Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Flood Gates are Back Open, as is Writers Block

Irony must be my stalker, because it's never far behind me wherever I go. Sleep, on the other hand, doesn't seem to like me as much....

I've been so burnt out lately. I legit forget what day of the week it is now. Which is why I missed last week's blog. Late Tuesday night I had that glorious light-bulb-moment when I went "Wait! TOMORROW is Wednesday! Shoot!" I worked first thing in the morning until after 1pm. Ya know, because IRONICALLY I started having things - work, for instance - to do first thing Wednesday mornings pretty much as soon as I decide to make Wednesdays my official update day. Funny how I had NOTHING to do Wednesday mornings prior to that decision.

Well, I obviously wouldn't have time to write a blog post before heading off to work, and when it dawned on me that it was Tuesday it was shortly before I wanted to go to bed. Too late to write a post then. Mildly ashamed, I decided to just leave it be and write a post after I was done with work; since I clearly wasn't going to be able to schedule one for my noon update.

Then 6pm chimed along and I STILL didn't have a post. Wasn't even sure what to write for it. I had updated the Friday before, and I had done nothing in regards to writing since then. The only progress I made was asking Writers’ Huddle for advice on my X-Future Reboot World conundrum. More on that later in the post.

I felt stumped and unmotivated and just dried up. I posted a Facebook status more-or-less stating just that. Lo and Behold, Irony wasn't too many paces behind. Of COURSE as soon as I post an "I'm not sure what to write" status THAT is when I finally have the juices flowing. Figures.

A month or two ago I started sending ChibiSunnie the super abridged version of what was going on with the X-Future boards. This way she could get a sort of speed-run of the story the role play acted out so far. This way she could better her ability to beta for me, as well as get those silly spoilers out of the way so she could finally get around to reading the X-Future: Snippets. Honestly, she was more afraid of being lost by not having the necessary background info for the snippet than she was afraid of spoilers. Anyway, my point is that I didn't get very far before I fell off the face of the planet. With my writing well being dried up I figured telling her more about the X-Future plot might be the kickstart I needed.

That's when I noticed that I had a backlog of messages from Chibi that I've read but never responded to. I was getting started on that - each of us writes about 8pgs worth to each other; so we take a little bit to reply - when Phfylburt sent me an IM. As per usual lately, he read my blog post from Independence Day and it sparked a new world idea.

What if they didn't have those pesky powers that was tripping us up? No one would bat an eye about a story centered around teens at a boarding school. The "rival gang" could just be a group of street thugs, students from the local public school, or even a rival boarding school. The "big villain" of the Challengers of Heaven could simply be an extremist group that focuses on the main cast due to their wealth and the pull their parents have.

We then spent three hours talking about this. A lot. I transferred it to a Word document the next day so I wouldn't lose our work; destined to be buried under other long discussions. Said Word document is about 13pages long! Phfyl and I talk just as much as I do with Chibi; the difference is that Phfyl and I speak in real-time while Chibi and I are essentially pen-pals.

Anyway, we were able to whittle our RP cast from nearly forty down to about nineteen; this includes Brotherhood and Challengers members as well as a few Marvel canon characters that would have to be reworked as originals.

For those curious we have:
Chayse, Lia, Willow, Ripley, Devon, Nys, Trish, Zeke, Shawn, Kinney, Lincoln, Blastzone, and Liam - although he's a bit reworked. Phfyl and I actually thought of a cool twist for Liam that ends up combining characters; which helps a lot too. We also have the two heads of the Challengers of Heaven in our reboot cast. The Marvel characters we need to create original versions of are Lia's parents "Multiple Man" and "Magma", Chayse's father "Gambit", and Trish's love interest "Pyro".

We have another grouping of ten background characters to fill in the ranks of both the X-Men and the Brotherhood - as well as two more members of the Challengers - but they're in the "maybe" pile for now. On top of ALL of that, we STILL have another four characters we'd like to include, but they don't really work without their powers.

While trying to figure out the best plan of action when it comes to which universe to build for this cast, I decided that two characters - Sebastian and Brianne - are best suited staying in a distopian cyberpunk world. The idea that Hubby came up with a few months ago would actually be an awesome setting for them. So they're going to get their own story. The four characters that won't work without their powers are most likely going to be bumped in to Sebastian and Brianne's tale, but we'll see what happens.

So, here I am, presumably stuck in a dried up creativity well, and suddenly I'm a geyser of ideas thanks to brainstorming with Phfyl. Admittedly, I'm still not the biggest fan of dropping the powers - to me that's a nice chunk of both the story and the character builds - but he does have valid arguments for the drastic change.

For one, there is NO possibility that it can be thought of as an X-Men fanfic. The characters would be completely original. We wouldn't have to figure out an original take on the holographic training area: The Danger Room. We wouldn't have to struggle to figure out how to make the powers, Xavier Institute, or The Brotherhood original. The things we love about the characters are the personalities themselves; not necessarily the powers. Sure, some major things would have to be tweaked with some of them, but the essence is still there.

It seemed the best solution, and Phfyl is so onboard with this idea that he's struggling to see the story any other way. I feel the same, only with the "we need powers" bias. I needed some outside advice to help figure out the best solution: Glitches, Mages, or Non-Powers?

As I mentioned at the top of the post, I went to Writers' Huddle for help. I had never asked a question like this of the group, but I trusted their judgment. So I wrote up a LOOOOOOOONG post explaining my predicament as well as the three possibilities. I explained what I loved about each option, and what the main concern for each would be. I was surprised at the resulting responses.

They all must have honed in on my love of the Glitches concept - difficulties be damned! - because they all told me to "follow my writing drive; which seems to be with the Glitches". Guess I couldn't write unbiased when describing the three environment possibilities. Even though the Glitches concept clearly had the most concerns, it seems I wrote the most passionately about that scenario. And they all told me to run with that passion.

On top of that, DarkAngel1326 chimed in about a week ago too. Right when I was in the depth of my struggling to figure out the best route to take. She sent me a quote she found that seems to have hit my problem right on the head. Coincidentally - and I didn't pick up on it until after reading through the quote a second time - she sent me a quote from another author that I follow.

Rachel Aaron.

I discovered this woman via Writers Huddle when someone else mentioned a blog post she wrote and later turned in to an instructional novel:
2,000 to 10,000: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love
She has also written a great many novels; nearly one per season. The works of hers that I read the most, however, would be her blog Pretentious Title. Thanks to DA's find on Tumblr, Aaron was able to inspire me yet again.
"If you are a writer, and you have a novel idea that you are excited about writing, write it. Don’t go on message boards and ask random Internet denizens whether or not something is allowed. … Who is the writer here? YOU ARE. Whose book is it? YOUR BOOK. There are no writing police. No one is going to arrest you if you write a teen vampire novel post Twilight. No one is going to send you off to a desert island to live a wretched life of worm eating and regret because your book includes things that could be seen as cliché.

If you have a book that you want to write, just write the damn thing. Don’t worry about selling it; that comes later. Instead, worry about making your book good. Worry about the best way to order your scenes to create maximum tension, worry about if your character’s actions are actually in character; worry about your grammar. DON’T worry about which of your stylistic choices some potential future editor will use to reject you, and for the love of My Little Ponies don’t worry about trends. Trying to catching a trend is like trying to catch a falling knife—dangerous, foolhardy, and often ending in tears, usually yours.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay attention to what’s getting published; keeping an eye on what’s going on in your market is part of being a smart and savvy writer. But remember that every book you see hitting the shelves today was sold over a year ago, maybe two. Even if you do hit a trend, there’s no guarantee the world won’t be totally different by the time that book comes out. The only certainty you have is your own enthusiasm and love for your work. …

If your YA urban fantasy features fairies, vampires, and selkies and you decide halfway through that the vampires are over-complicating the plot, that is an appropriate time to ax the bloodsuckers. If you decide to cut them because you’re worried there are too many vampire books out right now, then you are betraying yourself, your dreams, and your art.

If you’re like pretty much every other author in the world, you became a writer because you had stories you wanted to tell. Those are your stories, and no one can tell them better than you can. So write your stories, and then edit your stories until you have something you can be proud of. Write the stories that excite you, stories you can’t wait to share with the world because they’re just so amazing. If you want to write Murder She Wrote in space with anime-style mecha driven by cats, go for it. Nothing is off limits unless you do it badly.

And if you must obsess over something, obsess over stuff like tension and pacing and creating believable characters. You know, the shit that matters. There are no writing police. This is your story, no one else’s. Tell it like you want to.”
Rachel Aaron
I love how she - unknowingly - called me out with the whole "Don’t go on message boards and ask random Internet denizens whether or not something is allowed," line. I mean, two sentences in and it's a suckerpunch to the gut. I also got a great chuckle out of "for the love of My Little Ponies don’t worry about trends."

And if THAT wasn't enough, good old Chibi joined in with her stating that people will ALWAYS find connections that may not even be there. Ask the internet and Frozen and The Lion King have the same plot. ANYTHING can have the same plot if you paint broad enough strokes, so who cares if those strokes don't need to be as broad to connect X-Future back to X-Men? Having that similarity still there could actually bring in more readers. People who enjoy X-Men, and would therefore enjoy X-Future because of the similar concept. We'd be like that "People who liked this also liked..." option that nearly every friggen website has now.

Well, DA, Rachel, Phfyl, Chibi, and everyone over at WH, I think you helped me officially decide.

Although I do greatly value Phfyl's input - I wouldn't have asked him to be my co-writer if that weren't true - I think my gut is telling me that I just HAVE to at least attempt to write this reboot using the Glitches and near-future cyberpunk universe. If I crash and burn, I have two other worlds that I can fall back on.

Besides, even Ali Luke states on multiple occasions that she feels like the worlds she writes are already there; she's just uncovering them. I have to say that I feel the same way. Maybe that's why I feel so strongly towards the Glitch universe; it's already there and I'm just uncovering it.

Either way, that struggle is over. Now begins the struggle of converting things in to original takes. Although, I think Ali may have given me a bit of a breakthrough on that one. She suggested an orphanage or group foster home instead of a boarding school. Since Chayse's mom was the school's headmistress, she can remain the founder of the group home, which would be why he's there even with both loving parents still raising him. Lia and Devon are a bit trickier. Lia's dad is the smothering type. There's no way she'd be abandoned to an orphanage/foster care without drastic change to her background; and thus her character development. Then there's Devon, who has already run away from the orphanage he was left at as an infant. He lived on the streets as well as in and out of Juvenile Detention Halls before the institute scooped him up as sort of a Second Chance school. So what makes this new group home any different than the orphanage he already ran away from? Is it simply because he's accepted as a Glitch in this one?

Actually, I think that MIGHT be the solution, and perhaps Chayse's parents called in a favor with Jamie for some help, which is why Lia is there now...

Did I just figure out some plot issues by blogging!?

I... I think I did! I'm tempted to go back and just delete all of that.

You know what, I'm leaving it there because it might be helpful for other writers to see brainstorming in progress! Sometimes just writing out the issue and all the reasons why it won't work helps you discover the one reason it WILL work....

Moving on.

So here I am, Wednesday night, still no clue what to do for a blog post since I haven't done any sort of writing progress since the previous Friday. I post an "I'm stuck" status, and get flooded with assistance from all corners. Even a friend of the family whom I didn't realize had any sort of writing advice chimed in! Heck yeah, support group! They are all such win.

I'm gonna pause here a moment to stress how awesome this was to have so many people swoop in with advice to try to keep me going; not a single person tore me down and told me it was proof I should stop attempting to write. It's equally awesome when people totally get why I have to hide away in order to write; again not criticizing my lack of socializing - or doing chores... EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A SUPPORT GROUP LIKE THIS ONE!!!!

I don't care if it's about writing, drawing, running, becoming a professional wrestler, sky diving, eating your way around the world, or even being a parent. Whatever your passion is, you NEED to make sure you surround yourself with a support group. You NEED people who will pick you up when you're down, give you advice to help you move forward, and NEVER tell you that you're wrong to have the passion that burns inside you. If you don't have that support group, FIND IT. I don't care if you have to hang up fliers to find like-minded people or if you have to search the internet. FIND THAT GROUP! You're gonna need them.

You might also be surprised as to how many people you already have in your life make up that support group. Remember, I JUST stated that someone jumped in with some advice, and I NEVER would have pegged him as part of my writing support group before. Heck, if you flash back to a few Thanksgivings ago I was surprised to discover that my uncle writes. Last year I was humbled to discover my eldest cousin reads this blog - even though he gets lost in all my nerd-jargon.

So you may very well already have that support group, and you just don't know it. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW IT. I cannot stress how important this is. It is fantastic! Find those people and love them with all you got; because they're showing you the same love, even if it is only for that like-minded passion.

AAAAaaaaaaand now back to me.

Thursday morning I woke up re-energized to write. I had a new world concept to ponder - no powers - and a drive to just type my little heart out during my day off. I was geared up to finish writing my response to Chibi - since it was interrupted by the brainstorming session with Phfyl - and then work on this post. Sure, it would be a day late, but I had so much to talk about I figured "what's one day gonna hurt?"

I then saw something else that just screamed that THIS was my time to get cracking on writing. Ali had posted on both her wall and her blog that she's giving away a free e-course that she had set up for Writers' Huddle.

If anyone else wants to jump in on this, the course is called "On Track" and helps exactly that: keeping a project on track.

Check it out here: On Track

I had even MORE drive to work on this post after signing up. Just reading those first two modules got me pumped because it was like Ali wrote to me specifically. Both that feeling and the knowledge that she clearly didn't - meaning TONS of authors go through the same struggle - really got me energized.

Which quote hit home the most? This one of course:
The thing is, you’ll never feel quite ready to write. You’ll always think that there’ll be a better time – when you’ve got more energy, when life isn’t quite so hectic, when chores have been ticked off. Writing is hard work – emotionally, mentally – and there’ll always be a great excuse not to write.
There'll Always Be A Great Excuse Not To Write.....

Boy, have I fallen in to that pattern. I KNOW you have noticed that. Chibi had pointed it out to me last summer. So, how about I break out of that rut, huh?

Another great quote?
One of the reasons we get stuck is because we don’t know where to begin. It’s hard to get going if you’re not even sure that you’re starting in the right place.... If you have a huge project with no obvious beginning, start with whatever feels easiest.
That is for sure in regards to Gyateara, but I'm still not sure what point really is the "easiest." Do I keep going with just building the physical world itself? Do I bother re-naming the planet? Do I continue with building the pantheon? How do I even go about building a pantheon? Maybe I should work on backstories of the gods? What about deciding the countries and where they fit? Is it easier to figure out the culture and build the gods around that, or the other way around? So many options and no compass pointing me where to start my journey. It's daunting and overwhelming. It's good to know that this e-course can help with that.

For now though I'm going to ignore that this could be an awesome way to make some progress on Gyateara; it will have to wait until a second go at this course. Simply because I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my mind is completely consumed by thoughts of X-Future at the moment. Needless to say, I'm using On Track to keep going with X-Future; especially now that I have a few things pegged down.

However, the best part is that I'm not taking this journey alone!

As of this morning - thanks to some help from Cyhyr - I was able to go live with my own online writing group. All those people that came to my aid, they'll eventually need some themselves. I love Writers' Huddle, but I still feel like I'm missing something by not being able to include the people I've become such close friends with thanks to writing. People like Chibi and DA.

I attempted once before to have a local writing group, but life gets messy. So now I have this online group for my writing buddies - original local group included - and I'm excited to see it grow. We have twelve members right now, and we all seem to be at that "I WANNA WRITE" phase. So I threw the challenge out to them: sign up for On Track with me, and we'll do it together. I already have two people signed up at least. Let's see if I can snag a few more for this ride.

I feel like there's so much more to talk about - like how IRONICALLY, once I finally got in to the drive to write THAT is when I'm flooded with spontaneous social gatherings, which is why this post was just ignored all week long - but I'm already at epic levels again.

So instead I'm just going to leave you with this parody Weird Al posted on Tuesday to promote the launch of his latest album. Although he'll be posting a new song every day this week - started this past Monday with a parody of "Happy" by Pharrell Williams - and I'm excited by that, I can't help but love that this video has ALREADY gone viral. Hubby and I argue it's one of his best songs of all time.

For all of my writing/English major buddies. Enjoy Weird Al's parody of the Robin Thicke song "Blurred Lines," lord knows the internet needed this.

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