announcement one of four (collect them all!)

I’m not going to bury the lede like I usually do: the script I turned in on Friday was for Volume 3 of Star Trek: The Manga. TokyoPop is releasing it this summer in time for the Big Honkin’ Vegas Convention, and Comic-Con. Everyone at CBS and TokyoPop liked the story I did for Volume 2: Kakan ni Shinkou, so they asked me to do a story for the third volume. I kicked around a bunch of different ideas, talked with Andrew and some other writers who I respect, and came up with a story that was massively fun to write. Today, I had a meeting with Luis Reyes, my editor at TokyoPop, and EJ Su, the artist who drew Cura Te Ipsum in Volume 2 and will draw [TITLE CURRENTLY REDACTED BECAUSE I MAY CHANGE IT] in Volume 3. I can’t reveal anything else about the story now, but when I get permission, I will.

One announcement down, three to go! Catch the excitement this week on UHF channel 62!

Moving on . . .

Shortly after I finished writing Happiest Days of Our Lives, I experienced something I’ve never felt since I started acting less and writing more: For the first time in years, I looked at my completed work, and I felt proud of it. I felt completely satisfied with what I’d created. I didn’t feel like I needed to top it or Prove Anything To Everyone, because I’d proved something very important to myself.

After it was released in August, several different people asked me, “What are you doing next? Another book like this one?”

“I don’t think so,” I told them, “because I think I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do with this style of writing. Also, I’m getting tired of telling stories about myself.”

Around mid-November, I started thinking about 2008 and beyond. “I don’t need to tell stories about my own life. I need to tell stories about . . . other stuff.”

Two weeks after that, I started breaking the story for the manga script. About a week after I started working on it, I discovered Elizabeth Bear’s LiveJournal when John Scalzi featured her in A Month of Writers at The Whatever. She says things like this:

The subconscious is a fascinating thing.

Some of writing well, for me, is getting conscious access to that process. Because one thing that happens is that when you become aware of the cliches and patterns of narrative, you can manipulate them. You can use the expectations to your advantage, either by playing to them or undermining.

It’s how archetype works, and zeitgeist, and all those varied things. And it’s also why taking a shower or going for a walk or engaging in repetitive housework can unlock the creative process.

and this:

The scene does not have to be perfect. The scene has to be written.

I can fix it on the second draft. I can fix it on the second draft. I can fix it on the second draft.

Right. Beginner mind. Just because you aren’t good enough to do this, and never will be, doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

and this:

I usually only outline when I get stuck. Then I go back and outline what I’ve already written. Or, you know, when I think of stuff that happens in the future, I write it down. But I don’t always wind up using that stuff.

and this:

No matter where you get to, you have never actually arrived. You are always trying to figure out what the next thing is, the next goal. You just trade up problems, as autopope says.

The spooky (and awesome) thing is, these are all things I’ve thought to myself, or said to my friends and family in the last year.

“If Elizabeth Bear thinks about some of the same things I do,” I thought, “it must mean that I’m not wandering aimlessly in the fog as much as I thought I was.”

If you’ll allow me a semi-literary moment: When I started reading her LiveJournal, I was still trudging through fog, but after a few days, I could see a path through it. It was like a fellow traveller had left a map, some provisions, and a +3 cape of awesome, just for me to find and use on my journey. Which is still a long way from completion, by the way.

In the last few weeks of 2007, I was supposed to be finishing this script, but I kept going back and reading her archives, because there was so much wisdom and affirmation in there, it was like . . . well, it was like I was on Bespin, doing my best with the limited Jedi skills I had, but I kept going back to Dagobah, because I could feel The Force flowing so strongly there.

Hey, look at that: I turned into a goggle-wearing, snort-laughing geek for a second there.

Awesome.

So while I neared completion on this script, I spent more and more time reading Elizabeth Bear’s LiveJournal. I felt a confidence and a stability — a certainty — that I’ve never felt before on a writing project. After my initial fears about the story, which lasted for about 12 hours and were dispelled thanks to the advice of some people I wish I could thank publicly, I never doubted myself. When I encountered a problem, I never thought that this was it, this was the big problem that I would never be able to fix. Instead, I knew that I’d find a way to fix it. I kept reminding myself, “The scene does not have to be perfect. The scene has to be written.” So that’s what I did, and the process was more fun and rewarding than it’s ever been. In fact, I had a few moments that I’ve heard about, but never experienced on my own, like listening to my characters talk to each other, while I just wrote it down. I always figured that it was something writers said to make it sound like what we do is more lofty than it is, and I still feel like I should be writing, “Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought it would happen to me, but there I was . . . “ but it was a very real, very visceral experience when it happened. It was like it didn’t come from me (even though it did) but actually came from watching and listening listening to these two characters interact while I wrote down what I saw.

I know that I can pull out memories from my life and recreate them for people. I know that I can write about those things we geeks all share and love. I’m still not sure that I can create stories and put characters and readers into them, but I at least have the confidence — and the need — to do it now.

Speaking of the need to write, there is a website called WHY WE WRITE. It is described thusly: “a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers. Conceived by Charlie Craig and Thania St. John, the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers during the strike, and perhaps beyond.” One of their recent essays is from LOST producer Damon Lindelof, who says,

“I write because I can’t help but make things up.

I write because I love to tell stories.

I write because my imagination compels me to do so.

I write because if I didn’t, I’d be branded a pathological liar.”

“I could have written that.” I thought, when I read it. Then, “Wow, that’s pretty bold thinking there, Wheaton, to put yourself at the same table as Damon Lindelof.”

“Hey,” I countered, “I didn’t say the same table. I was thinking more like in the same building, with the hope of eventually making it to the same room one day, so get off my back, dude, or I’ll make up a story, put you in it, and then not let you get the girl. Because that’s what I do now, champ.”

Thank you, Elizabeth Bear, for making me feel like I’m not alone, and helping me find my Path. And for Hammered, which I bought over the weekend and began on Saturday afternoon. I love it.

35 thoughts on “announcement one of four (collect them all!)”

  1. Very cool!!! Congrats on the script, and congrats on finding yourself – and understanding your voice!
    I’m actually really happy for you, because as a journalist, I know how tough it is to just get it right… Right in that you’re satisfied enough to leave it alone.
    And don’t worry about putting yourself on the same mental level as the cool kids. We all do it. But in your case, it’s mostly deserved ;)

  2. Yay! Star Trek manga! (So Batman’s right out, then? :) ) That’s very cool. I might just have to go to big honkin’ Vegas convention this year if you’re doing a mini-tour for it.
    Wow. It’s really cool to hear you talk about your writer’s journey. You’ve come pretty far, I think, in all these years since you first started writing. I hope you never completely stop writing narrative non-fiction because you’re great at it but I’m excited to see where else you go with your writing. After reading your manga script and some other snatches of fiction you’ve posted here I know there’s a lot of really interesting places you can take us readers.
    I look forward to the next three announcements!
    P.S. Um, so what’s a +3 cape of awesome going to run me these days? Personally I only have a +1 cape on right now but after another campaign or two I might have enough pp to purchase an upgrade.
    P.P.S. Well done, you! Seriously.

  3. The key to getting something done is turning off your inner editor, and just write it, straight through and don’t stop until you reach The End.
    Author James Macdonald taught me this and it changed my writing style enormously.

  4. Arachne Jericho Oh no! We have a regular Cape of Awesome (no pluses) in our party treasure. We could share with you. We suspect there’s plenty of treasure in the dragon’s hoard we’re aiming for…
    (No, seriously, if you’re wearing a -1 cursed cape I’m really sorry! :( I don’t actually know if my cape has any pluses or if it’s really made of awesome but I like to think it is. I just need goggles now…)

  5. “The scene does not have to be perfect. The scene has to be written.”
    When I write I have to keep telling myself similar things. My biggest writing stopper is when I feel the wording of a sentence or paragraph is awkward or unclear. If I don’t give myself a kick I will stare at it for hours trying to get it right. If I force myself to continue I keep thinking about it and have an irrational fear that I’ll forget to go back and work on it.
    My solution is to put a set of brackets after the “bad” part with “[!!AWKWARD!! -notes-]” or if it is a wording issue I put “[?-word-, -word-, -word-?]” with the words I’ve already tried and rejected (so I can remind myself what I tried previously).
    With the _flag_ inserted to indicate a problem I can go on without my fears and doubts gnawing at the back of my brain.
    Brian

  6. Wil,
    Dude, you look snazzy in your Cape of Awesome.
    I’m a newbie to the comments section, so excuse me if this has been asked before. Now that you’ve traveled further down the road of a creative writer, do you feel a stronger connection to your character from Stand by Me? Does that role hold even more significance now?
    Lauryn

  7. Wow! I didn’t even know this was going on! I’ve gotta read this because I loves manga and I loves Star Trek! Yay!
    I am a journalist by nature and though I don’t do it as much as I did when I was younger, it has stuck with me to where I have felt stuck in that realm when I try to write fiction. These are great tips!
    Anyway, congrats on breaking into fiction. I hope that I will join you there soon. :0)

  8. Wil,
    I think you’re a tremendously dedicated and entertaining writer (and I am actually a regular reader of your blog as well, though I lurk shamelessly) and I am extremely happy that I could be of service.
    I try to write the blog I really wanted to be able to read when I was struggling in the trenches and trying to figure out how to write decent stories, and the best response I can ever have is for it to be useful.
    Yours,
    –Elizabeth Bear (but really, everybody calls me Bear.)

  9. You’re so totally not alone–you’ve just eloquently written about the struggle that goes on in the heart and soul of every writer! Awesomely well done!
    I just stumbled across your Twitter profile, and from there found your blog and writing; and I’m so glad I did. I look forward to reading more!
    Congratulations on your completed project, and I wish you the very best in the coming year!

  10. I love moments of clarity! That is great that you were able to come out of the fog. It is a wonderful feeling, congrats.
    Congrats on the Manga and all the upcoming goodness :)

  11. Gee Wil, you are a writer.
    That is why I buy and read your books.
    Now run up a few flights of stairs in that building and
    find yourself a office!

  12. Awesome, Wil. Seriously awesome.
    And I don’t even read Manga.
    Aren’t you glad you built that first crappy website? (It didn’t need to be perfect, either, apparently.)
    PS For the screenwriters, Jane Espenson’s blog is great. Advice from an insider. (http://janeespenson.com/)

  13. I’d highly recommend Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. Seriously helped me get my head back in the right space. And Wil, you are awesome and the fear is so normal. Glad to see your still grabbing for your dreams.

  14. Well I guess I’m totally wrong on my guesses yesterday for your 3 big announcements… oh well… no cake for me…
    More congratulations from the Great White North!!

  15. I simply loved “The Happiest Days of Our Lives.” Although I also enjoyed “Just a Geek,” I thought “Happiest” was a much better book, and spoke to me more personally.
    While I certainly respect your desire to allow your family their privacy, I would really enjoy more stories about your experiences as a step-father. But if you need to move on, I get that, too.

  16. Aww, yay, I’m so glad you’re coming around to our point of view–yes, you *are* a writer!!
    And for the record, what I love most about you is your geekiness. SW ref FTW! \m/

  17. What I find awesome is that you and eBear both have the same gamer hex background for your blogs.
    Wait…whenever Bear posts, Wil is missing…and whenever Wil posts…
    nah. WilBear wouldn’t cut it in the sci-fi world. ;)
    Congratulations on your scripting successes Wil —any more to come I hope.
    -=Jeff=-

  18. The most excellent Bear having had a tremendous influx of people coming from your place, I just had to backtrack and see where they were coming from. Looks like I’ll be lurking around for a while. Don’t mind me, I’m just puttering around on the sidewalk out front, hoping that if I work really hard at it, someday I might be able to get in the lobby.

  19. I write to get all the people in my head to shut the hell up.
    And, sometimes, just to freak people out. =)
    I call my mind the House of Craze, because there’s always characters in there yelling at me to ‘Write my damn story, already!’.
    Of course, maybe I have a MPD. Heh.

  20. funny you should say that about being lost in a fog Wil, evidently Mr. Gaiman feels your pain as well:
    (from today’s blog):
    “I’m more or less happily writing Chapter Six of The Graveyard Book. I say more or less as I’m at that place where I hope that the book knows what it’s doing because right now I don’t have a clue — I’m writing one scene after another like a man walking through a valley in thick fog, just able to see the path a little way ahead, but with no idea where it’s actually going to lead him.”

  21. YES! I loved the first manga story and am eagerly awaiting the next. I’m glad the fiction writing is really coming together for you. You’re already a gifted essayist (is that a word? no? ok, well, you get what I’m saying) and the evidence is there to show your chops as an author.
    Have you had the moment where your characters stop doing what you tell them and take on lives of their own? That’s definitely a fun moment. Especially when they do that and it makes you realize that the thing you wanted them to do was actually out of character for them. :)

  22. Have you had the moment where your characters stop doing what you tell them and take on lives of their own?
    Yeah, that happened more than once while I wrote this script. An even more exciting moment was when I was trying to write a Spock and McCoy scene, and they both looked out at me and said, “Dude, we don’t belong in this part of the story, and this scene doesn’t fit. Cut it now, and get back to what this story is really about. Those other guys are waiting for you over there.”

  23. A quote from Herbert von Kleist comes to mind: “I write only because I cannot stop.” I echo that, omitting the word only. Thank you for (indirectly) encouraging me to start assembling my own book of personal essays.

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