Weekly Words 1-7/04/2018

01/04/18: 334

There was a reason for this: I was planning. Plans were happening, because I was doing them. Plans for my own projects, even. This week, I am going to be focusing on fleshing out these plans, and am realising that this is actually a learning opportunity for me: how to write meaningful action scenes.

Over the years, I have come to firmly believe that any part of a story should help to tell that story. If it doesn’t, it feels like a digression – filler. I do not like filler. And a big part of my learning this lesson probably ties in with why I’ve had such a hard time ever writing Realm of the Myth: so much of it is filler, because the story has always been very vague, hand-wavey, amorphous, a consequence of me trying to make it my own ultimate wish-fulfillment, trying to do too many things at once and ending up doing several shitty jobs instead of one or a handful of good ones. This always hurts – going back and reading Tallulah taught me that, very painfully – but action scenes are possibly the worst offenders, because if a fight scene is filler, then not only does it not have anything to do with the story, but it can also potentially have nothing to do with the characters. They can so easily become action figures being smashed against each other over and over again, devoid of personality, desires, agendas, or a sense of agency, resulting in action that feels contrived, forced, and pointless.

I think a good word to sum up my history with Realm of the Myth is that very word. It has been a fruitless endeavour for almost 17 years now, because I couldn’t bring myself to settle on any clear story, to limit it in any way that would give it a clear, definite shape as a story – because that would mean leaving some things out, and this was supposed to be the perfect project that did everything, and did it better than anything else. I never put it in those terms, but it was definitely my underlying, perhaps unacknowledged goal in keeping it alive for so long.

But just in writing these brief plan outlines for these scenes, most of which are action scenes, I’m finding myself intuitively creating choreography for them. I’ve always felt pretty bad with fight choreography, almost unprepared to write action scenes even if I set out intended to write one. And yet, despite this historic difficulty of mine, I’m finding that the plans I have so far that have that deliberation present through the choreography, the plotting and sequence of events, feel much better and more appealing than the plans with more broad details. I don’t think it would help to have a super-detailed breakdown of every single move in every single scene, but identifying key moments where something changes in the situation really helps to clarify the action, gives it a purpose – makes it feel like there’s a point to this happening, because what is happening is defined, precise – limited, yes, but only in that it has purpose. It is limited because it is specific. And this is something that Realm of the Myth has sorely lacked for most of its existence, so this development has gotten me looking forward to writing these scenes, rather than just feeling motivated out of a sense of “I should confront this issue because it would be healthier than sitting on it and pretending it’s not a huge developmental block to me creatively and emotionally”. What was once a problem for me with this project – setting boundaries on what could and could not happen – seems like it’s becoming a strength. Which makes sense, because when I think about it now, what’s fun about action scenes is the specifics. I started off feeling quite disappointed in myself for only having action scenes to write, but now I’m seeing that it’s exactly what this project needs – the best chance that is has of surviving, because action scenes really need focus and deliberation to work, and it’s so easy to spot when it doesn’t work. If this project has a chance of surviving beyond this set of scenes I’m aiming to write, it is through finding that intentionality, and writing action scenes, I now realise, is such a perfect way to do that, because of the ingredients that action scenes need in order to work are the same ingredients that Realm of the Myth needs to work.

03/04/18: 168

Yeah, more slow progress – however, I have been doing other stuff today, writing stuff even, just for fun. Nothing I’d count, but it’s been enjoyable.

Today was also a pretty rough start for me: I had a doctor’s appointment that I totally forgot about and my alarm that I set up last week didn’t actually go off for this morning; I realised when I got out of the shower to go to the appointment that all of my underwear was in the wash; and by the time I got home I just wanted to recuperate my energy, return to a point of emotional stability. Which I did. And hey, I did do some writing today, even writing that I would count towards my weekly word-count goal. I am keeping up the habit.

But I am aware now of just how much I need mornings for productivity, and so from tomorrow onwards that is what I will be focusing on doing. Get up, walk, shower, eat, and then write. Even if I only write for a bit and then take a break and come back to it later, I want to kick off my daily routine like that. I want to be writing as early as possible, while I’ve got energy to turn into momentum, before it gets turned into momentum for watching YouTube or something.

04/04/18/: 2100

MUCH better.

This spurt of writing was brought on partly by guilt at not having written much this week, and partly because I needed a distraction. I’ve been watching the American version of The Office, which I have never seen before because I am a purist and how could it ever be as good or even close to as good as the British version, but it’s just very watchable and enjoyable and real enough to not be completely ridiculous. However, it’s also made me kind of hyper-aware of my social anxiety, specifically the fact that it has prevented me from being able to participate in what most people find to be normal social situations, or have anything much of a social life. I think when The Office, of all things, makes you feel like you’re missing out, it’s probably time to take stock of your life, be honest about what’s really going on with yourself emotionally, and make an actionable plan for dealing with it, including seeking professional help if you can afford it.

Or write some pseudo-fanfiction for a couple of hours. That’s totally the same.

No it was a good writing session, but wow. The Office. I really do have problems.

05/04/18: 1881

Now if only the previous three days of this week could have been so good …

Yes, I do still want a 10k-per-week word-count goal, because I feel that I can do it. I’m just doing stupid, obvious shit to sabotage myself, like refusing to uninstall WOW despite hating how dull and monotonous it is, or allowing myself to watch YouTube not because there’s stuff I actually want to watch but because I want to distract myself from various anxiety-induced shit that affects my mindset on a daily basis. I’ve just got to set up a better process to habituate myself to. Like my morning walks. I’ve been going for walks first thing every day for about a month now, not every single day, but most days out of the week, pretty consistently. I need to do something like that for writing. I am still also stuck on wanting it to be my own projects, rather than the co-writing thing, but the co-writing thing seems to be the only reliable source of word-generation that I have – and you know what, I may as well just accept it, because refusing to work on it is not the same as actively working on something else. Which would be fine, but I’m not doing it, so I may as well be working on the co-writing thing.

Which is going a bit better this week than it has for the past couple, where I’ve started feeling a bit resentful of the fact that it’s so easy to write compared to my own stuff. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the resentment specifically; I’ve talked a bit about how the process that me and my friend have set up for this co-writing project has made it so much easier to just sit down and write than my own projects, but not how that contrast in ease of access makes me feel. But I can’t let that rule my decisions. If it’s easy to write, I should embrace the fact that I’ve got a writing project to work on that I actually not only find easy to write but still enjoy working on, even after … what, five months now? It’s been a while. That’s kind of miraculous, honestly. Yes, there was a bit of a lull, and I definitely gave myself a lot of momentum with this weekly words thing that I’m still coasting on a bit, but still, five months is a long time to commit to anything. There are relationships that don’t last that long. That’s a lot of binge-watching I could have done, but instead I chose to be productive.

But, by the same token, feeling satisfied with the work I’ve done on this co-writing project – and I do – is not the same as getting myself to work on my own shit. Once again, I am feeling disillusioned with my own shit because so much of it is so old already, projects that I had energy for in the past and never acted on, but kept the dream of alive after the fact. It’s starting to feel really unhealthy. I’m having the same kinds of ideas for stories and characters as I did as a teenager, only way less original and creative. I want to write something my age, if that makes sense at all. It probably doesn’t. I’m probably just grumpy because it’s been a slow writing week, I always have ridiculously high expectations of myself, and it’s late. Not a winning combination of factors regarding emotional health, even at the best of times.

But on the other other hand, this week has been a pretty good one in non-writing areas of my life, and I’m going to take that as a win, because I’ve been really worried about the non-writing areas of my life for a long time, and it’s starting to feel like they’re improving. Very slowly, but noticeably. I can’t put a weekly numerical value-judgement on that; I just have to do it, and it takes time and energy that I could be spending writing. But it’s also stuff that I need to prioritise.

What I need, basically, is better time-management. A schedule, as I have lamented time and time again, and found myself unable to stick to time and time again. But it might actually work now, because I’m at a point in my life when there are not only numerous things that I want to get done, but have actually been getting done as well. Since I’m already doing them, making some sort of schedule or priority system to organise them by is probably going to be easier than trying to make that schedule before I’ve even gotten started.

I guess we’ll see. But I’m probably spending most of tomorrow with a friend, and that’s going to eat into my writing time too – but in a good, necessary way. Like I keep saying, I don’t want to be a writer anymore. I just want to write a lot. And I think that, actually, keeping a 10k-word-goal per week is going to help with that – if it’s a goal that I can look at over the course of, say, a year, and find that more often than not I’m hitting that goal or something close to it. It doesn’t have to get met every single week. It’s just what I’m striving for, under ideal circumstances, and when I look back over my progress in a big-picture sort of way, it’s a way for me to gauge how I’ve handled that expectation, when I’ve been able to meet – or surpass – it, and what’s contributed to it, and the same when I fall short of this lofty mark. It is quite a lofty mark. 10k words a week is a lot, unless you’re Stephen King or something. And I am not Stephen King.

Nor do I have to be. I just have to figure out the best way to do the things that I want to do, and live the life I want to live. And it’s getting there. I really do feel like it’s getting there.

06/04/18: 2878

Not a bad wrap-up to the week. I almost didn’t write anything today, but I made myself sit down and do it – and then, when I thought I had finished, I made myself stick with it and write what I thought was going to be a little bit more, and ended up pretty much doubling the amount I’d managed to write. Which is good to know not only that I can do, but have done. I have made myself write when I didn’t feel like it, and it went well.

I still have yet to make any writing progress on my own projects, but I feel it’s getting there with the planning and stuff. It’s going to take a backseat for the next week or two anyway, though, as the first round of marking has just come in and I’m very keen to get that out of the way in a timely manner. While I’m doing that, I will also try to get this schedule idea rolling, work out a way to divide my time between all the different writing-related stuff I want to get done. Hopefully, it will go well.

07/04/18: 7361

Still not 10k, but closer to it than I thought I was going to get. Not a bad effort for what has felt like a very disruptive week writing-wise, and life-wise.

I was not planning on writing today, but had to shift some things around regarding the sunday writing session with my friend, so will be writing today instead of Sunday and counting this next “week” from today instead of Sunday as a result – Sunday will also be my “weekend” this week. That just means that despite the fact that I will be writing today, it will not be added to this week’s total of 7361, because if it was then next week would be only 5 days long for writing purposes.

The word-count is getting up there again. It feels nice. I think my idea to have 10k as an ideal rather than a practical goal is also working well; I am still striving to hit it, but accepting that even when I don’t, it doesn’t mean I haven’t done some good work over the week, and I feel that’s a good place to be mentally and emotionally for this habit I am trying to develop.

I have also had some ideas for Wolf Gang, which I might spend today’s writing session working on, and see if it’s something I’m actually remotely interested in pursuing. It’s going back to the original idea, which when I first came up with it, two or three years ago now, I described roughly as a mix between Vampire Academy and Fight Club, but with werewolves. I still like that premise, but the characters are going to have to change, a lot, for me to be able to stomach it, because currently my two main characters are, on the one hand, an insufferable, jealous, insecure, brainless everyboy who I should have let the main villain kill when he had the chance, and his cardboard cutout girl best friend who seems to serve as a sort of anti-wish fulfillment figure, but still not an actual character. The side characters are, for the most part, at least good at fulfilling their roles as side characters, and the villain definitely has potential, but yeah, many things will need to be changed. And I’m kind of looking forward to getting started on that.

So all in all, not a bad week for writing, and in fact better than the past couple of weeks, despite feeling in many ways quite a lot rougher. Here’s to trending upwards!

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10085

It’s getting up there.

I’ll still need to pick up the pace if I want to hit 50k by the 30th, but at this point, considering that I started on the 4th, I think I’m doing pretty well.

I got stuck with my Hero’s Journey Deconstruction project, and so stopped working on it for a couple of days, but I was wary of just leaving it in its unworkable state until I ran out of momentum, so I took five minutes before writing and just paced for a while, thinking of how to solve it. And it helped, a lot. It helps to just get away from distractions, even if only for a couple of minutes, to make the transition into writing-mode easier and firmer than just trying to jump in after numbing your brain with constant distractions all day. I have a hook now, and I didn’t before, and it feels good to be heading in that direction.

I’m not super-excited yet, but I’m definitely invested, and that’s all that matters. It’s not about how it feels; it’s about getting it done. And, I mean, I did just write for two straight hours. It felt good enough, let’s say.

And today’s been a pretty productive day overall. Marked some essays, did some exercise, made some progress on my mission to start controlling my eating habits, and wrote over 3k words. I call that a clear win.

More like this, I think. This is good.

 

Baby Steps

It’s happening. Ish.

I’ve actually sat down and done some writing today – not proper writing, mind you, but reading over a few older projects and coming up with some new insights and ideas that are getting me excited to actually get around to proper writing. That whole D&D-inspired thing has shifted to being more of a reboot of an old premise of mine, because for one I can’t actually write a D&D-inspired story set in a D&D-inspired world without running up against copyright issues, and for two I don’t actually want to write D&D. But it was a good launching-pad, and that’s really all I need right now: momentum. And slowly but surely, I am getting some of it back.

I’m considering changing my strategy for waking up earlier by incrementally conditioning myself to wake up slightly earlier every morning until I’m ideally waking up really early. I might just set my alarm for 7:30 and see what happens. Though I predict that what will happen is that I’ll go right back to sleep, so maybe not.

But I am craving a bit of a writing marathon right now, and while I can do a lot of writing in the evenings I much prefer the idea of starting off the day with writing. I might look into getting 2 lots of writing done, one in the morning and another later in the day, if things go well with this experiment.

In any case … I really haven’t done very much writing this year, and it feels like a very long time since I’ve put writing off for this long. And things have changed. I don’t feel like I have to write anymore, but I do feel like I’m missing out on something by not choosing to do it. I want to write. Not necessarily because the ideas that I have are filling me with passion, but more because they are ideas that I have and I want to express and work with them. It’s not so much about what I have to say as it is that I have the opportunity to say it. It’s a big change to how things used to be. A lot less pressure, for one.

It’s going somewhere.

I think I will set my alarm earlier. I’m in the mood to dive in.

Cross-disciplinary action

It turns out that I actually grossly underestimate myself, because according to my thesis supervisor my thesis is going really well.

This assessment comes after meeting with him today to discuss the revised chapter breakdown I sent to him – we also inevitably discussed a lot more than that, and he reckons I’ve got a really solid, original angle to approach this topic from and that I’ll probably be ready to start writing the actual thesis thing by October.

Interestingly, I agree with him.

I was expecting to sort of nod and laugh and agree and then walk away in a cold sweat of terror at being expected to start writing a thesis in three weeks, but the truth is that I actually think his assessment is accurate to my ability to perform. I can do it.

And I think it’s because part of my not taking study as seriously as I probably should is that I think it’s going to be harder than it actually is.

I mean who knows; in three weeks time I may discover that I’m just as inadequate as I think I am and that I have no business being anywhere within ten miles of a university, let alone Masters level study, but I don’t think that’s true. I think I’m actually prepared for this.

What I also think is that this thesis is going so well that I need to find a way to apply whatever’s working in this process to my other writing process: my novel-writing process.

This thesis goes against everything I do when I write creatively. I have a fucking chapter breakdown. I don’t even have a rough plan – that I like – that I’m using for Tallulah. I have plenty of notes, but they’re the note equivalent of a motorway pileup; I don’t know where it started, certain notes only make sense if you take them in the context of older notes that I have completely forgotten I ever wrote and therefore am not assuming are in play, and all I know is that it is a pileup and I’m stuck in the middle of it.

No wonder I don’t want to write it.

The other thing is that trying to apply “whatever it is that’s working” in my thesis to my novels is a really big, broad, vague statement. And I mean honestly, what’s working with my thesis is that I have a supervisor who I am accountable to for my work, or lack thereof. I can’t really translate that into my writing process.

Or can I?

Is the answer obvious enough yet?

It’s yes. Yes I can.

I need a proper wall-planner. That’s the first step. That’s going to be my “supervisor” for whatever novel-writing project to embark upon.

I also need a plan. A plan can change, but in order for that change to be meaningful I need to practice what I used to preach back in the early days of this blog: be able to both commit entirely to a plan and reserve the right to completely change my mind at any time. Because that is what’s working with this thesis. However the other thing that’s working is having somebody to bounce ideas off. I can’t really do that by myself, no matter how committed-yet-changeable I am, regardless of how wall-planner-y my wall planner is.

What I can do, though, is read a lot of stuff that seems similar to what I’m writing, and just read a lot about writing in general.

I can learn craft.

hate the idea of learning craft.

But I also love it, and I think at the very least it’s a kind of sounding-board. I love narrative structure and conventions and all the rest of it, so it actually makes a lot of sense. And I’ll disagree with tons of it anyway so I probably won’t become a mindless sheep just by finding out what Robert McKee has to say about the Hero’s Journey. I probably won’t have my entire identity replaced by a line-toeing brain slug just by learning craft.

And, of course, I can invest in something like Nanowrimo, or a writing community, if I want people to bounce ideas off and talk shop with.

The answer to my issue, the way to apply what’s working with my thesis-writing to my novel-writing, is to take it seriously. To invest, rather than theorise and assume. To treat it as something I’m living through rather than something I could or could not “do”, as if it’s in some “doing things” space that I can choose to visit or not visit. The answer is to treat it as the material that I am constructed from.

This year I came to the life-changing conclusion that I’m not a Writer. I still maintain that.

But I can still act like one.

And the thing is, I can take what’s working about my thesis and apply it to anything I want to do, from finally starting my YouTube channel to my exercise and diet to drawing or playing guitar or singing every day. I just need to approach it as something I’m living, rather than something I’m just interacting with. Because you don’t get the motivation to do things, sometimes, until after you start doing them.

So, in short, my plan is this:

  • Get a better wall-planner and find a place to actually put it so that I can actually use it to keep me on track
  • Read books in my field (genre is probably not going to work out); read books on craft (such as finishing Joseph Campbell)
  • Make a chapter breakdown (which actually did work for my first revision of Tallulah go figure)
  • Seek out other writers
  • After recovering from my anxiety-induced coma, talk shop with said other writers

I sense I’m still waffling on those last two, but the first three seem doable.

Who ever said an Arts degree wouldn’t give you any life skills?

Let’s see this through.

Push

Well, I will.

So what if I’m “not a writer”? I can still do all the same stuff, right? Like pushing on through a bad writing day, a lack of inspiration, that sort of thing? Just write some bad shit, allow it to be bad and then pick it up later?

I think at this point in my life I actually love how fast my mood can swing, how quickly and completely my motives and justifications for what I will or won’t do can flip over. It’s fantastic. Mostly because it’s amusing. What kind of person is like this?

To be fair, it’s only for writing, and writing is such a fickle habit with me. It’s so reliant on my mood, simply because that’s how I’ve trained myself to write – well, “trained” is a bit generous (or harsh, depending on how you take it); “conditioned” is more accurate. It’s just what ended up happening. My discipline went into ensuring, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no matter what happened I would always go with my mood when deciding whether or not to attempt … well, anything. If I don’t want to do it, then why bother?

Some ideas don’t come until you write the damn thing.

This means you have to write the damn thing.

And the beautiful thing is that I don’t have to; as I covered a couple of posts back, my new stance on writing as a priority is that it is a priority within the context of being a task that I undertake for zero financial gain or other extrinsic rewards. It is something that I do for me, so why not just be really moody and fickle about it? It’s not like I’m getting anything out of it other than personal satisfaction.

But the flipside of that is that, if I so desire, I can treat it more seriously, as though I’m doing it as a job or it’s the most important thing in the world. I can push through the slumps and the bad writing days; I can persevere and write something that sucks and leave it be until it comes time to revise. I can do all of that.

The part that makes it work for me now when it hasn’t for, I dunno, ever, is that now I no longer feel that I have to. I don’t need good writing habits; I don’t need to “finish”. I just can.

So why not?

Hell, why not go hole up in an abandoned caravan in the woods and write an entire manuscript with pen and paper? Other than that it sounds really unhygenic and also boring and terrifying. But the possibilities are endless when you aren’t making yourself have to do things.

And that’s important – writing is something that I make myself do. It is not a need. Not in the usual sense. I do need to tell stories, but it’s not like breathing air or drinking water. It’s more like I need to tell someone how I feel if I’m in a shitty mood or really excited about something; it’s an urge that won’t go away, and if left to fade away by itself it leaves a certain weight in its wake, a reminder that the opportunity passed and a chance at fulfillment, even if only for a moment, has been lost forever. That weight adds up over time. I won’t die from it, but I’ll feel it forever, in my habits, in the path that I lead from that decision.

I’m saying this now because a writer and blogger who I’ve followed pretty much since I started this blog, Shannon A. Thompson, just recently lost her publisher. It really sucks. When I’ve had time to do so, reading her posts has always inspired me to push myself a little bit further along in whatever writing project I’m currently working on, and her energy for self-promotion is something I find absolutely mind-boggling. I don’t know how she does it, but she does, and for that reason I am certain that, as awful as this situation is, she will find a way through it and go onto bigger and better things.

And also for that reason, I want to give it a shot myself. Push through and get somewhere beyond where I’m at now. I don’t have to. I’m not relying on my writing for a living. But maybe if I give it a shot, I’ll get there without even meaning to.

Never mind the whole thing where being a published author for a career has been my life’s ambition since I was 13 years old; this is 2015 y’all. Things change.

And since I tried revisiting Tallulah the other day just to check up and see where we are only to find that we’re good, but not quite “there” yet – I’ve got some choices. Potentially another book to marathon through; potentially another couple of years of ranting about my writing, which is supposedly what this blog is my platform for doing anyway. I do hope I’ll go back to Tallulah long before this year is up. But if not, I hope I’ll find some story, or stories, that I want to tell.

In the meantime, I’m gonna give myself a little push.

Running up that hill

What little I know of Kate Bush is that she is a very talented woman – the constant comparisons to Tori Amos don’t make any sense to me, but whatevs. This is kind of beside the point, but the fact that she sings a song about running up a hill is rather important to me tonight, because essentially that’s what today has felt like.

I had Ideas about What I would Do today, and none of them came to fruition. It’s because they weren’t plans. It’s because I just sort of thought ‘well I have like 12 hours to play with, surely I can make myself use some portion of that to further my goals’. Mostly, though, it’s because I didn’t want to do it.

It’s not that simple, though. The more time spent not doing it was time spent wishing that I was doing it. But I am still actually not sure what ‘it’ is, nor how to measure it, what kind of units to break this task down into, how to tell when something has been accomplished with my time spent doing ‘it’ …

It’s work. And it’s not just task-oriented; it’s operationally-oriented. I can do tasks fine. Activities, even. I can do a mean activity. Operations, on the other hand, the big sequences of tasks and activites that are bundled together in an order of due process in order to reach a certain goal – a goal that, for whatever reason, every fibre of my being screams at me ‘oh HELL no’ in response to – that’s like Kryptonite to the Superman of my motivation. I don’t know why I don’t want to ‘do it’, but I sure don’t. That I know with resounding clarity.

And it feels, exactly, like being back at university, and putting off that assignment, just one more day, just one more day isn’t going to hurt, blah blah blah …

It’s no good saying I’ll do it tomorrow. Today was tomorrow yesterday. Things are still not done. Tomorrow means nothing.

So. Analysis time.

Last night, after I wrote my post, I thought to myself: ‘Well, tomorrow I’ll Find My Voice and then Do Some Planning, and I have plenty of time to do it in’. Today, I didn’t know what to turn that into; there was no intuitive process of ‘breaking it down’ that I could think of, and so I ended up playing computer games instead. So obviously, somehow, I need to take this very broad generalisation that I’ve given myself by way of a ‘plan’ and find some way to translate it into a series of clear-cut micro-tasks, something more tangible and coherent, something that I don’t have to think about while I’m doing it.

So the first question is: What Am I Doing?

  • I am taking my existing manuscript, looking at how the series of events currently plays out, comparing it to what I want to happen in my head, and then making as many alterations – not changes – to the existing structure as I can in order to meet up with what I wanted to happen in my mind, relying on what’s already there instead of an overhaul.
  • Writing a synopsis of what I want to happen in the story – only what I know I want to happen and not trying to tie up loose ends yet – could help me to clarify that and hold that image, and help me to find the Voice of the story. I already have a synopsis or two floating around somewhere, so I could use those as a template, but I’ll probably want to write a new one. At least one new one.
  • The story is divided into chapters already, and each chapter is at least somewhat episodic in nature. That means that each chapter is sort of like a mini-story in and of itself. And I have made notes on every chapter, including an endnote for each chapter that summarises what the chapter ‘does’ in its current state and my thoughts on how it contributes to the overall story, both in terms of what happens and in terms of when it is happening. This is a good starting-point, because it is (fairly) succinct and clear analysis of the kind that I am looking for in terms of what I want to move around and where I want it moved to, and why.
  • I also have a document with chapter-by-chapter summaries that I wrote after finishing each chapter (slightly idealised to reflect what I imagined the chapter to be more than what it actually was, so I don’t know how useful that is, but it’s worth looking into).

All right. So, I have notes for each chapter, a synposis (or more) for an overview of what I want to happen in the story, and chapter summaries.

My idea right now is, using my existing manuscript as the basis, write a synopsis of what happens. Then I want to compare what happens to my old synopsis (if it’s in good working order) of what I wanted to happen, and see where the disparities are, and if there are any solutions that currently exist within the synopsis of what happens that I can use to make it more like what I want to happen.

So essentially, my first task is to do some comparative research and analysis on two synopses.

I can do that. I can do the hell out of that.

And how will I measure my progress? Well, the first thing to do, I think, is to write my new synopsis, the one that represents the entirety of the current manuscript. This means, at the very least, going back through the endnotes and seeing what my thoughts were. But it might actually end up mean reading the manuscript all over again. And since I just did that, and it took like three months, and I’m looking to start university in less than one (if I do indeed go back), I am not super-psyched about that – so I’ll see how I go on the endnotes.

This synopsis must also be broken down into events. Scenes. Interactions. Whatever – they need to be broken down and unitised so that I can more easily shift them around.

After writing that synopsis, I will go back and find my original synopsis, and then do the whole comparison thing, looking for ways to shift things around in the current manuscript in order to better match my ideal, and also looking at where the gaps in my vision are that can also be filled by what I’ve written.

Here is the issue: I actually don’t think that I have an original synopsis, at least not a ‘clear’ one – if I have a synopsis, then it’s full of attempts to bridge big gaps instead of just being a list of the things that I wanted to happen. So if I don’t have one, and I can’t use that document of summaries of each chapter for whatever reason (though I almost certainly can), I’ll have to write a new one. One that is honestly what I want to happen, and without worrying about how. That’s what the other synopsis is for.

The theory here is that, once both of these synopses are written, I can ‘overlay’ them and all the holes in the first will be filled up by the second and vice versa, and between the two of them I may have the story that I’m looking for.

That’s where I’m starting, anyway. If I knew it would work, I would have done it already. I’m worried that it’ll end up being a huge waste of time. But I need to get moving.

And I also need a next step to look forward to. Because I did actually try writing a synopsis a month or so ago, and it ended up not working out because, again, I jumped the gun and tried to fill in the gaps that I knew were there. I have to include the gaps this time; I have to accept that my vision for what the story should be may well not be complete, and include that incompleteness, because that is part of the vision, and I need to see the whole thing. I need an accurate map, so that I can get to where I want to go safely, and then do the necessary terraforming after the initial area-scan.

So the next step, after writing these synopses, is to take the scenes and shift them around until they feel right. And I have no idea how long that’s going to take, so I’ll just have to mark off whether I’ve done it or not every day, until it’s done. Rather than giving myself a window of time every day, though, I think I’ll give myself a deadline. That way, at the very least, I can get some last-minute adrenalin, because while it was far from ideal, some of my best essays have come from waiting until the last minute (though to be fair, almost all of my essays were written at the last minute anyway, so that’s not saying much).

I give myself until the 17th to get those two synopses written, and until the 22nd to have a synopsis from which to work so that I can get started on draft 2.

And that is something that I don’t know what to do with, but seriously this is good for today, I’ll work that out later, once the work actually starts getting done.

Deadlines and units. And a wall-planner. That’s what I need. I can’t say ‘work from X until Y’, but I can say ‘have work completed by Z’. That works for me. A deadline will help me bypass the ambiguity of how I’m supposed to measure my progress, cognitively if not logistically, and take the pressure off trying to think my way out of it instead of working through it. The logistics are taken care of by unitising, so that I have something tactile and tangible to work with. And the wall-planner is there to provide the only adhesive that can hold this ship together: accountability. This needs to get done. I need to do this. So I need to be accountable for it.

And that, ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else, is how you run uphill.