NaNoWriMo is over, and I am happy to report that I am a proud winner, and possess another 50,000 words of fresh new writing! (That's about 50 pages, give or take, for those of you playing along on the home game.) Over the course of that writing, I've also been doing a lot of thinking, and of course, what I mean to do is share those thoughts with you here. All together now: "What have you been thinking about, Ang?"
Fun. I've been thinking about fun.
Let's go allllllll the way back to late 2014, when I concretely decided to self-publish the Novels of Aviario. I just checked, and somehow I never actually wrote a monumental blog post about this. It just ... happened (as so many creative things often do). One of my biggest reasons for deciding to self-publish, however, was because I wanted my writing to stay fun. I went to college intending to major in Creative Writing ... but my alma mater dropped it as a major right before I began, so it was English Lit with a Creative Writing minor for yours truly. Which meant that the majority of my time was spent on term papers about symbolism, literary criticism, thematic structure, and the stuffier nuts and bolts of great writing. I wrote about writing more than I actually did it, and after a while, writing started to feel like work.
To someone like me, that was the stuff of nightmares. So I left the first draft of what would become In The Cards alone for years, occasionally picking at it and hoping to make something of it, but mostly realizing that the stress of college had tainted writing with the ghost of a chore, the same way nicotine lingers on old furniture in a heavy smoker's home. Gross.
It wasn't until those months in late 2014 - ten whole long years later - that I began to rediscover my writing, and that, hey! - it could still be just as fun as it was when I was using it as an escape from high school stress. Only, now, it was an escape from the stress of a job I was dissatisfied with. I poured my heart and soul into From the Desk of Buster Heywood, and magic happened. As Buster grew his spine, so did I. I started to fight for things that would make my job better, easier, less stressful. And I started expecting less fulfillment on a soul level, there: that sort of value came from my writing. Now, two years later, my job satisfaction level is much higher, because I ask for less from it on a personal level. I have two novels and a completed draft of the third to show for the process. But let's talk about that third novel.
The Proper Bearing was a gift to me from a very dear friend, who created its main character for a game I'd began long before I'd picked up my pen again. The game was meant to be a substitute for writing, at first, and now it has evolved into a supplement. (For those who wonder if tabletop games make good novels, look no further than Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's infamous "Dragonlance Chronicles" trilogy.) Nick's backstory and potential for development were so rich that I knew they'd make a great novel, and his creator was gracious enough to allow me to explore it. Along the way, what I thought were my loftiest goals for the novel became the biggest millstones around my neck: having a thoroughly detailed, horribly accurate setting in keeping with the United Kingdom in 1979, and making sure that Nick was absolutely, thoroughly, 100% how this dear friend would portray him, were we playing it out around a table. I stalled, about two-thirds of the way through, and absolutely loathed what I was writing.
At about that point, my lovely then-fiancee sent me a picture of Mark Ruffalo, who was the physical inspiration for Nick, messing about on a skateboard. It was so un-Nick that it was probably far funnier to us than it would be for most people, but I had a flash of inspiration. I cut the picture out and taped it to the inside of my drafting notebook with a speech bubble.... and off I went, renewed. I went through what I had so far with a vorpal pen. If it wasn't fun to read, out it went. A lot of what got cut were the ponderous details I'd spent so long researching, the settings and descriptions which were all but poking the reader in the eye while shouting, "Look how thoroughly British I am, wot wot!" It was cringe-worthy. I also stopped worrying about comparisons to Harry Potter ... because yeah, sure, it's a British boarding school and magic is a factor, but Oakridge is pretty much to Hogwarts as a potato is to a sweet potato. They're both potatoes, but you wouldn't top one with pecans and brown sugar, am I right?
Long story short (too late?), I remembered where the fun lay in my writing process. As soon as I did, the rest of the draft took off like a shot. I finished The Proper Bearing with ten days to spare, and started on another project just for fun ... but that's another story to be told another time.
It's good to be back! Thanks for hanging in during my writing hiatus!
Until next time, I remain your hostess,
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