Category Archives: writing

adventures in prewriting

So this weekend I sat down and Did a Writing Thing. Initially I sat down just To Write but after frowning at my laptop and making no progress on my work in progress, I said “No, okay, my brain has this other story it wants to think about and I’ve spent far too long being afraid of that idea and not letting my brain go there, so what would happen if I let it? What if I finally just, like, tried?” And I did. And I’m very proud of myself.

I know this seems simple, seems obvious. But nothing about writing has been simple or obvious for me for two years now, and I’m the type who likes to finish projects before she moves on to new ones. So giving myself the permission to set aside that other fic and develop a different idea altogether was a liberating moment for me.

But I even my liberation is organized, okay? I’m not the type who can sit at blank document and freehand sketch a story from nothing. Free writing is intimidating terrible bullshit for me. I am a crap free writer. I think a lot before I put a sentence on a page and prefer to have “seen” or “heard” a scene play out in my head before attempting to commit it to text. (This process happens either really fast or really slow; results may vary.) Anyway. I’d already written an intro and several subsequent scenes for this story—the stuff I’d seen/heard/felt inspired to get down when the idea first hit—but found myself stumped (for over a year) because I didn’t know what came next, what I was writing toward. Not specifically. And the backstory was a mess of “OMG WHAT IFs” living in the back of brain and, actually, that’s why I gave up writing the fic straight out—it felt like every new word I put down depended on all these decisions I hadn’t made about setting and time period and personal character choices. So this weekend, that’s what I did. I plotted.

I literally followed this post (appropriate gif is so appropriate), point for point, whether I felt like it was actually necessary for “just a fic” or not and my god. While defining the character profiles for this AU, suddenly a timeline plopped in my lap—yes, yes, it’s so obvious I need to set x event in z time period, holy shit that means I can work in b, and ZOMG now that means q and p will make sense! And while writing out the straight chronology of events (including that goddamn backstory) I found I had to stop my fingers from adding in too-detailed descriptions. I was automatically filling in those what comes next? blanks that had simultaneously felt like giant, unjumpable chasms and brick walls before—all because I sat down and forced myself to write a flippin’ outline. (P.S. It really did take all day. Or, two half days. Granted, I spent a lot of time poking at Twitter and Tumblr instead of focusing . . .)

The outline also gave me permission to strip out stuff I’d been clinging to. The clarity of and expediency of making a list made me see that, no, that cute little side conversation isn’t important enough to warrant throwing out these five other bullet points to make it fit, and that, yes, ending X makes way more sense than ending Y, even if it is achier and readers might hate me—it doesn’t matter, it’s what’s best for the story.

This was a really empowering exercise. I always outline my fics by keeping a bullet list of things I know need to happen, but I don’t often attempt to write stories that cover wide swaths of time or move beyond the bedroom (read: any convenient, available location or surface generally), so although I know how to write a character’s climax, I don’t really know how to structure a story toward a climax of the not-sexytime persuasion. But I think I’ve made a pretty decent attempt. What I have isn’t perfect. There are still gaps. I still haven’t quite seen or heard the climatic twist play out in my imagination yet. But I have a long list of other exciting things to develop before I get there, and now the gaps feel like room to play instead of endless scary stretches of darkness. Rather than just wanting to write this story, I feel like I can write this story.

Now to find the time . . .

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proximity, again

It sounds like the set up for a bad joke: How long does it take for an introvert to realize she’s lonely? The answer’s not really funny, though. In my case, it was years.

To be fair to myself, it came on slowly. First I moved out of the house I shared with two other media-savvy, scholarly girls who supportively fed my fangirlishness. Then, after I moved to a literal island and in with my partner, I was dopily, happily cohabitating and fell out of all my exercise and writing routines. Eventually I noticed the island thing was a hangup to seeing people I used to interact with daily—or weekly, or monthly—but I had a healthy crew of online friends and didn’t feel disconnected. It was around that time the fandom sea change from LJ/DW to Tumblr happened, though, and—reticent to share as much of myself as I had been on LJ/DW on Tumblr—I stopped writing up meta, or blogging much at all, because I got scared to share a public opinion. I lost touch with a lot of my online network. Writer’s block hit sometime in 2013 and my fic productivity still hasn’t recovered. Then 2014 happened, bringing with it several weird injuries and illnesses, interpersonal drama, unexpected job stress, and overtime work. And somewhere in the middle of that mess, just a couple months ago, the realization dropped heavy and sad like a sack of flour: I’m lonely.

The reason 2014 felt so unceasingly, foolishly hard and the reason I felt like there was no escape from it was because I literally didn’t have one. It was just me, myself, and my problems. There wasn’t time, it seemed, for anything else. There was too much distance between me and the people and things I loved and relied on; it was too much work to close the gap. Easier, better, to keep my head down and push on through. I’m a pretty self-sufficient girl and proud of it (so proud of it I had to mention it, had to defend myself just now from the mere possibility anybody might’ve just tried to write me off as I’m weak or needy, because heaven forbid I might not be able to bear my own load, or admit to needing assistance). But in this case, my self-sufficiency and my pride worked against me, made me take longer to see how I had been—how I am—holding myself back.

I feel like this is my AA moment—Hi, my name is Shannon, and I’m a recovering overachiever and silent sufferer. (Feel free to chime in: “Hi, Shannon.”)

So. I now understand (or maybe just finally remember) that I need an outlet and I need people—voices, friends, new thoughts, sounding boards, outside inspiration—and that’s okay. And to gain those things, I have to let myself have them, I have to make the time and the space to allow them in. Which brings me to why I’m here, updating a years-old, near-abandoned blog.

My hope is that this will become my new outlet, my new dumping ground for half- and maybe someday even fully formed thoughts about media and fic and fandom and sometimes life. I don’t plan to sit around and whine, though I also won’t promise that won’t happen on occasion. That’s not what I mean by needing an outlet. Rather, I need a dedicated place to dedicate myself to, a place to organize thoughts, a place that feels safe, or at least a step removed from the worst of internet scrutiny. A room of one’s own, you might say.

That said, I don’t expect a bumper crop of fresh comments or instafriend engagement on WordPress. I don’t expect to solve my loneliness or become internet famous. But I can dedicate myself to writing again. I can engage with me. I can stop feeling like I’m wasting my brain. I don’t promise the results will be pretty or ingenious (though I’d like to think I’ll always get a point or two for wit). But here, I hope, I can close the distance and connect again.

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winter walk

Despite having earned a master’s degree in it, I never write nonfiction anymore. But this happened this morning, so I went with it. Call it a rough draft, even if it’ll never become a polished piece.

I walked through winter this morning, on my way to the coffee shop. My Saturday morning treks are a ritual I started when I moved to Newport, two years ago. Unlike other seaport cities that existed before their colonists declared independence, Newport has remained a tiny town—just 7 square miles of land, all told—and I live at the south end, within walking distance of a few hundred years of history and at least two favorite coffee shops. In spring and summer and especially autumn, I like taking to the street before anyone but the joggers is awake. It gives me a chance to gather my thoughts before I sit down to write for a few hours, to be a person in the world without expectation or hurry.

But this morning it’s winter. Not only that, we had a blizzard yesterday. This morning it’s still cold, real cold, and we still have snow.

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