I posted earlier this week about being energized, so now I am happy to say I have had a good writing week as a result. Yesterday was a great writing session. I had been working on Chapter 19, and it was the same old routine. I start it out, knowing everything that needs to happen and then it stagnates halfway through because I get bored with the writing. Typically this is because it is deciding action leading up to some exciting action that I can’t wait to write about. I’m impatient to get there and so I end up getting frustrated and letting it sit. This week is a victory because while this happened twice, I made myself go back each time and slog through it. Thus, I have two finished chapters here on Friday and that is something that hasn’t happened in a long time!
Yesterday, when I sat down to hammer out the rest of 19, one of these great moments occurred where your characters take over your brain and your fingers type out some crazy stuff you hadn’t planned on. For the first time, I was writing an entire chapter in the POV of one of my secondary characters. This refreshing change naturally leads to better character development, but the end of the chapter spelled out some feelings that I had never anticipated putting into words. So now there is another layer in my plot, and that was much needed. Now the reader will go into the big action scene coming up with yet another layer of dramatic tension in their mind. That’s always a good thing. There is still quite a ways to go, but I have mapped out a couple defining events that should propel things forward faster. And all the characters should be back in one general setting soon, so that is sure to provide some dramatic material.
The world is a noisy busy place. Constantly, we are surrounded by facets of distraction. Our phone needs monitored for pivotal social media updates, our dogs need to go for a walk, that work project deadline is looming. It’s hard to find space to create in all this jumble. Being a writer, it is even more challenging as my canvas is attached to the prime agent of distraction–my computer/the internet. Some days I sit down and feel like I can’t have a coherent thought, let alone finish a sentence.
It’s easy to get caught up and find yourself at the end of the week with nothing of creative merit stacked up to your name, and then get funneled into the weekend hoping to just relax for a moment. When our minds are so busy like this, downtime and relaxation are important, but when you’re a creative, even vegging out in front of the TV can cause anxiety because you know you could be putting your mind to better use.
Or at least that’s how my brain functions. If yours is anything like mine, you know the feeling. But you also need to recognize the power of sub-cognitive functions. While you are lounging on the couch, stuffing your face with pizza and downing wine, perhaps the film you are watching will inspire you in ways you never would have thought. During those extra lazy hours of sleeping in on Sunday, you might have a dream which solidifies a loose end of a story line. Our brains are working all the time, and are naturally focused on matters most important to us. As creative souls, these matters tend to be our art.
If this still isn’t reassuring, and your brain works like mine on twelve layers at once like some really magnificent cake, then consider this. Even when I am working on tax forms, balancing the books, planning a fashion blog, and playing fetch with my bulldogs in some chaotic ballet of working from home, my novel’s story is ALWAYS in the back of my mind. I don’t have to peel away many layers to discover the thread. My mind is continually churning away at it, waiting for that facet to be brought to the forefront when I finally close out of Facebook and open up Microsoft Word–even if that takes a couple days.
Lately I have been experiencing a much-needed burst of energy in my life in general, but also in my writing. The ideas for the ending of my trilogy are still not quite there, but I have enough of an interesting fomentation of concepts that I am comfortable enough to continue blazing forward (hopefully into a sunset of glory that is a perfect ending to the trilogy).
Aside from my renewed motivation to work on Resistance, Capacitance has also sparked some interest in my mind again. I received an email from an agent who requested to see it at the WLT conference last June (yes, it sometimes takes them THAT long to respond). It was a very nice rejection email. Even though it was a rejection, the key statement I grabbed was, “I think this is a story with legs.” To me, after months of wallowing in the despair of the over-saturated dystopian lit market, this was music to my starving ears! This agent is looking for smart science fiction, and he sees potential in my story. He also saw my not-pub ready narration. If you are a first-time author reading this, I cannot stress this enough–DO NOT, DO NOT (SERIOUSLY DO NOT) SUBMIT YOUR WORK UNTIL YOU HAVE EDITED AND EDITED SOME MORE AND PROBABLY REWRITTEN IT!!! We all do it; we get into a frenzy thinking we are going to be the next Stephen King, our parents/grandparents/etc are telling us we ARE going to be the next Stephen King (actual thing my Grandpa said the other day. Sigh). This frenzy of foreseen fame inflates our egos and has us pressing send on a blind query email and attached sample work from a loosely edited first draft.
I’m being so scathing because I have been there. Despite reading several articles, blog posts, etc. which said the same thing I just vehemently exhorted above. For instance, this agent who just emailed me liked my story, but didn’t like my narration. If I had edited more carefully and spent some time curating a truly polished story would the outcome of that email have been different? Luckily with this agent, I had established a personal connection with him due to actually meeting him at the conference. He is a really nice guy who came off as a jerk when I asked him a question on day one of the conference. On the last day he came up, and apologized for his stand-offishness and asked me to send my work. So when I got his rejection email, I didn’t feel any qualms about sending him a follow up email. I kept it short (key to interaction with agents, by the way), told him I now realized I had jumped the gun on submitting the story, then asked if he would be interested in seeing Capacitance again after a rewrite. The answer, which arrived a mere two days later–much better response time!–was “Sounds great Elise.” This may not amount to anything, but I am more energized to do a rewrite since I know this agent has an interest in my story and has agreed to have a look at it again upon rewrite (HUGE!!).
I put this out in the last blog post, and I will put the call out again. If any of my readers have free time or interest in reading Capacitance and providing me with critique that goes beyond just copy editing, but goes into the scope and feel of the story as a whole, please let me know! I have a few people (outside of my overly supportive nepotistic family) reading it right now and I have found that to be very helpful. After a couple months the sound of rewrite doesn’t sound so terrifying!
When one hears the titles “A Farewell to Arms” or “Jane Eyre,” it is common to think of a literature course. However, these classics have another thing in common–they were both instant bestsellers when they were first released. A friend of mine sent me an email which raised the question, how does a novel go from the bestseller list to the reading list of the classics?
There is no question that Bronte’s classic bildungsroman (coming of age) story and Hemingway’s perfect, crisp prose are works of art. Only a true work of art would inspire the literally throw-the-book-across-the-room rage I felt upon finishing a Farewell to Arms. I can and have written essays on both the content and literary merits of both these novels. However, the question lingers when looking at today’s “popular” fiction. Bronte and Hemingway topped the charts in their respective days, but what about the bestselling books now? Will Twilight and The Hunger Games hit the college classrooms in the future?
This brings up the interesting dichotomy that has sprung up between commercial (think Stephen King, James Patterson) and literary fiction (Ian McEwan, Celeste Ng). Our bestseller lists now are topped with mostly books from the commercial fiction category. Sometimes a literary fiction title will cross over–for example, The Lovely Bones–but usually we are looking at quick reads. As an author and a lover of literature and words, I would be saddened to think that future generations will be studying the literary intricacies of The Hunger Games. I’ll be the first to admit I am a big fan of this series of books and the films, but do I see them as literary art–no.
However, there are valuable popular books that absolutely should end up being studied by posterity. For example, anything by J.K. Rowling is masterful in both her deceptively simple use of the language and her plot development. As an author myself, I try to incorporate a slightly elevated use of the English language into my decidedly commercial fiction novels. There’s no reason to dumb work down–I’m not producing novels for the sole purpose of the sale, the movie deal, the get rich quick dream that many strive for.
I can’t say what the future of literary education and the classics will entail, but one thing I know for certain–future students will almost certainly have a cinematic version of their material to view. Movie day in class is always fun, right?
To end this drought of blog posts, I am exploring another kind of ending which has occupied my thoughts not just today, but for several months now. How do you end a series of novels? I am coming up on this with the Capacitance series as I am about halfway into the manuscript of the final book. It’s an issue that I have avoided since the first word I put on the page of the first novel. My characters came out onto the page and began their stories, got more developed and are all hurtling towards…something?
If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know that my writing style is improvisational. There is no master outline in my office delineating each twist, turn and conclusion of the Capacitance series. My mind has continually surprised me as I go through the writing process by providing these different plot twists and basically showing me where the story is going next. However, here at the end of all things (to quote Frodo Baggins) my improvisational brain is not coming through for me.
As a writer, I go through a lot of self confidence issues with my writing. My mind must turn each idea over and over and go back and forth with an argument on whether these words or ideas are even fit for paper before I can sit down and write. Ending my series is like a giant combination of all these insecurities combined. Will readers like this ending? How the heck do I take so many big issues and solve them all in a satisfying way? Is this idea exciting enough? These are just some of the questions hindering my progress.
Unsurprisingly, I am thinking about it too much. WAY too much. I have half a book left to get it done, after all. The biggest challenge here is just sitting down and getting back to it. I know I have talked about getting into other genres, but I really want to at least take the plot in Resistance to the next step so that it doesn’t totally lose momentum.
If anyone out there is interested in CP’ing or just reading 2.5 manuscripts, I think something really helpful here would be having someone to bounce ideas off of for a potential ending. If this sounds like something you would be interested in doing, drop me a line! 🙂