Friday, January 18, 2013

Writing, and Failing to Write: 2013 Goals

I can write under pressure.  I know I can -- nearly every year for the last five years I've proven it in November during NaNoWriMo.  I only failed to write 50,000 words in 2011, but I succeeded in 2012, and also in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

But that's essentially external pressure.  I know it's something you do voluntarily, but there's a website to check in at and graphs of your progress, and a little virtual reward that you get if you can finish by November 30th.  For some reason, that kind of pressure works, but I otherwise fail at self-imposed pressure.

For years I've followed up my November NaNoWriMo success with a pledge to get more writing done for the new year, and for years I've failed.  I used to blame my addiction to the online game City of Heroes, and it's certainly true that I wasted a LOT of time playing that game (wasted, but thoroughly enjoyed).  But the lack of an MMO to turn to has not automatically resulted in me writing more.  I've watched more movies, I've done much better at getting 50 minutes of exercise a night on the treadmill, I've read a lot more news and generally goofed off on my iPad a lot.  But I haven't written that much more.

In November I started 30 Grandpa Anarchy stories and completed 24 of them.  In December I managed to complete 3 more.  I finished Oceans of the Void and Let Sleeping Gods Lie in the first 10-12 days of December, and then I managed to finish Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story before our yearly Christmas Ghost Story Writer's Night/Christmas Party (outside pressure, again.)  My immediate goal was to finish all six of my unfinished stories from November, and then work on other things (such as a Tai-Pan story) in January.  Instead, I've accomplished very little since.

This is very typical for me.  I try to sustain my writing success in November, but by January I'm at a standstill.  I make new year's goals, and then I do nothing.  This year, my goal was to keep writing at least one Grandpa Anarchy story a week, or maybe 1 or 2 a month.  I wrote down several new ideas for stories in December, but until the last two weeks I had done nothing more.

In the past two weeks I have:

A)  Worked a bit on "Planet Earth vs. World Devourer", an intergalactic courtroom drama where Grandpa Anarchy and his associate face off against Galactor the World Devourer, who is suing them for their interference when he tried to devour the earth.  One of my ideas that came to me when I was getting lunch at a Taco Del Mar, was to make his associate a goofy beach bum.  I was calling him Primal Beach Bum for a while, but then bent to the pressure to play off the Silver Surfer a bit more, so now he's the Bronze Beach Bum.  I spent a great deal of time researching invented slang from various sources and trying to come up with an Intergalactic Surfer Lingo that was nearly incomprehensible (he requires a translator), and I finally managed to get about 1/3 of the story written, but currently I'm not satisfied with it, it's almost entirely focused on the attorneys questioning Beach Bum and there's little action or anything driving the story, and really, the story needs to be about Grandpa Anarchy and Galactor and how much they dislike each other, so they need to be yelling at each other from across the courtroom.  But I do have a lot more written than I had originally.

B)  I worked on Jungle Opera for a bit.  Originally this was just an idea to do another "jungle opera" story, IE a Tarzan/Allan Quartermain/Indiana Jones/Tintin/Solomon Kane style adventure story set in Africa or Central/South America.  After listening to a story on NPR (To The Best of Our Knowledge, I think it was) about the lost city of gold Ciudad Blanca, I did some research on that and came up with my opening section of this story.  It's still a work in progress, I don't know what the ultimate punchline is, but I did some work on it.

C)  I wrote a half-scene of mostly dialogue for my long-dormant original fantasy story, under the collective title Otherworld Blues.  I haven't worked on that in forever, but I think about it all the time.  I need to write down more of what's in my head.

D)  I played a bit with The Pilgrimage of Ian St. Ritz during last week's Tai-Pan work party.  The work parties are good at getting me to open up a file and look at it, and maybe write a few lines.  They're generally not good at getting me to write whole scenes -- for that I need to be alone without distractions.  This is a Tai-Pan story, one of those I've most wanted to finish and one that Gene would most like to see me finish, but the ending is a tricky balance of things I want to do and see happen, and it's hard to figure out how to fit it all into place.  So I've mostly avoided doing it for the last 2-3 years.

E)  Yesterday I opened one of my so-called Grandpa Anarchy stories in progress -- one of the many that is just an idea and nothing more -- and wrote several paragraphs of dialogue to flesh out the idea.  I even managed to come up with a framework for the story itself -- a begining and an end.  That's what happens when I just open a file and start writing, you often get something you weren't expecting.  I'm hoping to do that with each of my one-sentence idea "story in progress" files, so that all of them at least exist as a bit more than a one-line idea such as "Grandpa Anarchy faces off against Grandma Chaos and her boys." (Love, Grandma).

So that's it.  I've done some writing this month, but hardly as much as I'd like.  I haven't even managed any blog posts in the last month.  But it's still early January, so there's still time to try to set goals for the new year and try to achieve them.  I've done that before and failed, of course, but anyway, here goes:

1.  Write a Grandpa Anarchy Story a week.

This really isn't such a difficult goal.  They're very short stories, I managed to write 24 of them in November, and I've worked on three in January.  I have new ideas for stories too.  I just need to finish a few of them.

2.  Write a Tai-Pan story each month.

This is a harder goal, because most of my in-progress Tai-Pan stories are full-fledged short stories with many scenes.  But it's hardly impossible.  I can start by finishing The Pilgrimage of Ian St. Ritz this month.

3.  Work on anime fanfiction / original fiction each week a little bit.

Action breeds action, inaction breeds more inaction.  I haven't written a lot on my main fanfiction story Girls School in well over a year.  I need to at least open my files each week and write something.  As I said, I did manage to add a half-scene to my long-dormant original fantasy story this past week.  I need to do a little of that every week.

4.  Draw a picture each month.

I am, after all, publisher of the Tai-Pan Artist's APA.  I need to have a few things to place in each issue.  One drawing a month shouldn't be hard.

5.  Edit Grandpa Anarchy stories for publication.

I have a stated goal of trying to get a full book of Grandpa Anarchy stories published to sell at Rainfurest in September.  I have about 35 complete stories, so the first order of business is to edit them all.  Some of the ones from November really need help -- rewriting or reworking.  My very first Grandpa Anarchy story, "Remember This", needs a complete rewrite, it's kind of dark and not very funny and doesn't fit in well with the others.  I don't think it works as an opening story for the collection in any case -- it should happen after "Kids These Days", at the very least.

6.  One-off story/pamphlet thing for Emerald City Comicon.

This is something Gene talked to me about -- a single Grandpa Anarchy story published as a giveaway for the Emerald City Comicon.  They have a table this year, and I'm more likely to find interest in these stories at a comic convention.  I'm not even sure exactly what he's talking about, but the first step would be to have a story ready and some sort of illustration.  I think "Mostless in Capertown" might work for this, but I have to think on it a bit.

Anyway after making my list of goals yesterday... I went home and last night failed to write anything.  But today's a new day, I'll try again tonight!  First goal:  finish a story tonight, either Jungle Opera, Planet Earth vs. World Devourer (needs a better title), or DarkFireDragonNinja (working title of the story I started to flesh out yesterday).

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