Squib #5: Letting Go

I have here in my hands (well, figuratively) 2.5 pages of chapter 1.12 text—completed dialogue, narrative, and everything. These pages were a rough draft of the climax and dénouement I had in mind, written even before I outlined the theoretical ending to Part 1. I was that certain of how the first part of “Syncope” would end.

I wrote these pages back in 2006.

A dozen chapters and fifty-odd-thousand words later, my little experimental project had become something a bit different than I expected. First, the unplanned time that it’s been taking to even write “Syncope” has made my style evolution somewhat more pronounced, I think; you see, 2006 was around the time I quit my full-time job and started graduate school. I had some time between those events to waste on fun, which is why updates happened so fast back then. Then school started.

And then the entire American economy crashed, taking half the world with it. We were in the worst recession in a long time, and people were losing their jobs right and left—friends and family were all worried, retirement savings entirely wiped out, etc. (I’m glad no one I knew lost a house, though). I sometimes wonder what kind of demographic was reading/had read my fanfic—did anyone have to worry about rent or their mortgage payments? All of my energy at that point had to go into finding a job; forget writing or reading or anything else I might consider fun, because wasting time on that only filled me with guilt. It was pretty depressing.

It’s not like I ever forgot about the story either, as some may assume, but only because I felt that I didn’t have the right to work on it when I didn’t have all my other very real priorities in order. When I completed 1.10 and 1.11, I felt both satisfied that I had finished something but guilty at the same time. It’s a strange experience.

Second, I started to have different expectations in content, presentation, style, and everything going into each new chapter. The investment evolved: At the beginning, I saw it as a very intriguing experiment just to try out dialogue and narrative voice for the first time, and perhaps my outlook was much more lighthearted. Then as the story gained weight and I improved in the creative execution, I became much more invested not only in the entire process but in the plotting to the first part’s end. That end I had already written.

This actually became a problem.

That precious climax and dénouement became a creative prison, where I began to think that I had to write a certain way to make it there. This is actually one reason why chapters 1.10 and 1.11 took so freakin’ long for me to complete. But this isn’t how it really works, I’ve discovered. My writing style, story development, and plot expectations had changed enough beyond the original 2006 Part 1 ending that, as I sat down to outline chapter 1.12 after finally completing 1.11, it dawned on me that I couldn’t possibly use those 2.5 pages, or at least the climax itself.

It was so utterly cliché and unrealistic.

I’m talking about [headdesk] and [facepalm] levels.

I was actually embarrassed in realizing this and very disappointed. It was quite a personal investment, after all, thinking that this climax and dénouement were great, especially since I had written those pages sometime around chapters 1.1 and 1.2. It felt rather liberating at the time, as I thought I had book-ended my story and thus the middle should be an easy road to pave. Right? But it had taken me this long to finally come to a firm decision about these 2.5 pages.

After five years of clinging to this defined ending, it was time to let it go.

An interesting thing. By this time, I had already sent a half-completed 1.12 draft with outline to my current critiquer [wave], but without the completed 2.5 pages. After I made this firm decision (like, last week) and emailed my critiquer about it, I suddenly felt—get this—relief. It was the weirdest thing, something I definitely didn’t expect. It was as though a stopper that had been gradually pushed into my creative outlet was released. Now I have no climax. I still have the dénouement, however, so not everything was lost. But I get to think creatively again on how to make this work, and there’s a bit more freedom and satisfaction in knowing that I managed to veer away from the pretty awful cliché I almost published. Whew!

(Note to self: THINGS TO EDIT—”smiles do not speak” punctuation fixes.)

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Document maintenance

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I had a hard drive wipe. My computer had gotten a virus. I was in college, and rather than try to clean it out (perhaps they couldn’t), the campus tech support decided to reformat the entire thing.

I fancied myself an archivist back then, but I was still inexperienced. I had all my school papers not only from those college courses but all previous papers through middle school stored on that hard drive. But it was just one hard drive. It never occured to me to use any external media of any sort.

Let’s just say I was pretty unhappy for a long time.

Right now, “Syncope” exists in four–yes, FOUR–complete forms. I have fully formatted versions on my laptop, my PC, a USB flash drive, and then the current online version. Then I have every individual chapter plus its matching notes in triplicate, since those are online-formatted with tags and individually uploaded during updates. Three copies of my full outline. Three copies of every single research piece I’ve scraped up over the years.

Excessive? Perhaps.* But when you lose a fifty-page senior thesis that was your crowning achievement in high school, you might react the same way.

Lesson of the day: For feck’s sake, BACK IT UP. ^_^

* I think a document comparison thingie of some kind would be easier. Hmm.

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1.12 in the works…

I’ve finally completed the full chapter outline, which is a big deal for me. ^_^; Having completed a contracting job helps with the whole time thing.

While doing that, I’ve also been writing various dialogue exchanges and narrative snippets into Part 2–Shizuru’s relatives and such. Fun stuff.

But back to the task at hand… I’m aiming to complete chapter 1.12 and thus Part 1 by the end of October.

Plugging along.

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Squib #4: How much do you invest in your work?

“Dedication”

Occasionally, one of my professors would point this out to me. I would invest far too much into the research project I was writing at the time and do too much research, find too much information, and then just write too much, covering too much ground or going too deep. This would sometimes lead to a paper or project being late, but it was still good, and I would still receive a good grade. A much simpler analogy is the “Wikipedia clicker,” someone who starts on a specific topic page and just keeps clicking out, out, out, absorbing more, more, more indirect information. A couple of my friends have that problem. [cackle] I would joke that they need a parental lock on Wikipedia, but that only leads to a pot-kettle comparison.
Continue reading Squib #4: How much do you invest in your work?

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Waaaaiiit a minute. (Natsuki & Shizuru @ garden)

In reviewing my stuff, I don’t think I nailed down exactly how old Shizuru was when she met Natsuki in the garden. Eh?

Natsuki’s Prelude as translated by Apollyon indicates that Natsuki knew Shizuru while she was in her 3rd year middle school and Shizuru was in 2nd year high school. So they met each other before that point, anyway.

And then in chapter 1.3, I mysteriously indicated that Natsuki has known Shizuru for about four years up to that point in the story. It’s mysterious because I don’t remember at all how I came up with that number. Whuh?

Anyone have thoughts on this? I have this little chart I’ve been trying to fill out as a general age timeline:

School year Age range Notes
h3 17(18) Anime: Shizuru is 18 in this year
h2 16(17) Prelude: Shizuru was in this year
h1 15(16) Anime: Natsuki is 17 in this year
m3 14(15) Prelude: Natsuki knew Shizuru since at least this year
m2 13(14) ?
m1 12(13) ?

Let’s see. I remember in the anime flashback that Shizuru was wearing… well, not the middle school sailor uniform, so they had to be across school levels. I suppose one conclusion is that Shizuru was in h1 and Natsuki in m2 at the time. Hmmm. That would make it technically “three years” in 1.3, then.

Well, okay. I typed all that out and ended up answering things myself. Guess I’ll change that bit. ^_^; (This timeline is kinda important for Part 2 as well, I suppose.)

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Trends for Japanese women–older research

I’ve been digging into my bookmarked research sites and downloading/saving/reading a lot more new articles concerning various aspects of Japanese culture, this time as it pertains to women.

Here’s an older article (2004) that people should find interesting. Note the irony in my “older” label for it–2004 really wasn’t long ago at all, but according to this, Japanese women hoping to be successful outside of being housewives have little hope in finding Japanese male mates who would support them. Has much changed in a mere five years? I doubt it.

But I will take issue with this paragraph in the article:

To be fair, not all the blame for female angst here can be laid on Japanese men. The government has been slow to enforce equal opportunity laws, and both pay and the glass ceiling in most Japanese corporations remain low for women. Recession has hampered longer maternity leave and other family-friendly policies.

If 90%-plus of the Japanese government and higher corporate structures are being run by men, then the above is definitely self-contradictory. (It seems a lot of people have a general inability to connect the dots in logic, honestly.)

Whew. Going through this particular leg of research isn’t just time-consuming but pretty painful. I’m researching many subtopics from laws to business structure to higher education to cultural social expectations to criminal statistics like rape. I really feel sorry for Japanese girls and women, even if it’s through a Western lens. Granted, things should still improve here on this side of the pond. ^^

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STICKY: Syncope, Table of Contents

flower
…A Mai-HiME (My-HiME) Natsuki/Shizuru fanfic with appearances by old and new cast.

syn·co·pe n.
1. Grammar. The shortening of a word by omission of a sound, letter, or syllable from the middle of the word.
2. Pathology. A brief loss of consciousness caused by a temporary deficiency of oxygen in the brain; a swoon, blackout.

WORD COUNT
57,600 completed / ???,??? total estimated
Almost 50%

Table of Contents

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Chapter 1.11, in the works…

I figured out my problem with the “lunch” bit in 1.10, so I plan on fixing some things there when I post 1.11.

But 1.11 won’t be posted until after WordPress 2.8 is released. ^_^ I found out that that new version will have a pretty decent Livejournal-importer, so I’d like to move everything onto my own server with a little more control over content and layout. Hopefully the WordPress installation and LJ importer won’t be too buggy.

It’s fair to say these last two chapters of Part I are going to be quite long (by my standards).

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