by aprilswanson

Mozart in the Jungle

Image result for mozart in the jungle

What a bloody brilliant show this is. I binge-watched all four seasons in like, six days, and then I learned that AMAZON HAS CANCELLED IT. According to the Hollywood Reporter “the move is…in line with the [new chief]’s directive to shift away from niche indie projects and deliver broader, big-budget swings in an attempt to land the next Game of Thrones”.

Well fuck that. God, instead of trying to replicate the last, inimitable big hit, why not do something bloody interesting and new and different – something like Mozart in the bloody Jungle.

I’m mad. And sad. And just…ugh. 

(And this new wordpress editor is still the most ridiculous, convoluted piece of crap.)

But, despite my rage, I’m also feeling inspired. I want to make good art. I want to make my own, unique art. And in this new age of publishing, there’s room now for niche indie projects. 

So I’m off to write. 

Season 4 Dancing GIF by Mozart In The Jungle

What Is Going On?

Urgh. WordPress have forced this new, unnecessarily complicated editor on me and I’m all confused. (I’m easily confused. I’m technologically stunted.)

But apart from that, something even stranger has happened. 

stephen colbert omg GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

On Saturday I was listening to Wolf Totem, by James Horner, and an idea hit me out of the blue: a complete story idea, with characters, world, and a general gist of the character arcs. Like, the kind of vivid idea I had when I cooked up The Night Mage. 

And this new idea…it was for Beauty and the Beast. 

(Cue me gasping in disbelief.)

Beauty and the Beast? Seriously? I thought I’d beaten that thing to a pulp. But no…it seems there’s a determined wee bugger in my brain that wants to write that story after all.

So, I’m not abandoning Midnight Shrine. No way. But I am going to play with this Beauty and the Beast idea on the side, and see what happens.   

Happy Days

I’m sitting here listening to The Last Jedi soundtrack and bawling my eyes out. (It’s cool, I’m in an empty house.) I love that film more than any other. And I love Rey more than words can describe. 

Seriously though I’m gonna have to reapply my eyeliner before I go out again. 

the last jedi rey GIF by Star Wars

Anyway, back to business. I have had, somewhat miraculously, an awesome day. 

In fact, miracles had nothing to do with it…

It began when I pulled out a notebook of mine from 2013 (pre messed-up) and read through my old to-do lists (riveting morning, eh?). Anyway, these to-do lists proved to be very illuminating, because I saw that I made a list each day of the scenes I wanted to map/write/edit, the characters I had to think about, research I had to do, elements I had to weave through the book… Basically, there was no talk of page or word counts, or first draft this, second draft that. I mean, I knew my approach used to be far more organic, but I didn’t realise, until seeing it right before me, just how messy my natural process is. 

Well, after reading it, I felt connected to that old me, and I immediately made a to-do list for the day. 

And then I got to work. And the writing felt awesome. And I felt in control of the book, and daunted by the project, but in a really good way. I removed my word count from Scrivener and have had no urge to look. 

It sounds so simple and obvious, but having a to-do list that operates only in terms of story (no cold word counts here) makes such a difference to my attitude. It’s kinda hard to explain…but all I know is I’m not giving up my to-do list ever again. 

I’m hoping this puts an end to the last fortnight of funky mood. I’m ready to feel good again. 

The Sun’s Still Rising

BEFORE I BEGIN:

The Night Mage is available for only 0.99 at KOBO in the US and CANADA until the 6th of August, as part of Kobo’s Summer Price Drop sale.

BACK TO THE POST:

My problem is I’m too hard on myself. My other problem is I let myself off the hook too easily. 

I don’t allow myself to be flexible. I allow myself to quit when the going gets tough. 

I never used to be like this. Honest. Something went bad… In my search to increase productivity, I broke myself. That, my friends, is irony. 

Anyway, I took my handwritten pages for Midnight Shrine and typed up the first two, then thought it was a waste of time because all of it would be rewritten anyway, so instead I typed up the page headings and listed them as scenes in Scrivener. There are two main narrative threads in Midnight Shrine and one is coming to me clearer, so I’m going to write that one first. I’d rather work linearly, but every time I think about the beginning my brain seizes with panic. 

Every book is different. For this book, my gut is telling me to start with the easier of the threads, so that’s what I’m gonna do. 

It’s A New Dawn

It’s a new day and I’m feeling…pish. 

Here are my thoughts thus far (it is 10.07).

  • I have no energy to write
  • I don’t want to write
  • I have no ideas
  • I can’t be a writer
  • This will never work
  • (goes to Starbucks and opens project, which I’m going to refer to as Midnight Shrine from now on, because I change projects so often that even I can’t keep track of what book I’m referring to in posts) Is this coffee actually decaf? (confirms with barista)
  • (reads yesterday’s work) This stuff is absolute garbage; I’m going to write out of order, writing a scene only when it’s epic
  • (reads old newsletters from Susan Dennard) I love Susan Dennard
  • (plays MS’s soundtrack; writes down fuzzy vision of what I want this book to be) I don’t have enough mystery for this book and the romance isn’t strong
  • I never had a flash of inspiration for this book; it all grew out of discovery-writing
  • Do I really want to write this book?
  • When was the last time I had a good idea for a book? Oh, THE NIGHT MAGE FFS. 
  • (mentally searches through old half-finished manuscripts such as The Forest King and, god help me, Beauty and the Beast) I don’t want to write any of these books either
  • I have no ideas I am broken do I even want to be a writer and is it relevant because it’s clear I cannot write and yeah I have no ideas
  • (reads through old blog posts about how I’ve been quitting too easily and have been driven mad by perfectionism and pressure to produce) Ohh….
  • Okay maybe I’ve been quitting too easily
  • Maybe Midnight Shrine is the best I’ve got so far
  • Maybe Midnight Shrine seems difficult because I have much higher standards these days and I want this book to be utterly gripping and jammed with mystery and damn that stuff is hard to write and I simply have a lot of work to do to get this book to where I want it to be and Midnight Shrine is the most complex book I’ve ever attempted to write
  • I promised myself I had to finish this book because it’s been so long since I finished one and if I don’t relearn how to complete a book my fledgling career is over before it ever got going
  • Okay gonna work on Midnight Shrine

It’s a new dawn, a new day, and I’m gonna write this bloody book even if it kills me. Even if it turns out so terrible it never sees the light of day, this is about me proving to myself that I can still write a novel. I’m not broken. I can’t believe that. 

I am not broken.

Writing a Novel: 1st August 2018

I’m experimenting with firmer blocks of time. I know this can stress me out, but I also know I’m not working as hard as I need to be – or anywhere near the peak of my abilities. Somewhere between now and university, my ability to focus and knuckle down has declined. 

0745 – 0830: Shower, breakfast, that sorta thing.

0830 – 1000: Didn’t have any enthusiasm, but told myself to write for 15 minutes to see if I got into the flow. Ended up with a very rough draft of the opening scene. My MC has no voice, but she’ll get one eventually…

1000 – 1200: Yoga and walk. Took my dictaphone with the intention of musing, but on my way out I had an incident with one of my neighbours (a lazy inconsiderate asshole) which had me fuming for the whole of my walk. And then I fumed at myself for wasting time on this prick, and not getting my work done. My mood’s been really crappy since I stopped writing three pages a day, so I need to dig deep to keep it afloat here. Safe to say I’m not feeling creative.

PEP TALK: Don’t let other people impact my goals. If I let unpleasant people derail me so easily, I’ll never get anywhere, cos sadly, the world is full of them. Laser focus. Ignore the plebs. 

Cleaned my desk and played the Solo soundtrack to cheer myself up.

1220 – 1305: Hand too sore to write, so used Scrivener to plan. It’s not my preferred method, but I could barely hold my pen. I intended simply to muse the scene, but ended up drafting another skeleton. Not finished, but I can wrap it up after the gym. 

1315 – 1515: Gym/house stuff. 

1515 – 1600: Finished sketching second scene. Absolutely starving so hard to concentrate… Brainstormed ideas for next scene. 

1630 – 1800: Kept musing first chapter (but had telly on in the background so wasn’t 100% focused). Got a few ideas but none of them are grabbing me. Hmm… I have lots of thinking to do.

Bluesday

I’m circling the black hole. Not been here in a while, but it feels like I never left. 

Anyway, I’m documenting my day, mostly to keep myself accountable so I don’t gravitate to the sofa and fall into irreversible lethargy. 

0730 – 0830 General Bad Mood Bear

0830 – 0930 Scribbled in notebook in attempt to lift my mood. Decided that I’m going to dump everything I know about this book into Scrivener, and see if any scenes take shape. Have given myself until mid October to get this to my critique partner. 

0930 – 1005: Lots of musing and creating scene ideas on Scrivener. Actually feeling a lot better (but still have no idea what to write). 

1005 – 1015: Thinking about Process and how I need to STOP thinking about Process and go back to what I do naturally. It’s been almost five years since I started freaking out about word count, planning/pantsing, typing/longhand – all the crap that doesn’t actually matter. If I could wipe my memory, I would. I need to get back to the good old days, when I just used my intuition. I thought I was getting there, but I’ve realised I’m still stuck in an unhelpful mindset. I guess it’ll take continued awareness to fully heal, and lots and lots (and lots) of time. 

Out of interest, my ‘natural’ process looks something like this:

Think think think, build a general idea of the story, then write and build as I go, usually rewriting the beginning a million times as I figure out what I want to say. The whole process is a mess – it’s planning, drafting and editing all rolled into one. A fine balance between knowing what I’m going to write and planning everything to an inch of its life and sapping all the excitement. No targets for wordcounts or scenes; just putting in a good day’s work. 

So, why can’t I allow myself to return to this? In the last five years I’ve been so concerned about finding the ‘perfect’ process and becoming more productive that I’ve turned my back on my own natural method. 

I am a fool. 

Anyway, back to the day in hand. 

1020 – 1140: Went for a walk to clear my head of all this process stuff. Deliberately didn’t play my book’s soundtrack so my thoughts could get a proper break. 

1140 – 1200: Got a good idea for the opening scene and fleshed it out a bit. Need to answer quite a few questions. My mind then unhelpfully dredged up an unpleasant memory (thanks Mind!), so I’m gonna go to the gym and read, rather than sit here and stew. Mood and energy have come back down again after a nice lift. 

(1200 – 1230: General mucking about and delaying. Bleh.)

1230 – 1420: Gym. Read Contact. Mood much better now! Good ole exercise. 

1430 – 1630: More musing on Chap 1. 

So, today turned out decent in the end. I could have worked though. That’s something for tomorrow, I guess. 

99 Problems

Actually I only have one problem and that one problem is this bloody manuscript. I’m stuck, without motivation, and writing each word is like pulling teeth. 

What’s worse is I’m coming from a recent period of writer’s block, and a general lack of ideas. I know the pressure I put on myself in 2016/17 really battered my Muse, but I’ve worked hard at relaxing (ha!) over the last few months, and I thought I was in a better headspace. But this book… This book is bringing it all back. 

When I was writing my exploratory draft, I felt like the story was quietly bubbling inside of me. I was focused on getting three pages a day, making it up as I went along, feeling good because I managed it every day. But I tied myself into a knot, got stuck, and now I can’t summon any energy to keep writing it. Is this the critical voice? Is my creative voice bored because I’m trying to pin it down? Or was I just kidding myself before by giving myself a relatively easy daily target and not thinking about the bigger picture, therefore hiding from myself the fact that I wasn’t interested in the bigger picture. 

I just don’t know. 

It feels like the Block has come and whacked me on the head again. 

Maybe writing by hand doesn’t work with exploratory writing? Maybe I should have typed it, allowing myself to cycle back and edit as I went along. But can process have such an impact on ideas and enthusiasm? I’m thinking no… I’m thinking this is just me searching for excuses. 

I am sooooooooo confused and lost and stuck and BLLLEEEEHHHHHHHH.

will irwin keyes GIF

This is One of Those Moments

Image result for glowI bloody love Glow. Finished the second series last night, and I think it was even better than the first. Why can’t all TV be as good as this? 

Anyway, while last night was awesome (there was also wine and a thunderstorm), today has been crap. I woke up, wrote I WILL NOT QUIT in my notebook, then proceeded to spend the next couple of hours going around the same loop I did yesterday (I can’t connect to 2nd world characters; I should write contemporary; I have no ideas when I think of the real world; I’m hopeless; all is lost; etc). 

Now, I caught myself again, thank goodness, but STILL… I’d like to get off this loop. (Can’t help but thinking of Westworld… Are we all just stuck on our little loops?) 

I’ve had a rubbishy week because I’ve not written anything. It’s been a week of musing, and so my productivity has been down, and so my mood and sense of satisfaction have gone down with it. 

My problem is still this one character. I CANNOT figure him out for the life of me. And I need him; he’s key. I know I can’t force it, but at the same time, I want (need) to get back writing this book. All I can do is keep working. Keep hoping that the pieces will click into place soon…

Resistance is Futile

Star Trek Picard GIF

Last couple of days, I’ve been doubting myself. I’ve considered quitting this book and writing something new. I’ve been thinking ‘oh, what if I wrote a series? Series are marketable’, or ‘oh, what about vampires? People LOVE to read about vampires’.

You know what this is? It’s bloody RESISTANCE. It’s my brain, once again, dodging the hard work and trying to convince me that another book will be easier. 

It makes sense: I’m in a sticky spot in my novel. I’ve got my 60 pages of exploration, and now I’m struggling to proceed. I’ve got character backstories, a tighter grip on the world, and a general idea about where it’s going. But I don’t have an outline, or any experience to guide me through a second long-hand draft.

Crucially, I also don’t have recent experience of finishing a new manuscript. Barring a novella, the last first draft I took to completion was THE flippin’ NIGHT MAGE, which I wrote in the arse-end of 2016. Somehow, thanks to my own bloody genius, I’ve managed to give myself finishphobia*.

Thankfully, this time around, I’ve caught myself quickly, identifying the stupid critical voice for what it is: an imposter for my lovely, imaginative creative voice. So, I swear, I WILL finish this book. No matter how long it takes. No matter how hard it gets. The damn thing will be completed. And if it’s a pile of crap then, actually, it doesn’t matter, because right now the most important thing I need to do is finish a book. Any book. I’ve got to cure this phobia.

 

*Yes I made that one up.