Writing–When It All Goes to Concrete

Rainbow paperI wanted to write a novel this summer. I had the idea all ready to go. I was going to do it the same way I wrote an impromptu novel last summer, just a thousand words a day, a very loose outline. I even mentioned it in my writing projects post, that’s how sure I was that Suicide Paris Green was going to be a thing.

Forty pages in and I realized, that no, it’s not going to be a thing. Well, not a novel thing, anyway.

I’ve written first drafts before in which I could easily look at it and say, “This is fucking garbage”, but then I’d say, “It’s okay. I can rewrite it.” I looked at this first draft and went, “Nope.”

I can’t say how I know that something I’m writing is just not going to work. It’s actually very rare that it happens. I usually finish the first draft of most things and it may be after I’m done that I look back and go, “No, it’s not worth the effort to fix”. And that’s fine. I don’t think everything I write is meant to be finished to ultimate completion. Sometimes I just need to get the idea out of my head and once it’s out, I’m done. I’m cool with that. I don’t consider that in any way to be a waste of time or effort because in the end, I’m practicing my craft.

But there are those rare occasions when I’m writing something that I just know it’s a lost cause, that it isn’t worth pursuing. It’s definitely an intuitive thing. The only way I can describe it is that the idea, once fresh and new and liquid, now feels like old, set, scarred concrete in my head. There’s just no life to it anymore, no movement.

That’s what happened to Suicide Paris Green. I was working on it yesterday morning, typing away, and I realized that it was concrete in my head. I know what I wanted from it, but in the act of actually writing it I realized that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted. I was going to end up with an unreadable mess that I’d never want to look at again.

It just killed my mojo.

I hate it when that happens to my ideas and I’m happy that it happens rarely.

But all is not lost, at least not in my world. Not long after I called TOD on this draft and decided not to write another word, my eyes lit up at the prospect of stripping the draft and the ideas I had for the story for parts. What might not work as a novel may just work as some short stories with a similar theme. And maybe I’ll write enough of them to put together another collection.

And I’ll save the title for a living manuscript, too.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, maybe instead of a writing a novel this summer, I’ll just write some short stories instead.

June Writing Projects

Yellow flowersLast month I finished the first draft of Open Christmas Eve, which makes me less of a cheat in terms of the script contest. It’s really short (too short), so I’m thinking a revision will definitely be happening at some point to reduce my feelings of being a cheat even more. But that probably won’t happen until later this summer.

More importantly, I finished the last revision and polish on The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys and, after days of agonizing, finally put together the ghost story collection lamely titled Ghostly. It was the best I could do which is probably why I’ll never make a living doing this. But, so long as self-publishing can be done, I’ll at least be making some change. So this is all a round about way of saying that Ghostly will be out at the end of the month.

For June, I’m going through with my plan on writing a short novel for the summer. It’s called (for now) Suicide Paris Green and it’s quite a bit different from the stuff I’ve been writing (read: not horror, not paranormal, no fantastical elements). It’s kind of dark, so to counteract it, I’m going to be writing a fun story at the same time as a kind of palette cleanser. I have no idea how long this story is going to be, but it’s also VERY different from what I’ve ever written in terms of original fiction. Right now it’s called 99 because even my fun stories aren’t immune from my shitty titles.

At any rate, June should be a good month for some laid back writing in terms of deadlines and demands and bottom lines and I sort of need that kind of thing right now.

Let’s do this, summer.

May Writing Projects

pinkflowerApril turned out to be quite a productive month for me, quite unintentionally really.

I finished the latest round of revisions on The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys as well as the first drafts of all five of the potential script contest entries (first fifteen pages and one-page synopsis) before I left for Chicago. Part of the purpose of going to Chicago, besides seeing friends and eating orange chicken, was to be able to work on my writing without interruption or distraction. I found myself in a hotel room with no major writing project demanding my attention as I was still undecided what script to do for the contest. I ended up polishing “What You Don’t See” and “Short Hallway” (I polished a haunted hotel story in a hotel room while watching 1408 because my commitment to a theme cannot be denied) and got about a third of Voice polished before I left. A productive short trip despite the anxiety troubles I had.

I finished polishing Voice after I got home. I then turned my attention to the script contest. I ended up picking one called Open Christmas Eve and did my best to get those first fifteen pages perfect. I hit the “What the fuck am I doing? I can’t do this! I have no idea what I’m doing. This is pointless” wall Friday night, got my “Fuck it” second wind Saturday afternoon, and after a few more tweaks and some polishing, I submitted it Saturday night. I recognize that it’s probably a waste of an entry fee (and only with extreme luck will I even win that entry fee back), but I still did it. There is some kind of accomplishment in pushing myself to explore different forms of writing.

Speaking of, April was National Poetry Month and as an exercise I made myself write at least four lines of poetry a day. They’re just scraps of poems, nothing glorious, and I have no idea what, if anything, I’ll do with them (I posted one on my Instagram at the end of the month to celebrate), but it was a fun little project.

After all of that in April, what’s to be done in May?

I’m going to completely finish The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys. It needs a little more revision (just some tweaks), a beta read, and a polish. Once that’s done, I’ll get to work putting together the ghost story collection. I’m also going to work on finishing the first draft of Open Christmas Eve. Now that it’s submitted, the rest of the script should be easy to finish and I’ll feel like less of a cheat having the whole thing written.

I sort of feel like spending the summer writing a short novel. I’ve got the idea (actually, I have two ideas, but I think I’m going to save one for NaNo) and I think I’ll spend some time this month working on fleshing it out.

No worries about getting bored. Still plenty left on my To Do List of Doom.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Done and Other Stories

nanowrimoI officially reached 50,000 words and the end of the first draft of The End of the (Werewolf) Curse yesterday. Compared to the last two years, I was positively slacking on the daily word count and the speed because it took me nearly three weeks to finish. In 2013 I finished in 12 days and in 2014 I finished in two weeks. I averaged between 2,000 and 3,000 words a day this year, which is good, but I still felt lazy.

I felt so lazy, in fact, that I started working on a novella in addition to working on NaNo.  At just a page a day starting on November 3rd, I managed to get about 5,400 words written on The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys.

But, back to NaNo.

The use of the loose outline worked out pretty well for me in terms of getting my word count in every day. My biggest hang-up as always is just getting started for the day. Once the words start, I usually hit my daily target in no time.

However, I admit that this first draft felt like a total slog. There are aspects of this story that I really like and I really hope I can build on when I revise it, but I also feel like this thing is boring as hell and my characterization is shit and everything is terrible. Considering I feel that way about a lot of my NaNo projects, I may be just a tad pessimistic about it, but I don’t think so.

But it’s done and that’s always the goal and it’s time to start thinking about other things.

When I’m doing NaNo, I don’t really want to do much else. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to write blog posts. I don’t want to work on any other projects (obviously writing the novella at the same time this year was the exception, not the rule). When I finish NaNo, it’s like touching back down after orbiting the Earth for a few weeks. Time to get back to the other things on the To Do List of Doom.

I’m working on getting The Ivy Russell Novellas paperback out and about.  Right now, it’s only available on Lulu, but eventually, it’ll get to Amazon and Barnes and Noble and such. I’ll also be updating the links to The Ivy Russell Novellas eBook, as it’s finally hit some other marketplaces.  So be sure to check that out!

Now, back to the word mines.

November Projects aka NaNoWriMo 2015

nanowrimoIt’s that time of year again. Oh, yes. It’s time to put my butt in the chair and crank out 50,000 words (or more) in 30 days (or less).

This year I’m going back to writing an actual novel after two NaNos of doing novellas.

I’m heading back to Outskirts territory to write The End of the (Werewolf) Curse. This story will feature werewolf Paxton Perlman in a starring role and without his vampire buddy Stanley Ivanov at his disposal. Instead, he seeks help first from conjurer LittleJessie Witt and then from a coven of witches. It should be a good time. I’ve had this story bubbling in my head for a while and I think it’s ready to become words.

Unlike previous years, I’m not doing a detailed chapter by chapter outline. This used to be my go-to in past years of NaNo. After the first few years of failure, I found that if I had that detailed outline and new exactly what I was supposed to be writing that day, then I made my word count a lot easier. This has been my key to winning.

But, this past summer, when I wrote my novella-turned-novel (that STILL doesn’t have a title, for crying out loud), I didn’t have an outline. I just rolled with it until the end. I wrote without being sure of the end. And when I re-read it and revised it, I found that I’d done a pretty good job and I didn’t have to make too many story alterations. I’m taking this as a sign that I’m getting better as a writer, getting better at letting the story roll naturally without having to write everything down before hand to see where I’m going.

So, I’m sort of half-pantsing NaNo this year (“pantsing” refers to not using an outline, but writing by the “seat of your pants”). I have a basic outline and I know the main characters and I have a good idea about where the story starts. But I’m pretty hazy on where it ends and I only have a vague notion of how I’m going to get there.

This method worked very well this past summer to get 1,000 words a day. We’ll see how it works out when I’m trying to get 2,000 to 4,000 words a day (so far, so good).

Even if it doesn’t work the best, I’m confident that my skills will at least get me 50,000 words before Thanksgiving.

Optimism!

Go team!

October Writing Projects

pumpkinsHonestly, I don’t have a lot going on this month. This is mostly due to NaNoWriMo looming. I don’t like to jam my schedule full the month before I’m going to be focused on writing 50,000 words as quickly as possible. It wears out my brain and renders me useless.

The only things I HAVE to do this month are finish the revisions on the novella-turned-novel, which hopefully include finally giving it a title, and finalize my outline for this year’s NaNo endeavor, The End of the (Werewolf) Curse.

Things that I could do if I feel the urge: revise Voice, revise “The Wind Chime Tree”, revise “Darling”. I don’t think I’ll start writing anything new unless something irresistible pops into my brain.

Most likely I’ll be saving that energy for November.

If you haven’t voted in the poll to decide the fate of the Ivy Russell novellas, please do so. The poll closes next week. Yes, I know it’s only been open a day. What can I say? This has been eating away at my brain for months now and I’d like to finally have a conclusion.

And, if the majority rules that I do anything other than nothing, then I’ll have something else to do this month.

September Writing Projects

Yellow flowersThe busy month of August ended up being a little less busy thanks to some cancellations and an unscheduled week off, so I was able to get some little things done that I didn’t anticipate, including a rearrangement of my writing schedule for the rest of the year.

That was nice.

And this month I have a planned two week vacation at the end of this month/beginning of next month, so if I can work those weeks like I worked that unscheduled vacation week, I could very well exceed my productivity expectations.  But let’s not get ahead of myself here.

I’m still revising (Vampires) Made in America and I’ll spend this week wrapping that up. I thought I’d end up revising it down to a novella, but cutting out a whole POV and a bunch of redundant, pointless stuff didn’t even get it below 50,000 words. So, I’ve settled on it being a short novel. There’s nothing wrong with that. I did some preliminary, loose outlining on End of the (Werewolf) Curse, which will be the next Outskirts book and NaNo project, and I think it will follow suit as a short novel.

Once that’s done, I’m going to spend the bulk of the month revising the novella-turned-novel that still doesn’t have a title. I’ve itched to get back at it as soon as I figuratively typed “The End”. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and jotting some of the thoughts that come into my brain. We’ll see if any of them work out when I give it a read and get going on it.

If the timing permits, I may write a quick short story called “The Wind Chime Tree” in between novel revisions as a palette cleanser. I got the idea during one of my dog sitting stints (one was planned, one was an emergency) and I think it will make a nice, quick little ghost story for the ghost anthology I’ve been slowly working on. If the timing doesn’t work out, that’s cool. I can do it next month.

This month, though, should be much more relaxed.