“Welcome to Bridgetown…”

Surprisingly enough, I never actually used that phrase anywhere in the Mendaihu Universe books until just the other day when I had to have one character welcome another as they landed at the B-Town Nullport. It didn’t even occur to me until just then that I never used it previously! [For those playing along, it comes from a very early version of an MU-themed website back before I knew to how to actually create one…that was to be the first thing you see on the landing page.]

So what’s going on in the Mendaihu Universe, anyway? Yes, I am still working on the fourth book. After numerous false starts, trunked outtakes and varying versions, I think I’ve finally managed to get it under control. There are a few reasons for this: one, my recent visits to the 750Words.com archives are paying off in that I’ve found a few outtakes that work perfectly in this iteration. Another being that my ‘repeated reread’ process of revision/reconnection helped me further nail down the main plot as well as what drives each of the main characters. I’m not getting nearly as much word count on it all — yet — but I’m getting there, because I’ve become a lot more comfortable working on the project.

The trick this time out is that I’m not rewriting the original trilogy story but I am writing about events that are influenced or caused by it. Sure, I have a few literary parallels going on, but it’s not about spiritual evolution…at least not in the awakening sense. This one’s inspired by what happens after those defining events. How believers of a Chosen One choose to interpret their words and deeds, years on from the original defining events. Different interpretations will evolve, different levels of belief. Who’s doing it right? Who’s just borrowing all the best parts for their own version? Does it matter?

It’s taking a lot longer for me to process all of this, I admit. I had over a decade to process the original trilogy before I released the final version. Now, it’s only been six years since I dropped A Division of Souls and half-heartedly played with some longhand outtakes. Right now I’m at the same level as the 2001 iteration of ADoS: a lot of planning, a lot of borrowing from old versions, and doing my best to make it all work. Will I have it ready to go by next year? No idea. Chances are better that I’ll have Project A released (and/or Diwa & Kaffi, depending on how that pans out) by next year first.

Still, I’m having a lot of fun writing in this universe again, and that’s always a good thing.

On the verge of…something

Yeah, okay, still the Grumpypants here. Doing better than a few weeks ago, but still feeling frustrated as hell. I suppose all us writers go through this every now and again, but sometimes it feels like I’ve been going through it for…a year? Maybe more? What’s going on, anyway?

I feel like I’m purposely avoiding writing conflict. I want to write it, I need to write it, but something’s keeping me from actually doing it. [I would not be the least bit surprised if this had something to do with my personal life.] It could also be that my creative brain is still stuck in the Diwa & Kaffi universe, where conflict was less high-stakes; I stayed there for quite a bit after I finished the story when things at the Former Day Job were getting stressful, as it was comforting to write in that universe at the time. Thing is, I’d like to get out of that mindset and get back to writing conflict again. I’m practically twitching to get back into it.

I don’t blame the D&K project (and its related other project that’s currently on a backburner). In fact, I’m still extremely proud of that particular book; I consider it my best one yet. BUT. Right now I feel like I’m waiting…for something. What, I’m not sure. It could be that my unemployed pandemic time gave me a long-needed mental and emotional respite and my subconscious is loath to let go of it just yet. It could be that I’ve spent so much of my life having to wait to do the things I’ve wanted and needed to do for various reasons, many of them out of my control at the time, and I’m not used to not having that barrier anymore. It could be that I’m just afraid to take that first step into the unknown.

Which, of course, is why I have to remind myself occasionally: just shut the f*** up and DO it already.

Anyway. New month, new outlook. Let’s see where this goes.

Transitional scenes

Image courtesy of Your Name

Lately I feel like all my stories have been stuck in transitional scenes. The main characters aren’t there yet, but they’re on their way….to wherever there is. They know what’s going on and what they need to do, but it feels like they’re spending far too much time planning and not enough time doing. [I am well aware that this somewhat mirrors my life at times, thank you very much. It’s a lifelong habit that’s harder to break than you think.] [ANYWAY.]

The other day it got so bad that I finally called it for the scene I was working on for Project A: it was just taking way too damn long for it all to unfold, so I just stopped the scene cold. And in a move I rarely take, I left bracketed ‘fix it later’ notes, including the exact points I needed to make…and left it as is. I’ve only done a “leave it and fix it later” once before, with Diwa & Kaffi, because I really didn’t want to spend far too much time in the same spot.

Ironically, the next scene I wrote was in fact transitional, but it was short and purposeful. A character needed to report to a higher-up while also pulling off some Furtive Spy-Type Stuff. It was concise, always moving forward, and cleared the way for future events. And it only lasted maybe about three pages. Win!

One reason I sometimes get stuck in these transitional scenes is lack of planning. Sometimes the focus is more on getting daily words done than it is getting the scene done, and that never bodes well, because then what I write is an overthought rambling mess. But it goes the other way, too: sometimes I want to take my time getting to the point I need to hit (for pacing’s sake) and end up taking too much time getting there. I think it was a bit of both this time out.

So, how to combat it? Well, the easiest way is to do what I’d done: [WRITE THIS BIT LATER.] It’ll save me time, brainspace, and avoid frustration later on. Most of the time I have a good idea of what needs to be there, but my brain hasn’t quite achieved how to make it work yet. That’s where my Repeated Reread Process also comes in: I know the problem scene is coming, plus I’ll be able to see what leads up to it, and therefore know how to handle it better.

Right now the beginning chapters of Project A are a terrible mess, but they’re not irredeemable. I just need to make a few fixes and updates is all. And I’ll rewrite all that later, too. Right now I’d rather continue with the path I’d finally corrected and go from there, because that is where my brain needs to be.

Keeping Plants in the Office

I have a very tiny plant garden (so to speak) on the bookshelf that sits in front of Spare Oom’s window. A few of these plants only need the occasional watering (the cactuses and succulents can go weeks without it and be just fine), and there’s one just out of shot on another bookshelf and out of direct sunlight (a maidenhair fern) that pretty much needs to be damp 24/7. These are all super-easy plants to take care of so I don’t need to worry about them too much, but I like to visit them just the same.

We have quite a few smallish plants in the apartment — something A started a while back that I’ve joined in on — and I felt it would be nice to have something in Spare Oom to keep me company. And more important, something non-writing/non-music/non-creative for me to focus on during the day. I’ll deadhead those odd peperomia flowers (far left in the picture) and give the pots a quarter turn or so every now and again, or give the maidenhair fern a full spritz of water. It helps me back away from distractions (or hyperfocusing for that matter) for a few minutes and calms me down.

I am occasionally tempted to get another plant whenever we visit a garden center (and there are many in the city, including one just up the street from us!), and these particular plants are cheap and durable, but for now I think I can handle these. They’re small, compact and just the right size to hang out in front of the window.

That Moment in Writing

Image courtesy of Ocean Waves

Don’t mind me…I’m just stuck in that moment in writing. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you’ve got a decent amount of work done, and you kind of like the idea…but it all sounds like CRAP. That point where everything sounds so awful and stupid that you’re embarrassed to call yourself a writer.

How do I handle that? Well, I just let it pass, really. If it’s really, truly bad work, then I’ll decide whether or not to trunk it, revise it, or start over. And I don’t think I’m at that point (yet). What I have now is what I always have at the start of a novel project: a lot of flailing, a lot of guesswork, and a considerable absence of continuity. I remind myself that I’m still feeling my way, trying to find what anchors it all together. I’m still trying to find the right voice for it. And the only way to find all that is to keep going. I can fix the terrible parts later on.

So yeah, I’ll be a Grumpypants for a little bit, but it’ll pass. Eventually.

Cattiness

Image courtesy of bluehedgehogs on Imgur

There is really no reason why one of my recent novel projects has a Maine coon cat in it. I mean, other than the fact that I’m surprised I never had cats in any of my previous books or stories, given how much I love them.

Okay, maybe there is a reason, but it’s not a Chekov’s cat. It’s just that the comically large, floofy and cranky kitty happens to be the pet of the two main characters. [Her name is Grizelda, by the way, Grizz for short.] I had no real plans to have the cat get involved in any of the shenanigans that unfold in this novel other than having one of them be the doting mom (fussing and giving scritches and belly rubs and letting her sit on the kitchen table when she shouldn’t be up there) and the other be the mom with withering patience (pulling her off said kitchen table, ensuring she gets fed on time, lines up appointments with the vet).

My point being, this is the first time I’ve used a living being as a way to show part of a character’s personality. They both love Grizzy despite her incessant crankiness and chattiness. They both care about her and miss her dearly when they head out on what is initially a few weeks’ vacation, and worry about her when said vacation ends up being longer than planned. Grizz doesn’t have a role like Einstein the dog does in Cowboy Bebop; she’s just there doing cat things and living her best cat life — including making sure her humans behave, don’t get into trouble, and feed her every now and again.

And, no big surprise, the Grizelda scenes I’ve written are always a joy to write!

Hrmmm….

Marc Antony and Pussyfoot courtesy of
Looney Tunes and ‘Feed the Kitty’

Doing some reshuffling and clarifying of the brainpan here these days. I know I haven’t been the most organized or focused person at times, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to rectify that with regards to my writing and other things. I’ve done some minor shifting of the Daily Schedule which should help me be more productive. And just in general, I’m just…remapping my head a bit, so to speak. Rethinking in ways that make more sense to me.

In the meantime, not much to report other than that I’m actually doing pretty good with the Writing Projects! I need to get caught up with the revision-so-far for one, but I’m hitting close to 1000 words a day for the other, and I’m quite happy about that.

Did I write this? Or someone else?

There’s a classic story behind the Beatles’ song “Yesterday” in which the hit song pops into Paul McCartney’s head in a dream one night at Jane Asher’s place in Wimpole Street. Upon waking, he dashes to the family piano and writes the bulk of it that morning before he forgets it. Soon after, however, he is plagued by this weird feeling that he’d just nicked the entire song from somewhere else entirely — it was a melody so simple yet so brilliant, so classic that it’s an immediate standard, he was absolutely convinced his subconscious had heard it somewhere before. He kept it back for a while, noodling with it and occasionally asking his bandmates and other musicians if they recognized it, and finally after a few weeks, the Beatles laid it down as the final track of their Help! album. It would be released as a single in the US as one of the band’s most long-lasting, best-remembered, and most loved songs. (It would even hit a Guinness World Record in 1986 as the most covered song in the world.)

*

Meanwhile, I’ve been going through some of my old 750Words entries, and recently I came across a piece of microfiction that I do not remember writing at all. It’s dated the 7th of November, 2018, and it sounds nothing like what I normally write. It actually sounds better than anything I’ve ever done, especially for something that was quite possibly dashed off one afternoon while distracted from the Day Job. It’s a simple 867-word story but it’s tight and concise to a level I’m often not used to. There’s no meandering, no riffing, trying to figure it out as I go. It sounds extremely confident. And the subject matter is quite unlike me as well. It has no relation to any of my other projects. I don’t even know what inspired it, to tell the truth. If I’ve written anything similar before or since that time, I’m not yet aware of it.

When I reread it about two weeks ago, I was absolutely convinced I’d nicked it, or that I was deliberately copying someone else’s style. There’s no way I could have possibly come up with this on my own.

Now, however, it’s gotten me super excited to the point that I think I need to submit it somewhere. It’s also made me think I need to do a deeper dive into these 750Words sessions and see what else might be buried in there. I’ve done a lot of ‘dialogue-only’ microfiction over the years (the first one arrived around 2014, I believe) which I find a hell of a lot of fun to write. I’ve written shorts related to my longer work — I have two Christmas-themed stories set in the Bridgetown Trilogy universe that were written for fun, for instance — that in retrospect I think could be used for submission, or maybe collected and self-published. And I have years of poetry that’s never been released except on one of my blogs.

It also made me realize that maybe I should rethink how I look at my writing as a whole. Some days I’m so caught up in the process that I don’t always realize when I’m going off the deep end, or if I’m losing the plot entirely (pun intended). Other days I’m so blocked that I’m convinced I’m not blocked and just being lazy or distracted. Looking back on these outtakes makes me realize that I’ve written more, a lot more, than I think I have over the last twenty-plus years, and sometimes I don’t give it the full attention it needs. Instead I’ll be too focused on gotta get my daily words done today or I need to get this revision done before the end of the season that I don’t always realize what I’ve got in front of me, or what I’ve got stashed away.

When something like this pops up from a forgotten corner of my writing life, I can’t help but be happy to find it again. It reminds me that maybe I’m doing a lot better than I think I am.

Thinking Big Again

‘Radiance’ by Mami Kawada — opening theme to Starship Operators

So it seems that one of my Current Projects is going to be another epic. I didn’t quite plan it that way, but I didn’t plan on The Bridgetown Trilogy to be the big ol’ books they became, either. I’m not complaining, though…I have a soft spot for writing big books! They give me a chance to really stretch out and have a lot of creative fun.

There’s of course the world building aspect. While I wouldn’t quite say this is a space opera, it does have some elements of it. Most of it takes place either on a waystation near a busy wormhole gate or at its nearby host planet. I’m borrowing some layout ideas from a lot of different anime movies and series I’ve watched over the years (no surprise there) to build up the infrastructure. This one won’t have any conlangs this time out, though, but that’s fine. I’ve got other major details that I need to keep in some semblance of order instead.

The cast might not be as huge as the Bridgetown Trilogy, but it’s close. There are four major characters so far, with many secondary characters already making important appearances, and they’ve all got their assignments via the synopsis I completed for it a few weeks ago. Big ensembles are a lot of fun to write for me, because I love the challenge of keeping them unique as well as ensuring they all have their own important roles to play in the overall story arc. The length ensures that I give them all breathing room to be themselves as well.

And quite importantly: it has not one but three mixtape playlists already made for this particular project. Possibly more in the future.

Does that mean I’m putting shorter length aside? Far from it — a few of the backburner projects are about the same length as In My Blue World. Knowing that I can do both means that I can definitely switch from one to the other without worry. Who knows, I may even have a few short/flash fiction ideas in mind as well…?

Regardless, I’m pleased to state that this particular project is coming along just fine. Sure, I might trip up here and there, but I think I’ve gotten past the rocky beginning I always seem to have when starting a new project, so it should be much smoother sailing from here.