Right now I feel like I ought to be writing, but I also feel like crap. I feel like I’m suspended, floating, somewhere between a deep depression and intense procrastineering. Last week I was closer to the procrastineering side, so I was getting a lot of things accomplished. This week I’m closer to the darkness. Sleeping around 12 hours a day, stopping whatever I’m doing to cry for a while, overeating some… And, importantly, not getting any real work done. Hopefully by this time next week I’ll have pushed myself in the direction of mania; as I tweeted, I think this is a book I could get written in a matter of days.
Before I get into the book I’m talking about, which, unless you follow me on Facebook/Google+, you’ve never heard of, I want to write a little about some (hopefully temporary) alterations to my writing process that I’m attempting this year. The biggest element is that I’m studying The Hero’s Journey – I’ve been reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces this month, and have been looking over a few online resources covering putting its ideas to use in storytelling, screenwriting, novel-writing, et cetera. Why am I studying The Hero’s Journey? Well, as I said on Facebook, “I need practice doing formulaic writing for my Dragons’ Truth rewrite, which I want to be hyper-formulaic commercial tripe. I mean, if Dragons’ Truth is going to be my least favorite of my books, I’d much rather hate it (and everything it represents) than merely be disappointed in it, right?”
What’s that? You hadn’t heard me mention I’m planning on (slash/ thinking of) re-writing Dragons’ Truth as a proper children’s/YA adventure book? Or that part of the point of the re-write is not just to make it possible to write sequels, but to just go ahead and write a trilogy? Well, that’s been a thought I’ve been mulling over and developing these last few years, and we’re nearing the culmination point of those thoughts. Among them is to study both children’s/YA adventure books (such as Rick Riordan’s and Lemony Snicket’s books, and perhaps other top-selling books in the category) and to study (and follow) the formulae of the worst of the “all good books must…” insistences; the latter primarily concerning itself with things like following The Hero’s Journey, or scene-writing according to guides like Jim Butcher’s livejournal, or thinking about story in terms like those in Syd Field’s Screenplay. Now, there are limits to the number of different “rules” any one book (or series of books) can follow before it keels over under the weight of all that garbage, so I’ve been trying to narrow down to a limited set which can be made to work together without contradicting one another too severely. (And without destroying my soul, in the process; I’m only trying to do something very, very painful to myself, not actually suicide via bad writing.) So that’s been somewhat penciled-in on my calendar for as soon as I was done with Never Let the Right One Go – which was, effectively, done by the end of May. (Only 7 copies left, right now! Order while you still can!)
Step one is to do the research, read the books, the blogs, learn the formulas and the structures and the concepts behind them, read also the actual adventure books, plan out the trilogy (along with the marketing plan, book blurbs, et cetera – an important part of the method of writing I’m attempting to channel/emulate is to start with the marketing and work backwards to the book), and otherwise prepare. Step two is to write the books. Step three is the editing and marketing and publishing and all that. So, having barely reached step one, I’m beginning the research. With the looming deadline of “have physical products (preferably new) to sell at Phoenix Comicon 2013”, the deadline for at least one (and maybe all three – though that’s another blog/conversation/conundrum) of the books in the New Dragons’ Truth Trilogy is May, 2013. Except, look: I’m working on other things.
(As an aside: I’ve already outlined the hyper-structure of the interactive eBook I’m writing about my experiences writing and publishing, and I’ve already begun writing it. I’ve got a title, some elaborate plans for the various editions, and really just need to invest a few dozen hours in writing to get it ready to be built and published. So, there’s that. But unless it makes a lot of money and I decide to release it as a CYOA, I don’t foresee a future for it as a physical product to sell at Phoenix Comicon.)
Summer is here, and among the other things that means, it means Mandy and I are able to attend a few of the later-night social happenings we get invited to all year, such as a weekly Game Night our friends in the East Valley host every Thursday. During the school year, a social event that runs from 7PM or 8PM until 1AM-3AM and which requires a half-hour drive each way to attend is untenable; Mandy has to be up at 5:30AM on school days to get ready and get to school on time. Most school nights she’s in bed between 8:30PM and 9:30PM. During the summer, there’s a little more flexibility. So, a couple weeks ago, for the first time in months, we went to Game Night. About half of the friends involved in this event, including myself, are also involved every year in NaNoWriMo (and other literary projects) – we’re writers, we’re editors, we’re publishers, and we also happen to enjoy playing tabletop games together.
Toward the end of this particular game night, on the cusp of June, Owen mentioned that he’d signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo (Write a novel in the month of June! Or August! – For people whose summers are easier to find free time in than their Novembers, I guess) and, it being after midnight, was already technically behind. So we got into a conversation about writing and story ideas, and I brought up (after fighting with my phone for a bit – Simplenote seems unreliable on my iPhone for some reason, though I use it all the time on my iPad & have no trouble syncing it with Scrivener) an old, pending idea for a book I’ve had lingering on my to-do-list for at least a year (or several): Write a sequel to “Book 1 of the Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot Saga”
Now, over the course of the conversation which ensued, the nature of the goal shifted a tiny bit, as two or three other people there declared their interest in tackling this goal. Here’s how I explained it on Facebook and Google+: “…so rather than all of us attempting to write “Book 2 of…”, we’re each writing an indeterminate sequel – and we’ll figure out what order they go best in later. Then we’ll all write Book 1 (and possibly a concluding story) collaboratively, something which can sensibly lead to all those other stories. Then we’ll edit them and publish the saga, probably via Modern Evil Press, and almost certainly in print (in some form or another), eBook(s), and audiobook(s); we would love to have these to sell at the next Phoenix Comicon.” I also added the following vague guidelines:
- We’re looking for short novels (the easier to compile them into a massive single volume), and to have first drafts done quickly – since at least two of the participating authors were already doing Camp NaNoWriMo, I’d recommend aiming for about 50k words, and having a draft done by the end of June (or July), 2012.
- We’re hoping for family-friendly (or at least YA-friendly) books, if possible – this basically just means we’re hoping to avoid any explicit erotica and/or explicit horror-porn, though addressing serious/mature themes and situations would be awesome, if handled and written well. If one or more authors writes a really, really compelling book where the NC-17 content is absolutely vital to expressing their plot/characters/themes, we’ll adapt, but it would be best to aim for a general audience.
- We’re looking for art inspired by (and inspired by the vague idea of) the Saga; I’ll probably make another call for artists when there are actually books written, for the cough uninspired cough artists who actually want to depict something one of us put in one of the books. Realistically, if we could get any sketches or art within the next few days/weeks, it could influence the direction of the stories.
- I’ll probably be the big-E Editor for the Saga, since I’ll probably also be the publisher. Write the best story you can, and know I’ll be working with you (and probably so will all the other authors) to make it even better. Depending on who actually finishes any books and how it all comes together, we’ll figure out money/etc later on.
Now, if the idea of “write a sequel in the Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot Saga” doesn’t immediately give you some ideas about what to write, you probably aren’t the right writer for this project. If you want a series bible, to help prevent the inevitable contradictions about things like “is Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot one person, or three? Or four?” and “does the DNGR Saga take place on contemporary Earth, or some other time/place?”, this probably isn’t a project you can work on (yet). I think, maybe, some (not necessarily all) of the authors currently “working” on the project have some conception of what they mean when they agree that DNGR might be a band (Robot is clearly the drummer, I hear) who solves crimes/mysteries. Realistically, if you didn’t want to have that part of your book, it’s just a page or two to explain away, in the inevitable Epilogues&Prologues bridging our wildly disparate books. There’s so much leeway, and it’s such a fun (for me) sort of book to write, I got to work on it right away.
That is to say: The next day (or so) I started studying The Hero’s Journey. I started thinking about what sort of story in the DNGR Saga I wanted to tell, who would be the Hero, what would the theme of the book be, what would it be “about”, et cetera. Within a week I’d finished the meat of Joseph Campbell’s book, re-read several online essays I’d bookmarked over the last few years, and outlined Death Noodle’s journey in lockstep with the monomyth… while telling an important/exciting story about excessive copyright enforcement. Then I went through and fleshed out and expanded the outline with the scene-by-scene formulas recommended by Jim Butcher (among others). I set up the project in Scrivener, sync’d it with Simplenote, divided up my fleshy outline into each chapter’s file, and it’s now sitting there, waiting, ready for me to start writing at any moment.
Right now I’m filled with dread and anticipation of two distinct sorts: The first will begin to resolve itself as soon as I begin writing, and will have evaporated as soon as I reach the end of the first draft. (It will then condense into the more terrible dread and anticipation which fills the cracks between writing and publication.) The second may not ever be resolved; it is the dread that this sort of terribly formulaic, painfully structured prose is what readers actually want (i.e.: dread that this book will be loved), mixed with the dread that after over a decade of writing novels, by the time I get to my 19th book (which this will be), even sticking to bad formulas won’t keep me from writing a good book (i.e.: dread that this book will be loved) and I won’t be able to tell whether they like it because it’s formulaic or because I wrote well in spite of the formulae, and further mixed with the anticipatory dread of finding out what people think of it – the anticipation that very few will read it, and/or even fewer will like it, and I may never know one way or the other. This, I can assure you, is a terrible place to be in, as an author.
I’m trying to write the best and most interesting book I can, while also trying to wedge in all this other garbage, these rules, these patterns, this structure within a structure (neither of them my own, or determined by the story, but handed down from on high by “experts”), and it’s a struggle. Worse is being in a position of dreading that my book will be enjoyed. What a stupid thing to not want. Especially while wanting and working so hard to realize its opposite. Might be related to some of that procrastination. Might even be connected with the depression, the tears. Anyway, any day now (maybe next week) I’ll begin work on my (first) entry in the Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot Saga – and hopefully will have the first draft done before the end of the month (at the latest) and will keep you updated as the work progresses.
I really do think people will like the book I’ve come up with – I just won’t know what to think about their liking it, and if they like it for the “wrong reasons” I might want to quit writing, is all.