writer’s quandary

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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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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 – 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.)

Missing Letter Mondays – No “O”

Published September 5, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Fanfic

Sadly,
It has taken charge in my brain
After all.
I lack any strength,
Can’t prevent further abuse.

It’s fun, naturally.
Sexy guys,
Dancing in my head,
At a tune that is in my imagining.
Maybe…
A bit lacking depth.
(Me and what I’m writing.)

But…
Everything else I write
Lacks depth as well,
Thus what’s the difference?
(Except these guys have
Real faces.)


MLM icon init MLM O

IWSG – Post CampNaNo

Published August 3, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Though CampNaNo is over, I don’t feel the usual release I have after the actual NaNo.  Normally, by Dec. 1, I’m free of what I’ve been writing, and can move on to other things.

But this time I’m still obsessed.

Admittedly, in part that’s because I’m looking the piece over to fix the worst problems so I can send it to one of the people from my cabin as a beta reader prior to possibly posting it on a fanfic site, but that doesn’t really cover the crux of the problem:  these characters haven’t let go of my brain yet.

Which wouldn’t be a problem if they were my characters.

I’d try inventing original characters similar to them for an original work, but the last time I tried that (NaNo 2012) it didn’t work in any regard:  by the time Dec. 1 rolled around, the characters were utterly unlike the ones they started out as, I was horribly disappointed by the book (to the extent that I’ve never once re-opened the file to have another look at it), and the new characters never took up residence in my head for a minute, not even while I was writing it.

Anyway, while I’m still afraid I’ve re-opened the fanfic floodgates (there are so many other things I want to write about these characters!), I’m trying to focus right now on what the heck I want to do in fixing this story up.  (“Story,” she says.  About a 155k behemoth.)

The biggest problem — other than the inconsistent pacing, lack of description, spotty characterization and dangling plot threads that are typical of me — is this one particular sequence relatively early on.

Okay, so my piece gets its two romantic leads from the movie, the reporter and the rock star.  (Which would be a great title for it if it was just about their romance.)  At the start of the fic, the reporter is already essentially in love with the rock star, though he’s not quite prepared to use those words to describe it.  And he doesn’t figure he’s ever going to see the rock star again, so he’s mostly just trying not to think about him.  Only then he goes to his favorite bar for a drink on Saturday night, and the rock star just happens to be there.  (Which reminds me, I need to explain what the heck he was doing there…)  Well, this obviously does nothing to reduce his romantic feelings for the other man, but he’s still trying to fight it.  Only then, the next Saturday, he goes back to the same bar (well, it’s more of a club than a bar, actually) and runs into the rock star again.  (That one I did explain.)

Now, here is where the difficulty comes in.  Because by the time I was writing that scene, I already had in mind several other scenes about their relationship:  two in between scenes of the reporter pining for the rock star, the scene where the rock star shows up at the reporter’s apartment completely wasted and they end up having rather unsatisfying sex, and then the first time we get the rock star’s POV which ends with them having much nicer sex.  (Yeah, I know, there are a lot of problems with that.)

And the difficulty in that?  Because the rock star had only gone back to that bar in the first place because he was hoping to run into the reporter again, in order to score with him, trying to keep them from hitting the sack together at the end of the second bar scene was so difficult that the only way I found to do it was to have four horny fangirls show up and chase the reporter away.  Which isn’t very convincing (said girls being in the 18-22 range, and said rock star being 37), is awfully (in)convenient timing, and isn’t much fun to read.  Plus it really ticked off the rock star (in that he felt the reporter had abandoned him to his vulture-like fans), so that when he next shows up, he’s incredibly angry (he does that) and calling the reporter some very not-nice names, to the point that it was actually physically difficult for me to write it.  (He uses a particular profanity a lot in the movie, one which I really don’t like and never use myself (a very rare thing), and though I have no trouble typing it normally, because it was aimed at the reporter, it took me like half an hour to get that part of the scene written, because my fingers so didn’t want to type that.)

The real problem is that I don’t like the idea of just re-writing the scene so that the girls don’t show up and the leads hook up a bit over a week early.  Because the two scenes of the reporter pining for the rock star are really…it would be going too far to say that they’re good, per se, but let’s suffice it to say that I really like them, particularly the one where he goes to a gay bar in the hopes of having a one-night stand to make him forget the rock star, only to get jealous when the sound system starts playing a love duet sung by the rock star and one of his exes.  And that’s the one that can’t still be used.  The other one — in which he goes to hear the rock star performing live at a local night club — could be adapted and kept, but the gay bar scene absolutely would make no sense if they’d already hooked up, and putting it before their second in-fic meeting is too soon:  they only met twice in the movie (yet I am absolutely not inventing the reporter’s feelings for the rock star) so for him to be that obsessed that quickly would be a bit much.  In fact, it’s really kind of pushing it to have it after their second in-fic meeting.

*sigh*

Well, that’s something I’m hoping the beta reader can help me with.

I also have something like 8 or 9 temp names that need replacing with real names.  Characters have temp names like Ughanother Nameneededhere and Ihate Namingcharacters.  Things I can swap out easily with “find – replace”…if I can come up with names for them.  (For a fanfic, it has a ludicrous number of OCs.  Probably because the nature of the story requires a ton of characters for them to interact with, which the movie does not provide, particularly in the 1984 section.)

I think I had more I wanted to say, but my back is now screaming at me that it’s time to lie down, so I’m just going to cut off this rambling mess of a post here.

Tomorrow will hopefully be back to my regularly scheduled programming.

Assuming my back will let me write.

The Fanfic Urge

Published June 24, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

If pressed for details about my writing, I’ll usually admit pretty early on that I consider myself to be a reformed fan-fiction writer.  Not that there’s anything wrong with writing fanfic, per se, just that it’s not something one can make a career of, and goodness knows I need to do anything I can to somehow start earning a living.  (Though I am finally gainfully employed.  But it’s only part-time at the moment, so my income is still considerably less than my outcome, as it were.)  I’ve been fanfic-free since…hmm…well, since I started graduate school, actually.

It wasn’t actually graduate school that made me give up fanfic, though.  I started writing a series of semi-YA books (I’ve talked about them before) and I was so sure that they were the ones, they were the ones I was finally going to be able to publish.  Thus I didn’t want to waste time on anything else:  I wanted to focus on finishing those, and then polishing them up for publication.  (LOL!)

Even after I realized that there was no conceivable way that they were going to get published — not even self-published — I still felt like I would be “back-sliding” somehow if I ever returned to fanfic.

More importantly, I didn’t really feel the need.

I had spent years with Final Fantasy characters in my head, fighting for dominance with characters from other properties, or with characters from my own original stories, but since writing my semi-YA series, they just weren’t there anymore:  they had vacated the premises, and frankly I felt no urge to go looking for them.  (Kind of a ludicrous statement, considering I have two wall scrolls of one of those characters in my bedroom, and multiple statuettes and figurines of both of them.  But looking at them and having them occupy my skull are very different things.)

What disturbs me now is that I’m starting to feel the need again.

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The Difficulty of Inventing Words

Published June 7, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Not making up new words in the Lewis Carroll sense (or even in the Robert Heinlein sense), but in a more methodical, if still silly, way.  It’s much harder than I expected.

But let me back up a minute and explain why I’m trying to invent a word.

I’ve been working on my current novel project, which I’ve mentioned several times before.  (Like, cycle through the “Writer’s Corner” category posts, and most of the recent ones will be about it.)

In order to make the story interesting (I hope) and to have things actually happen (gasp!), I’m having to put my narrator through a number of events he finds unpleasant and humiliating.  (But that’s okay, because he’s abrasive, arrogant and sometimes a bit annoying.  So I don’t mind making him suffer a bit.)  I just wrote the conclusion of the first of those events, or rather the first major one.

Said event being that he was forced to pose nude for the faculty of the art department at the college where he teaches Greek (and sometimes Latin).  Why he had no choice but to pose naked for the (mostly female) art teachers is a bit of a long, convoluted and frankly ridiculous story that I don’t want to get into right now.  (But he’s  a side character (though he doesn’t know it) for a (made up) romantic comedy movie (a bad one), so it’s okay that the side plot of the novel (which is the main plot of the movie) is absurd.)

Anyway, after suffering a number of humiliations during the posing process, this happens:

            “Okay, next can you get down on all fours, head hanging down, as if you’ve just been defeated in something of dreadful importance?” Callie asked.

“**** no!” I replied.  I don’t get in that pose lightly, and not where just anyone can see me.  Especially while naked.

He’s got a hair-trigger temper, and this sets him off, all the more so because Callie accuses him of being immature, and then tries to sweet-talk him, despite that she’s in her 60s and dresses like a flower child (despite that, this being the 1980s, she was too old for that even during the 1960s).  So he’s ready to storm out in a huff and go home to sulk and fume, or at least get drunk.  (He does a lot of the latter…)

But he’s still naked, so he can’t just stomp out of the room.  (Especially since it’s mid-February, and though I don’t say where his college is located, in his original incarnation, several novels ago, he lived in Detroit, so Februaries would be pretty cold.  (I even looked up what that particular week’s weather was like in Detroit in 1982.  Very cold indeed.))

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IWSG – Untitled

Published June 1, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

“Untitled” here referring both to the post and to the project I’ve been working on.

Though I’ve yet to attempt the “take my laptop to a cafe-like place and spend an hour writing after 99% finishing my lunch” plan I had for this summer, I have actually started writing fiction again.

As of last month’s IWSG post, I was planning on either working on the rewrites of my semi-YA series set about 20 years after the Trojan War, or on the superhero story.  I wrote up a set of character questions, and went through having all the major characters from the first book of the semi-YA series answer them, but I only got through about half of one question for the characters for the superhero story, ’cause I decided I wanted to write the answers for a different set of characters instead.

I have for a long time been interested in the concept of a story told from the perspective not of the hero, but one of the supporting characters.  (This dates back to my fanfic days, when I contemplated the way Final Fantasy VII would be if it was narrated by Yuffie.)  I actually tried to do a NaNo novel like that once, where the idea was to write a JRPG-like story, as told by the perky supporting character…but by the time it was done, it was more of a strategy RPG than a regular one (okay, minor difference) and the character was no longer perky or merely supporting.  I was quite disappointed by it, overall.  (I should probably go back and look at it sometime and see if it’s as awful as I remember, or if I was just upset with it for not being what I wanted it to be.)

Anyway, then I got the idea of applying it to the romantic comedy genre.  Now, I don’t watch that kind of movie, so I don’t really know what’s what with them.  But I’ve been lead to believe that it’s common for the heroine (when the movie’s more from her perspective than his) to have a gay best friend.  Who I imagine is usually pretty much a shallow stereotype.  But what if he wasn’t a stereotype?  And what if he was the one telling the story?

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IWSG – Am I still a writer at all?

Published October 7, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Do I really have the right to call myself a writer anymore?  (In a way, I have never had that right, since I’ve never been paid for anything I’ve written, but that’s a more narrow definition than I intend here.)  Other than the myths I’ve haphazardedly re-told for this blog — and a couple of odd short stories for Missing Letter Mondays — I haven’t written anything for many long months; no significant amount of writing since Camp NaNo in April, and even that wasn’t all that significant.  (I think I set my goal to about 20k.)  And I’m not even sure if I’m going to take part in NaNo this November.  (Though admittedly that’s because of time concerns more than anything else; I have two research papers due in mid-December, one 25 pages long, the other 5,000 words long, which comes to about 20 pages, as far as I can tell (based on the length of my 1,000 word papers for the same class).  So in November I will be neck-deep in research.  I also have a presentation to do at some point that month, I think.)

I’m not sure exactly why I don’t seem able to write anymore.  It may be due to any number of factors.  I can think of a few possibilities, off-hand.

1) Following the successful conclusion of my quasi-YA novel series in the first draft stage, I told myself it was time to buckle down and do some re-writing, first on my Trojan War novel — which the quasi-YA novels are kinda-sorta a sequel to — and then on the series, to try and get them all polished up in the hopes that I might someday (self-)publish them and maybe get one or two people to read them, and maybe even to pay me for them.  But I’m no good at re-writing, and actively detest having to scrap scenes/sequences/chapters/et cetera and start over, which I had to do at several places in the Trojan War novel.  (In fact, I still haven’t finished the do-over on the Telephos chapter.)  However, since I was supposed to be re-writing, I felt guilty about writing anything else.

2) Last year’s NaNo project is still hanging over my head, unfinished.  Well, not “unfinished” as in I never got to 50k, or even that I didn’t finish the book, sort of.  It expanded from a single book to the first in a trilogy, and I finished that first book, but I still haven’t been able to make much headway into the second book.  I think it’s about 20-30k, but I’ve barely even made a dent in the plot.  Dent nothing, I’ve barely even scratched it!  (In addition to the fact that my characters are always far too chatty, the series has way too many of them, which makes it very long without accomplishing as much as I’d like.  It’s hard keeping up with what so many people are doing, but due to the way the story and plot are structured, there really aren’t any I can safely cut.  Well, maybe I could cut the reincarnation of Antilochos, but that’s about it.)

3) Two characters from the backstory for last year’s NaNo project have utterly taken over my imagination’s life, but I have very little I can do with them.  (Though I have written three (contradictory) short stories about them, and a…I have no idea what to call it.  I was taking a course on oral history last year, and thought the oral history interview was an interesting potential mode of story-telling…and I ended up writing an “oral history interview” with these two characters.  Though not with their actual life story for the backstory — in that they both die young — but in a continuation from one of the short stories.)

Okay, while I blame all three of these situations, I think #3 is probably the primary culprit, so I’m going to go into it in more detail.  (Though I’ve said some of this before.  I apologize to anyone who’s already read that stuff, because there’s going to be old news mixed in with the new stuff.)

So that NaNo novel was an anime-inspired sci-fi piece, quite literally Mobile Suit Gundam meets the Trojan War.  Not that it’s a fanfic cross-over, mind you.  It’s just the Greeks and the Trojans reincarnated into the far future, which has giant robots and operates on a very Gundam-style set of story rules.  (Though there’s also a tiny bit of influence from Macross and Martian Successor Nadesico.)  Because the reincarnation of Cassandra could remember all their previous lives, I had to know what they all were, so I could have her talk about their past lives consistently, without relying exclusively on their original lives.  But for some reason the versions of Achilles and Patroclos who were killed in the 1972 massacre (mass hysteria in a snowed-in ski lodge) really struck a chord with me, and have refused to go away.  I’m not sure why, exactly.  It helps that 1972 is only slightly outside of my own life experiences (born in ’75) and thus something I’m more readily able to imagine with some degree of realism, unlike the 1880s, or the French Revolution, or the future.  (Okay, I can imagine all kinds of futures, but…they tend not to be terribly consistent.)  Possibly more important is that in the 1972 version, for whatever reason, their love is exclusive.  I mean, in the actual NaNo novel, the reincarnation of Achilles has sex with four or five people, or rather, three or four women in addition to the reincarnation of Patroclos.  (And the reincarnation of Patroclos does have sex with one woman in the course of the book, though not much attention is drawn to that fact.  Even most of the cast assumes that he’s not interested in women, only in his boyfriend, and he’s always very annoyed that he has to explain that he does have girlfriends, it’s just that he doesn’t have one at the moment, and what with the fact that 95% of the people he’s ever met just died, he doesn’t really think this is a good time to be dating.  (Not that that stops the reincarnation of Achilles from chasing every skirt he sees.  (Not that they actually wear skirts, mind you.  That’s just a figure of speech; they all wear identical jumpsuits.)))  This is typical of their relationship in all the lives — including the original one — except that one in 1972.  There, instead of being bisexual, they both become homosexual, planning to spend the rest of their lives together.  And, technically, they do.  It’s just that in the original version, “the rest of their lives” is three days.  That’s probably one of the other reasons they’ve taken over like this, too; the extra tragic nature of the brevity of their love hits the “fanfic” nerve in me, the “I’ve gotta fix this story!” nerve.  (Though another part that’s important is the fact that this particular reincarnation of Achilles is much nicer than the original Achilles, and less shallow than the one in the actual NaNo novel.  Though the fact that he’s nicer was only really set up as I started writing those short stories, so they had kind of already taken over by that point, or were starting to, anyway.)

Oh, I should explain that.  See, it’s been one of my…hmm, what to call it?  It’s not a “writing technique” as such, but I’m not sure what else to call it.  A way in which my writing bleeds into my real life?  Well, whatever it is, it’s been the case at least since college — and probably, in a slightly different manner, far longer than that — that I tend to think about the primary romantic couple in whatever I’ve been writing lately.  All the time.  See, my life sucks.  It always has.  Being me is no fun, so whenever I’m not actively doing something that requires my attention, I have a tendency — and this is not a conscious thing, it just happens — to imagine myself as the woman in whatever is my current pairing, whether it’s a pairing out of something in pop culture, or a pairing from something original I’ve been writing.  At some point, this switched me over from making up new stories advancing the plot to making up stories that are alternates to the plot.  (I blame my Final Fantasy VII period; there wasn’t a lot to do with that pairing in “advancing the plot” because the further you get in the “official” story, the more convoluted and yet pointless it becomes, not to mention the fact that characters are not terribly consistent from one game to the next, so it was more satisfying to make up completely alternate stories, simply borrowing the characters.)  So in taking over my mind’s “primary couple” position, these two also activated my “fanfic” senses in a big way, and instead of advancing the plot, I end up making up new ways for them to get together romantically, never really advancing any new plots much beyond that.  (And I won’t go into how awkward it is that suddenly I’m imagining myself as a guy.  It’s fortunately an unconvincing bit of imagination, but…still not one I’m entirely comfortable with.  I just can’t seem to get it to stop!)

So, lately I’ve been wondering if I should excise those two from the backstory of the sci-fi novel — I can easily enough make up a new story to go there (in fact, I have one in reserve that suddenly snuck into something unrelated I was writing, though that was originally set around now, but shifting it back to the 1970s wouldn’t be that difficult) — and give them their own story, their own book, in the hopes that that will exorcise them from my mind, and let me move on to other things.

No idea if that’ll work or not; I’ve never had anything quite like this happen to me before.

Of course, the problem is that despite the book they’re part of the backstory for being rather silly and outlandish, these two characters are very down-to-earth and their story is supposed to be grim and highly realistic.  (Not that it would be if I ended up trying to write the original story of the slaughter at the ski lodge.  I don’t know what it would end up being, but realistic would not be on the table.)  So it’s hard to imagine them in the kind of weird stories that I generally write.  And there’s no hope of writing a realistic “what sort of suffering would a newly gay couple have gone through in 1972” because I have no idea what that would be, don’t have the time to research it, and even if I did, I don’t know what it’s like to be a man, and any attempt to imagine what it’s really like to be a gay man would definitely come out flat and unconvincing, and possibly unintentionally offensive.  (Not in the usual, mocking ways, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my imagination failed so spectacularly that it ended up giving offense.)

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t have any ideas of what to do with them in a NaNo novel for this year.  I did have an idea, and I think it has some potential…if I can ever move past their role in it to think about the rest of the plot.

It would be a bizarre thing where they’re in a chopper over Vietnam (it was part of their original backstory that they served in the Special Forces in the Vietnam War) in 1970, and then the helicopter gets sucked through a vortex of some sort, and crashes on an island, in a very Island of Dr. Moreau kind of thing.  (Not that I’ve read that book yet…)  I have one other character in mind, the main go-between for the mad(?) scientist and everyone else on the island, but only the sketchiest of ideas for everyone else.  To the extent that I have no idea how many other people were even on their helicopter.  My file of plot ideas for this is a couple of thousand words long by now, and most of them are about how the no-longer-reincarnation of Achilles is going to confess his love, and how it’ll play out from there, and what their new backstory is, but only where their romantic relations are concerned.

The irony about this seeming monomania for the love stories is that they rarely feature heavily in anything I’ve written.  Despite my personal obsession with them, they tend to be low key and not very important to the plot.  (For example, I wrote a vampire novel — intended to be the first in a series — quite a long time ago, maybe 2005ish.  The lady vampire intended to be the overall heroine of the series isn’t even in the first book, though she’s discussed a lot, and the fellow intended to be the overall hero of the series is only a supporting character, and the fact that he’s in love with her is only vaguely hinted at.  In a short story taking place between book 1 and book 2 (and I did actually start book 2, for what little that’s worth) I did have scenes involving both of them, but aside from some flirting, the romance really didn’t come up at all; in fact, the main drive of the story was him getting involved with another woman, little knowing that she, too, was a vampire.  (He’s never been willing to act on his love for the heroine because she’s a vampire, you see.  Well, and some other reasons — including that she’s his employer — but that’s the big one.)  They weren’t going to get together as a couple until book 4…which was going to be the next time that the hero even showed up.  And yet these two were my “pair” for a long time.)

Despite that I’ve started coming up with this plot for a NaNo novel for this year, I doubt I’ll really take part in NaNo this year.  Given how little of my research I’ve done so far for those final papers (I’ve got tons of library books sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to read them) I have a feeling that I really won’t have time.

And I’m no longer sure if I’m even capable of it.  I feel like my writing muscles have atrophied.  It’s very distressing.

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