m kinda proud of this, to be honest. Yesterday I thought I was going to have to put Tallulah on the shelf until I’d “worked something out”, and now I’m finding that all I had to “work out” was that I already have what I need to get started again – and not only that, but to finish.
I think I can actually finish this story by the end of the year.
I’ve even got my wall-planner; I still haven’t marked it up, but I can take care of that easily enough. It’s not like I have a better idea of the story that I want to tell just yet. But I do have a better way of finding my way to it: using the most basic, uncomplicated ideas I possibly can. Because so far, it’s making what I thought I had to work with a lot better, a lot clearer, and a lot more coherent.
It’s just one chapter. It’s a chapter that I sorta had planned a few months ago at that. But for now, at least, this book I’ve been struggling to make work for the past two years is starting to feel like a story again.
5422 words later – a few hundred of which I did copy-and-paste from another chapter, because they were exactly what I needed …
It fucking works.
I can write this book. I can tell this story.
I can do this.
The past week has been nerve-wracking and breathless; I have often lamented my lack of free time, but this has proven to me that free time is the time that you spend the way you want to spend it, in the moment that you inhabit it, not some promised slot of freedom you will eventually reach just by waiting it out. Free time is created, not found. And I could have created a lot more if I’d fought my nerves and made myself do the things I’d felt like doing, when I felt like doing them.
But that’s fine. All lessons can be learnt, as many times as we need to. And what I learnt today is that this story isn’t done, isn’t too much for me too handle, isn’t a lost cause that I should just give up on. Will I keep writing it after today with the same verve and enthusiasm that I have right now? I have no way of telling. I made a pretty huge decision, changing a really key aspect of the plot because I just kinda felt like it, and because it was part of the original concept for the story. My hope is that it gets rid of any excuse I might have for defaulting back to the “superhero origin story” that my current revised manuscript turns into, or so I feel. I don’t want to tell a superhero origin story; I don’t want to tell a superhero story at all – not with this story anyway. I just want to tell this one. And for the first time in a very, very long time, I feel not only that I can, but that I will.
Also that’s 5k words I wrote today; that’s pretty fucking great. I am kind of a total boss. Just sayin’.
I’m starting to get excited about everything else now: my masters, my other books, the possibility of finding a stable enough source of income to maybe move out of home by this time next year, after I’ve made more progress with my general anxiety – and I’m feeling like that anxiety is ebbing more and more as I continue to just trust that writing what I have in my mind is the right thing to write, and have it proven true every time. I learnt a lot about life in general through writing this book in its first and second years, and it seems that’s going to continue. I’m not complaining. If this is my year of risk-taking, then the risk I’m learning is worth taking is to trust my simplest ideas. It’s a discipline, and I want to get more disciplined. It’s productive, and I want to produce more of the work that I love doing.
And it’s not just helping me get my stories told; it’s helping me tell them better than I have for a very long time. Since I first started, really. Obviously I’ve learnt a hell of a lot since I first started, fifteen years ago, but I definitely had the cleanest, clearest, most convicted sense of my stories back then. And it’s starting to come back now, and even if this book falls through – which I hope it doesn’t, and it doesn’t feel like it will – that will be worth it all on its own.
Here’s to writing.