alyssa_bethancourt: (elf leaves)
When another year dies, we have this tendency to convince ourselves that our arbitrary measurements of time have some meaning, and that they are defined by how much we've done in that span. As I get older, I've begun to realize that survival is itself an accomplishment we shouldn't be so quick to brush off. The need we have to be constantly doing something, as though our existence lacks justification otherwise, is an evasion. Just background noise to fill the silence; busywork to keep our minds off of our own doubts over whether or not we are who we want to be.

And so I sit here at the start of a new year, unable to stop myself from examining my performance of the last twelvemonth at least a little. I did, after all, quite brazenly and with enormous bravado, decree last January that I would finish the zero draft of my novel before the end of 2012. It's much easier to sweep such declarations under the rug when you don't make them out loud. That's why I made that one where everyone could see. I do my best work under pressure. Or so I tell myself.

Well.

While I didn't actually manage a finished draft, I am calling my work of the last twelve months a success. It took nearly three years of my life and innumerable drops of (blood) sweat and tears just to accomplish the first fifty thousand words. Since then I've added more than one hundred and seven thousand. Yep, that's right. Over a hundred thousand words in 2012, which is why I can't be disappointed with myself. That's a hell of a lot of work I made myself do no matter how hard it got some days to make my brain English. And even though the last several weeks of the year were filled with more non-verbal days than I would have liked -- even though I may be pushing through a mini-slump even as this post hits the intertubes -- I'm still going. Slow work though it may be, it's happening. This story is heading into its climax and not even good old-fashioned writer's inertia can stop it now.

So you can suck on that, 2012. I am not ashamed of you, no matter how much you may want me to be. We lived, we learned, we even took several steps forward together.

Next.

alyssa_bethancourt: (realistic)
Blockage defeated.

I've pushed past the rather miraculous 100K mark on this behemoth and have managed to meet every monthly word goal this year, somehow.  (Except in March, but that ended up being okay because I overproduced by so much in February and I did manage to get something out of March in spite of everything.  All forward motion is progress, and I'm still on track.)

Can't say for certain how long this thing will be in the end, but I am definitely past the midpoint.  I made myself promise to write at least 10K a month in 2012 because I assume that should leave me able to put a cap on this monster by the end of the year, as planned.  If I can have more months like February and fewer like March, then so much the better.  I am by turns excited to have this story told and out there, and frustrated that it isn't already.  And somehow, oddly, I also feel both that I know exactly what I need to do to get there and that I have absolutely no clue how this thing actually goes.

It's quite possible that this manuscript needs heavy antipsychotics.  Or that I do.  Or something.
alyssa_bethancourt: (my hand)

Unfortunately, the dearth of updates lately has been for bad reasons.  Too sick, and no progress on the novel to talk about.

In fact, I've not only not written this month, I'm rather aggressively not writing.  Or rather, it's the not writing that has been aggressive.  I wouldn't call it Writer's Block; it's more like Story Blockage.  I know the rest of the story is there, and I want to get to it, but there's something blocking the way to the action and I can't seem to see around it.  I'm on my fifth version of the next scene and feeling like this one isn't it either, but at this point I think I just need to push through and hope it clears away some of the rubble so I can see what happens past this.

It's the strangest thing.  I've lacked inspiration before, I've been lost in the plot maze before, I've drawn blanks before. This is something different and it's freaking weird.
alyssa_bethancourt: (mon oeil)

I’ve never been one for deadlines.

Hell, I’m not really one for plans.  Of any kind.  It wouldn’t be accurate to say I have a fear of commitment – I’ve been with the same partner for more than half my life, at this point, and never at any time was I afraid of committing to him – but I do definitely object to having my future nailed down.  I’m the asshole who never RSVPs.  I don’t even want to think about what I’m going to have for dinner until it’s time to actually eat it. 

Accepting a deadline has always felt like another way the future makes you promise to be in a certain place at a certain time, and I prefer to keep my options open.  Making goals, same thing. 

If I buy a beautiful steak to grill for dinner, but come 6 o’clock I find I can’t stand the sight of red meat, I’ve wasted money and a prime cut.  If I say I’m coming to your party, but then an unanticipated attack of autistic overload that afternoon means I can’t be around people, I’m a jerk for standing you up.  If I say I’ll have your article written by Friday, but then writer’s block prevents a single good idea from forming in my brain before then, I’m fired and I don’t get paid.

Better to keep things fluid, I’ve always thought.  Especially when it comes to writing.  Nothing shuts down my creativity harder than a deadline.  Knowing that my work is expected, that someone is waiting for it, that there are stakes, that something is on the line – kills my Muse stone dead.

Sounds like I think I’m some sort of free-spirit hippie, I know.  That’s not really it either.  Truth is, I’m just contrary.  I’m just a grouchy, solitary individual, and I want things the way I want them.  I don’t ask things of others, and in turn I don’t want anyone feeling like they have the right to expect things of me.  (I am aware that this is a deeply moronic way to live.  Shut up.)

So it really means something when I say that I’ve made a decision to finish my novel this year, no matter what.

As far as my writing goes, well.  I've never been in any rush.  I started very young, with plenty of time to meet all of those big writer goals.  It has always just been a fact that I would take my time, improve, write some things, write some better things, and someday someone would publish something of mine that was worth it.  No rush.  The last time I was submitting for publication, it didn't really matter that I met with no success, because there was still time.  And I can't even say I really gave it as much effort as I could have.  It'd happen some time, and until then, I'd just keep writing.  Something must have changed for me, though, because now when I think about finishing this novel and getting it published, the feeling is no longer no rush.  Now it's more like no time like the present. 

Really it’s just that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to.  After a long dry spell, I’m productive again.  I’ve written more than ten thousand words in the last three weeks.  That’s not even an especially impressive word count.  Assuming I can only do just that much, if not more, there is no reason why a zero draft of this novel shouldn’t be a thing people can read before 2012 ends.  And then, an actual attempt at actual publication.

I’ve Decided.

alyssa_bethancourt: (my hand)

Snow and sky mirrored one another, stark whites and shadow blacks meeting and melding like the finger-paints of a sullen god. The only line separating their reality was the mist-shrouded darkness of majestic pine robed in ice – two rows of their solemn silence divided by a pristine strip of diamond-white snow. A narrow path between absolutes.

At the end of that path, the frozen air obscured the form of a man standing alone.



alyssa_bethancourt: (eyes)

Call me disloyal to the great American literary form, but I've somehow never been one for the short story -- at least on the creating end.  I've enjoyed reading my fair share of them. 

It's just that when it comes to getting my head around the beginning and end of a story, to write it, my tendency is to go macro rather than micro.  The little stories contained in the hours that make up our days and years, these are not my strength as a storyteller.  It might have something to do with the way my mind continuously looks for patterns whether I want it to or not.  All events lead to other events, and it's my inclination to follow that train of thought for the long haul.  So when it comes to picking out just one moment and encapsulating within it the full scope of the dramatic arc in miniature, I struggle to see beginning and end.  To me, it's all middle.

However.

There is much to be said for the short story, as a writer and not just as a consumer of words.  As much as I might flail when forced to be brief, it's a useful exercise.  It's no less true that every word has to count in a novel than it is in short story, but somehow, knowing that you mean not to break ten thousand makes you look at every word with a different kind of scrutiny.  You want each and every one of those evocative bastards to be telling a story all by itself, not just pulling its own weight.  (Unrealistic?  Sure, whatever.  It's not a writer's job to approach things in terms of what's realistic.  Our work is with the substance of dreams.)  The story has to introduce the protagonist and his conflict, show action toward the resolution of that conflict, present a climax, and tie up any loose ends on short rations; no word of dialogue, no line of description that does not aid in this is welcome to the show.  Shrinking novel mentality down to sitcom-episode size takes constant vigilance, and that's good for someone like me who tends to be wordy (in real life as much as on the page.)    

From the perspective of a serial novelist, short story is like a working vacation.  You can put aside, for a moment, everything you've had to hold within your mind regarding the big picture.  And believe me, holding the pieces of an unwritten novel together in your brain is no easy task.  For most people, it's too daunting a prospect even to take seriously.  We novelists are an eccentric bunch in that we know what a scary job it is but we decide to do it anyway.  But when writing short, you get to step away from that crazy internal almost-chaos and just take a moment to explore character.  Or setting.  Or tone.  Visit techniques or genres or ideas you don't know well enough to give your attention for the full length of a novel. 

Then you have a lovely finished product to sit back and admire after an effort that can be measured in hours rather than weeks, months, or even years.  There's no denying the appeal of the immediacy of the gratification.  And once you've completed the exercise and patted yourself on the back, you get to return to the scary, more complicated world of the novel with the reassurance that you do in fact have it in you to get things done

Yes, this is my dreadfully windbaggy way of saying I wrote a short story last week and that I liked doing it.  And that it helped me want to get on with the novel.
alyssa_bethancourt: (my hand)

I believe it was some time in the spring of 2009 that I began seriously considering the reality that I had written a good book based on a trilogy of bad books, and that something would have to be done about this if I wanted my future fiction empire to have any kind of foundation.

I was at that time just finishing up a long piece of fanfiction that was the first thing I had managed to write since concluding the principle writing on Faríel in 2004. I had been learning things from fanfiction and from editing other people's work that no college course had ever taught me about what other people like -- and expect -- to read. It felt good to be constructing phrases and plots again, and coming within shouting distance of the end of that long fic had given me the confidence to believe that I still had it in me. Not just to write, but to write better. I was able to convince myself that I could rewrite my first novel, that I should rewrite it, that it would be great this time and furthermore I would breeze right through it because I knew the world and the characters and the plot so well.

At about... 2 am on September 19th, 2011 (give or take an hour ago), I finally managed to crack 40K on this beast. A whole forty thousand words, two and a half years later, of what was supposed to be an easy, fun rewrite. This is a bigger deal than it should be.

Somewhere along the way, things went pretty screwy.

Maybe it was the fact that I peddled Faríel for three years without a single bite. Maybe it was depression, adulthood, overexposure to bad fanfiction, stored-up childhood insecurities, or sheer mental exhaustion; but somehow, somewhere, I lost my confidence in my words. The thought of writing instantly brings with it these days a sort of clenching in my chest, a greyness in my thoughts as I try to map out what I will write and am met by the unrelenting internal response: but I have nothing to say.

I never used to believe this. I can still remember the days -- not so distant, surely -- when you couldn't stop me from writing. If I was going to be the passenger in a car for more than five minutes, I brought pen and paper. If I was supposed to be taking notes in class, I was actually writing about elves. Or trickster gods. Or warped fairy tales. Just not about the economic theories of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. or the failed military decisions of General Lee in Pennsylvania. I knew my work wasn't great, but I always felt there was a yet unspoken in there. With all the writing I did, all the time, everywhere, whether there were other things I should be doing or not, there was no way I could avoid learning how to be not just publishable but famous. It's great that I genuinely believed this. All children should have that kind of passion for something, that kind of self-confidence.

I lost it somewhere.

If I could just pinpoint the moment of initial decay, or find somewhere to point the finger, it might be easier to relearn to believe in myself. Problem is, I don't know when it started or why. All I can do is try to stop, take a look at where I am now, and see that whatever else I might have been once, at this exact moment in time I am a woman who can string a damn fine sentence. Looking at the future raises the frightening spectre of doubting my ability to build a solid plot that other people would find interesting. Screw sixty thousand words from now, a hundred thousand. In my imagination, I've already failed at the story by then. 

What matters is that right now, right now, I've got 40K I wouldn't be ashamed to attach my name to, and I wrote them. I wrote them. 

Profile

alyssa_bethancourt: (Default)
Alyssa Marie Bethancourt

May 2013

S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
192021 22232425
262728293031 

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 25th, 2017 04:33 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios