Dear Self | 3

Dear Self,

Stop stressing. It’ll work out in the end.

Yours, Me.


Planning A Series II

After much discussion with my editor, here’s my to-do list for planning this Thing:

  1. A bare-bones single-page summary of the series.
    This is the 50,000ft view. No subplots. No detail beyond the bare essentials. Not even character descriptions. Just [Name] goes [Here] because [Reason] and finds [Thing], and how it fits together to make a single arc.
  2. Break out the index cards.
    10,000ft. I’ll be working from the summary at this point so I can see the whole picture, but I also have flexibility and a place to note significant details and subplot progression. Significant Tattoo can go on one card, and then I can decide where it fits – do I stick it into the chain of events at wherever I think Book 6 will be, or does it need to be introduced earlier? When do Those Two Characters get married? How much foreshadowing do I need for the Big Villain Reveal? I can go back and change my summary here, too, if I need to.
  3. The Notebook (or ringbinder, or text doc, or whatever.)
    10ft. Now that I know what my overall scheme is, and I have the logical progression of events sorted for plots and subplots and sub-subplots, I can sit down and write detailed drafts. Drafts of these subplots and how they progress over the course of several books. Drafts of synopses for these books – especially that book in the middle which winds up two major subplots and introduces three more. And of course the drafts might result in me going back and changing the index cards around, which might mean more changes to the overall summary. This could get annoying, but if it means a better, cleaner, more complex, tightly woven end product, who am I to complain?

    (And at some point I’ll have to decide just how many books this series is going to take. 7 won’t be anywhere near enough. I could maybe squeeze everything important into 14, but I’d have to drop material. I’m not sure that I have /enough/ material to justify 21 books… but I can always come up with more ideas, right? Mark it down as another ‘wait and see’, then.)

So, that’s my plan for the next wee while, in-between juggling working two jobs, editing Chorus, querying Whitu, and everything else that comes with normal life. What are your thoughts? How do you plan your writing?

Planning A Series I

I’ve written two and a bit books of my sci-fi series. I’m knee-deep in edits for the second while sporadically planning/writing the third… and I keep getting Ideas.

Ideas with a capital I. Ideas for the rest of the series. Ideas for the next ten or fifteen books. I can see the first sentence of book four and the last few paragraphs of the book twelve-ish. I can see which universe that scene with the midnight swim takes place in. I know who’s going to marry who; I know who’s going to have romance snatched out from under their nose. I can tell you who gets pregnant and what they name the baby.

I can tell you who dies and who lives. (At this stage of planning, at least. A writer’s mind is a terribly indecisive thing.)

But this is all in my head. And I’m starting to struggle: I need to get it out, and I don’t know how.

Do I dive deep into the bowels of Scrivener, trusting the fickleness of a single computer program with all my notes and research and complexities of subplot? How would I even get all these ideas on to the screen, let alone put them in some kind of order?

Do I hearken back to my high school days, sit down with a ream of refill and a biro that’s half out of ink and try and scribble everything down? The thought of being stuck with a hundred sheets of flimsy lined paper, thoughts jotted down in no order, chapter 4 of book 12 next to something that will only come in play in book 18, half a line of unrelated dialogue beside three paragraphs of the most important character motivation in the entire series… it’s horrifying.

Do I go on with what I’ve been doing until now? Keep scraps of various scenes and my full manuscripts in Scrivener, and then in my computer documents have a sub-folder for each book under a single folder for the series, and drop anything I can think of into separate text documents or image files? I’d end up with dozens of different files that I have to trawl through anytime I need to look something up. Urgh.

Do I go the index cards route? Buy a few hundred-packs, scrawl a single character introduction or event or line of significant dialogue on each card, and then try and put them into some kind of logical order? Wouldn’t want to have the Crowning before they even enter the Kingdom, after all. But then that’s hundreds of individual moments to straighten out; even the thought of it is overwhelming.

Overwhelming… but it might be my best bet. I’ll let you know.

Addiction: A Letter

Dear Twenty Year Old Me,

I have just one thing to say, and I want you to listen carefully. Ready?

Don’t. Give. Up.

I know where you are, what place you’re in right now; I know the headspace of a two-year-old clinging porn addiction. I know how it wraps around your body and your thoughts, how it overtakes your instincts and your actions, how it overwhelms you and drags you down again and again and again. I know the hopelessness you feel, the despair, the anger and the heartache and the utter weariness of trying to fight the good fight only to fail. I know.

And you know what? It will be another year before you’re fully on the road to recovery. One more year of straining and striving and chasing the wind, even when you know that it will slip through your fingers and be gone. One more year of stolen moments in your bedroom before and between and after classes; one more year of countless endless walks along deserted country roads, your feet treading the same paths over and over while your mind does the same.

Ironic, isn’t it? How endless this dead-end seems.

But I’ll let you into a secret. It gets better.

Don’t roll your eyes at me, young lady.

I know you’ve heard it all before. I know I’m just one small voice in the crowd. You’ll probably forget this as soon as you read it – but at least you will have read it. Please, just listen to me for two minutes. Know that I am you, one year down the road, and know that what I say is the truth: it really does get better.

I can’t pinpoint when or how. Sometime between you at twenty and me at twenty one. Somehow by the grace of God.

Sometime, somehow, the tide will begin to turn for you. Let it. I know it’s hard to let go, to stop fighting and just be. You’ve spent the last two years fighting; at least a year of that has been spent crying, mentally screaming, desperate for a way out of this filth. You’ll get there. You’ll get there. Believe this, believe me: you will get there.

There will be days when you have to fight with everything you have, and even then it won’t be enough. On those days, please: Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Give it to God. Let it go. Just let it go. Take a whole day out. Fast. Pray. Read your bible instead of your porn. Go for a walk and pray and sing along to Skillet and cry, sob, bawl your eyes out when you get lost in your worship and the Spirit touches you – and this time, go down on your knees in that deserted country lane. See what happens.

Submit to God, resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

It’s just words, I know, and they’ll seem so insubstantial against the aching screaming shivering reality of your addiction. Even now you’ll be thinking about visiting one of your regular websites; you might have even taken a break from reading this and done so already, in which case: welcome back. Don’t ignore what you just did, don’t let it get lost in the blur of two years of addiction. Think about it. Realise what it was you just did. Explore how it makes you feel. Euphoric? Sure. But also a little bit heartsick and so very weary, am I right?

I know. I know the despair, the unsatisfying satisfaction, the constant cycle. I know.

In the next year, you’ll block all your websites and then spend two weeks hunting down alternatives. You’ll finally start reading your bible regularly, but most nights you’ll preface it by reading your porn. You’ll reach out for help, telling your best friends and your mum and an old family friend, and you’ll find that you’re not as alone as you’d thought – someone quite close to you has a porn addiction too.

You’ll listen to Mumford&Sons’ Timshel a dozen times and add Steinbeck’s East of Eden to your to-read book list. You’ll memorise the meaning of the hebrew word, not just in your mind but in your heart – timshel: thou mayest. You’ll find you always have a choice. You’ll listen to Project 86 and realise that habit takes root in decision, and you’ll start taking responsibility for your decisions. You’ll listen to Thrice and Switchfoot and you’ll read Chesterton and Lewis, and you’ll know that this ache inside you can’t be fully satisfied by anything on earth.

You’ll finish writing your book. It’s a story that needs to be told.

Eventually you’ll find that you’ve been clean for two weeks, three, a month and more. You’ll feel the old urges and go back to them, only to find them shallower than ever. You’ll exit your websites after a bare five minutes and pick up your bible. It’s a long journey, a slow process toward full recovery, and truthfully you’ll never be the same. But you’ll find a new equilibrium, and the new you will be older and wiser, a little slower to judge and a little faster to share your experiences.

So please, don’t give up. I know this dead-end seems endless, but you’ll get out of it eventually. I’ll be waiting for you.


Twenty One Year Old Me.