Weekly Words 04-10/02/2019

09/02/2019: 495

Holy shit I wrote something this week.

I don’t really re-read my posts after I write them, and I often can’t really remember them, either. It is entirely possible that I made some sort of huge, grandiose declaration of my intentions in my last post to do something or other, which I’m sure I felt very convicted in declaring at the time. Or maybe I wrote it and then deleted it because it took away the feeling that it had any kind of consequence if I externalised the idea, probably because it exposed it as an impulsive whim rather than an actual plan.

In any case, the pit of despair that I have written myself into through tinkering and re-tinkering with my Wolf Gang sequel is now a little less despairful – and, as always, the solution to writer’s block is to just do some fucking writing. It’s painfully, embarrassingly easy, yet I have not found it any easier to actually make myself do after years of proving this point to myself. But I suppose, after all this time, I should also know that I do just need to wallow in self-pity for a while sometimes. The point is that it always comes out all right in the end, and that’s what really matters.

Also I’m not writing my stupid goddamn Wolf Gang sequel for a good, long while. There, that’s my impulsive whimsical declaration of intention for today. I look forward to seeing how quickly I change my mind on it.

I think the passion that I get for making these big, totalising statements comes from the overflow of energy that I get when I put my mind to writing; just working on my self-assigned projects isn’t enough to adequately channel my energy, so I have to disperse it into other expressions – like saying I’ll never work on X project again, because at the time that’s where my emotional barometer is at. I’m writing zero draft ideas, so it only makes sense that I’ll also make zero draft mission statements. It’s all part of the process …

And it’s a glorious fucking process, and holy shit how have I gone for a whole month letting myself not keep up with it? I love my brain on writing. I want no other brain.

Weekly Total: 495

I have no idea what I want.

Last year I had a lot of things going on. I basically rebooted this blog, which was great for a sense of personal continuity and purpose; I was doing Youthline, which made me re-define my comfort zone; I started playing D&D for the first time, which has made for easily the busiest social life I’ve had in a long time; I was reading a ton, which was just something nice to do for my brain, and given the kind of stuff I was reading also another step out of my comfort zone; I was writing a ton, and in particular the co-writing with my friend was just a reliable endorphin-generator I could fall back on, while my own projects also ticked along enjoyably on the back burner … it was a good time. Too much sometimes, not enough at others, but pretty good overall.

Oh also marking for the comics paper, where I transformed from a blubbering mess into a human probability calculator in the span of nine hours. That was fun.

Interestingly, none of that stuff is what I’d say I Want To Do With My Life. None of that was my Purpose In Life. And it’s also become the new standard to which I hold my expectations of what my day-to-day existence can be. Yet all throughout January, I’ve been torn between just kicking back and playing the shit out of The Witcher 3, which seriously I should be keeping notes on because it is one thought-provoking experience for someone who likes to politicise things as much as I do (though that’s less of a compulsion than it used to be), and trying to force myself “back” to a point where I had a core, underlying purpose to what I was doing, some end-goal to be working towards, an unspecified but totally critical quota of “productivity” to hit on a regular basis.

I thought that holiday mode was what got me stuck in this rut. But really, when I think about it, it’s more the fact that I still have this ridiculous idea that there’s something I Should Be Doing, some thing that all the other things I’m doing instead are detracting from and making me a worse person in the process – an attitude that Weekly Words was pretty much specifically designed to counter.

I need to get back on the wagon. But it’s not the wagon I’ve been thinking it was for the past month.

I started this recap portion of this post lamenting my lack of purpose, trying to push myself towards re-committing to the drive and focus that I had last year, but only after I started writing it out did I realise that all the positive vibes I had from last year didn’t come from having an overarching purpose, or even knowing what it is that I want out of life. It just came from doing shit. That’s literally it. Just doing things, whatever they were, some old, some new, some intense, some chill. The only constant was the fact that I was doing them.

Not getting them done. Not wrapping them up. Not locking it in.

Just doing them.

That is what I now realise I need to get back to. I’m just not doing enough. That’s what holiday mode did to me, not knock me out of my purpose-orbit; it just gave me an excuse to narrow my field of Things To Do down to, like, one. And one is not enough.

Okay has it been enough words yet to bump my weekly total up to over 1k … yes, perfect.

The grind continues.

Actual Weekly Total: 1486

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Monthly Words January 2019

Monthly Total: 31845

I’m actually quite astonished. I thought it would have been quite a bit less than that, given how much I complained about stalling and not having momentum and hating myselfImeanmywriting.

Go me!

Well, that and the fact that I counted 5 weeks in “January”, because there was a bit of overlap with the end of December and the start February, plus the fact that I’m counting blog writing in the total weekly word-count, plusthe word-count for this recap – but whatever, it’s what I’m counting so it counts.

There’s a lot of self-examination in my posts for this month. I felt very removed from them while reading them, and I should actually take a moment here to just say, again, how incredibly grateful I am for having Weekly Words as a life-tool in my kit, because this entire month I felt very lost and aimless and kind of hopeless. And then I remembered that I had to write the monthly recap, and just by doing that I got my sense of life-continuity back, I saw that, hey, I actually did some shit this past month, I had some ideas, I worked some things through and identified other things that I am still looking for ways to work through – I had a month. A month happened, and I was there for it, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.

Perspective. It’s important.

And speaking of perspective: at several points throughout January I expressed the concern of getting stuck in experimentation with my writing – and lo and behold, that’s exactly where I’m at now. I’ve been tinkering away at this Wolf Gang sequel for pretty much all of January; I’ve had some ideas that I’ve really liked and I got started writing them, and I must say actually that, unlike most of my cool ideas, I actually wrote enough of these ones to feel like I’d actually done something with them. I’m used to just letting them flit by, in one synapse and out the other (that’s how synapses work right), and then regretting not hitching a ride with them while they’re here. In that sense, I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished this week.

But I’m still very, very stuck. My solution in week 3 or 4 was to suggest to myself that what I needed was a break. I don’t know if this was before or after I also decided that, hey, I’ve had The Witcher 3 installed for like a year and never actually played it, maybe I should have a look, but basically while I quit WOW in order to give myself more of a chance to focus on getting the writing done that I want to get done, The Witcher 3 has taken its place as an attention-vampire with interest, because it not only has all of the recreational distraction an escapist gamer could possibly want, but also unlike WOW it is actually fun to play on top of that.

Though it’s not entirely irrelevant to my interests as a storyteller. The game is good – the gameplay loop is fun, the quests are pretty fun, the story is – well, it’s there, but because this is a game the “story” consists not just of scripted events but also the experiences you make for yourself as you play the game, and there’s a lot of that to be had here. Though the scripted story itself … gotta say, it’s not as bad as The Dresden Files when it pisses me off, but some parts of it are pretty close. It actually reminds me way more of an urban fantasy story than a high fantasy, or dark fantasy, or just your standard set-in-faux-medieval-europe fantasy in general. Part of that is because cities and towns are a big part of the playable world, but also because of the tone – it’s gritty and merciless in places, but then also very silly and tongue-in-cheek in others, and it centers on a grumpy-with-a-heart-of-gold protagonist who’s just trying to make a buck while hunting/coexisting with supernatural creatures that share the world with humanity.

Also, sex. Not as much as in some urban fantasy titles, but easily enough to qualify.

For my purposes of soul-searching, though, The Witcher 3 brings me to an infuriating conclusion: if I need a break from writing in order to pull myself out of a hole, then I can’t take a break and do something else that I want to sink as much time and energy into as The Witcher 3, because that’s just another hole to get stuck in. Sure, maybe if I was going to take, like two months off or something, but I’m not trying to do that. I’m just trying to reset my mind, make it easier for myself to be creative and excited about my ideas and enthusiastic – or at least willing and able – to follow through with and develop them a bit, see if any of them encourage me to stick with them beyond the initial experimental stage. If the goal is to just not write for a while, The Witcher 3 is serving its purpose perfectly. But if the goal is to take a break with the intention of coming back from that break, then I need a different downtime activity …

Or just not a downtime activity at all. Not something else that takes energy and focus to maintain, when I want to be saving my energy and focus for writing. Something a bit more limited in terms of what it offers, so that I’ll get bored eventually and naturally want to move on.

Maybe something like the screenplay I spent the past year co-writing and am supposed to be reading through and making revision notes on …

Yes, something just like that. Something that is not a distraction, that actually takes some mental faculty to engage with, but also lets me step away from the writing projects that I feel stuck on at the moment.

It’s felt like a rough first month of 2019 in terms of keeping up my good habits, but now looking back over it I can see that I’m also just sort of in a rough spot. It happens. I just have to work a bit harder than I have been at getting back to something smoother.

Weekly Words 28/01-03/02/2019

28/01/2019: 914

Good good, words are being put together in ways that, honestly, have probably been done before because the entire point of what I’m writing these days is to just do the first and most obvious thing that comes to mind. I can make a career out of this, surely.

The mystique of “coming up with ideas” is possibly the biggest conceptual divide between those of us who perceive ourselves as creative, and those of us who do not. Full disclosure: I believe everyone is creative, and creativity is more than just about coming up with ideas and premises that might work for a piece of fiction writing, lyrics, illustration, sculpture, etc. Creativity is just … creating shit. Making something where before there was not a thing, whether that thing be a book, a dance, a building, an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, a distinguishing mark on a blank surface, and so on. Creativity is, to me, an absurdly broad concept and should be thought of as such, because to narrow down the definition to be intrinsically linked to the realm of “art” misses the point, and often comes with really judgy attitudes and elitism. We are all creative, end of story, this is my blog and my word is law.

Having said that, feeling uncreative is a big issue for me lately. It’s partly tied in with the issue of having a lot of “old ideas” that I’m still stuck on in one way or another, whether it’s because I want it to work and have plans to one day make it happen, or because I wish I had capitalised on it when I first had the idea and, while the time has passed for that, I can’t bring myself to give up on the dream, or some other third thing to make a list of three because three is some kind of magical human psychology number and if I don’t use it I’m a bad writer.

But a big part of it is to do with living up to promises. I can’t remember the last time I talked about this, but I remember the concept being brought to my attention through the Writing Excuses podcast, which I have not been keeping up with and should really find an excuse – ha – to get back into. I have a few podcasts that fall into that category actually … my point is that, in a story, there are “promises” that the book, or author, or whatever agent you want to single out as the responsible party makes to the reader. It’s Chekov’s Gun, basically, the idea that if, as a storyteller, you draw particular attention to some aspect of the story you are telling, there is a good reason for it – namely, payoff. If you show a loaded gun at the start of a story, by the end of the story the gun has to be fired. Obviously that’s a very dry example, but the reason it’s important is that, to put it bluntly, us storytellers should not be wasting our readers’ time, and there are few better ways to waste time than by filling our stories with shit that, in the grand scheme of the story we are telling, do not matter …

Or do not matter as much as we imply, through the telling of our story, that they should.

This is where things get fuzzy, both as a reader and a writer. My idea at the end of last year to borrow a bunch of werewolf YA novels from the library resulted in a great many examples of this second issue of “promise-keeping” in storytelling – specifically, how it is so easy for readers to feel like a story has not kept its promises. And on the flipside, it is so easy as a writer to not even realise that you’ve made a promise in the first place.

This second issue is where a lot of my creative anxiety comes from, the fear that I will have set up something interesting in my story but failed to follow through with it or develop the concept in a satisfying, rewarding manner for my readers. I mean, on the one hand, I don’t actually have any readers for my books, but I’ve felt like that with a lot of my blog posts over the years, too. Part of why Weekly Words feels like such a comfortable format for me: it’s pretty hard to not follow through with the promise of recording my experience of meeting (or not) my self-imposed weekly writing quota. Which, yes, is at 5k. I am not keeping that promise very well currently.

But on the other hand, I myself am a reader, and also someone who likes stories where everything feels connected, and where cool ideas are developed in cool ways resulting in a coolness gestalt that pervades the story entire. A lot of the time when I get stuck on a story, whether it’s character motivation or plot direction or even an action scene, I don’t even consider looking at the story that I’ve set up so far and seeing what I’ve got to work with that could help to solve the issue.

Which seems weird, right? Like, that should be such a basic part of storytelling that it’s actually kind of weird to even state it explicitly. How could you tell a story and not do this, just automatically as part of the storytelling process? How could this even be an option? But the other issue is that my interests may lie in a different direction to what seems like the obvious solution, if I’m looking at the world I’ve set up, the events I’ve put in motion, the motivations I’ve given, etc. I may be looking for an answer that can’t come from any of those, or makes them kind of redundant or irrelevant. I have come across my fair share of stories where this seems to have been the writer’s thought process; this is hardly restricted to the world of YA werewolf novels. A big part of the reason why I so enjoy the The Dresden Files series is because, for all of its faults, it is a series built on a bedrock of solid goddamn storytelling, and in 15 books I can’t recall a single instance of a promise being made and not then kept. This is a series that I’ve almost given up on several times because of some pretty troubling gender dynamics within the story, but what can I say, I love it when a story gets the basics right, and I will put up with some problematic shit content-wise for the sake of good execution.

This doesn’t mean that all promises are worth keeping, though. For instance, in The Wereling, which I have still not finished my review/rant about three months later, the title of the book being what it is promises that whatever this “wereling” is, it’s so important to the story that it defines its core identity. On the one hand, the main character is the titular wereling, so in that technical sense the book keeps its promise. The problem, however, is that the story itself is not really about the main character at all, and his relevance to the plot that actually plays out feels coincidental at best. It’s part of the story, actually: he gets dragged into this seriously fucked-up, ultra-misogynist rape culture werewolf drama that serves as the plot, which actually centres on another character, who the story is about, but she’s not the main character because I dunno girls are gross or something. I was going to go into a mini-rant about The Wereling right here, but then decided I may as well sate my curiosity and wait until I’ve read the entire series – hopefully this just means my eventual review will be better-informed. And I can also see if being the wereling ever actually matters in any way whatsoever.

My main takeaway from unfaithful books like The Wereling is that I do want to keep my promises – and if nothing else, all of the shitty stories I’ve put myself through in the hopes of being entertained or, dare I say, even inspired can serve as important lessons in keeping promises … and deciding what promises to make in the first place. As I go forward with my writing projects this year, I think I most want to focus on how I can get better at it, and feel like I’m making the most of my ideas. Because besides everything else, I might even have fun while I’m at it.

02/02/2019: 5354

Binge-writing is not my favourite habit. I don’t like yo-yo-ing between doing hardly any writing for days at a time only to dump my entire weekly word goal in one sitting.

Having said that, though: I got my entire week’s word goal done in one sitting, with interest. The habit feels unhealthy, but the accomplishment itself I don’t hate.

Today has been work on the Wolf Gang sequel, and a shiny new idea took my fancy today – a shiny new story hook, to be precise. Yes, this book is going to have themes and meaning and other shit that the first book in the series enjoyed not being bothered with – but, this time around, I’m finding it quite inspiring, so I’m running with it. I think it’s probably wise to not try to re-capture the lightning in a bottle that was the first Wolf Gang writing process (for the first six months at least); that process worked for that book, but that doesn’t mean a different process can’t or shouldn’t work for this one.

Also I never throw away my writing, so all the work I’ve done on this sequel up to this point is still right there to be returned to or recycled at my pleasure. If I want.

I think having this book as an experimental playground for growing ideas and working them into my writing process is also not a bad idea – the idea that I had today was so shiny to me because of all of that shit about building on what I’ve already got; it leapt out at me, something so obvious that I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before, only to realise that I had thought of it before, and just dismissed it out of hand because, well, it was so obvious. It’s always risky, building on your own ideas instead of those you’ve seen work before – mind you, that doesn’t mean your own ideas don’t fall into that category, but in the heat of the writing moment, perspective often narrows to focus on just what is being written, not how similar or even exactly identical it might be to something else that’s already been done before. Building on established, proven ideas is having fun with legos. Don’t pass it up if you don’t have to – but it does come with a lot of safety, and while limitations foster creativity, they are still, at the end of the day, limitations. Building on your own ideas is going exploring without a map, and trusting that you’ll be able to chart a course that makes sense for those who follow after you. It’s daunting, and it doesn’t always produce good results – a lot of promises can go unkept this way, specifically because you can lose sight of the wider context of the storytelling devices you’re drawing on or writing in parallel to. By all means do your own thing, of course. But for me, I like to know the promises that I’m making, so that I can make an informed decision about whether or not I even want to keep them – and if I don’t, I can decide to not make them in the first place through the magic of revision.

So having this sequel novel to write and play with in this way is really valuable. It also frees me up to be more structured and deliberate with some of my other projects, ones that I have particular promises that I want to keep through the telling of them – but maybe just have some conflicting promises I feel like making, and haven’t found a way to resolve that conflict just yet. But this shitty YA werewolf novel has given me at least one effective answer: just write what you’ve got and see how it plays. A lot of work, yes. Nerve-wracking work. But it’s an option I want to get better at taking, because in the end it will make me a better writer, because I will write more.

It could also be that, through this experimentation and seeming backtracking of the Wolf Gang sequel, I’m actually starting to grow an honest-to-Hera story that I’m actually, like, invested in and shit.

That would be interesting indeed.

Weekly Total: 8543

Not bad at all, word-count-wise.

Habits-wise, though, I want to do better. I definitely need to get out of my room to write; I thought it would be fine, and I’ve thought that for years, and yet inevitably it just isn’t. I think I treat my room as an extension of my headspace, and sometimes I definitely need to get out of it in order to be productive in a way that I can be happy with. And I’ve got things I want to be doing, and they’re not getting done at the moment, and the longer it takes me to get around to doing them the less confidence I have in myself and my ability to actually get them done. It’s time to break the cycle. Or at least nudge it a bit.

To nudging things a bit!

Weekly Words 21-27/01/2019

23/01/2019: 0

Here’s the plan.

During the daytime, I will be focusing on reading back over my completed manuscripts; the energy to actually write and create doesn’t seem to be with me while the sun is high, but doing something more analytical – like making revision notes – is exactly what I’m in the mood for. I didn’t stick to that plan today or yesterday or the day before, but I think it will work.

As for when actual writing will happen: fucked if I know, but that’s sort of the beauty of Weekly Words, isn’t it? The flexibility? That was the whole idea when I came up with this initiative; I think I’ve lost sight of that as I settled into a sort of routine and loosened up on my weekly word-count goals, so maybe just to kick myself out of this post-holiday rut I’ll bring back word-count goals just for a little while. I’ll aim for 5k a week and see how it goes.

So, why update today? Well, as I mentioned previously, I need the regularity of Weekly Words; I have come to rely on it to organise my entire life and mood, pretty much, and without it everything goes to shit. I have some stuff that I want to do, like book reviews – maybe “review” is too formal of a concept for what I actually want to do, which is just to kind of spew my opinions and responses and thoughts and feelings, not so much to do any kind of actual critical analysis. Not to be mean, but to have as little excuse as possible for over-thinking things. I did that with The Wereling and now it’s been three months since I read it and still the review feels … wrong. It’s too structured of a format. I want something a bit more informal. So I’m going to have a go at that.

And that’s going to count towards a weekly word-count total, because, I mean, I’m going to publish those “reviews” or whatever they are; “rants”, I guess. I miss my rants. I like the idea of getting back into the habit – hopefully with some applied wisdom and experience that I didn’t have when I was at my most prolific stage of rantery.

Also because, to be real, I do not have the energy passion or cerebral acuity to actually think about my writing projects right now. In some ways that should be a good thing; not being so serious about it could help loosen me up and get some fun balls rolling, so I will not say no to trying that out. But the focus for me is going to just be this blog for a little while, at least until the end of January I think, as a nice gentle way to get back into the swing of weekly wording without having to think about the huge obligations of book-writing that I have set myself.

Tonight, I finally returned to Mark and Jessie, just like I said I would, and boy did I pick a bad point to return to … or the perfect spot to jump back in, depending. The 5 pages I managed to force myself through tonight basically summed up the previous 364 that, taken together, made me quit my read-through last October. I’m past the halfway point at least; it’s a 622-page manuscript once formatted to the size of regular novel pages, or whatever random measurements I found online when I looked up “novel page size”, so at least that’s something. I have less volume of self-inflicted torture to wade through for this half of the read-through.

It’s also been interesting to find that the things that I find so disgusting about this manuscript are actually the kind of things that I have come to value about my writing process over the past couple of months – specifically, experimentation. My most successful writing this year has been accomplished one of two ways. The first, and best, is having external accountability paired with mutual enthusiasm, i.e. the co-writing project. And let’s be real, it wasn’t all smooth sailing – until I compared it to my own self-directed writing, at which point it’s hard to be realistic about the times when I did struggle to write my contributions to the project because in comparison it literally wrote itself as I thought the words into existence without having to lift a fucking finger. Which brings me to the second way I have succeeded at writing this year: making myself sit down and write, and letting myself just fuck around once I got started. Yes, technically that’s also how I got my co-writing installments written, but it’s worth acknowledging that this method did still work when I wasn’t also benefiting from the shared responsibility and investment of a co-author to bounce off. It just worked less often, because it’s still about enthusiasm either way, and without a second person to be enthusiastic through vicariously, when my enthusiasm isn’t there, it’s not fucking there.

But the decision I made when I came back to Wolf Gang, initially as a horror reboot after being very impressed with It Follows, then as a sequel attempt, and now sort of both at the same time huh maybe that’s why I’ve lost momentum it’s almost like trying to do tons of things at once isn’t good for maintaining focus or something …

The decision to just let myself stop and start as often as felt right really, really helped. It’s not enough on its own, and I’ve learnt that over the past few weeks of trying to use that logic to reassure myself that the writing will go fine once I get started, only to find that I just can’t be fucked getting started at all. I need something else, too, not just permission to write how I want – I need a reason to start writing to begin with.

Which is where Mark and Jessie gives me another crucial insight through its sheer unrelenting awfulness: if I experiment too much, I end up stuck in a hole of “maybe this will work” that I can’t get out of, at least not without taking a break – and that’s kind of the problem, because even the solution to this stalling comes at the cost of killing my momentum. Which is where I’m at with all of my projects right now: I’ve stalled. I’ve hit a wall and run out of gas. I’m excited at the prospect of continuing the trip, but at the moment I simply don’t have the means to do so. It’s been frustrating.

So I’m hoping that just focusing on the blog for the rest of the month, not stopping myself from working on my other shit but definitely not making it a priority, will give me a chance to refuel. I like being excited to write; I miss being excited to write, as I’ve said a few times on this blog. But I also know that it’s not all just about emotion, and while I’ve made justifications and rationalisations in the past about how I’m not getting paid for this shit etc., I’ve also found that I actually feel better about myself when I know that I actually have the capacity to just make myself sit the fuck down and do some goddamn writing, whether the excitement is there or not. So I’m not just looking for enthusiasm. I’m looking for purpose.

Because without purpose, it doesn’t matter how good my discipline is: if you don’t got nothing to write, you won’t write nothing.

Or you’ll write Mark and Jessie, and set yourself up for unspeakable horrors that will haunt your soul for all eternity upon attempting to make revision notes on your attempts to craft a story about of ideas you haven’t had yet. So that’s what I want out of this break: not enthusiasm, not excitement, not passion. Just ideas. I have a lot of energy and nothing to spend it on right now. I am hoping to reopen my idea factory by the time February rolls around.

But I’ll stick it out regardless of how long it takes. And in the meantime, I’ll find other things to write and expand my suite of writing skills. Win-win. Hell, maybe I’ll actually keep up with morning pages this year.

26/01/2019: 0

Why god why am I responsible for this despicable fucking manuscript why does this have to be a thing that I made with my time energy and passion because I actually thought it was good why did you let me believe that why is it so fucking shit why why whyyyyy

I have 18 pages of notes on this zero draft. To be fair, I don’t know how to “properly” make revision notes, so I have absolutely no clue if this is an unusually high number, a rather small number, a sort of average number, or if every project varies quite a bit. All I know is that 18 pages is a lot for notes on a book that, to be completely honest, does not warrant 18 pages of thought or consideration devoted to its contents. “It’s shit.” There. I finished my revision notes. It’s funny, I always complain about how I have no time-management skills and yet, after a hundred years …

NO I’M NOT FINISHED I’M STILL READING THIS GARBAGE BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT I HAVE TO WORK WITH THIS IS WHAT I GAVE MYSELF TO WORK WITH I REAP WHAT I SOW WHY LORD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I’m not sure why I feel so much animosity towards God right now. I mean, I’m not religious, I don’t actually believe in God, and yet I’m still here blaming/imploring him like there’s somebody listening … to be fair, if there was someone God wasn’t going to respond to, someone who gave up on Him 23 years ago is probably a good bet.

Though if I hadn’t given up then I think looking at this trainfire dumpster-wreck of a manuscript would be enough to test my faith, easily. Some people see it as a test from God when they get a serious illness, or get fired, or get dumped, or are beset by a plague of locusts. I get to see the evidence of my own imagination and enthusiasm turned against me, my only hate springing from my only love.

But, that’s writing. Also, time. Because I have read this manuscript before; I’ve read it twice, I believe, before this current read-through, and neither of those times did I pick up on all of the bad that it is comprised of. It would be heartbreaking if it wasn’t so funny just how utterly irredeemable this zero draft is, but the amusement value does not detract from just how much work it is to make myself read these sentences and acknowledge these characters, plot-twists, Deus ex Machinae, this hollow world-building and shallow, fitful lore. It is exhausting.

And the worst part?

Once I’m done with this read-through, I’m going to have to read through it all over again.

Because I have made a commitment, dammit. This book is getting revised and, one day, submitted for publishing. That’s happening. And these “revision notes” I’m making? They’re garbage. I knew this from the start and I know it now; these aren’t revision notes. They’re therapy. I need to evacuate these reactions, these feelings of disgust and outrage and , frankly, disbelief at the fact that the thing I am reading actually exists to be read in the first place. That all of my effort, my passion – my love for this fucking story – came out so warped and twisted and utterly unenjoyable, and I have 622 pages of proof of it.

Which tells me that I am in no state to make any kind of critical decision about this manuscript. This is me giving free rein to my feelings as I feel them; I need to do this, this is a good thing – it’s just also an immensely fucking time-consuming thing. But it has to be done, because if this was actually my attempt to make sense of the writing I’ve done and compile a set of legible, clear, actionable revision notes, it would be a failed fucking attempt.

And I am not going to have a failed attempt.

So, I will go through my process, and I will ensure that I give this project the best chance at success that I am able to by getting this painful gut-reading out of the way. I will exorcise myself of hatred, bile, and fits of deranged cackling at the sheer heights of awful I somehow managed to attain over the course of the writing of this zero draft manuscript, and when I have drained the infection fully, then the real work can begin.

Or I dunno I’ll move on to a different project that doesn’t suck.

That’s quite a freeing thought, actually. So for now, I’m just going to leave this decision-making process here.

27/01/2019: 607

I’m actually writing this on the 28th because I stayed up extremely late last night/this morning to watch the YouTube vods of the Dragonball Fighterz World Tour Grand Final, including the four Last Chance Qualifier tournaments held the day before. It’s a lot to explain that really has nothing to do with my writing at all, except that it is the reason for me not having written my check-in for the 27th until the 28th. I’ve never been big into conventional sports – I did use to stay up until 2am with dad so that we could watch formula 1 racing together when I was about 14, and I followed cricket extremely casually when I was a pre-teen, and of course went along to my younger brother’s soccer games when he played – but eSports are a slightly different matter. At least they are where Dragonball Fighterz is concerned, because it’s Dragonball Z with bits of Super included because hey marketing, it’s a total nostalgia rush for me, the game itself is really satisfying to play (at least in training mode where nobody can fight back) and really fun to watch, and yeah okay back to the writing stuff. I’ll say this though: those Last Chance Qualifiers tournaments made for some extremely compelling IRL narrative arcs. If you feel like you’re lost for inspiration, real life can be a pretty good resource.

Writing-wise, I have managed to force myself back to the Wolf Gang sequel. Talking with my co-writing friend yesterday (who had some very awesome brainwaves during our writing session), I realised that my problems with this sequel, the constant getting stuck-ness in particular, was down to me feeling obligated to maintain continuity between the stories, and thus unable to write as freely and dynamically as I did with the first one. Initially, I balked at this being the solution, because continuity is good, right? But then I remembered that this entire story is not good, not quite on purpose but certainly not against my purpose in writing it to begin with – which was to have some fucking fun. I still only managed 607 words, but I also did some copy-pasting that I’m pretty pleased with, and feel like I’ve set myself up with some good momentum that I plan on following through with … today.

This really doesn’t work as well if I don’t get these posts out on time.

Weekly Total: 3630

Not my best effort – actually this might be my lowest weekly word-count result since the last time I just straight-up took a week off – but some important stuff got done this week that can’t be measured in word-count, and hey, Weekly Words is all about acknowledging the process for what it is and being able to appreciate the parts of it that are more quality than quantity. I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot right now in terms of my mindset and enthusiasm for writing, both in terms of working on newer projects and maintaining my commitment to my older ones …

Which, honestly, I’m still thinking about ditching and moving on to something new. Free up some imaginative real estate. I keep coming back to this issue of having so many ideas that are just really old, or old to me anyway, and seeing as I’m only 32 years old that’s not necessarily a very long time at all – but the point stands that I have different ideas, sensibilities, tastes, and values now than I did when I initially decided that X project would totally Be A Thing. Some of them have stood the test of time pretty damn well, but others – well, let’s just say they’re not working for me at the moment. And it may well just be a matter of needing some momentum and a pair of fresh eyes, but I don’t want to stop myself from giving up on a project if I can feel that it’s not going to go anywhere. I’ve learnt the hard way that letting go of things that you have invested yourself into not just intensely but for a long time can become so deeply ingrained into your sense of self that you talk yourself out of moving on, even when all the signs point to that being the best thing for you to do. I don’t want to be in that place with any of my stories, because I love stories. I want my relationship with them to be a healthy one – and to know when it’s unhealthy, too, and to be able to walk away. I won’t say without regret, because I think regret is pretty natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Just to be able to move on is enough, no matter how hard it is.

Though having said that, I haven’t given up on certain projects just yet. Illnesses can be cured sometimes, and it’s worth giving it a shot. So I’m doing that. I said I don’t want to have a failed attempt with Mark and Jessie, and I meant that – but hey, we don’t always get what we want, and sometimes what we want isn’t what we need, and that is as true in writing as it is with anything else.

Weekly Words 14-20/01/2019

17/01/2019: 3266

I do not like this new WordPress Editor.

I do like writing a whole bunch, though. After putting down in writing my intention to return to some of my older projects that never really got off the ground in the hopes that something would stick – well, today was a stickier one than most have been recently. Mostly because I felt very stuck for most of it. Yesterday was worse; I had a lot of energy and motivation, but there was some kind of blockage, something keeping me from actually getting started on any of the ideas that I had and was actually quite keen to have a go at.

At least that’s how I framed it in my mind. Thinking back on it, I think what was really wrong is that, while I did want to do these things, there were – and still are – other things that I want to do that I don’t let myself think about. Things that are less sensible to my mind, after years of training myself to think in terms of time-efficient productivity, whether or not I can actually stick to such endeavours or not, and to eschew anything else because it’s a waste of time and I won’t get anywhere with it anyway so why bother.

To be fair, a lot of that is born out of a history of just not having the follow-through that I would like to have, being disappointed with myself for failing to live up to my own expectations. Though my university mindset just got me doing the same thing all over again, except this time with extra helpings of shame and guilt because I had things like grades and lecturers and tutors and other people’s expectations attached to my output.

I thought about drawing today. I’ve mentioned here and there how I would like to do some drawing, and once or twice how good it felt to actually make myself do it. I thought it today, and … I don’t even know how to describe it. It was so hard to even think about doing something that wouldn’t “go anywhere”. Never mind the reality of my current situation, where I’ve been wanting to Be An Author since I was 13 years old and have written four zero drafts since then but have not actually managed to get anything to the point where I would consider putting it out for publishing; did any of that help me “go anywhere”? But of course, I don’t think like that, because that would mean actually reflecting on myself and …

Well, to be fair, I’ve been doing that for all of last year. And yesterday and today – all of this week really – I’ve felt really out of touch with that. I haven’t been writing a lot, and I think that’s been a good thing. But because I don’t write Weekly Words posts if I haven’t been writing, I’ve also missed out on half a week’s worth of self-awareness, and it’s taking a toll on me.

I need to get back on the wagon, is what I’m saying. I need to keep perspective, and since I’m doing that through Weekly Words …

Well, here’s the question I’m facing at the moment. Do I just force myself to write every day so that I have the excuse of “having something to write about” for the sake of keeping what is apparently a much-needed habit of mine up and running? Seriously, three days without a daily update and my mind starts to deteriorate. What the hell?

Do I make myself reflect on my day regardless of whether or not I’ve written anything because that seems like a much healthier thing to do and is probably the correct answer but it doesn’t involve writing and I’m a pedantic freak who needs things to be what they say they are on the tin and this is Vevacha where we Write about Writing Motherfucker?

Do I start keeping my own personal diary for the purposes of keeping day-to-day perspective and keep my writing life and life-life separate because I’m a pedantic freak and categorising things definitely hasn’t ever made things harder for me as I become overwhelmed with arbitrary rules and regulations as to how I permit myself to organise my activities and wants and needs and thoughts it’s only ever made things better that’s why I have several hundred Word documents catalogued in various folders and sub-folders that all feel like bars of the cage I have stuck myself inside so that I always know where I am at all times?

There’s part of me that hopes I’m not alone in feeling this way, and part of me that hopes nobody else in the world has to put up with this kind of shit from themselves. It’s fucking exhausting.

I think the salient point here is that, as with all good habits, my system for keeping perspective on my life is one that I need to keep up; I can’t slack off with it like I have been. The mindset I’ve fallen into over the past few days suggests to me that I could stand to review my current practices for making sure I have a healthy level of self-awareness and big-picture perspective, because attaching it to my writing … clearly that’s not going to work all the time. Yes, it’s just been the holidays and, as an invalid, I don’t really have a non-holiday mindset, but I definitely need to keep on top of my own mental well-being better than I have been this week, however it is that I go about doing that.

And …

I do want to “go somewhere”.

Yes, I do think I’m too hard on myself in the way that I’ve come to prioritise “efficiency” and “productivity” in ways that are 1) artificial as fuck and 2) don’t actually get me to be either “efficient” or “productive” at all. But I also know that the things I’m working on right now are not the things that I’m really passionate about making work. Those things are the ones I’ve finished zero drafts of, sometimes even first drafts. They’re harder to work on. They’re harder to think about, plan around, or to even know what the hell to do with.

They’re the projects that I’ve pushed so far because I’ve wanted to, for one reason or another, and the ones that I actually have an ongoing commitment to, even if I put that commitment on the backburner and keep it there for extended periods of time. Mark and Jessie’s Christmas was just … unbearable, I think, is the exactly strong-enough word to use, when I went back to read it last year. I was disgusted with what I found, not just because it read like the kind of book by the kind of author I would never, ever want to read or recommend to anybody, not just because half of it was overwrought, smartass, edgelord filler, but because it was all just wrong. It wasn’t the story that I wanted to tell, in any way shape or form. And I despaired to come to that conclusion, because I couldn’t think of a way to get it to be that story.

I do have some other ones that I care about. The one I worked on today is one of them, though I’m not sure how deep that care runs. But it’s not just about passion for me. It’s about progress. It’s about goddammit, 18 years is long enough to go without the kind of results that I want. It’s about having four fucking novels that I wrote from beginning to end, and regardless of how I feel about them, they’re what I’ve got to actually work with, the things that I actually bothered to fucking get written.

That deserves some attention.

So on top of everything else this year – maybe I’ll throw in the towel with them, maybe I’ll become Captain Reboot, maybe I’ll realise that this one little thing just needed to change and everything would be all good, but whatever the outcome, these books are getting some prioritisation this year. I feel inspired to write myself a curriculum for this year; I might give myself fucking semesters or something. In fact that doesn’t sound too bad; I can give myself semester breaks that way, too.

But again, whatever the outcome, I’m looking at what I’ve already accomplished and using it to see how I can move forward. It’s worked for me through Weekly Words for a year now. Time to see if it’ll work for the words of weeks, months, and years past.

Also I need some hobbies because goddamn could I live without going stir-crazy around this time every year.

20/01/2019: 1165

More YA book work! I’m just trying to get to the ideas that I have and not worry about them making sense in the context of the wider story that I actually don’t have many good ideas for anyway, not trying to “build up” to them, give them appropriate set-up or foreshadowing, develop them in any way; I’m trying to get back to the Wolf Gang ethic that got me so far and gave me so much fun writing it (for the first six months), bringing this week’s total to …

Weekly Total: 6135

I have a whole bunch of ideas right now, and actually what I want is not to find some kind of epiphany that gets me writing the next great novel. I want to get to a point where I’m fine with just having a bunch of ideas and not necessarily anything that I can think of to “do with them”. To just be able to have the ideas, and for that to be okay with me. And I think I can do that.

And then I also want to work on these novels I’ve already done work on, and get back into regular weekly writing installments, and continue exploring my projects that never got off the ground, and …

It’s the start of the new year, and I’m more fired up than I thought I would be. I think that’s what’s been bubbling under the surface this month: I’m actually pretty stoked to be doing things this year. And I am doing them.

Yep.

Weekly Words 07-13/01/2019

11/01/2019: 1824

Sequel time again!

I’ve been fighting to break through a creative rut for the past few days, and have once again identified WOW as a major culprit – though not the only one. It’s distraction in general, and I think this year is as good a time as any to launch into a full-blown crusade against distracting myself – when I know there’s other stuff I want to actually get done. I don’t think “distractions” are a bad thing; I think distracting yourself is a perfectly valid way to spend/kill time, and it only becomes an issue when you are not in control of when you do it, and how often, and for how long. Which, I mean, is pretty much always, because self-distraction is escapism, and the entire point of escapism is to get away from things like being responsible and managing your time sensibly and being productive and all that other shit you’re supposed to be doing.

All things in moderation and all that – I just need to learn moderation. I want to learn it. Because I want to do writing this year, big writing, like I wanted to do last year with an apocalyptic urgency that, honestly, I don’t miss anymore. I did for a while because it really felt like it was going to make me get shit done, and then I started Weekly Words and realised that, actually, all I need to get shit done is some external accountability/mutual investment and having a way to maintain perspective on what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve done it.

I’m still thinking of ways to fix up my zero draft of Wolf Gang, and I’m quite keen to actually do it, but this sequel was such a great idea to start with that just ended up going in a direction that I didn’t want it to – and for so many of my stories, that would have been the point where I gave up and never looked back. But in this case, I gave up, took the opportunity to try out other things, and have now come back with a fresh perspective on how to handle it. Specifically: cut out the boring shit and get to the good stuff right the fuck now. Exactly what worked with the first book; yes it did mean that I spent a year writing the last third of the book because I had left all the boring stuff until the end, but four years on I realise that, actually, the “boring stuff” is interesting to me – and I know better now how to approach it so that it’s not actually boring.

Which is in no small part thanks to my co-writing friend sharing her thoughts about my zero draft of Wolf Gang with me, making me think of it in ways that seem obvious now that my eyes have been opened to another perspective. Further proof that the lone artist suffering for their art isolated from the rest of the world is not just toxic, but impractical.

I’ve read some books, and I want to discuss them, but I also want to not sound like a snarky internet critic while I do it and I just don’t trust myself to not come across that way yet. I’m still stuck on my review of The Wereling, which I read in November; I have a lot of thoughts about it but I think I’m going to have to give up on some of my arguments for the sake of actually publishing an opinion that I’m not utterly embarrassed by. Not as in I need to make it more palatable by being dishonest, but that I need to find a more palatable way of getting to the core of my issues with the book – and the things that I think worked well, because yes in fact there are parts of it that I thought were quite strong.

As for the rest – I’ll just say this: not a single werewolf/shifter book that I have read so far has actually inspired me in terms of my own werewolf story. I just don’t want to tell a story like the ones that seem most common – which is odd for me, because a lot of the time I’m totally a bandwagoning hack at heart. I wonder if it’s just a difference between the stories that get told in books versus what’s on film and television, because the entire inspiration for Wolf Gang came from the movie Wolves (yes werewolves but no Dylan O’Brien), the other movie The Maze Runner (no werewolves but yes Dylan O’Brien), and the tv show Teen Wolf (yes werewolves and yes Dylan O’Brien).

I’m sensing a pattern here.

12/01/2019: 1095

Iteration continues on the sequel – iteration is a good word for describing my newfound “method” of drafting. I have to edit a bit as I go, because writing myself into corners is not helpful, and also because sometimes better ideas just show up and fix problems I intended to ignore for the sake of just getting shit done. It means that, yes I end up doing more writing than I might if I just wrote straight through from start to finish, but it also means that I’m working with something that, like, works pretty much all the way through – and can and almost certainly will still change through the revision process.

One of the issues I’m realising is a big one recently, one of the main reasons why I’ve found that I can’t just write from point A to point B, is that starting a story is actually really hard. I’ve found this in shows I’ve been watching and books I’ve been reading; the latest book, A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney, which I have been looking forward to ever since an old friend put it on my radar a few months ago. It’s been in my library queue ever since then, and now that it’s here …

I wish I liked it more than I do. I really do. But I don’t. And to be fair, it’s still early days; I haven’t even gotten to page 30 yet and I’m willing to stick it out and see where it goes. Alice in Wonderland adaptations are nothing new, but while I’ve been burned before, I’m willing to keep my fingers crossed for a righting to the wrongs of the past. But the big issue for me is that the world-building is all exposition so far; the scene-setting is literally a supporting character telling the main character how things work through exposition and then the narrator filling in the blanks through more exposition. It started like that, and it’s continuing like that, and I do not like it. My hope is that when all of the expositing is done, the rest of the story will be good – it’s definitely promising so far anyway – but it’s brought home to me the importance of taking your time telling a story and setting things up. Though while I can criticise all I want, it’s also a huge part of why certain projects of mine have never gotten off the ground.

I like fantasy, even if the genre – high fantasy in particular – rubs me the wrong way more often than not. because of its inherent imaginative scope, the potential for the kind of ideas you could come across within it. I love fantastic worlds and magic systems and lore and all that other geek-ass shit. It’s great. But it’s fucking hard to introduce. It’s like coming to a conversation with a statement prepared and then trying to find a natural place to fit it in during the course of the interaction, and the thing about that is that, if you come over-prepared, there isn’t a natural place to fit it in. I find this is my problem: know the lore of my world, know how the magic works, I know the political affiliations of the various nation-states and factions and all the fucking erst of it; but when it comes time to introduce all of this neat shit to my readers, the ideas gets bottlenecked in my mind because they’re so fully-formed to me that I can’t step back from them and think of how somebody new to them needs to be introduced to them, and the end result is that nothing at all comes out. At the very least, McKinney has put her ideas down in writing and gotten them published; there’s a lot of stuff she needs to introduce us readers to, and while I may not gel with her approach, at least she took an approach at all. I’m still fretting over the right way to introduce ideas of mine that are over a decade old by now.

I think that might be why urban fantasy appeals to me so much; it’s not that there’s no world-building to do, it’s that so much of it can be done by trusting the reader to fill in the blanks, plus you get the Harry Potter effect if you want where you can actually introduce things to the reader like they’re new and amazing, because they might well be to the characters as well. Even then, though, your exposition mileage may vary. It’s a fine line, sometimes, the kind of thing that makes the “prologue” to the Lord of the Rings films work while the intro sequence to The Golden Compass feels tacky and rushed. Both are montages; both have a mysterious voiceover narration – yet one is one of the most iconic sequences in modern film history, and the other is the first couple of minutes of The Golden Compass. It’s not just that it’s very clear that The Golden Compass is trying desperately to be the next LoTR, which it was right from the start; it’s just that one is better than the other, more effective, draws you in, grabs your attention, gets you invested. Hell, then there’s Star Wars, the opening text scrawl being the only introduction we even get to the world we’re about to be shunted into, and that works fine. Sometimes less is more.

And I’m over here, writing the sequel to an urban fantasy novel where the only weird thing is that some people are werewolves, and it’s still really hard to know which side of that line I’m on, or how to cross it if I need to. Trial and error, I guess – it’s not a very heartening prospect, especially since failing at something doesn’t necessarily teach you why you failed, or how to succeed next time.

Well, I can work on that this year, then. I have a whole bunch of fantasy projects that I’ve wanted to write for varying numbers of years per project, and I think I have the ability to at least learn how to overcome the problem of exposition and introducing fantasy worlds that have important distinctive characteristics that are key to understanding the story at all.

Or maybe I’ll just write an autobiography. I don’t have a YouTube channel, but maybe I can make one after the fact so that it looks legit.

13/01/2019: 3705

That is how much I wrote today. It is not how much of my writing that I kept.

It’s better, this method, where I let myself edit as I go while keeping my goal in mind – it’s slowly bridging the translation gap between the ideas I have and my writing of them. And you know what? I’m still not there. I really am going to have to start just skipping around to different parts of the story again; yes, it meant that the first Wolf Gang suffered from a really extended final stretch of writing – it took a year to write the final 30% because all the fun stuff had already been written – but like I say, I think I know how to avoid that happening again, and while what I got done today wasn’t bad, it also isn’t what I actually want to be writing. Time to jump around.

Weekly Total: 9003

Writing your story in the order of events as they will happen in the final draft – I mean, for starters, that’s probably not going to happen just because events will most likely swap places, be removed/replaced entirely, or merge together during the revision process. But even what that sequence of events looks like in your head when you first start out is not the model that you have to use for organising which bits you write in what order. As I learnt with the first Wolf Gang, writing out-of-order is extremely helpful when you have ideas you’re bursting to get written but also want to tell a coherent story – as I’m trying to remind myself now, the trick is to trust yourself to tell that coherent story by the time you’re done. And you are not “done”, by any stretch of the imagination, even when you finish your zero draft, let alone right at the start of it. Coherence is, in large part, presentation, the sequence of events, and with any decent word-processor app that shit is beyond easy. It’s definitely beneficial to have a general outline for how you want the events of your story to play out, I feel, but it’s more important to write in a way that means you actually get shit written – and for me, right now, I think jumping around might be it.

Then again, it might not. I’ve been persisting with this one chapter for the past couple of days, despite it not being exactly what I want it to be, and maybe that works in its own way. There’s something that compels me to keep at it, whatever that thing might be, and it’s not like I have a deadline for this or any form of external accountability, so for the time being – it’s still getting done. This doesn’t feel like I’m banging my head against a wall, just that I’m not following my own advice. But it could be because there’s more for me to learn about writing, just by writing and seeing what comes of it.

Read “could be” as “is definitely with zero ambiguity”. I have a lot to learn about writing yet.

And at the moment, learning is turning out to be pretty fun.

Weekly Words 31/12/2018-06/01/2019

Weekly Total: 3500

Lo and behold, I actually did some writing.

Sometime last year, after being invited to read an except of my co-writing friend’s YA dystopian novel project, I sent her the manuscript of Wolf Gang in an act of solidarity: I got to read her unpolished zero draft writing, so I felt it was only fair to return the favour. Then she actually read it, which I wasn’t entirely expecting, because it’s a whole goddamn 332-page book, but that is the kind of awesome friend she is. And upon hearing that she actually rather enjoyed this project that I have been referring to for several years as “My Shitty YA Werewolf Novel”, I became conflicted.

But mostly, I just really wanted to hear what she had to say, because if there is one thing writers need, it’s an audience.

So we talked about it today, while we were having our Sunday get-together, and by the end of it I was rather inspired to return to the project and give it another go. I’ve been tinkering with a reboot and a sequel for a couple of months now, but without feedback. Having feedback has elevated this endeavour to a whole new level of “seriousness” for me. She raised so many great points and posed so many compelling questions that I realised I actually wanted to address – so, I guess that’s what I’m doing now. Today’s writing – which comprises all of this week’s writing, outside of the words that go into the blog posts I’ve written this week – has been my return to the zero draft, but rather than revising it, I’m taking a different approach.

I’m going to write new scenes for it, and rather than trying to fit them in with the current continuity, I’m going to treat it like an extension of the zero draft writing process itself – kind of pretending that I haven’t finished writing it yet.

It’s surprisingly difficult.

But also something that I feel is worth doing. I’m definitely over-thinking things and getting in my own way; but the great thing is that I just kept writing, and when it seemed clear that I wasn’t getting to the point like I wanted to, I just opened a new document and started again. Rather than deleting what I wrote that didn’t work, I just moved on from it – deleting stuff is 1) against my basic writing morals because you never know when something will be useful in a new context and digital storage space is pretty easy to come by, and 2) feels like more of a commitment than just moving on, a momentum-killer. So I just kept writing, and while I still feel like I’m not “there yet”, this is exactly the writing process that I want, where rather than getting hung-up on my writing, I just keep writing.

So, a small start writing-wise for the week, and the new year, but one that gives me faith in my ability to be the kind of writer I want to be.