It’s still early

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Experiment: Life

I keep getting frustrated with myself.  Bogged down, feeling like a toddler, I DON’T WANNA!  Don’t wanna get up, or decide what productive thing to do, or wash dishes, or … or … or write, of course, because that’s there too.  Or worse, I want to write, but I don’t want to tear open the vein and feel what’s there.  Or I don’t want to keep banging my head against a wall.  I dunno.

I’m trying to rewrite my vampire story, and I’m stuck on this scene.  Do I just need to bang my head on it harder?  (That’s my default assumption, it may be faulty.)  Is it the wrong scene and I can’t see it because that’s always been the scene?  Or am I just writing the wrong story right now?  What’s the right story?  How would I know?

The other morning I woke up grumpy.  I was tired (I’m always tired when I wake up), and I was thinking of all the things I haven’t done, should’ve done, should I get up and wash dishes, should I help Ben with breakfast, should I should I?  Or worse, I should I should.  And some of the grumpy got turned outward on Ben, because that’s what happens.  So then I wonder, is there some psychological reason I’m grumpy?  I should do something to get un-grumpy, because I shouldn’t be judging myself.  So now I’m judging the judging.  o_O  Seriously, my brain.

I haven’t worked on the story in days, and I haven’t worked on anything else either.  Because my brain is judging and saying “You should be finishing this vampire story!” and instead of some other part of me saying very linearly, “But that’s the wrong story” or “But I’m coming at the story wrong” or anything so useful, I just don’t want to write, and I feel miserable and grumpy.  Because the part of me that can determine whether it’s the right story isn’t linear, so it doesn’t communicate in whole ideas like that.  It just gets grumpy.  Or stubborn, and some other part of my head gets grumpy.  (When I’m in it, I can’t always tell which part of my psyche is having which reactions.  And notice the part of my brain making that sentence thinks I should be able to tell, and is judging me for that.  Oh, the judgment how it swirls.)

Anyway, so I was telling Ben about my grumpy morning, which actually started with a grumpy evening the night before, after he went to bed, but it’s not much different from the grumpy morning so I didn’t bother telling you about it before, but I was telling him about the grumpy evening and the grumpy morning.  And he said*, “I guess I’m not surprised that you’re having tough emotions and doubts at this stage in your experiment.  It’s still early.  But I have no doubt that you’re going to succeed.”  And then he went away to do something else.

And I remembered I also have confidence that I’m going to succeed.  And I have confidence that it’s going to suck sometimes, because learning a new thing always sucks, and I’m learning a whole new way of living.  It always gets rough before you make a breakthrough.  I’ve been having a lot of rough, these past few weeks, interspersed with awesome.

And today I read this blog post by Amanda Palmer, who makes awesome music, who’s married to Neil Gaiman, who makes awesome books, in which she reviews his latest book and their marriage.  Two artists married to each other.  Two artists who had long solo careers of being creative in a particular way before getting married, and not always knowing how not to hurt each other while doing their own things.  And I’m so envious of them, because they know how to do their things already.  They’ve had years and years of making art for a living, in which to discover that they work best alone, or in short bursts or long bursts or intense obsessive** weeks of Making Art, or whatever.  And I’ve had one month, half of which was actually vacation.

It’s still early, yet.

——

* He didn’t actually say it like that.  I don’t remember his words.  But these words get me to the same feeling I had when he said his words, so they’ll do.

** This word is never spelled the way I think it should be: obssessive.  Or maybe obsssesssive.  If you’re going to be obsessive, you should have tons of extra esses.  I’m just sayin’.

Whew, third draft rewritten.

Today being the first day of my holiday vacation, I just finished editing the third draft of my vampire story, “The Organville Vampire”. It’s a lot better now, nearly a real story!

When I type in the changes I’ll call it the fourth draft, and I’ll know how long it is.  And then I’ll print it out for my beta readers!  Should be ready by the new year…

(Now I need to go buy Christmas presents… at least my priorities are in order?  :-/ )

NaNoWriMo 2011 trails off with a fizzle

I’m not conceding defeat, exactly, because that would imply that I’m a failure, and I don’t believe that.  But… I took on a task, and real life came along and bit me.

I set out to write 50,000 new words on THE LAST FAIRY GODMOTHER this month, and I haven’t broken 15,000†.  Being the second-to-last day of the month, I’m not going to try to pretend that I could manage all that before the end of tomorrow.

I’ve concluded several things from this experiment:

  • I can write a lot when I don’t care if it makes sense.
  • I actually prefer it to make sense, even though it’s “just” NaNoWriMo.
  • While I started out with characters and a plot, I missed out on the critical VILLAIN element.  I finally figured out the villain (and also what he does that personally affects my main characters!), but not until the third week, by which time I’d fallen seriously behind.
  • Scheduling something, even something wonderful and fun, that takes up a whole weekend plus two weekday evenings during NaNoWriMo is tantamount to NaNoSuicide.  Especially when I still have my day job, and therefore had no weekend to recover from the week and the fun weekend, and still wanted to be able to keep writing.  I lost over a week recovering from that.
  • Inertia is really helpful, so a disruption in the inertia drags me to a screeching halt, and then it takes me weeks to care enough to speed up again.
  • When trying to avoid writing, I knit beautiful things*.  😀
  • When trying to avoid writing, I make great progress resolving story issues in other stories that are not my main focus.  (Yesterday I realized I could fix two flaws in my vampire story, and I came up with four scenes for a short story version of my first [winning] NaNo story from 2006 about the invention and QA testing of the transporter**.)

Other wins for the month:

  • I bought a ton of yarn on sale on Saturday.  Including enough to make my Staghorn Sweater.  As soon as I finish making my vest (see beautiful things, above), I’ll start on the sweater.  Woohoo!
  • I haven’t died.
  • I got to see or talk to most of my favorite people over the Thanksgiving long weekend.
  • There might even be some others, but I’ve already forgotten them.  :-/

So, I think my plan is to finish polishing my vampire story, and then decide whether I want to start back in on LFG or write the four scenes for my transporter story.  Or maybe even try to figure out what the later scenes of the transporter story might be…  Hmm.

 

——

† Which brings me to 35,000 total!

* And of course I haven’t remembered to take any pictures of it, so no, you cannot see it.  Sorry.

** I can’t remember if it had a title.  It was wonderful and funny.  I still have the novel somewhere, but it is not worth resurrecting in any way shape or form, with the possible exception of the first scene, which was full of fabulous.  I seem to have only documented it on the internet on Nov. 1 of that year, here: http://booklizard.livejournal.com/2006/11/01/

I am up Early

It’s 6, and I’ve been up for an hour, and it only just occurred to me that I should blog about this.  Liza, awake before the butt-crack of dawn?  On purpose?

The idea was that I would wake up an hour early today, and go for a walk before getting ready for work.  (Ben would wake up early, too, but he doesn’t hate mornings as much as I do.)  Now, “an hour early” is a variable thing, since I wake up anywhere from 7:30 to 8:30.  But I figured 6:30 seems reasonable, until I remembered that the sun doesn’t rise until about 6:40, and we have a big ol’ hill that hides the risen sun for at least an hour.  So, 6:45, then.

And I don’t keep an alarm clock, or any clock, in the bedroom.  Which may explain my hour-long variation in typical waking-up time.  So I moved a nice analog clock with a charming bell into the bedroom last night, even though it’s been losing time for quite a while.  I reset it to “real” time last night, and set the alarm for 6:30.  But while I was lying in bed I thought, wow this could go really wrong when that alarm doesn’t even try to wake me up until 9am.  Not to mention that I can’t tell whether it knows the difference between AM and PM, or if it’ll just ding twice every day.  If it does know the difference, it probably thinks it’s PM now, not AM, and so we extra won’t get an alarm.

In light of this clock-problem, last night as I was falling asleep I told myself to wake up around 6:30 or dawn, whichever seemed easier.  (This often works for me, I just don’t usually bother.  I mean, who would want to be awake then?*)

So this morning when I found myself awake, and it was dark out, I scrunched up my eyes to tell whether it was really dark out, or just nearly-dawn and getting lighter.  (By the way, it’s just starting to get lighter now.  Charming, really, like watching sunset in reverse.  Huh.)  The house across the street has rather bright lights, and just over the hill from us is a greenhouse that keeps lights on most of the time, and we have these huge dark pine trees behind the house that look pitch-black against even the night sky, and the moon might have even been out.  So, there were lots of explanations for a light-colored sky that don’t involve it being nearly-dawn, but I was awake, so it must be close, right?

Wrong.  It was 5.  But I was already awake, and going back to sleep for an hour (or an hour-and-a-half, or two hours) would just make me not want to wake up again**.  So I got up.

And I worked on my vampire story revisions.  I’d had some pretty useful ideas as I was falling asleep last night (there’s something a bit disturbing, though, about falling asleep while thinking about a vampire story, even if I do know how it turns out), which I hadn’t gotten up to scribble down then because I was going to be waking up early and wanted to be rested.

It has yet to be seen whether this “walking” thing will be effective, or whether I’ll just be zonked all day.  (And I still have half an hour before I’ll feel justified in making Ben wake up to keep me company.)

* Aside from at least 3 of my favorite people, plus my father, who are all decided morning people. I don’t get it at all.  It’s still night-time.  I could be asleep.

** Not to mention that I suspect I’m allergic to our forced-air heat, and that part of my trouble with mornings has to do with the heater being on for an hour before I wake up.  And at 5, the heater isn’t on yet.  It’s on now of course.

New year, new project

Happy New Year!

Since last we met, several exciting things have happened.  Haven’t you missed me?

First, I wrote THE END of my Vampire Story.  Again.  This is THE END of the Second Draft!  Not the final draft, I have a major revision to go, but it will be a revision not a re-write.  I’m planning to start revision at the beginning of February.  I got burnt out figuring out how to get to “the end” so I could move on to the next story bouncing around in my head, so I’m giving myself a good bit of distance before picking it up with my Editor Goggles on.  But any later than February seems like procrastination.

Vampire Story, Second Draft
7500 / 7500 (100%)

Second!  I started my next story!  This one has been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years, just as a vague idea for a fairy tale that ends (or maybe starts) with the fairies getting the upper hand.  Why is it that Rumpelstiltskin never wins the first-born child?  This is the story where he does.  Well, not Rumpelstiltskin himself, but some other fairy creature.  That was all I had, a bare premise.  I wrote a short story called “Wing Stop” a while back, which ends wrong but I couldn’t ever figure out why*.  A couple of months ago, I suddenly developed a plot and characters.  I don’t know where they came from**, except that I was given this fabulous poem called “Bad Day” by Kay Ryan about an elfin tailor.  And suddenly I knew how the child was taken, and a bit later I figured out what came next, and then–BLAMMO!–I had a whole*** novel-lengthed† story arc.

This has never happened to me before.

I suppose it still hasn’t quite happened.  I mean, the story was brewing in the back of my head for yearsSomething must’ve been going on back there.

And eventually I discovered some characters and stuff, too.  So, I’ve started writing!  See?

The Last Fairy Godmother
2000 / 100000 (2%)

Ok, I think that was only two things, even though I said “several”. You could invent a few more for me if you wanted.

* Proof that I do and have finished things, despite the trash I talk about myself.  Just not “final draft”, “ready to be published” finished.  :-/

** Maybe from reluctance to find the end of my Vampire Story.  Funny how procrastination can have some fab fringe benefits.

*** Well, whole by my definition.  There are a whole lot of blurry details and not-so-details that I haven’t figured out.  And I do still have to write the whole thing.

† At least, I hope so.  What if it falls short?  Hrm.

Getting the scene right

Why is it that every scene I write seems to require at least two versions to be even remotely close to what it should be?  The first scene in this second draft was fabulous coming out of my pen, really fun when I read through it again, and then fell flat when I came back to it a week later.  Fortunately, I figured out how I can step up the creepy factor (dude, it’s a vampire story, it needs to start out at least a little creepy), so that’ll take a serious revision.  (Not until after I finish this whole draft, however.  I’m not rewriting whole scenes until I hit The End [again].)

My current scene has taken one and a half passes, and I’ve just realized I’ll need another.  The first pass was half done, and then I couldn’t quite figure out what to put next, so I stopped writing and went away for a few days.  Driving home one day, I figured out that if I rearrange it like so, and have the conversation go like this, then it’ll flow better, and I can get where I need to go.  So I wrote it out yesterday, and it was ok, there was a sort of banter between the two characters in the scene–banter much like that I have with my friends, except I think it isn’t as much fun when you’re reading about other people.  But it wasn’t right, it didn’t make me feel jazzed.  This morning I set my brain on it and realized that there’s too much of the MC saying, “I want X”, and me (the author) responding, “Ok, here ya go!”  Bah*.

Which means that either I can’t give the MC what she’s asking for (not without an extra big thorn) … or she doesn’t want what I’m going to give her.  I think I have an idea of how to rearrange it so she isn’t getting what she wants, as such, but … I’m not sure it’s all that conflictive**.  I want her to end this scene in a particular place, having seen a particular thing, but I’m not sure I’ve figured out how to make that conflicted yet***.

But this still leaves me with the question: Why can’t I ever write the right scene on the first try?  Why is it always that right after, or the next day, or several weeks later I realize “Oh, this would be so much better if …”

Or maybe the more important question: Am I going to reach a point where I stop thinking of the better versions, and can just call it finished?  I really don’t want to write a third version of this story from scratch.  :-/  (Barring another change of MC, I’m not going to.  It’ll just be heavy revision.  But still.)  And I’m tired of  knowing that the story as-written is quite different from how it will be in the next draft, so I can’t go back and read the way it’s going to be.

*sigh*

* Kicking puppies.  I’m supposed to be kicking puppies.  That’s my job.

** It is too a word.  See? en.wiktionary.org/wiki/conflictive

*** Which is why I’m not rewriting the scene until the end.  For now, it suits me to know that I have a better version in mind (described in my notebook, where I won’t forget it), which I can write later.  So if I come up with an even better variation, that’ll get added to the pile of notes, and I’ll only have to rewrite (again) once.

Bad lessons my brain teaches me

My brain is determined to teach me bad lessons about my body.

Last night, I had a caffeinated beverage at about 7.  I don’t usually, but I decided to risk it cuz I’ve been pretty tired lately, and I was at my writing group.  So, I didn’t end up leaving until after 11, and then had an hour-long drive home.  I put on some nice classical music* and set to pondering stories, both my own and those of my friends.  By the time I reached 92, I’d completely reworked the (new) beginning of my story so that it will be much more dramatical.  It was a totally visual experience, I could see all of the scenes that need to happen.  Once I can see them, they’re usually right–though my ability to transcribe them onto paper is often imperfect.  Then I had to pay attention to driving, because it was nearly midnight and very foggy and 92 is twisty.  When I got home I scribbled for another hour, completely wide awake and buzzing, totally jazzed about making my vampire more creepy and my MC’s problems more troubling.  (And I may have figured out a theme.)

Finally I went to bed, and as I tried to fall asleep, I figured out what will make the climactic scene with the new MC unique from the last version–and more powerful, I think**.

So apparently being tired and drinking caffeine when I should be winding at the end of the day is the right way to get breakthroughs.  Just as I’ve been fearing.  That needs a warning label with it: WARNING: USE DRASTIC MEASURES ONLY WHEN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, AS IT CAN CAUSE SLEEPINESS, POOR PERFORMANCE AT WORK, AND ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES TO CONCLUDE YOU ARE IRRESPONSIBLE OR DON’T LOVE THEM.  Or maybe it needs indications. USE ONLY AS DIRECTED. USE ONLY AS MUCH AS NECESSARY.  DO NOT USE MORE THAN ONCE EVERY 6 HOURS, AS IT CAN LEAD TO INTERNAL BLEEDING AND HALLUCINATIONS.  DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY [sic] WHILE USING DRASTIC MEASURES LIKE SLEEP DEP AND STARVATION TO INDUCE CREATIVITY.

Yeah.  Or as Ben said when I described the effect this morning–“Oh, you’re an artist.”  :-/

* Ax, Stoltzman, Ma : Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart : Trios for Piano, Clarinet, & Cello, which is currently one of my favorites.

** One of the nice things about not sharing the first draft^ with anyone is that no one will be able to gainsay me about whether the second draft is actually better than the first.  They’ll have to take it on its own merits.  🙂

^ Or at least the ending of the first draft–I realize I did share a lot of the beginning with my writing group.  Fortunately, when I shared the new beginning with the group last night (not the one I re-envisioned while driving home, the first version of the new beginning with the new MC), everyone agreed the MC has a personality.  Yay for small victories!  Yay for main characters who aren’t wet blankets!

Welcome to Summer, and Second Draft-y

It’s a beautiful day!  Summer (sic) has finally arrived in Half Moon Bay!  The sun is warm, the breeze is mild, and I’m not leaving to go to work today!

Ben made a vegetarian chili last night, which I had for lunch today.  Om nom nom.  My favoritest co-worker ever brought me kefir* grains** this week, and I’ve started making kefir.  I put a few spoonsful on top of the chili, just like it was yogurt or sour cream or, you know, kefir, and I ate it, and it was delicious.  Mmm.

The other thing I did today was that I finally started the second draft of my vampire story, with a completely new main character.  I’ve been putting it off for weeks (since my last post), because I don’t really want to re-write the whole damn story.  But!  It worked out pretty well today, sitting outside in the sun (mmm, warm), I managed to see the first scene, and then I started writing.  It just kinda flowed.  The new MC has a voice, which the last one didn’t, and I’m unreasonably amused by her.  (Which makes me fear no one else will find her amusing… but that’s what third drafts are for!)  I think I wrote about 1000 words*** today, and felt much better about it than I would’ve about rewriting 1000 words of the first draft.

(Incidentally, 1000 words is about a fifth of the rough draft–which doesn’t seem likely for this second draft, because I’ve only just gotten to the point where the first draft “started” [after I hacked off the initial two scenes that sucked† and therefore weren’t counted].)

And yesterday I looked up who Mandelbrot was, and decided that I like him quite well as a namesake for my MC.  Who’s a girl.  I dunno, the name popped into my head, that she’s called Mandy, and it’s short for Mandelbrot.  And I couldn’t remember who Mandelbrot really was, so I was afraid he was a serial killer or something.  But no, he’s the guy who discovered fractals, which works for me, though I haven’t figured out why her parents picked it.

* It’s like yogurt, only runnier and different.  This morning’s batch was solid and wobbly just like yogurt would be, though it fell apart when I transferred it to a different container.

** Kefir, you see, is also a bacterial growth, just like yogurt, but the bacteria grow these gel-like modules around them, which are called grains.  It’s really strange, and looks a little like cottage cheese, and you strain them out before drinking the kefir (though you don’t have to), and then put them in a new container with new milk, and they keep growing.  Yum.  I’ll have to report more about this as I continue experimenting.

*** One of the troubles with writing long-hand is that you can’t give an actual number, without doing something dumb like counting.  Computers count for you.  Someday, maybe I’ll learn how to compose directly into a computer.  My recollection is that I usually fit about 150 words into a page of my notebooks, and I filled 6 pages.  But I seem to recall that sometimes the number was more like 200 or 250, and I don’t remember if that was in a different shape of notebook, or if it really varies that much depending on how big my words are.

† Ok, they didn’t so much suck as just not have a place in the story.  I did keep them, because some of the description was relevant.

A rough draft!

I now* declare the first draft of my vampire story to be complete!

I wrote an ending** and I printed it out–20 pages, double-spaced.  Very exciting!  And then I had to reprint parts of it, because the printer ran out of ink and was printing too faintly.  *sigh*

There’s a lot left to fix.  There’s one scene that needs to be rewritten, because the wrong things happen in it, and I didn’t figure that out until after I wrote it.  And all of the other scenes need things that I haven’t identified yet.

In fact, there are several things about this story that aren’t quite right, aside from basic prose.  The main character is about as interesting as a cardboard box***, and I can’t figure out how to fix her.  The situation is really interesting, but on some level it could be happening to anyone.  So why her?  The setting–a high-tech future hospital–is relevant and important, I know it.  But I haven’t figured out how.  Or rather, I haven’t figured out how to emphasize it.

So today at the gas station I had a thought–what if the MC is just in the wrong position?  She’s flat and dull because she’s not where she needs to be… or maybe she’s just not the MC.  I have an idea for someone in a better role to be the MC.  But of course, that would mean rewriting quite a lot of it.  Possibly all of it.  If she ends up having a personality that would be a really good thing.  But… rewriting the whole story, from a whole new perspective. :-/  That sounds more complicated than my last crazy idea.

I’m going to sleep on it, and see what I think tomorrow.

* Ok, I actually declared it last weekend.  I’m a little slow.

** I didn’t end up adding in the complications I was thinking of in my last post.  They didn’t make sense after all, and I decided to simplify and just finish the damn thing.  Also, I’m pretty certain it’s not the ending.  But … it’s better than no ending.

*** A friend in my writing group described her first version of a main character as having the personality of a coffee table.  Mine’s less solid than that.

Do I overcomplicate things?

Ok, my last post said half a scene from the end, and that’s true.  But I haven’t been able to write it.  I’m not convinced, somehow, and I can’t commit to picking an ending.  I’ve been struggling with the technology in my story.  It’s set in the future (sci-fi horror, you see), but the high-tech doesn’t feel like a crucial aspect of the plot.  If I could just as easily set it in the here-and-now, then there’s no point in setting it in the future.  But I’m convinced that setting it in the future is important to the story.  Therefore, my plot has been missing something, some element that could only happen in this time and place and none other.

Today I figured out how to do that, but it requires adding in a whole nother character, probably 2 more scenes, and reworking several of the others.  (But see, since I haven’t “finished” it yet, I haven’t rewritten those scenes yet, and they were going to need work anyway.  So, it wouldn’t exactly be a waste.)  But I’ve gotten rather attached to the parts of the ending that I’ve already written, and I’m afraid it wouldn’t happen quite this way with this extra plot point.  Which would mean that this great scene I wrote, that I totally love, may not make as much sense.  I might have to kill my darling*. *sniffle*

But would this plot addition overcomplicate things?  Can I accomplish the same thing–or something better–in a simpler way?  I’m also concerned that if I do add this plot point, it could change the tone pretty drastically, and by adding another character it would shift the balance of the story.

And furthermore, then I’d have to write two more scenes, and do the work to integrate that into the whole rest of the story–which isn’t very long.  This is major surgery, on a story this short.  Is it really worth it?

Maybe I’ll sleep on it, and come up with something even better tomorrow.  (“Speedy” hasn’t exactly been my name so far.  Have you noticed that it’s August already?)

* Good explanation of the phrase here: http://wendypalmer.com.au/2008/09/25/writing-rules-misapplied-kill-your-darlings/