Runaway Lane and WattPad

Heya,

WattPad is a website where people can post their stories and people can read them for free. For more on WattPad, check out WattPad.

I’m intrigued by the idea of WattPad. I have been for a while. This intrigue has not been mitigated much by the fact that most of what I see on WattPad is YA and fanfiction.

I don’t actually have anything against YA or fanfiction (though fanfiction about real people makes me uncomfortable). I actually think that both of them offer a lot of things that other genres fail to deliver on, but that’s an argument for a different post. Actually, maybe I’ll create drafts of those posts now, so that I actually remember that I wanted to talk about this later on.

Cool, done.

So, I’m intrigued by WattPad. I’ve been observing it from a cool, wary distance for a little while now, and I kind of feel like I’ve gotten to the limit of what I can do by just observing. With that fact in mind, I’ve opened an account (actually, opening an account was one of my observation tactics, but I’ve put a title on that account) and intend to post a story.

There are some problems with this, many of them having to do with my own idiosyncrasies as both a writer and a human.

First off, none of the stories that I already have rattling around in my brain are really appropriate for WattPad. I mean, anything can go up on WattPad (with a few limitations), but the readership on WattPad seems to skew younger and lighter than would be interested in my current, fleshed out writing ideas.

I’m also very possessive of these ideas, and have a sort of closed off mentality to them. I’ve always been someone who liked to be finished with something before I handed it over to someone else. By the very nature of this experiment (and it is definitely verging into the territory of the experiment at this point), I’ll be forced to interact with other ideas about my ideas and perhaps incorporate them, to work in increments and put those increments out before all the pieces are complete, and to revise. I don’t know if you know this, but I fucking hate revision.

Anyway, this possessiveness and the inappropriateness of the stories needs to be taken into consideration. I have never attempted to write YA, though I do read it, and I decided that this would be a good opportunity to play with YA. I also didn’t want to repurpose one of my existing stories to make it YA, so I wanted to start from scratch.

I was on a very long road trip today, thinking about my YA problem. I knew I couldn’t avoid darkness completely, because I like darkness. I didn’t want to do paranormal because I have no real feelings about it. I didn’t mind the idea of sci-fi/fantasy, though. We had driven past perhaps a dozen runaway lanes (lanes they put in along the highways so that a big semi truck can get off the road if a tire blows or something else goes horribly wrong, minimizing the damage to human beings), and I got a picture in my head of a book cover with one of those signs for the runaway lane on it. Which I don’t actually like very much, as covers go, but whatever.

When I was a teenager we used to hang out in the woods for a little while in ninth or tenth grade. We’d dragged a couch over from somewhere. I don’t remember what happened when it rained. We probably just didn’t sit on it. Probably not a big loss-I can’t imagine it was a very nice couch.

Anyway, I was thinking about runaway lanes and the weird couch and WattPad. I was thinking about how WattPad lets you interact with your audience, get a read (ha) on what they want from a story and decide to either satisfy those desires or not. And I thought about old school serials, and regular feedback, and whether I was a plotter or a pantser (kind of both, in case you were wondering).

And I decided to go to one of those prompt sites and found this:

The story is about a leader on the run from the law. It starts in a world-spanning nation on a forest planet. The story climaxes with someone visiting a doctor.

It was the first of ten prompts that were generated.

So this is what I’m working with at this point:

  • Runaway Lane
  • YA
  • That prompt
  • A strong desire to not name anyone in this story “Lane” because that would just be too on the nose for me

Bonus for WattPad, it’s available on all of my devices. I can write a bit on my phone in the morning while I’m on the train, free of the many distractions available to me when I can have eight thousand tabs open (only a slight exaggeration there) on my laptop.

I’ve created the story but haven’t published anything yet (because there is currently nothing to publish), so if you feel an urge to see what I’m babbling about, check here first. Something should be happening there soon, or I’ll be talking about it here…at some point. Maybe.

I’m torn on whether or not to just openly state that this story is an experiment. I don’t think I will. In a sense every story is an experiment, right? Right.

So … anyone on WattPad? How do you find it?

Love,

B

P.S. I was about to add a joke about only naming the character Lane if I decide to write Gilmore Girls fanfiction and was suddenly overwhelmed by the thought of how many fanfics there probably are in the world where Lane runs away from home.

P.P.S. If there aren’t any of those, there should be. You’re missing an opportunity, Gilmore Girls fanfic writers.

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Everything is overwhelming until it very abruptly isn’t

Heya,

I’ve been doing some research into game design, and there’s an aspect of it that I think is really interesting in what it says about learning on the whole.

A friend of mine took a class on video game design during her undergrad, and she let me look at her notes, so I’m afraid I can’t reference a specific book on this, but the notes talk about the process of acquiring skills in games. You want people to feel challenged but not impossibly challenged. There needs to be a gradual upward curve in difficulty which, when it starts to plateau, is followed by the introduction of another skill. You don’t want to throw all of the skills at the gamer at once, it would be overwhelming, but you don’t want things to be so easy that they stop feeling challenged. You need to find that sweet spot, where things are difficult but not impossible, challenging but not overwhelming.

This makes a lot of sense to me with learning in general. Personally, I’ve always felt that I learned best and remembered most when I just jumped in with both feet. For example, right now I’m learning how to format eBooks using XML (which, if you don’t know anything about InDesign or XML, is really not as scary as it sounds). My tuition fees pay for access to lynda.com (which is a great site that offers a lot of tutorials from industry professionals in a variety of subjects, but I’m sure very expensive if I weren’t in school), and I’ve developed some playlists that I’m very excited to dig into more extensively. And I’ve only got about nine months to get through all of them, so I really should jump in with both feet.

In Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, there was a bit that talked about how happiness is not a state that can be achieved like a trophy and then set on your mantle. Happiness can be found in the struggle, and in growth. It can be found in the process of surmounting a challenge more in the actual completion of the task you set yourself.

We just finished a big project in school and for about a day after it was over I felt like a giant weight had lifted off my shoulders. Then I felt antsy, like I was forgetting to do something, then bored. I’d gotten used to the demands on my time but, more than that, I liked the demands on my time. I like having challenges, things to figure out, things to do.

Last semester, I was in a play during the month of October (The Crucible, in case you were interested). I had … four or five performances a week, which really ate into the time I had to dedicate to my schoolwork, but the whole time the play was running, I felt like I was firing on all cylinders. I was forced to budget my time more carefully, because I didn’t have much of it. And I feel like I have to structure my different projects like that, in a series of peaks and plateaus of skill-acquisition and application. Always growing, always learning.

Love,

B

“meatspace”

Heya,

Have you guys ever heard the term “meatspace”? In case you haven’t—cause I hadn’t—the idea is that, more and more, we operate in the digital world and the physical world. Because more and more of life takes place online for so many of us, it becomes necessary for a distinction between the reality that we operate within online and the reality we inhabit with our physical bodies.

“Meatspace” (which always makes me picture ground beef in my clothing) is where we are. It is where we eat our food and wear our clothes and read our books. It’s wear we drink and sleep and reproduce. Cyberspace, on the other hand, is a space in which the physical realities of the human condition can be compressed. Distance becomes, in many senses, meaningless. Realities like weight (like in the case of books) can be minimized to the point of nonexistence (ex. books vs. eBooks).

Something I’ve been finding interesting in my publishing program is that there’s tacit, possibly/probably unintentional, minimization of “meatspace.” Even the term “meatspace” can be seen as somewhat pejorative. That’s part of what I think is so strangely perfect about it. It seems almost derogatory towards the physical state of being.

The fact is, we still live in meatspace. We still perform the acts that sustain our lives in meatspace. Until we hook into the matrix, that will be an undeniable fact of human life. We are in meatspace, and the majority of our largest problems are there, too.

There’s a problem of multiplicity in publishing right now. There is just so much stuff, so much fiction, so many essays, so many blogs and books and badgers (honey badger don’t give a fuck) to demand our attention. Before the explosion of ePublishing, there were already more books in the world than any one person could read in a lifetime. We have more movies, more televisions shows, more pictures and pieces of artwork than we could ever have the attention for and even if we did, mankind has a notoriously shitty memory. So when is it enough? And, with so many services moving into the cyber, how do we continue to exist in the meat? How do we orient ourselves in the reality of physical distance when cyberspace has the capacity to compress those distances, at least for some of the senses? And how do we sustain ourselves?

I think it’s the issue of sustainability that is nagging at me, and contributes greatly to my various existential and/or quarterlife crises. I personally think that everything is cyclical, and that we’re in a cycle of change. Gutenberg’s press prompted a cycle of change in publishing, and I think we’re in another one now. Not just in publishing but in many, many fields. Something that we’ll have to figure out along the way is how the cyber and meat relate to one another, how they connect to one another, and how they can sustain one another.

In my class today we talked about how the cultural capitals of the past always had a surrounding hinterland. Paris was surrounded by vast stretches of sparsely populated agricultural areas, London had places like Manchester to sustain the rapid growth and cultural consumption. Someone argued that Silicon Valley was/had been the cultural capital of the technological era, and that it had the world as it’s hinterland. But how do you live in that hinterland? We’re in the strange position of privileging the local as far as meatspace goes, and seeking employment in cyberspace. There has been a systemic devaluation of things like books, just because of the sheer number of books being produced, and it has negatively impacted the possibility of the existence of a career creative. But then, the career creative is a recent occupation. Some of the most famous artists of the past were starving, or had the patronage of politically/socially/economically powerful figures, some of them highly questionable in character. So maybe it’s just another cycle, another pattern being repeated. Everything is a remix.

I don’t have any real conclusions about this right now, this is a stream-of-conscious ramble on a topic that has been weighing on me.

If you have any thoughts/contributions/etc. let me know in the comments!

Love,

B