15 | Start out chuckling

AKA the time I was in Reader's Digest and made my mom very proud.

Hi everyone,

I used to have a colleague who, at the start of meetings, would just start out chuckling for a second. No hello, not at first. Not before a quick chuckle. I went through a range of emotions about it but I can’t help but relate to it today. I deleted a few initial first sentences of this post: I come to you on my eleventh Covid day! or Do you ever take two weeks off social media and then start to worry you may not exist? Then I thought just chuckling was probably better. Sometimes it’s just easier. It encompasses all these weird things you could have said before you realized that you would have to give so much backstory and put so much of a spotlight on yourself that it’s better to just laugh and move on.

Anyway, chuckle, the past 30 days or so have been weird and I have no exciting writing updates. I am writing, but during my Covid recovery my energy was (and still is) in the shitter and I could only write a few paragraphs at a time most days. But I did unearth some interesting old journal/TinyLetter entries about earlier iterations of Seeker of the Lost Song. I’ve mentioned before how it went through a couple of versions before I began writing it in earnest, from a generation-ship in space to a tidally-locked planet to the more standard Earthlike secondary world setting it has now. To me it’s so interesting to see how far it’s come.

February 9, 2018, from my blog:

At the end of 2017, I had finished the draft of [The Quiet is Loud], and was feeling kind of lost … so I dipped back into something I had started years earlier. In 2012, Readers’ Digest invited people to submit their ultra-short stories on Twitter. One of my submissions was published, and I took this little snippet and started writing a story. I examined the small amount of actual narrative I’d written for the short story, and realized that I couldn’t go on – I hadn’t figured out how the magic system in this world worked. I didn’t know what made these people leave Earth. And then – it was a spaceship. How many people lived in it? What did they eat? How did they get water? What jobs did people have? Who kept the peace? Was there peace?

September 18, 2018:

I'm currently in a weird Schrödinger's Cat stage of writing and not writing. If you were to look at my output, you would stagger backwards in horror. I have only written a few chapters, and I started this novel in January. Oof.

HOWEVER. The amount of research, worldbuilding, planning, and yes, even spreadsheets that I've been working on are much greater. I wrote my last novel in the space of a year, and that story flowed relatively easily from me. I had my framework, and I stuck to it fairly faithfully.

It was also smaller. My first novel after years of short stories, [TQIL] had a small cast of characters and a pretty straight-ahead plot. There was a bit of backstory to sort out, but that particular iceberg was modest. But with this novel, it feels like that Carl Sagan quote, "If you wish to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." There is always something to think about or figure out. And even if I account for the sort of research that is just writing avoidance, there's a lot. A couple of nights ago I put on my writing playlist, and sat staring at my screen with tented fingers for an hour. The only movements I made were to grab my calculator to figure out the age of a MC's great-great grandparent, or type out where they were born, in between long stretches of time where I just sat, and stared, and thought. Doris Lessing, with her love of wool-gathering, would have been proud.

August 25, 2019:

I love revisiting certain events or thoughts years later. It's always so interesting to hear how people have developed, or how their memories of things have evolved over time. I've written about this before, about the mutable nature of our memories and how easily they can be influenced. It's been showing up in my writing quite often over the past few years, and while it's never been a main theme, it's always there. Those of you who know how nostalgia-prone I can be are probably not surprised.

My current novel is set in a world where events of over eighty years ago are considered "prehistory" and the powers that be essentially influence what the collective memories are. Again, it's there in the background rather than at the forefront, but it's a part of my novel (and probably my writing as a whole) that I really enjoy writing about. I've been doing a lot of developmental work for this aspect of my book, so it's been at the front of my mind lately.

That last one really tickles me the most. In the background! It’s way out ahead in the foreground now!

PS, what I’m reading:

Sometimes it can feel sort of nice to be a bit disappointed in a book.

I recently read Robin Hobb’s Blood of Dragons, the fourth and final book in a series that’s part of her larger Realm of the Elderlings series. And I thought it was just okay. But it actually felt nice to be a bit let down by it.

See, I started reading it at a time when I was feeling … not shaky about my novel exactly, but just sort of tender about the concept of writing at all. Like if I looked down I’d notice I’d run off the cliff after the roadrunner and was just hovering over the gorge. But getting through hundreds of pages of the Hobb book and to not want to cry over her genius was refreshing. Not that I think I could have written that book better than her - but it reminded me that she wasn’t actually perfect. I’ll always idolize her and count her as one of my biggest writer inspirations, but it’s good to be reminded that at the end of the day she’s just a regular human writer, just like me.

(As much as that last sentence made me sound 100% like an alien in a human suit.)

Thanks for reading,
- Sg.

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