Mixed Friday Feels

It’s Friday once again…this week, this month, this year have all flown by so quickly! While this week was not much progress as far as pages written, I consider it to be a very productive week as I am finally (finally!) getting out of vacation mode and back into the true swing of things.

I sent out a couple queries yesterday. That’s something I have not done in awhile, and it was done not a moment too soon. Today (just over lunch actually) I received an email from the agent who had requested my full MS at the beginning of the summer. I was sad, but not surprised, to learn that I will not be rounding out the summer by gaining representation from that particular agent. Thank goodness I got this denial today instead of yesterday. Instead of feeling too discouraged by it, I am focused on this new round of queries and energized by getting myself out there again.

Yesterday I also got the chapter of Resistance that had been holding me up finished. This was thanks to re-reading as I was stuck on a certain detail that I couldn’t remember what I had set up earlier in the story. When I went back and read, I found the piece I needed. Also good: this chapter was longer than five pages. I like to keep my chapters short (to make the book more addicting, i.e. “just one more chapter!”), but almost all of my chapters in Resistance were ending up being five pages long. Now that the story can flow more, I should get a few longer chapters to throw in the mix.

So all in all, it was a weird week, but a good week. I am feeling less burned out and hopefully that feeling continues to subside. I mentioned on my Facebook page that I am done posting sample chapters of Capacitance–for now! Show me some love on FB, and here on my blog and I’ll reveal more chapters. It’s up to you guys! πŸ™‚ I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Re-Reading: A Helpful Exercise

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 storyΒ  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.

Battling Burnout

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! πŸ™‚

Friday Updates

I am a little ashamed of this edition of Friday updates as it is not as successful a report as I would like to convey! Once again I am struggling with the pressure to write very quickly but still attending to my other obligations. Nonetheless, I am trying not to judge myself on the lack of chapters written (in the meantime wondering why I set these goals for myself when I know they probably won’t happen).

I wanted to get Resistance done through Chapter 10 by the end of this week as I leave for Colorado tomorrow. It was a rather achievable goal as it required me to write one chapter per day for each day of this work week (my usual pace). However, things got hectic, as I fully knew they would. I had social obligations pop up, an out of town appointment yesterday, and general French Bulldog disasters most days. Plus, I still haven’t packed for my trip (a usual procrastination). Resistance sits calmly waiting for me to pick up and write Chapter 8, and with the to-do list I have for today I’ll be lucky if I get even that done.

All that being said, I still feel good about the manuscript. It is very dark this time around and thus it is harder to submerge myself in the material. The characters are going through some experiences that are hard to write about, but their emotions after these experiences have happened are even harder to convey. I don’t want to stereotype their reactions, or worse (in my opinion) archetype their reactions. I want these characters to be genuine and authentic; while there is, to some extent, an archetypal element in all forms of human behavior, it is important to know about it but still deviate from it in some way that is unique and speaks to your characters. That has been a struggle, but a rewarding one as it forces me to think deeply about the characters as a whole. This third book has a very different feel; I wanted it to be purposefully disorienting both to give the readers a sense of how much Runey and Mara are going through and also to give the book a sense of desperation and urgency. Throughout the trilogy the threat has been veiled and that veil has been sliding off slowly but surely throughout the series–now it has been yanked off to reveal the horrible things it was covering before. It’s a hard thing to deal with as a writer. Gravity and urgency makes for a difficult balance to maintain. And that, friends, is the best I can do to explain myself and lake of prolific-ness with this MS.

Agent updates: Nothing really new to report. I am hearing back from a few queries in the form of denials. The agent who requested my full manuscript has not gotten back to me yet and we are nearing the two month mark in which either she promised to respond and if not I am supposed to drop her a line reminding her. This deadline makes me both nervous and excited. What if I email her only to find out she never got the manuscript as it went to spam or whatnot and thus I have to wait another two months after re-submitting?? Lots of “what-ifs”! I continue to have nothing but great things to say about the agents I met at the WLT Conference. One of them dropped me a quick line to say he got my query and would respond again soon (unheard of!). And another emailed me to say the work wasn’t for him, but he would pass it on to someone in his agency who he thought might be a better fit. So impressed! They are actually real people, you guys! πŸ™‚ Once I get back from vacation, I plan to start another round of querying. I want to try and challenge myself to write one query per day, every weekday. Let’s see if that goal goes by the way of my finishing Chapter 10 this week goal…haha.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! I am going to try and see if I can be technologically savvy enough to set up an automated post for Chapter 10 on Monday. I apologize in advance if I am not bright enough to figure that out. Adios!

Current Progress: #amwriting #amediting

Things have been going as per usual in my writerly life this week–a little progress, a little frustration. Editing Inductance has been my main focus. As I noted last week, the first ten chapters were a little rough around the edges, but now that I am in the thick of things, it is all sounding very good. Shockingly, I do better with a lot of action and tight suspenseful scenes, even though these are the hardest for me to write! Ironically, I enjoy the characters’ relationships with each other and especially the romance aspect of the story, but these sectors are where I see the most need for editing. I suppose this problem arises from the simple fact that–in all actuality–human emotions and relationships are more complex than an action-y, main characters being chased and escaping from danger type of scene. Thus, as opposed to the tight, driving action of the prose, when I am writing emotional scenes or internal dilemma, those sentences tend to get longer and more complex, and need more editorial attention.

On the whole, however, editing has been a very painless process. In fact, it has bolstered my self-confidence! As I am editing along and find myself not wanting to stop because I want to stay immersed in the story, I feel a great sense of pride–I even have myself (the author) hooked on the story! Pride and a sense of accomplishment are great sensations to feel in the author’s cruel world of agent denials and constant self-doubt. The only thing about Inductance which gives me trepidation is the word count–78,000 words is a little slim, compared to Capacitance which stood at 89,000 words. I feel great about the way the story arcs and finds its own sort of resolution and set up for the next novel, but the word count still makes me a little nervous. Perhaps I need to explore the idea of inserting another storyline somewhere in the novel. I have some ideas–for instance one my secondary characters from the first book has not shown her face in the second book. Characters have talked about her, but she is not present. I can’t decide if that’s something I should take up and insert to create a higher word count. However, I had in the back of my mind thought about bringing her back in a certain way in the third book which I think would be very effective. Hopefully, once I get through the initial edit and have the full sense of a straight read through the story I might have a better idea of what to insert.

The final note of progress (which is also a note of frustration) which I have to report this week is that I officially started Resistance! While I had composed the first sentence already, this week I went ahead, swallowed my procrastination and wrote the first chapter. And I absolutely love the way it came out! Now I need to continue this sense of trust in myself and go on to the next chapter. Procrastination still rules as yet, however. For my series, it is more like having to write two first chapters since I have two main characters; each of their individual situations must be initially presented to the reader and that makes things a little more challenging. A jumping off point for the entire novel is always a very delicate and difficult thing to construct. I finally have a free weekend ahead of me though, so I intend to make use of it in true writer’s fashion and get some more words on that page! I hope everyone has a very lovely weekend and I will post Chapter 7 of Capacitance on Monday! πŸ™‚

World Building: A Daunting Task

As I move into my third manuscript (more thoughts on progress tomorrow), world building is on my mind. My characters have moved out of their initial setting, into the world beyond–thus, by default the world is getting bigger and more complex. When I started out writing Capacitance, I, of course, knew much more about the world my characters live in than the reader did (or even than some of the characters themselves knew!). Some people who read my story found this frustrating. I may have spoken about this in a post before, but it is worth mentioning here again; the reactions some readers have to the slow introduction to the world of Mara and Runey. They want to know it all from the beginning–the why, the how, the who… However, inundation is simply overwhelming to the reader. My answer to those readers who wanted answers and specifics and even an entire history of how the world came about is, “Be patient.”

My series is not a hard science fiction or a high fantasy. It is soft science fiction, speculative and a little dystopian. Thus, there are differences between the world of my characters and the world we live in today, but there are also many similarities. This makes it tempting for readers to want to ask how did we get there from here (being the present day). I love the fact that my work and the world the characters live in may bring up these kinds of deep questions. Any SF or Fantasy book whose fictional worlds can cause a reader to question or think deeply about the world they actually live in is, in my opinion, doing a fantastic service to the world of literature. However, how much of the reader’s questions we as authors will answer is a tricky line to tread. How much do we reveal without inundating readers while still satisfying their curiosity?

The answer, for me, lies in a micro to macro approach to the characters and their world. Capacitance starts on the micro level; readers meet the main characters on their campus and don’t know much else at first. As the story progresses, readers learn factors about the larger scheme of things bit by bit. I wanted Capacitance to be mainly about getting to know and connecting to the characters. It isn’t until the end of the novel that the reader really begins to see the true scope of the world. The word ‘capacitance’ means the potential for energy, and the first novel is all about building the spring board that is character development.

Inductance springs the characters off into the world. The second installment was much more about world building. ‘Inductance’ means the flow of energy, and in book 2 the characters are moving out into the world and becoming involved in more action. It was a real struggle for me to make this shift into less character developing and more wold developing. Some of the best world building I did was off the page. Sitting down and taking notes about your world can be a very helpful exercise. Many of these thoughts will never reach the MS page–in fact, many of them shouldn’t–this exercise is more about becoming familiar with your world. That way when you write about it, you have command of your subject. You know things about your world that no one else does. You have secrets, and you’ll keep many of them. The point is to not be didactic in your story. Let the characters make discoveries, let details come out naturally, let nothing be forced.

I am now on the third MS in the series and I am sure that all the questions the more impatient readers had in the first book have still not been answered–maybe they never will be! However, world building remains on my mind as each book goes a little bit deeper into it all. Getting deeper into my world means more serious character development, more new places to be described, more serious themes to face. I’ll leave off on that note as it provides a great segue into what I will be posting about tomorrow. πŸ™‚ Happy Thursday!

Dealing With Dialogue + Chapter 6 Thoughts

Every week when I post a sample chapter I go back and re-read it. Every time I do this, I learn something new about the chapter and think a little deeper about my process as a writer. My initial thoughts from Chapter 6–aside from the impression that I need to go back and weed out some adverbs!–was that the dialogue stuck out to me in this chapter.

Chapter 6 was one of the first chapters that is heavy on the dialogue. We have Runey, Elba, Vance and Mara together for one of the first times and I am just starting to give them their voices. Traditionally, I have always found dialogue a little challenging. If you have even skimmed some of my former blog posts, you will know that I find exposition very compelling, so it is hard for me to break from that and let the characters–literally–speak for themselves. Since I wrote a lot of critical essays in my English literature major in college, I was constantly writing pages of solid prose with no dialogue involved. Thus, dialogue did not come easy to me. I say this in the past tense, because after completing two manuscripts, this is simply not true anymore. While I do love my exposition, my characters’ conversations are easily implemented as well. So this is one area of improvement I have seen in myself as a writer since I composed Chapter 6 of Capacitance.

One other area that I have seen improvement is that my characters’ voices are perhaps a little bit cleaner now. It is a fine balance between giving each character a genuine voice and excluding some of the filler words which are natural in spoken conversation, but can be distracting in a written work. I am talking here about Elba’s “Um”s, Vance’s “Well, you know”s and things like that. We say them all the time in normal conversation, but the characters in a story don’t necessarily need to. As the story goes on, I do clean some of that up. I leave bits like that in if I think it really adds to the voice or the situation, but I think these fillers got a little overboard in Chapter 6.

My biggest insecurity about voice is that I am not going to differentiate it enough between characters and they will all end up sounding the same. It is a huge challenge to attempt to have one’s own voice as a writer and then have to balance the individual voices of all the characters in the novel. I think specifically Elba’s and Vance’s voices are two places I need to watch in Capacitance because I have a sneaking suspicion they may change just a bit as the book goes on, simply because I became more comfortable and in tune with them as characters. However, that’s another round of edits for another day as I am still knee deep in the initial edit of Inductance. With that being said, I am back to editing!

From #AmWriting to #AmEditing : The In-Between Manuscript Process

It’s been a little over a week since I finished up Inductance, but it seems like much longer! So much has happened since then, with my travels to Austin getting into the editing process. Being in between books is a strange and rather uncomfortable place for me now–I am used to always writing and filling parts of my day with putting words on the page. However, I think it is very important for me to take a little breath before I start writing the final book in the trilogy, Resistance.

The first reason for this is, I would like to have a bit more of an idea where the story is going and how it will get there. Right now, I have the first chapter planned out and maybe (maybe) ideas for the second chapter. Ultimately, I know where the story is going to end. However I am not sure how that will come about. As I work through the editing process, I hope to find inspiration for the final installation of my trilogy and have a better grasp of where it is all going. As a pantser writer, though, I don’t need too much direction before I begin!

Already, I feel the compulsion to begin Resistance. I think this is how one knows that the writer’s block and the insecurity and questioning whether you are really good enough to do this has passed. I am now a writer, it is part of my life and essential to my being. When I don’t write (as I haven’t this week) I feel the day lagging by as if some element is missing. So, it won’t be long, I’m sure before I am diving into the writing of my third manuscript. In fact, I already have the first line ready to go. Since it contains no spoilers, here it is: “The house was a beautiful glass prison.” With any luck, you are now asking, “Whose house?” “Why would a home be a prison?” and maybe you’re even intrigued by the conflicting imagery of an institution of confinement (a prison) made out of fragile glass. I’ve not had much luck with first pages before, but I think for once I am more than happy with this opening line. Hopefully the rest of the page, the rest of the chapter, the rest of the novel itself flows out with such confidence.

Until I let that stream of words flow, I am engaged in navigating the rocky waters of the editing process. The first ten chapters of Inductance were ROUGH. My goodness. I couldn’t even get into line by line editing them for content on the page. So much needs to be changed and refined. Refinement is the main issue here–at first I was just writing to write, to get into the characters and the narrative voice of another book. While it is kind of frustrating to look back and see so much work that needs to be done, I know that the reward will be worth it. I know the problems that the MS has presented and now I need to really get in touch with my characters and go back and give them the refined depth they deserve. All the concepts are right there on the page–they are just a little messier than I would prefer! However, I am happy to say that after Chapter 10, I have found everything much more pleasing. It is so crazy that even after having written one full book, it still took me some time with the second to get back into my true narrative voice. This is one reason I won’t be waiting too long to start Resistance; I need to keep the narrative voice fresh.

I hope all my readers in the U.S. have a fun and safe holiday weekend! I will be posting a fresh chapter of Capacitance on Monday! πŸ™‚

Balancing Act: Writing With Two Main Characters

I always knew Capacitance would center around two main characters–from the very first image of inspiration, I knew that the story would involve a romance, and I also knew that I wanted to explore both aspects of that love story, namely both the male and female perspective. By default, the more characters introduced into a story, the more complex it gets, especially if point of view jumps between more than one main character. I have spoke of J.K. Rowling’s masterful handling of this multi-main character challenge in The Casual Vacancy. My story is not as challenging as that since it only concerns two main characters, however, the balance is important to keep readers invested in each of the characters in their own right. 

While writing Capacitance, I more or less stuck to a basic formula of alternating chapters; I would have a Mara chapter then a Runey chapter. These chapters would compliment each other because they would build on the action, but not rehash it. If the narrator never follwed Runey’s tale, the reader would be confused as to Runey’s motives for pursuing Mara, and the love story would not be as fleshed out. By allowing readers to see both sides of the story, they are given more insight and validation for what is happening between Mara and Runey. 

The male protagonist is something that is not always commonly seen in novels. By and large, the majority of today’s readers are women, thus selling to that market is most profitable in the way of book sale numbers. Even in many of today’s bestsellers, the male co-leads are somewhat shallow; you know they are the love interest, and the female lead is beyond dedicated to them, but the story doesn’t really flesh out their characteristics or qualities which make them so compelling. I wanted to create a complicated male co-lead for this series; one that the readers would come to know as innately as Mara. Thus the chapters from Runey’s world show insight into his emotions and way of thought. Writing from the male point of view is a challenge, but I really enjoyed writing Runey’s segment of the story. He has flaws and he makes big mistakes, but ultimately, he becomes a better man for it. 

While writing, I sometimes found myself enjoying Runey’s segments even more than I enjoyed writing Mara. In Chapter 4 we see the first really emotional, inward action on a character’s part, and that is Runey laying in bed with the realization of his loss of Juleia trickling back to him. I related to this scene so deeply and with Runey himself that at first he seemed to almost be taking over as the main character. However, as the story progresses, as you will hopefully someday see, the two really come to balance out and the storylines become equally as compelling, even though I stress out a lot over one not being as exciting as the other. As is so often the answer, the characters will work and speak for themselves and make the story flow as it should. 

One final thing worth mentioning about maintaining this balancing act between two main characters is the use of third person point of view. Since the reader is not being forced to bounce back between two narrative voices, the book has more flow and continuity. The third person narrator bridges the gap between Mara’s chapters and Runey’s chapters creating a cohesion which guides the readers along in a much less disjointed manner. This also makes things less confusing in segments where the two are physically together when a first person voice narrator could get a little tricky. 

Today may be the day I start the final book of the trilogy, so hopefully I can keep my character balance going strong through the final act! I will be posting more on my current writing progress and the in-between books process tomorrow, so stay tuned! πŸ™‚

Writer’s League of Texas Conference #WLT2015

I just returned from my fabulous weekend in Austin–I seriously could not have had a better experience at this conference! I would definitely recommend this conference to any author because of its professionalism and awesome selection of agents. πŸ™‚

The location for the conference was amazing; Austin is a wonderful city and the conference was held at the downtown Hyatt. This made it easy to sight see during down time as many shops, bars and restaurants were within walking distance. However, there was not much downtime because the weekend was packed full of action for writers at the conference! Friday afternoon kicked off with genre meetings where writers of the same genre got together and had a Q&A session with published genre authors. This was a great way to get acquainted with fellow attendees and hear what they were working on. My favorite part of Friday was the evening cocktail reception–and, no, not just because of the wine! Rather, this informal gathering was set up for conference goers to meet the agents and editors that were present. All the agents and editors that were featured in the program WERE present at this cocktail reception, AND they were willing to talk and be pitched to by writers. After attending the Las Vegas conference, I realize how great and important this was. In Vegas, agents were never present during the informal times; they were either hearing pitches, teaching a session, or even hiding in their rooms. The agents at WLT2015 were always there and willing to listen to writers, even though authors were veritably swarming the poor agents! Thanks to this well facilitated reception, by Friday night I already had an agent request pages of my work.

Saturday, I ran into rather the same problem that I had at the Las Vegas conference–most of the sessions and workshops presented information I already was aware of. Thus, the Saturday sessions were more about listening to variations on a common theme. Most sessions were geared towards the business side, and I (once again) went a little heavy on those, but I think it is important to see agents in action, telling you their opinions. It makes them seem like more of human beings and less of heartless entities of rejection. The best part about Saturday were the pitch sessions. Each conference attendee could have two sessions, so I got the chance to pitch to two agents, both of whom were interested in my project and asked to see pages. The first agent I pitched toΒ  was extremely nice and–although he wasn’t sure if he would be taking on a New Adult project–still wanted me to send him material that he would pass on to someone else in his agency who would lean more towards that. My second pitch was great because the agent took a great deal of effort to give me some very helpful tips for getting my pitch down into one line–she then said when I had that one line, I should send it to her along with pages. I thought that was a great opportunity as it gives me the opportunity to prove to her that I took her advice to heart and worked at it. However, possibly my most valuable agent experience was when I ran into an agent from the agency who requested my full manuscript a few weeks ago. I met this other agent by the elevator and casually mentioned that her boss had requested my full manuscript. She was super nice and said she would give Miriam (agent I’m on submission to) a nudge and tell her she had met me.

The best session of the weekend was on Sunday morning when I went to a first page workshop. I absolutely LOVED the advice that was given during that session. The session leader led us through several very successful first pages and pointed out some key elements of writing a good first page. If you have been reading my blog, you know that the first page/chapter of Capacitance has been a struggle, so this class was great for me and has inspired me to maybe give my first page another try before sending it out to more agents. Add to this the fact that even though most of the agents were trying to get to the airport, but they still stopped by the luncheon for last minute connections, and you have the perfect end to a great weekend.

In conclusion, this conference was great and I did learn a few words of advice that I will pass on to fellow writers who might be considering a conference. First of all (and this is most important), DON’T BE NERVOUS when pitching to agents!! Your words come out stilted, you forget things, and–worst of all–you don’t seem sure about yourself or your story. Agents are, at the end of the day, just people and they are nothing to be scared of. If they like you, they are more willing to like your work, so keep it on even ground when talking to them–trust me, they will appreciate it after a day of endless stammers and groveling from the majority of authors. Second, let the experience give you confidence, but don’t let it go to your head. Chances are at a conference, if you have a manuscript finished, you will get asked for material. Yes, that is thrilling, but it doesn’t mean you’ve “made it.” I made that mistake last conference–everyone asked for pages, so I came home with this enormous boost of confidence. However, from my (albeit limited) experience, if you are taking the effort to be at a conference, agents see you are one step ahead of the query slush pile, and thus, they will put you one step ahead and ask for pages almost by default. No matter what, when an agent asks you for pages, you should feel good, but don’t let it get to your head! Finally, don’t feel obligated to go to all of the sessions–this isn’t high school! If something doesn’t appeal to you, or even if you just need a nap, then by all means go take a break. You won’t burn out that way and you will be fresh and ready to make new connections. Now that you have all this advice, keep the Writer’s League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference in mind for next year! πŸ™‚