Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Stumbling.

This feels like the kind of entry I should have made last year.  No, wait.  This is the kind of entry I would have made last year if I'd been able to actually work on anything.

Anyway.

Plotting-wise, I'm having a few difficulties.  I have two different plots that I'm actively working on, at least in theory.  One is the Snow White one I talked about a few entries ago and haven't touched since.  The other is a plot I've told I think one person about and am keeping largely quiet until I'm sure it'll work.  And then there's last week's shiny new idea, which I haven't done anything with since I first wrote it down.

To put it simply, I'm having a hard time drumming up the energy to work on much of anything, even though I want to.  All of these stories have a great deal that I need to do on them, and it's getting to the point where I'm mentally exhausted just thinking about all I need to develop.

...I swear, this didn't sound so whiny when it was just in my head.

I know that writing is work.  It wears me out sometimes, even on an physical level - when I'm working on a book, I usually finish the night's writing session exhausted.  Hammering out 2000+ words over the course of one CD will do that.  But this is the first time that even getting things to the point where I can make them into books is just as tiring.

There's a part of me that wants to blame it all on work - y'know, the job that pays me so I can afford to sit here and whine about my writing problems.  :P  We've been dealing with a massive amount of stuff to do since July, mandatory overtime included.  There's a constant level of stress as we continuously get more work in than we can do.  So a lot of the time, all I want to do when I get home is sit down and relax, not try to hash out a plot and a world and all of that.

On the plus side, when I have felt like working on writing stuff, I've been doing more.  Over the long weekends for the holidays, I tried doing a midday writing shift.  Most weekend days, I have this period around 11AM where I find myself wondering what I should do next, so I figured I might as well try to get some plotting done instead of saving it all for the evening.

It worked really well.  I got a lot done over those long weekends, and while I didn't pull two writing shifts every day, I did it enough that it's something I can try for every weekend.

Of course, me being me, now I get on my own case when I don't do two writing shifts on weekend days, and doing more leaves me, you guessed it, even more tired.

I'm sure I'll eventually figure out the best way to handle all this.  It's just that, after last year's doldrums, I'd been hoping to dive right into this year with a fresh start and go forth and kick ass at everything.  But as if being worn out wasn't enough, it's hard to get past the fear of things not working out, and I have to fight that off every single time I sit down to work.

All I can do is keep trying.  And try to get more sleep.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IWSG: Start Over


Every single year, on January first, I pay way too much attention to what I'm doing for the first time that year.  I recognize my first meal of the year, my first reading of the year, so on and so forth, and try not to attach any symbolic importance to all of it.  (I usually fail at that.)  I think the new year triggers some weird part of what I call "writer brain", and prompts me to think that everything's significant just because the calendar rolled over.

But this got me thinking: if I'm going to be a little bit neurotic about the new year, there has to be some way for me to use it to my advantage, to get something good out of it.  I looked back at how my attempts at writing went in 2017, and at all the time I spent trying to make things work when they just plain wouldn't.

And I realized that the new year is the best time to start over.

I think a lot of the problems I had with making stories work was that I kept trying to build on what I'd already done, or take a few elements that I thought worked and put them into something else, stuff like that.  Most of the ideas I worked on were things I'd been messing with for quite a while.  To be fair, that doesn't mean none of those older ideas could work - as I said a few entries ago, one of my current projects is something I first started working on in 2014.  But I think that one's an exception.

It's possible, maybe even likely, that I would have had a much easier time last year if I'd been willing to just start things over - to let go of what I'd done before and come at it completely fresh.  You can build up a tremendous amount of baggage around a story idea that won't work.  I know this very well; there's a story file somewhere on my computer that's more than fifty pages long and doesn't have a single complete plot or reasonably-developed character anywhere in it, because I kept trying to find a new angle on the same idea instead of just dropping it and starting over.

Hell, my idea file has three or four variants on an idea from 2016 that I never could get to work.  Some of those notes include sarcastic comments about how I'm still trying.  And saying mean things to myself in my idea file kind of says it all about last year.

Anyway.  I'm sure that everyone who reads this has different processes for going from idea to finished story.  But I know I'm not the only one to try to build a new story on the broken bones of another.  So this is me giving advice in IWSG for the first time in I don't know how long:

Stop that.  Start over.  Start anew.  Build your story without looking back.  Because I think you've got a better shot at finding what the story's supposed to be if you're not trying to keep pieces from what it's not.  One of my two plots-in-progress is something completely new for me, and it's the one that's going really well.

So I hope that, in the new year, starting anew will work well for you too.