As is probably readily apparent to everyone due to lack of blog posts on here, my life has been a whirlwind. Aside from the launch of my second blog Luna Elise, which features my fashion addiction, my personal life has pretty much demanded the majority of my time. I can’t say I’m complaining–I’m probably having way too much fun, but the writing has taken a hit for sure.
This used to bother me more than it does now. I have grown to the point as an author where I understand no one is going to strike you down with wrath if you don’t finish one chapter per day. I will admit, I’m still finding that balance, but I find that not leaving room for burnout to creep in lets the ideas flow more freely. Plus, it allows for more strategic planning which is a crucial step in the final stages of a trilogy.
These final stages have me asking some big questions, and thinking things through before writing. For once, I find myself weighing alternatives and unable to decide what is best for the story. This is very different to my usual “word vomit” method of writing whatever comes banging out of my mind. Right now, one of the biggest decisions I am struggling with is whether or not to kill off one of my secondary characters. Morbid, I know, but it is a post-apocalyptic story. I feel like it could use a little more darkness right now.
However, this character I am considering offing is undeniably a figure of light in the books. I think I like this secondary character more than my main characters! You always hear stories of authors literally crying as they write in the death of a favorite character (I think this happened with J.K. Rowling and Fred Weasley, but I could be just making that up entirely!). I understand sometimes it needs to happen for dramatic effect, but I don’t want the dramatic effect to be overridden by the anger I am sure readers will feel. This is the equivalent of Gandalf falling to the balrog but not coming back–this character will be missed!
Ultimately, I think it comes down to whether the character will be of importance or useful to the story as it plays out. There is a potential conflict that could use this character, but that also could be omitted. You can see the back and forth is very prevalent right now. I can’t make any decisions as of now! Perhaps this hesitation is my writerly subconscious screaming at me not to kill the character (yet anyway).
The title says it all. I had an extremely productive weekend working on all sorts of projects and releasing a lot of pent up creativity. I worked on an oil painting, started my new fashion blog (lunaelise.com for those interested), and wrote. The hours flew by in the creative zone that we artists know so well and strive for.
With my mind so stimulated by creating, Resistance was at the height of my consciousness. While out on a nice, long run, my mind tuned into my story instead of the usual jumble of everyday life situations and worries. I came up with a concept that I think is going to propel me to the ending of the trilogy. While I still don’t know the exact ending, I think this gives me another pivotal plot point to work to. I find I work better when I’m working up to some event. Actually I get frustrated at times because I want to just write that big scene I’m leading up to–and I want to write it now!!
This pacing might be the biggest lesson I have learned as a writer. In my writer’s block times, I would get frustrated plodding through these leading up moments, just wanting to get to the events already. Then I would lose patience with myself and my willpower went down the drain thinking of the at the time insurmountable amount of work I had to do to convey the exciting story in my head.
However, if this weekend is any example, I’m able to take on any task. Perhaps I just need to focus my creativity a bit more efficiently so I can balance all these different endeavors. So I’m approaching this week with the goal of finding balance–I hope you all have a peaceful and balanced week as well.
I just made a list of the key points I have to wrap up to finish the Capacitance trilogy. There are 14 of them (so far), the last one of which being “The state of the world.” So that’s intimidating; cue me running away from my computer, never to write again. Just kidding–maybe.
The other 13 points are a bit more doable. Most of them are comprised of characters. Obviously I will have to tie up Mara and Runey’s story lines as well as all the secondary characters. I listed some tertiary characters on the list as well. At this time, I am not sure how relevant they will end up being to the endgame of my story, but listing them was more of a device to remind me what tools I have in my toolbox, so to speak.
Time for a little writing secret. I didn’t figure this out until basically just now (embarrassingly enough). Employing characters you’ve already introduced to come into plot play down the road makes you look like a genius-level author. Look at J.K. Rowling–that tiara from the Sorcerer’s Stone comes out of nowhere as a horcrux in the last book. Was she planning this all along or did she come to a point in her story where she needed a horcrux so she plucked one out of the existing scenery she had created? We may never know, but in my case it would have been the latter situation. You should all know by now most of my writing is improvisational, so characters, settings, actions all spew out of their own accord. Now that I’m nearing the end of the trilogy, I have the luxury of flipping back through these characters and scenarios I have created and deciding how best to use them. That obscure character from midway through Capacitance? Maybe she will come back and play an intrinsic part in the resolution of the trilogy, leaving readers to wonder at my strategic placement and planning (ha!).
To summarize, I think using this strategy will help me organize my thoughts, discover new creative ideas and ultimately give a well-rounded feel to the trilogy as a whole. Time to go crank out some exciting installments!
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! 🙂
I’ll be the first (and not the last *ahem, agents*) to say it, my first page and pretty much my first chapter of Capacitance blows. It really sucks. There is too much exposition, it lacks any immediate grip to draw the reader to turn the page, and it contains a confusing flashback.
I’m somewhat embarrassed that it is included here on this blog, bar the fact that I hope to one day post a marvelous revision that will showcase my growth and effort as a writer. Someday.
For now, all my attempts at re-writing my first pages have been second rate at best. At worst, they haven’t even happened and have resulted in me staring obstinately at the computer screen refusing to mutilate the first stirrings of life in the brain-child that is my book.
There is a huge mind block for me in revising my first pages. In fact, there is a block in writing them in general. Each of my three books (perhaps with the exception of Inductance) the beginning is very weak. The writing is insecure and it’s obvious that I am just trying to get past that blank page anxiety and get my words on paper. Fast forward to the middle of the book and the prose is clean and engaging, things are moving much more quickly.
However, even if I am in this great writing style flow, the moment I go back and try to write the first chapter in the same style, my brain freezes up. I wish this post could turn from the struggle to the solution, but as of yet I have not been successful in revamping my shoddy first chapters. Does anyone out there have tips?
This week I am starting off with some new strategies for querying agents. Referring to my post on writing dystopian, I feel like it is going to be difficult to find the agent that is searching for that particular genre. However, they are out there, I just have to find them!
Today I googled “literary agent dystopian,” and got some hits. While I didn’t check out many links today, I did find an agent who loves dystopian worlds and immediately made out a query letter for her. I think this is a better strategy than I have had previously where I would search good agencies and then go to whatever agents were available there, regardless of whether they specifically said dystopian. I also plan to use this strategy with the New Adult category. Since that is a growing genre, surely I will be able to find agents specifically searching for it.
Another new strategy I am using quite frequently is the Writer’s Digest new literary agents spotlight. I am on the fence about new agents. For one, they have less experience than more established agents. However, they are more actively building their client base. For me, it’s definitely worth a shot. I am a young writer with little experience and if a similarly young agent wants to take a chance on me, I’ll take a chance on them. I will definitely be referring to the new literary agent spotlight list from now on. Not only for the agent information, but also because it leads me to other agencies to explore. For instance I clicked on a new agent profile, then linked to her agency website and from there ended up querying another agent and heading over to a new agency’s website that was listed in the bio of the agent I queried.
Using these new strategies, I am looking forward to heading into a productive week of querying and writing. Happy Monday!