So Bright, So Beautiful

So I’ve decided to continue reading over my shitty YA werewolf novel manuscript. The description holds. Oh boy, does it hold.

But because of the order in which I wrote the chapters, two of the earlier ones are also two of the newest ones, and the change in tone and style shows quite strongly – the writing is better, the focus is clearer, and while I wrote these chapters in a real creative slump when I had no particular passion left for this project, these are, so far anyway, the best chapters in the book.

Especially the one I’m reading now, the Diagon Alley chapter, if you like, where our hero learns about the new world he’s stumbled into. It makes me really proud of this festering mound of refuse I have shat out of my brain, because it reads almost exactly like every other bad YA paranormal novel I’ve ever read …

Because I’m rooting for the bad guy.

And it’s exactly the same as actual published books I’ve read; this is of publishable quality, in that sense, and yes that is a real moral concern. But it’s also genuinely beautiful to behold, and for the first time makes me really feel proud of what I’ve accomplished here. In particular, I adore the fact that the bad guy, who is supposed to come across as domineering, arrogant and bullying, instead comes across as completely in the right for doing everything he’s done up to this point. Specifically, everything he’s done that has upset the main character, who is a whinging little shitstain that I want to see run over by a car and smeared across the highway like a tub of paint. Sure, the bad guy could probably do with some honest feedback about some of his behaviour, but all in all he’s not the one coming off as the problem. And that includes him shooting the main character with a gun at point-blank range.

I am that fucking good.

It’s awful; it’s despicable; and it’s the best fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life. I am so, so happy. I can’t even.

I might actually consider revising this book and, like, doing something with it, turning it into an actual writing project instead of just a writing exercise that got way out of hand. There’s something here. Passionless though I may have been during the second half of the time it took me to finish this thing, I think my writing might actually have improved because of it. And that seems like a valuable lesson that I shall strive to actually remember for future reference.

In the meantime, back to reading. I genuinely hope that it gets worse from here.

 

4116

All right. Got some shit done.

That word-count is spread across 2 different books, both of which I have the intention of finishing, but one of which is much closer to completion than the other. The shitty YA werewolf novel, to be exact; that was 908 words out of that total. The other thing I was writing is also shit, in case you were wondering. Probably even more shit than the shitty YA werewolf novel, if I think about it. Or maybe just equally shitty in a different way.

It’s been interesting today, actually, just absorbing how very bad a lot of my writing is. And by “a lot” I literally mean “these two specific books out of the 50+ I have lying around the place”. Not as in the language, but the stories, the framing, the shit I let my characters get away with and make excuses for on their behalf. It struck me today in the second project I did some writing on that despite the fact that it’s a project intended to be a bunch of stupid, giddy fun, it’s not something that I would ever actually enjoy reading. I think part of that is obviously just down to the fact that it’s a first draft and first drafts are too full of shit to judge the quality of a story by to begin with, but there’s also the fact that I just don’t think when I’m writing. I don’t like it. I want to think when I’m writing, and I feel like at one point or another I did actually know how to do that. I want to get back to that.

I suppose it could also be because I’m breaking the rule of writing that says NEVER FUCKING LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE WRITING UNTIL YOU’RE FINISHED FUCKING WRITING, which exists for exactly this reason – because if you get so disheartened that you stop writing altogether, that’s worse than any problematic prose you could ever commit to the page. I’m not sure that I agree with that rule, but there’s enough merit that I’m willing to at least go along with part of it.

In any case, I did get some writing done, quite a lot in fact, and at the end of the day that really is all that matters. I can always fix it in revisions.

Proposals

Time for another draft touch-up! This one is from back in January, but is relevant to my current struggle to keep my impulses under control concerning my current WIP novel.

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As part of the application for a paper I want to take on broadcast writing, I have to submit two ideas for a short film. I spent about two hours doing that yesterday and I’ve grown quite attached to them.

Both of them involve a focus on gender dynamics, something that fascinates me to no end, and I couldn’t help but imagine how it might go if I ended up filming them, hiring an actress and feeling really insecure about the lines I’d have given her to read, and then one day during filming she gets really into it and improvs something a billion times more true and to-the-point than I was even capable of doing, and then realised, hang on, I just thought of it myself so that means …

And of course that got me to wondering just what I am capable of, if what I imagined this hypothetical actress improvising was any ‘truer’ than what I might have written to begin with, the extent to which my limits of getting into somebody else’s head are self-imposed – all the existential chaos that makes being a writer so much fun, and so much effort.

And for the rest of the day I felt really … not angry, but the catharsis that comes from getting it out in the open. I really liked it.

And I like the proposals I made, to the point where even if I don’t get into this paper I will still probably take them and do something with them.

Characters are really interesting. They’re more interesting when you’re a writer, I feel, when you’re the one creating the character than when you’re witnessing their story as an audience, because you know and don’t know what they mean, where they come from, and that self-imposed barrier to entry into a different perspective really starts to rear its head as you grapple with all of the meanings and intentions vested in the creation and trajectory of these fictive selves. I got to the point a little while ago where all of the issues with Tallulah that have to do with its titular character are issues of justification for her actions and worldview – namely, that a lot of how she looks at the world comes from my own life experience, but it doesn’t make sense for her because her life experience is totally different to mine. And that wasn’t something that I caught onto until almost two years into the telling of the story.

Which is why you have to read your own stuff, and read it a lot. I’ve slipped in and out of the modes of conjecture and speculating many times during the drafting of Tallulah, and the vast majority of the potential ideas for where the story could go just end up meaning next to nothing when I go back and read it over again, because conjecture and speculation is not the same as analysis and planning. You can only make a plan when you have information to hand, or at least a good plan. Thus I propose that, in order to be a good and constantly-improving writer, not only must you read a lot, but you must read your own stuff a lot. Because that’s something that you can actually make better.

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Having said that – eight months ago – I know that if I read my manuscript again I’m liable to find it very difficult to care about what’s actually happening.

I think that may be why I’m so compelled to take the first 50% or so and then run with it in an entirely different direction toward a new second half: it’ll be new, it’ll be something that I’m not expecting. I seriously just want some fucking novelty at this point, and I’m worried that if I follow this heedless urge I’ll end up ruining my progress.

Well, no, not really. As long as I keep everything saved – really the worst that could happen is I learn that it’s the wrong thing to do, and lament having spent however long it took me to come to that realisation to … come to that realisation.

Yes.

Well.

I wonder if I should do it.

I try not to use the word “should”, because it’s incredibly contingent, and right now my “should” is contingent on pretty much nothing at all. I don’t have a plan I’m supposed to be sticking to; I have no fucking idea what the best way for me to write this novel is, if there is a best way for me to write it that I’m just unaware of, which I rather doubt – so “should” is utterly irrelevant.

What if I do do it? That’s a better question.

If I do it, I’ll be dealing with the exact same issues I had when I was drafting it the first time: trying to motivate myself to write, trying to keep control of what it is that I write when I do get around to it, trying to keep from going off in all sorts of spontaneous directions in the torrent of flowing ideas that grows stronger the more I write … I know all that.

That’s going to be bad.

So no. What I need is a clear plan of how I want this story to play out.

And in order to create that plan …

I dunno. I need something really simple, really straightforward. Like … maybe do chapter summaries again, only this time make a point of noting down what I wish was happening in the parts where I wish something else were happening.

Hmm. Wishes actually seem like the way to go. I need to make a list of wishes, and then set about fulfilling them.

Okay. I like that idea. The next phase of writing my novel is going to be wish-fulfillment.

I do think I’ll have to read it again.

Better get ready for that.