No story bumping at my mind demanding its voice

22 Sep

For ten years, I was dedicated to Dis/Inhibition and its characters, and to the process of writing in and of itself. It was my “center of gravity”–the thing around which decisions about everything else got made. I was its mother, I was its lover, for ten years. The fourth draft took two years and was done with a writing coach. After the full draft was finished, I spent another two years by myself polishing a fifth draft.

And one day I just felt…burnt out on it. I put the novel away on the hard drive, telling myself I could come back to it when I was ready. I’d taken breaks of several months before. But I never did get back to it. Months went by, me waiting for the muse to return and it just wouldn’t. The passion that fueled that novel was gone. This was disturbing to me on a number of levels, foremost of them that fiction writing was my passion. But it was understandable–that novel was based on my experiences as a 20-something, and I nearly 40 by then. I was a different person than the one who started it.

While I waited to get that muse back, another muse came to call, and I became philosophical about the first novel. Maybe it would never be published, but it was a great learning laboratory for writing.

Shortly after that, my favorite TV show was cancelled. I decided to cope with that loss by helming an ambitious fan fic project to write an entire season 6 of Angel. That was a group effort with friends, where I served as Executive Producer and Editor (as well as a writer). While I was waiting for CJL to finish his part of the first episode, I got tired waiting for him and started a second fan fic, a “spin-off” series based on Connor, which I wrote by myself.

The second project began simply enough. I was posting silly bits about a hypothetical Connor spin-off in Ki’s journal, and she started encouraging me. As I expanded on that off-line, I found my groove again.

Connor’s story on AtS had captured an energy in me I hadn’t felt in a long time for anything , and finishing his story sparked an energy in me I had lost for my novel. The writing was absorbing, involving, it was what writing always was to me, what it should be. I called Connor my muse by early August.

Yet I was afraid for people to read it. Ki continued to encourage me, and on August 29th, 2004, I started posting my story at Orlon Window. I told four friends where to read it. After it was fairly well received by them, I decided to pimp it more widely. I was so nervous that day, October 6th, I had to let Ki pimp it for me at A Better Lie. Two months later to the day I posted it for the first time (10/29), I linked to it in my LJ. I can’t underestimate what a hurdle this was. We all know how knowing something will be read can stymie me.

Soon enough, though, I found that having a built-in audience base and being read and getting good feedback was a HUGE motivator for completing things. People not only *read me*, *they liked it and wanted to read more*. I had readers from literally all over the world.

Fan fic not only gave me a chance to get my words out there to a receptive audience, it was a different challenge than original fiction. Because when you don’t have to spend time on world-building and character-building, you have more time to explore interesting themes, and incorporate/emulate mythological story elements into your writing. And fan fic taught me
economy of phrasing–getting the most punch in the fewest words. I had been overdoing the descriptive detail in Dis/Inhibition because I was just learning it, and overdoing the sheer number of scenes because I could. Being forced to constrain myself within the limits of a standard word count forced me to pick and choose what would stay and what would go.

The problem with fan fic is it’s constrained by the canon of the source, and you can’t publish it. And the built-in audience it provides is specialized. It’s not as if I can send a new friend an episode of the Destroyer, or read one at an open mic, and have them follow the narrative, much less *get* what I’m saying at the deeper levels.

And after four years, I’m once again losing the drive, as I did with Dis/Inhibition. My writing process has gotten fairly predictable, like a “well-oiled machine.” It works for me, still I know I am only finishing the story to finish it, and it’s harder and harder to get into the flow.

I had only been writing both fics a few months before I decided I wanted to be writing original fic as well. I wanted to start from scratch with a new story/novel, but I didn’t have any engaging ideas. I dabbled a bit with another story I’d started six years earlier, but that wasn’t grabbing my interest, either. Oh, parts of it were. Characters in the story–Terri, Noel, Tricia. There was energy behind those characters. But I found that interest hard to expand on, and wasn’t even sure I wanted to expand on.

I decided I wanted to write a contemporary fantasy story, and thought the best way to get good ideas was to immerse myself in mythology and folktales, hoping to get inspiration for themes or characters or plots. I asked for people to recommend fairy tales and myths. People made recommendations, but I never followed up on it.

I was determined to write original fic in 2006. Searching for ideas, I actually generated some of my own writing prompts from themes, character types, and plot situations I had enjoyed in books, films, and television shows. Then, rather than pressure myself into writing a lot, I decided to do a month-long project in which I would write one one-hundred word vignette a day. The hope was one or more of those vignettes would spark something I’d want to expand on.

In April, I did my “drabble-athon”. One hundred words turns out to be barely anything, not enough to hang a concrete idea on. It felt more like I was stringing a few words together. Towards the end of the month, I latched onto a character from that old ’99 story and wrote about her, although I don’t know if it was because there was energy behind her, so much as I wanted a single canvas to pull those vignettes from rather than scattered things. Of course, it played against the notion of generating multiple ideas.

I continued with my plan of picking a few of the emerging themes from the drabbles and writing longer pieces based on them. I joined Nanowhinging, an LJ community where friends were reading each other’s writing as they developed their novels. I posted about eight vignettes to it in May, June, and July before I ran out of steam with that story idea.

Fan fic was there to pick up the pieces. I started season 2 of the Destroyer, and had a lot of ideas for that. And I decided, wistfully, that I just didn’t have a novel inside of me at the moment, and it felt true. I had to accept it, because it didn’t mean I wouldn’t, ever. Fan fic satisfied the ever-present writing urge.

In October, I decided to do NaNoWriMo. But without a novel in me, it was going to be a fan fic marathon. The rough drafts of three episodes in a month. I considered doing thirty unrelated original fic shorts a day like I did in April, but I didn’t really have that in me, either. So I wrote the fan fic episodes, and made notes about my process in my Live Journal because I have a lot of writer friends on it who were also doing NaNo, or were at least writing stuff. And I won. Shove all those rough drafts plus notes for unwritten scenes into their word counter, hey > 50,000.

In 2007, I tried a different tact. I tried to inspire my writing by reading. I actually kept it up for a while. One novel at a time, mostly urban fantasy, since that’s what I wanted to write. But 2007 was all about change, and as soon as I moved, that plan fell away as looking for a job took precedence.

2008 has brought even more change in my life, from family misfortunes to a busy job to a new relationship. Not a lot of time to fit in the fan fic I am determined to finish, much less find time for original fic. But with reader interest in my story petering out and my own enthusiasm for it waning as well, fan fic can’t satisfy the urge for me anymore. Finishing the second half of the second season is a chore I’m doing for completion’s sake. Not that I dislike it all that much, but if I could magically make it done, I would.

And fan fic…it’s just not the same. I should be writing a novel again. I.Just.Have.No.Good.Ideas. It’s not an inability to write (I’ve been writing a lot), or lack of desire to write (I’m tormented by my desire to write original fic), or even lacking for writing prompts. It’s an inability of the prompts to connect to something inside me, inspiring writing.

More precisely, there is no idea with enough energy to inspire a novel-length narrative. It all peters out before then. I need to find something REALLY engaging. I’ve considered writing shorter pieces, but the mere thought that a piece will be shorter is enough to stop me from writing it before I start. I need a broad canvas to weave in all those bits and pieces and small things I want to write about.

Then I think, what enabled me to start Dis/Inhibition and the ’99 story was that I didn’t call it a novel. I didn’t think of what I was writing as self-contained piece with a beginning, middle, and end. I just invented some characters and a general context for them to be in and wrote scenes for them. Completely open-ended, like a soap opera. I didn’t know where the story was going beyond ideas for each character’s next scene, and I could write anything I wanted because it was just for me and no one was ever going to see it except me.

Problem is, I know now that anything I write *could* be a novel some day, and in fact, I want it to, so I can’t play that game with myself.

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