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! 🙂
Last week, I started re-reading Lord of the Rings for probably the fifth or sixth time. It has been about three years since I’ve read it, so I am definitely due for a read. That the series is my favorite work ever is reconfirmed every time I give it a read. Although I know what will happen, the writing draws me in every time. It feels like a sort of coming home, a tradition of familiarity in the comfort of immense talent–a perfect nostalgic sense to evoke during the holiday season!
This go-around, I actually read something new in the book–the author’s note in the forward. I claim to love Tolkien, but for some reason my anxious mind always wanted to get to the story and skipped over this part. Now, being an author myself, I found this segment fascinating to hear another author’s perspective. One quote really stood out to me. Tolkien was speaking about readers’ questions about whether or not the story was an allegory to the current events during the time of writing (WWII). Tolkien had this to say:
“I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.” –J.R.R Tolkien
This quote really spoke to me as a former English major. I couldn’t begin to guess hour many hours of explication and class discussions we spent trying to figure out the “author’s true meaning” in everything from works of poetry to novels. Admittedly, historical evidence does show that some works are meant to be allegorical (Spenser’s “The Faerie Queen” comes directly to mind), however, I like Tolkien’s view to consider applicability. Part of the beauty in a work of literature lies in the unique impression it gives to each individual reader. If a Lord of the Rings fan wanted to apply the context of WWII to the trilogy, and that gave the work more meaning to them, they are free to do so (although Tolkien might argue some of their points on the matter!).
Literature is not only the author’s freedom to write what words he will, but also the reader’s freedom to interpret or apply the words in the way that makes sense to him. It should not be the author’s task to move every single reader to the exact same conclusion or interpretation as that would take the magic of the human mind out of the equation.
Last week marked some great progress in my writing journey. As I already reported, I finished the dreaded Chapter 14. After this hurdle, I then went on to complete Chapter 15 and a part of Chapter 16. I feel my mind humming with ideas once again and I am feeling much more centered and confident about finishing out the trilogy.
That is my strategy, I have decided. Finish the trilogy is my first priority. This activity will be interspersed with editing the still-unpolished Inductance manuscript. Once the trilogy is complete, I will begin the process of rewriting from the beginning. I decided to do it this way because I think rewriting will be much easier if I can think of the story cohesively as a whole rather than as separate books. Since I write from improvisation for the most part, it is difficult for me to see the big picture and overarching plot of the story. Once this is in place upon the completion of the trilogy, it will be easier to go back and find places that can be repaired, omitted or added to.
At times, it is rather like feeling my way through the dark when it comes to writing. I am not sure where I am going, or if I am taking things in the right direction by the right methods. All I can do is find my path with what feels right, and I am glad to be back on a solid path with this plan. Truly my mind has not been able to commit itself to the rewrite, and having a first draft of Resistance completed will allow it some vacant space to devote to rewriting.
I think there are two schools of thought on going back and re-reading an in-progress manuscript. Some would say that it alters the natural flow of the story, while others would say that it can be a useful tool. I have never subscribed to one particular opinion or the other–not spending extensive time on re-reading, but gaining confidence every now and then by skimming back over a chapter.
However, this week, I must say I wholly believe it can be helpful to go back and read what you have written so far. Especially if you are feeling stuck or down on your confidence. Going back and revisiting the scenes you’ve created can be empowering–if you did it before, you can do it again. Plus, if you’re like me and have been taking big chunks of no-writing vacation time, it’s been awhile since you’ve written those first chapters! Revisiting refreshes the story line.
Since I don’t write with an outline, re-reading was especially helpful for me as I work to get back in the flow. When I wrote Capacitance, I was writing a chapter a day quite steadily, thus the structure of my story was easy to keep fresh in my mind. I would frame chapter by chapter, knowing innately where the story had been as I improvised, so to speak, on where it would be led. I started Resistance over a month ago, so the segue from chapter to chapter is much more disjointed. Going back and re-reading helped with this as I try to get back on a more rigorous writing schedule. During the course of the re-read, I also uncovered a fact about the story which I had been needing to double check to proceed with writing.
All in all, the re-read was empowering and helpful. It reminded me that I am a good writer as well as refreshing some facts I need to keep at the top of my mind to continue the story.
I must admit, I am suffering some burnout lately. Since being a writer is an intrinsic part of my nature as an individual, it is hard not to let personal stresses affect the artistic side of me as well. When I get down, my confidence gets weak and it’s easy for old insecurities and habits to take over. Chapters loom way too large in my mind and seem so daunting that the words never make it to the page. My story feels like it is becoming repetitive in the plot buildup. Questions of what should happen next in the story? Am I making the right plot move? give way to the ultimate decision to sit and think on it longer. Thus words are trapped in my mind, leaving me feeling lazy and unfulfilled, compounding the stress I already am experiencing.
On top of this, I have not been putting myself out there in the querying world as much as I should. Part of it has been due to travels, but also a part of it is this same burnout. Denials do affect me–as much as I say they don’t! It’s more of a subtle, underlying effect that builds up and eats away at confidence in my novel. Lately, I haven’t even gotten any denials. And I still haven’t heard back from the agent who requested my full. This strange silence is ominous, and also has taken my focus off of contacting agents.
I know I need to hone in and start getting my focus back and beat burnout. I need to start making querying goals for myself and meet them. I will start small and build up so that I don’t get overwhelmed. Re-reading my work has always been a confidence booster for me, so I will go back and read the eight chapters of Resistance that are finished so far. That should hopefully not only give me confidence in my storytelling, but also spark some confidence in the trajectory of the plot line. Once I get in the flow of producing chapters and continuing work to get myself out there with agents, I know I will feel better. I’m learning that as an author, not only will seasons create slumps, but personal stress will reduce output. What’s an artist without a melancholy stage, I suppose?
Stay tuned tomorrow for a special blog tour post and a chance to win an Amazon gift card, sponsored by Inklings Literary Agency! 🙂
Hello all! I have been gone for quite an extensive amount of time as I was on my family vacation to Colorado. It was a great time and my Dad, Uncle and I ended up summiting nine 14ers (mountains over 14,000 ft. high!). While I did not get any writing done during the trip as my time was spent either climbing, eating or sleeping, the trip was great for meditative purposes. Being in Colorado was also interesting for exploring more of my setting. This is a fact that I tried to make rather subtle in the books, but the setting is based on a post-apocalyptic Denver area. I have always loved Colorado and the mountains, so I wanted my book to be set here in this MidWest/Rocky Mountain region. I don’t digress down this line of thought often as I like readers to engage with the characters rather than the history of their setting. However, I like to think that the Midwest would be the obvious place for a post-apocalyptic world to be set in–a major world crisis or war would wipe out the coastal metropolises, thus people who survived would be centrally located. This is about as far as I will go right now on that line of thought as I do want the history and what happened to create the world Mara and Runey live in now to maintain an aura of mystery so readers can ask and fill in their own questions.
While my thoughts on the trail didn’t focus specifically on Resistance itself, now that I am back I feel like some ideas and themes have really settled themselves in for me. Taking a break from the story was definitely a good thing; as I have mentioned, it has gotten very dark and getting away from that for a bit was good mental relief. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say this book is causing a lot of pressure for me. Resistance is the last book in the trilogy and i feel like there are a lot of loose ends to tie up in a powerful, elegant and gripping way. This is a trifecta that is hard to achieve. However, by setting the scene of the first few chapters as so dark and heavy, I think I have done the first step in giving the right tone for an elegant yet gripping finish. Now I just need to get back in the swing of writing! This is my first year of being a serious author, and I have learned a lot so far. One of the most important things I have learned is that I am definitely going to be a writer who has “seasons.” There will be times of the year (summer!) where I don’t get as much written, and I need to accept this. It doesn’t make me a better or worse author and it doesn’t make me lazy. Finding a balance between life and writing is a delicate process and I am gradually learning to realize that my winter page output is simply going to be more than that of my summer output.
Finally, I did contact the agency who had requested my full manuscript. Their submission guidelines said to do this if two months had passed without a response after a manuscript request. I have heard that you aren’t supposed to be too hasty with follow-up as it takes agents a long time to get through their piles of slush, so I was very glad the agency website had such specific guidelines about when to touch base. I haven’t gotten a response yet, so the waiting continues! Some things in my personal life are starting to come together for me, so I am hoping the agent hunt can be another thing falling into place! Wish me luck! 🙂
Many of my followers’ comments on the chapters of Capacitance I have posted thus far have concerned the richness of the description of the setting and characters. Certainly exposition has been both a strength and a weakness for me as a writer. I’ve had the tendency to lean on it too heavily, but it has also enriched my storytelling ability (as some of you have pointed out).
There is a fine line between too much and too little exposition. I personally lean towards too much, simply because I enjoy the details. I love picturing a character’s outfit in my mind and describing it on the page. Filling and furnishing the place where a character lives is really fun for me as I was (for a brief semester) an interior design student. It’s just too much fun to give Mara’s penthouse black obsidian rock countertops when I don’t know if this is even possible or practical in real life (I certainly don’t have the budget to find out!). This is the magic of storytelling—as a writer, I have the ability to create whatever I want and place it on the page.
However, as a storyteller I hold a lot of power, and with that power comes responsibility. I have an obligation to the reader to give up some of that creative magic and leave some spaces free of description to allow their minds to fill in the gaps. This is one allure that draws readers to books; reading allows them to exercise their imagination and creativity. The story never looks the same in each individual reader’s mind. Hearkening back to Tolkien, for example, my dad was an avid reader of Lord of the Rings when he was in high school and college. Of course, we went to see the movies (maybe three or four times!) when they came out. My dad commented how different the settings were in the movie as opposed to what he had seen in his mind. He specifically mentioned Rivendell; while Peter Jackson styled the Elvish haven in a classic, fantasy style, Dad had always visualized the dwellings and structures as a more modern architectural style. I have always found this very interesting, and it is a phenomenon made possible by the fact that Tolkien simply did not go into detailed description of the architectural style of Rivendell. Thus, my dad, Peter Jackson, and each reader (whose original vision wasn’t skewed by the movies like mine was) is able to have their own, unique view of the setting.
Capacitance may have too much exposition at times, but I believe it is necessary. It helps draw readers into the world and helps them get closer to the characters. I do not have the enormous burden of a heavy fantasy to build as Tolkien did. Instead, I am attempting in this first installment of the trilogy, to draw readers closer to the characters themselves, to build a connection with them that will carry through in the events to come. Inductance does not have as much exposition. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the second installment of my trilogy is very action packed and quick paced. In Capacitance, I introduced readers to the characters and showed their potential; now, in Inductance, they are using that potential and events are happening rapidly. I wanted the plot to move fast, and exposition—by default—slows the plot down by forcing readers to take time to consider and visualize.
Tomorrow I will be posting more thoughts on Inductance. I have made a lot of progress this week, and I’m excited to share. Until then, have a wonderful Thursday!
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!