Post-Nanowrimo 2015: 1312

Oh my god I did writing I feel so accomplished …

I have decided to solve the issue of linking up the semi-written chapter 2 that I have with the semi-written chapter 5 by completely rewriting chapter 2 to make it about half the length, making it much simpler, flatter, duller, and generally just trying to get this shit done with as little ceremony as possible. There are two reasons for this: the first is that I want it done quickly, and the other is that I’ve found that, a lot of the time, the less fancy I try to be with my writing, the easier it is for me to get to the point.

It’s something I’m finding a problem with my MA as well: a lot of the time I feel like I’m wasting time, dancing around the subject instead of just addressing it head-on, and the really annoying thing is that it’s because I feel like I can’t just address it head-on because it’ll be blunt and flat and lack the impact that I want it to have. Part of this is because I’m used to trying to convey a specific feeling when I write, and writing in generalities – which is what happens when I try to write straightfowardly – doesn’t let me do that. But at the same time, trying to convey specific feelings that I have in my mind to written text doesn’t always work. Tallulah was a great example of that, where I got a metric ton of things in my head down in writing and at the end of the day it made for an almost unbearable reading experience. It was like she was seventeen different characters all vying for position, and that’s the exact thing I want to avoid ever doing again. But it’s my habit – I think it’s my habit anyway, because I’ve done it a lot – and trying to break it is proving hard. It’s why I’ve let myself go back and rewrite huge chunks of this Nano novel, so long as it’s to make it simpler, clearer and more straightforward. And that’s what I’m doing now.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to basically let myself write these three final chapters as if they’re part of an entirely different story, because that’s what I feel like doing. It’s what’s going to get them written; I don’t feel like linking up with all the shit I have in the chronologically final chapters, because … well, I don’t. And I kinda think this new version of the story is the one I’ll pursue if I ever do get around to trying to get this thing published, because it’s less obnoxious and whiny. The more of that I can have, the better. It’s another habit I want to break in terms of the kinds of lead characters I end up defaulting to. I think that, if last year was the year of letting myself write just for fun, this year is to expand upon that and let myself write characters who feel drastically different from what I’m familiar with. I used to do that quite a lot; I had some very interesting and singular characters when I was in my early teens, and as I grew older I cleaved stronger to recognisable tropes and archetypes – which is fine, but I do miss my weird casting choices. I’m not sure this project will ever be as interesting as any of my old stuff, but at least it can be something other than a written version of my inner monologue, only with werewolves.

Actually that would be more interesting that what this story is at the moment.

Anyway, it’s getting written again, and it feels good. Just gotta keep it going.

And then I can write *gasp* something else I mean fucking hell I’ve been working on this novel for over six months now, I was not expecting this level of time-commitment to this thing …

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New Year’s Productivity

I just added slightly over 1k words to the revision of my MA chapter. It’s getting there. More importantly, the momentum is building up again, and that’s what really matters in the long run.

Now for my other thing.

I am no closer to figuring out what to do with my shitty YA werewolf novel, but at least I feel less constipated about it. I feel like I am nearing the answer. I’m just not sure what I need to do in order to get to it.

But I am thinking that it might be the fact that I’m trying to condense half a book’s worth of material into three chapters that’s got me so stuck, because these chapters I’m gearing up to write are all focused around introducing and fleshing out the werewolf stuff. If I were writing a “real” book then I’d hopefully do this a lot more smoothly, incorporating the exposition into the story rather than setting aside a whole chunk of the story to explain it. But this is YA. You’ve got to wear you Harry Potter influences on your sleeve. That’s all. It’s definitely not because I’m a hack or anything. I mean, I have a blog about writing. This blog. What kind of a hack would write about their hacky writing and pass it off as some kind of insightful public journal?

In any case, the chapters I’m working towards are very … well, they need to take a lot of pressure and spread it out. At least according to the plan I currently have, and honestly I don’t know why all of a sudden that plan, which I’ve complained about a few times already, is now my template for the remainder of this story that I can’t possibly deviate from. I think it’s the fact that the rest of the story doesn’t support what I actually want to write, which is much quicker, to-the-point and doesn’t stuff around introducing and establishing the supporting cast, how the Special World works for our newbie lead protagonist, all that jazz. I’m suddenly in the mood for something a hell of a lot less YA and a hell of a lot more An American Werewolf in London. Which is a very strange film indeed, and I’m also not sure why I’m suddenly interested in evoking it in this Nano novel that, up until now, has played out pretty much exactly like you’d imagine a stereotypical YA urban fantasy  with a male lead might. Which is the entire point.

And if that’s the entire point, then I am obliged to do some info-dump world-building. It’s kind of mandatory. It’s just not what I want to do, so …

Maybe I’ll just go look at that plan again and see what I get out of it.

But regardless: I got some shit done today, and that’s definitely a good way to kick off the new year.

Post-Nanowrimo 2015: 8622

Most days when I’m not working – so most days – I spend my time feeling guilty that I’m not working. Well, thinking guilty that I’m not working, which produces the feeling. I know full well that if I just did something that I enjoyed instead, the thought would never even occur to me. I also think, on these days, that I know for a fact that if I make myself do something, I stop feeling guilty.

Today was one of the days where that knowledge translated into action, and I have thus spent the past four-ish hours completing the final chapter of my Nano novel.

2 and a half chapters to go.

And these are the sticky ones, the ones that I really don’t want to write because they have yet to become interesting to me. But that’s fine. The build-up is always tricky to get right, and after ranting about ritual for 3k words the other day I’m sure I can find some inspiration.

But, as I was reminded by my good friend George the other day, it’s also about just getting used to switching off my inner critic. That’s what this whole ritual is about: cutting myself off from feeling ashamed when the idea that I want to go with is generic or problematic (and there’s a hell of a lot of overlap), because the most important skill for a writer to learn is, you guessed it, WRITING. And you can’t write if you keep cutting off your own ideas, so I’m trying to get myself out of the habit of doing that. Now I just have to apply that philosophy to the remaining stuff I have yet to write, because part of what’s holding me back is feeling like it must be a certain way, and I think if I just let myself do whatever it is that I want to do – which is the entire point of my writing this novel to begin with – I may happen upon the solution.

But it also has to feel like a story, because that’s also the point of writing this novel to begin with.

Anyway 8622 words in one sitting; I’m pretty damn pleased with myself, even if it is way past my now-normal bedtime of approximately midnight. Good work, me! Well and truly at the home stretch now.

More in the morning. Or afternoon. One of the two.

Post-Nanowrimo 2015: 1730

So after that huge rant about ritual and stereotypes and the cultural specificity of the Hero’s Journey, I did actually get some writing done. It feels much more ritualistic, and that’s good. That’s what I need.

The great thing about stories being rituals is that, if it’s familiar enough, you get the reader to perform the ritual right along with you. That’s where the sense of inclusiveness comes from in stories like Harry Potter; it’s not just wish-fulfillment, but ritual-fulfillment, something that hundreds of millions of people can understand and find easy and intuitive to pick up and join in on. A story that feels inclusive is, to me, a successful story, and that inclusiveness is based on a cooperative project between story and reader, rather than the reader having something dictated to them – which is another reason I tend to steer clear of High Fantasy – like the difference between having a joke explained to you and having it told to you. In the first version, you’re not included in the process. In the second one, you are.  You are part of the ritual when somebody tells you a joke, because you’re helping to perform the ritual by having it told to you.

Anyway, writing got done, and oh my god I wish this was the final chapter of this story that I had to write. I don’t at all regret writing this thing out of order, but I hate the fact that after this wrap-up, which will hopefully be awesome and cathartic and everything else that I love about writing endings, I’m going to have to go back and write some stuff that I am honestly not very excited about. Not overall. I mean it conforms to a lot of stuff that I wish I saw more of in stories: the build-up, the scene-setting, stuff that’s missing from, say, American Horror Story: Coven, which I just watched the first episode of today and … I’m torn. On the one hand it is cheesy and ham-fisted as fuck; on the other it’s viscerally enjoyable in exactly the way that black magic should be. There’s a reason why Inigo Montoya is everybody’s favourite character from The Princess Bride: revenge is sweet.

But there’s no build-up to the premise; we’re just dumped into what feels like the beginning of a second act, and given that this is a 13-episode season, it’s not like they didn’t have the time.

On the other hand, I know that it’s not that kind of story; that’s just the kind of story that I like. I don’t want a High Fantasy-length build-up, like what I remember of The Wheel of Time, where it takes 150 pages for the main character to discover that he is, in fact, the main character. But something. The chapters I have yet to write after this final one are all about scene-setting and build-up, and aside from one scene that amuses me I just don’t have any enthusiasm for actually writing this stuff, and I can’t for the life of me think of a way to make it interesting.

But none of that matters until I’m actually writing it, and for that to happen I have to write this chapter first. Well, I don’t have to, but I want to.

Maybe.

Shit maybe I don’t. Maybe I want to go back and write those other chapters first.

Hmm.

Meh. I’ll work it out tomorrow. For today: mischief managed.

Post-Nanowrimo 2015: 2787

This book is fucking awful.

Which is fine. Because not only is it a first draft, not only is it a writing exercise rather than a “proper story”: I want it to be awful, because I want it to feel like a story, and given the kinds of stories I’m drawing on to tell this one, awful very much comes with the territory. I mean this is a story about a self-pitying straight white teenage boy who becomes a fucking werewolf; if that summary alone doesn’t make your skin crawl then you have a stronger constitution than I. I’m hitting all the notes that this premise offers for the hitting; it’s working. My experiment is working. I may not be able to bear the shame of it when I eventually finish it and get around to reading what I’ve written, but that’s for later. For now, it’s going pretty much exactly how I’d imagined it would, at its most ideal.

Although the other part that’s awful is the part where I’m over-writing it, and even though it’s in keeping with that cringe-making premise, it’s still … it’s too much. The fact that it’s too much is part of that premise, as far as I’m concerned, because self-pitying straight white guys just kind of take up a lot of space that could be used to further the narrative instead of their pity-party, but it’s still kind of depressing to write. I predict – or maybe hope – that when/if I get around to revising this thing, every single word that I just wrote tonight will be removed. It’s a scene that kind of needs to happen, but probably not at this point in the story. And that’s fine in a first draft, signposting this shit for yourself so that you get it down in writing before you forget and put it in such a jarring place that you will be automatically compelled to put it somewhere more appropriate during revision – it’s just that, again, actually doing it feels uncomfortable. I mean this isn’t supposed to be the project where I consider this sort of thing, really. This is the project where I indulge my inner hack, rip things off and write the first thing that comes into my head, training myself to make the first thing that pops into my head something that drives the story forward and ties it together in the recognisable, familiar pattern of a Proper Story. And that is what I feel like I’ve lost touch with after 5 days of no writing.

But, that’s also where revision can save my ass. And I am going to revise this thing. It’s definitely not generic enough right now, because it’s too first-draft-y; all of the usual gunk that happens in the first draft is happening here, and, well, that’s just reality. I kind of have this unacknowledged goal to try and write this in one go, in such a way that it is so tight, generic and predictable that it won’t need a revision, and now that I’m acknowledging it I’m starting to wonder if this is an attainable goal, let alone a desirable one.

But hey, you gotta live a little. Why not try and do something unattainable? You’ll probably end up with something interesting along the way.

And this is definitely interesting for me. The pressure and momentum of Nanowrimo is well and truly gone; the spark is still there, but it needs some serious fanning to re-ignite. Tonight was more indulgent than anything, even if it does fit the premise I’m working with. And that’s fine, because through doing it I have learnt that I’m definitely more interested in honing my narrative craft than making excuses for sloppy storytelling based on other examples I’ve seen. Problematic? Fine. But not sloppy. Sloppy is unacceptable.

Except that it’s totally acceptable and I can just move the fuck on. It’s just a writing exercise.

More of which I will complete tomorrow.

Post-Nanowrimo 2015: 804

So it’s been … okay, not even a full week since I last added to my word-count; that’s not too bad. That’s fine. I can live with that.

I’ve been in another slump lately – haven’t been able to motivate myself to write either my shitty YA werewolf thing or my MA, and haven’t felt like doing much else either besides starting to play my way through the backlog of games I have on my laptop and have never actually tried. It’s been a while since I played anything that wasn’t WOW, and holy shit it’s good to have a break from that. I think this might be the end of my second full year of playing WOW, where I finally let my subscription run out. I just can’t be fucked anymore; there’s nothing to do in that game, and plenty of things to do in every other aspect of human existence that I could be doing instead.

Which has been part of the issue with this rut. As with any rut, I guess. But maybe it’s not even a rut. It’s more just frustration that the things I want to do aren’t timely. Like, great, I want to play a bunch of computer games and read a lot. I have shit to do. I can’t just do these things.

Can I?

Spoilers: not only can I, but that’s exactly what I should do, because there is never enough time. And as I keep trying to convince myself and even other people: if you’re going to not do X thing you’re obliged to do, you may as well enjoy the time you aren’t spending doing that thing, rather than just feeling guilty about not doing it and finding an unhappy middle-ground in endlessly refreshing YouTube to stave off your guilt by refusing to do the things you actually want to do, while also avoiding doing the work you don’t want to do. Because that’s just the dumbest fucking shit. Don’t do that. Go hard or go to sleep. Sleep is always a valid option.

Sleep is what I shall be engaging in very soon, but I had to make myself write something, despite not being inspired or motivated to do so, because I know that it’s something that I have to force myself into every now and then just to keep up momentum, or I will stagnate forever, and I don’t want to do that. In the meantime, I’m going to do all the things that I want to do that I could have waited for a more opportune time to want to do, because that’s now how people work and I fucking know it, so I have no excuse for not acting like I know it. Especially the part where I’ll actually enjoy myself instead of feeling unproductive and vapid by procrastinating in an attempt to both keep myself from receiving my guilty pleasure and staving off the inevitable obligatory work I have to perform. Fuck guilt. I’m an adult. I do what I want, because I want to.

So long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else; and I urge you all to do the same.

And also this novel is almost written and, yes, I do still want the sense of satisfaction that comes with hurtling towards the finish-line, and that requires, like, energy and focus and stamina, three things I’m a bit short on at 1:36 a.m.

Satisfaction. That’s what I’m after. And I’m not going to let obligations or deadlines get in my way. Because not only is there no time like the present, there is also no time but the present, so the more of it I use, the less of it I … won’t use.

1:37 a.m. Time for sleep.

 

Post-Nanowrimo 2015: 5102

So I never did find out what Dragon Lore: Curse of the Shadow was, because after 5 minutes I wanted to throw my expensive HDTV across the street. Instead I watched The Company of Wolves, a Neil Jordan film adapted from an Angela Carter short story, part of a collection that I really want, and while I have some, shall we say, thoughts about the fact that the lead actress in this very Freudian, sexually-charged film was between 12 and 14 years old at the time of filming, I really do love this movie for its evocative, dreamlike atmosphere, plus you really can’t go past Angela Lansbury.

And while it wasn’t quite what I was looking for in terms of something to recharge my creative batteries, I did just write a full chapter of my shitty YA werewolf thing, so I guess it did something for me.

That leaves 4 planned chapters to go, one of which I’ve already written a fair part of and just need to shift bits of it around to make it fit with my plan. They’re earlier chapters; this one and the next one are the two final chapters, and in a way I think it’s better that I write these now and save the rest for last, simply because they’re the most important in a way, and kind of need the rest of the story told before they can be written, so that I can feel out exactly how they should play out in order to set everything else up.

Anyway yay writing it’s now past 1 a.m. and I need to sleep or something because I am not, in fact, a werewolf myself. More’s the pity. At least if Teen Wolf is any indication, wherein being a werewolf has exactly zero downsides and about a million perks.

Sleeeeeeeeeeeep.