Organizing

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!

Space in the Noise

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, andΒ  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.

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™‚

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™‚

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™‚

On Staying Positive

Last Friday, going into the weekend, I posted on my Facebook page that I was 43,000 words into Inductance, with plans to write throughout the weekend and make a big push. Naturally, after making this bold statement, I was hit with writer’s block, the story was moving slowly, etc. However, looking at my word count one week later, I am sitting at 51,000 words. 8,000 words in one week is really much better than I felt like I was doing!

What this means to me is that I need to relax and trust the process and not be so critical on myself. Doubts are the fodder of procrastination and fear. Yes, my word count for the week could have been higher, but considering the fact that I also more than doubled the number on my sent queries list AND accomplished 8,000 words, I should be feeling pretty good.

So I am feeling very good on this Friday, and I am looking at another weekend of no plans–which means I can accomplish even more on Inductance this weekend! Yesterday was a huge accomplishment as I finallyΒ  hammered out a scene that I was feeling incredibly insecure about; it probably still does not have enough details and more will probably have to be added later, but I did establish some very good relationship-building dialogue between two of my characters that I think was a very important step for believability.

Well, it’s a short post today, but I hope it leaves you all with a positive message! Whether you are a writer or not, staying positive can be an incredible force in your day to day life. When you get down on yourself, that makes it harder to perform to your highest standards. I am striving to look to positive everyday and I know it will lead me to great things both with my writing career and beyond. I will be posting Chapter 3 on Monday! πŸ™‚ Have a great weekend!

Summer Slump

Summer is my favorite season of the year; I love the warm nights glittering with stars above and fireflies below and the promise of adventure. However, I will admit, it is not the best time of the year for me as a writer. With the coming of June and the onset of summer I have been much busier than winter and spring. When the weather is sunny and beautiful outside, the outdoors beckons. Between impulsive mini vacations and working in my garden, writing has taken a backseat on days when a less seductive season might not have tempted me away from the computer.

However, I can’t fully blame the weather. I will admit, I have been slumping in my writing for other reasons as well. My confidence has been a bit down lately as I am writing really tight, intense action/world building type of scenes almost every chapter. The decisions made in these scenes will ultimately effect the rest of the novel/trilogy. Thus, I am over-analyzing them to death.

This is one deleterious effect of being a “pantser” style author–since you don’t have a definite plan down to the last detail, sometimes you get held up because you come up to something big you haven’t worked out yet. This is definitely what is happening to me. I know all of the characters’ ultimate “big” moves they are working towards right now. However, in the mean time, they need to make decently big, exciting moves to get there. I can’t jump to the conclusion (even though I have the ending of INDUCTANCE planned out and it will be the perfect exciting finish and set up to the final installment).

My challenge now is to think about the present–in the sense of my book–I have been caught up in doubts about the quality of the story right now, but I need to put those aside and trust in my skill as a storyteller. Words to the page is the main thing, and getting words to the page means being confident in yourself. I need to get over this summer slump, trust myself and write. I can feel myself getting more confident already… πŸ™‚

Chapter 2 Thoughts

As I’m sure many of you have already heard, I really enjoyed writing Chapter 2 of Capacitance. For me, it was where the story really started to flow and I really started to get excited about the action of the story. My first draft of Chapter 2, just like Chapter 1, was drafted on a yellow legal pad one night lying in bed. It was after this night that I knew I was going to have to switch to a computer because my hands wouldn’t be able to accommodate the large amount of writing that was going to take place–I knew from writing this chapter that this was a story I was finally going to tell.

While I had always known that Mara and Runey were going to be part of the story, it wasn’t until much later during my three year stint of writer’s block that I conceived of Juleia. First, I knew that she would be involved with Runey in some way to complicate the romantic plot line. I thought that maybe she would be someone from his art class on the Design campus that he would run into and get involved with after already knowing Mara. Finally–and not too long before I scrawled out the chapter–I decided on the current way their relationship is set up. Thus the character of Runey is complex from the beginning; the reader sees him going through this awful situation where he has to break up with his girlfriend on the spot, yet they also see his intense dedication to the Restorationists. By setting up my male lead in this way, it creates a more multidimensional character; without the complication of Juleia, Runey is just a young man who is assigned to get closer to a young woman. Interesting, yes, but not quite as dramatic!

The setting and the action in this scene was entertaining as well. I loved creating that dark, mysterious atmosphere. Many readers have commented on the description of my scenes and how they feel as if they are in the Seminar Hall, or the Underground, etc. This is excellent feedback! I sometimes worry that I include too much description. For me, there is no such thing, but for some readers it can get a bit tedious. However, I am glad that most seem to be enjoying it thus far. Another aspect of description I enjoyed creating in this chapter was the action between the characters. Juleia’s hair curtaining her face, the subtle hand gestures and reactions of the Professor, etc. I think this is one of the main reasons I enjoyed this chapter so much–all these little actions that speak so loudly. The first chapter was a lot of introspection and little action (by default, since Mara was sitting in class). Chapter 2 hopefully draws readers in with the promise of more action to come.

With that being said, some criticism I have received for Chapter 2 is that it does jump in too fast. I heard this from an agent who looked over my first three chapters. I thought that was an interesting critique as readers/agents usually want to be drawn into the action immediately. If anyone else felt this way while they were reading, please let me know! Personally (and I am obviously biased) I consider this chapter to whirl the reader deeper into the world of Capacitance. Yes, it may be a little disorienting at first, but that is natural for the reader–plus, it adds to the sensation I was trying to develop with the chapter. Runey and Juleia themselves are both a little confused and disoriented as they descend to their meeting with the Professor. By tossing the reader into the situation as well, it puts their mind in the same place as the characters they are reading about.

Once again, thanks to everyone who has been checking out my chapters! I will probably post Chapter 3 on Monday. I am not sure how many chapters I will post overall–I can’t post the whole book, sorry! 😦 –but how many I post depends on how much support and following they are getting, so if you like what you’ve been reading, tell a friend or two! πŸ™‚

Rewrites

Today’s topic is rewrites–for several reasons. First reason being, I just rewrote the first chapter of my novel Capacitance in anticipation of posting it on here soon. It was not easy for me to rewrite a chapter. As a writer (and I am sure many of you can relate to this) it is very hard to chop out, delete or otherwise maim sentences and paragraphs we have so carefully constructed. There is some truth to this hesitant attitude–some words you put down are important, and you don’t want to lose the essential, natural quality of your writing voice. However, the first draft is, by design not tight and polished. It is done to get the story out of the mind and onto the paper. Naturally, there will be some polishing left to do. Thus, stay true to your story and voice, but learn what doesn’t fit or needs omitted. Work with the white space–give your readers some credit and don’t get too wordy. This was one of my struggles in rewriting. My first chapter contained a lot of description (specifically of where my MC’s beautifully decorated apartment); to me, this was fascinating because I am interested in the intricacies of interior design. Will all readers be captivated by an inventory of interior finishes? Probably not. That section–after coaxing from an unofficial CP partner–was cut. Hopefully I can weave some of the description back in through various sections of the novel. Small doses are better for building than numbing readers minds with a long chunk of exposition.

The second reason I want to discuss rewrites today concerns a comment on my blog post yesterday concerning the need to perfect everything before putting it to paper. I am not promoting the method of writing without care or detailed attention, but there comes a point where you have to throw caution to the wind. Do your best, but assume you are going to have to go back and edit regardless. My first chapter rewrite is a great example–I scrawled that first draft copy of it with a flow of words that spewed forth after three years of writer’s block, and I considered it to be a great entry into my book after many lackluster attempts. Looking back at that Chapter 1 now, I find it slow and not effective as well as not being in the voice of the rest of my novel. I was not in my element. However, had I analyzed it so harshly at the time of writing, I may not have put it to paper, and I may have still been stuck with writer’s block interminably. Long story short: write your best right now, perfect it later.

I am SO CLOSE to 100 likes on my Facebook page! It won’t be long now until I can show you all the (rewritten) first chapter of Capacitance!

Getting Words to the Page–Insight Into My Writing Process

It has been awhile since I have done a post about the writing process itself. The #QueryKombat Twitter party prompt for today has inspired me to go into more depth in this post about my writing process–where my ideas come from, the struggle of getting them to paper, and little glimpses into my process as a whole.

If you have read my blog at all, you know I write without a super detailed outline. So my ideas are free flowing. Usually, I don’t have a specific trajectory for the scene I am writing, or what the next scene will be. I have certain parameters which I like to structure for each individual chapter. I like to visualize each chapter when I sit down to write as the skeleton frame of an unfinished house–I know the basics of what this chapter will accomplish, but details get fleshed out as I go. While I am writing the chapter, that is when “the house,” to continue that analogy, gets walls and floors, etc.

Having the skeleton framework ready in my mind before I start a chapter is extremely important. If I don’t know a general concept of what I will be writing that day, I just won’t write. The blank page gets too intimidating when I have no clue whatsoever what to put down onto it. This has happened quite a bit during the drafting of Inductance, and also towards the end of Capacitance–these mini episodes of writer’s block pop up and steal a day of writing from me at times. However, I have a couple ways I combat this problem. The first, and most effective, is to go on a long run; the physical and mental benefits of distance running are enormous. As I coast down the hills and under the dappled shadows cast by trees, my mind wanders and my characters seem to speak to me. Entering a state of intense focus, I usually come away from a run with my mind centered and ready to write–I know the framework for what needs to come next. The second trick I use to spark my mind back into the story is to pull out my hard copy of the manuscript and read and edit it lightly. This re-familiarizes me with the characters and their stakes and usually prompts me to what needs to come next. Another tip: when I have several chapter ideas that I know I want to eventually construct, I write them all down in a list. Thus, I have many productive days crafting the chapters off the list!

The #QueryKombat prompt specifically asked writers if they prefer to write during the night or day. As I tweeted, I prefer to write in the early evening, in the hours leading up to supper. However, this is by no means a dominating preference as I can write at any time of day, as long as inspiration and time allow. All times of the day have their benefits–to me, the main point is just to get the words on the page. Don’t slot yourself into “only being able to write in the mornings” or, “I never write before 10 PM”–write whenever you can, when the mood strikes you, when you find yourself scrolling absentmindedly through Facebook! Habits are good to make, but as writers, we need to be flexible and not use our habits as excuses to procrastinate.

Finally, music. Another prompt featured on today’s #QueryKombat question. I have always been strange about music; I can’t stand it while I am writing, reading or doing some other deeply concentrated type of work. Don’t get me wrong, I love music! However, it distracts my brain heavily. Music does influence my work in other ways, though. Different songs remind me of my characters. The song “Superstar” by Broods reminds me of Mara and Runey’s relationship in Capacitance. I prefer music to inspire me in my non-writing times!

This post could go on for days–there are so many different stories and struggles to share about my writing process. Share your writing habits below! πŸ™‚ And don’t forget to like my Facebook page–there’s now a “like” button on the sidebar of my homepage! I am at 84 likes thus far; when I reach 100 I will be sharing the first chapter of Capacitance! Like, like, like!