I almost didn’t do any revision today. Almost.
But then I kicked my ass into gear and spent the last hour getting through 20 pages of Mark and Jessie while making notes, and there’s still 115 pages left and oh god why.
To be fair, though, the ideas at this point in the book are actually getting better. There’s more stuff than I expected that I’d honestly consider keeping and incorporating into whatever reboot/revision I undertake as the next step in this story’s development. I am pleasantly surprised.
And I need to be done with this goddamn book by the end of this month, so that’s 115 pages to read over the next 3 Mondays. Just under 40 pages per go. It’s more than doable.
Now I just need to establish practical “work hours” for myself, continuing my plan of breaking down tasks into smaller more manageable goals. Having my alliteration-based organisation system for working on my manuscripts and other stuff from week to week is a good start, but it is too easy for me to just skip a day or two here or there altogether. I want to find a way to make sure that I’ll do the work I’m setting out to do … hmm, maybe combining hours spent and pages read for the revision stuff? Limit myself to one-hour sessions and have a daily page quota or something, so that if it’s going to take more than an hour to get my revision notes made that day I still have to step away and take a break and do something else and then come back to it until I’ve gone through my allotted 40 pages or whatever the number is …
Also I need to learn how to write numbers I am a fucking English major no I’ll probably never do anything with it but I did go through all that trouble so seriously come on self get it together.
Holy shit writing happened. Writing that I’ve been really not-confident in my ability to do, even.
Well, kinda – it’s the project that I feel not-confident about, but the writing tonight was … a distraction. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for the project, though, something that does need to be explored and have a decision made about it: backstory. I’m leery of making this project too … I don’t want to say “good”, but the joy of it is how it kind of doesn’t stand on its own in any way, and adding backstory to it that could potentially give it its own distinctive identity just feels wrong.
Then again, I could just as easily solve this problem by providing super-generic backstory that has been done a million times before, right?
The important thing is that I forced myself to do some writing of this project, and it worked. Tomorrow I may even write some of those scenes that I’m genuinely feeling self-conscious about because it forces me to confront the fact that I have no plan whatsoever and question whether this is all just a total fucking waste of time, why am I even bothering trying to put effort into getting this thing written, etc. And I think I could stand to tackle that issue head-on, so this week might be a good time to do it, as I’m working on getting my life-plans sorted out.
Basically, today I watched the latest episode of Critical Role and tried to write a review of Steel by Carrie Vaughn. I think I’ve worked out why I hate my book reviews and why they end up as hateful rants instead of well-considered critical analyses: I labour the point waaay too much. Initially I was writing the review on Goodreads, as I ticked the “read” box and the website then prompted me to leave my star-rating (two stars, because I decided to use the actual Goodreads scoring system instead of the out-of-five rating system that everyone on the site actually uses because, let’s face it, it makes way more intuitive sense than the Goodreads system) and an optional review. So I wrote a review. It wasn’t bad; it was pretty sparse, and assumed that whoever was reading it had already read the book, but it wasn’t hateful or sarcastic or condescending or anything. I was proud of myself. I thought: “Hey, maybe this means I can actually write a proper, non-Goodreads review of this book”.
How wrong I was.
That’s encompassing both my Goodreads zero-draft review and what I’ve got as a draft post in my archives. As soon as I sat down to Write A Review, I went into full internet-critic mode, proselytising and generalising and honking every horn within honking distance. It seems like the more I deliberate, the more unpleasantly snarky my reviews become, whereas if I just go with the first thing that comes to mind (and consider that it’s going to be posted to a public internet forum as soon as I hit “save”), it comes out much more cleanly. I actually cut to the chase way quicker with my Goodreads review, too; with the version I spent most of today’s writing time drafting, I defaulted to trying to make a big production out of it, and it feels really … bad. I wouldn’t want to read it.
I’m going to finish this review, and I’m going to stick with the Goodreads version as the foundation, adding in details for anyone who hasn’t read the book so that my comments actually make sense and stuff. Hopefully, this will result in a book review I’m actually happy with – hopefully this will make me see that, yes, I am actually capable of producing those, and that my Wereling review can be just as non-vitriolic despite how much I hate the absolute shitting fuck out of that abhorrently basic trilogy.
Then again, considering how much hatred I’ve already spewed over The Wereling outside of any potential review, it seems a bit silly to worry about that. Perhaps I need to give in to my anger and let the hate flow through me with that one. Not being hateful is one thing, but I also want to be honest, and to be honest …
This is all just a distraction from how disappointed I am with how today went compared to what I had hoped for. It was all my decision; I could have gotten to work making revision notes for Tallulah first thing after breakfast instead of immediately heading over to YouTube, and saved Critical Role and my review-writing until after I’d done my allotted work, free to enjoy my downtime without the haze of guilt that now has settled over me. That’s the goal for tomorrow: Wolf Gang revision to start off the day, and I will not stop until all werewolf-related work has been completed for the day. I have another three hundred pages to go, so I could aim for, I dunno, thirty pages a day for the next ten weeks and be done in mid-June? I’ll see how it feels to actually read thirty pages tomorrow.
And I will also start drafting what I want to say to this psychologist in terms of making this goddamn appointment. I’ve spent the past two weeks deliberately not making it easy for myself to make this appointment at all; it’s going to happen before my birthday on the 27th. I thought maybe it would happen this week, but let’s be real, this is me, my anxiety is pretty bad, it’s not happening this fucking week. But it is happening before my birthday.
Now I’m going to stop typing for the evening, seeing as I cut my finger while trying to use a baby wipe to clean my razor this morning because I’m a fucking moron. At the very least, I don’t think I need a psychologist to tell me what’s wrong with me in that regard. Small victories. I’ll take ’em.
So I didn’t get started until like 4pm, but I got through the whole thirty pages I wanted to get through, actually made some useful revision notes, and even had some ideas of how this shitty zero draft could be tweaked a bit to start to resemble a kinda-pretty-decent-ish story, at least in terms of the sequence of events.
This is weird. Wolf Gang was not, is not, supposed to be a serious novel attempt from me. It was supposed to be a self-imposed writing challenge. This is something else now; this is not the same Wolf Gang, because with the shift in intent – to actually end up with a story I would not be ashamed to shop around or let people who aren’t good friends or family of mine read – also changes the story itself, the intention behind it, the expectations I have for it and my strategy for meeting them. Which I think is fine. It’s just … different. Almost as though this werewolf book has transformed from one thing into another, even though it’s still exactly the same thing as it always was.
Yes, in case you’re wondering, that is about the level of writing quality in the current Wolf Gang manuscript.
What’s kind of hilarious has been realising that a lot of the issues that I have with The Wereling are also present in Wolf Gang, which I wrote like two years before I ever even heard of The Wereling. And, I mean, they’re both stories about basic-ass teenage boys who turn into werewolves with the primary supporting character being a teenage girl. How could there not be a few problematic overlaps? It just didn’t hit home until I started this read-through of Wolf Gang just how eerily similar the problems are with both stories.
But maybe that was because I wasn’t looking to actually do anything with Wolf Gang, not seriously at least, before … well, today, honestly. I saw things reading through it today that I didn’t during either of my previous read-through sessions; the way I could split and shift this one chapter to create a better narrative flow, while simultaneously providing much-needed opportunities for me to flesh out the characters and world and stuff. It’s been eye-opening, and now that I can see it I am rather invested in the idea of actually doing it.
I read a couple more chapters of Metamorphoses of the Werewolf today, and holy unexamined misogyny Batman are ye olde werewolf stories beset with wicked women and their feminine wiles. Lycanthropy, it turns out, is the final stage of the lethal cooties virus, and the moral of the story is to always be alpha, lest the feminazis turn you into a beta soyboy cuck.
I mean yes there’s also the gods, but the gods are always framed as being justified in handing out divine curses of transfiguration, whereas women who discover their husbands are motherfucking werewolves are always quick to betray them, stick them in werewolf form indefinitely and either run off with another dude or just ditch them in general. If there is a story of a man who reveals his furry secret to his wife and she doesn’t immediately concoct a plan to trap him in wolf form so that she can hit the reset button on her relationship status, I have yet to see it. I would like to, but something tells me I’ll be waiting a while on that one.
I have also been continuing my Anita Blake readthrough; I spent the majority of yesterday evening and about an hour and a half of the wee hours of this morning reading Bloody Bones, and after The Lunatic Cafe – basically it takes every single issue that I had with The Lunatic Cafe and fixes them completely. The twin sub-plots twist their way into each other to set up the climax; there is a clear focus in the story and the sequence of events; everything that happens feels necessary for the story to progress and make sense; and best of all Jean-Claude is not as much of a predatory stalkery alpha male shitlord in this one. I actually started to get why so many people are into him, albeit with a healthy amount of eye-rolling throughout. I almost feel like Bloody Bones should have been the first book in the series: it introduces us to Anita and what she does, her various relationships and supporting cast, and sets the tone pretty strongly right from the start. About the only issue I have with it is the lack of Ronnie, or literally any important female character besides Anita who isn’t a villain or a victim, but that’s as much of a staple of the genre as jealous, manipulative, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer love interests – and while that has been enough to make me stop reading certain series for a while, I’ve eventually come back to them. I like the genre, the potential that it has, and Bloody Bones makes good on a lot of that potential.
I have started making revision notes on the second episode of the co-writing project, which is the first episode I wrote – and kind of the start of Weekly Words. Just reading the first nine pages was quite eye-opening in terms of reminding me of what my creative process was when I was in the middle of writing it, where my energy was … how much I had of it … how much I don’t have it twelve months later …
Okay I’m making it sound like a downer experience; it wasn’t. I’m glad to remember that; I was riding a freaking wave last year in terms of creative energy, and all of this year it’s been like the tide’s gone out. But, from trying to make my alliteration-themed plan to organise my writing on a weekly basis, I’ve also remember that my energy comes from using it, not from resting and waiting for it to come back. This is a vicious cycle for me, where I know that this is how I work yet keep defaulting back to a “I’ll just take it easy and wait until I’ve recovered enough energy to do X thing”, falling into a pattern of holding back and hesitating and procrastinating so that I don’t, I dunno, burn myself out on doing things that I want to do? Don’t ask me. Mental illness does not help with higher brain function.
I was more excited for my writing projects last year, that’s true, but that was just to get started. Once I get started on a project, if I keep it up, I end up generating enthusiasm without needing an external impetus for it. The other issue is that aforementioned mental illness actually consumes a lot of energy, diverting resources that I could be using to do shit with my time that I’d probably enjoy and find fulfilling into brooding and being a perfectionist and terrified of literally everything. And those external triggers, like co-writing a project with a friend who is just as excited about it as I am, helps me to override that bad wiring and get the energy flowing through the channels I want it to. And I think it’s a lot more apparent that the enthusiasm and creative will is there when you’re actually writing, as opposed to making revision notes; it’s not quite as helpful to feed off in terms of getting the creative juices flowing. Which means that it’s up to me to do it for myself.
I’ve wanted to do that all of this year, to be my own energy-generator, to make myself put in the work so that I’ll get back to that place of being enthusiastic and motivated to make shit happen. And every week that I look back on my efforts and see that it’s just not happening that way I get more and more discouraged; and every time that I resolve to push through and “just do it” it doesn’t work the way I want it to. In short, it sucks, and it seems like there’s nothing I can do about it.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week, and the way that it feels like everything I do lacks … something. Conviction, or power, or meaning, or just some essential thing that makes shit stick that my resolutions just don’t have. I tried to think of a time when things weren’t like that, and I ended up thinking back to eleven years ago when I parted ways with my at-the-time best friend, and felt like I had re-discovered myself. I wanted to hold onto that feeling, but it eventually faded, and now looking at how I feel and the way I’m living my life, it reminds me of the final stages of that dysfunctional relationship, where I just didn’t want to do anything, felt like I couldn’t do anything, that would make any kind of impact on my life or circumstances for the better. At the time I thought it was because I was weak and useless. Now, I realise that it was fear.
I need to make that goddamn psychologist appointment.
And I’m going to do that this upcoming week. I’m going to write an email; I’m going to send that email. It seems pretty clear to me that I can’t handle this shit on my own.
But for the other portion of this week, I’m going to try. I’m just going to see what I am actually capable of if I make the effort to insist on getting my work done, and committing to doing quite a lot of work. I spent the weekend just chilling and gaming, and I realised that I’d feel so much more invested in having a good time with it if I had spent the rest of the week getting shit done. That’s what I want for this week. Even if the week after is back to business as usual, I want it for this week. I want to really try and see what I can manage on my own. It would be nice to find that it’s more than I think, and I know I’ve proven this to myself in the past – I just need to do it again.
And if it doesn’t work out, well, that’s something a mental health professional might be able to help me out with.