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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”