Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More Distractions!

Now Playing: Nine Inch Nails - March of the Pigs, Even Deeper, and Letting You (All live)

Hah. Guess what? It's another One-In-The-Morning-Why-Am-I-Awake-And-Avoiding-My-Novel post! :D

Mostly because this:

Yes. I suddenly know way too much about bloodletting. I also know now that the black plague killed people in a matter of days. Which, like, is terrible, but has the "oh at least their suffering was cut short" feeling. Granted, it doesn't even matter because this character didn't have the black plague. She just had black-plague-like-symptoms...which I stretched out to three years. OH GOD. THE GUILT. I'm sorry Imaginary Head Person--I know it's gotta suck. But it's the dark ages--it sucks for everyone.

Oh, speaking of twitter: for the past few weeks, #amwriting has been trending like mad. Pulling myself away from distractions is even harder than usual. Since I get the house all to myself on most weekdays, I've been blasting music on the speakers and trying to write as much as possible. (Mostly, I keep putting up the live footage of the NIN Tension 2013 tour).

Which works out pretty well. Kind of. Before I bring up twitter and absolutewrite and /r/writing, etc.

But I am definitely writing more now in the summer than I ever have, so clearly this is a good time of my life. I am both old and disciplined enough to concentrate, but also young enough that I'm granted long periods of time where I have nothing but hours and hours of free time.

Which is not to say I don't get distracted. Like right now.

Last week I was checking the amwriting hash-tag--trying not to tweet every insipid thought that popped into my head and mostly succeeding--when I came across something that hit close to home. This other writer said something about a difficult scene he was working on. I favorite'd, replied, and checked out his twitter profile and website.

And I saw this post.

I feel like being super self-absorbed and wanna distract myself after a long day of writing. Sooooo...

Q: What am I working on at the moment?

A: Millennium Girl! Which--in my infinite talent of getting attached to stories in super hard to publish genres--is an adult Urban Fantasy novel I'm about 55k words into. I've been working on it since January because I'm a slow-poke who can't finish something within three months like some other writers >_> It was partially inspired by a scene at the very end of Beyond Two Souls, which led to the age-regeneration concept behind Lilith's immortality. And that's all I can say without making it sound idiotic >>

Q: How does my work differ from others of its genre?

A: Uh. It...doesn't, as far as I can tell. Like, okay, I actually am not a super well versed urban fantasy reader (I know, that's really bad. But I didn't exactly pick the genre, it picked me) so I'm not sure.

From what I can gather, basic archetypes of urban fantasy novels with main female characters have this: sassy, mature, sexy woman with sexy and badass fighting skills deals with [INSERT MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURE HERE] and the occasional sexy bad boy(s) as romantic interest(s). And sometimes she's a mythological or super powerful creature herself. I guess...the main difference is that Millennium Girl has zero romance? Or well that's a lie. Yuki and Wendy are in a long-term, serious relationship. And I think Lilith once accidentally hits on Wendy's brother but it doesn't go anywhere (and I might delete that scene--unsure). So technically, there's no actual focus on romance.

I can also say without a shadow of doubt there is nothing sexy about Millennium Girl >_> Which might admittedly kill my chances of reaching a broad adult demographic? (I don't know. I'm not...really good at knowing What People Want).

But yeah. I'm making assumptions here. I'm actually 90% sure there are plenty of Urban Fantasy novels that differ from the common archetypes. But I'm not yet sure how mine does.

Oh! I suppose there's this: I don't use any established mythological creatures. There are otherworldly entities discussed in Millennium Girl, but they're not demons or ghosts or vampires or whatever. And--I haven't gotten there yet so take this with a grain of salt--there's a scene in the later half of the book that feels like a genre shift. I haven't really fleshed this out yet. Hell, I don't even really know how the entities look like. But it is an important aspect, and it's probable that it'll become more substantial to the plot later on.

Q: Why do I write what I do?

A: I wasn't sure if this question is suppose to relate to the genre or not. Since I don't really know if Urban Fantasy is going to be a thing for me in the future, I guess I can't answer this question. But why do I write speculative fiction in general? It's fun :P

But I can think about it. If I give the complicated answer for why Millennium Girl started to subconsciously go down this way, it's this: I was bitching the other day about the use of women as martyrs, or props, or as helpful objects meant to push leading men to be the heroes of their stories. This is an old feminist criticism of media, one that is sadly both super relevant but also kind of talked about to death. And that's probably because there's been no visible, substantial change just yet. We're getting there, but it's still a while to go.

I think my real beginnings as the writer I am now started off with Hitomi and Redemption. Hitomi's arc was very personal, but it was also very grand in scale. She changes for herself but also because humanity needs her. And sometimes, that's what divides my heroes and heroines. No one is truly in one extreme, but there is a tiny division of people who fought for themselves or fought for others. The latter has more characters--which might also be because I've tried to write large scale epics of war and massacre and great power.

But I want to write about deeply empathetic women who become heroines for the world and also want to write about those with only personal stories, in control of nothing but their own destinies. Admittedly, one of Lilith's motivations is the well-being of innocent people who may have been indirectly hurt by her and Ansel. But this is still mostly about her. It is her well being on the line. And I think that might sound selfish, but I also think that's okay. I think Lilith is both empathetic and a little bit selfish. I have to assume a balance can be achieved. I want, even if just for once, my protagonist to be a heroine mostly for herself and no one else.

I don't know if I'll manage to get that across without making it too on-the-nose or butchering Lilith's chance to be likeable, but I'll take the challenge and hope for the best Dx.

Q: How does my writing process work?

A: Badly >_> I try and write every day, but am nowhere near disciplined enough for daily word-count goals.  And am also a slow drafter, so I don't think I can really get away with it. When I was younger, I used to hop around story to story. This, combined with constant attempts at editing the first draft before it was done, meant I never finished anything. I've certainly gotten better now, but it doesn't stop the occasional wandering thought of "GO AHEAD AND FINISH THIS SO I CAN WRITE THAT OTHER THINGY." Which is...counter-productive. And makes for some rushed scenes. And temporarily slaughters my fun.

The good thing is that I have never, ever relied on inspiration, not even when I was little. I've never felt the need. I don't want to make it sound like I'm saying writers who do rely on inspiration are doing it wrong or--god forbid--"are not real writers" (gag). I'm saying that I would personally never get anything done if I did.

But I like getting hit with tiny doses of it. So in general, here's how it works:

I listen to music (Trent Reznor, Martin O'Donnell, Yoko Kanno; in general, my favorite movie/video game/show soundtracks) to get the initial waves of inspiration. I almost never pay attention to lyrics--if there are any--and instead try and imagine scenes with whatever emotions the music invokes (...evokes?). Characters come to me visually. I learn how old they are, as well as their race, age, height, sexuality, nationality, career of choice, and even clothing style. It's oddly detailed and sometimes changes around, but it always comes out in chunks. After a long while, I look around for a name and test it out. Before typing anything, I scribble ideas down on notebooks. Occasionally, I fill up a character bio.

I never know that much about my stories when I start them. I see scenes but I don't usually know the plot. And I only ever know if a novel is going to last if I can write the first two pages in full. (It's kind of surprising to see how quickly some ideas fall apart after those two pages >.>)For a while, I tried to type up scenes out of order so I could up my word count and not have to slug through some slow moments, but I've found it works better when I write said scenes in my notebooks and revisit them a long while afterwards.

I can't quite figure out if I really outline or not. Some writers say they know when they write, and so they discover the story as they craft it. I think it'd be the same for me if I wasn't constantly thinking about it. I see what happens progressively even if I'm not actively working on it. (But sometimes, I get so excited about a scene, I jot it down even if I know I'll remember it).

It does take me a while to really get to know my characters. But when I do, I start to love them as if they're real people. And I'm thankful for their presence and proud of their growth, as if they were living, breathing individuals rather than pieces of me.

It takes me a long while to get through first drafts, which can be super frustrating. But when I finally know my characters the writing gets easier, and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing.


Okay, back to Millennium Girl. If anyone/another writer is reading this--SwankIvy? :D--I TAG YOU.


  1. Do you carry a notepad everywhere? It’s a well known fact all the best ideas come at 2am. I don't really have what one would call a methodical writing process either.

    Your first big paragraph gave me an idea for a new character – A doctor from the 1514 period falls into an isolated Scottish lake and gets frozen, for five hundred years. Armed with outdated medial knowledge, he escapes his ice prison thanks to global warming and hits up the local town to invade a hospital, throwing hundreds upon hundreds of leaches on gunshot victims and cancer patients. The locals think he’s some kind of supervillian and eventually stab him in a frenzy. While the misunderstood doctor lies dying, the gunshot victims and cancer patients rise from their beds, now miraculously cured, as the locals look upon their blood-stained hands to realize that they were the true monsters all along. Ten years later a statue stands at the spot of the doctor’s death, with a plaque that reads ‘Dedicated in Memory of Doctor Leeches.’

    1. @Drake: Yup! I do.
      Agreed on the best ideas bit. Sadly, my body hates me fo depriving it of sleep and punishes me accordingly when I want to write as such hours :(

      I'm equally horrified and amused at the image of a crazed, 16th century doctor flinging leeches at incapacitated patients >>


"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.