Full Plan Ahead

Planning is occurring.

I have lamented multiple times the way in which I tend to use “planning” as a euphemism for “distract myself from commitment”. Seems counter-intuitive in a way, as if you set out to plan something then surely that’s an indication of commitment. But for writing at least, I find that planning is something that I do because I’m too anxious to actually start writing in earnest, afraid that once I start I’ll find that it’s not good enough, I’m not good enough of a storyteller, writer or human being to even attempt it, where’s the nearest bottomless ocean trench.

It’s different with a story I’ve already finished, though. Tallulah I’ve finished … I’m saying one and a half times, because the first/zero draft counts as one, but the manuscript I’m working from counts as about half because, while there is a ton of new writing in it (and tons more old writing cut out), most of the old writing – and old, scrapped continuity – is still there making a mess of things. But the point is that this is a book that I’ve already written, and have been in the process of writing over and over again for the last five years. Obviously “finished” is a contentious term for a manuscript that is still undergoing revisions, but my point is that I’m not trying to make something out of nothing with this project; I’m trying to make something new out of something old. And that’s all it takes to make my planning actually feel like planning, as opposed to procrastinating.

As for the plan itself … it’s getting there. It’s actually quite exciting, except for the prospect of all the new writing I’m going to have to do. But that’s just the prospect; the process itself will probably be fine, and perhaps even enjoyable. Though neither of those things are important right now. What’s important is that I tell this story again, better.

I had the plan of scrapping everything and just starting over from scratch, but I decided to give myself the opportunity to try and take what I had and put it together in a new way, and see if it looked like the story I needed to tell. And it’s actually kind of turning out that way. I’m finding it hard to keep myself from directing these plans back to the current structure of the plot, and that’s caused some frustration. I think I need to make a few different plans for the book as well, because there’s a huge problem with plot bloat – but at least it’s tied to certain characters, which means that at least my characters are, in fact, central to the plot, even if that plot is badly executed. I’m hoping to get one version with the problem character done (the plan I’m currently working on) and one without them (the next plan) just to see how they feel in comparison.

The very first, OG version of this story, when it was still in its conceptual infancy, I think is too removed from what I actually want to do now. At the same time, I’ve tried to cling to it and maintain it even as the story evolved and outgrew those humble beginnings, and the result is a story whose vision is incredibly compromised, contradictory, and impossible to see clearly. I think the story that I needed to tell is not the one that I need to tell now.

I am thinking probably too much, all in all.

But the planning is going well, because unlike my procrastinatory planning, this planning is clearing and ordering my thoughts in a useful and constructive manner. I’ve already drafted the plan once, and in committing to working on it as a process as opposed to trying to get it right in one go, I’ve found solutions to problems that I thought were going to kill my momentum dead.

And above all else, I do plan to get this done. This story will be told. It will be told as well as I can manage it. And it will be the story that needs to be told, rather than a bunch of ideas jammed together because I couldn’t make up my mind which ones to keep and which ones to keep for later.

I think the last time I was working this hard on Tallulah, I came to the conclusion that trying to rid myself of my bad writing habits – holding onto “darlings” instead of killing them, agonising over the perfect way to write a sentence, holding my story ransom to the demands of my censor – is futile. And also impossible – because now I realise that all of that is just an inevitable part of the writing process itself. You never “get rid” of those habits, because those habits are writing. And you “rid” yourself of those problems by writing more. By committing to the thing you’re writing until you reach the breaking-point and it’s impossible to continue without writing better than you have been – and then you do that. It’s like magic; you’ll just do it, if you stick with it, and the story – the good story – will seem to write itself.

Or that’s how it seems to happen with Tallulah. So I guess that’s a sign that I’m doing the right thing by sticking with it. Which already feels like the right thing to do.

I am here to write. I haven’t been here to write for a long time. But it’s good to be back.

Advertisements

Holy Christ I Hate This Book

I don’t know now, looking back, how I let myself live after having the gall to write this goddamn book. I don’t know why, in particular, these ideas convinced me that they were good enough to commit to written language, let alone show other people – for those who have been here since the beginning or checked the archives, I did in fact show off my chapters to a select few readers/friends as they were written. Never mind that I got almost universally positive feedback; it’s a bad idea, because you start writing for your readers instead of for yourself, and while that seems like a good thing in a way, it’s really not. You are the one making the offer; your readers are the ones who decide if they can or cannot refuse.

I can’t quite wrap my brain around what in the pulsating green fuck motivated me to make this particular offer. I mean … nothing’s fucking happening. At all. Oh sure, plenty of “character stuff”, lots of delicious, mouth-watering “relationship drama”, and once upon a time I got the biggest fucking hard-on for this shit, and I just do not understand it anymore. It’s that simple. I don’t get my own fucking book, my fucking passion project. I can’t understand why I ever wanted to write any of the words that I am currently reading.

I have no “in” to something I’ve already fucking written.

But, as per usual with anything having to do with reading your own writing, this is a valuable learning exercise. Yesterday it was just my taste in prose; now it’s my taste in details to linger over and emphasise by giving them privileged space on the page. It’s just so fucking juvenile; I don’t know how else to describe this writing other than some thesaurus-derived variant of immature. I can’t fucking believe that I wrote this; I can’t stand it.

And what I’m learning from this is that the focus of this story needs to change, and it needs to change very fucking hard.

I can remember what was motivating me at the time: I wanted this story, so unlike any other I had ever envisioned writing, let alone actually bothering to write, to be more character-focused and specifically to move away from my general focus on action. I had become sick of my continued infatuation with Dragon Ball Z for a little while by the time Tallulah came to mind, and was bothered by how much that one piece of media dominated my creative palette. Tallulah was more than just a breath of fresh air; it was almost like a new identity, because in writing it I became somebody I never thought I would or could ever be. Just to be the kind of person who would commit to writing a story like Tallulah changed everything I thought about myself, and as I stuck with it over the course of the next 3 years, I continued to change. And for the better, I will say.

But what I see now is that those changes for the better were not remotely matched by better writing, because fuck my knees with a King James Bible this is bad. Yesterday I thought it was just words that were the problem; today I see that it’s both words and the content of those words, the scenes they create, the events that they encapsulate and draw attention to. The story, in short, is what is bad, because it focuses on this inane fucking bullshit where nothing fucking happens. It’s 88k words worth of filler masquerading as a story.

How. How could I permit this. Somebody tell me.

I’ll tell me: I was distracted, obviously, by the sensation of doing something different, breaking out of my comfort zone and creating something that I never would have imagined I would even think to create. Which was a great idea, and I’m glad that I did it, but Jesus Christ could I have learnt to fucking write first? Or had any sort of grasp of the meaning of staying on-point? Or just understood what in the algae-coated fuck my story was even about? This tells me that my big revelation about what I needed to change about the end of this book isn’t just right; it’s not right enough. I need to change … like … everything. I need to write a new fucking book is what I fucking need.

I can’t believe I’m saying this and meaning it, but I hate Tallulah. I hate it so fucking hard.

I can’t believe it.

I wonder how much of this is tied to the fact that I did in fact spend almost 2 years writing one of the more pulptastic things I’ve ever been possessed to write. Dear god, I actually wrote that shitty YA werewolf novel. Like, that’s a thing that I did. It’s finally starting to sink in; took long enough … but it’s action-focused, it’s pulpy and fast-paced; the character stuff does matter but it’s also inconsistent and distracting because, as I’m discovering pretty hard right now, I have a really hard time staying on-point or clearly understanding and sticking to my vision for what a story is when I have that vision. Probably has something to do with the fact that it took 2 goddamn years to write; Tallulah, festering mound of refuse that it apparently is, only took around 7 months once I started writing it “properly”, which is to say according to a daily routine that I checked off on my wall-planner. And for all the filler, at least the focus was fairly clear.

Here’s the thing, though: Tallulah feels salvageable. It would be a lot of work, but it would eventually work if I committed to it. My shitty YA werewolf novel, on the other hand – it could, but I wouldn’t see the benefit to doing so, and I do with Tallulah. This wrong-headed focus on trivial bullshit that doesn’t matter, introducing things at weird, irrelevant times and putting the emphasis on seemingly significant things that either don’t go anywhere or are only significant if you can read my mind and know all the invisible backstory that I have for these characters and their motives – if I got rid of that and re-focused on stuff that actually mattered (or, rather, actually included things that mattered to be focused on in the first place), then certain aspects of the style I’m finding here could work. It’s just … misdirected, I guess. The hard part is going to be the rewriting. I’m foreseeing that I’m going to have to do a lot of it. I’m not looking forward to it.

Actually, I’m really not looking forward to it. When I decided that I was going to commit to getting Tallulah ready for submission to agents by the end of the year, I had not yet begun to re-read it. I feel like if I had done that first, I wouldn’t have made that commitment, because I don’t think that I have the energy or discipline to meet that goal. I can’t help but feel like I could put my efforts into something else more rewarding instead of trying to salvage this unreadable train wreck of a manuscript.

I’m starting to wonder if Tallulah was doomed to just be another writing exercise, in retrospect. Because in retrospect, it actually has some pretty important things in common with my shitty YA werewolf novel, which was always intended to be a writing exercise. Mainly, they both came about from me getting excited about trying out something that I never had before, something that seemed very out-of-the-ordinary for me to even do to begin with. The specifics – tone, theme, pace, etc. – are completely different. But that’s just semantics. The driving force behind both of them was that they were experiments. Things that I didn’t know if I could do, and that’s why I wanted to do them. And I did.

And perhaps that’s where I should leave both of them. Perhaps this is me realising that, actually, I’ve been done with Tallulah from the moment I decided to take my hiatus. I can’t help but wonder if that would be for the best.

But I also can’t help but wonder what it would be like to continue as planned. I mean, I’ve been through rough patches with this book before. Lots of them. None of them were quite as off-putting as this one, but then I’ve had a whole 4 years of changing tastes to go through between then and now. I probably should have anticipated that I wouldn’t like what I found when I eventually came back to this fetid swamp of un-killed Darlings. That’s what the problem is, I think. Last time I read it, I remember thinking that there was still way too much filler – this is just compounding on that observation; it’s nothing but filler so far.

Maybe it gets better in later chapters. Maybe I just have to include something in my notes about, I dunno, how I feel about the chapter, or what I wish was happening instead, or some other way of recording the changes I feel need to be made or pointing out the problems that I have with the chapters. I’m not sure if those belong with my notes or not. I really don’t know what to do when it comes to revision, even though I’ve done it once already.

Promises, maybe. It does seem like a good thing to focus on, having finally gotten around to listening to the Writing Excuses podcast: identifying what promises I’m making to the reader, and then identifying where I keep and break those promises. I remember telling a friend, sometime during the hiatus, that the thing I was most concerned with about Tallulah was that I wasn’t keeping my promises. Now I think I just need to identify what those promises are, and whether or not I keep them – or want to keep them. Seems like a decent way to go.

God I hate this book – but I’m not giving up on it yet. Not until I know for sure why I hate it, and what I could do to change that, if anything. I want to be able to make an informed decision about this book, one way or another. I feel like I owe it that much, at least.

And also, seeing as I do kinda still like the idea of writing for a living, I suppose I had better get used to the idea that I might not always be totally head-over-heels in love with everything I ever write, and that I might have to put in a bit of effort – or more than a bit – to make it work in the long-run.

Commitment. Tallulah taught me a lot about that. Time to see if I learnt anything.

Started From The Bottom

I played too many computer games today and wrote exactly nothing. Well, except for a meandering, thoughtless post that I just scrapped in order to write this one instead.

Here’s the lowdown: I have some serious writerly cravings right now, but I just don’t have anything on my plate right now that feels like it clicks. I’m in a rut. I wonder if it might have something to do with my coming off my meds, which I am doing because after 2 months all I had to show for them were very minor side-effects and zero benefits. I might try another kind at a later date, but for now I’m pretty happy to go back to my usual fare of self-motivated whatever it is that I do to cope with my anxiety.

Anyway. Today I got the writing munchies, but the only thing I could think of was old projects of the kind I wrote that post about wanting to leave behind, and a sort of murky bubble that has popped up after my brain apparently decided to finally, finally donate Realm of the Myth to the graveyard. Again. The last time I did that, I got a nice, juicy creative bubble that burst all over the place and filled my head with awesome ideas that I did actually try out for a while, and still have some material left over from that I’m holding in reserve. This time there’s been another bubble, but it’s not as shiny and inspiring. The ideas are there, I quite like the look of some of them, but it’s nothing I feel any particularly strong pull towards. And that’s the kind of thing that I think I need to feed this craving I have. It’s such a frustrating craving, because you have to look to yourself to fill it. That’s how writing works, after all.

Only no, it’s not, and holy shit I’ve spent the last half hour thinking that it is when it’s so obviously not. I really must be in the grip of some kind of hormonal upheaval. The reason my shitty YA werewolf novel worked so well was because I looked outside and only outside, honestly, for material. Once I had taken it in I put my personal spin on it, which is inevitable, but I wasn’t trying to probe the depths of my soul for ideas. I was stealing them from other places.

But there’s something else, too, and that’s characters. I have so many characters from Realm of the Myth who I am fond of – not least because I’ve been thinking about them for over half my life – and it feels like in order to populate this new potential story with characters, I’d have to start all over again. And, I mean, yeah. I don’t want to just recycle my characters and stick them somewhere new just because I feel attached to them. They should fit. Right now I have a glittery morass of concepts that could be shaped into a world in which a story might take place. I just … I don’t know. It feels like if it’s not going to be the RoTM crew, it’s not going to be anyone. I’ve got a kernel of inspiration ready to be planted in fertile soil, but it’s like the new world I’ve found in this murky bubble is made of earth that comes ready salted.

I mean, with lines like that, I should be a writer or something.

It’s like my body won’t allow me to come up with other characters or stories in this space, this designated high fantasy story space that RoTM has ruled over for the past decade and a half. My brain is fucking elitist. Honestly, I do like those characters, and they’ll probably find other homes pretty easily. But I do want something new. And I do think I want it to be high fantasy, because the reason I have complained about high fantasy so much is because I see the potential for what it could be and get frustrated that that’s not what high fantasy writers – or readers – seem interested in. I mean I’ve already said this, other people have already said this, but it bears repeating: the genre is called high FANTASY. Are the options just too limitless? Is that why it’s so generic, because aside from market forces dictating what publishers will actually consider for publishing, writers just need a set of guidelines to abide by to have any structure whatsoever, and the more generic the easier it is to find a structure? Much like what I found while writing my shitty YA werewolf novel?

The imaginative territory has been taken up in my mind, and it’s frustrating. But after writing all of this, I feel a little fired up now. I feel compelled to fight through the barriers I’ve built up around this space, to actually inject it with fresh ideas, to get some fucking characters in there and make it official that, yes, Realm of the Myth is finally dead.

There was no ceremony, and I kind of wanted one, but on the other hand this is also how I wanted it to die: quietly. To just disappear. Maybe part of the reason I can’t think of any characters is because I’m still kind of in shock that this is what I want.

Well, I scrapped one ranty post just to replace it with another, but at least this rant feels a little more accurate to what’s going on with me and writing at the minute. Tomorrow I have other things to do, which makes it the perfect time to get a lot of work done – restrictions foster creativity. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been writing very much lately either, because after exercising early in the day and just feeling relaxed and pleasant from that point on, there really isn’t anything else I need to satisfy myself with.

Well, there wasn’t until today. I think I will actually start tinkering with something tonight, so that I can continue tomorrow. I may not have any characters in mind yet, but we’ll see if I can’t stark making inroads towards that goal. New life for a new world. And hopefully, for the first time in what feels like a long time, a new story. Not just a writing exercise that grew into a much larger project than it was supposed to be, or a repurposed old project that I just can’t let go of: an honest-to-metaphysical-concepts new story. I haven’t done that in what feels like far too long. And I know I’ve come up with new stories fairly recently, so the fact that this feels like The Real Thing and they haven’t – I don’t know what thaty says, but it says something.

I’m going to try and find out what.

 

 

Cutting Room

So today I did some work, and it was productive and stuff, as work should be. My third-time’s-the-charm experiment with Realm of the Myth is … well, today was the first day, and considering that it’s actually been going pretty well.

My goal today was just to take this one idea that I really liked and write down that I was not going to use it in Realm of the Myth, that it belonged somewhere else. Darlings don’t need to be killed all the time; a lot of the time they just belong somewhere else, or as the start of their own thing. This was one such instance, and once I did that I found that there were more of those ideas. A lot more. And the closer I got to the core of this story, the more I realised that not only is this a horrible, thin, shitty story, but it’s also more than one horrible, thin, shitty story. Which I already knew, but it’s one thing to know something and another thing entirely to find out that it’s actually true.

But this is good, because I’ve managed to assign some darlings to new homes, homes that I’m very happy for them to have, and I’m whittling down the mess to find the underlying pattern. I predict it’s going to be a case now of not only assigning ideas to different projects, but of splitting this project up into individual projects as well. And by the time I’m done, I think I’ll only have individual projects left, and nothing of Realm of the Myth will remain at all.

It’s kind of funny, actually, making this happen. I put so much time and hope into this thing, put it on a pedestal, imagined how it would one day be my magnum opus if only I could get it right, and now that I’m actually going through the trouble of killing/relocating darlings in order to try and find a story worth telling I’m finding that it’s other stories that are worth telling, not this one. Which makes sense. Because this is a story that I came up with when I was 14, starring characters based on me and my at-the-time best friend and our families and friends, where we could do magic, summon magical creatures to fight for us, and would have exciting adventures. It was a story I made up because I was fucking around. Which, when you’re 14, you should be doing. I don’t regret it. I just regret making more of it than it could sustain, and insisting on doing it for 15 years.

But even then, not really, because if it means I get to finally learn what it takes to take something seriously enough to give up on it, then it’s been worth it. 15 years – most people waste that much of their lives, probably, on something or other. At least this wasn’t a marriage or a business deal or a university degree. It was just some impulsive, heat-of-the-moment, wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-this-happened self-indulgence.

And for that, it was pretty great. It shouldn’t be anything more than that. It doesn’t need to be.

And I don’t need it to be. Not anymore.

Still gonna spend the next 36 days playing around with it though because who knows what else might turn up. And because, so far, leaning in has been the most effective way of making myself realise that it’s time to finally give it up.

 

Too much (or too little) of a good thing

Tallulah revision is – well, it’s going about as well as it’s ever gone, honestly, I just haven’t been thinking about it as much as I usually have so it feels like I’m slipping. I’ll do some more of it tonight. I have resigned myself, at this exact moment because of the particular mood I’m in, that I won’t be in a place to judge whether I’ve succeeded with this revision or not until it’s actually finished. I would say that this is a very good way to look at things. I also think I’ve already started off on the wrong foot and deviated from my plan to inject more humour into some of the darker parts of the story, but I’m only up to chapter 2 as it is. I also have to admit, I don’t like the start of Tallulah, how it opens – it feels very un-story-like. It certainly doesn’t fit the mold of a more humorous story, so is my idea to make it funnier a good one, or is it dismantling its integrity and muddying its identity for the sake of freshness? I dunno. I just know I don’t like it right now. And I feel it could be better regardless of whether it’s humourous or not, and that therefore it should be better. I just don’t know if that’s something I should be worrying about now. But I am, and that’s the way it generally goes.

There are other things I’m worrying about as well, though perhaps “worry” is the wrong word. “Worry” suggests that there’s something in motion, something happening to elicit said worry, like a storm warning, or a friend telling you about some impulsive online purchase they’ve made, or hearing that a Republican presidential candidate is getting a lot of support. What I’m feeling is not so much worry as … indecision.

Hello darkness my old friend …

The Nanowrimo project I started and have yet to finish is the subject of this afternoon’s angst. This project arose out of another project, the 13-year procrastination-fest that I called Realm of the Myth because I was 14 and needed a fantasy-sounding title for my epic fantasy saga, and the words “realm” and “myth” seemed pretty appropriate for my purposes so I just dumped them in there. Once it got Nanowrimofied I changed the title to Main Character Syndrome and have been having fun times plotting out a trajectory for it, while also feeling apprehensive about actually trying to write it because of all the narrative conventions, tropes and cliches I’m using the story to deconstruct, critique and, in a lot of cases, celebrate. It’s a lot to bear in mind.

The main difference between the two actually wasn’t the change in title and the specifics of the plot: it was changing the main character. Said main character, Sajen, was originally a blatant author self-insert character, because the original premise of Realm of the Myth was imagining what it would be like if myself and my at-the-time-best-friend Wickham happened to be wizards, wizards who also commanded powerful spirit beasts (read: Pokemon/Final Fantasy summons), did martial arts (read: Dragon Ball Z) and went to a magic school (read: I don’t really have to explain that one do I). As time went on and I became more and more withdrawn and self-loathing, Sajen became a more hysterical – in the pejorative sense of the word – character to match my inner turmoil. Once I hit 20-ish and ejected from the me-Wickham cohort, Sajen’s mood cleared up a bit in-sync with my own, but as a result ROTM lost a lot of its identity (which had already been turned into a postmodern nightmare landscape by that point as more and more new creative influences were inconsiderately dumped into it). And, as I’ve mentioned before, in 2012 I officially “killed” ROTM, and immediately experienced a significant boost in creativity that lasted for a good few months. Then Nanowrimo 2014 rolled around, I felt that since I already had all of these ideas it would be a shame not to use them, and MCS was born, taking the fragments of ROTM that I still liked – loved in some cases – and repurposing them, spearheaded by one crucial yet, in a lot of ways, quite shallow decision: I made Sajen a girl.

I stand by this decision, because Sajen as a boy is fucking insufferable, mostly because I have yet to find a way to extract myself from his personality, possibly because I’m really shallow (or just human) in finding that it really is just easier to relate to characters who share my gender identity. It’s easier with girl-Sajen because, well, she’s a girl, and there is the barrier of lived experience of gender (which I totally know all about and am able to portray credibly in my writing you guys don’t even worry about it) to prevent me from self-inserting to the same degree – or, at least, it forces me to be more creative about it, and creativity is good. The end result is more of a character who parallels my emotional history rather than re-lives a fictionalised account of it, and that is what I wish I could have had with boy-Sajen.

However, and perhaps as a result of reaching this point in my journey with girl-Sajen, the idea of revisiting boy-Sajen and applying what I’ve learnt has started to pull at me. While I really do adore the concept of Main Character Syndrome (which you can probably guess at from the title), I also really like the ideas that I came up with in the months that followed my execution of ROTM in 2012, the energy that was released when the bubble burst and the ideas that formed in that glorious imaginative malestrom. I even had a name for this project: Magician Boogaloo, which is a slightly more grammatically sound name than Realm of the Myth but equally amorphous, not to mention a blatant ripoff of Cowboy Bebop, which was a big inspiration for the new project, specifically the idea of making it a collection of connected yet self-contained episodes with an overarching plot linking them together, even if only tangentially. While at first it starred a different character from a D&D campaign setting that I never got around to using, a lot of ROTM’s supporting cast found their way into it as well, and eventually even Sajen returned to hog the spotlight. He had changed, mercifully, but while I liked the new episodic setup, freedom from the toxic, historically clouded and vestigial restrictions that had plagued my creative process with ROTM and was genuinely excited to see it through to fruition, there was still something missing. At least until last night, when I started thinking about it again and got excited about it and, if you’ve been following this blog for long enough, that’s at least enough impetus for me to write a huge rambling blog post about, if not necessarily enough to also actually follow through with in practice. I really do love the creative process, but I can’t deny it’s a bit, y’know, fucking stupid.

Which brings me to my dilemma: on the one hand, I love the ideas of both Main Character Syndrome and Magician Boogaloo, and they are each projects that I would like to work on. On the other hand, they share so many of the same ideas – and when I say “ideas”, I mean “characters and world-building”, which is a very specific and also huge problem – that it kind of entirely, completely ruins any chance of my actually writing both of them. Basically, I like both of these stories, but they’re just iterations on the same bundle of ideas, and I’m worried that the only way I could tell both stories would result in stretching those ideas too thin (and seeming ridiculous to anybody who read both stories, due to the huge amount of repeated characters, plots, world-building, etc).

And before you ask: yes, I have in fact thought about the possibility of letting them share the same universe, setting one of them after the other – and changing one of the Sajen’s names – and the fact of the matter is that I just do not want to do that. Like, at all. It would be ambitious as fuck, but it would also dilute certain aspects of the plot – the significance of Main Character Syndrome, for instance – to the point of irrelevance. So the alternatives I’ve left for myself is to either designate certain characters and sub-plots to one story or the other and live with the consequence of not being able to do exactly what I want – or to move all of my characters and sub-plots to one story or the other, etc.

The thing is, I’m sure that I could come up with some way to do the “shared universe” thing in a way that I was happy with, if I took the time to do so. And these days I’m feeling more creatively-inclined than usual, so I may in fact do just that. Equally, because I’m feeling more creative these days I also feel that I could find a happy compromise in splitting my intellectual property between these two projects. MCS started off as an attempt to reconnect with the zaniness that I liked in ROTM (not the original ROTM, but the first time I rebooted it – ROTM is like my own personal Spider-Man film franchise), but it fairly swiftly became quite dark. Perhaps the simple act of denying that – at least more than I have – and instead being insistent on retaining the madcap, vibrant, irreverent and self-reflexive energy that inspired me to revisit that material in the first place will be enough to alleviate my doubts. Not to the point where there’s no darkness, just to the point where it’s not entirely overwhelming. And by the same token, Magician Boogaloo was an experiment in serial, episodic storytelling, something I have only rarely tried. Perhaps following through with that, detaching from the Cowboy Bebop homage and finding my own spin to put on it will give it the vigour it needs to get started.

I do still feel torn; I still want to find some way to make it work, to have my cake and eat it too. The problem is that I don’t think I have enough ingredients to make two, but enough to make one bloated super-cake. But perhaps I have enough for two after all.

And if not, I’m sure I can find some lying around somewhere. I mean hey, I destroyed and resurrected/recycled one long-standing creative project of mine, I’m sure I have a few more lying around that want a crack at reincarnation …

The things I could do

It’s amazing how doing almost nothing can feel like so much work.

I think it’s the fact that the ‘almost nothing’ – in this case, making Scrivener collections of every scene in my novel where X character(s) show up so that I can track their character-arcs throughout the novel – is not actually work, only the prelude to work, and the feeling of heaviness and reluctance that I now feel is in response to that, the fact that now there is no comforting buffer of ‘well I can’t do X until I do Y so I don’t have to worry about Y yet’ for me to lean into anymore. It’s confronting. I’ve set myself up to Get Things Done and now I have no viable excuses left to not do those things.

Which is entirely different to how it feels to get a lot of work done.

Getting a lot of work done feels good. Your memory fills with the data of your progress and logs it for future reference; your brain registers all the time you’ve spent doing something and tells you that, because you did something with that time, you had time, more time than you would have ‘had’ if you hadn’t done … whatever it is that you did. I think that’s how it works, anyway, why it is that doing more things actually makes you feel like you have more rather than less time. Because our sense of time is retrospective and based on a log of events, rather than marking seconds off a clock; we perceive the ‘amount’ of time we currently have by remembering what we’ve done with it.

Kind of like a blog. I know that I’ve looked back at my publishing history over the course of this blog and found myself remembering a fuller, longer week or month when there have been lots of posts, as opposed to stretches of time where the frequency of posts was a bit piecemeal.

And now I have … stuff to do.

It’s irritating. I feel like maybe I just need to learn to use Scrivener a bit better. The issue with looking through scenes of chapters for instances of where characters show up is that each scene – which I made manually, seeing as the text was imported from Word, adding to the clunkiness of this process – is of a certain length, and within a single scene there might be a mention of a character (doing a keyword search) but they might not actually be in the scene, or the mention of them may be so trivial that it doesn’t help with looking at their character-arc to begin with. And of course there’s the overlap with other characters showing up; that’s not so much of an issue because I can just look for keywords again if I want.

It would be fine if you could, for instance, split up these scenes within the collection they’re in and not have it affect the scene in the binder, but either I don’t know how to do that or it can’t be done. So it involves a lot of reading through irrelevant text that has little to nothing to do with what I’m actually looking for.

And, of course, there’s the issue of how to determine how relevant a given scene is to X character’s arc and relationship to, in this case, the main character, before sorting it into a collection. It’s just … it’s been fiddly. Ungainly. I disapprove.

But at least it’s done and I can now look at these arcs and – hopefully – get a sense of how to make this story better, what bits to expand upon and what to just leave out.

The big anxiety that I have now is the age-old fear of not ‘getting it right’. I specifically mean that there’s so much stuff in this book that could be expanded upon, and I’m just not sure what should be expanded upon.

That’s not true.

I know what I have to cut.

Four characters, to be precise. Possibly one of them could stay.

But the thing is that, even knowing that, it’s still only an option. It’s based on some assumptions, the biggest one being that I’m not going to just write an entirely different story because it’d take too long.

Honestly, though, if it means that the end result is better than it would be otherwise – if I’d be happy with it, specifically – then that’s what I have to do.

It is true that a lot of these characters, while interesting to me, feel like in this story they’re just taking up space more than anything. That they could contribute to the telling of a whole and tight story, but jamming them all together into this one isn’t going to accomplish that. So, once again, I consider the option of making a series.

Because the other option is to just leave them out of this story and … just leave them out. Never do anything with them.

I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before.

It may well be what needs to happen.

But on the other hand …

What ‘needs’ to happen?

I mean in a sense that makes it even harder, because I want to know the ‘right’ thing to do, which feels like some kind of objective state for this story to end up in – but there isn’t one. There’s just my decisions.

And I think I’m starting to realise why so many writers never feel like they’ve truly finished their work, that it’s ‘never done’. It’s just a matter of getting to the point where you make a decision that you don’t follow up with another one. A stop, not an end.

And I really.

Really.

Want to stop. I want to stop writing this story so that I can write the next one.

At the same time as feeling like I’m only just beginning.

I suppose that’s funny. I mean it is funny. It’s just also not giving me a solution.

And I know that most books undergo at least three revisions before they’re published, or submitted for publishing anyway. So I’m still one revision off that.

And I don’t know if looking at these character-arcs is the right way to go about it, if I should be looking at some other aspect of the story instead …

I don’t know what to do.

It’s the 7th of February, 2014, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Mostly because there’s just so much that I could do. It’s frustrating, and what’s more frustrating is that the last few posts I’ve published have been equally stagnant. I mean it happens, and the whole idea of this blog is to catalog the writing experience, in which there is a lot of stalling, and a significant amount of said stalling comes from having too many options without a list of priorities to organise them by. Which is, I mean, I’ll do that eventually. And reading the manuscript always gives me a sense of priorities. But that’s still only the story as it’s currently written, which is not necessarily the way that helps tell the best story.

And, again, that’s all up to me. Up to the decisions I make, until I just choose to stop making them.

Ugh. I gotta do something.

If there is a brick wall waiting for me, it’s time to meet it head-on.

Impenetrably Reticent

This is an actual line that can be found in my current working version of Tallulah, my work-in-progress-for-almost-two-years. There’s a big stereotypical girls’ sleepover happening and then boom, there it is, one of them is being ‘impenetrably reticent’.

I can’t stop now. YA needs me.

Working off a hard copy is both good and bad. It’s good because it does actually let me see the work with fresh eyes and attain that critical, objective distance from my work that I want while doing revision, and bad because I didn’t think ahead and leave big enough margins for me to make notes in. I am solving this problem via a Word document and writing on the pages in pen where there is space, and it’s going fine. I’m really quite happy in this line of work, working over lines.

See what I did there?

I got another Gail Simone Wonder Woman comic today, and … I just love Simone’s Wonder Woman. She’s awesome. Hell, I even kinda like the original Wonder Woman, embarrassingly transparent bondage fetish agenda, archaic gender depictions and all. It’s just very … well-meaning, and this could very well be because I’m not affected by the unassuming sexism in the same way as I might be if I were a woman, but after a while I stopped being annoyed (mostly) and found it easier to appreciate the intention behind it all, clumsily-executed as it was, at least by today’s standards. And it’s pretty funny, too. Wonder Woman is pretty sassy.

But seriously, there needs to be a temple built to the glory of Gail Simone or something. If you ever get the chance, read Ends of the Earth. The first story is great, but the second story … there are no words. It’s ridiculous, and it’s awesome, and Wonder Woman is so freaking cool.

Nothing quite like having sentient gorilla knights for sidekicks, either.

It’s the almost-camp tone that makes Simone’s blend of drama and humour work so well, bringing seemingly disparate elements together to form a cohesive and dynamic whole. It’s that gelling of components that I’m noticing not quite happening in my hard copy manuscript – which is good, because I need to know these things, and while I did write over 21k new words for this 86k-word revision, that’s still over three quarters of the same content I had ten months ago. It doesn’t all fit together, and more than that, the different elements of the story don’t fit all fit together.

If anything, the messy continuity due to my copy-and-paste rampage through my draft has now been exacerbated, which makes it all the more obvious, so that’s yet another reason for me to be pleased that I did this really rough revision. Now it’s just a matter of focusing on structure and not getting so caught-up in the writing style or the specificity of events, though of course I’m taking notes.

It occurs to me, though, that trying to have too narrow a focus during a read-through would not be great. Obviously I want some kind of focus so that I know not to ‘worry about’ certain things right this minute because I’ll go back and check for them later, but if I were to go to the extreme and not take any notes at all other than those concerned with structure, would that be counter-productive? I mean maybe it wouldn’t. I know I made very different observations during my two readthroughs of the original manuscript, not taking issue with things the second time through I’d had massive problems with the first time and vice versa. Then again, surely it’s good to have both sets of observation to hand …

But anyway – I’m taking notes, and I’m getting through pretty quick. This big girly sleepover chapter that I felt compelled to write for some reason is not making a particularly strong case for remaining in existence, other than the ‘impenetrably reticent’ line, which I think is rather glorious, but it is making a case for whittling it down to some very specific scenes that would work for the story. It’s a chapter I’ve been very fond of since I wrote it, a fondness equaled only by my anxiety over it, but I believe this is what they call a ‘darling’, and those are things I’m supposed to kill, evidently. And I get it now. I get why they have to be killed. They sit there, looking at you adoringly, and take up space needed for the vital procession of narrative building-blocks to pass seamlessly by in a parade of self-contained resolution.

It’s filler, basically. Kill the fill.

Er.

At least some of it works, and it’s mostly the new stuff I added, so that’s heartening – during this first read-through at least it seems like I am, indeed, fixing some problems with structure and focus in the story, which is exactly what I wanted. So that’s good.

Our house is looking more and more habitable every day, and it’s rather fitting that this should happen less than a month before it gets auctioned off, as well as our massive and utterly unused property section. It’ll be nice to be living in a hospitable dwelling before moving out of it. And seeing as I’ve lived here for pretty much the entire portion of my life that I have memories of, I want to give this place a good send-off. It’s been pretty good to me.

I may even write a story about it someday.

Like as soon as I move, probably. I have rather bad impulse control.