Write who you are. Crack open your breastbone, grab your heart from its visceral mooring, and smash it into the page. Give it a few bloody twists just to make sure your heart print is firmly and forever smashed onto the page.
Your stories are you, and you are your stories.
– Chuck Wendig, Damn Fine Story
This week, mostly wrote some prelude stuff and little vignettes to get a better sense of the characters. Also spent a good amount of time just thinking about the story for my fairy tale project and re-outlining. Still have some more re-outlining to go, but I feel better about the project. My goal will be to have a full first draft done by the end of January.
Had lunch with my friend David, which was excellent. He helps to reorient me and also points out blindingly simple little things that don’t occur to me. Everyone needs a friend slash professional mentor who can do that. We’re going to do a little short fiction (stories from Inktober) exchange, so I have to make sure some of those are readable and more or less coherent in the next couple of days.
With all the stuff on the calendar, I kind of think that things will get accomplished in drips and drabs this month, with the furious writing in earnest mostly happening in January. I’m signed up for MRK’s Short Story Intensive in January (I think it’s sold out now, but you can wait list if you’re interested), and I am already nervicited about that.
What will be your end? Will they put on your gravestone: Wanted To Art, But Didn’t? Dicked Around A Lot, Instead.
Or will your gravestone read: Worded Like A Bonafide Bad-Ass Every Day Until Death Pried Her From This Earth?
Make these days count. All of them that remain.
– Chuck Wendig, 30 Days in the Word Mines
Short little update today, lovelies.
Won NaNo on Thursday, so took the weekend off. When it’s not November, I’m mostly taking the weekends off anyway, so this is more a return to routine than a new routine.
I feel more satisfied about winning NaNo this year than I did last year, but it still doesn’t feel like as big of a deal since I’ve been trying to put in daily writing anyway. Although I did accomplish a substantial amount on one large project instead of a bunch of little ones. I’m not done with the first draft yet — the story isn’t finished — so I’m going to continue on, doing roughly 2000 words daily, until it’s done.
I haven’t done the requisite re-outlining yet, so that’s a Monday thing.
Something about doing writing adjacent things instead of just putting the words down on the page feels at odds with the ethos of NaNo. It feels like losing momentum, like that work (as critical as it might be) doesn’t count somehow. Which is a terrible mindset to have about it, I know. I’ve been trying to tease this out in morning pages, and haven’t quite gotten to the core of it yet. There’s something there — about external motivation and incorrect goals — but I haven’t figured it out.
Because ultimately, I don’t need NaNo to build a writing routine. I’ve already done that. And I don’t need it to give myself permission to write or to let myself tackle a project. So when I’m doing NaNo, it’s almost like I’m disrupting my established workflow to have a bit of external structure. Because it’s still easier (and will probably always be easier) to have some external source tell me what I should be doing instead of having to figure it out for myself.
I don’t know. I have some more thinking to do about it yet.
Word count total: 56,731
This happened today! I’ll still be writing tomorrow to finish out the month, and I’ve still got a good amount of story left to go. But still. (There are no emoji, but imagine three confetti ones here.)
We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style… but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.
– Stephen King, On Writing
Survived round one of marathon family events season. Which, as a moniker, makes it sound rather dire (even for all that it is certainly true).
Thanksgiving shenanigans were good, better than expected even. This year, we went to go visit my family in Houston. Had waaaaaay too many huge meals, which surprised no one. The usual number of (or maybe slightly fewer, if I’m being optimistic) problematic things were said and called out. For Thanksgiving proper, we had an elaborate hot pot, which is our go to holiday meal. My mom and stepdad tend to go all out with it; they event built their own giant hot pot specific table. It’s fun and interactive and social. (Should’ve snapped a pic, but I’m bad at remembering things like that especially when confronted with tasty food.)
Got to see the brother and the stepsister and a lot of dog nieces (and one dog nephew). They were all happily spoiled by my mother who insists on feeding all dogs table scraps. Her own Maltese, named Proton, now eats mostly people food, and has terrible tableside begging habits because of it, to no one’s surprise at all. This has been a running conversation for duration of Proton’s entire life, and this year, I chose to be very ambivalent and vaguely amused about it, which was less stressful. I think partially it’s because the parties involved were more honest about their intentions — whereas previously, my mom made overtures about not wanting Proton to beg or was (seemingly) annoyed at her behavior, now she just fully embraces the fact that this is how she wants to raise her dog. Which makes the whole thing simpler because then I can let it go instead of watch advice that I was asked for go completely unheeded and then hear the same lamentations at each meal.
Everyone should be more honest about their intentions.
Writing was a little more difficult this week, but I got the words in. I wanted to make sure that I wrote while traveling because I didn’t want to feel too tied to location or supplies when trying to get work done. It would be totally like my jerkbrain to try to entice me away from being productive by telling me that I needed to be at my desk or I needed to have x, y, and z. So proving to myself that I can/should work away from home was important. It seems like such a minor thing when you say it (or write it) out loud (or on paper), but I think it’s helpful. It’s sort of like how last year’s NaNo, though I wasn’t totally happy with my end result, proved to me that I could do it.
And it’s not even that I’m proving to myself that I can do these discrete things, not really. It’s more proving to myself that I can hold myself accountable. That I can keep the promises I make to myself, which is essentially the only category of promise I have historically had no compunctions in breaking.
I am worried about a couple of plot points where I think things get a little weak. In those bits, my characters lack some agency and are reacting mostly to external stimulus instead of pushing the plot forward themselves, so I need to think about that. I’m solidly in the muddy, mushy middle, and it’s feeling messy, which makes my enthusiasm flag. (That was a lot of M’s. I should have said motivation, I suppose, to continue the trend.) What it tells me is that I need to outline to where I am and figure out where it breaks down, go back to where I was enthusiastic, and figure out a new way forward. That feels very daunting right now though…
Word count total: 42,460
Anyway. Just to wrap up–I don’t know what I’m doing. Haven’t a clue, really. There’s no trick. There’s nothing I do that’s special. I just write. Stuff happens. Stuff fails to happen and I stare out the window and go “What happens next?” until stuff happens again or I write in a ninja attack.
However you get the thing written is fine. There is no trick that Real Writers know and are withholding. There is no amazing plotting system that will make the boring bits easy (and this is the other great truth, that writing, like everything else, is unbelievably boring work a lot of the time, and if you are bored and restless and would rather do anything else on earth than write, it is not because you are Doing It Wrong.)
There is no solution, no quick fix, no moment of grace whereupon you can be a Real Writer forever and ever, world without end.
There’s just sitting down and writing.
– Ursula Vernon, blog on March 1, 2010
Had a dip in the middle of the week where my jerkbrain did the whole “what’s even the point, you’re terrible and this is terrible and everything is terrible.” And then I remembered there was a bonus Writing Excuses for NaNo that was published this week, so I took some time to listen to that. It was about writer’s block or things akin to writer’s block i.e. things that stop you from writing. Brandon Sanderson mentioned that sometimes when he had students come to him with problems making the words, it turned out the main problem was a confidence one — the words they were making were not as good as the words they wanted to make and it was discouraging.
That’s most definitely my problem.
I could be even more mad at my past self for making the decisions that I made and not making the decisions I knew I should have made, but then I’d still be here, but I would just be more mad. And that doesn’t really help anyone, does it?
So instead, I try to take a deep breath and just write through that feeling. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.
I found myself highly dissatisfied with a bit of plot that happened when I wasn’t looking — it wasn’t part of the outline and I wasn’t sure what the point was, but the characters insisted that this needed to happen. I’m still skeptical, but we’re going to see where it goes. I have started to use my analog morning pages to brainstorm these things, and that has helped quite a bit.
Plus, I’m finally using my fountain pens and some of the very pretty inks I’ve collected but haven’t tried. (This year has very much been about “you don’t need anymore fountain pens or inks or notebooks until you use the ones you have!” Although I’m very much eyeing a stub nib fountain pen… NO. I DON’T NEED MORE PENS. But…) Right now I’m alternating J. Herbin’s Poussiere de Lune (Moon Dust purple, I mean, come on) and Diamine’s Dark Forest inks. They are gorgeous, and scrawling with them in my notebooks is one of my great pleasures in the morning.
Did a few extra words here and there to make a bit of a cushion for next week what with all the Thanksgiving travel and faaaaaaamily stuff. I think even if I only manage a thousand words a day or something like that while I’m in Houston, it’ll be okay. I should be able to find the time though. Should.
Now I’m off to prep for the early Thanksgiving meal we’re hosting here. Instead of turkey and whatnot, I’m making carnitas and we’re going to build tacos. Because I can. And because carnitas are delicious.
Word count total: 35,345
You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
– Neil Gaiman, NaNoWriMo author pep talk