Day 25: Inspiration (fanfic edition)

Good writing is everywhere. When you’re looking for it, it really can be found just about anywhere…advertising copy, television dialogue, blog posts. Today’s snippet comes from my weekend spent delving into fanfiction. I shared a story of my own that had been hanging out in a neglected folder, and read some by other people.

In one scene of one story, When I Was Dazzled By Eternal Things, the author is talking about a character who writes speeches, and is very new to his job. I was just reading along, imagining the story happening to characters I like, and then I read this:

There is a pen and paper in his hands and a look on his face like he is determined that they won’t get the better of him.

Suddenly, in the middle of a silly day enjoying often NSFW fanfiction from The West Wing, I was hit by the feeling that this was an incredibly important sentence, describing so many of us who are writing right now, and struggling right now. I feel this way all the time, except that I use a keyboard…like I could at any point be bested by the very thing I need to write.

I took a couple days off from writing this weekend, and plan to dive back in tomorrow. But for now, I leave you with the wisdom of raedbard above. There is so much beauty in fanfiction, and graffiti, and street buskers, among many other things, that I’m often not sure why we declare some things more artful than others.

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Day 25: Inspiration (fanfic edition)

Day 22: Scenes that make you sad

By this, I am not talking about terrible first drafts…though there are certainly scenes I have written over the last year that have been that bad! What I mean is a scene like the one I finished writing last night, which was unpleasant for the characters and lacked any shard of a happy ending. I’m only 20k in, so it’s not like the story itself will end badly, or that my characters are as doomed as they believe, but it was not a joyous moment.

I finished writing that scene and had reached a good amount of words for the day, leaving me with the decision of continuing on through my remaining writing time, or calling it good and doing something else. I knew I should keep going, because getting myself into a writing flow isn’t easy, but something about starting the next scene just made me feel really uncomfortable. I didn’t figure out why until after I woke up this morning and remembered where I left off.

Somehow, I was so tuned into my characters while I was writing the really sad scene that I didn’t want to continue on to what happened next. Even though I knew it would get better, I just felt like I needed to escape after the badness I had just written. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten that invested in my characters’ emotional states before.

On the one hand, that’s probably really sad, because this is my third book. On the other hand, though, realizing that I felt the need to stop writing because my last scene was just too much for me was actually kind of wonderful. This is the first world I’ve built from scratch, and it’s been in my head for almost half my life now. I have a feeling that the new relationship I’m exploring in this book, which wasn’t even a remote possibility before it struck me during this draft, is much more compelling to me than it reads outside of my head, but it’s still really getting to me.

It’s important to me to appreciate the upsides of writing as much as possible, to keep in mind why I’m doing this. So this is a new one for me: feeling upset because you’ve just upset your characters is an amazing part of the writing experience, even if it sucks at the time.

Day 22: Scenes that make you sad

Day 21: Writers you admire

I took two days off while I flipped my sleep-wake cycle completely upside down, but I’m back now! I’ll catch up on comments later today. 

My favorite writers change over time, and also don’t. I still love Francesca Lia Block and Tamora Pierce, even though now I want to be like Rainbow Rowell or Scott Westerfeld when I grow up. 😉  Neil Shusterman was a newer discovery for me, as were Gil McNeil and Kate Jacobs, but I still have a fondness for Jodi Picoult. Nora Roberts tells great stories even though I’m not a big fan of the romance genre, so I reread hers on a regular basis (thanks to my partner’s impressive collection). In nonfiction, I enjoy all of Malcolm Gladwell‘s books a lot and wanted to be him, before I decided novels were more my style.

I am currently reading Moneyball, by Michael Lewis. I just finished Flash Boys, his more recent book, and I now have to add him to my “impressive” list. Even though I had heard of a couple of his books, and Moneyball is on my watch list, I hadn’t planned to read any of his books before I saw an interview he did. The fact is, as much as I love nonfiction and find almost everything interesting, I have no knowledge of/interest in sports or stocks, so The Blind Side (which I did see as a movie), Moneyball, and Flash Boys just weren’t that appealing.

His interview was interesting, though, so I decided to read the book he was promoting, Flash Boys. I checked out Moneyball too, because I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie. And what I’ve found most surprising about his books is that I liked them, and learned a ton in the process. He manages to make both baseball and computer stock trading interesting, and that’s impressive to me, as a reader with no knowledge of either. I feel like I now have a solid grasp on modern Wall Street, as someone who doesn’t even know anyone with a 401k…and I’m not done with Moneyball yet, but Lewis turns a statistics story into a book about people, so I’m enjoying it very much.

Who are your favorite writers? Perhaps even more than that, who have you read recently that impressed or surprised you?

Day 21: Writers you admire

Day 18: Inspiration, Wall Street edition

One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever encountered is the idea that writers should draw inspiration from everything around them. Not just other writers, but all sorts of strange and varied places–and I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes, I read amazing things in novels that hit me hard…but just as often, if not more so, I watch a scene in a television show or listen to a lyric that does the same thing.

Today I was reading Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, which is teaching me more about the stock market than I really ever need to know, but which is also a pretty straightforward book. It’s nonfiction, so it’s not as though it overflows with lyrical prose. But there was a part that really struck me as one of those things that explains me better than I could, and finding it in a book about stock trading was a wonderful surprise.

“He had pale skin and narrow, stooped shoulders, and the uneasy caution of a man who has survived one potato famine and is expecting another.” (pg. 56.)

I’ve never read anything that so simply explains my worldview before. I consider myself a hopeful and optimistic person, but I grew up poor, hungry all the time. Even though my adult life has had some periods of safety and prosperity, it has always also swung back around to “food insecurity” and struggling to pay basic bills. So when we have money, I’m very grateful, but I’m also just waiting for things to be hard again, to wake up and wonder if we’re going to make it.

My older brother had a son who came to live with him after several unstable years with his mother. I was there one night when my nephew was rushing madly through his dinner. “You eat like there won’t be another meal,” my brother said, and I thought at the time, “Of course he does. So do I, because maybe there won’t be.” I have never outgrown the fear, and the quote above about an Irish Wall Street employee was the best comparison I’ve ever found.

Day 18: Inspiration, Wall Street edition

Day 17: Typing tunes

So, it’s almost 4p.m. as I write this, and I just woke up. I haven’t done my writing for the day yet, so today’s post is about music. (I posted about music during the writing of my first novel, too, but it’s always important for my process, so forgive the repetition. This likely won’t be the last time.)

I hit a bit of a low point this week, where I wasn’t struggling with my novel at all, just the writing of it. I couldn’t focus and settle down and type, even though I wanted to write and had the time. I could stare at the screen and see my novel, waiting to be written, but I couldn’t get the words out of my head and onto the page. Instead, I was popping back online to do extra work, or looking for new content anywhere at all just to do something that wasn’t staring blankly at my draft.

And then, I realized that I had been listening to the same playlists for weeks, if not months. One is on 8tracks, the only online radio I use because it’s all user-generated mixes, no ads. As a lover (and creator) of mixes, I prefer them to radio-style music services, because they’re made by people, who tend to have more eclectic taste than whoever programs radio channels. Plus, I’ve tried awesome sites like Pandora, and I CANNOT write when audio ads will pop up and interrupt. It is ruination, and I can’t stand it.

Besides one particular mix I am addicted to on 8tracks, I’ve also been listening to 1989 by Taylor Swift on repeat. It has the only song I’ve found so far that fits my current draft, “You Are in Love.” (This current story is so amorphous still in my mind that I’ve struggled putting together a character mix at all, unusual for me.) And besides that connection, I also listened to it so much in general that now it is good background sound for me while I write. It doesn’t distract, even though most of the music is very wrong for the tone of my writing.

The problem with all this is that my musical attention span is very, very short. Being able to bounce from artist to artist is one of my absolute favorite privileges of the Internet age, and one I indulge in constantly, because music makes me happy and gives me energy when I need it. I don’t know anyone else who uses music to absorb energy and be more productive, but it works wonders for me. So before I started writing two days ago, I mix-surfed 8tracks for a while, looking for something that made me want to write…because music does have that magical capability in my case. 🙂 And while I didn’t end up settling on a particular mix, one did introduce me to a great song, which led me to a new artist, and gave me an album with the exact right feeling I needed for my current scenes.

When I write today, it’ll be to Arctic Monkeys “Do I Wanna Know?” and it will be delightful. (I also added some Johnny Cash covers to my list because I saw the music video for “Hurt” and realized I should know him better. it was amazing.) After that, I’ll go back to the listening board and see what else I find to keep momentum going. I can’t believe I forgot to update my tunes to keep my writing peppy!

Day 17: Typing tunes

Day 16: The downside of dreaming

Yesterday, I made my master list of projects. (Not all that long ago really, because it’s 1:35a.m. here, but it is still technically Day 16 now so I’m posting with the hunch that I’ll be too weary later on.) The more I think about The List, the better I feel about writing. I have concrete goals now, a schedule, a plan. I’m a writer, and intend to be one long-term, which I have finally declared through planning.

Another good thing about the list is that I had more story ideas than I realized, before I wrote them down all at once! Now, if I were to write four or five novels this year–not impossible with my March novel in place, Nano sessions in April, July, and Nov 2015, and a long stretch between July and Nov when I could fit at least one more–that would use up almost all of my list. Which is scary. But the fact that I have anything lined up next at all is great. Very inspiring.

And therein lies the title of this post. Inspiration is good and important when it helps you keep going, gives you something to look forward to, or gives you hope. Inspiration is less useful and more disruptive when it makes you want to abandon your current project and jump into a new one…not because you don’t like your current draft, but because the draft you could write is so much shinier than the messy 15k you’ve already written.

Putting it down and giving things names made all my half-formed ideas, some of which I’ve actually thought about for a while, sound much more rewarding. I’m eager to start something new, if only it weren’t for this annoying work-in-progress that insists on plodding along at a human pace. So the downside of dreaming is getting distracted by bright, pretty ideas to the detriment of your present projects. Of course it’s more fun to think about my next novel–that doesn’t mean that writing my next novel will actually be more fun. Must get back to writing now.

Day 16: The downside of dreaming

Day 15: 2015 master list (version 1)

Taking a (cyber)page from DM Jones over at ‘Tis Swift, today’s post is meant to collect and plan out all my novel ideas…because I have never done that before, so it’s clearly time! Having the same unwritten story in my head for 14 years saved me the trouble of working on others, but now that I’m writing the end of the trilogy, it’s time to look to the future, even if my plans are likely to shift dramatically as I go along.

So, here is the master list as I see it right now:

MirrorWorld #1– First draft complete, first round of editing begins Feb 7. Give to first reader by March. Give out for full round of feedback April 1, complete next round of editing by August 31 (preferably sooner). Repeat as needed. Begin seeking lit agent in Nov.

MirrorWorld #2– First draft complete, first round of editing TBD

MirrorWorld #3– First draft in progress, to be completed by Jan 31.

Reality/TV– Outline & prep mid-Feb. Begin first draft Mar 1. Edited and ready for SwoonReads submission by end of April or May, depending on list deadline.

Unscheduled future concepts:

100 Days of Knitting: Adult fiction, ASD+knitting+blogging

Disunion #1 (Ellie), #2 (Jax), #3 (Carr): Dystopian YA set in Troa & the Dust.

MonoPoly: Adult romance, elements of RP and polyamory

MW anthology: Untold short stories from the MirrorWorld

MirrorWorlds: Connected trilogy, new worlds discovered

Barring unforeseen life stuff, I should have time for at least three more first drafts this year. 100DoK, Disunion #1, and something else in the MirrorVerse would be my first choices at this point…but maybe I’ll come up with something even better as the year goes on. Either way, writing this all down makes it feel much more real. Not a bad day’s work so far. 🙂

ETA other ideas as I have them, for saving purposes.

Untitled: Woman gets unexpected windfall, hijinks ensue, different from usual wish fulfillment in adult fiction

Day 15: 2015 master list (version 1)