My Dad read my first novel chapter by chapter as I was writing it. It was really great to hear his encouraging feedback such as, “Just keep it up!” or (my favorite) “Your book is pretty good, Elise!” My dad is a very intelligent man, but a literary critic he is not. However, looking back, I think this was the perfect kind of feedback for me–it doesn’t influence my story or my writing style. It was especially perfect for the flow I had going for my first book–I just needed to get all that writing out there, and Dad’s feedback was perfect for that as it kept me going. Waiting for Dad to finish up another book he was currently reading as I began to compose chapters of the second novel, I began to get anxious to see how it read for the first time for a fresh reader. Finally, today he started it! And I was pleased to see that his critique capability is getting better–we actually had a conversation about the nuances of one of my main characters and how she is reacting to the major plot conflict in the story. I fully value both kinds of input my dad has given me; it is so nice to talk about your writing with someone who truly cares and who will give you an honest opinion. And, while I intend to fully remain true to the way my characters speak to me in my own mind, I appreciate hearing the way a fresh reader perceives the text–because that is truly who the book is for, the readers, and having feedback from a fresh reader along my writing journey is a great asset.
Month: April 2015
I’m getting into the flow of writing the second book of my trilogy, Inductance; I’m in “The Twin Towers” phase of my trilogy writing experience (for all my fellow Lord of the Rings fans out there). And I’m not sure how I feel about it. I have read enough fiction series in the process of inhaling books which I have been engaged in my entire life to know that a second book in a series has a certain tone about it–not just a tone, the volume is usually jam-packed with exciting events and plot escalations. I fell into the first step of sequel-ing easy enough–the subtle re-hashing and reminding readers of what happened at the end of the previous book while not being too didactic or repetitive–but the next step of really cramming in the action events might come a little less naturally to me. I really enjoyed the first book in the series flow that Capacitance had–the introduction of characters, the inclusion of many small details about characters and surrounding to set the tone and get readers acquainted with the new world I had created. However, now I am faced with the necessary task of ramping things up; the characters have been established and now it’s time to use the foundation I built in the first book. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am an author without a cut and dry plan, so this is why the action packed structure of the second book is slightly intimidating as it inevitably requires more structure. That being said, I am flowing pretty well into the second book (just about to wrap chapter seven tonight), so I just need to hold onto that confidence and perhaps use the need for building action as my own test to build on my skill at developing plots and challenge my usual method of “play it by ear” writing. Now, back to work on chapter 7; putting in these late nights to finish up a chapter is what makes the pages pile up!
AgentQuery.com: The Querying Author’s Bible
Exciting news today: I finally got my synopsis trimmed down to size! It’s lean enough, in fact, that I can go back and add a little more detail, which is music to my ears after the painful, stripped down process of creating my synopsis. My most helpful source in looking up how to format a synopsis was AgentQuery.com. This is a fantastic website, not only because it includes a searchable database of literary agents who are currently accepting queries, but also because of its section containing specific guidelines on how to format those queries you will send off. From email queries to snail mail queries, AgentQuery has all the specific guidelines needed to make your submission most successful. Seriously, every little detail is discussed. When I wanted to know how to format my novel title in my synopsis, I went to the section on formatting a synopsis and quickly found my answer. I also discovered that a synopsis can be up to three pages long–which was the best news I have heard lately as my synopsis was stuck one paragraph long of two pages. Now I know that is actually an acceptable length–hooray! While I am still new to the whole process, AgentQuery has by far been the most valuable resource I have found. I have already spent a lot of time perusing the agents and reading the submission and query guidelines–the amount of instructions and knowledge on the site can be overwhelming, but I like to see this as a wealth of knowledge there for my benefit. I am glad to have these myriad resources at my fingertips whilst treading the unknown waters of gaining a literary agent. I know I will be using this resource daily, and I suggest anyone working on their own query or synopsis to check it out as well!
Today my baby blog is one week old, and even though everything is very fresh, I wanted to say thank you to my brand new followers who have liked, and even left comments on, my posts! As writers, we are different creatures than most–prone to tuck ourselves away in front of the computer writing or curled on the couch engrossed in yet another book. By default, writing is a lonely practice as it is a task one embarks on individually. This is why community, support and feedback is so important, and why I am so glad to get another avenue of that from my blog. When I first started seriously writing my novel, I reached out to two of my favorite former English professors from my alma mater who were published authors; it made me feel inspired and encouraged to start exchanging emails with them. I am excited to attend my first writing conference in two weeks in Las Vegas, where I am not only excited to personally connect with agents, but am also thrilled to have the opportunity to interact with more of my fellow writers! Once again, thanks to all the likes and follows so far on a constant chiaroscuro–stay posted for more on my conference prep and perhaps posting some writing samples from my novel!
If someone asked to see the outline I worked from when writing Capacitance, I would have nothing to show. There are those authors who work the story from back to front and those who work it from front to back–I am definitely a front to back type of writer. So front to back that I don’t really even know what the “back” is going to be. Of course, this kind of improvisational writing only works if you are very confident in your characters and have a couple major plot events already in mind as you begin writing. For me, I knew there were a couple twists and turns I wanted to throw into Capacitance, and I just trusted the writing and inserted these events whenever the proper chapter came up. Thus, it came as a total shock to me when I actually finished my first book–I had no outline to tell me I was getting close, just a feeling that it was time to wrap up this first segment of the trilogy. That, and the fact that the word count was nearing 86,000. Not everyone can write like this, and I actually applaud and have some jealousy for those that do work from an outline as occasionally the extreme uncertainty and flexibility of where my story might go causes me stress. Now, moving into the next book, Inductance, I am totally in my improvisational element as the plot of the story gets thicker and thicker. I want to keep the story exciting, but I also want to stay true to my characters–I am constantly reminding myself who they are and what they personally would do or how they would react to a situation. I think it is this train of thought, concentration and focus on the characters as their own independent entities which helps me guide the story along; I find that I don’t need an outline, but rather by staying true to the characters I have created, they can lead the story to where it needs to be.
Yesterday I took the day off. Out of my office, away from my computer, mini road trip kind of day off. It was nice to get out and enjoy the beautiful golden sunshine of a mellow spring day instead of cursing the piercing shaft of sunlight which always blazes through my office window directly into my retinas as I am trying to write; however, I found myself unable to fully relax the entire day. I felt a strange sense of guilt that I was not sitting at my computer, researching literary agents, practicing my query letters and–most importantly–writing another chapter in my second novel. The latter nagged on my mind the most–I’ve come to realize a certain irritability I take on when there is a chapter of my story sitting in my mind, waiting to be drawn out into words. This feeling can make going to the grocery store an even more tedious task, and can even cause regret at having to attend a social event that would, in most cases, be fun. For me, the feeling was most intense on my drive back home; the day was over, fun was had, but now I wanted more than anything to finish that chapter. It was like a compulsion in my brain while the rest of my body screamed with fatigue. It was very late when I got home and I sat down the days’ shopping spoils in my bedroom, fully intending to forge on into my office and hammer out the chapter, but then my french bulldog, Indy, jumped up on my bed and presented me with the saddest puppy dog eyed plead for sleep I had ever seen, and I relented. In the fresh light of this morning (yes, I am currently wearing a hat to shield my eyes from the eastward facing office window blaze at this moment), I am glad I waited to write my chapter; my brain is fresher after a night of sleep, and I am much more motivated to write now that I’ve had to wait a day. My challenge to myself is to enjoy those days off, savor those necessary distractions and come back to write with even more energy and determination.
When I tell someone that I am writing a book, their inevitable response is to ask me what it is about; it is a question which is both delightful and dreadful to me–while I love nothing more than sharing my creation with other people (this is, after all, the main draw to getting published), the act of summarizing 86,000 words of painstakingly constructed texts is challenging to say the least. This problem has led me to fumblingly brief explanations that don’t do my work any semblance of justice, or a lengthy saga encompassing way too many details to be called a summary–the most notable of the latter explanatory events involved a one good friend, a couple glasses of wine and a “summary” which took me at least half an hour to explain. However, now, with writers’ conferences coming up, and query letters to be written, the time of the shoddy summary must come to an end. I will not lie and say I am not daunted, nervous and very tempted to procrastinate. However, throughout the process of writing my book, I have learned that just applying oneself to a task generally yields more results than not trying at all! Luckily, I have found some great sources to help with writing a good synopsis, such as this article: http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/how-to-write-a-synopsis.html# If anyone reading this has any other tips or sources on writing a synopsis or query letter which they would like to share, this newbie to the writing/publishing scene would love your recommendations!
As with all of the challenges that I have faced with my writing, I need to face the synopsis with the same confident attitude that I developed while writing Capacitance–no matter how daunting the task, the process becomes much easier once you believe in yourself and begin.