Tag Archives: Writer’s Blah

Thank You, Adventures in Advance Planning and Ode to a Bunch of Grapes I Bought Today

Thank you all for your support of yesterday’s whine!!  I feel a lot better just having said it all, and actually woke up this morning with renewed determination to write Cobault.  I’ve now re-read all that I had written and re-written previously, editing and notating as I went.

Now I’m trying to do at least a little bit of advance planning for the rest of the action, since I realise that one of the harder things to do as an amateur writer is to handle the passage of time.  In an effort to not write an endless litany of every character’s movements in tedious minutia, I’m outlining the essential events and I can fill in more detail later if need be.

To address the main part of my whine, however, I’ve decided to do some research.  There’s an important central event I still need to rewrite so I’m trying to find some literature, particularly of the time of Wollstonecraft to tie into the feminist ideas I’ve already used, that deal with similar themes.  This way I can trick my subconscious into making some interesting parallels that my conscious mind wouldn’t have thought of!

So all this bodes well, generally.  I’m sure I’ll continue to have periodic wobbles of Blah from time to time, but that’s just how it is.  You can’t be creative, and thus exposing your most private thoughts, hopes and dreams to all and sundry, without a bit of self-doubt from time to time.

And thank you in advance to anyone who talks me down in any of these future moments of doubt and woe!  You’re the best!!

I think I will intersperse different kinds of posts from time to time, however, to break up what kind of writing I do.  Maybe this way I can keep myself from getting too bogged down and depressed about feeling like a current project is getting stalled.  I can have breaks and come back to it refreshed.  I’ll take your advice to heart, Ali, and perhaps do some some literary reviews and Odes to Inanimate Objects.

I’m starting right now, with:

 

Ode to the Bunch of Grapes I Bought Today


Juicy Orbs, your skin conceals

Spherical refreshment

To burst forth with succulence.

 

Why then, I ask, do you seek

To hurt me so? Hiding demon

Seeds which choke and anger me.

 

Devil’s own fruit! I love you so,

Except for those vile attributes.

Why must you possess them?

 

When I purchased you from

the store your packaging proclaimed:

Seedless! What lies!

A Bit of a Whine

I’ve nearly utterly failed to write here today (Wednesday, though now it’s technically Thursday) despite not posting Tuesday either, what with carnivorous birdy play-time.

The reason is that I’m having confidence issues.  Again.  Joy.

I’ve not been writing these past couple of days, and if I’m not writing then I’m not able to post about writing.  I don’t even find myself with a witty anecdotal diatribe to fill in the space.  And because I’ve already written a post about what I term “Writer’s Blah”, I felt like posting a second would just be whining.  And make me look desperate for someone to just tell me I’m awesome to puff up my feeling of self-worth.

Which I kind of am – but don’t do it!!!  I would hate for anyone to comment: “But you ARE awesome!!!” because that’s totally not what I’m getting at.  It’s a totally different kind of vindication that I need.

Let’s get to the gist of my problem:

I know I write well.  But I don’t write well enough yet.  My heroes are authors like Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin and all these others whose novels have always blown me away.  Novels that link beautiful prose with ideas, the sorts of ideas that make you think for weeks, maybe years, long after you’ve finished.

A good story is still necessary, in my mind, but to be something really interesting there needs to be more beneath the surface than just that.  This is where I find that what I write needs to be at the intersection of “literary fiction” and “genre” – both plot and concepts matter to me, and pretty much equally.

So right now I write decent plots, some lovely shading-on-purple prose (mauve prose, if you like), but where are my thought-provoking ideas?!  So far I’ve attempted:

  • Exodus – a retelling of the story of the Biblical Exodus, but apart from some use of gender, race and the theme of the Other, I never really pushed through to anything significant therein.  The Other will always be one of my favourite topics to thread through my novels, but I just haven’t gotten it right yet.
  • Cobault – deals with gender and the Other again, with Wollstonecraftian feminism (which is rather too old-school to be earth-shattering), and class struggle (see above).  Maybe back in the time of Maria: or, the Woes of Woman I could have been onto something.  Not so much in 2011.
  • The Long Road Home was just silly.  A romp through reworking fantasy cliches, plot-driven for the most part with some coming-of-age YA stuff thrown in there.  Fluff.

So when I think about His Dark Materials, when Pullman essentially turned Milton’s Paradise Lost on its head and praised mankind for the very thing Milton damned it for, I think – what the fuck have I been doing with my time???

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for a true Original Idea – I know that’s a long hunt for an imaginary quarry – but I’m holding myself to the high standard of these authors I esteem and hoping I can pull something together that’s inventive and creative with whatever ideas I choose to explore.  It’s just not happened yet.

And I’m seeing the massive gap between my novels and those novels I love.  It’s a depressing abyss.

I had to remind myself recently that all these writers are far older than I am, and were well into their middle age before the works they’re best known for were written.  I know I have time to work all this out, and to feel truly proud of what I’ve made.  But it’s very hard to keep motivated when faced with disappointment in yourself, regardless of what your logic and reasoning tells you.

These are the feelings that make me want to drop what I’m currently doing and pursue something else, an instinct I’ve posted about before, hoping that the next idea will have greater merit than the last, but am I wrong to do that?

I thought I was, and thus I’ve been trying to persevere with Cobault as it’s my most well-realised story, the furthest along towards actual completion.  Do I stick with it or do I give myself free rein to try something new, in the hope of uncovering something that makes me feel the abyss is slowly closing, however infinitesimally so?

A Return to Cobault, More Blah and Extreme Writing

*

Far in the wild North, in the mining village of Lanrik, a young boy was born into unusual circumstances. He was naïve in all things, save for a singular gift his naivete led him to believe was commonplace.

*

Those are the very first sentences of Cobault.  I’ve come to realise that I need to get stuck into writing it again, otherwise I’ll never finish its second draft.  As I’ve mentioned previously I’ve been stuck in the middle of some fairly major rewriting, but I’m still feeling more confident in this novel than any of my others at the moment.

Yes, I still have my Writer’s Blah, but I need to get over that and just write – easier said than done!  I say that having just opened the document, scrolled to the last written page, read the last sentence… and then promptly minimized the screen to write this post instead.

Oh well!

Anyways, I’m hoping to get myself back into enjoying it again.  Writing my last novel I found a trick to keep myself interested in what I was writing (because if even I, the writer, can’t be bothered continuing, why on earth would any prospective reader?!) which was mainly to think, “Well what could happen NOW to spice things up?”

The only problem with doing that to Cobault is that, since I’m in the middle of a rewriting and not having my first go at the plot, I need to make sure all the plot lines can lead back to the end I’ve decided I still like.  It’s just this pesky middle bit, you know that silly bit in the middle of a novel with all the action and drama and suspense, that was needing a major overhaul.

You hear that noise coming through your computer screen?  That is me, screaming.

Anyway.

Ok, so here’s my plan:  1) Read the whole goddamned thing again, so I can get back into the swing of things and not forget important bits.  2) Make an actual OUTLINE (gaspshockhorror) of what I need to write in said middle bit, and how to tie it back to the end again.  And, 3) WRITE IT.

Sounds simple, yes?  If only it were so.

I’ll let you into a little secret of mine:  I never plan ANYTHING I write ahead of time.  It just happens as it happens.  And it’s exciting that way, because ever you don’t know what’s happening next.  Plot-twists can be as much of a surprise to you as they would be to anyone else.

It’s like Extreme Writing – look, Ma, no outlines!

But now I’m thinking there’s a time and a place for Extreme Writing.  Mainly, in the first exhilaration of a New Thing, when you’re giddy and lightheaded with the joy of new places to explore and new people to meet.  You get this Eureka! moment when things just naturally come together, or when you realise something that your characters knew all along.

It’s fabulous.

But then, perhaps in this second run of editing you need to be a little more circumspect.  You’ve had your wild run, and now it’s time to tame the Beast.  Of course, the wilder your first run was, the harder it is to rein it all in.  And if whole sections need to be excised, well then you need the delicacy of a surgeon to replace them with something new and connect it all up again.

And I’m about as delicate as a brick through a window.  I’m working on it, honestly.

So I know what I have to do.  But it’s so much harder to actually do it.  I’ve realised that my biggest hurdle in becoming a Real Life Published Novelist isn’t to do with my creativity or the actual talent I have for writing – it’s all about disciplining myself and teaching myself how to write a novel to the best of my abilities.  Getting through all the stages, not just the first initial, wild splurge of ideas that becomes a first draft.

So wish me luck – I’ll need it!

Writer’s Blah

I wouldn’t exactly call what I’m going through right now “writer’s block”, it’s more like “writer’s blah”.  Usually when I get this my reaction is to want to wipe the slate clean by starting a new project.  And this is why I have three rough drafts and no shiny, completed novels.

Blah.

What happens is that I decide, with all the best intentions and positive outlook, to start working on one of those drafts again.  Lately it’s been Cobault, which is the most put-together of the drafts despite being in the midst of massive rewriting.  I open the document, skim through to where I left off and back track a chapter or two.  By reading what came before, editing as I go, I generally get into it easier.  However, lately I have been reading what came before and thinking to myself:

“SHITE.”

It’s shite.  I’m shite, this is shite, he’s shite and she’s shite.  I start to mentally plan just how much re-rewriting I have to do, overload my mental circuitry and minimize the screen in panic.  As a result, I’ve stalled.  Ever since finishing The Long Road Home, which I was at first really pleased with during the process but then afterwards I realised, no, that’s shite as well.

This needs to stop happening if I’m to get anywhere.  I just need to relax, stop judging myself and just let the words flow, shite or no shite.  But they’re just not flowing, stifled by my cries of “Shite, shite, shitey-shite!!” that would make my husband concerned for my sanity if indeed these shouts were vocalised.  I’m telling myself that I need to just Do It Or Else, but the Or Else part fails to be truly threatening because I know I’m bluffing.  Or Else what, mind?  You’ll make me mindlessly surf the internet and scour Failblog for three hours?  That’s just what we do already, you lazy, unemployed lump of grey matter!

This is also why I’ve been so dedicated to updating this blog, as a sort of penance for not really writing properly.  As if to be presenting these posts like offerings at the altar of my counter-productivity, hoping to satiate the little demons in my head who prod me with vicious little guilt-sticks.

BLAH.

I’m hoping that I’ll get more productive now that I’m going to be volunteering two days a week with holy-crap-amazing birds of prey at Raptor World, part of the Cupar Deer Centre.  I always find that the less I do the less I want to do, so let’s see if I can swing that cycle of nonsense the other way ’round.  Today I’m off to go buy some waterproof trousers, as I’ll no doubt be scraping raptor poo off of various surfaces in rain, wind, hail and snow.

Is it weird I’m looking forward to that?  You can tell I’ve been most terribly bored.