That is my current Nanowrimo word-count. I’m pretty pleased with it; and I’m even more pleased that it’s 1027 words more than it would have been if I hadn’t forced myself to do some writing just now. Which I did. And it felt good. The voice isn’t quite what I want it to be, but that’s just a distraction at this point; the first draft is just there to get written, not to be good, or even decent. It’s not about worth. It’s about existing. And now it exists 1027 words more than it would have if not for my following through with my resolution to write something every day during Nanowrimo.

Which I actually have managed to do, since starting on the 4th. The first two days were my Hero’s Journey Deconstruction/Metacritique projects; tonight – well, last night as of 6 minutes ago – was my NZ Urban Fantasy project. Like I say, the voice is off, because I want to go for that dry Kiwi humour that everyone seems to love so much and really doesn’t come naturally to me, further cementing my sense of being an outsider in my own country, not that I really mind. But the point is that it’s getting written.

What is not getting written is the weird flash of inspiration I had earlier today, which came to me in the form of the sentence: “an Urban Fantasy version of Garden State“. I had spent the previous night thinking of all the things I wished ST2 had done differently – including how the showrunners treated Sadie Sink, which makes me pretty fucking reluctant to watch season 3, TW for what might not be sexual coercion of a minor but sure seems a lot like it and for the love of god don’t read the comments – and came to the realisation that, actually, I have amazing ideas and deserve worldwide recognition for them. Then I thought of Garden State in a remotely positive light, and consequently felt that I may have to retract that praise.

I mean, it kind of already exists. It’s called The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which after reading 15 books of The Dresden Files I have finally realised is nothing special. I should go back and re-read those books, though, because after suffering through the bad aftertaste of The Magician’s Land it’s hard for me to remember that I actually liked the first two. Though upon reflection I’m not at all sure that I should have liked the first two.

Speaking of not liking things upon reflection – yes, I have read all currently-published The Dresden Files books, and yes, I have enjoyed them immensely (with one or two nearly-fatal exceptions), but after coming to the end of Skin Game I realised I needed to find something else to fill the void. I tried Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, and gave up when I uncovered this gem: “It was strange to hear a black man shout a Confederate battle-cry. Hey, whatever worked” (138).

Yeah no. Really no.

Oh wait this is the guy who started the Sad Puppies bullshitREALLY no.

And that kind of leads into my point here: up until this sentence, I was happy to suspend my disbelief, my dread, my general sense that Larry Correia was not one of My People (it is really quite scary to me that I did not know about his being responsible for the Sad Puppies until I googled him just now). The pacing was night and speedy; the tone was very similar to the blockbuster tough-guy-telling-it-like-it-is vibe of The Dresden Files, and its treatment of women (or woman, I should say) was about on-par, if not actually a little better. Or maybe just different.

And then that line happened and I discovered that Larry Correia is a festering pile of regressive dogshit, and it made me reflect on my time with The Dresden Files, and …

I mean, here’s the thing. I know that I’ve been suspending my disbelief and critical faculties with the series. Deliberately. It’s part of the joy I take in reading it. It’s a fun series if you can get into it.

But those similarities got me thinking about … other things.

Like how Susan died.

Like Molly’s role in the series, namely the fact that her role in the series revolves entirely around her relationship to (and decade-long crush on) Harry.

Like the fact that pretty much every woman who isn’t Karrin, Charity, or Harry’s geriatric landlady is characterised first and foremost in terms of their relationship to sex and sexuality, generally with regards to how Harry feels about it. Yeah, you can say “that’s because Harry’s a chauvinist it’s supposed to be a character flaw”, but it keeps happening and it’s gross. It doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be bad, because it is bad, and it is bad repeatedly, and that outweighs whatever intention is behind it because, spoilers, that “character flaw” never actually gets treated like one. (Though aside from Harry’s POV, the series does improve on its depiction of women, as I have stated previously.)

Like the fact that there is a First Nations character in the series who is affectionately referred to as “Injun Joe”. By people who respect him.

Like the fact that Thomas is overtly framed as a good guy.

Like the fact that Harry always, always finds a way to not be responsible for the catastrophic trail of damage he leaves behind him.

I was not unaware of these things; they just didn’t matter to me. And you know, I’m actually glad that they didn’t matter to me. I enjoyed myself. I’m grateful to this series, because goddamn I have not had that much fun reading a book series in, like, maybe ever.

But now that it’s actually been a couple of weeks since finishing that book, I think I’m done. I don’t actually want to suspend my critical faculties for the sake of fun anymore. Not when the parallels between it and the writing of a racist, homophobic, misogynist bigot are so very similar. That was the last straw.

And it’s kind of a shame. I have definitely learnt the value of suspending judgement for the sake of just having some fucking fun, and I don’t regret any of the time I spent with The Dresden Files. But I also feel justified in feeling that nothing I want to spend a great deal of time and emotional investment in should remind me so much of something I abhor and detest. Right? Not just me?

I’ll admit, I was enjoying MHI up until that one line, and it probably only convinced me to stop because, unlike The Dresden FilesMHI had not established enough of a rapport with me for me to give it the benefit of the doubt that it would make up for it, at least in terms of being broadly entertaining. But even if it had, I wouldn’t want to be entertained by it after that. And I figure that if I have this much of a problem with MHI, it would be a tad hypocritical of me to not also finally start getting my critic on with The Dresden Files.

Although to be fair at least The Dresden Files doesn’t try to redeem the fucking Confederacy. Perhaps I’m overreacting.

Ironically, I feel decidedly less stressed out in terms of being exposed as Problematic for writing my own UF novel. I think that’s definitely a good place to suspend critical thinking: your own writing. At least for the first draft. Bring it back for revisions, though. It could also be the fact that I’m just reminding myself that making myself write actually feels good. It’s a bodily reaction; I feel more relaxed, more energised – more intent. I feel ready and eager to progress. And just yesterday, I felt so stuck. I couldn’t have foreseen this; in fact I’ve never been able to look into my future and find myself caught up in the flow of writing. It’s a really hard emotion to recall. I think it’s because it’s not just an emotion; it’s a whole network of states of being, including emotion, but also thought, physical stamina, balance, location, and feeling your progress without being conscious of it.

It’s made me think about that shitty YA werewolf novel I finally finished this year. I did that. I got that shit done. And I got it done mostly while working on my MA. I’ve been trying so hard for so long to prove to myself that I have what it takes to write a book while fulfilling my academic obligations, or whatever other obligations that I had, and it dawned on me today that, actually, I have proven that. I’ve proven it – and just didn’t count it, for some reason. Maybe because it wasn’t a “serious” writing project of mine, never mind that I devoted one and a half years of my life to writing the first draft, the bulk of which was written while I was also working on my MA. I did it.

It should be proof.

And I realised, then, that it actually is proof. It doesn’t matter if I don’t believe in it; it’s still proof. Incontrovertible proof, in fact. I can write a full novel while working/studying. I have done it.

My job now is to start treating it like proof, and stop waiting to feel like I can do it – I’ve done it already, for fuck’s sake. What do I need to feel anything for?

Further support for my intentions to get myself used to doing things because I want to, rather than because I feel like doing them in the moment – or feel like I can do them. There’s more to it than that, and more to me. And it’s time for me to start acting like it.

Also I have read almost 50 books this year holy shit. I know that’s not a lot for some people, but that’s more books than I’ve read in some decades. And I’ve only had 3 of those.

I feel good. I knew that I would. I just didn’t feel like I would, but it seems like I’m slowly learning to put less stock in what I feel like I can or can’t do when I’m on a mission.

On a mission. I like the sound of that.

So sayeth the Ubermensch!


I Need This

It is July. Camp Nanowrimo July has started.

I need to write.

I’ve worked it out, I think: I need to write not because I particularly want to, but because I’ve totally forgotten what it feels like to want to write at all. I just want to get good at it. In a way I almost feel like I’ve gone back to the drawing board with writing, where I almost don’t even know what it is anymore, the experience of writing, having a history of doing it – it feels like I’ve reset. And that opens up the opportunity to go through all the fun stuff about writing all over again, to rediscover why it is that I like it – or liked it. And I really think I need that.

Well, I want it anyway. I think that’s actually probably better.

So now my task is to write something that engages my interest. I don’t necessarily have that right now, but I do know that I never got anywhere back in the day, when I just started out, by forcing myself to find something interesting in order to give myself a project that I was permitted to write because it would be productive of me to do so. That’s how my writing process has become, and I need to unlearn that shit ASAP. I think this Camp Nano could be a fantastic opportunity to get that done.

I did say a while ago that Realm of the Myth was dead – well, it might be dead, but like I just mentioned I have reset. The continuity of my writing career has been retconned. And I think I can write a dead story. What always put me off, really disheartened me about RoTM was whenever I would actually have the clarity – or sobriety – to think about it in definite terms, to put limits on it, to restrict it to being only one particular thing instead of all possible things. It felt disappointing. And it also felt scarily real, like “holy shit, that could get done“, and the reason it was scary was because if I followed through with that, what I’d end up with was something that wasn’t enough. Something that wasn’t everything.

I think that most of all, I need to unlearn my habit of striving to make anything everything. And in reality, it was only ever RoTM that I did that with. So maybe if this is a reboot of my writing career, it’s best that RoTM doesn’t exist in this new canon.

I will consider. I’m not jumping into this because I have no idea what I want to do, and I stress the word “want”. I have used that word as a synonym for “could” or “should” for far too long, and I know that I want to do Camp Nano with a project that I want to write. So until I find that, I ain’t writing shit.

Other than my thesis, which I don’t want to write, and for some reason I’m very tired today. I was tired yesterday as well, but that’s because I actually did stuff. Today it’s more just … being tired. Not good timing.

In any case … I am indeed going to do Camp Nano. Just as soon as I figure out what it is that I want to write. And for the first time in what feels like a very long time, I’m just going to wait for that to happen, however long it takes.

Post-Nanowrimo 2015: 1312

Oh my god I did writing I feel so accomplished …

I have decided to solve the issue of linking up the semi-written chapter 2 that I have with the semi-written chapter 5 by completely rewriting chapter 2 to make it about half the length, making it much simpler, flatter, duller, and generally just trying to get this shit done with as little ceremony as possible. There are two reasons for this: the first is that I want it done quickly, and the other is that I’ve found that, a lot of the time, the less fancy I try to be with my writing, the easier it is for me to get to the point.

It’s something I’m finding a problem with my MA as well: a lot of the time I feel like I’m wasting time, dancing around the subject instead of just addressing it head-on, and the really annoying thing is that it’s because I feel like I can’t just address it head-on because it’ll be blunt and flat and lack the impact that I want it to have. Part of this is because I’m used to trying to convey a specific feeling when I write, and writing in generalities – which is what happens when I try to write straightfowardly – doesn’t let me do that. But at the same time, trying to convey specific feelings that I have in my mind to written text doesn’t always work. Tallulah was a great example of that, where I got a metric ton of things in my head down in writing and at the end of the day it made for an almost unbearable reading experience. It was like she was seventeen different characters all vying for position, and that’s the exact thing I want to avoid ever doing again. But it’s my habit – I think it’s my habit anyway, because I’ve done it a lot – and trying to break it is proving hard. It’s why I’ve let myself go back and rewrite huge chunks of this Nano novel, so long as it’s to make it simpler, clearer and more straightforward. And that’s what I’m doing now.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to basically let myself write these three final chapters as if they’re part of an entirely different story, because that’s what I feel like doing. It’s what’s going to get them written; I don’t feel like linking up with all the shit I have in the chronologically final chapters, because … well, I don’t. And I kinda think this new version of the story is the one I’ll pursue if I ever do get around to trying to get this thing published, because it’s less obnoxious and whiny. The more of that I can have, the better. It’s another habit I want to break in terms of the kinds of lead characters I end up defaulting to. I think that, if last year was the year of letting myself write just for fun, this year is to expand upon that and let myself write characters who feel drastically different from what I’m familiar with. I used to do that quite a lot; I had some very interesting and singular characters when I was in my early teens, and as I grew older I cleaved stronger to recognisable tropes and archetypes – which is fine, but I do miss my weird casting choices. I’m not sure this project will ever be as interesting as any of my old stuff, but at least it can be something other than a written version of my inner monologue, only with werewolves.

Actually that would be more interesting that what this story is at the moment.

Anyway, it’s getting written again, and it feels good. Just gotta keep it going.

And then I can write *gasp* something else I mean fucking hell I’ve been working on this novel for over six months now, I was not expecting this level of time-commitment to this thing …

As it turns out

If you actually force yourself to sit down and write THINGS GET WRITTEN.

So now I’m un-stuck again. I didn’t run out of creative momentum; I just had to manually rev it up again. I wrote more tonight than I have in the past two days combined. Take that lack of inspiration.

And thus, as it turns out, all of that writing advice saying to treat writing like a job and that you have to make yourself do it even when you don’t want to – it fucking works. Like, not all the time, obviously, but enough to make it worth trying when you get stuck. I wrote out that stupid character, wrote in a fight that turned into friendly banter (but was not replaced; always make copies!), and it’s all moving again; all the energy has come back, and I didn’t even have to plan anything – beforehand. You end up planning on the spot a lot when you write, but that’s good, because you’re planning based on what you’ve written. Obviously this means you’re planning from a very zoomed in perspective rather than taking a more macroscopic view of the overarching project, but until it’s down in writing it’s all only in your head anyway. Which doesn’t make it unimportant – just impractical to try and predict how it’s going to turn out, what adjustments it’s going to call for. You’ve gotta write it before you can respond to it.

So yeah. Can’t write? Just try writing. It works. Again, not all the time, but again, enough so that it’s always, always worth the shot. I will remember it.