Saturday, December 24, 2016

Metafictional Musings

I wrote my first incomplete story on a manual typewriter when I was seven or eight years old.

Around the same time Loyal Sedition officially launched, I began a new fiction project that I intended to publish episodically at my static website. I imagined that I would occasionally post my thoughts about the writing process on this blog, both for my own edification and for the possible amusement of any readers. Instead, Loyal Sedition has focused mainly on politics and philosophy, touching on entertainment but rarely. It became almost my only personal writing outlet.

Meanwhile my fiction project languished … for all the usual reasons and more. The science-fictional concept behind it was beyond my ability to execute, which I quickly realized as I started to write the first couple chapters. Though I wrote the leads for several chapters, I let myself be stifled by the need for a more traditional narrative structure. The dynamic, engaging opening that I had imagined—one that would be simultaneously intensely intimate and spectacularly grand in scale—turned into disconnected scenes bracketing the characters sitting around a table talking about orbital mechanics and international treaties.

Beyond that, all I have are excuses. I don’t have enough time between working full time, establishing a part-time business, failing to maintain a satisfactory household, and all that. In truth, I lack the discipline to pursue my writing amid these and other distractions. Maybe that would remain true even if I had the wide latitude I presume to need.

Nevertheless, I’ve tried to break the impasse again and again over the years … but mostly I’ve just tinkered when the mood struck. I’ll write a sentence or a paragraph here … a page or two there. (I wrote pages and pages for my shelved Third Millennium opus.) I’ll dabble in science fiction, magical fantasy, or alternative reality. (I wrote the heartbreaking background for a bloody-handed anti-heroine from a place called Hearth.) I’ll write notes or treatments for various story ideas. (I wrote dozens of now lost pages summarizing an SF story that I eventually decided was too derivative to pursue.) In other words, I’ve toyed with many projects … but still haven’t produced any significant results.

This year, I was inspired to take a different tack. I started to write a screenplay adapted from one of my favorite novels. Building on another author’s work has freed me from the usual doubts that restrain me and lead me to surrender to other distractions. Intellectually, I know that I have to start by placing the plot elements into the story, even if I later have to rearrange, polish, or even remove some of them. Emotionally, though, I too often fail to lay that first course of storytelling bricks … and instead succumb to frustration.

In this case, the building blocks have already been placed. Working within the constraints of a different narrative medium, I can rearrange, rebuild, or even replace the plot pieces that don’t properly fit. Otherwise, the job is akin to editing a completed manuscript. I still need to provide a good measure of creativity due to the aforementioned narrative limitations, but the adaptation process will get me over that first emotional hurdle.

Already, I have made much more progress than usual, drafting about 200 pages of a probable 600-page project. I’m now confident that I can carry the exercise through to completion. Being an adaptation of other copyrighted work, this project is very unlikely to see publication. As much as I would love to see it produced as perhaps a 12-episode television series, I’m hoping that the exercise itself will prove valuable to both my desire and ability to write … even if the work must remain out of general view by design.

This post may not rise to my usual “high” standard of entertaining or thought-provoking fare, but it seemed a worthwhile milestone to place for future reference. Will it mark a meaningful change to my unrequited aspirations as a writer? Or will it mark yet another dead end in that pursuit? We shall see.

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