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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‘Twas a poll…

Edited 9/19: XD

I finally found a hack that’s supposed to show userpics in the Generator style, so I’m going back to that. Yup! But I’m still playing with it. Such ugly code…


Things to know: One reason why I ended up buying a one-year subscription is to have the comment page styles the same as the front page. This way, I could show the Index links on every page of my Livejournal (in case someone got to a specific entry, in the old style the front page link isn’t that obvious and they couldn’t go directly to a specific section).

I also require “quick reply” functionality, and only a handful of Livejournal styles have this capability: Generator, Unearthed, Tranquility II, The Boxer, Smooth Sailing, Gradient Strip, and Expressive. You can see the style previews here: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/preview.bml

The only technical problem with this Generator style is that the width is fixed. I have it set to 1000 pixels, thinking that most people are on 1024. I’m not sure if that scrolls or not, because my resolution is 1280. (To be honest, if you have a lot of horizontal scrolling issues, you REALLY should try out Opera 9. I love my friend forever for that.)

I think I found a hack that forces this style to use a percentage width instead of a hard-coded number (yay!), so it’s set at 90% or something. Hopefully that works a lot better.

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Just so you know…

I’ll be working with some extremely difficult and critical dialogue in the next three chapters, so I don’t know when I’ll get them out. Seriously. ^_^; On top of that, a new school semester is starting and I’m moving again, so I’m pretty busy in the real-life front as well.

If it may take even longer than anticipated, then I may drop an omake chapter to, err, satisfy some people. Maybe.

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