Weekly Words 12-18/11/2018

13/11/2018: 1190

PRIOR TO WRITING …

Sometimes, you know what you want to write about, but not how to write it.

And by “sometimes”, I mean “this is the essence of being a writer”. Or I hope it is anyway, because if not then I’m just bad at it.

I am more aware this year than in any year previous that my writing habits – specifically, the best way to gauge whether or not I will be doing writing at any given time – is dictated heavily by my mood. I’m not great at getting myself to write if I’m not in the mood for it; for years I have lamented my own lack of discipline, the ability to just get started, regardless of my mood – which is infuriating, not only because I keep fantasising about how much more writing I could have gotten done by this point if I had cultivated this habit, but also because after I get started, everything falls into place. Mood does not make my writing better or worse, either; if I go back and look at writing that I’ve done when I was inspired and energisied versus writing that I did while I was in a slump and wracking my brain just trying to figure out how to link sentences together coherently, I can’t tell which is which just by reading it. Forcing myself to write has the same result as being swept up on a wave of inspiration, in terms of the quality of the writing that gets produced.

That’s not the only way in which my writing habits are attuned to my feelings, though. Ever since I parted ways with my scumbag best friend from ages 12-20 and reconnected with myself, the stories that I’m the most passionate about have stood out because of the feeling I get when I think of them. They each have a specific tone, a particular vibe that compels me to maintain the thought of one day realising this feeling through my writing. Mark and Jessie is the big one, but Tallulah has it, too, though it’s shifted over the years; my reboot of Wolf Gang has it – hell, even the original Wolf Gang had it – my one vampire novel that I haven’t started work on since having the idea five years ago has it; my D&D-inspired story that will never get written has it; and a whole bunch of random stories that I started and discarded over the intervening years all have it, too. It’s a particular quality of my stories, and it drives me to distraction feeling like I have to find a way to put their particular mood into words, or I’m not doing it right.

The feelings, though, are not really feelings that I can even articulate. It might be due to the constraints of the English language; it might be that I’m overthinking it; it might be that the feelings I’m having aren’t actually about the stories at all, but rather the reflection of some part of my life that I see in the story. It’s always a wistful feeling, a sort of melancholic longing, but in a nice way. Nice melancholy, whatever the appropriate word for that is. Is it just that the stories I’m telling seem more appealing than the life that I live, and these “vibes” that I attribute to my various writing projects are actually moments of distorted recognition of my sense of unfulfilled desire, of life unlived?

I mean, yes, obviously it is. But I think it’s more than that, too. I think it’s me lingering on feelings and shutting myself off from taking action so that I can absorb them more deeply. I think this is why I don’t get as much writing done as I’d like, why I let opportunities slip by, moments of inspiration that I don’t leap on and follow through with; I think this is why I feel like I miss out on a lot of things in general. I just like feeling.

And what I think I’m ready to put into words now is this: it’s not enough to just feel.

There’s that philosophical question that I came across in my youth upon seeing The Matrix: how can you tell the difference between reality and a really immersive illusion? It’s all just electrical signals being interpreted by our brains, isn’t it? Well even without an intravenous digital simulation of physical reality being imposed upon me, I think I’m definitely someone who falls for the allure of electrical signals more easily than is healthy. I don’t need to be a test-tube clone swimming in a vat of liquefied human corpses (for those who haven’t seen The Matrix, no, I am not mixing any metaphors here) to be too easily contented by what I can feel as opposed to what I can do, or what could happen. I have this fear, I think, that if I try to act on these feelings, they’ll disappear. I’ll scare them off somehow, like trying to sneak up on a unicorn. So to make sure it stays where I can see it, experience it even if only from afar, I just stay still and let it be what it is.

It is not enough.

I guess maybe this is another way of me recognising that writing is never going to be enough to sustain me. I don’t know what is, or even what part of that is. I just have these feelings, these unrealised potential experiences that my brain translates into imperatives to write evocative prose. I think these kinds of feelings only really come to people who are passive and feel like they miss out on things. I think that if I become more active at some point in my life, I’ll stop having these feelings altogether, and feel different things instead. And that’s scary. It makes me kind of sad.

Don’t know why, seeing as I’m doing positively jack shit to actually make that sort of a lifestyle change, but whatever brain.

I know I see it as a barrier to my writing; I know that I use it as a private excuse for why I can’t write whatever project I currently have these wistful feels for. If I can’t write the right words, then no words will do. But I guess I’ve written a thousand words about how I need the right words, so I’ve gotten started – and that means the rest is about to fall into place.

Right?

AFTER WRITING …

God I’m dramatic sometimes.

Did I write the feeling? No. Which, I now realise, would have been impossible anyway, because these feelings aren’t a part of the story that is crying out for my attention. They are sort of like a canvas. Not a blank canvas; it is the story, but it’s the story before it’s been told. It’s the entire story calling out for my attention, saying “hey, you, writer person, come and put words here” …

And it’s not about the right words. It’s just about stories needing words in order to be told, to become more than just a thought or fantasy. I mean sure, there are stories you can tell without words, plenty of them; but my stories use words, because that’s how I tell them. My point is that these feelings – I’m the one looking for the right words, but that’s not what the stories are asking for. They’re just asking to be told. And they feel different because they’re different stories.

Simple. Demystified.

Yet still so alluring … oh well. One more element of my nebulous inner workings decoded. On to the next one, I guess.

14/11/2018: 657

I forget sometimes that this co-writing project is the main reason for why my word-count for the first few months of Weekly Words was so gratifyingly thicc. Yes, thicc can apply to word-count, I just applied it to word-count, and I’m a writer so I would know.

18/11/2018: 1732

Three days out of seven is …

Next week. Next week, I will have decided whether I am going to get serious about writing this month. But for this week …

Weekly Total: 5245

I have planned many stories over the years, and most of them I have never even started. Planning stories, as I have said before on this blog, is really its own project for me; it’s not really ever connected to a story, but some self-contained mental exercise that I do every now and then so that I can give myself a fantasy cookie and pat myself on the back for being “productive”. Plans don’t do anything for me, unless I have a deadline I have to meet and only a plan is going to save me from imploding from nerves and anxiety.

That, or ambition.

Ambition gets shit done, and it is, I now realise, the driving force behind all of my stories that have gotten written, and definitely the ones that I’ve been the most excited about. So, rather than seeing if I can come up with a plan for my current writing projects and seeing if that kicks me into gear, I’m going to try to get some ambition going. Go big or go home, and I’m already home. Not really; I’m writing this from my co-writing friend’s house, but it’s a home, so I guess it counts, right?

Ambition is the only way I’m going to get shit done. I haven’t got any right now – but that’s partly because I’ve been distracting myself with various trivial time-wasting activities that derail whatever ambitions I do have. And I do have at least some for these projects. So, next week is going to be all about getting back in touch with that ambition, and seeing where it leads. Because it would be really cool to do a lot of writing this month.

And while I am not going to be able to get a book ready for submission this year, I think I can finish a zero draft.

I daresay, that almost sounds like a plan.

 

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Weekly Words 05-11/11/2018

05/11/2018: 1462

For those of you who care about this sort of thing, you might have noticed that I have, indeed, set this week’s Weekly Word to count Monday through Sunday as one week, as opposed to the usual Sunday through Saturday. Why is that?

Because that’s how my calendar does it, and while I liked the idea of having a “weekend” for myself back at the beginning of this experiment, I have decided that I’ll actually be much more relaxed if I am not trying to mentally juggle several different methods of “counting” a week every time I want to log my writing progress. Monday through Sunday is the new norm.

Also because I did no writing this Sunday anyway.

Last month was all about the werewolf reboot, and I was glad to find that. But this month is all about hitting 50k – and like last year’s Nano, which in many ways set the groundwork for Weekly Words as I hopped between a number of different writing projects, I want to take advantage of the fact that, last month, I found that I actually really liked having that feeling of several projects going on at once. Werewolf project feels like it’s in a good place; I’ve got another one, a dark fantasy parody/satire that is totally not an angry response to the blatantly squandered potential of Suicide Squad in any regard whatsoever, which I really love the premise of but am stuck on how best to tell the story, or even what the best story to tell with the premise might be. Similar to where I was with werewolves last month, but with more of a plan, characters that I actually really like (and a bunch that don’t matter and I really feel it, that’s one big thing I want to fix), and a killer soundtrack that I’ve been compiling ever since coming up with the concept. The entire project mostly got started with me discovering that I actually really like “Hypnotize” by Biggie, despite the horrendously problematic lyrics, so that’s the theme song at the moment, wow you care so much about all of this stop pestering me already, so anyway I have a few things that I am keen to pour my attention into this month …

And at the same time, if all I end up doing is progressing my werewolf book, I think I’ll be pretty happy. The only thing that matters to me is that I write a lot this month, however much “a lot” ends up being.

Also, while I did say last month that I didn’t know who this werewolf book is “for”, I’m starting to realise that it actually has one novel element to it: it’s a YA novel about werewolves where the lead is a guy and there is no love-triangle. I’m a fucking revolutionary over here. But at the same time, all of my werewolf info is coming from films, MTV’s reboot of Teen Wolf, and urban fantasy novels. I haven’t actually ready any YA novels where werewolves are the central focus … oh, no, wait, I did read Blood and Chocolate. I daresay that I rather liked it except for the really gross ending. Nothing quite like hooking up your 16-year-old protagonist with a 24-something-year-old alpha male who blatantly sexually assaults her during before they end up together and frame it as a happy ending. In urban fantasy, I’ll roll my eyes and move on. In YA, I’ll complain a bit louder. This shit is not cool.

So on top of everything else: November 2018 is about research, which hopefully will turn up something a bit more, uh, progressive than that last example. Time to hit the library, which already doesn’t have two of the more interesting (I use the term broadly) titles I found while trawling Goodreads, including one that has a male lead. Then again, if I don’t read it, nobody can accuse me of ripping it off muahahahaha …

08/11/2018: 1654

When I did my calculations, on the 6th, my calculations told me that I had to write 2k words a day, every day, to reach my goal of 50k words.

I mean, it’s nice to have options …

This night’s writing session took my werewolf reboot in another direction I wasn’t planning on, but this time it’s actually one that I rather like, and one that I think I can do something interesting with considering how I’ve set things up. This is slowly turning into a murder mystery, and considering how big of an influence Harry Potter has been on me I am only now surprised to realise that I’ve never tried my hand at one before. I do still want to have the horror elements I was so excited about when I watched It Follows, and I think a murder mystery vibe will help to weave those into the story a bit more organically than the plan I had before. Which didn’t exist. I have a plan for how to incorporate the horror elements into my book now, is what I’m saying.

Good job, me.

I have also been watching My Hero Academia because I am an adult, and appreciating both how much better it is than Dragon Ball Z and how much less classic it is than Dragon Ball ZMy Hero Academia is very slick, just self-aware enough to be refreshing without getting bogged down in a pretentious deconstruction of itself a-la the Zack Snyder DCU, has some great character moments (and some great characters), and nothing fucking happens. It’s entertaining; it’s highly watchable – it’s just that, even when things do happen, it feels like nothing has happened. I think it’s because the villains are really lacklustre compared to the main cast; when the big bad shows up he’s reasonably compelling because he has a relationship with the main character’s mentor, a-la Vader and Obi-Wan, and the rest of the time they’re 1) barely in it and 2) don’t really seem to have a purpose for being there except for the fact that there are superheroes in this show, and therefore there must also be supervillains, right?

The show is pretty great with its characters; the female characters don’t get enough to do (when do they ever), but they do get more to do than other shows where the female characters don’t get enough to do; the action scenes are pretty great (as is the animation in general); and it is eminently watchable. But it lacks a clear focus up to this point, three seasons in. I hear from my brother that, according to the manga it’s based off, the next season should be a bit more coherent in terms of what exactly is going on and why it matters, so I’m looking forward to that. But regardless of whether or not it does live up to its potential, it has given me an opportunity to reflect on some of my own difficulties with certain writing projects with a new perspective. I find that villains in particular are very hit-and-miss for me: either they come to me really naturally and I really like them, or they’re flat and uninspiring and feel like a waste of imaginative space. Looking at My Hero Academia, I honestly think it would be much stronger without the villains; there is already a clear antagonist character for the lead to contend with, and with an antagonist you don’t really need a villain. There is that one villain who works, so sure, keep them – but bring them in way earlier. They show up about 50 episodes in, in the middle of season 3, which is comparable to if Voldemort had only been introduced in The Prisoner of Azkaban. It doesn’t feel good. So, something for me to bear in mind is that sometimes the things that a story seems like it needs are actually getting in the way, and to embrace the possibilities that can arise from just … not including them. Even if they seem like an essential part of the formula.

That or just do the damn formula properly.

Which is the other issue with MHA: the villains are a clear symptom of the underlying focus issue of the show, but focus in general is the main issue. The show is definitely at its strongest when it delves into each character’s personality, backstory and relationships to flesh them out and develop them, and while a lot of characters who seem really interesting (most the girls) don’t get as much of this special treatment as others, when they do the show gains its X-factor. But there’s also the villain arcs that seem to come out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly; there are random asides showing characters who don’t strictly matter doing things that also don’t matter just to remind you that they’re there (also mostly villains); there are characters who show up to do something quite significant and then pretty much never show up again, making their appearances feel more distracting than anything … a lot goes on in this show, and the balancing act does not always go smoothly. The lesson here: know what the hell your story is about, and then make sure it is actually about that thing.

10/11/2018: 1366

Speaking of which: yesterday’s writing efforts were spent making notes on one of my projects trying to figure out exactly that – and I think it’s worked. Werewolf thing has progressed since last time, though I ended up chickening out of committing hard to the brilliant new direction I found myself going in; I do think I’ve stumbled into a great idea, but I feel unable to pull it off. I also think that, however interesting the idea is, it’s still a distraction. I have noticed though that I don’t really think about these exciting new developments when I come across them, specifically not thinking about how they might work – or not – with what I already had in mind. I just see a new direction to go in and that becomes the new be-all and end-all of my writing intentions. Makes a little more sense as to why I get stalled so easily and so often while writing.

The ideal of 50k words this month really sank in the other day, doing the math on how much I’ll have to do now in order to hit that goal – I realised that, basically, I’d have to write an entire novel. Which, after thinking about it for about one second, made me realise that wow my brain is slow sometimes. I’m not “doing” Nano this year, but 50k words in a month sounds pretty damn Nano-esque to me. Can I do it? With my werewolf novel, specifically?

No.

I mean, I could write 50k words for my werewolf novel, but they wouldn’t constitute a finished manuscript. They’d be, like, a third of a finished zero draft manuscript that I would then have to painstakingly comb through for revision. However, spread across a number of different projects, I think it’s relatively achievable. Maybe not likely, but far more likely than getting one novel written this month. Besides, I don’t have the focus or intent to put all my effort into a single project at the moment.

God this year turned out to be a mess writing-wise. I was supposed to use this year to get Tallulah ready for submission to an agent – not happening. I was then supposed to focus on getting Mark and Jessie ready for revision – also not happening. Now I’m juggling a number of different writing projects, which is happening, but it’s just so … what’s the point? Where does this get me? I suppose it doesn’t have to get me anywhere; I’m enjoying the process …

The writing isn’t the problem. It’s everything else. But, if everything else was going well, I’d still be writing.

So I guess I’ll keep writing.

Weekly Total: 6846

One year. One year, I will do Nanowrimo properly again. Last time, in 2016, I got most of the first iteration of Wolf Gang written, for funsies. The next time I have some big writing project that I actually give any semblance of a fuck about, Nano could be a really helpful tool for focusing my efforts.

But it is not this year.

And hey, the year is almost over, and while every year since around 2006 has felt fairly short to me, this year felt especially short. I’m still adjusting to the superhero calendar hanging on my wall that I got for Christmas last year; that’s how short this year feels to me. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and this year …

Huh.

I actually have had a lot of fun this year.

Like, maybe not by the standards of normal, healthy people, but by my standards I’ve turned into a fucking party animal this year. So maybe that’s it. The co-writing project has been a blast; D&D is a whole new experience in terms of having something to do with myself that isn’t writing, gaming, procrastinating or brooding; Youthline has had its ups and downs and I don’t know if I’m going to continue after this year but it’s been an incredibly valuable experience one way or another; recent health issues led to a lot of important revelations and had quite a few silver linings …

Yeah. It has actually been a pretty good year.

But it’s not over yet – and fuck it, maybe I will give Nano the old college try. Not by doing Nano officially, like through the website or whatever, because if I’m going to do that then I’m going to do it from the start of the month so that I can get all the trophies because I’m an efficient gamer goddammit, but through Weekly Words. I can fumble my way through this novel like I did the first time; I can work on the three main writing projects that I have going and get back into morning pages and freewriting. This entire year was supposed to be me focusing on one writing project to prepare for submission; I can focus on writing for one month.

And even if I don’t, it felt good to write it down with conviction, and really, isn’t that what’s most important?

Monthly Words: October 2018

Monthly Total: 27405

I realised, looking back at Weekly Words this month, that I should pay a bit more attention to my spelling. It’s not that typos are the worst thing in the world, it’s just that I know I can do better, and that typing “mean” instead of “meant” for instance can totally change the context or destroy the meaning of a sentence.

It’s also that it can give me stupendously high hopes that I somehow magically wrote more than I did, such as this gem: “13/10/2018: 10475”. One of those numbers is not supposed to be there. I think it’s the zero.

I mean, I’m fairly sure I didn’t write 10k words in a single day. I know I’ve written 7k in a single day, but that was the day, except maybe a few hours between waking and eating lunch beforehand.

This month, it was all about the werewolf reboot, which means that October is the first time since … Nanowrimo 2016, wow. It’s the first time since then that I’ve spent a full month dedicated to working on one project.

Which is not entirely accurate, because this month I also tinkered with some other projects and discovered that not having A Project was actually a great feeling, and the second-to-last week of October was really, really bad in terms of getting writing of any kind done … but still. I discovered long-forgotten emotional highs that trick me into thinking that there is a meaning of life and that I’ve found it; I then discovered that, upon losing this euphoric miasma distorting my perception of reality, I no longer fall into an inconsolable slump as I used to do when such occurrences would … occur … which suggests personal growth of some sort, and being a writer I am all kinds of about that. I took care of myself health-wise, and have recently started an actual diet-type thing that seems to be … well, in terms of weight loss I have no idea because we don’t have working scales at home (which might be a good thing), but I know that I genuinely feel better for doing it, so I’m saying it’s working.

Most importantly for my writing, though, I have finally come up with a sentence to explain why it is that “just write it” doesn’t quite work for me, nor does “I need a plan”. What I need is to “just write it” – and fix it up as I go.

And this is with regards to the zero draft stage, specifically. (From now on I am going to consistently refer to the first produced writing of a story the “zero draft” rather than the “first draft”, as it gets confusing otherwise.) I am, I think, what is sometimes referred to as a “discovery writer”; I have a broad idea of the story and premise and maybe some scenes that I want to fit in somewhere, and hopefully some characters that I give something resembling a fuck about, but everything else I pretty much just come up with as I go. How it all fits together, sub-plots, plot hooks, supporting cast – and sometimes even changes to the foundation of ideas that get me started on a story. So “just write” doesn’t work for me and my process, because I often get started writing well before I have anything resembling a plan – and that’s just how I like doing things. Most of the time at least. Mark and Jessie is sort of an exception, and that’s why I hate how it turned out so much. I need to write my way to a good idea, and then be able to go back a few sentences and re-word things so that the idea links in more strongly. I have to be able to stop and start a bit at the beginning.

And letting myself do that is the only reason why I’m still writing this werewolf novel. I would agree that stopping and starting is a great way to make sure you never get anywhere – if you have clear ideas on where it is that you’re going. If you have a pretty clear plan, even if it’s only a broad plan and the little details haven’t been worked out yet, then even if you go off on tangents during the writing process you can 1) write your way back to the plan and 2) iron out all the kinks in revision. But if you don’t have a plan, then stopping and starting is inevitably going to be part of the process, because it’s how you link your ideas together more strongly. It is, in effect, making the plan as you write, instead of doing it beforehand.

Because when you’re coming up with a plan for a story, you’re going to change things, go back and work in your new and better ideas when you come up with them, and in general restart and reboot and reimagine your writing plan in numerous ways, all before you even start “writing”. The only difference between “pantsing” and “planning” is whether or not your planning phase coincides with your zero draft phase. For me, it does, because I have done the long planning phase before. I did a 15-year-long planning phase. Guess how well that turned out. If I had been writing and letting myself stop and start as I went, things might have gone better for me. Also if the story hadn’t been unwritable because I kept shifting the goalposts for myself, but my point is that I thrive on making up a story as I go. I won’t even bother starting on a story unless I have some kind of premise, obviously, but I don’t need – or want – much more than a premise, a couple of ideas for how it ends, some characters, maybe a twist – because any more than that and I start over-thinking, over-planning, and for that reason alone I need to get to the writing part real quick-like.

For this realisation alone, this month has been a good one writing-wise, because this exact moment is one that I’ve been hoping for for a very long time: the moment when I figure out how I write, and specifically how I get myself to write instead of just making plans about what I’m going to, hypothetically, write at some point. How to break my habit of over-planning.

And now that I’ve found it, I aim to enjoy it.

Weekly Words 28/10-03/11/2018

28/10/2018: 1006

Nice start.

It’s strange. Weekly Words has only been around for, what, eight months or something, and yet it already feels like an old habit. I put some effort in at the start of the week, write something to try and cement whatever momentum that I have, and then taper off while making resolutions and observations about why and what I can do about it, if anything … it’s getting old. Which I don’t think is a bad thing, necessarily; any routine gets old, but that doesn’t mean it needs to stop.

It does tell me, though, that maybe trying to update very single day that I write something is exactly as contrived of a task as it sounds. I can just throw in a word-count and be done with it. I mean that’s the point, right? To just get shit written?

I did want to chronicle my mood and process and whatever for Weekly Words, but as it turns out I’m writing this the day after I did the writing, and thinking back on it the writing itself was nothing to, well, write home about. It was what happened around the writing that mattered, I think, and it was good stuff. My friend and I got some co-writing stuff done (hence the word-count), and she suggested that we start planning our writing snacks in the interests of promoting good health habits for both of us, which I have found that I am rather looking forward to. We then watched most of He’s Just Not That Into You, which has aged surprisingly well (in some ways at least), has made me appreciate just how good of an actor Bradley Cooper is when he’s playing an insecure coward who may or may not also be an actual sociopath, seriously go watch that movie again and tell me that’s someone you’d trust around your kids or small animals, and has reminded me how much I love Jennifer Connelly in literally everything I’ve ever seen her in because she is amazing. And then D&D where I introduced my latest character, who is a barbarian half-elf who for some reason talks with a vaguely Bronx/New Jersey accent. I don’t know where it came from, but it was entertaining and I like attention so it’s staying.

And the writing?

It does itself, right?

31/10/2018: 738

01/11/2018: 207

God, I am such a flake.

No judging, but I have come to realise that this is an undeniable fact about myself. I mean sure, I am doing writing consistently these days and have been since I got Weekly Words started, even if it’s not very much, and that is the point of Weekly Words when you get right down to it: the habit. It is quantity over quality, and writing first drafts in particular is one time when that is exactly the way you want to go.

Except when it’s not. Mark and Jessie has taught me this lesson so well that the very thought of trying to go back and read it (which I haven’t since the last time I said I had), and as I repeatedly throw myself at my werewolf novel reboot to increasingly diminishing returns I realise that, yeah, I was right when I started thinking that the whole philosophy of aiming to write complete garbage for the first draft because I’m just going to fix it all in revision anyway is not working for me. I need to care, I need to plan, I need a plan, even if it’s one that I make up on the spot. I have no plan for this story. It keeps going nowhere that I care about.

Which I think is fine in a “that’s life” sort of way, it’s just not ideal or satisfying.

And the reason is that I re-installed World of Warcraft.

Like, yeah, there is no getting around the fact that this one decision has pretty much fucked me with regards to writing and doing anything other than, well, that. It’s not even fun and I’m making myself do it because there’s some stuff I want to accomplish that is not fun to accomplish and once I accomplish it I probably won’t even enjoy it anyway …

Uninstalled. Again.

At least it was an easy decision.

So now I’m just back where I was two weeks ago, except I don’t have the excitement of having a story to tell because fuck this fucking nothing story that isn’t going anywhere and probably never will, I don’t think I even know how to tell stories anymore, if I ever did to begin with, which I am starting to think I did not.

liked this fucking non-story two weeks ago. Now I don’t. WOW did not help, and just in terms of general momentum and attention to spare it’s definitely the problem factor – but it’s not just that. It’s also the fact that, I think, this story isn’t for anyone. Like I can’t think of an audience, or even a person, who would be interested to read it. And this isn’t some marketing thing; this is me realising that the entire reason I like telling stories is because it’s a social thing, and I spend my life being pretty damn antisocial. I think that’s why my stories over the past few years just haven’t had that spark of life that drives me to write. The shitty YA werewolf novel kind of tapped into that just by being my attempt to write the most story-like story I could without thinking about it very hard, and having the I-just-discovered-werewolf-movies euphoria to carry me along for a good six months. I wasn’t writing “for” anyone, but at the same time I was using tropes and plot-hooks and character archetypes that I saw in the world around me. I was plugging in. And two weeks ago, I felt like I was doing that with this book too.

Look, this book isn’t important to me, but that feeling of having a story to tell is, and I had it for this book. Now I’ve lost it and I don’t know if it’s something I can even get back. I feel like the thing to do is go back to the beginning and start over again – I’m only two chapters in as it is, and barely anything has happened. After the disaster of trying to write Realm of the Myth in my teens years, first chapter after first chapter after abandoned first chapter for five fucking years, I am very leery of doing this. But unlike Realm of the Myth, this story does not mean very much to me. I don’t mind fucking it up. I mean I’ve already fucked it up because I’ve been using it to write about nothing, over and over again. I haven’t decided what it is. I am happy to figure it out as I write, but none of the things I’ve figured out yet are any good.

Hell, maybe I wasn’t excited about having a story to tell at all. Maybe I was excited about figuring out a new story. Either way, I feel like I haven’t left the drawing-board yet, and while I don’t want to get stuck there even with a story that I don’t care a whole ton about, I don’t have any ideas of how to get away from it yet. So perhaps churning out a few more chapters is exactly the right strategy for this situation. Pilot chapters. I don’t have enough of a plan to be numbering things at this minute.

And now that I don’t have WOW anymore – it really is quite great that it takes about 30 seconds to uninstall 50+ GBs of time-vampire from my hard drive – it’s not like I have anything better to do. Not that WOW is something better. In fact it is much worse.

And yet I keep coming back for more. But at least my habit of quitting is also growing stronger, that’s a good thing, surely … no way that could ever backfire in an unrelated situation …

02/11/2018: 3226

YESSSSSSSSSS.

I was right, goddammit. I went back to the test chapters of my werewolf reboot that I’ve written over the past month or so, discovered that one of the ones I had thrown out served as the foundation for a much more interesting story than the one I’ve been working on, took it and ran with it in a new document and … it just feels right.

The only issue is that no werewolves have shown up yet, but hey, vampires don’t show up in Twilight until like halfway through and that’s like the entire premise. Also this is a zero draft, and I intend to take advantage of that fact.

Also MyFitnessPal has informed me that, if every day is like today, I will lose 6 kgs over the next 5 weeks. That seems pretty desirable to me, and maybe even achievable. I have set my weight goal at 80 kgs, which is an intentionally massive goal – just under 40 kgs away – because I’m sort of testing the system and also being idealistic. Reach for the moon and even if you miss you’ll fall amongst the stars, or whatever that highly unscientific saying is.

Also also I have discovered the song “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles and have been listening to it non-stop all throughout my writing session tonight (which averaged out to just over 1.5k words per hour, which I’m quite pleased with). I may have to shoehorn it into my werewolf playlist even though it definitely doesn’t fit, because that’s how I roll.

I also roll with a lot of words written because I am the shit.

Fuck WOW.

03/11/2018: 1880

For a grand total of:

Weekly Total: 9121

This pleases me.

Another!

Well, we’ll see. If there is a month for me to redeem myself in terms of sheer volume of writing that I get done, it would be National Novel-Writing Month. I’m not “doing” Nano this year – but having said that, Weekly Words was partly born out of a desire to see just how much writing I could get done under my own steam on a regular basis, turning every month into a sort of pseudo-Nano. So this year, I’m setting my November word-count goal at 50k …

And we’ll see. It’s an ideal, not an ultimatum; I might write 50k, or 100k, or 5k, but the point is that I will aspire to 50k this month.

Because this shitty YA werewolf novel reboot is actually going fairly well since I decided to return to the drawing-board and see what was working there. It’s good to be able to persevere with a project even when it isn’t going perfectly, but it’s also good to know when you have a failed project on your hands, so that you can stop wasting your time with it and move on to something else. Failure isn’t a bad thing; it’s just frustrating to acknowledge that your efforts have been going into something that won’t work out the way you want it to. But it’s certainly better than not acknowledging it.

I’ve also decided that, yeah, I will finish reading Mark and Jessie, with no plans to revise at this stage. Just to read what I’ve written, take stock, get a general impression – and keep taking my snarky-ass notes that probably won’t be even a little bit helpful for revision because they’re so ranty and sprawling and will take forever to get anything useful out of. But it feels good to do in the moment, because bad things deserve unfettered hatred. And I’m not ashamed of having written a bad, long first draft of a book that I cared a lot about and wanted to be the best thing that I or anybody else had ever written or read. I do think that when I eventually do return to the project, it’ll be as a reboot, not a revision. There is so little of what I’ve actually written that I’d ever want to use that it would take less time to just write something entirely new, maybe copy-and-pasting a line or two here and there, but mostly taking broad ideas that work and using them as a foundation for a new thing that, hopefully, will work.

Here’s to making things work – and being able to move on when they don’t, so that you can have the opportunity to make the next thing work.

Weekly Words 14-20/10/2018

18/10/2018: revision notes

That is what I’m “supposed” to be doing, after all. Making revision notes. On this stupid, unreadable, tone-dissonant, creatively bankrupt, sexist …

It’s a perfect first draft.

I am being haunted by my own writing ethic. “First drafts are meant to be awful, that’s what makes the revision process work.” Great advice. I stand by it.

It’s just that when your first draft is 180k words worth of incoherent over-rationalisation connected by chunks of filler, what are you mean to even do with that?

Well, what I’ve been doing is making snarky revision notes. I complain and criticise and mock and every now and then note a potentially good idea with page number included, and only now do I realise that, no matter how bad this manuscript is, my notes are the problem with the revision. My notes are bad. I am taking bad notes, and I have been taking bad notes the entire time I’ve been trying to re-read this … I don’t even have slurs emphatic enough for my manuscript. I hate it.

But I’m not making things any easier for myself by taking shitty notes, so it’s time for me to just stop, take stock, and come up with a better approach. Because I want this story to work.

Or fuck it maybe I don’t maybe this werewolf YA novel is my future now here’s a funny story goddamn I was on a roll with that last week, and then ended on a really weird note that stalled me and now I’m just scared that if I try to go back and write it again I’ll just wind up using it as a journal entry for all of my various repressed frustrations in life, and I don’t want that to happen and I don’t really know how to make it not happen, so I’m just stuck.

Also apparently the “bug” I thought I had for the past 3 weeks is not a bug, it’s an ulcer. Yay. Finally went to the doctor and that was his diagnosis; got a blood test – and urine test, that was a fun experience – done and am waiting for results to see what’s up besides that, and in the meantime I’m just really hoping that whatever caused it is something that I can avoid. I thought maybe I had caused it by stressing about the marae weekend for Youthline, but apparently stress doesn’t cause ulcers, it just makes them worse. That puts a dampener in my plans to catastrophise about how my anxiety has now taken to manifest in physical symptoms beyond just the usual tension and panic. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find another opportunity soon.

If this book is going to ever get written as something that doesn’t disgust me, I need to start as I intend to finish: seriously. These notes are not serious, and therefore they are not really helpful. I think I need to revise my revision notes.

Or, like, take a hint and move on to something else.

Crazy talk, I know.

Weekly Total: These are Not Droids you are Looking For (1018)

It’s fine. I’ve had a bit of a turbulent week. Not as in upsetting, just as in it’s thrown me off-balance from my usual … maybe “balance” isn’t the right word. Routine, there we go. Seeing the doctor like a proper adult, after some gentle prompting from mum and a friend, was the correct thing to do, and it’s also completely trashed my momentum with regard to all things creative. And that’s fine. That’s how it is sometimes. I can write off a week of writing. Or not-writing, in this case. Actually that’s a good point: better to write off a week of no writing than a week full of writing that was all for nothing.

Though I do think that all writing serves some purpose, even if it’s just to bring you to the realisation that you’re taking X writing project in a direction that isn’t working out. I’m really torn at the moment, too, in terms of Mark and Jessie as my “main project”, because the more I read it, the more I’m convinced that reading it isn’t doing me any good whatsoever, and that’s upsetting, because I was relying on this re-read to re-ignite the spark of passion that I had for this story and instead it’s killed it dead. I got some good insights about it and ideas that could take it in a better direction …

But at the end of the day, I think I actually just don’t know what this story is about, why it matters, what’s important enough about it to make it worth writing, and I don’t want to admit that. And as long as I keep reading it, I don’t have to admit it, because I’m Doing It by reading it as Part Of The Revision Process.

I fucking loved this story. I loved it, I wrote it, and then I went to university and didn’t have the time, focus, or energy to continue working on it while I still loved it, to make it work in all the ways it needed to, and god fucking damn it I don’t want to have lost this opportunity. But I think I have. I just don’t care enough, and even if I were to take the position of “well just do it anyway because it’s the idea that you have and remember that one paragraph from the Robert McKee book you spent $50 on that got you all inspired for like 2 days are you just going to walk away from that”, the more pressing matter is that I do not have the ideas, the structure, the reason to tell this story anymore. I have ideas for scenes that happen, and I have an aesthetic, and that’s it. This should be a random series of illustrations with captions along the bottom for context of this story that will never be told in full, because it’s not a full story.

I hate this. But I think that it is where I am at.

Fuck.

What do I do now?

Weekly Words 07-13/10/2018

07/10/2018: 1889

This revisitation of my shitty YA werewolf novel is going surprisingly well.

I think I’m definitely belabouring certain points, and normally upon noticing that I would start to feel deflated – but instead, I’m feeling motivated, because I’ve just finished the first chapter of this reboot and that means …

I have something to work with.

It feels real is what I’m saying, in a way that a lot of my experimental first chapters often don’t – in fact I can’t remember the last time I felt this way. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this way, actually, like what I’ve written is an actual Thing from chapter 1, as opposed to having to wait until either I’m almost finished or actually finished and looking back on it. I feel like I’ve just leveled up or something.

Time to grind some more XP.

08/10/18: 3015

This is quite startling, to be honest.

As it turns out, I had more to say than I thought I did in this first chapter, but it also kind of ruined that feeling of it being “real” that I had when I put it down the other day. All in all, though, this still feels like it’s heading in a good direction, one that I want to continue following in.

And it’s my shitty YA werewolf novel. How did this happen? Yes, it’s a reboot rather than a revision, so perhaps continuing to refer to it as my shitty YA werewolf novel is something I should stop doing. Though I still feel the description fits.

And while I do feel like I miss that sense of it being “real” from yesterday, I also now feel excited to get on to chapter 2, and for that to become “real”.

I’d been hoping, fantasising about getting that feeling of giddy excitement that I had when I first embarked on this project back in 2015, and that hasn’t happened – instead, I have a new feeling of giddy excitement, and it’s not for the writing process that I’m using, not for the fact that I’m forcing myself to write really fast and thoughtlessly and as a result also permitting myself to write whatever the hell I want with no judgement. I’m excited that I have a story to tell, and that I’m telling it.

Like, shit, when is the last time I felt this way?

I honestly think I haven’t felt this way since I was 13 years old, and decided that I wanted to be a writer.

And having now written it down and finding that a mild breeze has not blown it away, I’m taking that to be true.

I have wanted to feel this way for a really long time. I’ve obsessed over it, how to get it back, how to engineer circumstances to cause it to happen to me again. I’ve tried to come up with the perfect story, the most “me” story I could think of, tried to just let myself do whatever and have total freedom, tried to make myself stick to rigid schedules and regimens of writing to achieve this goal. And now I have no idea how to explain how this has happened, how to break it down into a formula so that I can repeat the experiment again in the future. I just know that I’m feeling it now, and that it’s fucking great and I’ll probably end up crying at some point in the near future because of it.

And really, isn’t that good enough?

I think it is.

09/10/2018: 1829

Didn’t end up crying, as it turns out, and the feeling is gone – but I’m fine with it, and that’s a first.

I’m fine with it because I’m pretty sure I’ll get it back again, sooner or later, because the one thing that I know about it is that it comes to me when I’m writing something that means something to me. And I feel like I’m getting a bit better at doing that.

For instance, today I did not work at all on the Wolf Gang reboot – but I did finally write out a film trailer that I dreamt up one day and served as more or less the main premise for the dark high fantasy comedy trope-playground I think I’ve mentioned obliquely a few times over the course of this year. I’ve tried to write it a few times and always gotten tripped up by my own overly-literal brain, trying to make me be all linear and fact-checking and proof-based and shit. However, as it turns out, it was actually very easy to make myself write this trailer, and I’m starting to think that being literal-minded is actually an advantage when it comes to writing down literally what I have in mind. I’ve always thought it was a weakness of mine, a personality flaw, a hindrance to my creative capacity – now, I’m starting to see how it can be an extremely useful tool, and (really obvious how-did-I-not-think-of-this-before) ways that I can turn this perceived weakness into a strength.

It also makes me want to work on this dark high fantasy comedy trope-playground project a bit more – I do think that my Wolf Gang reboot holds the majority share in my creative stock right now, but then again, I’ve always wanted to find a way to be working on more than one thing at a time and make it work.

I care about both of these projects is the point. I’ve been looking for a story that feels like it’s “mine” all year, and that was something quite specific, something I thought I would recognise when I found it. But I get the feeling that I was right when I started thinking that maybe it’s just about commitment, that if you stick with something and make the decision to hold to it, that’s where a sense of purpose and fulfillment comes from.

And of course, both of these stories are mine.

Meh, whatever. I should probably give up on trying to figure out how my brain works at this point, and just appreciate that over the years I’ve found some ways to get what I want out of the process. Also to appreciate how much fucking writing I’ve gotten done this week already. Not just time, but word-count too, really does fly when you’re having fun.

I like it a lot when writing is fun.

11/10/2018: 1221

Back to werewolf shenanigans.

This was supposed to be a horror reboot, but it turns out that it’s just a slightly less intentionally tropey shitty YA novel so far – which is okay. I’m fine with just having horror elements and trying to do them justice. So far it’s just the main dude complaining about his unrequited crush on his best friend, and before you ask if this is even remotely interesting the answer is that the best friend is a girl. I use the term shitty YA werewolf novel for a reason, folks.

But it’s getting written, and tomorrow I’ll probably start re-writing what I’ve written tonight purely because it’s not what I had in mind and feels like I’m getting off-track. I had a couple of false starts before I found my way to what is currently chapter 1, so I’m fine doing the same thing with chapter 2, and however many other chapters need a bit of troubleshooting before they find their identity. Part of it is also that, well, this story is uninteresting, and I have some ideas of how I can change that which I’d like to explore.

13/10/2018: 10475

Or not. Whatever.

So maybe this reboot isn’t as clear in my mind as I treat it as though it is. I thought for sure I had a scene to write, a determined sequence of events that could not happen any other way, and yet instead what came out was some out-of-left-field mess that I now have to deal with one way or another, and it’s just so …

It’s writing. It’s all writing. This is what writing is; this is what writing has always been and always will be, and the only difference between it working or not is sticking with it until it does.

Or having a plan but fuck that shit I ain’t getting paid for this!

Weekly Total: 8886

Well, hello to you, too.

I know I’ve hit 10k+ like one week out of four for the past few months; it’s a thing that I can still manage, and while the inspiration has certainly worn off a bit by now I think this week has been a really good momentum-growing endeavour. I don’t quite know what the best approach is for the werewolf reboot, or the high fantasy trope playground that is also my compromise to the part of myself that wants to fix Suicide Squad by writing a fix-fic, but the momentum is there, the ideas are still forming, and I’m writing, so it’s happening.

Though I do need to get back on track with Mark and Jessie. I really do think at this point that re-reading it is more or less entirely pointless in terms of keeping things, so I will just try to get an overview of events written down and see what I can shift, what I want to delete from existence, and where new stuff that is not the most unbearable writing I have ever done can slot in.

And I need to see my doctor, because while the “bug” has more or less gone I still feel weird, and after this long that is concerning.

See you next week, if I’m still alive.

Weekly Words: 30/09-06/10/2018

01/10/18: 2363

Do you know how hard it is to think of how to do werewolves in an original way?

This evening, feeling like my bug might have returned, I decided to try to make up for a day of procrastination and indecision by making myself actually give something a go, something I’ve been very hesitant about yet devoted a considerable amount of thought to: rebooting my shitty YA werewolf novel. I don’t know where it’s going, it’s not the same giddy, throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it, writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants euphoria as the first time around, but … I mean, I wrote, and I didn’t stop writing or really want to stop writing for a good 2 hours or so. It doesn’t have to be euphoria; I’ve already invented this wheel. Maybe now I can just enjoy seeing that it works.

I wrote basically two first chapters, or perhaps two prologues, alternate inciting incidents for my werewolf characters. I feel like if I’m going to do this, then I want to do it my way, and the question that I’m trying to answer right now is whether or not I have anything original to say about werewolves – or anything at all, really, that isn’t part of my potential PhD thesis, and if so how I want to say it.

In the meantime, though, it’s good to see that the taps are still running.

04/10/18: 38

I watched two films this week that have lent me some much-needed inspiration: It Follows, which is just a good movie that you should see if you haven’t already (I hadn’t until this week), and The Covenant, which is a decidedly poor movie that you should see if you haven’t already (this was my second time, and it was even more deliciously abysmal than the first time).

Basically, now I want to write a horror story.

Not necessarily a straight-up horror story; maybe more of a teen drama-comedy with horror elements – I’m thinking that this reboot/reimagining of my shitty YA werewolf novel could work pretty well in this regard, especially as the original concept that I had for the story actually resonates with these two movies as sources of inspiration.

The Covenant, for those who don’t know, was surprisingly enough made before the Twilight films, even though it seems like a flimsy attempt by a studio to make a “for boys” version, complete with classic tropes such as teenage boys speculating about what kind of underwear (if any) girls are wearing and then using their magic powers to, uh, verify, the main, queer-coded villain threatening the safety and/or sexual virtue of the main dude’s (female) love-interest, and the line “Harry Potter can kiss my ass”. I can see why it wasn’t a hit is what I’m saying here. But the premise is so fantastically basic: four teenage boys are descended from four of the Ipswitch families accused of witchcraft, the details of which have been dramatised in The Crucible, and spoiler warning they are actual witches – yes, boy witches, they stole my fucking idea, never mind – and there’s a fifth family that was supposedly wiped out but spoilers it wasn’t and that’s the main bad guy (played by a pre-Avengers Sebastian Stan chewing any and all scenery within a 5-mile radius). The “club” aspect is closer to the original idea that I had for my novel …

And the horror element is also closer to the tone that I had in mind, which thanks to It Follows I have gained new enthusiasm for trying out again. I think horror is hard to manage in any medium, and I feel like it works better on-screen than on-page, if for no other reason than that visuals can always be more literal and immediate than words. So maybe this will be a screenplay or something.

In any case, I’m looking forward to writing maybe a bit more than 38 words of this thing tomorrow.

05/10/2018: 2284

I’ve done the math, and 2284 is indeed more than 38.

So this new iteration of my shitty YA werewolf novel, Wolf Gang, is already much more predictable and cliched than the original, and I won’t say that it feels better, but it feels clearer. I have a better idea of where this story is going, because while the problem with cliches is that you’ve seen them a million times, that’s also a strength when you’re basically trying to vomit up a story as quickly and thoughtlessly as possible.

And it was relatively fast; I wrote that – minus the 38 from yesterday – in about an hour and forty, even though it felt like it took about three hours. I have a bit more of a plan for this one than the original manuscript, which was a very fun experiment that I’m just not going to try and replicate, regardless of how much I really, really miss that buzz of excitement and clarity of purpose and whatnot. But I’m going to go by the same principles – I want to focus on going with whatever idea feels the most story-ish to me, and try to not over-plan things, while at the same time allowing myself to think ahead just a little bit. I loved working out the story as I went and feeling like I had planned it out all along (because it was so predictable), but I also know that it’s very satisfying to have a plan and see it through to completion. I’m not going to try and completely shut down every original idea that I have; I’m just going to prioritise the ideas that come naturally to me in the story, and only concern myself with how obvious of an answer they are to me rather than how good of an idea they may or may not be. I just want to do it to a vague plan with a few semi-planned-out scenes that I have in mind.

And I want to make sure that I keep up with reading Mark and Jessie as well. It’s gotten to the point where I’m wondering if I just need to go back to Tallulah after all. But I can always read that over again after I’m done with Mark and Jessie, if I really want to. I doubt I’ll find any more answers than I did when I read it over last year, but it’s an option.

I still think I’d rather read my one and only completed manuscript of Realm of the Myth, though, if I am going to re-read something of mine instead of moving on to revision. Revision is the ideal plan; re-reading something else is a backup safety-net comfort-plan.

As for Wolf Gang – well, it was a writing exercise the first time around, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t use it as a writing exercise this time as well.

06/10/2018: 1074

Finished The Girl With All The Gifts today, partly because I was determined to not let it sit on my bookshelf until it was due back like the first time I hired it out, partly because I think this bug thing really might have returned and it made being slightly bedridden slightly bearable. Then I decided I really was committed to trying out this reboot of Wolf Gang, and it does feel good to have gotten this writing done.

Weekly Total: 7313

Despite feeling a bit crappy today, I’ve actually had a pretty great week health-wise – started off my exercise for the week with a 4 km walk, went for my usual 20-minute walk almost every day after that, with a shorter walk the day after. I’ve been drinking lots of water and eating more conscientiously, paying attention to how I feel I actually need to eat versus how much I feel I can eat, and trying to fill that quota. My friend bought a giant aquarium for her axolotls this week on a whim, and I found it a bit confronting – and revealing – that I related so strongly to this particular purchase. Even when I don’t own pets (I haven’t for the past 17 years), every now and then I’ll see a large pet enclosure of some kind and just want it. I have some primal urge to take big, well-defined spaces and just have them, and once I have them then I figure out what to fill them with. Similar to how I used to think of my book-writing process in terms of how many books would be in the series first, and only after that deciding what the actual stories would be about.

And, I now realise, similarly to how I approach feeding myself.

Which is really distressing, but also helpful, because now I can see the pattern and … well, it feels helpful. I feel like I have just that little bit more self-mastery than I did before I put this all together, however embarrassing it is to recognise that this is how I operate. Because I am also recently realising that I am not a limitless void that I can just shove anything into without any regard for what filling that space does to me. I have to care about it. I have to care about myself.

Shit’s hard, yo.

But important. And I feel like this has been a week of figuring out important things, and keeping important commitments.

Feels good.

Now I just need to not be contaminated with alien life-forms anymore and I can start enjoying it.