Writer’s Corner

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IWSG – A Day Late (Again)

Published September 7, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

*sigh*  I suck.  This is the second time (though thankfully not the second time in a row) that I’ve only remembered my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post the day after it was supposed to go up.  I could make a lot of excuses (things are hectic at work, I had my first assignment (of sorts) due this semester, I’m generally a stressed-out wreck) but ultimately this is just me being my usual idiotic self.

The bitter part is that I actually had stuff to talk about.

I’ve got two things going on with my writing right now.  My super-massive fanfic (155k!) is finally getting a rewrite, more than a year after I wrote it, thanks to someone from AO3 volunteering to beta it.  I’ve never actually worked with a beta before (not in a proper sense; I’ve had a few people read things and then give me a few hasty notes with no accompanying back-and-forth) so it’s a little nerve-wracking, but so far it’s been really awesome.  She’s been giving me very helpful notes about places I needed to flesh out and follow-through on earlier plot threads.  (With so much text, it’s not surprising that things got forgotten!  Especially considering I wrote it in a month.)

The other thing is that I’m trying to get myself ready for this year’s NaNo.  I’ve had this idea kicking around for a while now, but wanted to get the fanfic urge out of my system before I started devoting any serious attention to it.  Only then I discovered Sparkler, an online magazine that would be the absolute perfect place to try to publish this project if it turns out good enough to try to publish it (which is, admittedly, highly unlikely), and so now I’m totally motivated to try and get this puppy written.

I did finally work out a really good solution to a backstory issue that had been plaguing me — which had the additional benefit of making one of the main characters already a wanted man before the story started, so he can’t possibly blame the other main character for dragging him into danger —  but I’m painfully aware of how little actual world-building I’ve done so far.  I want each country in this fictional world to be partially based on real cultures, but I have this distressing tendency to use that as a crutch, thinking of it so totally blatantly as a transported version of the country that my (chaotic) plot-development word processor file has placeholder names like notFrance and notJapan.  (And my dependence on their history was going to be even more ludicrously similar, to the point that they were going to arrive in France during the Reign of Terror and then (despite that they’re a century apart) end up in Japan during the Meiji Restoration.  Uh, not in the same book.  This is the start of a series.)

Trying to figure out the right way to handle that aspect of the world-building is challenging.  Though perhaps some of it can be left for rewrites?  I dunno, though, that sounds dangerous.

I need to focus more time and attention on the world-building before November (fortunately, it’s only September, lol!), but I don’t know how much time I have to do so.  I’m working more days than I used to, and my responsibilities have increased (which I’m not complaining about in the least; getting to design exhibits was something I really wanted to do!), plus my class this semester is what’s officially called “directed readings,” which basically means I’m self-directed and just check in with the professor every so often to make sure I’m on the right track…which means I really have to dedicate a lot of time to the research, since no one else is going to do any of it for me.  (I mean, I like that, but it’s also a lot more stressful when you stop to think about it.)

So, yeah, I’ve got a lot to be insecure about right now, and yet I’m also kind of in a hopeful place.

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IWSG – Another Plot Up For Adoption

Published August 2, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

A week or so ago, I came up with something really pertinent I wanted to say this month about writing, possibly something I thought of because of July CampNaNo.  Whatever it was, I forgot it almost immediately, and I never have remembered it.  Soooooo…posting something else instead.

I thought I could share a plot idea — or maybe it’s only a situation — that might make a really nice story in the right hands, but those certainly aren’t my hands.  (It’s not the kind of thing I write.  It’s not even the kind of thing I usually read.)

The way I came up with this idea is as follows:  I work at a museum, and I’ve been cataloging some old documents that have been in the collection for ages, but haven’t been properly scanned and transcribed until now.  Some of the ones I’ve done lately have been letters from 1904 and 1905, from a man attached to the Japanese Pavilion at the St. Louis World’s Fair to the widow of one of the two men to whom the museum is dedicated.  There’s nothing even the slightest bit suggestive about these letters; he’s just being polite and friendly to a woman who was friendly to him, and whose late husband was an author whose works he admires.

But the fact that he wrote to her repeatedly (and that she kept the letters) always sets my writer’s soul twitching.  So the plot I’m releasing to the world is something like this:

An older man from Japan (say late 50s, early 60s, either single or a widower) comes to America for the World’s Fair, where he meets a woman some five to ten years younger than himself, a society widow, and she works in one of the ladies’ committees associated with the fair, so they end up seeing a lot of each other.  Slowly, they fall in love, but there are all sorts of social obstacles from both cultures, so it’s not just about their love, but also about whether or not they can bring themselves to defy the rigorous social conventions among which they were raised.  (St. Louis’s 1904 fair or Chicago’s 1893 fair would both work equally well for this, though I don’t know off-hand if there was any Japanese presence at the Chicago fair.)  Depending on the genre, they might well prefer society to love.

IWSG – July CampNaNo

Published July 5, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So I’m doing the July session of CampNaNo again, and I’m already starting to doubt myself.

Not doubting that I can meet the NaNo goals, of course.  (Since you can change those in CampNaNo, it would be really crazy if I couldn’t.  I’ll probably meet my current goals before the week is out.  I might up my word count, just to look less ridiculous.  Dunno.)

What I’m doubting is just how I fit into the grand scheme of being a “writer.”

There’s all these CampNaNo support messages with tips and tricks for developing characters and plot and stuff.

My plots are usually haphazard and random.  (Last July’s CampNaNo was one of the only times I’ve ever tried to align a character’s arc to the standard definition of a character arc, and it ended up being a ludicrous 155k words long, in part because I kept adding unnecessary material in order to put the character through extra tribulations in order to provide him a tiny modicum of growth.)  My current characters are…well, okay, no, they’re not actually borrowed, because this is OC-based fanfic, but normally my characters are either borrowed or more intuited than planned; I tend to just have this gut feeling of “this is how this person is” without stopping to define anything.  (Sometimes it works, and sometimes it really doesn’t.)

Other people in the cabin are talking about the character and world-building exercises they use, and I feel like such a poser, because I just dash out whatever gobbledygook I feel like.

I mean, it’s not as though I never do anything to put a little effort into it.  I do research when I can/when it’s needed, but…that seems like it’s about as far as I can reliably go.  Even the amount of planning and sketching out the story in advance that I do changes from work to work.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just rambling pointlessly (both in my fiction and here).

IWSG – Quitting time?

Published June 7, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I have nothing in particular to say about writing this month (aside from the general fact that writing my bad fiction has kept me from writing any blog posts…or doing just about anything else) and therefore I shall fall back upon the question provided on the IWSG Sign-Up page.  This month’s question is

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

It’s a kind of odd question for me.  I’ve been writing in one way or another since grade school (and considering I’ll be turning 42 later this year, that’s quite a long time!) so it’s an ingrained habit.  No, more like it’s part of the way my brain’s become hard-wired.  When I was a little kid and had trouble sleeping, my mother told me that I should replay my favorite movies in my head to lull myself to sleep.  Nice idea, but I didn’t know any movies well enough for that.  (Well, no, I probably knew Star Wars well enough, but that was hardly going to lull me to sleep!)  Instead, I made up stories to entertain myself until I got too tired to remain conscious.

It didn’t take long before I was doing that every time I got bored.  I must have been really little when I got that advice, because the entire process was a firm part of the way my mind functioned by the time my personality started solidifying.  And since none of the other kids ever wanted to play with me, I spent a lot of time telling myself stories.  (I have, at this point, gotten to the point where I literally have to be doing it while I’m doing almost everything else, unless it’s something I have to concentrate on really hard.  I can’t even watch a (brand new!) movie without imagining two or three of my favorite characters are watching it, so I’m both watching the movie and imagining how they’re reacting to it.  The only exception to that is a dialog-heavy foreign language picture, because I’m already multitasking pretty heavily in watching, listening and reading subtitles.  But even then I still tend to have characters pop in during the dialog lulls.)

Anyway, writing to me is nothing more than setting down on paper (or, far more often, on computer screen) the stories I tell myself in my head, which is often the only way to get a “rerun” to go away and be replaced by something new, as it’s  never as much fun to tell to myself after it’s solidified.  So I could never quit writing without ceasing to function.

But I’ve gone back and forth on the idea of ever trying to publish anything.

There was a time when I was convinced I was going to be a great, best-selling novelist.  Then I thought I was going to be a major screenwriter.  Then I realized I sucked and went into exclusively writing fanfic, which I wasn’t even sharing with anyone, for the most part.  Then something changed, and I stopped writing fanfic, and tried to turn myself into a (self-)published author.  And then I remembered that I sucked, and decided that I’d never try to publish anything, but I was still going to keep writing original fiction, because that was somehow “better.”  And then I got obsessed with Velvet Goldmine and started writing fanfiction again.  I’ve got a new really good original fiction idea on the back burner, waiting for me to flesh out its world and write it, but we’ll see if I return to trying to self-pub, too.  Not like the quality of my writing’s improved any, after all.

…hmm.  That didn’t really answer the question, did it?

Well, it’s just a guideline, so that’s okay, right?

MLM No “B” – Dialog Tags

Published June 5, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

A post I read recently covered the notion of the way writers use dialog tags in their fiction.  Mostly, it was advice.  And it set me to thinking, regarding how I use them.

The advice in the post was pretty much the standard advice I’d heard everywhere.  “Said” and “asked” slip under the reader’s radar, identifying without intruding.  Some writers avoid them since they’re dull, yet this is supposed to drag down the finished product.

And perhaps it does.  Doesn’t change the fact that it’s dead dull actually writing “said” over and over and over again with no use of alternate tags.  No matter what it does for the eventual reader, not using “said” all the time makes the actual act of writing more fun.

Anyway, when I was writing over the weekend, so soon after seeing that post, I paid attention to what I was doing.  (And my writing is mostly dialog, so there was a lot to pay attention to!)  I try to put in a plain “said” at least every third or fourth tag.  (I’m not counting “asked” at all, since there aren’t too many other words you can use that actually make sense in its place.  Most of the alternatives just come off as ludicrous.)  The rest of the tags are usually words that give a little more information, though I pretty much never follow up those other tags with adver– uh, that has the letter I can’t use today, so let’s just call them “-ly” words.  Anyway, I almost never use those with anything other than “said” or “asked,” and I try to go easy on “-ly” words anyway, since everyone’s always saying not to use them.

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IWSG – I forgot! (Again!)

Published May 4, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Somehow, I ended up forgetting my post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group again.  Ugh.  (But at least it wasn’t twice in a row!)

What’s bugging me right now as a writer (and yes, I realize it’s pointless to go into it when I’m a day late, but…I’m doing so anyway) is that it seems like I’m more interested  in dreaming up scenarios than I am in writing out the stories.  I’m still working on the same project I was this time last month, and have gotten very little accomplished on it in the past month.  (Though in my own defense, I did have to spend half the month working on class projects, to the exclusion of all else.)  Meanwhile, I’ve come up with a bunch of other plots I’d like to explore.  (One of them just hit me today, in fact.)

I don’t know if it’s just the way my brain’s wired or what, but it’s starting to get frustrating.  The feeling that I can’t ever finish anything because I get tired of it and want to work on something else.  (Even though I do actually finish a lot of first drafts.  But only first drafts.)  Which is one thing when I get snatched away by different characters (it’s always the characters that compel me into whatever I’m writing, not the story), but when it’s just the idea of putting the characters in a different situation…it starts to feel very counter-productive.

Though I guess my writing is always counter-productive, since it’s taking away time I could spend on actually productive activities like cleaning my horrific house.

IWSG – Something’s shifted

Published April 5, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

I’m not quite sure what, but something is just a little off from what it had been.

I mean, some of it’s the same.  I’ve been obsessed with writing fanfic for Velvet Goldmine since July’s CampNaNo session, and that hasn’t changed (despite coming up with what feels like a really good idea for an original novel series in the meantime), but the stuff I’ve been writing has been.  I’m not sure if that’s a maturation of my interest, a reaction to the real world, a suggestion that maybe I’m starting to tire of it, or what, but it’s kind of been weirding me out a little.

So, when I started, it was mostly just “how can I get my two favorite characters to hook up and have their happily ever after?”  (Because I am, at heart, a very shallow person who would prefer to live in a fairy tale world.  Especially since this one sucks.)  Of course, there was usually some situation going on outside their relationship that needed resolving, often relating to the reporter managing somehow to expose the conspiracy behind the scenes of the 1984 section of the film.  Now, it’s not like those elements have gone away, of course.  Getting them together is still the primary goal of almost every one of my fics.  (There have been a couple of really short ones that didn’t do that at all.)  Or rather, I should say that it starts out as a primary goal.  Lately they’ve been twisting and going strange (and dark) places I didn’t intend as I started writing them.

Take, for example, the one I’m about 75% finished with right now.  The idea was to take the surveillance the rock star is under in the movie (almost certainly a temporary measure in canon) and imagine it carried further, where he’s under an unknown amount of constant surveillance, preventing them from being able to simply start dating like a normal couple.  So what happens is that he knows there’s a wiretap on his phone line (I never had him explain how he knows that, though), and he assumes he’s also under scrutiny whenever he goes to public places, though he isn’t quite sure how much scrutiny.  The premise, therefore, was that they can only get together in his apartment, on weekends, and have a very awkward relationship until they finally decide to leave the country to get away from those surveilling them.  It was supposed to be the usual romantic fluff.  Somehow it’s turned into a festival of paranoia and failure to communicate.  They’re both totally convinced the other one doesn’t have any genuine feelings for them, and that whatever they have will be ended at any second.  And at this point, they’ve already moved to London together, but they’re still thinking that way.  (Okay, actually, as of Sunday night, the rock star is starting to believe the reporter really does love him, because the reporter was about the write the exposé that the rock star thought was his only goal in the relationship, but then changed his mind and decided not to write it, giving three reasons, one of which being that it would bring their relationship under too much harsh scrutiny.  But the reporter is more convinced than ever that he’s entirely unloved.)  I’m really not sure how that happened.  The weird thing is that while it’s not entirely in character for them to be so paranoid, it’s not entirely out of character, either.

In another one, I realized I’d written myself into a situation where they had to break up for about six months in the middle of the piece.  That was odd, too, but it feels a bit more natural.  (In fact, that one may be my favorite I’ve written so far.)  In another, my decision to play around with the idea of the reporter’s brother turning up in the employ of the government agency that’s behind the conspiracy turned really dark.  Like, his brother ordered him beaten up and killed.  Thankfully, rescue arrived before the killing part could happen, but the poor reporter spent the whole rest of the story covered in bruises.  Again, very odd.  (Especially since I hate real world-style violence (fantasy violence is a different matter), and the movie has pretty much zero violence in it.)  And yes, I have a whole lot of fics for this movie by now.  (Most of which are only half-edited, and therefore haven’t even been posted to AO3 yet.  I have to take it a bit slow on the posting, anyway; I don’t want to have two of my pieces right next to each other in the chronological posting list if I can avoid it, because it just looks bad.  (I wasn’t thinking about that at first, so early on, there are places where I have three in a row, and it makes me cringe.)  Which is annoying, ’cause I just finished posting something, and now I have to wait for someone else to post something before I can put up anything else.  Especially annoying because someone posted something the day before I put up the final chapter.  So if they’d just waited one more day before posting…!)

Anyway, long story short, I feel like my writing’s getting away from me a bit.  Maybe I’m just stressed out from work and school and having been sick for the entire month of March.  (Which is when I wrote all of that still-unfinished piece, btw.)  If it’s not stress, I’m not sure what the change indicates, or if it’s anything I can — or even should — try to fix.  (After all, these darker pieces are definitely better than the light fluffy ones I started out with, so maybe I shouldn’t be complaining.)


Addressing the suggested question for this month, about using April A-to-Z to publicize a novel, well, I’ve never published anything, but if I do write that original series I mentioned above, and if I decide to self-pub it as I mentioned in an earlier post, maybe I should think about doing that.  Might be an interesting thing to use April A-to-Z for, if one was careful to be interesting and not make it just boring, shameless advertising.  (Sadly, I’m not doing the challenge this year, unlike the past two years.  I meant to spend all year getting ready for it, another nice, research-intensive world mythology theme, but…I kept putting it off for one reason or another, and never got the research completed.  And I have a lot of work to do this month for school, so…school work is always more important than blogging, and therefore I just can’t do the challenge the way I want to.  And I’d rather not do it than to do a half-assed job of it.)

IWSG: Conflicted

Published March 1, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So I’m back to being insecure again.  (This, I suppose, should come as no great surprise.  If I wasn’t prone to insecurity, why would I be taking part in the support group, right?)

After some SNAFU stuff on the NaNo forums regarding my nearly submitting my 2013 NaNo novel for self-pub, I made a pledge to myself that “screw it; I’m never publishing anything, and that’ll teach those jerks!”  (And no, that didn’t entirely make sense even at the time.  And the people in question were not trying to be jerks.  (Most of them weren’t, anyway.)  But it’s one of those heat-of-the-moment resolutions that becomes firm and feels permanent, because you feel like you’ll have lost if you go back on it.)

After that, I took the smart path of withdrawing from the NaNo forums for the next couple of years, but I don’t learn too good (poor grammar intended), and so I’ve been active on the forums again.

And this time the guy really was trying to be a jerk.

Basically, he said that I’ll be a racist if anyone in my entire novel has a different skin color from everyone else.

Yes, he was advocating an entire planet of uniform skin color.

And he thought that was somehow less racist than having a diverse world.  Ugh.  (And keep in mind, I neither said anything about nor intend to introduce any ethnic stereotyping or prejudices.  It’s a world very unlike our own, without our social construction of “race”.  They have some prejudices, of course, but they’re based on culture and nationality.  (Read any 19th century work wherein the English discuss people from other European nations, and you’ll see the kind of thing I mean.)  But really even those prejudices are unlikely to come up much, because it’s a steampunk/fantasy adventure with heavy doses of m/m romance.  They’re going to be much too busy flying around the world looking for the pieces of the McGuffin and flirting/having sex for weighty social issues to come up much.  Because I write light escapism.)

So, because he said all this crap about the world I’m trying to put together for a series of novels I haven’t even begun to start writing yet, I feel like “now I have to publish it just to prove that f***er wrong.”

But that is in direct opposition to the 2013 doctrine of “never publish anything ever no matter what!”

Which puts me in a weird emotional bind.  All the more weird considering I haven’t even named the main characters yet.  (Well, it kind of grew out of an AU fanfic idea, so for my plotting purposes I’ve been using the names of the movie characters.  Though at this point there’s not much similarity between my characters and the movie ones.)

It’s probably a moot point.  I’ll probably finish the first draft of book one (assuming I ever start writing the thing) and go “wow, this is irredeemably terrible” and go back to writing other stuff.  (That is, after all, what usually happens.  Like my 2012 NaNo novel, the last time I tried to spin an original novel out of a fanfic idea.  I was enjoying writing it at first, but by the time I was done I was just like “ugh, I never wanna see this piece of trash ever again!” and I haven’t opened the file since.)

Anyway, amusingly enough, this all kind of ties in to this month’s optional question

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Because that 2013 NaNo novel?  It was the result when I finally got around to writing something I’d been planning since I was 18.  (So the idea was almost twenty years old.)  I think I had actually started writing it back in the summer of my 18th year, but…not sure what ever happened to the manuscript.  (And I guarantee it had zero similarity to what I eventually wrote.)

IWSG – Untitled

Published February 1, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

(This time, I have thought ahead and pre-written my post!  Yay for not forgetting!)

So the prompt question this month is how being a writer has changed me as a reader.

I’m not sure it has, really.

I started trying to write fiction when I was still in grade school.  (What little I remember of it makes me shudder now, of course.)  So I don’t really remember a time before I was trying to write.

Of course, the writing I was doing in grade school is immensely different from the various levels of writing intensity I’ve passed through since graduating high school, and yet…it is still, to a great extent, me acting out my childish desire to tell myself stories.  The stories have gotten more complex, and have gained some maturity (and a lot of swearing and sex), but they retain in many respects the original desire for diversion from the mundane and boring life around me.  (The outright escape from this world, these days…)

I’ve always sought escapism in my reading material as well as in my writing, so…I dunno.  (Wow, I’m so eloquent tonight…)

I guess I have been more conscious of things like world building and character development than I would have been at an earlier point in my life, when I wasn’t taking my writing hobby quite as seriously.  (Ironically, I don’t think I was taking it as seriously back when I actually thought it was a potential career.  Go figure…)

Oh, another thing I’ve become aware of is the notion of giving the characters a little taste of Heaven right before thrusting them into Hell.  I noticed it first in my own writing (and I’m rather a pantser, so it wasn’t really anything I was planning; I just found that I would have them go through something wonderful right before things turned awful) and then I started noticing it happening in a lot of things I was reading, too.

Bah, what a lousy post.

Maybe I’ll be able to come back and fix it up before the 1st.  (But I’m hitting the “Schedule” button just in case!  Don’t want to miss again…)

MLM No “J” – Characters Running Away with the Scene

Published January 30, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

What I’m about to quote to you (with one mild edit for language of the sort I don’t use on my blog) comes from the story I was writing in late October, to which my NaNo novel was a sequel.  I’d been working on the same scene (a press conference being held by a rock star and his boyfriend, whose relationship had recently had recently been exposed (in every sense of the word) by a sleazy paparazzi-type in a tabloid) for a while, and had started to lose touch with it, I suppose…

            “You better believe it!” Curt laughed, before kissing him passionately.  Arthur could hear the flashbulbs going off, but he couldn’t force himself to break away from the kiss.  It felt too good.  And, deep down, a part of him hoped that maybe photos of them kissing might help other young men accept themselves the way photos of Curt and Brian had helped him.  Even having that thought made Arthur hate himself for putting on such airs.  That he would have the nerve to compare himself to Brian — to imagine that he could ever be even a quarter as important to Curt as Brian had been — shocked and disgusted him.  No matter what Brian had become since, he had been the love of Curt’s life, and Arthur knew that wasn’t going to change for someone as pathetic as he was.

The reporters were already shouting more questions by the time they parted.  “What else are we supposed to be asking you, man?  This scene is growing tedious!”

“You’re telling me?  Let’s get the f*** out of here.”

As you may have guessed, they weren’t supposed to say any of that…but yes, I really did find myself typing that as I realized I didn’t remember what else I needed the reporters to ask them.

(Yeah, I’m still hooked on writing Velvet Goldmine fanfic.  Actually been posting this one to AO3, in fact.  Though I haven’t gotten this far in the posting yet.  Oh, uh, spoiler warning.  If anyone happens to see this who’s been reading it.  Which seems unlikely at best.)


MLM icon init MLM J

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