Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Well, That Didn't Work.

This week's blog entry being a day late is brought to you by me spending most of Tuesday night running dungeons with my World of Warcraft guildmates.  Totally worth it.

The title says everything, and the comments on last week's entry were all correct: my experiment with working just on one thing for a month didn't work out, and the best thing was to set it aside and do other things.  Thanks to everyone who commented, by the way; it's a lot easier for me to realize I've made a mistake when every single person who comments suggests I stop what I'm doing.  :P

I don't mean any of that in a bad way, though, and I'm not upset, despite how dismal that opening paragraph sounds.  (It's my usual self-deprecating humor, I swear.)  In retrospect, I really should have known it would turn out this way - many of my problems with writing come from wanting to work on something that I just can't figure out.  When I say I'm only going to work on one thing for a month, that one thing needs to be in something better than the early plotting stages.

Hell, that one thing needs to be a novel that I'm ready to start writing.

I'm not entirely sure why I feel the need to jump between projects so often.  There are times when it feels like I'm not doing much of any real development on anything, but I know that's likely my constant feeling that I'm never doing enough.  These things take time to develop, and while I might have days where all I do is take down a few character notes and add in a new thing or two about the setting, I know it all adds up.  And some of the plots I've taken the longest to fully develop are the ones that turned into the best stories. that I think about it, I've blogged before about having to let ideas sit for a while before getting anything good out of them.  I'd really like to have the writing process involve a little less of me having to re-learn things over and over again, but surely remembering that I've learned this before counts for something.

So, yes.  I've set aside the project known as T3F, and things have been going better since then.  I've been spending some time with one of my crazier ideas, abbreviated as TPoN, and while I'm not even at the point where I can start to hash out the plot, I'm getting glimpses and discovering new things about it along the way, and I hope that I can capture the madness I see in this thing and properly get it on the page.  I've also been working on the sequel to STARWIND (tentatively titled TEMPLE; that will change), which is its own weird thing and deserves a blog entry someday.

I also got my first beta reader feedback on STARWIND, which has opened up some new ideas and led to about two pages' worth of notes for me.  Soon I'll be diving back into that book, cackling with glee at getting these people into even more trouble.

Thus concludes the progress (or lack thereof) report from the experiment I started at the beginning of this month.  I wish it had gone better, but at least I've learned one more thing that doesn't work.  And that'll save me time in the future, unless I forget it and try it again a few years from now and end up writing another blog entry remarkably similar to this one.

Next week: IWSG.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Back to the Beginning

I wanted to start with a clip of Inigo from "The Princess Bride" delivering his drunken line about Vizzini telling him to go back to the beginning, but I couldn't find one.  But I'm pretty sure most of my readers have seen "The Princess Bride", so y'all can imagine it.


I'm a bit over two weeks into my experiment for this month and it's been a giant pain in the ass.  The entire thing has proven to be a study in one step forward, two steps back, and I'm lucky if it's only two steps.  I spent most of the first week trying to hammer things out only to realize that everything I had planned came to a screeching halt at the end of Act 1.

Simply put, the story's meant to be about the three main characters dealing with what pulls them together whether they like it or not, and I didn't have a single damn idea how it was supposed to play out after they realize what's happened to them.

I also thought I'd done well by creating a three-part magic system, which led to an over-arching villain who seemed like they'd be a really interesting character.  However, that led to a new problem.  When the magic system works in a way that means everyone's born with control over one aspect of magic, and the main villain was born with control over magic, well....  It's hard to plot when every realistic scenario ends with "And then the bad guy has Our Heroes brought to them and takes away their magic."

While I don't know where the story's going, I do know it's not meant to have such a downer ending.

So I set aside most of what I'd done, and went back to my original notes, thinking that going back to my first idea would help me figure it all out.  I developed the original ideas and came up with some new stuff, some of which I really liked.  I spent a lot of time this past Saturday hashing out how the changes would affect the characters and the world, and managed to patch a major plot hole along the way.

And then I stopped when I was in the middle of defining some new kingdoms, because it didn't feel like it mattered.

Two weeks in, and I feel like this is going to turn out just like so many other things I try to plot.  I'll come up with revision upon revision, yanking everything apart and trying to reassemble it in a different way, hoping I somehow find one that works.  I'm running into the exact same problems I always have - no good villain, stakes either too high or too low, everything turning into a there-and-back-again journey.  I keep coming up with new ways to have the story play out, but they all sound stupid, and I still can't get past Act 1.  And I'm starting to feel like I don't care enough about these characters to tell their story.

I don't know if this is depression, or if I'm putting too much pressure on myself to make this work, or if forcing myself to work on one thing for a month was just a bad idea.  But I am starting to feel like this whole thing was a mistake, which I probably should have figured, since I always described the story as an excuse for something.  And I found a quote tonight that speaks a little too well to that:

"Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it."  --Unknown

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quotable, Part 2.

Since I'm not in a great place either with my plotting or with myself at the moment, I thought I'd throw out another entry of writing quotes.  People seemed to like the last one, so....

"All writers are a little crazy, but if they are any good they have a kind of terrible honesty."  --Raymond Chandler

"Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else."  --C.S. Lewis

"Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little."  --Holley Gerth

"Ideas are like fish.  If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water.  But if you want to catch the big fish, you've got to go deeper.  Down deep the fish are more powerful and more pure.  They're huge and abstract.  And they're very beautiful."  --David Lynch

"Figuring out what the public wants, or even what the public is: that's the job of pollsters and publicists and advertisers. All those people study the marketplace. But the creative artist can change the world. A true writer opens people's ears and eyes, not merely playing to the public, but changing minds and lives. This is sacred work."  --Allegra Goodman

"I’m convinced that a high anxiety level is the novelist’s normal condition."  --Julian Barnes

"If you write, good ideas must come welling up into you so that you have something to write. If good ideas do not come at once, or for a long time, do not be troubled at all. Wait for them. Put down little ideas no matter how insignificant they are. But do not feel, any more, guilty about idleness and solitude."  --Brenda Ueland

"When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation."  --Jorge Luis Borges

"We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write."  --Neil Gaiman

"Do not worry.  You have always written before and you will write now."  --Ernest Hemingway

And, finally:

"The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself."  --Bernard Malamud pressure.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

IWSG: This Month's Work.

This isn't the first entry that stems from the Writing Excuses workshop, and it won't be the last.  It is, however, the first time I've made one IWSG entry start the same way as the previous one.

Anyway.  At the workshop, Brandon Sanderson held Q&As at night after dinner, sitting down in the workshop's room and answering whatever people wanted to ask about writing.  (Yes, I'm totally name-dropping Brandon Sanderson, because I can.)  As an extremely prolific writer, he got some questions about how he manages to produce so much.  His answer, as I remember it, was simple: he gives himself a deadline for when he's going to start something, then starts it on that day.

It's one of those little things that makes so much sense and yet seems too simple to actually work.

So, since it clearly is working for him, I tried to see how I could apply this to my own work.  I don't want to give myself deadlines, as that's just a recipe for stressing out and feeling like I've failed.  (I do enough of both of those already, thanks.)  So I thought about what the self-imposed deadline does, and quickly understood:

The deadline creates a time when you say, "I'm going to work on this book now," and forces you to do that.  And I figured out how to make that work for me when I'm plotting.

I have a great, great many book ideas; anyone who's been reading this blog for a while probably knows this.  A major problem I have with getting plot work done is figuring out what I want to work on.  Too often, I fumble around in several plots-in-progress, and don't get any real work done.  So it's time to change that process.

For the month of October, I'm going to work on one specific plot, abbreviated as T3F.  (No, I'm not saying what it stands for, but if you guess it, I'll give you a cameo if I ever write the book.)  This will be the only plot I work on this month, aside from taking down notes on other stuff I think of at work or what-have-you.  I chose this one because it's going well so far, and of all the stuff I'm trying to do, it seems the least likely to crash and burn.

So, yes.  That's my advice this month for anyone struggling on figuring out what to work on or how to get it done: pick a project, pick a month, and focus on that.  With any luck, it'll work out - I've already done some good world-building and character work so far this month, and I haven't had as much time to dedicate to it as I'd like, since I'm also trying to get STARWIND whipped into proper beta-reading shape.  (Side note: I've already disappointed one beta-reader by telling her that Kris and Phoenix don't become a couple.  I'd say I'm sorry, but that would be a lie.)  But we'll see how it goes.  If all goes really well, I'll have a full plot and some great development by the month's end.

If it goes poorly, then I'll have something to write about for next month's IWSG.

(Also: holy crap, this is my 200th entry on this blog.  O_o  I have no idea how I've come up with that much to talk about.  But thanks for listening.)