myaru: (Tales of Symphonia - taste the rainbow)
Oh look, I'm still having feels over Tales of Symphonia and writing dumb stories for it. By "dumb" I suppose I mean fangirly, since this canon divergence is an indulgence for me, but it's so gen it hurts, so. Not that kind of fangirly.

I uh, actually have not indulged myself much with fiction lately. The story I'm working up to sending out is kind of an indulgence, but only in the sense that it's about a favorite subject. As far as doing work on it goes, the process is difficult and involves fighting myself every step of the way.

Maybe I should get back to work now. It's only 3 AM. That's way too early to go to bed.
myaru: (VP - Shiho)
At the beginning of the year, when setting my goals, I took Nano off the list--again--because it has a record of burning me out for one or two months after the finish line, and that's counter-productive re: the "write every day" goal.

But!

There's a yearly word count to meet on my goal sheet, and for the last two months, I have NOT been writing every day. I'm damn well going to meet that word count, so... there's some catching up to do, and Nano is as good a way as any to make up the deficit. Only problem is, since this wasn't in the plan, I also have nothing lined up that would work for a 50k word sprint. Technically you're not supposed to use something you're already working on, which I respect. However, as someone who tends to write long-form stories voluntarily anyway, I'm less inclined to follow the major rule, which insists you must work on a novel.

Options:

1. Come up with a new novel idea
Pros: this is the holy grail of Nanowrimo, and it's not like the story has to be good. I've got tons of one-liner ideas for stories.

Cons: even I hate working with nothing, and this is coming from someone who uses the pantser/Pratchett method of having a few cool ideas and wandering around to connect the dots while writing. Having "a few ideas" amounts to waaaay more guidance than you might think.

2. Use a novel idea/plan that isn't ready
Pros: there's more internal guidance for the story, as mentioned above. Doing this means writing something I already want to explore, so that's also cool, and I can get the connect-the-dots draft out of the way sooner. This way would definitely allow more thorough fleshing-out of characters and ideas I haven't been thinking about lately.

Cons: there are volumes of literature out there to invalidate a writer's assessment of their own work and whether or not it's ready, which amounts to, "Stop being afraid to start and just do it!" Sometimes the writer is right, though--it isn't ready. Starting before you aren't ready, legit, is a good way to stall and abandon a story, in my opinion. See: The Summer Chronicle. First of all, I started with a very vague idea. When it grew a surprise plot, that was cool! There was no planning involved in this, though; I got a long way in before finally stalling and writing myself into... if not a box, a situation where I did not want to continue because I hadn't adequately planned for one of my seat-of-the-pants plot twists. Is that story finished? Hahahah no.

That said, I was also kind of afraid to write Ashnard. So there's some truth to the "stop being afraid" thing.

3. Do the anthology-of-short-stories again
Pros: I get to write in smaller bites, and explore more than one idea.

Cons: This technically isn't an approved project type, unless Nano has changed. (Which is possible. I don't bother to look at the website anymore, because "Write 50k words in a month" is all I feel the need to know.) Also, this runs into the problem #1 has: using lots of story ideas that are ill-considered at best.

4. Ignore the rules and continue the current project anyway
Pros: no changes necessary right now!

Cons: This project definitely doesn't have fifty thousand words in it, which brings me to the problems mentioned in #1 and #3.

5. Use this opportunity to rewrite something long
Pros: This is much easier than coming up with something new; a lot of the work is done for me, and I have three projects like this sitting in the electronic drawer, waiting for rewriting. There are also long fanfic projects that fit this bill, if I don't feel like working on the originals.

Cons: Honesty is the best policy, and--I don't feel like working on that stuff right now. This kind of project can involve a ton of preparation and editorial work as well. I mean, if you're not going to seriously reconsider or re-plot or re-develop... why do the second draft? I think there's a good reason this isn't an "approved" sort of project for Nano.


I'm already late, so I need to decide by the end of today. Hmmmm. I'm leaning toward #2 or #3. I've done the anthology thing before, and it did expand my available pool of revisable work quite a bit, but... yeah, hm.
myaru: (Dragon Age - Alistair)
Brought to you by the mystery novel formula, although the post isn't about mysteries of that sort.

In the end, I had to give my Tales of Zestiria obsession a little outlet. Not too much, because the last thing I need is an epic on my hands, but something. I found out I'm pretty rusty when it comes to fan fiction. I also noticed a few other things.

1. It took approximately 0.05 seconds for me to slip right back into the Pairing Fanfic Formula.

2. I hit the same story/characterization triggers every other Zestiria author does, though I didn't know that until I looked at the AO3 archive afterward.

3. Gasp, this... is not actually a bad formula.


I also realized that I open original stories differently, but that's another topic. Short stories - at least as I write them - involve more plot, and therefore need more precise openings... not that I always manage to make that happen.

The formula I default into isn't a bad formula by itself. It has setting, buildup, and payoff, which is why it can be satisfying to read; it can, and often does, have some kind of "emotional turn" that makes the scene feel complete-- like something happened. (I don't recall which writer gave me the phrase "emotional turn," but it has served me well every time I've bothered to use the concept while writing.) It just so happens that in pairing fic these elements are focused on cuddling instead of something else. It's actually not a bad basic structure for individual scenes.

I think this would still be true if the content is entirely fluff. You can still have a transformation of mood and/or emotion in the scene, which satisfies the requirement for "change" in fiction, which I know people loooove to argue with. Stories don't necessarily need conflict! Shit doesn't have to change! It can still be interesting! And I guess that's all true in fan fiction, when a reader might want to just wallow in their obsession with Mikleo Sebastian Maglor a character they love, and see some stream-of-consciousness contemplation on a canon event. I don't think that's very interesting, but whatever. Some people do. Point is, it's more interesting if something changes, even if that change means we're just moving from contemplation to happiness, or giddiness to contentedness, or some other minuscule difference. The formula can do that.

Which isn't to say I think I should write it all the time. It IS a formula, and if I write ten things according to this formula, they're all going to sound the same, since those ten things will definitely all be pairing fic. Somehow this doesn't happen if I use it for the basis of my scene structure in a longer story, because there are other things happening (and how exactly is a Sorey/Mikleo makeout session not something happening, I mean really) and the formula becomes a vehicle for other elements of craft.

So yeah. I haven't come up with an excuse for #2 (automatically falling into all the cliches) yet. Give me a few more hours for that one.
myaru: (Default)
"The problem with writing is writing. The discoveries in writing will be made in writing. The solutions to story problems - structural, motivational, existential - will be found in writing. ... Your middle will not arrive through thinking, and while it may arrive in dreaming, dreaming is more likely to produce results if you fall asleep while writing."

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, p.30



My own creative process drives me crazy. This problem probably isn't unique to me.

For as long as I've been writing, I've been what people call a "pantser" - when I've got an idea for a story, I skip the outlining and development parts and jump right in, figuring that it'll take care of itself. Who needs a plot to start with when it'll just grow out of the process on its own like a slimy, scary-looking mushroom? And I thought that's how it was done. I didn't take writing classes until much later, and it never occurred to me - apparently - to pick up a book on how to write fiction when I was younger.

By 'younger,' I mean seventeen or so, which is when I first attempted to write seriously. Prior to that I had written "novels" and storybooks and stuff, but not with any intent. I did it to get ideas out of my head, or sometimes to entertain my friends. Plot isn't really necessary when you're pandering to your own group and their in-jokes.

But this is still the way I work, and knowing how important plot is, thanks to my overpriced degree and experience (I guess), I keep feeling like I should grow up and start plotting before I write. Have an outline. Actually develop characters before I try to write them! No doubt that would make them slightly more interesting.

Have I tried to do this? Yes.

Has it worked? No.

I understand the concept. I could write an essay on it, or pass a test. I can diagnose the problems in novels, short stories, fan fiction. I can even (apparently) give good advice on improving plot and addressing related problems when I'm asked to give someone a thorough critique on their work. But sit me down with my own outline, which I will have spent quite a bit of time on, by the way, and I think I might be able to follow it for two chapters before I run off the rails and end up somewhere completely different. Part of me feels that sticking to that narrow path will stunt the creative growth of the story, but the real problem seems to come down to characterization. Like: I think Character A will do these things and make these decisions, but after writing her for two chapters I realize she'd rather do something different. I might've spent hours working on her backstory, her details (e.g. profile stuff like who her extended family is, or what her education is), and think I developed her personality, but I always find out I'm wrong.

So the character isn't going to do that in chapter three, and because she doesn't, chapter four is a wash. And we probably can't get to Point C on time; there'll need to be eight extra chapters. Maybe. Who's counting? And I can't say she won't change her mind in chapter five, because I just decided that such-and-such must've happened to her when she was a kid - it sounded good when I wrote it down just now, anyway! - and so Point C might be a no go. Oops.

This is both more fun (because I can do whatever the fuck I want and just have fun with it) and more irritating because it means I'm always going to have to waste a first draft on exploration.

Or it means I don't know what I'm doing.

Or it means I'm doing it wrong. Fuckit, then; who cares.

I like exploration. That's more than half the fun when I write fan fiction, after all. But I've never been comfortable or happy with the idea that I can't get something right on the first draft, so the suspicion that I'm always going to have to "waste" the first one makes me angry. There's no way I can get the first round right, because I don't know what it's going to throw at me, and yet that's the way I feel most comfortable in the development phase... you know, when it's actually going on. After I'm done for the day, though, I sit here and think I shouldn't do it this way. I should know better. Or do it better.

That quote at the top of the entry is something I found recently, which seemed fitting. But what made me think about all of this again - I don't normally dwell on it - was Terry Pratchett. He said two things that hit me as true-- for me.

How do you write stories? You make it up as you go along. This is a terrible thing to have to tell people.

[...]

But it's what I call "The Valley Filled with Clouds" technique. You're at the edge of the valley, and there is a church steeple, and there is a tree, and there is a rocky outcrop, but the rest of it is mist. But you know that because they exist, there must be ways of getting from one to the other that you cannot see. And so you start the journey. And when I write, I write a draft entirely for myself, just to walk the valley and find out what the book is going to be all about.

A Slip of the Keyboard, p.58-60


He goes on to compare his style of drafting with what he knows of Larry Niven, who's fond of index cards. He's "sure true writers do not work like this." Me too, except that apparently isn't the case.

So I read this, maybe two months ago, and thought if he could do it, I should give it another try. Try to embrace it. I did just say it was fun, somewhere up there. The process of discovery really can be. And when I try to change it, I clearly meet resistance on the inside, even if I think I'm trying to do the right thing. I tend to abandon stories that I start the other way, with outlines; I never abandon the ones that happen more organically. (Excluding some of the really long ones that I decide aren't working. If we're talking short stories, it's true.)

It's hard to embrace. However, it seems to me that kicking the plot into shape after might work better for me, because there's something to shape, whereas doing it at the beginning means trying to work with very little. And it's no wonder that it's so difficult when I'm trying to build a recognizable house with only a quarter of the materials when, if I wait, the others will show up later.

It might be less profitable to fight the process than it will be to fight the issue with multiple drafts. Which I've made progress on, but I still feel deep down like I shouldn't have to. Acceptance is hard.
myaru: (VP - Shiho)
Interestingly, in the revised edition of Le Guin's Steering the Craft, she describes my own workshop experiences - all at school - pretty accurately in her section on The Peer Group Workshop. (Capitalization mine-- sorry. :p) My instructors were strict about what should be said, how, when, and by whom, which may seem tyrannical until you imagine trying to control "free discussion" between thirty people. Try getting through three reasonably long stories while everyone is talking over each other, nitpicking punctuation, and talking more about their own work than the piece in question. It's fun, and by 'fun,' I mean 'makes you want to murder everyone in the room.'

But what she says here encapsulates everything I've been saying about critique/beta reading for years:

Criticism tends to focus on what’s wrong. To be useful, negative criticism should indicate the possibility of revision. Tell the writer where you were confused or surprised or annoyed or delighted, which parts you like best. It’s at least as useful to the author to hear what works, what’s right.

Le Guin, Ursula K. (2015-09-01). Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story (Kindle Locations 1689-1691).


Critique is not an excuse to be an asshole. If you're only telling an author what they've done wrong, you're only doing half your job, and therefore doing both the author and the reader a huge disservice.

You'd be surprised how often I still get this 50% job when people read for me. I'm sure they're not doing it on purpose, but they clearly have an erroneous idea of what makes commentary useful. Like, if they don't find at least fifteen things wrong by the time they're halfway through, the author will judge them, or something.

/soapbox

I should write a longer post about this, but I'd only be repeating myself, and... why ask people to take me seriously when they can get it from someone with credibility, instead?
myaru: (Miang - I want to be myself)
Well, it has been a while since my last public post (not that I've been posting tons of locked entries, either), so I figured I should say something. The problem - as usual - is that most of my gaming time goes to Neverwinter or Elder Scrolls Online, and whatever time I don't spend on my job is spent either reading, or writing, or... I guess slacking off, which is the thing I'm best at. Don't want to clean the kitchen counters? Then don't! Tell yourself you'll do it later and watch ten cat videos instead. Once "later" gets here, it'll be too late, and you can do it tomorrow instead!

I used to talk about writing so often because I had fan fiction I could point you to. Without that... trust me, you don't want to see my early original stuff. If I'm having trouble with effective dialogue in an original short story, it's ten times worse because you don't have Naesala to drool over - you can't ignore my flaws. :P Also, I feel it'd be silly to continue the 100 Things series I started when I feel less and less qualified to talk about writing at all. Even my own writing!

That problem could be a post, actually, if I could only find the article I want to reference.

While I could get better at dialogue, my real problem is still effective characterization. I think plotting is right behind that. Even with a template I can't make it work, which inspires a level of sadness that requires too much chocolate and the indulgence of a sudden, violent desire to just go to sleep and forget about it. (Good chocolate is expensive! I don't make that much money.) Who the fuck needs plot, anyway? I'm reading a book right now that has no plot! What it has is cats.

So... what I need in my fiction = more cats.

Problem solved?

I'm seriously tempted to write the dumbest, most self-indulgent Tales of Symphonia AU ever, because Genis and Mithos are still in my head. After that I can write the second-dumbest AU ever, which I hereby dub "Mithos Owns a Goddamn Tesla."

I even have plots worked out. :P
myaru: (Dragon Age - Alistair)
I feel weird and aimless without fan fiction. I haven't done much with it for a few years now, but instead of getting used to that and making it my new default, I just have periodic thoughts like "life would be better with some kind of fandom obsession," or... no, that's about it. Twelve years of doing fandom stuff will have this result, I guess.

Maybe I just haven't found the thing that'll obsess me for the next four years, and I will go back, eventually, though I don't plan on it; there were long stretches of time between Xenogears and Suikoden, and then between Suikoden and Fire Emblem. But... wouldn't it be so nice if the next thing to obsess me happened to be something of my own? I am working on my own projects, after all. (Slowly. Very slowly.) And twelve years ago (coincidence?) I was super obsessed with a project of my very own. It can happen! How, when, or why, though? Those are the questions I haven't answered yet.

What this makes me think about, however, is how I feel about my fan fiction years. Not bad; my fandom days weren't always drama-free, obviously, but I don't regret writing the fan fiction. In fact, I don't even regret writing stupid, repetitive pairing fan fiction, because I enjoyed it! And since the only thing I can count on getting out of fanfic is enjoyment (since money and prestige/a profession are out of the question), I see no reason to regret it. No, not even the heaps of Sephiran/Sanaki drivel I wrote. I enjoyed imagining it. I enjoyed writing it. I don't regret any of it.

So. There's that.

Maybe, after working on the "serious" version of my current story, I should write something stupid with the same characters. Or maybe I'll do that in the middle of the process instead. Everybody needs a break from wearing their Serious Face once in a while.
myaru: (VP - Mystina)
It's really more of a reminder.


Eyeroll-worthy subject line: "His equipment will stay hard for hours."

Taking it to the next level: "My husband Mike stayed hard for five hours with this pill."

Lesson: establishing intimacy by introducing characters by name will encourage a closer connection between your reader and the story whether they want it to or not.

Also, choosing your point of view carefully really helps.

(It's astonishing how much more the second subject line disturbed me. I mean, I'm no stranger to spam flooding my inbox. :P)
myaru: (Twelve Kingdoms - Youko wha?)
Going to try [personal profile] imaginarybeasts again, since they have a theme that's relevant to my interests. Don't know if I'll actually submit, but whatever, it helps to have a deadline once in a while, and I've got plenty of ideas sitting around for this sort of story.

.

Since the last time I mentioned Dragon Age: Inquisition, I've managed to play about 76 hours and not get very far into the story! It's the shards, man. I spend more time hunting shards down than I do advancing my interests in any given region, although I do eventually get that done too. Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts is the most recent story sequence I've finished, and I suppose I've been hunting Samson down too... and otherwise I've been digging aimlessly in the desert for the last twelve hours.

Have I mentioned how sad I am that you can't romance Varric? Because I am. It's not fair.

The only other character I'm really interested in is Solas, and I was dumb enough to not build an elven character (for some reason - what's wrong with me? I always choose elves!), so he's not an option right now.

It's neat that they brought Corypheus back. When I played that DLC for the second game, I didn't expect to see him again.

So, uh... despite having a pretty diverse cast of characters to choose from, I've been using the same team for most of the game: Varric (and I will never, ever remove him from my party, EVER), Cassandra, and Solas. Although lately Vivienne has replaced Solas, and occasionally I use Dorian because he's so fantastic. Sera baffles me. Cole could be interesting, but I don't care enough. Not sure how I feel about Blackwall, but he's got some fun dialogue with Varric.

That ball in Orlais was so much fun. :D Wish I'd finished the blackmail hunt...
myaru: (VP - Shiho)
When I think of writer's block (that thing which supposedly doesn't exist), I imagine what I went through in 2010: a complete lack of motivation to write, an inability to string five words together in a way I thought was decent, and a trend in which everything I managed to finish was awful. This sort of thing understandably makes me stop writing for a while. It's miserable. I've learned not to hate everything I write as a rule, so when my mental state starts backtracking into that territory, I know something is wrong. It took me a while, but I figured out that stopping was the only way to get past this for me, personally.

There's also the sort of block that involves not knowing what to do next. That one sucks too, but I think it's the easiest to break through, because the problem can be solved by continuing to work on the story-- just in a different way. Researching, reading, discussing with friends (if you're not as paranoid as I am, see the last entry), and all that.

The one that gets me every time is probably a type of fear. Not fear of doing badly, or of what people will think, or of failure, or of success... but of thinking. At all. And then of putting that thing on paper.

Years ago, Arcana and I decided to co-write on a story about angels. I love angel lore. He had just read some related material. In addition, some weird combination of Star Ocean II, Angel Sanctuary, and Vagrant Story had me itching to write some Lucifer/Gabriel fic, which may (or may not?) sound strange to you, but it worked wonders in my head, I assure you. (This was a long time ago. A REALLY long time ago, mmkay. It's a bit embarrassing to talk about, or at least this particular fixation is. :P)

We both eventually stopped working on the project. Only, I would revisit the universe sometimes and write new snippets, because my obsession with angel lore hadn't ended, and I liked the characters we had created. I think we had a really good plot hook, too. So one day, probably for some daily writing challenge, I came up with this story about Raziel asking Metatron to go down to earth and be human with her for a while so she could do some research, and this turned into a thing where she really liked him, which turned into a, well, a THING, and then my brain shut down.

If you don't know, the body of legends involving angels makes clear that sex is a Very Bad Thing for them to do, and they're not supposed to have desires of any kind. Yet while Lucifer (Samael, in our story) and Gabriel didn't bother me, Metatron and Raziel did. Does Samael's status as a fallen angel make it "okay" to be in love and have sex and all that, even though Gabriel's stint as fallen isn't very long or serious, and therefore shouldn't make it more "okay" for her than any other angel? Metatron was originally Enoch, according to legend - a human. So he knows more about being human - and being in love, theoretically - than Raziel every could; is it the disparity of experience that made me uncomfortable? (Clearly not, considering some of the pairings I got into with later fandoms.)

What I'm getting at with this anecdote is that I still run into a block when I try to imagine this story. For whatever reason, I do not want to go there: I don't want to transgress on some imaginary moral ground and write about angels doing it together. It's like I'm afraid of what they'll think when they find out, even though I'm not 100% sold on their existence as independent beings. Even if they did exist, I suppose they wouldn't give a shit. Maybe I've just been indoctrinated by years of listening to my grandmother watch television evangelists, and some part of me is afraid of committing a mortal sin by writing two angels boinking. I lol just thinking of it that way.

It may sound stupid, but this is the strongest block I've ever run into. Nothing else is stopping me; I have the plot, I know the characters at least as well as the game characters I used to write about, I have the history of the world mapped out in all the ways that matter for writing this little story, and all I have to do is start typing.

If you asked me, I'd say no: I'm not religious. I don't think the Bible is true, any more than I think the myths about Greek gods are true. I believe in God because I want to, and because my family, brought up Catholic, put that little bit of fear in me that says I'm damned if I don't. But if that tiny fear is the source of my block, it's no wonder I have such a problem getting over myself. That runs back pretty far.

Some people are afraid of what their readers will think of them because they write from the POV of a murderer or pedophile. Me? I'm afraid of what imaginary beings will think of me for writing them into what is essentially fanfic.

I'm laughing, even though it's kinda sad.
myaru: (Default)
By 'creative community' I mean something like what we used to have here on LJ - a group of friends all writing about the same thing (Fire Emblem, Suikoden, whatever) and talking about the source material, inspiration, blah blah. Fandom was my writing community for twelve years. Without it, I find I write less often, with less devotion, and in general have a harder time finding motivation for anything.

I thought when I left that I didn't need fandom to drive my work. I've always written my originals alone, usually without showing them to anybody, so why would I need other people to egg me on? It's worth noting, at this point, that even when I was still involved in fandom, all it inspired me to write was fan fiction; original work didn't benefit by that sense of community at all. Measuring and I tried to jump start our original writing with the gauntlet challenge, but at the time I think we both pretty much ignored the orig-fic prompts (or at least didn't talk about what we were working on in response), and focused on the fanfic lists. It's what I wanted to write; it's what I felt inspired for. It's all I thought about.

Part of my motivation problem is obvious: I don't spend as much time thinking about my own stories as I did about the games I wrote fic for. The epic Summer Chronicle lasted as long as it did because the story was almost all I thought about. My pairing obsessions lasted as long as they did for the same reasons. When I walked to the bus stop, I thought about the Chronicle plot. When I stared out the train window, on the way to school, I thought about new ways to make a pairing work. When I sat around in the doctor's office waiting for my appointments (and there were a lot of those), I wondered what Tellius steampunk would look like and immediately tried to convert the game plot to the new universe.

I don't do that with original work, so it's no wonder I'm not burning to finish stories or write new scenes. No mystery here.

But: would I have thought so much about Fire Emblem and my related fics if I hadn't talked about them every night on AIM? Maybe for a while. Four years, though? Would I have pursued Summer Chronicle for years, tried to make it work even when I knew I had made a wrong turn at chapter fifteen-- all if I hadn't had someone to bounce ideas off of and encourage me? Considering the fate of my Elrond fic (not dead, but unlikely to move), I think the answer is 'no.'

Communication keeps me interested in my own stories. Or, at least, it helps me over the difficult areas of the process, where I might otherwise be tempted to abandon the project, or put it off. Talking to someone about what I'm working on keeps me thinking and moving. And you'd think this wouldn't be a big deal, that everybody knows this, that I should have known this... but it's difficult for me to trust people with my work, so for a long time I haven't bothered. This post isn't about "realizing" that I need a community; that has been clear to me for some time. Writing is a lonely process without one. You do need other eyes to examine your work and help you see what you missed. I even knew, without really thinking about it, that it was always easier to write with other people. The problem that needs solving isn't just finding that company; it's being able to trust them.

Yes, I do have that cliche fear that someone will rip off my work. I'm not the only one. I frankly don't care how realistic it is; fear isn't reasonable. But I have such a hard time trusting people at all. Take away the possibility of being ripped off and I still won't trust you! There are so many ways you can cause damage once you have the story: you can be the sort of reader/critic that tries to change everything based on what you like, instead of what the story needs; you might be the type to give only praise (which is no help, since I want so badly to believe you), or go the other way and cut everything down, under the erroneous assumption that the only useful feedback is the sort that finds problems without trying to solve them. You could be that poisonous friend who seems like she's rooting for you on the surface, but who actually harbors some negative feelings for you, and often only gives feedback that supplies unfavorable comparisons to herself; i.e. "Well, I made it, so you should be able to if you work hard! Do let me know if you need my advice, because I'm so far ahead of you I should know how to answer all of your beginner questions..." The only kind of praise I get from my family is backhanded, when I get it at all, so I'm pretty good at detecting that bullshit.

Don't even get me started on how people deliver their critiques. Or on the very important things people always seem to miss-- that stuff I actually need to know, since I think I've got the typos covered, thanks.

In short: I don't trust you. And if I don't trust you, how do I build - or find - a community?

My trust issues are epic, and in horrible need of therapy. Believe me, I know. But it's a chicken-and-egg problem, since, in order to get those taken care of, I need to start out with a bit of trust for the person who's going to do the fixing...

.

I'm really sorry I've missed replying to so many comments. I always intend to, and then time passes, and it seems too late. :/
myaru: (XG - True Miang)
1. I REALLY need to work on varying dialogue.
I would've actually titled this "I suck at dialogue," except in certain circumstances I can get it right. It's just... that's a very narrow range. And what if I want to write from the POV of a dock worker or something? I suck at that. Horribly. Which means I probably have to go back to those eavesdropping exercises they give you in class. This may also involve actually finding places where people talk differently than what I'm used to, and I'm not really sure how to approach that.

2. I suck at Magic: The Gathering
That is, I just started playing via Magic 2014, and I am so, so bad at this game. It's hilarious. But I've always wanted to play it; the investment in cards was always the barrier to trying, and this game fixes that to a point. It's obviously only a beginner's campaign, but at least I can learn without being TOO embarrassed by how many times I lose to a dumb AI... maybe. >.>

3. Cashew Bread is really good.
And if you toast it twice, it's amazing. It's absolutely awful if you want a sandwich because it falls apart easily, but if you just slather almond butter and preserves on top for breakfast, it's perfect.

4. It's easier to take all the right (writing) steps when I'm obsessed.
Lately I've been looking at what's called a "step outline" to structure my scenes, which basically forces me to do two things: summarize the conflict and resolution in one sentence (surprisingly helpful), and work out the beats of the events that lead from the beginning to the end. This all sounds very basic, I'm sure, but what occurred to me is that I did this unconsciously with fanfic all the time (and I noted that process down here), but when I'm first starting out with a new (original) story, a new set of characters, a new draft, I don't do this at all. I have to be kicked to remember it's even a thing.

But with fanfic, I'm usually thinking about the characters and circumstances all the time, already. I already know them well, etc. But I feel like I run into a Catch 22 with my own original stories, because getting to that level of knowledge requires a lot of world-building beforehand, and yet I find that if I don't write the scenes or drafts first, to sort of see it in action, none of that means anything to me and I feel like I have nothing to build on. It's hard to build both at the same time, because it leads to crappy results on both ends, and then I feel discouraged and don't want to work on it anymore. None of that really lends itself to "getting into" the work. I'm not sure what does. There are tons of beginner exercises for this, but none of those seem to work.

Anyway, this is only version 2386293765 of the same problem I keep talking about, but when I looked at the step outline, it surprised me to realize I had already done exactly the same thing elsewhere, without even thinking about it, but somehow forgot. :p
myaru: (Saiunkoku - Shuurei talks a lot)
Since I've been very, VERY bad about getting work done the last few months, I think a dose of frantic word-scribbling is called for-- you know, to remind me why I love to write, and that I have it so good the rest of the year when I can take a day off now and then. :P Also, since I haven't been doing much, if I suffer from the normal burnout it certainly won't be a hit to my productivity, which is currently at 1%.

The only question is: do I do this the traditional, "official" way (by writing a single novel), or loosen it up a bit and decide that simply writing 50K words is fine, even if it's spread out between five different stories?

I never register at the site anyway. I just can't decide which is better. Both ways have their advantages.

Maybe I need a to-do list:
1. list all the stories I currently feel like writing;
2. do some loose outlines;
3. make some rough estimates on how much work they'll be;
4. pick the likeliest candidate to start with;
5. begin with that one and see what happens.

By the time I finish these steps I should know what I feel like writing.
myaru: (Dragon Age - Alistair)
Science fiction is something I've always liked but never been able to write. It's not that I'm uninterested in scientific discoveries, or perusing existing knowledge, just that I have such a hard time parsing it. (Taking required bio classes to graduate doesn't really count toward that, since I tended to only memorize for tests and such.) Reading science makes my brain twist in knots at times, but I still end up with ideas about spaceships instead of swords on occasion, and I don't know what to do with them.

This is a research question, for me. I can make myself concentrate on articles about aeroponics, or theoretical starship drives. In fact, the ideas I do get involve the fantastical, far-future sort of settings we're not capable of creating in real life, so I might be able to fudge some stuff. If my characters have lived with this fantastic technology all their lives, they may not think about how or why it keeps running, either. But occasionally I'll get an idea set in our star system, in the near-ish future, the sort involving moon colonies that are kinda sorta possible in theory (maybe not really?), and, well, shit. Suddenly I have to understand the orbit of Jupiter's moons if I'm going to place my setting on one, and the technologies necessary to make that work out for human habitation, and then I have the nerve to decide my main character will be some kind of engineer. What do I have to know to pull that off?

I'm wondering if the answer is actually: not much. Unless I'm going to drown you in exposition about his job, I shouldn't need to know it inside out. Or should I? Is this like writing historical fiction, or is it more like fantasy fiction with a historic slant? Is there an audience for both kinds, and I'm just not familiar with this because the most recent SF I've read was an Honor Harrington novel?

(Speaking of exposition! The Honor series is hilarious for it-- how David Weber orders a pizza makes it funny.)

I know the real answer is, "Don't worry about it until you've finished a draft," but to hell with that. Who do you think you're talking to?

When researching history for use in a story, my policy is usually to know more than I need, and try not to dump too much of it into the story unless it's called for. Knowing allows me to decide on plot or character attitudes that should be appropriate for the time or place. But for some reason, when I try to apply this principle to reading about Io, or something, I feel I'm lacking the background I need to truly understand - a background I have, more or less, for history - and I'm not sure if that's true, or if I'm worrying too much.

I tend to feel this way a lot. Throw me into a new fandom, and I feel like I don't know enough to get involved, write, talk. It stops me from doing quite a few things, in a fandom context and when writing.
myaru: (VP - Not Lenneth!)
Lately I've been trying to write a bit every day-- again. I can do this for months, but I eventually fall off the horse, and then? No more daily prose for like, a year. I still write, of course, but not every day, and the supposed holy grail of breaking through blocks and finding words when the well has run dry... that's supposed to be habitual daily writing. (I don't believe it; some blocks are harder to break. They're real. Writer's block isn't always avoidance or resistance, or whatever the current popular term is. But this entry isn't about the agony of being stuck! If you want a post about writing blocks, I ran into a spectacular wall a couple of years ago, and talked about it... at length.)

Since the usual sources of writing prompts haven't been working for me lately I came up with a new one: a weekly theme (e.g. "angel stories") and a list of prompts for each day. They're not always very creative because every time I need a word it disappears. But, for example, this week's set:
#006: Valkyrie stories*
Monday - tassels, straw, feather
Tuesday - hearth, aggression, iron
Wednesday - (five senses) red, bell, sweet, silk, fish
Thursday - alarm, waves, pan
Friday - reflect, irony, elusive
Saturday - (five senses) tessellation, voices, fire, metal, rose
Sunday - the long defeat


My policy is to use these as a jumping-off point. If they all appear in the story, fine, but if they don't, oh well. The idea is to see if they'll inspire some kind of thought process that I can turn into a scene. These aren't full stories either - just snippets. Terrible, embarrassing snippets.

My second week was "Persephone stories." This exercise requires that I come up with something different every day, even if it's just a different scene in the same universe, so I sat down and thought about this myth in a way I apparently didn't, before. Earlier attempts to write Persephone myths - or rewrite them - focused on what happens: Hades grabs Persephone, Demeter is pissed, winter ensues. The primary purpose of this myth has always seemed to be about explaining the natural order: why does winter exist? Why does spring come when it does? In addition, I guess you can also pull out a threefold goddess explanation (Persephone, Demeter, Hekate - maiden, mother, crone). You can see a lesson in it: don't steal women, hell hath no fury. Etc. I'm sure there are others.

For some reason it never occurred to me to look past these events or explanations to see the fruit of this union between Hades and Persephone, and it's so obvious it burns.
Persephone was the queen of the Erinyes, underworld daimones who punished the crimes of filial betrayal, impiety and murder. She despatched them from the Underworld when curses were invoked in her name. (source

In some versions of the story, the Erinyes are Persephone's children. When you're wronged so spectacularly that you have no other recourse, you pound your fists on the ground and cry to the Furies for revenge, and they deliver. In other versions they're only servants, but I liked the former because it clarified what I had to have noticed when writing Wild Mint: Persephone is angry, and she never gets justice or vengeance. However, one can call on her, hoping to be avenged - dead or alive, I think - and your wish may be granted.

Not to say Persephone doesn't do things simply because she's angry, or has been manipulated by others. There are dozens of competing stories and traditions; I haven't even read the entirety of the page I linked to because it exhausts me. (I'd rather read the full texts, I mean. Snips and quotes aren't the same, and I get tired of scrolling through them. /shame) But this little sliver of an idea fueled a week of story snippets, and I think I like it much better than whatever I was working with before-- which wasn't much.

Anyway, I can't be too hopeful. We're talking about ancient Greece; I doubt Persephone's feelings or motivations were the important part.


* not stories about Valkyrie Profile; original fic bits about valkyries in myth and literature.
myaru: (Avatar - Lin Beifong)
I feel remiss if I don't say something here at least once a week. So, some things:


1. Contemplating a post on Maglor in the East, though I haven't worked out a lot of stuff yet. Talking about it might actually inspire me. That's how this stuff used to work, anyway.

2. On the same note, I was trying to write an AU for last month's [profile] lotr_community challenge and came up against a wall not because I had no ideas, but because the one I came up with was too big. Despite having spent a lot of time reading about Numenorian history I found it too difficult to settle on an alternate set of events in time. So maybe I'll talk about that too.

3. All the earlier angst was useless. I'll write fanfic if I want to, and screw everyone else. That's my decision. I'm still working on my own stuff, so whatever.

4. I finished another notebook, the first this year - which means these things take about four months altogether. I'm not going to change my goal, though. If I end up typing a lot again instead of writing by hand, that'll screw up any numbers I try to set.

5. Am wondering if I'll fail at the LOTR deadline again because the time allowed isn't enough for a noob like me to work everything out. If I do, oh well. I'll still finish it... eventually.


You have no idea how amazing I am in Neverwinter, no really! (Okay, not really, not at all. But I am max level.) Except for the part where I suck as a tank. Pity the shmucks who get stuck with my Guardian Fighter when I queue for a dungeon.
myaru: (Miang - I want to be myself)
You go to meet your friend for lunch, sit down at the table, look at the menu. You're looking forward to talking about this or that, about trying that new sandwich, hearing about your friend's life. But she doesn't show up. It turns out she's just really late - and she never has been punctual as far as you know, but punctuality isn't everything! - and in the meantime you get tired of sitting around. Your mind moves to other things - things to write, things you could be doing. You're bored. You order lunch and start eating, and you're mostly done by the time your friend gets there. When she does, it all goes mostly as planned.

When I try to write a story, the characters do not tell me what they're going to do, as I've seen other writers describe. They don't "talk" to me. Those are metaphors, yes, but what they are metaphors for - that doesn't happen. I start a story, waiting to go along for the ride and watch what these strange people will do, and-- they do nothing. Sometimes they're not even really there until much later, after I've abandoned the story - because nothing was happening, and it bored me - and have left it to sit for years.

There's obviously an element of one's own creativity that has to drive this phase of development, something that happens beneath your awareness and inspires you to type "and then he pulled the trigger" or whatever, even if you're not consciously planning for that to happen. There's something you want to write about, maybe, or something you want to examine. For a long time I thought I lacked that. I still do a bit, because the things I want to examine, as it turns out, are a little too lofty for fiction, probably more suited to... you know, I don't think there's a genre for it, even in non-fiction. It's closest to the creative essay, I suppose. And maybe I'm in denial, and that's really what I want to write anyway, since I seem to enjoy posting here far more than I enjoy working on new stories.

But anyway, characters. Stories. Revelations! They're few and far between, and not for lack of freewriting. I start a story; nothing happens. I get bored waiting for my characters to really show up, so to speak, and start thinking about other things which look more interesting. By the time an idea comes to me, I'm not willing to follow it; I jot it down and then ditch the story, because I don't feel it can work. It has no soul, or event, or conflict, or whatever you want to call the element that gives it life. It barely has a mouthpiece. More like a stick figure.

I asked myself why this happens, and there are two potential answers that have merit. Both are probably right to some extent.

First, I'm not willing to wait. Patience is not one of my virtues. When I'm confronted with this situation - say, my character is sitting at a table waiting for her friend - and there's an opportunity for her to do something, I sometimes take it... and sometimes don't. This might be the perfect time to... see, I don't know what I'd do if I were sitting in a coffee shop, waiting for someone to show up. I'd write, I guess. (Hilarious.) I wouldn't strike up a conversation with anyone or do anything interesting. I think staging a sudden robbery would be kind of stupid, and I'm not really interested in that kind of event in a story, sooooo... lack of things to do. But--

Secondly, I guess I have a harder time moving outside of myself than I thought. It's not that I always think only of what I would do (which is incredibly limited), but that when I try to imagine what someone like my mom would do, I still draw a blank. She'd talk to the barista, I guess, or to another customer. What else? Just now I thought maybe a certain kind of character would try to steal something, slip a granola bar in her purse when she's distracting the employees with an amusing story... but it took this entire entry for me to think of that, which takes me back to the first point: patience.

You know what's nice about fan fiction? You know what the characters will and will not do. If you take Sanaki to a coffee shop, you know (or can guess) what will happen, and who she would go with. You take a new character in, whom you've never met before, and... suddenly you have to sit there for an hour and figure it out.

This is just one of the ways fan fiction has spoiled me, I guess. But it isn't true across the board that you'll know; this post was inspired by sitting here and wondering what an existing character might do in a situation I set him in, and I actually don't know; I know nothing about his past to this point, and I still have to make all of that up. Patience.

It turns out that being anti-social most of my life is now a bit of a problem. I don't know what real people do. I need to overcome that hurdle (hopefully that won't involve talking to anyone), but sitting down and thinking long enough will probably help a lot. But I've had bad experiences in social contexts. There's some fear in the idea of talking to and getting to know strangers, but there's also a barrier created by years of having to look inward for understanding or even entertainment. When I meet someone, and do not immediately see something we have in common, something I would want to talk about for more than five minutes, I dismiss the entire idea of getting to know them. It won't be worth it, I think; what would we talk about? And why would we do it?

It's funny; while I'm not dismissing people as worthless - just as individuals I probably have nothing in common with - the fact that I do that mental turning-away probably does give the impression that I think they're not worth knowing. And sometimes, even if I think a person is worth knowing, I'm just not able or willing to overcome whatever hurdles there are between us. If you think I'm going to hobble around San Francisco on crutches, with no idea which bus line goes where, just for a study session with someone I barely know? You expect too much from me.

That situation is in the past, but I remember it well.

.

I do like non-fiction now that I've tried it seriously a few times. Maybe it's because I have this erroneous idea that my opinion on something matters, or is at least interesting. My life is boring now, but things happened in my childhood, and in my recent history, that are perhaps worth talking about. In addition, things like bullying/being bullied are incredibly relevant right now, and I have always felt strongly about issues like school violence for that reason. I try to avoid these topics because I feel like I'd just be wallowing in old angst, but maybe feeling my experiences aren't valid is a hurdle I have to overcome as well, for both fiction and non-fiction. Certainly, there are topics I don't think I can write reasonably about in a fictional world, because I find it so easy to slip into angsty, inactive characters. While it might be worth the exercise to resist that urge, I also think the creative essay medium might be more appropriate for some of them.

So... what would you do while waiting in a coffee shop for someone to show up? Besides getting a drink-- though that could be an adventure too, I guess? Or an opportunity for a monologue on the quality of coffee beans and roasting techniques.
myaru: (Dragon Age - Alistair)
First via Jim Hines, and then others on LJ, I was introduced to Amazon's Kindle Worlds while guzzling my morning coffee and trying to wake up. At first I didn't quite believe it existed. Now? I still can't, kind of.

Kindle Worlds: Not bigger on the inside (via Oshun) raises good points, especially #3: why would you sign a contract to give Amazon all rights to your work? If this were original work, I'd run the other direction the moment I saw those terms. One could argue you're lucky to have the opportunity to legally publish your fan fiction at all, but my next question then is: why does it have to be published to be worth something?

This may sound strange coming from me, with my talk about feeling like I'm not worth anything as an author unless I publish something, but fan fiction is not, by nature, something that I think would benefit from publication of this sort. To me, fan fiction is fun, community, fannish conversation, speculation, and most importantly, being able to explore what I want to explore, when I want to do it, in the way I prefer, without having to meet someone else's content guidelines. It's freedom. I can enjoy my process to the fullest extent - and that means not editing if I so choose, or writing some kind of weird biblical allegory, or an AU, or a crossover with Fate/Stay Night, if I think the story will benefit from it.

Granted, I don't have any rights to fan fiction I might write today, but I'm also not looking to get paid for it. Bringing money into this makes it less about the fiction or the experience, and more about meeting standards and earning dollar signs, which I personally don't like in this context. Hell, I hate writing gift and exchange fics precisely because I have to stress about meeting someone else's standards for the canon or characters. As for money, I'd rather make it on something I created from scratch-- because I may have an exaggerated expectation of my ability in that area.

.

All of that said, at the moment I don't have a dog in this fight. None of those properties interest me, and the chances of a property that does strike my fancy appearing on their list is slim. If that comes to pass, the question then becomes: do I love it enough to write for it, to jump through their hoops, and not care about the rights to the words I just typed? It's true I'm using someone else's characters in this scenario, but the development, leg work, and writing time/skill are all mine. I could put all of that into something I do have the rights for, or something more fun and without restrictions. Since fan fiction to me = fandom participation, bringing money and Amazon into the equation complicates it to questionable benefit.

Since there's very little to see right now, I reserve the right to change my views, but I'm going to let other people do the early adopting.

This feels like an April Fool's joke. Remember DeviantHeart?

.

Links:
- Kindle Worlds: A (Former) Fan Fiction Writer's Perspective
Writer Tamago. Pimping especially because it makes a really good point about creating original characters for fanfic and later deciding you might want to use those stories elsewhere. The KW contract would make that a problem.

Related:
- Filing off the serial numbers - from fanfic to novel (part 1) (as a companion to the above; Kara Braden)
- Amazon’s Kindle Worlds: Instant Thoughts (John Scalzi)
- Getting Paid for Your Fanfic? Here Comes Kindle Worlds! (Dawn Felegund)
- Amazon Jumps Into the Fanfic Business (Jim Hines)
myaru: (Saiunkoku - Shuurei talks a lot)
A. Too much research, not enough writing.
I needed to know about earthquakes and damage for one project, and also stab injuries and drug reactions. That only took a week to track down! I'm sure it would've been shorter if I were a more focused researcher. But then, as I neared the finish line, I thought, I shouldn't be doing this. This story doesn't contribute to my goals. And then I brooded for a while. I guess at least I've got an outline and am basically ready to write, so there isn't much more work involved. And in the long run, one story isn't going to set me back that much. It's just that I figure making exceptions is a bad thing to start doing, because then I'll keep doing it.

(This is where "discipline" comes in, am I right? :D)

For the second project I've been doing half-assed Wikipedia research on Norse paganism, old time radio, Baroque violin compositions, and uhhhh, actually that's it, but it took a while because history is a rabbit hole and I always trip and fall farther than I think I will. And then I got involved in mining French vocabulary for names, because this quirky polyglot world is suited for groups of characters named after fruit or musical composition styles.

For two weeks - more than that, really, because of the illness/injury interlude - I've been doing developmental work, but almost no writing. :/ I should sit down and do some of those daily exercise things, just to get back into the habit.


B. I did finish Fate/Zero, but forgot to post about it.
I think overall I prefer Zero, though I really love Rin and Unlimited Blade Works. (Lucky for me, that's what the movie was about! Yay~) Heaven's Feel was certainly interesting, but it cemented my discomfort with Sakura, and since that arc is all about her, well. :/ This series (or novel, as you prefer) was a lot more about the relationships between various masters and their servants, and I walked away loving Iskandar and Waver especially, with Lancer coming in second (GW4!Saber/Lancer is totally my OTP for this one!), and Berserker was an interesting personal touch re: Saber's story, also. It seemed much more cast/character-driven, when the first one seemed, at times, to be driven by what is essentially a dating sim.

Gilgamesh was... himself. Only saner. That made less difference than the word 'sane' should imply.

My feels in numbered points, because... because. )


C. ToV is pissing me off a bit.
Why does this game not have an option to skip scenes? It's 2013. The game was published in 2008. ToV has WAY less of an excuse than an old-timer like Xenogears, thankyouverymuch, and it seems like every pivotal battle is preceded by really long story scenes. This is awesome the first time (because it really sets the mood, after all!) and it's even okay the second time, so I can see things I missed the first time. But the fourth time? No.

The battle and location are spoilers, so short cut. )
myaru: (Avatar: All old people know each other)
I feel like I did this wrong. My selections are much longer than everyone else's. But if you're going to show a progression of any kind then shouldn't you try to pick excerpts that show more than one thing - like dialogue AND description, rather than just one of them? That's why this is long and probably tedious.

.

Some background:
I started writing online in June or so of 1998, right after I graduated from high school. It is also around this time I decided to write seriously. Before this, I wrote stories for my friends, or to keep myself busy over summer break, but it wasn't something I pursued with any intent - not even a hobby, because I didn't do it often enough. If I had time, I was reading instead. So yes, I liked to write, but until my senior year in high school, I also believed I was going to go to The Art Academy and train for a career as an illustrator. Writing wasn't even on the horizon! I wanted to paint book covers.

I believe my development as a writer really started in 1998, so that's where I'm starting with this meme. You'll see both fan and original work in the samples below, as well as some stuff that blurs the line a bit (e.g. stuff labeled DeM, IoM). I tried to choose work that falls into the middle of the quality spectrum for the time; in a few cases, I was able to get four consecutive years of samples about the same character and storyline, which... I'm not sure if that will help the exercise or not. But don't worry, there's ten years of other stuff to add variety.

.

1998:
Final Fantasy 7: The Battle Within )

1999:
Xenogears, DeM canon: Cyrene post #04 )

2000:
Xenogears, DeM canon: Cyrene post #14 )

2001:
DeM canon: Cyrene #18 )

2002:
DeM: Elanore #22 )

2003:
Suikoden: A Gesture of Appreciation )

2004:
Original: Blasphemy, part -1, or: A Matter of Human Experience )

2005:
Original: The Sealed Door )

2006:
Original: A Dance of Sparks )

2007:
Complicated provenance: A Clockwork Snare, chapter 1 )

2008:
Saiunkoku: A Wolf Among the Roses )

2009:
Original: The Lady of Primrose Mansion )

2010:
Original: The Golden Sigil )

2011:
Tales of Symphonia: Weak Link )

2012:
Silmarillion: Rival )

.

This took forever. :/ Not touching 2013 yet.

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