So I opened up the revision note document for Mark and Jessie. It’s 20240 words long.
Y’know, I feel when there’s half of a master’s thesis worth of notes made on a zero draft manuscript, it’s maybe a sign that there are issues with said manuscript.
I am not reading this shit.
Yes I am because THIS IS WHAT I GAVE MYSELF TO WORK WITH BECAUSE I AM A FUCKING MORON but them’s the brakes let’s hustle.
Ugh these revision notes need their own set of revision notes …
Okay, that’s quite enough masochism for today.
On the upside: I do actually have the beginnings of a plan now, and it’s even keeping some stuff – not necessarily writing, but stuff nonetheless – from the manuscript. Go me.
No seriously, fucking go me. I deserve twelve concurrent lifetime stipends for making any sense of this useless jumble of notes on this useless jumble of a manuscript. I regretted not moving on to the revision/reboot plan last Monday, but now that I’ve started I think I actually needed the break to get a clear perspective on what it is that I’m actually working with.
Thus, this week is off to a decent start writing-wise. Now for the rest of the week.
Hey, more writing.
This Wolf Gang prequel novella – I still like the idea, I still want to tell the story, but it’s not remotely tropey enough for my liking. Which in turn is making me think that I might be right after all in being worried about Wolf Gang losing its, dare I say it, identity if I follow through with my current revision notes as a revision plan. I think I’ve thought of some neat stuff, but I also think that I need to try and keep it feeling pulpy and trashy to some extent, because that’s kind of all that it has going for it in my mind – unless it’s a full reboot.
To that end, now that I’ve gotten started on making a revision/reboot plan for Mark and Jessie, I also think I’m getting a clearer sense of judgement as to which option is better for a given project. And to be honest, I don’t think Wolf Gang is due for a reboot. But I do think I’m a little more interested in telling a new werewolf story, one that’s not just a writing exercise. One where I put in, like, effort and shit.
Yes, last week any and all thoughts of putting effort into a writing project filled me with dread and despair and utter apathy to boot, but the more I think about what kinds of stories I want to spend my time telling, I don’t think I have a lot of room for stories like Wolf Gang – at least not where werewolves are concerned. I actually really like werewolves, and the more I learn about the stories and legends the more awesome I think they are. Trying to express my love of lycanthropes by focusing all of it into a trashy-but-fun YA urban fantasy novel series just feels like a wasted opportunities – actually, more like several wasted opportunities.
At the same time, though – fuck it, I do love pulp. I want to get good at writing it well; I want to push the limits of that type of storytelling and what it can be used to accomplish. And since I’ve already got a project in that vein with Wolf Gang, it seems silly to write it off entirely as a glorified writing exercise just because my first revision instinct is to try and turn it into a “respectable” story. I mean, pulp doesn’t have to be “respectable” to avoid the pitfalls of all the old problematic cliches and narrative devices, does it? Surely I, with my Ubermenschian mindbrain, can devise a solution to this seeming mutual exclusivity.
And in the meantime, perhaps I can use this prequel novella as a testing-ground for how to do exactly that. Because at the moment, this prequel is … well, it starts as sort of pulpy, but then devolves into dry-as-sandpaper … stuff. Stuff’s happening, the plot is progressing, theoretically at least, but it’s just so dull. I had the same issue with Wolf Gang initially; that’s why I decided to skip the boring stuff I knew I would have to eventually write and got started on the second half almost immediately – though it did then take me another year to write the final 4 chapters. 2 of which were already using bits and pieces I’d written and not found a place to put at the time.
I would ideally like to use the Suicide Squad-inspired project for this, but being real I haven’t had a great track record with getting it written, and going hack-mode on it hasn’t produced results that I liked. I ran into a wall and couldn’t get over it; now over a year later I’m still stumped, and besides a few quick writing sessions to try and get the ball rolling again it’s just ground to a halt.
Maybe I need to take more of my own advice than I’ve been doing so far; maybe I need to skip ahead in the story. I mean, that’s actually the part of the story that I feel the most confident about …
God, are all of my problems this stupidly easy to fix? I hope not. I hope I have legitimate reasons for not being able to figure basic shit out.
Okay. My ambition, starting at 3:19pm today, is to complete my revision notes for Wolf Gang by the end of the day. I have 160 pages left to read and make notes on; I finished about that much across 2 days with Mark and Jessie, and could have done it in 1 if I’d really put my mind to it …
The difference, though, is that I was skim-reading with Mark and Jessie, and Wolf Gang is very simply a better-written manuscript that I won’t need to skim-read just to remain sane. Although, having said that, it might be good enough that I don’t need to make a ton of notes, either.
Okay. Let’s revise that ambition in light of this dawning realisation: my ambition, starting at 3:22pm today, is to see where I get to by 4:30pm and take it from there. I’d also like to do some writing today, but my revision projects are my main focus right now, so if I don’t have enough time to write without cutting into my revision momentum then I will forgo writing today.
All righty, parameters set – let’s revise this thing.
So, taking a break now at 4:27pm because I’ve finished reading and making notes on a chapter.
This chapter is where the core tension of the story comes to light, which is good – except for the fact that there are, like, 5 different ways I could take the story in, and all of them work. Just not together. In addition, it also tells a bunch of interesting story elements that are never shown or even hinted at (because the previous 4 chapter were written about a year after this one), and they’re distracting me, like an enticing field of wildflowers waiting just off the beaten path through the forest. So, I’ve got a lot of thinking to do between this and the previous chapter in terms of what direction to take this project going forward, and a lot of potential darlings to smother in their sleep – or build a reboot around.
The good news, though, is that I’m pretty sure the remaining 4 chapters are incredibly straightforward and actually probably don’t need to be changed so much as tidied up. I’ll still read them because there’s no need for me to assume when I can just read them, and I can probably read them really fast, too.
I might just be able to fit in my writing today after all.
I didn’t bother skipping to later chapters, either; this glorified Suicide Squad fix-fic is continuing from where it left off, and I’m becoming excited at the prospect of completing another zero draft this year, the last one being Wolf Gang at the start of 2017. It took waaay too long to write Wolf Gang though, and the main reason for that was that I left the least-fun stuff to write until last. This time I’m going to try and power through it – for now anyway – and let the Hack guide me.
Which is the general gameplan with the Wolf Gang revision notes, too – I was torn between “pulp” and “good” yesterday, but reading that chapter today made me realise that if I want a “good” werewolf novel, it’s not this one, no matter how many scenes I shift around or pieces of dialogue I de-problematise. Which is not to say that I don’t want to write a “good” werewolf book – at some stage. Maybe even this year, concurrently with Not Another Suicide Squad and Mark and Jessie‘s reboot/revision pass, but definitely not a priority for me right now.
Well, I think I’ve managed to sustain the momentum that I gained last week pretty well so far; I’m feeling good right now. And tomorrow is Thursday, which means I get to read scholarly writing on werewolves, which has been one of the highlights of my week ever since I started. Last week though the chapter I read – for most of that day – was super long, so I think I went from about 40% to 70% in that one session, which means I’m almost done. Which is sad. But, I did buy more than one werewolf book last Christmas, and I’m interested to find more after reading through this one. Regardless of whether or not a PhD comes about as a result of all of this time invested into researching werewolves, I think I’ve found myself a new hobby.
79%, as it turned out.
And now I’m done and I feel a little bit sad. That was a fun book. I will definitely return to it.
Until then, I have other werewolf books to look at – 2 others, to be exact, one of which contains 2 books, one of those 2 books being the same as the other book I have on werewolves because I should never be allowed to buy anything online ever. Maybe just not on the Kindle story; they looked like different books, but are in fact not. One has nicer formatting than the other; sadly it is the book that only contains one book, so …
Bottom line: I have more werewolf shit to read, and I’m interested in finding more to add to my collection.
Speaking of having werewolf shit to read, I am continuing with my Anita Blake read, and this book (The Killing Dance) is, so far, very much about the werewolf side of things. A lot of what differentiates one brand of urban fantasy werewolf/shifter from another boils down to what, exactly, they can transform into, and under what conditions – but in effect, the difference tends to boil down to character names. The Anita Blake shifters, however, have a couple of characteristics that set them apart from (what I can remember about) their UF kin. For one, alphas can control their shape-shifting so perfectly that they can alter their body more subtly. Not sure if there’s going to be an instance of them using this to, say, impersonate some political figure or something, but it’s neat nonetheless. Also it’s an idea that my friend and I came up with for our co-writing project long before I got around to reading Anita Blake so that’s kind of funny and I hope not a copyright issue.
For another, bloodlust and plain old lust seem to be one and the same for shifters. At the very least, the sight of violence turns them on, and when they’re in the mood they also become more violent.
Given the extent to which urban fantasy explores the intersection of sexuality, violence, and power, this is a pretty fitting characterisation for UF shifters. It also means that, unlike a lot of modern depictions of “good” werewolves, they’re not just humans but stronger and furrier: these are monsters, and I appreciate that a lot. Sure, our werewolf love-interest Richard hasn’t really done anything monstrous to date (that I can recall), and has huge, infuriating compunctions about taking a life, any life, including those of people (well, actually, other shifters) who repeatedly and unrepentantly abuse, torture, and murder the people around them, including people that Richard has sworn to protect. I say “infuriating” in the context of this being fiction, of course; the fact that a person isn’t willing to take a life shouldn’t be a sign that they’re weak – but in fiction, it often comes off as sanctimonious and selfish, especially when expressed by people who supposedly want to protect the innocent from those who would do them harm.
However, Richard does eventually explain why he’s so hesitant to take lives: it’s because he’s a werewolf, and he’s afraid that if he starts he won’t be able to stop, because he’ll like it too much. Which, I mean, you could say that of certain humans as well, but given the unique psychology and biochemistry that lycanthropes in the Blakeverse possess, it seems more like a physiological concern than a moral one – or at least as well as a moral one. And more to the point, it means that the Blakeverse werewolves are, like, monsters. This isn’t Teen Wolf, where any threat werewolves pose to humanity by virtue of being werewolves is hand-waved away by season 2. Yes, that is my favourite TV show of all time, but I never said it was perfect. Losing the monstrous aspect of what it means to be a werewolf, to me, loses a core part of the appeal of werewolves: engaging with that monstrosity – which Anita Blake does, and I am very appreciative.
However, I am a little leery, let’s say, of the fact that this is how the story offers Richard a valid reason to not want to kill people: it being immoral isn’t enough of a justification, especially since the people Richard has made enemies of are serial killers, rapists, and abusers of all shades (and are also shifters), and much is made of the fact that he has sworn to protect the people they’re victimising, yet is unwilling to do the one thing that would guarantee their safety. He’s also challenged the current alpha and defeated him, but not killed him, which according to werewolf law means he isn’t now the new alpha, leaving the pack in chaos – and antagonising the alpha and his (of course) more dangerous and sadistic mate, putting Richard’s allies in danger. He puts me in mind of a protest voter back in 2016: ideals over reality, and fuck the consequences. As far as the events of the story go, I’m not on Richard’s side here.
But that’s a problem in the sense that the story frames Richard’s reluctance to kill a bit like Superman’s in Man of Steel, like he should want to kill because don’t you know genre tropes dude? The tension is less what’s going on in the story and more what’s going on, and has been going on, in the entirety of the Western literary canon, every time the good guy refuses to take the life of the bad guy and makes some self-righteous speech about “sinking to your level” or “there’s a better way” or “revenge isn’t justice”, while the audience knows that the bad guy is going to come back, kill more people, be caught and not dealt with in any kind of permanent way, rinse and repeat until it’s no longer profitable. It’s a very meta problem, and it’s a bit transparent – and a bit concerning that it’s so pro-killing-people. To be fair, though, Anita takes this opportunity to reflect on the fact that she feels literally nothing when she kills people, and I’m interested to see if/how this develops over time.
I’ll say this: everything I’m reading at the moment is definitely holding my attention. And it is nice to be reading some dark shit for a change. It’s been a while.
A quiet week, all told, but I think maybe I needed it.
I am writing this on the 13th, which I will outline in the next post, but it’s been a day off. I’m planning to compensate by migrating my schedule for this week forward by one day, starting tomorrow – I think today was basically an extended weekend for me. I had a pretty shit night mental health-wise on Saturday, and I don’t think I recovered as well as I thought I had. Generally I just wake up the next morning/afternoon and actually feel better for having ridden out the dark wave, but this time not so much.
And no, I still haven’t followed up with the whole psychologist appointment thing that I said I would definitely do this week, and yes, it is definitely continuing to take a toll on me the longer I leave it. The joys of looking for help dealing with mental illness while living with mental illness are pretty fucking indescribable, and if I don’t want to feel any worse than I already do, they’ll stay that way for the time being.
Ugh. Whatever. The week is over, and overall I am happy with what I accomplished. This week started on a bit of a low-energy note, but I do think that I needed it. And now I need to take advantage of it.
Also, the little bits of writing that I did this and last week remind me that, actually, I do miss writing regularly, as much as focusing on reading and revision-notes has been good for my mindset. Time to get back into the old habit, I think.