writer’s blues

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IWSG – Always Second-Guessing Myself

Published August 5, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, following July’s Camp NotNaNo, I find I have new problems and complications.

A couple of months back, I posted about my plan to make a video game set in the world of my low-fantasy-with-a-few-steampunk-elements novel series.  (I call it a series, but I’ve only written the first novel, and it’s still in the rewriting phase.  Although the current draft is light years better than the first draft.)  A lot of July was spent working on developing and filling out a template containing all the information I would need for each country.  I only got through the first five…and technically didn’t actually get through any of them, because I added a bunch more questions so late in the month that I never answered any of the new questions.

Thing is, it took me that long to do that much world-building prep for the countries where I didn’t need to do a lot of research first.  Meaning, of course, that the other countries will take even longer to complete.  But that’s only a minor complication, not a problem.

The problem is that my plan was to have 26 countries in this fictional world.  (Although after putting together a really bad attempt at a map, I have been toying with the idea of reducing that to about 23 or 24, because one of the continents turned out much smaller on that map, which made me just stop and think about how hard it would be to create really distinct countries for a continent based on pre-European-contact South America, since most of the cultures we only know about archaeologically, leaving a lot of gaps in what we know, particularly since none of those cultures had writing.  Anyway, whether I end up making 23 countries or 26, if I made the international trade and travel game, that would mean a minimum of 23 cities to visit, yeah?  A bit large for a traditional RPG (I think most of the JRPGs I play tend to max out around 15 towns), but these wouldn’t be full towns for personal exploration, so on the surface that doesn’t sound too bad.

Only it would actually be a lot more than that.  The plan for the game, so far, is that you start out in the Britain-like country, working for an international trading conglomerate, and doing trade runs within the country.  Then after an event involving sky pirates, you end up moving up in the company, and get to do trade runs with the rest of the world.

If the home country has 5-8 towns and all the rest of the world has only one town per country, that’s going to be really lame.  But if all 23-26 countries also have 5-8 towns…!  That’s a minimum of 115 towns and a maximum of 208.

Even 115 towns is way more than I would be able to create, I’m fairly certain.  Not by myself.

I haven’t entirely given up on the idea, because I think it really would make a kick-ass game, but I’ve put it on the back burner, as an “after I’ve finished the novels” type thing.  And fortunately, I don’t have to do as much of the world-building in order to work on the novels.  They won’t be visiting every single country in the world in the novels, so for any country they don’t go to, I don’t need the nitty-gritty details, just the big picture, particularly about how the country relates to the other countries around it.  And some of it is not really relevant even for countries they do go to.  For example, the care of the elderly never came up in the first novel, so if I failed to answer that question on the Britain-equivalent, then that’s all right.  And it isn’t likely to come up in the brief time they’re in the France-like country at the beginning of the second book (they end up leaving pretty quickly, escorting the deposed-queen-in-hiding to her brother, the king of the next country over) either, so if I have proven unable to answer that question there, too, it’s not important.  On the other countries where I don’t know yet what the plot of the book will entail (technically, I don’t even know how many books there will be total or how many countries they’ll end up visiting, though I have definite plans for the ones based on Rome, Greece, Egypt, Japan and the Incan Empire), for the most part as long as I can answer the bigger questions, I can fill in the smaller details later if I realize the novel in question will require it.  But there’s still a massive amount of work to be done, in both research and world-building question-answering, and it’s still feeling quite overwhelming.

Meanwhile, a brief burst of renewed love for ancient Greek mythology had me spend a few days rereading large chunks of my quasi-Young Adult novels about the daughters of Achilles and Odysseus and the son of Aias, and I’m feeling like maybe they’re worth polishing up and releasing (for free via LeanPub and itch.io, of course) after all.  And although when I first realized that I said “no, after the world-building and its related novels,” wouldn’t it make more sense to do the rewrites on a completed novel series first, as that’s a shorter process than all that research and world-building and rewriting and writing?

Or am I just trying to make excuses to get out of so much tedious, low-level research?

Part of me fears it’s just excuses, in all honesty.

Right now, I’m still trying to finish the fanfiction piece I started in the final days of July, but after that…well, I want to start rereading Emma to be able to polish up the fusion piece I wrote based on it (since I kind of promised (well, strongly implied, anyway) I would start posting it in the fall) at the end of this month/beginning of next month, but after I’m done with that….I’m not sure.  I might go back to Atalanta and Ariadne for a while instead of keeping going with this tedious world-building.  Between what I’m working on right now and Emma, I want to keep working on the myths associated with the world-building; there are a lot of myths still to write for pretty much all the cultures I’ve already got myths for (I stupidly forgot to include tales of heroes (outside of the epics) in the ones based on Greece and Rome!), and I haven’t even started the myths inspired by the Scandinavian/Teutonic myths.

Ultimately, I’m feeling really torn about what to do.  Especially because now that I’m unemployed, I want to be spending my time working on something that I could somehow make some money at, which means I absolutely should not be writing, because my writing is garbage and will never get me paid.  (Yeah, I could try to make money off it, self-publishing my novels and asking money in exchange for them, but it’s not like anyone would actually cough up said money.  They’d look at the preview chapters and nope right on out of there.  If it’s free, there’s at least a tiny chance one or two people might think the story sounded interesting enough to put up with my crappy writing to get at it.)  Unfortunately, there’s not really much I can do that people would pay me for.  There are all sorts of roadblocks cropping up in between me and getting paid to proofread others’ works, and there’s nothing else I’m good at.  (Okay, technically, I was pretty okay at my job, but no museums are going to be hiring for a couple of years at the rate things are going, so that’s not really relevant.)

Maybe I should try writing non-fiction.  I did have an idea to get together with a former co-worker and put out a book about a particularly underdocumented doll line, but that would depend on her still having her notes on the subject and on our being able to convince the director of the museum to give us copies of all the photos that were taken a few years back of the museum’s large collection of that kind of doll.  It would also depend on getting photos from other museums and from private collectors.  The private collectors part would probably be a lot easier to accomplish than the museum photos.  Still, I should call her at some point and see if she’s interested.  It would at least be something slightly productive to do…

World-building process slowing down

Published July 18, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I’ve gotten to a point in the process of trying to define the entire world’s cultures for my novel series that I’m going to have to change how I approach things.  I’ve already come across several questions for the France and Germany-analogue countries where I had to just leave them for later because I wasn’t going to be able to answer them without writing the country’s myths first.  But for those two I’m using historical periods I know pretty well as my inspiration, and I’ve already had to write a lot about them since they’re such near neighbors of the country in the first novel.  Once I’m done with those two, I’m going to need to do much more serious research before I can even answer the questions, let alone write the myths.  And I think I’m going to want to write the myths before I try to answer the questions, because they give me such a better feel for how I want the culture to develop.

Now, a few of the remaining ones I could probably try to muddle through without doing the research first, since this is all just world-building in-my-own-head stuff, and very little of what I’m writing now will actually make it into any of the finished products, novels or game alike.  I may know enough about the real cultures to work with the ones inspired by Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Meiji-era Japan, and possibly even the Persian Empire, but…I think it would start getting very generic.  Technically, I might also remember enough from my classes on the Aztecs, Maya, Inca and Moche, but again, I don’t want to start getting generic.

Of course, since I’m counting any time working on a writing project, including research, that won’t have any impact on my Camp NotNaNo hours.  In fact, it might actually improve my time! But it’s much less personally satisfying than writing.  Though at least once I’ve done the research I’ll get to write the myths!  (And after what I went through today, I am definitely making one of the countries address cramps in their myths, making them specifically a curse caused by a particularly unpleasant and misogynistic deity.)  Of course, I still have to finish up the myths for the British Isles and France inspired countries; the former needs a replacement for the Arthurian saga, and the latter needs everything that’s going to accompany the Arthurian saga, which of course needs all new names.  And I haven’t written the Teutonic/Norse-inspired myths yet, either.  I probably want to brush up on my Norse mythology before I try that one.  (Also need to brush up on Irish, Welsh and Scottish myths before I try to finish those myths…)

That’s why I may take a detour (as it were) and work on a fanfic I had abandoned a long time ago.  It was a fix-it fic for the Wonder Woman movie, trying to repair the horrible, glaring problem with the first five minutes of the movie.  And since I’ve been reading a (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) book about Greek mythology since last night, I suddenly have that on the brain again.  Even opened up the file to have a look at it briefly.  It would be pretty cool if I could finish it and post it before the sequel opens.  (Though who knows when that will be!  I doubt enough theaters will reopen this summer for any studios to be willing to allow their new movies to open.  Certainly they’re not going to want to open new movies before California and New York are back online.)

….Hmm.

I feel like I had something I actually wanted to say, but I don’t know what it was, or if I’ve already said it.

Guess I’ll just hope I did, and close off the post for the night.


Today’s time:  ~49 minutes

Total time in July to date:  ~17:30:42.89

(They’re both approximations because I accidentally forgot to start the timer when I first sat down to write, and although I tried to run it after that to about the right amount of time, I’m not sure if I ran it long enough.  I am quite positive I didn’t run it for too long, though.  So I may be closer to 55 minutes than 49, but…eh, not a huge difference, y’know?  Either way, I didn’t even go a full hour, let alone catch up to where I should be.)

IWSG: What happened?

Published June 3, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

I can’t believe it’s June already.  So little is happening in my life. 😦

I have at least accomplished one thing during this lockdown, writing-wise, and that’s to have written a 63k Regency-era gay romance.  Uh, okay, calling it a “gay romance” is going too far, especially since it’s only fanfiction.  (And there’s a pretty heavy emphasis on a straight romantic relationship as well as the gay one, though the straight relationship was supposed to be more of a side thing.)  Still, apart from the language starting to modernize towards the end and one reference to the Epic of Gilgamesh, I don’t think I did too much that was anachronistic, so that at least is a win, right?  (I’m going to have to replace the Gilgamesh reference in editing, probably with either the Illiad or the Aeneid, but neither of them fits as perfectly as Gilgamesh, sadly.)

Anyway, I tried to go back to my usual fare (in fact, to something I had left unfinished in order to write the Emma fusion) but it simply has not been working.  I kept dithering and trying to get out of writing the next scene because it was a confrontation with a character I don’t really “get” and thus don’t write well.  But said scene is one of the ones I’ve been planning the longest, and I have some very concrete plans for it, even with a little bit of dialog prepared.  And yet I could not motivate myself to write it.

So, I took that as a sign that I needed to do something else for a while, and decided to do another revision/rewrite on my low-fantasy-with-a-slight-element-of-steampunk.  And I get to the first page, a recruiting poster for an international trading company, and realize that no, before I can properly work on this dang thing, I need to actually finish my worldbuilding, rather than just going blithely along only making up what it feels like I’ll need for this book.  (It’s the first in a series, y’see.)

But the more I’m thinking about it while staring at that first page, the more I’m thinking it feels like a video game’s intro text.  See, a while back, I backed a game on Kickstarter called Silk (now available on Steam and Switch), which is a retro-style game in which you’re a trader on the Silk Road in the later Roman Empire.  (Not super-late, mind you.  But not the early heights, either.)  That was one of the main things I was thinking about in this decision, along with the trading mini-game in my favorite ever RPG series, Suikoden.

So, my current project is not to write fiction, but to write the text of a video game.  There are a number of programs that don’t require too much programming knowledge in order to actually make a game (I’m currently thinking of using RPG Maker, specifically), but I’m going to lay out the basic text and stuff before I even look into the idea of assembling the game itself.  It’s going to force me to do a lot of the stuff that I normally leave for the end or even side-step around, like hammering out names and trying to figure out what the world map looks like.  (Of course, I can’t draw worth a darn, so I’m going to try and use a site that I found ages ago that lets you design maps online.  It’s intended more for the use of DMs of D&D sessions, but it should work fine for my purposes, too.  Naturally, if I end up actually making the game (never a sure thing that I’ll follow through on anything), I’d have to redesign the map in-engine, but at least I’d know what it looked like.  And more importantly, I’ll know what it looks like as I move forward in writing the other books, so I know how possible or impossible it is for my characters to want to go from place A to place B, and how many places need to be in between.)

I put together a list already of the nations of the world of the books/game, starting with just the ones I already had defined or planned, which really forced me to confront just how Eurocentric the original plan was:  it started out with a whopping five countries based on European cultures (though it’s a fantasy world, each culture is inspired by/based on a real one), whereas Africa only had three (of which I had only specified two), and South America only had one.  (North America had four…unless you decide to split off Central America as its own continent.  I can’t help it; I spent several semesters studying the cultures of Mexico pre- and immediately post-European contact, so of course I had to include both the Mexica (aka Aztecs) and the Maya.  And unlike so many other people, I am absolutely not going to combine them.)  So I’ve evened it out now, with five countries on each of the major continents, though I have to research before I can even decide what some of the other cultures I’m being inspired by even are (especially in terms of African cultures, which I am sadly less knowledgeable about than any other continent), and still only the one country on the smaller continent, though depending how big I make it, I may put several “tribes” in that country to allow more varied influence from the Oceanic cultures.  Of course, this kind of research would be a lot easier if the world wasn’t still in COVID lockdown (though my area is starting to reopen, which is not necessarily a good thing, in my opinion, as I think it’s too early and is going to lead to a renewed outbreak, to say nothing of the spiraling descent of this country into a police state) and I could go to the library or even the bookstore.  Though at least bookstores deliver. 😉  (Technically, libraries also have curbside pick-up and stuff in some areas, but realistically for this kind of stuff I’d rather get books from the university library than a regular one anyway, and I don’t think I get to check out books from the university library anymore, given that I graduated some time ago. 😛  )

Overall, it should be fun to work with the nitty-gritty of developing the whole world, advancing various cultures along their relative historical paths until they all match up to the same level of technology (mid- to late 19th century) with various extra factors added to world development and certain other factors removed.  The added factors are primarily the giant animals (the oceans are too dangerous due to the giant sea monsters, so all international travel is by means of animal-powered airships, many pulled/carried by giant birds, bats and even insects, though of course the standard winged horses are also present) and the magic-like effects of various alchemical potions.  It’s the removed factors that make it especially fun, though.  Due to a mystical event (central to the overarching story of the series), one thousand years before the action of the novels, the world was made to forget that war had ever existed.  On top of that, there is no colonialism (in part because everyone is at a common technological level since every nation has access to various flying animals for airships, and in part due to magically-repressed race memory of the entire human species having been forced to serve the fae for many thousands of years) and no religious strife, as no religions ever developed that sought out converts.  However, the effects of the mystical event are beginning to wear off, so while very few people realize that there used to be wars in the distant past, war has been returning over the last century, leading to the novels taking place in such chaotic times that many people were beginning to think they were living in the end times.  (Ack, that reminds me:  I need to figure out what each culture thinks the afterlife is like.)

So, yeah, bottom line is it’s very different from anything I’ve tried to write before (while still being directly related to something I’ve already written) so hopefully it will help to rejuvenate my writing brain.  Or re-energize it, or whatever it is it needs.

IWSG – Everyone’s Talking About It…

Published April 1, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

…and probably for a lot of writers (who don’t have children to deal with) it’s been beneficial, being forced to stay in the house all day, giving so much extra time to write.

I feel like I’m actually spending a lot less time writing since my area went into lockdown.    Partially that’s due to lack of momentum on my current project, but it’s also partially because one of my chief writing times was in the morning before going to work.  I always set my alarm for 6:00, but I don’t have to get ready to go until 8:30, so I have lots of time to wake my brain up, which I usually do by writing.

Only now I don’t have that time, because no way I’m getting up at 6:00 when I don’t have to.  Admittedly, I’m actually one of the lucky ones whose job is considered at least partially essential, so I’m still going in to work a bit; for the first week of the lockdown, I had hours as normal, and this week I’ll be working one day, and next week as well.  Dunno about after that.  (The current lockdown order in my area is until April 22, but there’s no way the COVID threat will have passed by then, so I expect it will be extended.  Or even if it isn’t, that work will not proceed as usual.)

Of course, I could and should spend some of that new free time writing.  But I have a backlog of books to read and video games to play, and my house is in desperate need of a thorough cleaning (and when I say cleaning, I mean junk-clearing, not deep-scrubbing…though it actually needs that, too), and I just suddenly developed this new desperate desire to create a really elaborate boxed room of an artist’s loft, complete with a small walk-out balcony with a small garden box.  I don’t even know why, but it’s practically a mania.  (Seriously, I spent half the afternoon trying to figure the best (and most cost-effective) method of getting two fully poseable 1/12 scale dolls to be the artist and her model.  Even went ahead and ordered them…though I don’t think I’ll end up using both of them for the artist and her model because I ordered two different types of dolls and they’re really, really, really incompatible.  Like, one of them is super-real and the other is anime-style.)  I don’t even have a place to put said box room at the moment, until I clean the house, for crying out loud!

Um…

Sorry, that’s not what I’m supposed to be talking about.  Although I do hope that having ordered the dolls (and their clothes and their wigs) will have satiated the urge enough to put the rest of it on the back burner at least until I can actually, you know, clear up the space where I’d put the dang thing.  Anyway, I’m hoping that my new writing project will energize me back into writing.

I know I mentioned a couple of times in past IWSG posts (which have sadly become almost the entirety of this blog at the moment) that I had written a fusion fan-fiction combining my favorite movie, Velvet Goldmine, with Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film of Henry V, because Christian Bale was in both of them, and I was combining his roles in the fusion.  (Well, more like sticking his Velvet Goldmine character into the life of his Henry V character, but…same diff, right?)  Well, as I might have also mentioned (I’d check, but I spent so long on stupid online shopping for needless toys that it’s now dinner time and I promised myself I wouldn’t have dinner until I got this post written up for tomorrow morning), one of the other fusion ideas I had at the same time was to combine Velvet Goldmine with the 1996 film of Emma, because Ewan McGregor was in both of them.  And, honestly, the character of Frank Churchill combines pretty well with Curt Wild…aside from the one’s extreme heterosexuality and exceptionally privileged upbringing.  They even both sing. 😛

Anyway, because Emma also featured Toni Colette (who played the wife of the fellow rock star Curt Wild was having his passionate love affair with in Velvet Goldmine) as Harriet Smith, I felt I needed to read the book first to really get an understanding of the situation and characters and how to add not just one Velvet Goldmine character, but two.  (The original fusion story was in response to a prompt requesting one of the Velvet Goldmine romances be transferred into another film in one of the two actors’ massive and diverse filmographies.)  Because you can’t have a Jane Austen novel where one of the primary characters is left without a romance, right?  Although technically I could just leave Harriet as Harriet despite her sharing Mandy’s actress, but that would be weird and no fun — but there is absolutely no way Mandy Slade would settle for Robert Martin.  Mandy can only marry Brian Slade.  (The fact that we don’t know Mandy’s maiden name will suit my story well; she’ll just become Amanda Smith.  (I figure the Regency era would probably not be terribly keen on the nickname “Mandy.”))

So, I’ve been reading the book — and quite astonished at just how much the movie left out (no wonder they decided to make a new film adaptation of it!) — and am now almost finished with it.  Scratch that, by the time you’re reading this, I will be finished with it.  And I’ve made a lot of notes about where to add Arthur (Christian Bale’s character) — as the apprentice to Mr. Perry, Highbury’s apothecary — and of course Brian will become Brian, Lord Slade, famous (or infamous) for the poem “Childe Maxwell,” a decision I came to as soon as I realized I was going to add Brian to the mix, because there is no more suitable Regency equivalent for Brian Slade than Lord Byron.  (In fact, Lord Byron is pretty much the perfect comparison for Brian Slade, period.)  Such a poet — who can go anywhere and do whatever he pleases — is easy to insert, especially when the original story already has a flighty, wealthy young man of just the sort who might associate with a Byronic poet.  (Uh, except that Frank Churchill is not really intelligent enough for the real Lord Byron to have wanted to consort with him…)  I came to my decision about Arthur’s role pretty early on the course of reading the book (when I realized just how much of a fixture Mr. Perry would be at the Woodhouse home not necessarily during the action of the book, but in the day-to-day life outside the story), because it would give him good access to important events and characters without his being somewhere he would seem to be inappropriate, and also because it would make him someone so unimportant — insignificant, in fact! — that the characters from the book would pay him no heed, and go right on with their own lives whether he was there or not, because he would be to their mind barely more than a servant, and therefore invisible.  I was glad to see, as the book progressed, that it was going to be a really ideal position for him throughout, with the bonus that this way I could even include the drug addiction plot thread from the movie, because as an apprentice apothecary, Arthur could get laudanum for them without it seeming the least bit suspicious, which would give him some internal conflict as he began to realize that no, they weren’t suffering from terrible headaches, but were taking the opium in order to seek pleasure.

All in all, I’m pretty excited about the project, it should be a lot of fun, and yet I also feel like a total freaking hypocrite.  For two reasons, actually.  The first is pretty simple; quite some time ago, I posted a “free plot idea” on this blog, suggesting an Austen-like romance where it turned out that one or more of the handsome young gallants was secretly gay, and was having to lead a double life as he tried to find a love that would make him happy without exposing himself to the harsh punishments his era would have doled out.  I posted it because I felt there was no way I could write it myself, lacking both the subtlety and understanding of the human mind to write it well, and lacking the time to research it properly.  I haven’t increased dramatically in human understanding (if anything I might have gotten worse), and although I now have time to do research, I’m not likely to actually do so.  And actually I couldn’t really do very good research even if I wanted to, what with all the libraries in the area being closed for the duration.

The second reason I feel like a hypocrite is that sometime after I posted that plot idea, I went looking to see if there already was anything like that out there.  All I found (with a search which was probably not very thorough) was a book where someone had re-written Pride and Prejudice to make it a gay romance.  I didn’t even look very closely to see if they had changed the sexuality of one or more characters, or their sex.  I was too outraged that someone would wreak such changes on one of my favorite books to find out the particulars of how they had done it.  (Alas, if only I had known what someone was going to do to said book so soon after that!  Making it gay is at least a change for a good reason, and happy same-sex romances are always nice to have.)  But here I am, about to mutilate a different one of Jane Austen’s novels to make it gay.  (And while it’s not my favorite, I’m sure it’s someone’s favorite.)  Admittedly, I’m doing it in a weird and round-about way, and technically I’m actually trying to turn the movie gay, not the book, but I’ll be borrowing a lot of events from the book that didn’t make it into the movie, because if I stick to just what’s in the movie, I’ll be limiting myself too much; the book’s events lend themselves to my ideas better.  (Though I will be watching the movie again before I start, to refresh my memory as to just which events were actually in it.  Also to revisit the entirely invented first introduction of Frank Churchill, because that was a freakin’ awesome character introduction.)

Of course, even as excited as I am about the project, it may not kickstart me back into writing properly again.  The weather’s getting warmer again, which means I can’t sit in my nice comfy leather chair for any length of time before the leather starts heating up and I get unbearably uncomfortable and have to sit on the floor, which is bad for my back and not particularly conducive to writing.  (Last summer I eventually got to the point of sitting in a nearby wooden chair with my computer on a folding table, and that worked pretty well.  But ironically it’s not warm enough for that yet, because my legs and especially my feet are as sensitive to cold as my back has become sensitive to the heat of the leather.)  And I might quickly find myself overwhelmed by trying to write for the period and the setting.  I don’t know.  There are so many question marks and uncertainties.

But these days, there are question marks and uncertainties about pretty much everything.

IWSG: A Strange Self-Realization

Published March 4, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, not long ago, someone who had been an intern under my supervision asked me for a letter of recommendation. As I was writing said letter, I came to a sudden and actually somewhat alarming realization about myself and the way I process the world around me.

You know how some people are said to miss the forest for the trees? Well, I realized that I have no trouble seeing the forest or the leaves, but I miss the trees altogether.

I know that sounds nuts, but…it is what it is, you know? I have no trouble with the big, broad, sweeping ideas, but the basics elude me, even as I get bogged down in the minutiae.

And this applies to my fiction writing in all kinds of ways. When I’m approaching a new project, I always have this broad strokes idea of roughly what I want it to be or where I want it to go, and I know little things I want to have happen here and there, but I have a great deal of difficulty scraping together the connecting tissue like the actual events of the plot, and sometimes even the characters.

Unfortunately, as this is a very basic “how my brain works” kind of thing, I’m not sure what, if anything, I can hope to do about it. I mean, it does, at least, give me a clue as to how to approach my problem areas, but…

Amusingly, I’m kind of living it right now. I had this big idea, and some little details, and now I’m floundering with everything else.

I’m going to have to spend a while just trying to think of a way to work around this, I guess.

IWSG: Sort of Stalled?

Published February 5, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I’m in a weird place with my writing, a place which is not easy to define.

Okay, technically, part of where I am is easy to define:  I’m 170ish hours into the throes of “omg, how can I do anything else when I still haven’t scaled every single obstacle in Hyrule looking for Koruks? or, like, you know, defeated Ganon or some junk.”  I may be a couple years late, but having finally gotten a Switch, I have finally gotten to experience the ultimate gaming freedom that is The Legend of Zelda:  Breath of the Wild.  Because it’s hard to put down a game that lets you get from point A to point B in a straight line, even if that means scaling two mountains, a sheer cliff face, and traversing a couple of rivers.  And which has little spirits hiding under almost every rock.  It’s kind of a waste that there’s, you know, a story and stuff.  Takes away from the exploring.

Um, *ahem*, sorry.  That was not what I’m supposed to be posting about.  (In my defense, one of the reasons I started playing it when I did was that I sprained my ankle really badly on New Year’s Eve (I can’t remember, did I mention that in last month’s post?) and so I was facing a very long period of having to just sit around with my foot up trying to let it rest.)

So, my writing.  Although I’m still trying to get some original fiction written (just did another editing pass through the one I actually plan on releasing (for free) via LeanPub, in fact, though it still needs more work), I’m also still enjoying playing around with fanfiction, because why shouldn’t I?  But I’ve hit a point where I feel like…maybe there’s not much point in posting it online.

Oddly, I’m at this point because the last thing I posted was actually well received.  I mean, for me.  For a fandom that’s a bit over twenty years old and was never all that huge to begin with (what with being about ’70s (male) glam rock stars in love with each other).  I think I mentioned it at some point, a story I wrote for the fanfic Yuletide exchange, fusing my fandom with the Branagh Henry V, because Christian Bale was in both of them.  It’s a very unusual story for me in a lot of ways (not just because of the whole Shakespeare thing, though that is of course part of it), and it was largely the product of a momentary burst of inspiration (I guess I should watch more Shakespeare), and I ended up producing something much better than my usual works, which is of course why it was better received.

But I can’t replicate the process that led to the story, because inspiration doesn’t work like that.  Especially since even when you are inspired, it’s not always going to bleed over into the final product.  I tried a couple of times to do a similar fusion for the version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that Bale was in ten years later, and it completely didn’t work, to an appalling degree.  (Partially because he was playing one of the least likable characters out of a play that featured quite a bumpercrop of unpleasant people, whereas his character in Velvet Goldmine is a shy sweetie.  Those just don’t mesh well.)

I always have a backlog of unposted fics, because I don’t like having two of my works next to each other on the list when the works are sorted by date edited, and new fics in that fandom don’t go up very often.  But in this case, I could have started posting something right away, because there was something that went up only a few days later.  There have been several more since.  But I haven’t posted anything.

I don’t even know if I want to.

I had thought I’d be different and post the cross-over I wrote with Doctor Who.  Only I was feeling unsure about it, and then the new season started, and unlike last season, it’s been terrible so far.  (I am at least one episode behind, though.  Um, the last one I saw was the one with The Jidoon. That’s where I am.)  So after that, I’m much less tempted to post it, especially since it’s the new Doctor in the fic.  (But with my favorite companion from the original show.  Because reasons.)  I did write a fix-it fic for one of the episodes of the new season that was particularly awful and yet also particularly easy to fix, but I’m reluctant to post that, too, even though it’s a different fandom and so none of the Velvet Goldmine readers are likely to see it.  Which may not even really have anything to do with my hesitation anyway.

I kind of want to post a different one, because I’ve already written its sequel, which crosses over with another favorite movie of mine, Hail, Caesar!, which gets even less fanfiction love (I think the most recent post was in 2018?) even though it’s so much more recent, but…I don’t know.

I don’t know about anything.

It’s not like I’d stop writing them, even if I stop posting them, so…I just sort of have to sit back and figure out if there’s really any point to posting them, and if it’s actually what I want to do or not.

Tragically, not the kind of question that can have an easy answer.

Also, I find myself in a mood lately to write stories where love is rejected (or simply not present), which is not what anyone wants to see with in fiction for this fandom (not even me), but…I dunno.

Serious case of listlessness. That would be part of it.

IWSG – Untitled

Published October 2, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I had this post planned out where I was going to spend the whole time bitching about how the new NaNoWriMo site is broken and hideous and it’s completely killed my desire even to participate, and…

…but I’m not gonna write that post, because I don’t want to just sit here soaking in negativity.

Then I thought I’d write about the monthly question (which I haven’t even looked at in ages, lol) only it turns out I really don’t have anything to say about this month’s optional question.  So instead I shall flounder about for something to say.

I haven’t really been doing much writing lately.  I mean, I try, but I keep failing to get much done.  Not because I have no drive to write and not because I’ve hit a wall in what I’m writing, but because it’s just too freakin’ hot.  I mean, today’s October 1st (pre-writing) and it was over 90° today!  (Which is over 32° for those of you living in civilized countries where you learned metric everything instead of this backwards place.  Are we, like, the only country in the world that hasn’t gone metric yet?  (Although, I have to say, “90” sounds a lot more impressively awful as a temperature than “32” does.  So that’s one small something to be said for Fahrenheit…))

And no, I don’t live in a tropical area where that’s normal.  When I was a kid, October would have been in the 50s or 60s.  Maybe 70s if I was a particularly warm fall.  But those days are long gone.  And yet some people still deny climate change.  Ugh.

Anyway, my body has basically overloaded on hot weather, as far as I can tell, and is violently insisting that any, say, contact between two parts of my body (arm and side, for example) is being interrupted by a frying pan just pulled out of the fire.  Makes it very hard to find a position to sit in to write that doesn’t end up being brutally uncomfortable.  In consequence of which, I haven’t been able to get much writing done.  But a cold front is supposed to move through Wednesday night (or was it Thursday morning) and the rest of the ten day forecast is much more seasonal, so maybe I’ll be able to start writing again.  And sleeping through the night without being woken up by feeling like I’m lying on top of a stove.

It’s a pity that I can’t write for such annoyingly external reasons, because my current story is going pretty well.  My half-pantser/half-plotter method sometimes means I end up with a convoluted mess with an entirely unstable tone, but sometimes it means that as I’m going along I have a terrific idea that ties everything together and fills in holes I had in my plan up until that moment.  I had one of those “aha!” moments just the other day; the main plot of the piece is about a journalist writing a story about the disappearance of a fellow journalist, who the police won’t go looking for, and having no other way to go about it, he ends up investigating the story she had been working on, about the thirty year anniversary of an actor’s defection.  (This is set in 1984, btw.)  So, I knew all along that it was in some way because of that story that she disappeared, but I didn’t know quite why, but then a random little detail I threw in about some of the other research the journalist was doing into the defection told me exactly what the cover-up was that the first journalist had stumbled onto (or that someone at least thought she had stumbled onto) that made her a target.

I’m still left with the nagging question of “so did they get her, or is she in hiding somewhere, and if they got her, is she still alive, or did they kill her?”  It’s a hard question to answer.  I tend to write light, fluffy stuff, so part of me just wants to say “yeah, it was a narrow shave, but she managed to get somewhere safe” but part of me is saying “the journalist’s story is going to have more impact if she was captured and/or killed, so that the exposé can get the crooked politician behind the cover-up impeached.”  See, it’s not set in the real 1984, but an alternate, slightly dystopian one.  Like, in the previous story that this is a sequel to, I had an editor tell the journalist that unlike the man who owned the magazine, he wasn’t a “rabid” liberal, because “if it weren’t for the censorship and the martial law, I’d quite like President Reynolds.”  It’s that kind of a dystopia, you know?  Not so far removed from reality that it’s unimaginable for it to happen (the martial law having first been declared after the attempted assassination in 1981, which I figure would have happened regardless of who was president, since it wasn’t in the slightest bit about Reagan’s politics) but still just off enough that we get jarring statements like that from someone who claims to be at least somewhat politically opposed to the administration.

I might do a halfway between them solution, where she was captured by whichever government agency was stalking her, but a whistleblower-type inside the agency had protected her from any serious negative consequences.  Dunno.  I’ll have to see how it feels when I get there, I guess…

…only who knows when I’ll be able to get there if things don’t cool off first.

IWSG – Campin’

Published July 3, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

Camp NaNo is here again, and I’m really hoping it’s going to jumpstart me back into regular writing habits.  I’m pre-writing this last night, so two days into camp.  The first day was sort of “ehhh” in that while I did get something written that I’d really been meaning to (specifically, the dream sequence intro to a fanfic that’s been awaiting editing for about six months) it wasn’t anything long or important or even, you know, particularly good.  (Though in my own defense, it wasn’t precisely bad, either.)

Today was better.  I started work on the crossover fanfic I’ve been wanting to get to for…I don’t even know how long.  Months.  (I could check the NaNo forums to find out, as I posted about it pretty soon after coming up with the idea.)  And it’s starting out pretty well; in fact, one of the characters I’ve loved for years but never written for is behaving differently than I had planned, and what I wrote is actually much more in character for her than what I had planned, so that’s good.

What’s not good is that I kind of wanted to use this time to work on the first-in-a-series novel that I’ve worked on for the past two proper NaNos, and both of last year’s camp sessions.  (Ooh, that looks weird when I write it out.)  So November 2017, I wrote the first draft.  April camp, I worked on revising the first draft, mostly just replacing some stuff that really didn’t work.  Between April and July, I got it in the hands of a beta reader, and started July doing basic work on the draft until I heard back from the beta.  It was one of those good news/bad news kind of reports.  Good news was he liked the basic story and the world.  Bad news was the characters weren’t very distinct from each other (even though they were like night and day in my head), and one of them was utterly useless.  It was the “total lack of agency” point that really made me step back and see that he was totally right, my character was just this utterly passive shell tagging along after the other two characters.  So I spent the rest of July ripping him out and replacing him with a different character who shared a few of his traits, and also trying to make the other two characters’ on-paper versions match the versions in my head better.  A long and laborious process, but the new version is infinitely superior to the old one.  However, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to differentiate the cultures in the book from the ones in reality that had inspired them, so for November of last year I decided to write up a book of that world’s mythology, complete with introductions and footnotes by one of the minor characters from the novel, who happens to study that sort of thing.  And then after that I integrated the myths into the book where I could (I’ll probably have to do a full new draft for a complete integration), but I realized I had left out a major one who had been directly referenced in the novel, a mortal hero comparable to Cu Chulainn.  (Fortunately, I have total freedom as to what to have the hero’s myth contain, because the novel’s reference was just to his birthplace.)

Anyway, long story short (too late!), I was really hoping to get that finished up so I could polish up the other few major rough spots in this draft and send to to another beta reader.  Because I promised myself that I would eventually release this novel to the public, and I don’t want to do that until it’s actually ready for it.

Of course, there’s other complications.  I don’t write descriptions because my brain can’t really process them, so people always have trouble visualizing what I’m writing about.  And the majority of that mythological world building from the second year’s NaNo can’t be comfortably included into the novel without distracting from the story.  For that matter, there’s already extraneous stuff tacked onto the front of every chapter (largely the diary of an important historical figure which the heroes find and read late in the book) which already probably distracts from the story.

So what I kind of want to do with it is instead of just releasing it as a free ebook on LeanPub or wherever, work it up into a particular kind of “game,” the name of which I’ve forgotten.  “Dynamic novel” or something like that, I think.  There’s this kind of game called a “visual novel,” which is like a choose-your-own-adventure novel with constant pictures.  (Large sprites of the characters in a scene, backgrounds, the occasional full-screen splash illustration of a major event, that kind of stuff.)  The thing about a visual novel is, of course, that you make choices that alter what happens, usually heading you towards one of multiple endings, and sometimes (maybe even often) giving you the possibility of getting yourself horribly killed.  But there’s another kind that’s the visual novel format without any of the choices, and that’s what I’m thinking would be good for this novel.  Because as the player (reader?) went along, they could unlock diary entries, myths, and other flavor text which they could then read from a menu whenever they wanted.  The flavor text would still interrupt the flow, but less so, and could be omitted entirely if the reader (player?) didn’t care enough to bother with it.  Of course, to do that I’d have to get it all polished up and find an artist or five to create illustrations to go along with it.  And find some way to pay for said artist(s) and their work.  (A Kickstarter campaign would probably be required, sadly.)  So this is whole “dynamic novel” (or whatever it’s called) thing may just be me spinning my mental wheels fruitlessly, but it’s at least interesting to contemplate.

But I can’t even think about working towards that eventuality without first finishing up this draft to the point that I feel it’s read for another beta reader.  And I can’t do that while I’m writing fan fiction instead.  But I just feel so much more motivation for the fan fiction right now.

And it’s the right thing to do to just get writing first, right?  And worry about what I’m writing later.  Right?

IWSG – Trying to get back in the habit

Published June 5, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

The good news is I am finally through with graduate school.  (I don’t officially know that I graduated yet (obviously, I skipped the ceremony, because it was attend graduation or go to work, and I would rather be paid for a day’s work than pay money for a graduation robe and waste all morning sitting in a gym full of strangers.)  A side effect of this good news is that I am slowly getting back in the blogging habit.

The bad news is that it’s been so long since I had time to write that I have completely fallen out of the habit.  Lost the knack, even.  I have so many plots sitting around waiting to be expanded upon in full fiction form, but every time I turn my computer on to write, I end up re-reading my rough outline for a plot and then going “hmmm” until I say “nah, not feeling it today” and do something else.  Or I look over one of my drafts that need revision, with a thought to fixing it up, and still end up saying “nah, not feeling it.”

I’m trying my hand at writing prompts to get back in the groove again.  I’ve written (and posted to this blog) a couple (oddly, both turned out as sci-fi, though I usually don’t write sci-fi), and will probably write some more before I get myself back into the same writing headspace I used to be in.

It’s very frustrating, though, knowing that I’m no longer able to just sit down and start writing the way I used to be.  This has never really happened to me before, and I’m not sure how to deal with it.  It’s not that I’m out of ideas — I have lots of them.  Part of it may be the feeling that I need to fix up those old drafts before I start on anything new, but I don’t think that’s all of it.  I don’t know what it is.  (Though finally being free to tackle my backlog of unplayed video games is not helping, I don’t want to lay all the blame at the feet of gaming.  Especially since Persona 5 has been annoying the heck out of me, and is therefore not proving terribly addictive.)

Anyway, I’m gonna keep plugging along.  And I’ll be signing up for July’s CampNaNo, with a time-based goal rather than a word-based one, and no specific project.  (I do love the flexibility of Camp!)  Hopefully by August, I’ll be more myself again, in terms of writing.

Has anyone else ever had to deal with this?  Being jarred out of the writing habit so badly that it’s hard to get back in it?

IWSG – Stalled Out (+ An Idea Up For Adoption)

Published September 5, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Lately, I  just don’t seem able to write.  Not much, anyway, especially not at a single sitting.  My blogging has almost stopped entirely (I seem to be averaging about 2 posts a month on this blog, and about 1 every other month on my other blog), and my regular writing has really stalled, too.

Part of that is due to the re-write in progress, I think.  I believe I said last time that I was currently re-writing last year’s NaNo novel (and had been for both this year’s Camp sessions) and that for the current attempt I’ve completely replaced one of the characters, which has necessitated massive shifts in story.  Some of the scenes are barely altered (largely because he’s not in them), some are still similar enough that they’re easy to deal with, and then you get to the sequence I’m currently in, where there’s more that’s 100% new than there is that’s been kept.  And I don’t mean how much text and I can copy-and-paste from the old draft.  I mean the entire situation of why they’re in town, what they’re doing there and how they’re going to get to the island off the coast has nothing in common with the original version.  Once they get to the island, things won’t be as different, but…they have to get there first.  Today (er, yesterday) all I did was look over what I’d written the last time I worked on it (some two or three days previous) and ended up doing nothing, because I just wasn’t feeling it.

I feel like that’s a big problem with this draft, is that while some scenes I’m really into (mostly the ones with the two male leads interacting and developing the possibility of the relationship I originally intended them to have before I started the initial draft) and then there’s scenes like this one that feel like a chore to write (mostly, these are purely story scenes that don’t develop their relationship, even though they do tend to develop their characters).  I think if I was going back to my fanfic, I probably wouldn’t be in this slump, but I don’t want to stop halfway through this kind of re-write, because I feel like if I did, I’d never finish it.

*sigh*

It’s very frustrating, because I feel like there are a lot of wrong answers about what I need to do right now, and no right answers.

Another thing that’s bugging me is the world-building.  Specifically, the world’s religions.  I’ve based each culture loosely on a real world culture, and I’ve tended to have the characters just toss off mentions — generally in the form of oaths — to their gods, pretty much on the assumption that they’re identical to their Earth counterparts.  (To the extent that some of them don’t even have their own names yet, and just get [Athene] or [Aten] or whatever for now.)  I’m thinking of using this November’s NaNo to write up the mythology of their world, so I can have them more organically reference their myths and stuff.  Since I’m planning on releasing the final book (for free via LeanPub) when the re-writes are finally done, I could just release the myths as well, either before, after or simultaneously.  I haven’t at all started planning it yet, aside from trying to decide some of the details of what kind of myths I want to write (cosmogonies and theogonies, first off, then stories of the gods and major heroic tales for the cultures of the three leads), but I feel like it’s probably a good idea.  I hope.

The idea is that what I’ll be writing will be a book from that world, specifically a book on world mythology.  I’ve already set up a character in the novel who’s a professor studying mythology, so I can have him be the “author,” and that way I don’t have to worry about setting up extremely different voices for the myths from the different cultures, because they’re all being re-told by the same author.

Given the way my writing seems to go, the myths will probably make better reading than the novel.

*sigh*

Aaaaaaanyway, it’s not that I’m running out of ideas.  It’s just that almost none of my ideas are about how to approach this rewrite.

However!  I had a great idea the other day (at least, I think it’s a great idea) for a movie musical, and I wanted to share it, on the off chance that someone might read this who happens to be (or know) a screenwriter.

The movie would be a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.  Now, it’s been a very long time since I read the novel, but I seem to recall that Big Brother never showed up (in fact, the way I remember it going, I’m not sure he even existed) and I’d want that to stay the case in the movie adaptation…but he’d still get a theme song.  The way I envision it, the Big Brother posters would feature an artist’s rendition of Sting at whatever age seems appropriate for Big Brother (I’m picturing him the way he looked in the mid-’90s, but that might not be old enough), and the theme song would, of course, be “Every Breath You Take.”  Possibly with new lyrics that removed the lines that make some people mistake it for a love song.

I can honestly say that I think Sting would sign on.  (Of course, I don’t actually know much (or anything) about the man aside from his lyrics (mostly from the ’70s-’80s) and a couple of quotes I’ve seen.  But those lyrics lead me to believe he would be receptive to the idea.)

So, if anyone reading this happens to work in the movie industry (or know Sting), please think about this idea seriously!  I think that if the movie hewed as closely to the book as possible (using actual novel text for the lyrics of the new songs, etc) it could be quite something.  I give you this idea freely, and I want neither compensation nor credit should it be made.  I totally want to see it if done right, though.

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