680 words and some updates

680 words tonight.  I did stay up a bit later than I’d wanted to, but meh, I don’t have class until 1:00.  It really didn’t take that long to write–what took up the time was the few games I played, and also the surfing around wikipedia and other random places on the web.  I am sooooo ADHD.  But yeah, the story is still rolling and it shouldn’t be that hard to get at least 500 words in every day.

I’m reading Mistborn my Brandon Sanderson right now for the Quark book club, and it is really good!  It’s been a while since I’ve gotten into a book like this!  The world and the magic system are interesting, the characters drive the story and are also interesting, especially the main character Vin, the conflict is pretty intense and the good guys aren’t involnurable.  Each new chapter makes me want to read the next chapter, and I’m really interested to see how Vin changes and grows, and what happens to her.  Plus, the magic system and other elements of the story have really stoked my imagination.  It’s a good book!  I’m looking forward to discussing it at the Quark reading group meeting this next November!

Speaking of which, November is nanowrimo, and I’m a little bit worried about it.  We haven’t planned out too much for the month as a writing group, it looks like we’re just going to have a few informal writing parties at each others’ apartments, and probably some kind of a party at the end of the month where we share our stories with each other and do other fun stuff.  But really, that’s probably all we need.  It’s going to be crazy–and I’m not even doing nanowrimo this year!

Yay!  My friend Reigheena won a contest for her short story!  Good for her!  I hope things just keep getting better for her.  And man, she’s about to have a baby as well!  Crazy!  Good luck with everything!

I’ve been reading Aneeka’s story in any of my nonexistent free time.  She sent me five chapters but I’ve read only two so far.  I was really impressed with the dialogue, pacing, characters, and setting in her rewrite of the first chapter.  And…I’d say more, except that I know that she reads this blog.  Since she’s pretty sensitive about anyone criticizing it at this point, I figure I’d better not go into much depth here.  Sensitive, as in I sometimes worry she’ll jump in front of a train or something…before she sends me the rest of the story!  My goal is to eventually read the whole thing.  Hopefully, that will be before it’s published, but we’ll see.  We shall see.

We’ve got another writing meeting tomorrow.  We’ve only got four stories this time, so we shouldn’t be rushed at all.  I just hope that it wasn’t a mistake to schedule the next meeting only a couple of days later, on Saturday.  Several of the members seem to favor meeting together more often, and I’m hoping that if we do that, we can lower the number of stories we look at at each meeting and not be so rushed.  But secretly, I’m kind of worried that I’ll lose track of the schedule and miss some of these meetings.  I’m so ADHD, it might just happen…

AUGH!!!!!!!!!

Shoot!  Today was a crazy day!  I feel almost like it was a waste!  The last couple of days, I was thinking about how great it would be once the weekend comes, how I’d have tons of free time to write in my novel, and how many thousands of words I would write, how awesome it would be.  But now, it’s the end of the day, and I haven’t even written anything at all!

It’s weird.  I think that it’s a tendency that we all have–procrastination.  Some people have it worse than others.  I’m extremely horrible at it.  I read on a photoblog I read that we spend about five years in our lifetimes just waiting for buses, subways, cars, doctors appointments, etc.  If you could add up all the time I’ve spent in procrastination, it would probably add up to five already!  The weird thing is…this is something I actually enjoy doing.  Why procrastinate THAT??

It reminds me of a priesthood lesson we had once in church last semester.  This guest speaker came to speak with us on the difficult subjects, like chastity, pornography, etc.  He started out by discussing a conversation he had with a neurologist once, about how we are hardwired, through our brain, to try and get a maximum output with a minimum input.  Basically, the idea is that we are naturally disinclined to do the productive, creative things that require effort, and naturally inclined to waste time on mindless activities that give us basic, low-level pleasure.  It might be a LOT more satisfying to do something creative, but that requires so much effort to do that we have a natural impulse to avoid doing it–and to waste time instead on video games, tv, staring at the wall, and other stupid stuff.

The other weird thing is that even though I did almost all of my homework yesterday, I spent the whole day today stressed out about that tiny little bit that I hadn’t yet done.  It was very, very weird.  I did about three or four hours of homework yesterday, and had only about an hour (half an hour of focused effort, but I never focus) left.  I KNEW that I had a significantly lesser load of homework, and yet, despite that fact, I still felt weighed down in the back of my mind!  All day!  AUGH!!!

So, I guess I’ve learned two things from this experience: the urge to procrastinate is not confined to unpleasant tasks, and that no matter how much or how little work you put off, it will still weigh on the back of your mind.

Freak!

Well, there is some good news though.  I have NO homework that I need to do tomorrow! (except blog in Arabic, but that’s fun and isn’t strictly necessary for my Arabic homework anyways) I am FREE!  What’s more, the day is almost totally open!  At least, as far as Sundays are open (and believe it or not, Sundays are actually fairly busy for us students).  What’s more, it’s not all that late right now!  I’m going to go to bed before 2:00, which means that I’ll be able to wake up in the morning and actually be awake!  I’ll actually get sufficient sleep!  So, tomorrow is looking good.  Even though I didn’t write today, I will spend lots of time writing tomorrow, inshallah.

freaking tired

Yes, I got the minimum in.  Just barely.  I guess you could call it 500 words.  In any case, I’m becoming incoherent, so the time has come to get some sleep.  Man, if I could have a super power it would be the ability to go indefinitely without sleep, and still be perfectly functional!  I suppose my body is trying to tell me something, though.  They’ll probably come up with a study sometime that shows that sleep deprivation robs years off of your life.  Something like that.  But when I think of that, I think of all the bad things that I could be doing, like drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc, and I think “well, this is my pet vice.  And it’s not even all that bad.  Even though it is hurting me.” And then I start to wonder why it is that we all humans seem to have our pet vices, how it’s part of human nature to have at least one irrational stupid thing that we do that hurts us more than anything.  And I ponder that for a little while, until I’m distracted by something else.  But yeah, 500 words tonight.  And I’m probably going to put a story bible together in the not too distant future, so that I can have some good direction.  Occassionally I’ll throw out words and forget them a few pages later, so I need to remember.  We’ll see.  And now I’m getting to where typing is difficult.  So I’ll have to write later.  Except for yesterday, I’ve been doing 500 words per day.  Yay!  Will continue.  But after sleep.  Sleep…

More on worldbuilding: specifically, religion

So, in this novel that I’m writing, I have this quasi-primitive tribal medieval culture that develops on an isolated planet.  An important part of the story is actually creating this culture, figuring it out, how it works and how it doesn’t, etc.  And one of the most important parts of this particular culture is the religion.  The idea that I have is that this culture was basically anarchic and unstable until a religion developed that established some norms, a basic system of justice and morality, an hierarchy, and a value for knowledge.  The problem is: how do you invent a fictional religion?

I was kind of worried about this a week or so ago.  I was getting to the part in the book where the religion starts to influence the characters and the plot, and I still hadn’t figured out some of the basic beliefs of these people.  When I did start to write this religion, it ended up sounding way too…Arab.  And even though this story is influenced by a lot of the stuff that I’m studying in Political Science and MESA (Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic), I DON’T want this novel to be about a bunch of Arabs on another planet.  These people are unique.  Plus, as I’m learning now, the problems in the Middle East are completely different than anything that could possibly develop on this planet.  However, there are some similarities, and some of the conflicts are going to be similar to the ones that we face today.

So, when I saw that I was patterning things too much off of my own ideas of Arab culture and religion, and not enough off of original ideas, I thought that I had to go back and completely draw out the religion in my head–that I needed to come up with all the specific details of it, and that these details had to be sufficiently unique and different from anything else that they would be truly “original.” The result was that I started toying around with some crazy ideas that sounded pretty weird, and since they didn’t tie in directly with where I’m going with the story, I started feeling a little bit embarrassed when I thought of putting them on paper.

So, I wasn’t sure what to do.  Then, the other day I had this gchat with Aneeka, and she let me bounce off some of these ideas off of her.  It was actually very helpful!  She offered some ideas of her own, which got me thinking about directions I could take things.  More than that, it got me excited about the whole subject again.  I think one of the basic reasons you write stories is because of a sense of wonder about the world, or an idea of it.  Without that, it just doesn’t have the same life to it.

But, more important, the more I got to talking with her, the more I realized that it WASN’T important to answer every question–or make the religion completely unique.  Instead, it would actually be BETTER to focus on the basic concepts, like morality, justice, and good vs. evil, that can be found in EVERY religion.  That way, instead of being this strange, weird thing that no-one can relate to, it can be sufficiently unique, and yet have something that people from ANY religion can relate to.  I don’t need to know every detail of this religion, just the basic cosmology, history, and the moral code.  I need to touch on things like the afterlife, accountability, the nature of God, etc, but only lightly.  In fact, it’s better not to try and control it.  The important thing, when you come down to it, is how does this religion affect the way that people see themselves, their world, and the way they live their lives.

Other than that, the writing is generally going well–when I have the time to do it.  Speaking of which, I have two minutes to dash from the HBLL to my Philosophy class.  See ya!

I feel an emotional roller coaster about to begin…

You know, I used to get really freaking emotional about my writing. I’d post these notes up all over my room, some of them philosophical, others just giving myself general encouragement, and I’d read, revise, analyze, reanalyze, tear apart, and thrash my own writing. And then I’d get so emotionally wrapped up in it that when I got to about 120 pages I’d decide that the whole thing was crap, take down all the notes, put away the story, and just leave it all behind me. Totally cut it out of my life. And then I’d be depressed for a long time–until I could finally work up the courage to take out the wretched manuscript and look at it again.

Well, those were the old days. That’s what I USED to do. I’m much too grown up and enlightened to revert back to that. After all, it was just teenage angst. I’m past it. I’m capable of looking at my writing rationally and keeping its quality detached from my own view of myself. I can be brave, self-confident, and not get hung up on the little things. I can look at the problems with my writing and fix them without getting upset or depressed. I can take criticism and it won’t be all that painful.

Well, these were the things that I USED to believe. But now, I’m starting to realize that it’s probably all crap.

I’m approaching 120 pages again. My story is at 25,000+ words and I’m definitely committed to it now. More committed, perhaps, than I’ve been to a story since returning from my mission (at least, more committed to a novel-length story since I’ve already finished two short stories). And now that I’m committed, and right in the middle of the story itself, I’m starting to feel the unpredictable emotions coming on.

It’s like I’m on a roller coaster as it slowly gets pulled to the top of that very first drop–the machine is going <click> <clack> and I’m about 200 or 300 feet up in the air. The first drop off is maybe 30 feet away and I’m already starting to feel sick.

I think this realization came today during the writing meeting. It was a very good writing meeting, and I got some good and much needed feedback on my story. But I really started to feel kind of anxious as I heard people analyzing my story. I’ve felt that a little bit before, but I’ve always been able to put it aside. This time, it felt a lot stronger, and came when I wasn’t expecting it–even when people were giving my praise.

Last Winter, when Aneeka was still around, I remember the expression she would have on her face as I would give her feedback and criticism on her writing. She’d get really tense and almost a little bit scared, like an animal backed up into a corner or like a prisoner watching the torturer approach carrying some kind of unpleasant looking tool in his hand. It seemed very strange to me at the time, but I think I started to feel like that today.

And also, I think that it’s getting easier and easier to doubt my story. I’m past the honeymoon stage, where the story has just begun, I’ve got all these great ideas in my head and everything is in front of me. Now, I’ve covered some sizeable distance, and I can look back and say “oh, I need this character to be more like this,” or “I really did a poor job of this and it’s going to affect what I want to write in this upcoming scene.”

At the same time, I’m approaching the point where all these crucial questions and concepts about the world I’m writing need to have concrete answers. When I started, I could just generalize and say “well, the universe of my story is kind of like this,” or “this culture has a certain religion, and it’s kind of like this, but I’m sure I’ll work out the details when I get to that point.” Well, I’m at that point now, and I haven’t finished working out the concept. And because I don’t have the answers that I need in the concrete and specific form that I need them, it’s very easy to doubt the story and say “is this idea really any good anyways?”

So, things are starting to get a little bit tough emotionally. I can only expect it to get worse as I go along. If it happens even to the pros, so how can I expect to get away unscathed?

But there is some hope. Plenty of it, in fact. Right after the writing meeting today, I decided to go through and quickly make all the revisions that I felt the story needed (and there were plenty of them, including the embarrassing fact that Jorgen praised me for how villainous I made out this one character to be, when in fact that character was supposed to be one of the good guys!). As I thought about the revisions that I needed to make, I got really worried about them. My story, I felt, was pretty bad, and needed some major work. Well, as soon as I put in my flash drive and pulled up the story, those thoughts of “my story isn’t very good, it needs a lot of work” went away, and I just focused on what was in front of me. I saw a problem, fixed it, worked in some new stuff that made that area a little bit better, then moved on to the next thing. In a couple of hours, I had made all the revisions that had been suggested and really felt satisfied with the changes. I was excited to move on and keep writing. It was great!

So, I guess that once you REALLY commit to a story, you start to experience some pretty intense emotions. But not all of them are going to be bad. My experience so far has been that the more distanced I am from my story, the worse I think that it is, whereas the more I sit down and work on it, the more satisfaction I get. That may change in the future, but for now, it’s enough to keep me going.