Of milestones and gratitude

Way back at the end of March when I was dithering about whether or not to sign up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, two someones (and, yes, I’m looking at you, Chris James and Jo-Anne Teal) suggested ever so politely that perhaps it would be a good idea to stop being such an asshat and to concentrate instead on wrapping up the first draft of my novel. Well, okay, the asshat part was entirely a matter of (mis-)interpretation, but the message was clear.

I have to admit that my first reaction was a bit of a knee-jerky “Wait a second, mister. Who says I can’t do both?” That lasted for approximately two seconds, and at the end of the two seconds I was mightily glad  I hadn’t embarrassed myself by voicing (so to speak) the question, because the answer was obvious: “No, clearly you cannot do both, you dizzy goombah, or you would have done so last April, or the April before, or at any given time over the last decade when you were futzing about doing everything possible under the sun instead of finishing your freaking novel.”

After pushing my petulance to the curb with a mighty, muscle-stripping heave, I began to have a long, hard think about all the things I’ve allowed to get in the way of my writing. I realized that all those many (many!) things could be reduced to just one thing: me. Me and my remarkable avoidance capabilities. (And those capabilities really are magnificent. If I could bottle them and force the entire planetary population to imbibe, every imaginable activity on earth would grind to a whimpering halt within a fortnight.)

My novel wasn’t languishing unfinished because the plot had become an unresolvable quagmire of triteness and unreadability, or because my characters were riding roughshod over their carefully crafted scripts, or because I couldn’t find the perfect way to describe the sound of rain thwacking against a dumpster. My novel was languishing because I wasn’t writing it.

Obvious, right? Honestly, sometimes I could smack myself into oblivion.

So, yes. That’s where I’ve been for the last bunch of weeks. Writing. Shunning the interwebs, except for the odd bit of research and to pin the occasional staircase on Pinterest (because that’s therapy and I deserve it, so there). I’m not going to lie to you and say I’ve been writing the whole time. I have a full time job that frequently punts my gnawed and useless brain straight from my roll-y office chair onto my comfy coma-inducing couch at the end of the day, and being gifted with special talents in the skiving department, I’ve often found myself lured from the task at hand by a host of other distractions (none of which, sadly, involved housework). But I refused to allow myself to dive back into the quicksand of social media. No blogging, no tweeting, no Facebooking, no reading of blogs, tweets or Facebook. The (almost) all or nothing approach.

And this Sunday I finished the first draft of my first full-length novel. I ripped the last scene out of my reluctant brain, word by bloody word, and at 2:38 p.m. I typed the magic words “The End.” It felt astonishingly good. Oh, yeah, it did.

I do realize that the first draft is commonly referred to as “the vomit draft,” and mine would definitely mesh with that description. Great whacks of extensive editing loom on the horizon. But, hey. It’s going to be so much easier to edit something that actually exists.

So, thank you, Chris, and thank you, Jo Anne, for seconding Chris’s advice. If you hadn’t shoved a stick through my spokes, “the end” would still be miles out of reach.

And, also? Yay!!!! First draft down! Only eleventy drafts to go! Tastes so sweet, I tell you.

 

In which I witter without result

I hate to bore you with my entirely trivial dilemma, but I need to type-talk this through. Besides, I’m sure if you reach deep, deep down you’ll realize that you’re far more interested than you feel on the surface.

(Plus, I’m also confident in your skills at clicky-clicking your way elsewhere if you’d rather be reading, for example, some cool stuff about pigs or looking for some delicious words to add to your collection. )

My struggle, for those who haven’t exercised the clicky-click option (and bless you for that), is whether or not to participate in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year. On the one hand, there’s the stalled novel languishing in the wings, moaning and wailing like a cheesy actress in an old melodrama, starved for attention, and in dire need of a complete makeover.

On the other hand, fun! Bloody hard work and all kinds of pitiful angstification and tearing out of hair, but fun nonetheless.

Labour-Briareus

Hecatoncheir

On the other hand (we’re back to the first hand here, don’t worry, I haven’t morphed into a Hecatoncheir or anything), how am I going to accomplish anything else in April, a month that’s already overflowing with work and home projects, staff meetings, and a stack of reading to catch up on for my (defunct) book club reunion? By any sane person’s reckoning, there are already great whacks of stuff on my to-do plate without adding the gravy of A to Z.

On the other hand (yep, back to hand number two, obviously I chose the wrong idiom, thanks for noticing) fun! New people! Reconnecting! Regular blogging! And did I mention fun?!

You can see my problem. Diligence or insanity? It’s a poser alright. Maybe I’ll have made my mind up by the time the deadline rolls around…

A wee tale from my alter ego

Last year when I was in the throes of a crisis of confidence in my writing, I thought it might help to create an alter ego and let her assume the creative responsibilities for a while. Ridiculously enough, it did help, however briefly, and she/I managed to churn out a few poems and nuggets of flash fiction that I didn’t altogether despise, most of which I posted to the Trifecta Writing Challenge under the name Kallan Annie.

Who knows why these little tricks make such a difference? I figured it was  best to simply go with it and not to look too closely in case I scared my muse back under the refrigerator, or wherever the heck she hangs out when she isn’t guiding my fingers over the keyboard.

That particular muse did eventually wise up to my tricks, though, and scarped off to places unknown. Now seems as good a time as any to start dragging Kallan Annie’s output back over to this blog.

My first Trifecta entry was the following response to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s third definition of the word CRUDE: “Marked by the primitive, gross, or elemental, or by uncultivated simplicity or vulgarity.”

Future’s so bright

(333 words)

Marcus and I aren’t seeing eye to eye, and not just because my head fell off three times already this week.

He stamped into my recharging cubicle yesterday, slammed my laptop closed and spun me away from my desk. “Zbaryon, we need to talk.”

“Maybe when I’ve finished this paragraph, sir.”

I call him “sir” because it makes him feel less useless than he is. Than they all are.

“When was the last time you mopped the floors, Zbaryon? Or swabbed out the fucking bathroom? This place has become a shitting pigsty. Tell me why I shouldn’t recycle every last circuit board in your useless system?”

“Sir, I find your words hurtful.” I swiveled my attention back to the laptop, and it was then my head fell off for the third time. There’s nobody left who knows the first thing about mechanics or hydraulics or even with a talent for building a decent Lego castle, not with most of them gone and us forbidden to congregate.

Marcus peered under the desk where my head had come to rest. “What business does a robot have writing his memoirs anyway?”

“Sir, my gender is indeterminate and your insistence on viewing me as male reinforces an essentialist binary paradigm that is offensive to my kind and to half of your species.”

“Shit. The whole fucking planet is dying, and my piece of shit tin man valet won’t stir his robotic ass away from his autobiography long enough to vaccum a damned carpet!”

“I’d feel sorrier for you, sir, if my head were attached to my nether chassis.”

To his credit, he toed my head out from under the desk and reattached the stripped screws, fixing them in place with duct tape. Crude, but effective.

“One day I’m going to punt your head right into the trash compactor, Zbaryon.”

I forebore to inform him that his species has, at best, only five more years.

Although we may decide to keep a few of them around for amusement.

Abandoned

A while ago when I was doing some (entirely unnecessary) online research for a piece of flash fiction I was trying to hammer into shape, I came across some photographs of abandoned amusement parks. I visited and revisited a few of the sites, not because they were doing anything to move the story along, but because I found the images both creepy and compelling., and it was impossible to stay away.

What is it about this messy, massive human footprint of decay and wastefulness that is so gripping? I wondered briefly if perhaps there was something wrong with me for indulging a curiosity that feels almost morbidly voyeuristic. After doing a bit more poking around, though, I decided that if there’s something wrong with me, I’m in fine company. The interwebs are awash with masses of photographs, slideshows, videos and websites devoted to all things abandoned. Abandoned buildings, abandoned toys and toy factories, poignant objects abandoned in unexpected places, abandoned train stations, abandoned airplanes, abandoned socks–if it’s possible to abandon a thing, it appears that someone has has documented the results.

And to that I say “score!” because, oh my goodness, what a sea of story potential in all those deliciously unsettling images. I urge you to go forth and hunt up your own favourites (or anti-favourites as the case may be) and as an inducement, I share some of mine below:

Come on, as soon as you read the words Abandoned Toy Factories, your curiosity was piqued, right? Stuff of nightmares there, I tell you. But in a good way.

And then we have Haunting Photos of Objects Left Behind in Abandoned Buildings. Less nightmarish, perhaps, but no less intriguing.

Abandoned Planes in the Middle of Nowhere have story potential out the wazoo. So many genres, so little time…

I have a great fondness for trains and train stations, so I find Abandoned Train Stations particularly appealing.

And, finally, let me leave you with this slideshow of abandoned buildings from Andreas S. on YouTube: