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! 🙂 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! 🙂

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!

Inspiration from the Master: How J.K. Rowling Has Influenced Me as an Author

I always joke about “my unpopular opinions,” but today I am going to talk about one of my very popular opinions. It is virtually a universal fact that those of my generation love Harry Potter and admire the woman behind the series, J.K. Rowling. I nearly titled this blog post how Rowling AND the Harry Potter series have influenced me as a writer, but, wanting to keep this blog post to a readable length for those of you perusing over your lunch break, I decided to stick with Rowling herself as there are several admirable traits of her talent that I admire and have taken inspiration from.

First and foremost–accessibility. Rowling’s HP series starts off with Harry as a young boy; I was the same age as Harry when I first read The Sorcerer’s Stone, and as such I could relate to him innately. However, my Mom read the books after I finished them, and she felt drawn into the story just as strongly as I did. This kind of broad readership was achieved through a masterful use of characterization and a wonderful assortment of word choice. It was the outstanding craft of the writing, I believe, which allowed these books to be enjoyed by grade school children and their parents alike. The word choice challenged children and allowed adults to appreciate the elevated nature of the works themselves. I remember reading The Order of the Phoenix and seeing the word “detritus” for the first time–context clues made it obvious that the word referred to the garbage littering Harry’s room, but Rowling’s choice to incorporate such a high level word speaks to her skill to create a breadth of audience.

Versatility is also a very important quality Rowling’s work possessed. As I read the books, I literally grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione through Rowling’s masterful development of these characters from children into young adults–almost verging new adult territory by The Deathly Hallows. To this day, I am still impressed with how she carried this out. A subtle change, book-by-book, a darkening of tone, a deepening of connections. Order of the Phoenix was where this really stood out to me; the world around Harry and his friends had changed so much, but so  had Harry himself–he was starting to grow up. To me, opening up a Harry Potter book was somewhat like coming back to the first day of school after summer break and seeing the subtle changes and maturation in your fellow classmates. Her versatility as an author is not only displayed in HP; I read The Casual Vacancy earlier this year and my awe of Rowling as an author was sealed in its veracity for good. The book was incredible–totally adult, full of engrossing characters, and completely different from HP. This, for me, was what made me love The Casual Vacancy for what it was; Rowling had proved herself capable of going beyond HP as an author, and creating a work with just as much merit. No one else but a true master of words could construct a story surrounding so many main characters and have the reader be deeply invested in them all. The themes of The Casual Vacancy are dark, they are modern, and they are real, thus proving Rowling can pull her own in the realm of contemporary adult fiction as well as YA fantasy.

Finally, one of my favorite ways that J.K. Rowling inspires me–her humor. Throughout the Harry Potter series, I adored Rowling’s interspersion of humorous elements to the text. Particularly her tendency to insert a particular adjective to a sentence to make it hilarious. One of my favorite lines is “Harry then did something that was both very brave and very stupid…” from the scene in the bathroom with Hermione and the troll. The insertion of the word stupid injects the text with dry humor, which is incredible. This adds to the lighthearted tone the HP series can take on at times; it’s an element that makes the books enjoyable and lovable, and adding touches of humor (especially, dry ironic little adjectives) is something I incorporate into my writing style.

I could keep writing for quite sometime about Rowling as an inspirational author, but I need to get back to the query gauntlet. I will continue to post about authors/books that inspire me on Wednesday as I saw such a great reaction last week. I hope everyone enjoyed this week’s post!

Social Media & Being an Author

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was on a (much needed) vacation to California! The need for vacations to take a step back from your work is a topic for an entirely different post, but I can sum it up to this: sometimes it’s necessary to not think about your novel, to escape and have new experiences which will influence your writing, and to be in a more sublime environment so when an agent rejection pops up in your email, you take it in stride and order another wine sample! 😉

Today, I wanted to focus on a subject that has been giving me major headaches–the dichotomy between being an artist and thus trying to be a free spirit while at the same time being cognizant of the pressing need to create an online presence. This need for a writer’s platform necessitates the use of social media. Writers, as a rule, hate social media. We would rather be writing! However, our ultimate goal is to be read, and to be read and gain notice in today’s world means hashtagging and blogging our way to fame. Hopefully that prospect turns everyone’s stomachs as much as it does mine. It is a very imposing goal; in the millions of individuals out there on the internet, how do you make a difference?

It’s a question I, unfortunately, cannot answer in this post. But I do welcome good suggestions! The first step for me is simply, getting out there. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was literally: “Tweet less.” Obviously, that is not going to fly. I have been trying to force myself to tweet more lately, and have gone to excessive use of hashtags. Today, I activated a Facebook account (under much mental stress), and a LinkedIn page. I am looking into #QueryKombat, which appears to be a great way to get some exposure as well as potentially awesome contacts with agents and editors! The Internet is a crazy, intimidating place, but I hope to do my research and find some success in it.

I want to get the word out soon because I am going to be doing something very exciting here on the blog. I am going to be posting sample chapters of Capacitance! I want the novel to get exposure and hopefully build momentum. Stay tuned on chapter one coming soon!

With that being said, follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@elisemarie52), and Facebook (Elise Hardenburger)! And comment below with any tips how you got your online following started. 🙂

Disconnected

Through all my adventures lately–both in attending the conference and querying–working on my second novel Inductance, has taken a backseat. This has been frustrating both because it is leading to a few errors in the work as well as because I don’t like days where I don’t write; unless it is a specified day off, I feel anxious and less accomplished than I do on those days where I have written a chapter. Don’t get me wrong, I usually take the weekends off, unless I am sitting at home with no plans (there have to be some days to recharge the mind and give the story a break!). However, especially with the conference, I did not have time to write for four days, and before that, preparing for the conference was time consuming as well. I started Inductance a little less than a month ago, and now I have 27,000 words done, so I am not doing awful at the whole thing, but I am definitely not as prolific as I was in my heaviest work phases of writing Capacitance.

I want this to change. This disconnected process that I have going right now is causing just that–disconnect–in my story. Once again, I am forever thankful to my Dad, the in-progress reader and editor, as he has caught some of these disconnects as he reads the new chapters of Inductance. For the most part, they have been relatively small, easy to correct errors. For example, today at lunch he caught a snag where the characters had planned to change their meeting place to different room, but then later on when the meeting actually occurs, I forgot to change its location to match the new plans. A minor detail, but one that readers WILL notice. I am glad it was caught, and I am actually excited to go back and change it because by connecting the details and having the characters meet at the new room, I think I can insert some really cool scenes into the story.

All that being said, I have decided to go back and read my work so far on Inductance–when I write, sometimes it is such an organic process that I literally don’t remember what I wrote after it’s done. This isn’t such a problem when I am writing a chapter each day and the flow remains fresh in my mind. I think that by going back and reading my manuscript thus far, I can refresh myself with the story and that will make it easier to keep on track with things, as well as possibly spark some new plot lines (the necessity for an action packed book is still daunting me!). It will also give me a chance to get some early edits!

Today I prepared and sent out five query letters, and hope to get a couple more done before the day is through. I think once I have all those sent out, then focus on Inductance will come much more easily.

First Draft Query Letter + A Glimpse at Capacitance

Today I have spent a good chunk of time on AgentQuery.com, sifting through agents and slowly compiling a list of those agents I want to send my query letter to. I am going to narrow my list down to ten agents. It is a daunting task due to the extremely large volume of agents listed on the database site, and I am happy to have two definitively narrowed down after today! I have also been working on drafting my query letter, and I decided today to post the first two paragraphs of it–if any of my followers have any tips on this, please share as this is my first draft! Read ahead if you would like to see my first attempt at a query and also get a small preview of Capacitance!

Imagine a university very different from the ones in today’s society—a university where instead of doing keg stands and battling hangovers, students were engaged in top level, government sensitive projects or were members of secret high-stakes resistance organizations against those in power—enter the world of Capacitance where readers are introduced to Mara, a prodigy science student whose project in the field of genetic engineering is critically important to those in power; and Runey whose involvement in an underground resistance movement sends him on a mission to uncover the nature of Mara’s work, through whatever means necessary—even making her fall in love with him.

Capacitance, the first novel of a trilogy set in the dystopian future, is filled with themes of secrets, love and betrayal as it follows the stories of Mara—a stylish Science student whose intelligence has won her a place in the lavish life of society’s elite—and Runey—a shrewdly personable Design student whose dissatisfaction with society’s inequality led to his involvement in a government resistance organization. Their very different paths cross due to Runey’s mission, but the love that was supposed to be a farce, ignites between them in blazing reality. As Mara’s work unearths a problem which not only threatens the government, but also her life itself, Runey is also trying to uncover her secrets—while maintaining a few of his own. Throughout Capacitance, the characters tread a thin line between navigating the waters of young love and coming to terms with the sinister nature of the world they live in.

I am not entirely satisfied with this attempt, but I definitely like where it is going, and I am just relieved to have gotten the first draft hammered out–when I am dreading something I can drag my feet for ages before getting started, but when I finally do begin I always feel so much more optimistic! With that being said, I am off to write my next chapter of the next book in the trilogy, Inductance!

A Different Perspective

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.

Action Adventures

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!

Winging It

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.