Nano lesson #5

Determination

The worst thing about NaNo usually happens around the 17th. It’s not the sleep deprivation, though that contributes. It’s not the greater isolation, I’m already isolated because of many RL issues. It’s not when essential people and appointments fall through, those happen anytime. It’s not the cold and mystery thickener that left you sicker than a dog for days. It’s not even any one aspect: plotting, block, or incomplete worldbuilding reaching back to bite you.

It’s the depression when the story is coming to a screeching halt. And words are coming so slowly an hour of writing, a mere three hundred words, make you want to beat your head against something. You hate the scene, the characters, and the plot and you’d rather write an essay on muclear meltdowns than even look at your story you loved and were so optimistic about two weeks ago.

The story idea is good.

I did a draft about four years ago. It fell apart. The villain was a purposeless trope. A bunch of characters were bland and the climax just sort of petered out. Despite attempts to revise there just was too little to hang the good parts on.

So I put the great idea in a mental trunk until I was skillful enough to tackle it again. Now, I’m taking a class in novel writing and I thought I conld do both at once. After all, I already had the bones of a story I believed in.

No such luck. Despite some parts of the lesson showing me where I’d messed up the first time, another part was loathed by my muse.

Writing came to an utter stasis by Nov 2. Keeping the guidelines in mind seems to be enough to put my muse in a vise, a straightjacket. I even tried writing a separate prompt piece like the NaNo people suggest to clear the decks and resume the original novel. Almost 6500 words of that diversion and the original story’s air has cleared up.

I write a few thousand more if the original booj idea before I get to another crash and burn yesterday, bleeding every word.

swirlsof neon light

NaNo whirlwind 2017, original neon whirlwind by Creativity103 without change, used under Creative Common 2.0

Today I had to face that the new noveling techniques are derailing how I wrote before, but the writing of it painful and has no joy. That diversion, a pantser with loose demi-outline but no deep planning flowed as normal. With the speed needed for NaNo, I cannot afford to use any technique that slows me down. So I’m switching projects… to that diversion one.

1800/day for the rest of the month will be challenge enough because of intractable RL issues. All this for these lessons: a) Even crashes and burns can be redeemed, that stories you are starting to hate can be set ashore before it’s too late. And b) Pay attention when your muse is not happy. You cannot force it to do what your logical side, your ego want it to do.

Tomorrow I anticipate much more progress…

Advertisements

Your Focus is Your Reality

I’ve been writing since ’07. I probably could have started writing before that, especially if you considered the thousands of books in my household and the writers’ track panels I thought a hoot at SF conventions.  But I hadn’t.

I didn’t like writing even short fiction in high school. Family lore says there was an elementary mocking incident, but I don’t remember it. I do remember hating any kind of writing, and perpetually tardy at best for any assignment. I got reconciled a little by high school when I wrote a 30+ page paper on mass drivers as a potential replacement for rockets to orbit. They now are used as rail gun ans amusement rides. I wrote a couple short stories for a friend desperate for material for a college SF magazine… I really do not want to dig those copies out, even if  one was my first fanfic snippet. I enjoyed the griping and successes of writers, cover artists, and editors at SF cons. I highly recommend the ’98 Buccaneer Liar’s Panel audio if you can find it, I didn’t get at the time that a missed meal would have been better than missing the recording.

That snippet was the last non-academic, non business writing for over twenty years. I still had creative outlets in crafts and RPGs, along with a serious reading addiction. I’d sit at the breakfast and read the box. Sometimes I’d even read the fine print for OTC meds. I’d read during commercial breaks and while waiting in lines. Then came a weird skin infection or two, and new books dried up and gas to visit the library was tight too.

I missed new books by favorite authors and decided to boot a game that had been sitting on a shelf for a couple months. I reached the end, outraged that the writers cheated, for blatant meta reasons. Clearly they wanted to clear the deck to have a tabula rasa for a sequel.  There were no convincing reasons in-world for that obnoxious ending.

I could do better.

grains falling through hourglass

In Search of Lost Time by Alexander Boden on flickr, without changes, per Creative Commons.

So went my first fanfic plot, first chaptered story, first novel-length story, first NaNo attempt, and first time my characters grabbed control. (they rarely do anymore, and I’m not sure that’s good or bad)

But after a time creating new adventures with existing universes, I started wanting to do my own and maybe get a half cheese sandwich on occasion. So I’m coming at learning the craft very late and in a hit or miss manner. Some techniques for writing do not help, they strangle my muse. But I keep looking, as I have the most trouble with finishing the story, revisions to pull it all  together.

I backtracked into fanfic, due to RL reasons, but I’m not sure why I almost seem to have a block about writing original stuff again. I should work on two stuck novels, but I spent so much fiddling with them to the point of pain, that going back makes me nauseous. I still believe in the concepts, but… Flash stories dried up too. I do file new story ideas, but have no urge to type.

So I want to finish one of two active fanfics, and use that time for original works. Post more here too, to remind me of that goal. Fanfic is seductive, as you get rapid and sometimes spirited feedback, and this new writer gets very few cheese sandwiches and no feedback. It does affect your motivations. I really need to focus on original stories more.

Coming up with new topics for this blog is another challenge. Today I found an essay collection by R L Stevenson on writing. Whether inspirational or neolithic, it may be useful… Coming Soon.

Where Have All the Ideas Gone?

damaged and worn clockface

il tempo si è fermato by Alessandro Prada, from Flickr under the Creative Commons 2.0 licensed attribution

Long time passes. I’m a champion procrastinator. Now many of the things I put off, like cleaning out my email and starting holiday cards early are not that big a deal, and finishing that needlepoint for the fair can wait. After all, I only started it in ’87 and I’ve picked up and dropped several hobbies since then. and an unfinished textile project just might make by top one hundred things I could be doing. It’s not that important. Other tasks are more stressful, like tracking down info for a new HMO, avoiding them gives me a small joy. I can put off writing for a looooonng time if I don’t have an idea. But finding nonfiction ideas is another task I can put off.

Right now, I was trying to recoup the idea for this blog I had during a bath earlier. It was perfect. The essence of the idea was pithy and had a snap. It had some relationship to the real world and humor without mean.

But it’s gone.

Soppy, soapy wash-cloths do not make for good record keeping. All that remains is just how shiny the idea was.

And an empty textbox…

You are the Author

Writing on a regular basis is a chaotic challenge. Just when chores and daily responsibilities can be cleared for an hour or two, up pops new problems like issues with both land-line and mobile phones that suck up your time. Ordering a replacement after some research and a quick pick-up clogged like an old artery. Shoving relatives out the door so you can write is frowned upon too. Whether and healthcare snafus add to the interruption package.

None of these help when your muse is being coy and revisions are a slow and aggravating, without even the reward of a shiny new sword skin for the grind in a game. So you trawl the nets for ideas and prompt generators to get your writing moving again.

The bonus digital broadcast channels are homes of some of the best old programming. Many of the old shows that I hadn’t seen in a long time, hold their humor better than I’d expect. I watch the episodes of the Carson Tonight show most days now. See stars in their prime, stars that are gone now can be bittersweet. Last weekend they swapped a show with Mohammad Ali after his death. A younger Betty White played Jane in a Tarzan sketch. You can see a very young Ellen, long before Finding Dory. A very few celebs that got zinged by the King of Late Night about their mistresses are still in the news… but now they are running for president. In some ways it’s sad how little has really changed since these 25-year old shows.

The funny thing is some of these are clever one liners that would make funny stories. The writing reference book shown in the clip is only the start of that business. There are many, many reference and how-to books. (some are very bad or counter-productive) When I was into that genre, I wanted to have a reference book on manners, culture, current events, and arts/fashion/music/books/dance/theater of a particular period. Even then, period romances already began to feel too much of the 20th century, now in the 21st the characters in 1820 almost act like they need their Mini to get to an event. The crowdsourced humor here in the Carson clip is better than some actual stories I’ve sampled.