Planning Week: Day 3

At this point, I can’t say that social pressure has affected much my procrastination tendencies. I have made progress on character names and backstory, but not as much as I had projected. For example, I’m not done with either yet, and the backstory isn’t even half done.

Honestly, one thing I hadn’t really accounted for in my attempts to utilize external motivation was the possibility that I would have depressive days in my general life where I didn’t want to do anything, let alone work on writing. I’ve been focusing my energy on unrelated graphics and writing a little the last two days and not much else.

It just feels impossible to get motivated, because normally I’d try to focus on why this was important to me to get back on track…but on really bad days, nothing feels important, so it’s a bit useless as a strategy. I don’t plan to just quit this project or anything like that, I promise. I don’t know how to get back to it yet on the scale that I need to be, but I’ll find a way.

Thanks for reading. ūüôā

Planning Week: Day 3

Planning Week: Day 1

Today begins the final week leading up to my 30 days of noveling. Because I have a full week to plan as much of my novel as I like, I can take my time a little bit each day. To that end, my only goal for the day is to make sure I have named all the characters that I know will appear in the story.

Because of the nature of my story, my characters need to have multiple names that are connected¬†but different enough to have different meanings. My original main character names, which I liked just fine at the time, need to be changed because a surprising number would turn out to be similar or identical to those of real people who are central to my life now. None of these were people that I knew then, so it is just one of life’s funny coincidences that my favorite characters overlap with my partner, a family friend, and my once-niece/adopted grandmother.

Other character names need changing because they are awfully bland as a whole. I cared more about the characters in the beginning than their names, which is fine, but I’d prefer that not all my male characters¬†have the most common male names in America–especially since it’s not necessary to the story in any way.

I’m not nearing done with the re-naming process, but I must say that so far the names I’ve chosen I like even better. Since nothing’s set in stone, it’s not a requirement that I love them, but it is a wonderful plus when they feel like an even better fit.

Tomorrow I will focus on sketching out the basic backstory for the novel I want to write. It is set more than a year after events I already planned to occur in a first book, so I need to have a clear idea of what came before. I will be back on Day 3 to post an update! ūüôā

Planning Week: Day 1

Ten Years of Planning

In a book that I own, one of the NaNoWriMo books that seem to have multiplied in recent years, the author allows for some time spent planning before the crush of writing begins–but he recommends no more than one week. His is not the first opinion I’ve seen that encourages a limited amount of time spent not-writing, the general idea being that if you plan long enough, there will never be a book, because you’ll get caught up trying to perfect something that doesn’t exist yet, or you’ll obsess all the life out of your idea.

I can personally agree with this assessment, as the book I want to write has been in the “planning” stage for more than a decade without being written. ¬†Therefore, this time I’m giving myself that standard week. Until June 25, I’m simply gathering files and character¬†information and trying to make them usable for when the week begins. While I did some writing on this story originally, and I’ve tried to start from the beginning at least twice in the years since, mostly I just have a ton of thoughts on what it could or should be. This poses a bit of a challenge because many of my ideas went through revisions, so my collected notes now contradict each other or are difficult to follow. One lists a main character as “Dee.” I don’t remember this name variation, and it was so brief that it only exists on one note, as opposed to other discarded names for the same character like “Ana” and “Lea.” At this point, I’m not even sure where it came from. Because my notation consistency was so spotty, it shall remain forever a mystery.

The length of time I’ve spent exploring the possibilities also poses technical problems. In going through old discs, I’ve found seven files, likely the original set from the story’s conception. They are Microsoft Works files, though, which means that my Windows 7 PC can’t read them. (I remember fondly the halcyon days of Microsoft Works, when I thought “handwriting” fonts were the most important part of any story.) I’ll be trying some workarounds¬†this week¬†to render them readable, but it’s still pretty funny that the¬†first draft of my story may exist in digital format–I just wrote it so long ago that it no longer exists according to my computer.

Another interesting part of the note-gathering process: there are key story ideas that I have no memory of creating or recording. I recently discovered a note about a character trait and important scene, both written out in my hand, that I did not remember adding to the story. I never referenced them again, so I must have forgotten or lost the note after writing it. Either way, getting organized before I start writing has turned out to be more helpful than I expected! I hope for more exciting discoveries as I head toward my planning week.

EDITED TO ADD: It turned out that opening my .wps files was shamingly simpler than I expected. I was able to successfully replace them with updated Microsoft Word versions. Among them was an entire plot breakdown as I originally conceived it, and a 24-page document filled with scenes and dialogue from various parts of the story. As I didn’t have any of this before, it has been a very good recovery day. ūüôā

Ten Years of Planning

Writing Differently

I have a lot of trouble writing, though I’ve been a writer since before I knew my parts of speech. The strange part is that I don’t remember having difficulty¬†with the act of writing when I was younger. ¬†As a child and teenager, I felt fulfilled just by sitting down and putting pen to paper. Somewhere along the way, the result began to matter more than the process–until I couldn’t write at all, for fear that what I created would be imperfect.

No amount of reasonable reminders that all humans are imperfect can help me with that feeling. Something about being who I am means that even hearing a rational defense of flaws only causes me to feel uncomfortable with the fact that I am one of those flawed people. I’m human, like everybody else? My stubborn, Autistic brain struggles with that very basic idea . Coupling my perfectionism with entrance into the world of adulthood meant that I stopped¬†writing for fun at all.

However, I did¬†continue dabbling in¬†the world I’d created, putting together mixtapes and profiles for my characters instead of telling their story. I couldn’t let the idea go, even though I couldn’t bear to write it. Many years passed, and multiple attempts to start fresh with the story have helped me to pinpoint the obstacles that stand between me and a real novel.

One of these¬†is the fact that I write differently than other people, which may be partly due to the fact that I read differently than other people. I’ve always been a fast reader, but I was an adult before I realized that was¬†not due to awesome reading skills. Rather the opposite, actually. I’m a skimmer, whose gaze flits all around the page while I try to force it to focus on the sentence at hand. I don’t retain much of what I read, though I enjoy it at the time.

My difficulty with reading contributes to what interests me as a reader: everything involving dialogue, and little else. I struggle mightily with descriptive writers, who place importance on the design of a home or the way that a fictional country is structured. It’s not that there’s something wrong with that kind of writing–there absolutely isn’t. It’s just that I can’t absorb it the way that I absorb interactions between characters, or their thoughts and internal monologues. ¬†Unless where the bedroom is placed or what’s in the salad¬†directly impacts¬†what happens¬†in a story, it’s irrelevant for my reading efforts.

Therefore it’s probably not surprising that I prefer¬†to write dialogue and reflective scenes for characters. World-building¬†was essential for most of my favorite books as a reader, but¬†I struggle with the idea of “setting the scene” as a writer, because I feel like the scene is irrelevant compared to the characters and their actions. Obviously that’s not true, because the action needs a place to occur or it couldn’t exist, but that reality¬†doesn’t help me to conjure a setting.¬†Because snatches of dialogue and disjointed reflections are my focus, I always¬†have more ideas than completed scenes. Even my own ideas fail to hold my attention for long, so I move from character to character or year to year within my long-term story…and all progress halts when I sit down to write in a linear fashion.

After years of struggling to write a story from beginning to end, I decided this time to embrace my unusual writing style and see what happens. There’s no reason why I couldn’t start writing a trilogy in book two instead of beginning with book one, since book two is what really interests me. There’s no rule that says I can’t write a book from both the heroes’ and villain’s points of view. If I think it makes the story stronger, why shouldn’t I¬†sprinkle the chapters with flashbacks from an unidentified¬†perspective? Why on earth have I been trying to make myself sound like other writers for ten years?

As I embark on this grand experiment ten days from now, I’ll use this blog to hold myself accountable via social pressure and (hopefully) write every day until I’m done. But I will also try to build a story in whatever form it needs to take, even if that is a form that I have never seen before in a successfully published work. I hereby declare that no matter how hard I wish to become a published author, I will write while pretending that only my opinion matters. With luck,¬†I may just rediscover my love of writing aside from the possibility of¬†praise and recognition.

Writing Differently

Seeing Possibilities

The same day that I posted my last update, I also collected all of the online work I’ve done over the years related to the world of my aspiring novel. There wasn’t as much of it as I expected; I think that some of my work was kept on eventually unreadable discs that¬†I¬†discarded and forgot (I used to use a lot of floppy disks that just gave up over the years). I gathered what I could find, though, and made a mental note to check stored CD-R discs as well.

Last night, I went through my big folder of paper notes and drafts. These actually are comprehensive, beginning with handwritten scrawls of dialogue from my teenage self and including a significant pile of printed pages from the initial conception of my story as a screenplay rather than a novel.

Re-reading my work from about thirteen years ago, when I began developing the story in a math class, is often hilarious. My early understanding of how to tell a story came not from the many books I read and loved, but from the endless hours of television I watched. In what I hope was a sincere form of¬†flattery, I gave¬†verbatim lines from my favorite television moments to my own characters. I¬†also demonstrated an immature understanding of character archetypes and high school politics, which I don’t hold against past-me, since I had genuinely yet to mature at that point.

However,¬†I must say that in spite of my dialogue theft, cliched characters, and underdeveloped plots, there is genuine potential strewn throughout my scattered ideas. Some of my banter is clever and wholly my own, some of my relationships still make me smile and¬†most of my brief attempts to write until plot problems solved themselves weren’t bad, exactly–just incomplete.

Most of my early ideas got revised out of existence, or talked through until it was clear that they made no sense. I won’t be able to use a lot of the notes I’ve gathered. But as intimidating as it feels to¬†actually write a¬†story that I’ve been thinking about for far too long, it also feels possible now. It may be rough, strewn with plot holes, and a bit retro in today’s apocalypse-fiction climate, but it could really be something. It could maybe even be good.

Seeing Possibilities

How to Write a Public Novel

I am still mulling over ways of using this blog. Writing my entire novel on WordPress seems unwise, especially if I manage to complete it and would like to seek publication of it after editing. Additionally, my perfectionism seems like a terrible fit with the live feedback I may receive:¬†constructive criticism can be very helpful, but I’m not sure receiving it on an unfinished work will help me as I work towards finishing it.

The first option that I’m considering is to post a daily sample of my progress here. That would demonstrate my efforts without requiring that I lay bare my entire work for any readers I may have.¬†

I am also considering posting my work in progress to Archive of Our Own, where readers could follow along as I add chapters. That site may be better suited for the format of a novel than this blog.

On the other hand, there’s something appealing about blogging a novel as I go. I’m¬†not sure which option I’ll choose, but I’d love to head your thoughts, any readers I may have out there. ūüôā

How to Write a Public Novel

Process

I’ve begun using Scrivener for the future novel that I’ll be working on here, because as a concept,¬†I’ve dabbled in it for ten years. Scrivener seems like a good way to organize all the past parts over the next two weeks in preparation for starting fresh. So far, I’m enjoying it. It seems very attention-deficit friendly, with the ability to jump between projects and notes, and organize things in whatever way I like.

I was originally considering 750words as a way to stay motivated, but it’s now a pay site after the first month, and I don’t have the $5 a month. That wouldn’t have been an issue, except that the site doesn’t warn you when you sign up, which upset me when I found out later. I’m not interested in getting attached to a site and then learning after a month that I can’t use it anymore. And while that may sound exaggerated, I’m currently only able to afford¬†groceries on credit cards, so I mean it when I say the monthly fee is not an option.

This is really just an update to mention that I will be working on this project before July, just not officially writing it. I have to go through years of re-imaginings and snippets of dialogue and figure out what stays and what gets re-purposed.

Process