Weekly Words 1-7/07/2018

01/07/18: 529

A nice little start to the week, co-writing again, and looking to try my hand at writing Teen Drama.

I was considering just not writing this week at all, but I think instead I’m just going to shift my priority from writing in a general sense to focusing on a few specific writing exercises – and reading. I need to finish Mark and Jessie this month, and to move on to revision time. At the moment, it’s really seeming like I can’t take much away from this manuscript story-wise, at least not stuff that I want to keep. There’s plenty that I’d want to change, but even more that just shouldn’t be there to begin with. It’s also making me see, in quite graphic detail, how utterly wretched my two leads are, how insufferable my “cool” character is, and overall I’m astounded that I ever thought that what I was writing in any way matched up to the vision I had for the story. I went into this sort of vaguely intending to take a story away from the reading experience, one that I’d have to alter and refine but would generally work out to be something that I’d want to work on. I’m not sure that that’s what I have, and it mostly comes down to the characters. I have one character who I actually like, and I’m glad that I like them, but they’re not one of the two main characters, and that is a problem. And honestly, I don’t know how to fix my main characters, or if they even can be fixed. I wonder if maybe I should not even bother reading the rest of this manuscript and just start over from scratch.

But on the other hand, having something to work against kind of makes it easier for me to come up with a revision plan. Hating what I’ve got drives me towards identifying the things that I want but don’t have, and I want two new writing habits, which I am going to focus on this month: planning instead of pantsing, and planning based on things that I actually, actively want to write, instead of what I think is functional in a structural way. So, in that sense, I think continuing to read and make notes on this manuscript is a good idea.

This is also a way for me to meet my goal of having a more structured routine in general, the feeling of having work to do, only in this case work I set for myself. Writing I find I can’t really treat like work, because it’s a hobby. But a book project could be a bit different, and that’s because it doesn’t just involve writing. It also involves reading, revision, consideration, taking notes, making adjustments, doing research – and I think I can treat that as a job. At least the reading part anyway, to start with. It’s pretty easy, and I’m actually glad that this book is so long now, where I was complaining about it before – it’s long because I changed the margins and page size when I converted it to a PDF file, and while that means there’s a high total page count, it also means that when I sit down to do a reading session, I have a sense of getting a lot done, like 20 pages in a session or something, and somehow this distracts me from the potential discouragement that comes with looking at a page total of 622.

Related to this, I also want to spend some time this week reflecting on what I managed to accomplish, versus what my expectations were, going into this last round of marking. Setting goals is important, as is sticking to a plan, both of which I feel like I failed at in this case – however, the deciding factor, which I did not really consider until after the fact, was how realistic my expectations were. Or, as I’m starting to suspect, unrealistic. And as someone who historically has a lot of things they want to do and a bad track record of actually getting them done, these particular data categories are important to me.

So, I’ve got some goals for this week. The word-count is being de-prioritised – quality over quantity. And in terms of writing – there’s the writing exercises that I want to do, starting with taking that whole “show don’t tell” idea and just blatantly flipping it, making it so that I have to tell and force myself to do it in a way that is engaging and satisfying to read, but there’s also wanting to follow my natural inclination to edit my writing as I go, rather than forcing myself to “just write”. I do think I need to emphasise the “just write” part for, like, first drafts, but as I identified last week in the midst of an emotional dumpster fire, I need to care about what I’m writing, and tweaking it as I go so that it makes sense is part of that. I think this is probably just because I take everything way too literally, and “just write” to me is basically an instruction to freewrite all of my first drafts, which I do not think is a good or productive plan when I frame it like that. So yeah. Going to experiment a bit with that, too, just pull things back on track instead of letting them veer off into the distance just because it’s a first attempt – I don’t want to do so much on-the-fly revision that I get stuck, but I don’t want to stop myself from doing it just on principle either. Just like I want to find my voice as a writer, I want to find my style of writing, too, and I think this is part of it.

Or maybe just a shorter draft-revise cycle, like a couple of days – write a big piece, leave it for a bit, then come back and tuck it in a bit more snugly – maybe after getting started on the next part, if it’s part of a longer project.

Ideas. I have ideas, and that’s always a good space to be in.

Definitely a nice start to the week.

03/07/18: 1089

On the other hand …

For all my talk of experimenting, shaking up my established order, finding my voice, all of this new shit – and I do want to do it – I cannot overstate how comforting it is to know that on any given day, I can just hit up google docs and put some writing into me and my friend’s co-writing project. It’s just so gratifying to have that resource. In the same way that I value urban fantasy novels for the fact that they make reading easy when I just want to read, I value our co-writing project for the fact that I can always get some writing done when I want to write.

And yes, as has ever been the case, I wish I felt that sense of ease with my own personal projects – but at the same time, I just love how easy and enjoyable this one is.

On that note, I am actually very eager to get back to the established schedule that I had before this month – technically I’ve had it this month, I just let it slip. I want to get back on the wagon. I went for a walk today, which was my official starting-point, so it’s back to daily exercise and co-writing as my go-to, regular habits, but not the extent of those habits. I want new stuff, and I want to get used to it – but I also want the old stuff back. I’ll have to work on finding a balance between new and old, and also short-term and long-term. There are a couple of short-term things that I need to do this week, that I actually wanted to get done today and didn’t – part of that is just having the old habits to fall back on, letting myself go on autopilot and allowing the newer priorities to just kind of fade away. Gotta keep perspective. It’s all about perspective.

But right now, it’s about returning to form. That’s the most important thing, and today it felt like that was happening. A good start.

04/07/18: 203

Got some other stuff done today, stuff that needed to get done – well, got started on it at least.

But yeah, I wanted to do more writing than this. I have a lot of distracting habits that I need to cut down on. That is the lesson for today.

05/07/18: 2543

Now that’s a bit more like it.

Today was still more distraction-filled than I’d like, but I also took care of two important, priority tasks for me out of the three that I’ve set myself for this week, so that just leaves one to take care of tomorrow. Feels good.

And yes, the writing feels good, too. Yesterday, while I didn’t do very much writing, I did start writing something that was important for me to get started on – moving beyond the Chapter 1 doldrums that I historically get stuck on. As with Wolf Gang, I solved the issue of a clunky opening and not getting to the ideas that I actually care about by skipping ahead; I tried to keep the momentum going today but it scared me off. That’s okay, though. I have a clearer sense of what exactly has been scaring me about this writing process, which in turn is giving me insight into pretty much every new project I feel uncertain about, and it’s just the fact that, once I actually start writing, I start second-guessing myself. Not with the co-writing project, though, which is what I worked on tonight. I mean, there’s still some, but I find it so much easier to push through with. I wonder if that’s just because I’ve already written so much of it now – maybe that’s all it takes. Which, I mean, it’s kind of a catch 22, but at least it’s something.

But come Sunday I can put some more work into what I started yesterday – I feel more able to override the panic I feel at not knowing what to write, how to start, not having a “voice” to fall back on. I feel a bit more confident in my ability to just write and not care about the quality of that writing, and since that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to train myself into feeling for the past couple of years, I am eager to get started on that on Sunday …

While for now, I am looking forward to not having any self-imposed writing obligations for the next two days. I needed this week to re-establish a bit of equilibrium, and I’m still getting there, but I think it’s been a good start.

And as for what I have to show for it:

Weekly Total: 4364

Hey, it’s a start. And right now, that’s all I need.

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No Bad Die

So I’ve decided to put Tallulah down again.

It just wasn’t going anywhere good, and that frustrating thing happened where I could see solutions, but not think my way across the synaptic chasm between my current neural pathways and the potential new ones to be formed on the other side. Also, after chatting with my soon-to-be-known-as-Dr. best friend (congratulations again, dude!), I have realised that Tallulah is not the conventional story that I’ve been trying to mold it into – perhaps it should be, or perhaps not, but regardless it’s not what I’m in the right head-space to write just now. So whether it’s just for now or for good, I am doing something else for a while.

That something else is my previous passion project, Mark and Jessie’s Christmas. I have mentioned it a few times before: it was one of the first stories I came up with during the end of my friendship with Wickham that felt truly like it came from me, my tastes and ideas and values, rather than an attempt to win Wickham’s approval of my ideas. It’s probably good that all of that feels like a lifetime ago now, instead of the recent past. I’ve been waiting for this to happen. It’s sort of anticlimactic, but I suppose that’s also a good thing.

But yes, it’s about two kids who travel to the king of the elves in order to get presents because he’s sick of giving them out to people who don’t deserve them – which is more or less everyone, in his eyes. Said kids are very angsty, because this is a thing that I wrote, and along the way … well, stuff is supposed to happen, but what ends up happening is not that stuff, and that’s part of why I’m going back to it now. The other reason is because it is just a bit more conventional, and therefore seems like a good way for me to exercise these urges to tell a more conventional story than the prospect of returning to Tallulah offered me.

So I sat down to take some revision notes and make a broad summary of the story, chapter by chapter, that I could then use as a springboard from which a revision plan could launch.

And then I actually started reading it and was compelled to utter the sentence “no bad die” while swiping my hands at the intangible yet omnipresent threat to my very sanity that this decade-old manuscript presented me with.

It’s not great.

I really, really do want to look into livestreaming my writing one day, because I feel like getting to witness an author’s reactions to reading their own work could be quite entertaining. It’s such a personal thing, and weird in the way that while it is deeply personal, because all of these ideas and thoughts and decisions came directly from you, once it’s down in writing it’s also now this totally separate entity that you can interact with and not be accountable for anymore, while the entire interaction is emotionally fueled by the fact that you are totally accountable for it. It’s very existential, confronting your own writing, and something that I would love to see on camera.

But for now, I’ve put aside the revision notes to give myself the chance to just read and process and swipe at my computer screen some more, because I feel that I have received a few signs that this is a thing that needs to happen before any productive work can take place. It’s so bad, and it’s grossly fascinating because it’s not just a bad thing, but a bad thing that created. I think this means I’m a narcissist, but that’s only really surprising because there should be far more evidence of that for me to pick up on in my day-to-day life anyway.

But I think it’s also because, by exposing and identifying flaws in myself through my writing, I give myself the chance to correct those flaws. And that’s powerful. Not just that, but to do so in private, without having to worry about the judgment of others. I mean I’m telling you about it here, but not the specifics. And the specifics are the real issue.

Whereas the broad strokes of this story … I’m honestly finding those hard to find, because the little things seem to be so densely packed that each individual instance of god-awful writing pulls me in with an inexorably powerful gravitational field, forcing me to fixate on each of them in turn for far longer than it takes to read any one of them – though that is also less powerful of an urge now that I am no longer making revision notes. The other issue is that, so far, the key narrative beats that I’m expecting to see in each chapter are not there. It would be very convenient if they were, but it seems like important moments are going to take a little more effort to isolate and identify when I do eventually start making revision notes for this thing, because they seem to be spread out over the chapters in a sort of haphazard way.

Then again, I am only one and a half chapters into this thing, and already I have felt the need – and given in to it – to write this blog post in order to distract myself from the process of actually forcing myself to read this garbage of my own making. I can only hope that things will get better as the manuscript goes on; I have changed the page format from A4 to A5, to make it feel a bit more like a real book as I’m reading it. Upside: it’s kind of working.

Downside: the “real book” I’m reading is 622 pages long.

Well, if you’re going through hell, keep going …

Also this manuscript has a lot of ellipses and I fucking hate myself right now because it means I have to read them all …

Idea Interruptions

I had forgotten that this happens: I’m trying to meticulously plan out a revision, tying pieces of disparate ideas together into a coherent shape of a plot, and suddenly I start going off in a strange direction with one of those pieces, and realise that I’m having an idea. I stop my meticulous planning, and go and write that idea down, because in that moment it is the best idea I’ve ever had.

It changes the entire story; it fundamentally transforms it into something else, takes the focus and flow and tone and everything and makes it be a different thing altogether. And it’s wonderful. It’s magnificent. It’s the Solution To All My Problems.

Until I’ve finished writing it down, wake up the next day and laugh at myself for being so ridiculous.

I love these ideas, honestly; they’re sort of like bubbles popping as they rise to the surface of a boiling pot, and while they’re distracting, they’re also symptomatic of something much more positive: my imagination being put to work. Engagement. I wouldn’t have these ideas if I wasn’t focused, ironically enough, so however much they might derail my train of thought for a while, they are still evidence that I’m on the right track.

I decided when this first started happening, while I was writing the first draft of Tallulah back in 2012, that I was just going to ride them out, rather than trying to shut them down – because who knows? Perhaps there’s something to them after all. This one has me taking a character so insignificant that they may as well not even exist and turning them into a major character, which oddly enough actually seems to solve the problem of character-bloat that I keep struggling with in this story. And I like the idea. It’s not a good idea, but it’s kind of funny, and as I’ve spent most of today unable to break through the brick wall of my current revision plans (where they stop about halfway through the story because at that point it turns out there isn’t actually anything left to happen to cause the story to continue), this is at least an energising detour.

Mostly, that’s why I ride these ideas out and indulge them rather than trying to block them out and keep working: they usually crop up when I’m stuck anyway, and even if they interrupt something more productive, they’re just too distracting. It’s a losing battle, and I only end up unable to focus on anything at all if I don’t feed them some of my time and energy until they’re satisfied. And it usually just requires writing the idea down. It can take a while – I’m still writing this one down – but it’s always been worth it. And, again, it’s one more idea I might be able to use somewhere down the line.

So yes, this revision process has hit a dead end. Oh well. It always happens; it’s just part of the process. It will hurt, it will drive me insane, and then suddenly everything will become clear and the story will be better than it’s ever been. So long as I keep at it. That is one thing, at least, that I have learnt from my experience with writing this book, something that I don’t feel like I have to re-learn every time. I remember that this happens, and I remember that it always works out. So long as I keep at it.

For now, though, it’s back to promoting the most useless character in this book, useless the point where it was a kind of in-joke with me and my friends who read the original draft, into the main villain. From a meta standpoint it’s probably the most hilarious idea I’ve ever had for Tallulah – and there is some merit to the idea. It ties together some disparate plot-threads – important ones – and lets me do a bit of subversive genre commentary. A bit.

But mostly it’s just a wave I have to ride out for now. Distracting it may be, but least it’s fun while it lasts.

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.

And Now …

I have finished reading through my manuscript of Tallulah.

I think I did not give myself enough credit yesterday; I can actually remember things pretty well. At least in the second half of the book. The second half of the book is definitely the tightest, though it is also often the most abrupt and unsatisfying in terms of tying up loose ends and tying the threads of the plot together effectively. A lot of key moments are rushed through and don’t have any sort of emotional payoff; the climax is kind of exciting but also comes right the fuck out of nowhere and doesn’t have nearly enough build-up and thus feels unjustified; the supporting characters need bigger roles …

In other words, there’s potential here.

I am very glad that I decided to come back to it after all.

I might read it again, but for the most part I actually feel like I know what I need to do. I have a much clearer sense of the structure and what needs to change than I thought I would; and what is clear to me is that a lot of stuff needs to be thrown out and replaced. The stuff that happens at the end of the book feels like it needs to happen around about the middle instead; and once again, I am faced with the dilemma of designating antagonist duties. This has been the eternal struggle with this story, and a little while ago I thought I had a good solution. The right solution. But now it feels a bit thin. Mostly because the story itself feels a bit thin.

But I can take care of that, and I’m starting to see how – yes, it’s going to be a lot of work, but I think it’ll be worth it. It’s time to make a revision plan.

It’s been a while, but it is good to be back.

Just Read It

(Read it read it read it read it)

I have, after like 6 months, finally read past the halfway point with Tallulah. In fact I’m almost three quarters of the way through.

It’s so bad.

There’s this mentality of scarcity that I am used to having when thinking of storytelling, and particularly revision. I tend to think of cutting things out, tearing down all the writing that I’ve spent so long constructing only to build another different structure in the exact same place, losing whatever magic might have been in the original creation for the sake of “clarity” or “focus”. I know that stories are good when they only include what matters. But if they only include what matters, then they’re just utilitarian, by-the-numbers, bare-bones skeletons, not fully-realised stories.

That’s what I think, anyway. And I do mean that’s what I think; it’s not what I believe. I believe that the word “only” is what’s tripping me up here. If, instead, I was used to thinking that stories are good when everything that happens in them matters, it’s not about scarcity anymore. It’s about substance. It’s about how much of what happens in the story matters, rather than about how little needs to actually be there for the story to work. Which I think is a more useful way to think of things.

However, it’s also hard to think of it that way when my reading experience so far is very much defined by how little of what happens actually feels like it matters, and how much of it is utter filler garbage. There is so much pointless interpersonal drama that doesn’t really serve any purpose except to make it take longer to finish reading the fucking book; there is so much stuff that seems like it should matter to the plot, but is then either resolved too quickly or not at all, resulting in a feeling that the story doesn’t know what it is or wants to be. Sections of older and newer writing are spliced together without any regard for continuity between revisions, making the already clunky and distracted storytelling feel even more pointless. And yet somehow, for all of that sharp, jagged, traumatising contrast, it’s all just so … indistinct. Everything blurs together, because while so much of it stands out from everything else for all the wrong reasons, so little of it actually matters. It’s full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I am not happy with what I’ve written.

I guess this is what note-taking is for, eh?

Yeah, my plan to not make notes worked to get me started, and I do find that it’s easy for it to become a distraction from reading the manuscript itself – but at the same time, I need those notes, because there is no way I’m going to be able to remember this fucking thing when I’m finished with it. I mean I wrote this, and I’m having a hard time remembering it, immediately after reading it. I need to take notes of key plot points – or events that should be key plot points – so that I have something to build a second revision out of. I can’t rely on my memory for this one, because the way this manuscript reads seems scientifically optimised to disrupt the human memory process.

This is worse than my shitty YA werewolf novel. Which is awful, but not in terms of structure; it makes sense, even if what makes sense is repugnant. I wish I could say that Tallulah at least has better content, even if it’s not put together very well, but the thing is that with storytelling, in any media form, presentation and content are the same goddamn thing. This is obvious for me with Tallulah in its current state, because it’s presented so poorly that what it’s “about” is very difficult to identify or recognise. Which is because what is presented to you in a story, regardless of what the plot may ostensibly be, is what the story is about. If your plot is about two attractive young people getting to know each other in Vienna on a time-crunch, but what you present your audience with is nothing but descriptions of Viennese architecture, then your story is about Viennese architecture. If your plot is about a badass vampire slayer trying to solve a murder mystery, but what you present your audience with is a woman caught in a toxic power struggle between two domineering alpha males fighting over breeding privileges and the mystery gets solved off-page, then your story is about an abusive “love”-triangle. If your plot is about traumatised teenage soldiers who pilot giant robots to fight against an evil galactic empire, but what you present your audience with is endless scenes of uninteresting supporting characters bickering about space politics while drinking tea, then fuck you Gundam Wing I thought you were going to be cool when I was 16 and you betrayed me.

Tallulah‘s plot is about the daughter of a selkie mother living in the wake of her traumatic departure and coming to terms with the reality of her family’s legacy and her place in it, but what I’m presenting my audience with is laboured, repetitive, pointless interpersonal drama that leads nowhere and does nothing to progress the story because nothing sticks, even though plenty of it seems like it should stick, sometimes intuitively so. I think that’s the hardest part of reading this, really: the missed potential, conservatively sprinkled in tiny chunks throughout a layer cake of portentous tripe. It just makes it so punishing to read.

But one of the first things I learnt about professional writers – and I can’t remember where I heard this – was that they could never read their own work. It wasn’t for them; it was for their readers, and once they had finished writing it, they moved on to the next thing. It sounded so unfulfilling to me, and part of my dream of being an author when I was 13 came part and parcel with a mission to prove this information wrong. I would be the writer who loved reading their own work; I would be the writer who told stories that I wanted to read, hear, see, whatever. I would tell the stories that were missing, the stories that I wanted told to me.

It only occurs to me now, struggling through this manuscript that makes me want to chew my face off just to break the monotony, that either this is a stupid idea, or I don’t fully understand it – or didn’t keep it in mind while I was writing this. Because while what I wrote felt good at the time, it didn’t really come from any place of need for that kind of story. That’s what’s missing here: hardly anything in this story feels necessary. And the kind of stories that I want to exist are the ones that I feel need to exist.

I wonder now if Tallulah ever was that story for me. Once I started working on it, it certainly felt necessary, but mostly because it was just exciting to be telling it in the first place, because it was so different to anything I ever thought I would try to write. And that’s still a kind of necessity for a writer, I feel, but not the kind of need that I want to fulfill through my stories. Maybe it was just another ambitious writing exercise.

Or maybe I do need to tell this story, for reasons that I could not have predicted when I started, and I need to adjust my storytelling philosophy.

But, at the end of the day, speculation is cheap. For now, I just need to read it.

Yes I will read it, you read that right. Read it all day and all through the night.

I’ll read it.

Goddammit May

May, for those of you who don’t know, is one of the major characters in my book, Tallulah. About 50% of my internal commentary while reading, writing and generally considering the mere existence of Tallulah is taken up with repeating this phrase to myself. May is quite possibly my greatest creation, in many ways the character of whom I am most proud out of all the characters I have invented over the years, because she is an embodiment of weaponised angst and neurosis to a level I have never experienced in fiction before. I love her, because she is the purest incarnation of the part of my writer persona that wants nothing more than to inflict pain upon his characters and readers alike – fun pain, mind you, the kind that makes you wince and squirm and enjoy it; not pain out of malice, but because it’s just so validating to elicit an earnest emotional response out of people. Mind you, I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in that attempt – I just know that that’s the exact effect that she has on me.

I’ve missed this.

I am revising Tallulah again. I said I wasn’t going to make notes unless I felt the need to; I felt the need to tonight, so I made some. Either taking a few months off has changed my mindset with regards to revising this book, or I misjudged the extent to which note-making was interfering with my ability to commit to this revision. Whatever the case, I have fulfilled my solemn oath to myself to return to this revision endeavour and get it moving again, and re-acquainting myself with May and the squirm-inducing suffering she still inflicts upon my psyche, I’m glad that I did. But for the next revision, I might make myself a printed copy and print it on something smaller than A4 pages so that I can read it in bed rather than having to sit at my laptop. And make it feel more like a real, published book.

As for Nanowrimo – you know what? I got something out of it. I don’t need to finish this year. I also can’t be fucked finishing this year, but that’s not the point. It got me moving again, and I’m grateful enough for that that I feel satisfied to not try and work myself up to go on a writing sprint. Then again, I have finished marking and have nothing left to do for the rest of the year except revision …

And reading. Lots of reading. I have taken the opportunity to punctuate my continuing-with-increasingly-diminishing-returns Urban Fantasy kick with a detour into Historical Fantasy Fiction, with Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series, this being the fourth book in the series, Valour and Vanity. This series belongs to a genre and tone I would quite comfortably say is “not really my thing”, and is also a series I will quite happily count among my very favourites. And it is rather a breath of fresh air after the grittiness and holier-than-thou sanctimony that pervades a fair portion of Urban Fantasy. It’s part of the charm, but a part that can very quickly become grating. I highly recommend it to anybody who – actually, I just highly recommend it, full-stop. It’s not my thing, and I really like it, so I encourage you to give it a go, whatever your readerly inclinations.

But I am glad that I made this decision to just read Tallulah without having to feel obligated to make notes, even though I’ve ended up doing it anyway. These are some of the more fully-developed characters that I have, characters I’ve spent years with not just in my head, but on the page. I’m familiar with these characters in ways I’m not with characters that I’ve had for longer, far longer in some cases. I still think of Tallulah as being a new story of mine, even though the initial concept was something I came up with in 2010 and I didn’t actually start writing it until 2012. I guess it’s a testament to how much your relationship with a story changes once you’ve actually written it, when you have something … literal to work with, something actual, instead of abstractions and hypotheticals sustained by however much memory you can devote to them. These characters exist beyond my imagination now, and that makes the relationship different. I see these characters and think of how much still need to change for this story to work, but it’s no longer a matter of just changing my mind; I have to physically delve into their inner workings and rearrange them. I am actually transforming them into something that they were not before every time I decide something has to change, rather than just thinking a different set of thoughts about them, because they are no longer just my thoughts. It’s more … consequential.

I had forgotten there was this much gravity in writing.

I’ve missed it. I’m glad I came back to it.