The first two things I want to mention are:
1. Peter Capaldi as the Doctor is brilliant. He gets the character. He gets the intensity, the whimsy, the alienness of it. I think he’s the best Doctor of NuWho yet. Yes, even better than David Tennant.
2. Clara finally became a real character. Whether you liked who she became or not is another issue. She stopped being an object, a puzzle, and became a fully realized character. About fucking time.
Now, onto my thoughts about Series 8. How can I sum it up? Oh yeah: Are you freaking kidding me?
Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. There were definitely some truly stand-out episodes this series. Listen, Time Heist, The Caretaker, Mummy on the Orient Express, and Flatline were absolutely wonderful episodes. I truly enjoyed the way they played with the idea of The Doctor questioning his purpose, his goodness as a person. I also liked seeing Clara transform from someone who questioned the Doctor’s motives into someone who understood and eventually employed them herself. Did the Doctor become more human? Did Clara become less human? All great questions.
I did not like the whole Danny/Clara relationship. Mostly because it lacked real emotional resonance. They went from associates to people who dated to something serious far too quickly. I disliked Danny giving Clara ultimatums and putting her in a position where she needed to lie. I didn’t feel like he’d earned that power over her. And ultimately, their resolution felt both forced and emotionless. In fact, Danny’s relationship with the young boy he accidentally killed, and the sacrifice he made for that boy carried more emotional weight than his entire relationship with Clara.
I also didn’t like Danny’s relationship with the Doctor. The whole “the Doctor hates soldiers” bit was awkward. Danny hadn’t earned the right to treat the Doctor that way. Maybe if he’d traveled with the Doctor more it could have worked. But the constant saluting and the Doctor’s incessant need to demean Danny all felt very forced.
I’m of mixed feelings about the way the Doctor spoke to Clara, constantly putting her down. I’ll admit that I laughed, but I also come from a family where that’s how we treat each other. We pick and joke and make fun of each other in good fun. It’s a joke in my family that you’re not one of us until you can dish it out as well as you can take it. That said, I read a particular Tumblr post where a little girl who looked up to Doctor Who heard the things the Doctor said to Clara and it made her feel ashamed about herself. So while I saw the good-natured banter, I can see how others might see the Doctor demeaning Clara, and that’s not good.
I rather enjoyed Missy as The Master, though I know she was a divisive choice. However, that entire two-part episode was one giant, gaping plot hole that made zero sense. And I say this as a veteran of the Russell T. Davies era of nonsensical, plot-hole-laden finales. But the difference between Moffat and RTD is that RTD always nailed the character and emotional character arcs, and Moffat gets so caught up in his plots that he forgets we need to give a shit about the characters for it to mean anything.
I also can’t decide if Moffat was having some good-natured fun with his fans by killing off Osgood (a clear stand-in for Doctor Who fans) and Seb (with his “Squeeee” moment) or was thumbing his nose at Fandom. To be honest, it felt like the latter. He did something similar with his episode of Sherlock The Empty Hearse where he poked fun at fan theories for how Sherlock could have survived his jump off the building in the Season 2 finale. If I’m being honest, it felt mean spirited, but that’s just my personal opinion and may have no basis in reality.
Overall, great acting from Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, with some standout episodes, couldn’t save the overall arc of the season. If Moffat had spent less time building his absolutely ridiculous plot for Missy to destroy the world and more time focused on building characters, this could have been the best season of DW yet. Unfortunately, as with most seasons of Moffat’s run, I’m left wondering whether I’ll want to tune in next season. Of course I will because I adore Doctor Who, but I’m not sure how much more Moffat I can take. He doesn’t seem to exhibit the same kind of love for the show and characters that RTD did, and is treating it like just another sci-fi property. I hope he gets his act together or moves on.
See, that’s the problem with me. I can’t just sit down and say, “I’m going to write a book about a boy who turns into a tree and scares crows.” I have to wander through a dozen different stories, often dragging the same characters along with me, before I figure out what I’m trying to write. It’s a super-fun process (except for the part where I draft bits and pieces of a dozen novels before I settle on the one I’m actually going to finish), but it turns out that I’m nowhere near the right stage to make it work with NaNo.
But that’s the thing about doing this writing thing seriously: every day is NaNo. I will still write every single day. And by the time I finish whatever book I end up writing, it’ll be the product of months spent sitting in front of my computer and many cups of coffee.
So for those of you still working your way toward 50k words, I say: good luck!
So I have to wonder: am I still really doing NaNo or am I just writing like I always do? This story I’m writing has really captured my imagination even though I’m not entirely certain what it’s about. Of course, that’s how most of my books begin. The last manuscript I completed began life as a haunted house story, morphed into a murder mystery, then into a murder mystery on a space station, before finally becoming a strange little book about aliens and alienation and suicide and the end of the world. Most everything I write begins its life as something else. I have no idea what this book is going to end up as, but it’s beginnings are keeping me interested, so that’s always a plus.
I missed posting some word counts, so here they are:
Day 6: 2933
Day 7: 1881
Day 8: 2080
Day 9: 2996
So far, my average words per day are 2335.
So I’ve been sitting here for twenty minutes trying to write a post. I’ve written 500 words, deleted them, written 500 more and deleted those too. It’s because I want to write something long and scathing that expresses how annoyed I am. I’m annoyed because someone questioned why I forced a gay couple into FML. As if there needs to be a reason for someone who isn’t white, heterosexual, male, able-bodied, cis-gendered to be in a book. As if that one aspect of their life has to define their whole place in the story. It doesn’t. It really fucking doesn’t.
Over 20% of the population of Florida identities as Hispanic. In Miami-Dade County, it’s 65%, Broward County is almost 30%, and Palm Beach County is 20%. The percentage of people who identify as African American is 17% in Florida, 19% in Miami-Dade, 30% in Broward County, and 19% in Palm Beach County. Both Deathday and FML are located in fictional towns in South Florida, which is made of up Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. If those books had contained only white characters they wouldn’t have accurately reflected the realities of the places the occupied. Cassie is mixed race Black and Cuban. Why? Because she is, that’s why. Is there some rule that a minority character has to have angst over their minority status in order to justify their inclusion in a book? If there is then that rule is bullshit.
Ben and Coop are a gay couple. Why did I include them in FML? Because I could. Because I’m gay. Because I have gay friends. Because lots of straight people have gay friends. Because I have gay readers. Because gay people are people first and gay second.
Ben and Coop aren’t in the story because they’re gay, they’re in the story because they’re great characters. They’re in the story because they’re a stable, loving couple that provides a necessary contrast to hormone-driven Simon and his unrealistic expectations of a romance with Cassie. They’re in the story because they provide some much needed levity. Their story isn’t about being gay, it’s about supporting Simon as they simultaneously grapple with their decision to lose their virginity to each other. Would any reader have asked why I’d included them if they were a heterosexual couple? Hardly. And the proof is in the majority of books published today.
They’re flawed, I’m not going to say they’re not. An astute reader pointed out to me that they made too much of a show of how much they loved each other when I’d made it perfectly clear through their actions. That’s a case of me not trusting the reader enough, something I need to be better at. But they’re not extraneous characters. FML doesn’t work without Ben and Coop. Simon drives the story, but Ben and Coop are the brains and heart of it. What does it matter that they’re gay? Why does being gay mean they have to do more to justify their place in the story? There are a hundred kids at the party in FML, why do the two gay kids have to justify their inclusion? Why does Cassie have to justify being mixed race? Why does Eli have to justify being Jewish? Diversity in books isn’t a checkbox, it’s the reality of life.
Just because the default in books and movies seems to be male/white/cis-gendered/heterosexual doesn’t mean that any character who doesn’t fit that narrow mold needs to justify their inclusion. Fuck that, that’s not the world around us. That’s not reality. And if you feel like they do need to justify their inclusion, ask yourself why. Ask yourself why any person would ever need to justify their existence to you. Then ask yourself how you’d answer if they demanded the same of you.
To close, I want to point you to this fantastic study done by Malinda Lo over at DiversityInYA.com breaking down the percentage of books featuring diverse characters. She looked at 123 books in the 2013 PW best books list and found that only 19% featured diverse characters. Now compare that to another study Malinda Lo did that looked at the percentage of diverse books that were banned where she found that 52% of the most banned books featured diverse content. Draw your own conclusions.
Yesterday was a lost cause. I had to go into the office, which requires waking up at 5am, driving 93 miles there, dealing with nonsense, and driving 93 miles back. It pretty much wrecks me for the rest of the day.
But missing a writing day isn’t a big deal so long as you get right back to it the next day. Which I did. I pulled 3648 words today. Not terrible.
The thing you realize when you transition from taking your writing seriously one month a year to every month is that every month is NaNo. Writing offers few days off, no medical benefits, and no sick days. You have to really want to write to make it. I hope you make it.
Why am I doing this to myself? That’s what I keep wondering. You know, it’s not enough to write 1 book, but I’m actually trying to write two, while also balancing Violent Ends, and some other stuff. It’s because I’m a masochist. That must be it. Hell, I think all writers must secretly be masochists. Actually, I think the real reason is that I’m desperately trying to keep myself busy so that I don’t think about the fact that The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes out in less than 90 days. I always say that reviews don’t matter and that all I care about is that I wrote the best damn book I could, and that’s true, but I want to keep writing books, and in order to do that, I need people to buy them and love them and force their friends to buy them and love them. Whenever I read a book I love, I just want to tell the whole world about it, and I hope people will feel that way about Five Stages.
The release has also started me thinking about how how I can help the queer community at large. There weren’t a ton of websites or organizations when I was dealing with coming out. I was an occasional contributor for an online site called OASIS, but there was little interaction. This was in like 1997, before Twitter and Facebook…even before Myspace. I wrote a couple of editorials for XY Magazine, which, looking back, was barely a step above soft-core porn despite their mission to help gay youth. But now there are some really amazing sites and resources to help connect gay youth with the help and knowledge they need, and I feel like I could do a better job supporting them.
See? That’s how preoccupied with Five Stages I am. I started a post about NaNo and went off on a tangent. So, what was my word count for the day? A respectable 3708…most of which I actually think is pretty damn good. One book manages to reference cryogenics, a cross-dressing Civil War soldier, hurricanes, and a dog painted like a dinosaur. The other one is much stranger.
But I did learn one important thing while writing today: communicating without dialog is freaking hard.
So day 1 of NaNo is over for me (mostly because I’m exhausted but also because it’s time to watch Doctor Who!), and my count for the day is 2180. Not a bad start, but beginnings are always difficult. Especially if you’re a pantser like me. Coming up with names and backstories and all those little details that I need in the beginning of a story always trips me up. But once I get familiar with my characters, everything begins to flow much easier.
But if you’re like me, and you’re pantsing it through the beginning of NaNo, the most important thing to do is not to get too bogged down in coming up with all those details. Taking five minutes to come up with a name or look for a detail is fine, but the goal of your first draft is to just get the words down and figure out the story. So if you have to, just write [NAME] and move on. You can do the research later. I find a lot of people get tripped up because they spend more time researching than actually writing. That’s a trap that’s easy to fall into, but also easy to avoid. I use the Freedom App to shut off my internet. Best money I ever spent.
So, if you’ve done your words, go eat a cookie. If you haven’t, go eat a cookie and then sit your ass down and write.
Yeah…I’m probably doing it. I really, really don’t have time. I got cut to part time at my day job so I need to pick up some freelance work (If you know anyone who needs web design, book marks, editing, query editing, FileMaker Database or SQL design work, send them my way!), and I’m working on a YA right now…as well as the stories for Violent Ends, but I’ve had this idea for an adult story that I’ve been considering for a while, so I figured, why the hell not.
I’ve done NaNo once before, and it was a blast. The book I wrote was a MG mess, but it was still fun and I’m looking forward to writing with that kind of crazed abandon agian. There’s only one thing you need to do to win NaNo:
And, yes, I have updated my website, thanks for noticing! I thought it was time to spruce the place up a little. I moved my blog over from Blogger to my actual site, so the design is all consistent now.
See you on November 1!
It’s been a busy couple of weeks! I got some great news last week that The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley is going to be translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil, which to me is just amazing and humbling.
- Kendare Blake
- Steve Brezenoff
- Delilah Dawson
- Trish Doller
- Margie Gelbwasser
- Christine Johnson
- E.M. Kokie
- Cynthia Leitich Smith
- Tom Leveen
- Hannah Moskowitz
- Elisa Nader
- Beth Revis
- Mindi Scott
- Brendan and Neal Shusterman
- Courtney Summers
- Blythe Woolston