Tag Archive: writer problems


LJ Idol

In this kooky online writing competition I’m in, we have a deadline on Monday. I work third shift’s (midnight to 8am), have a small child with autism, and not a whole lot of free time as a result.

I’ve been kicking around this piece for the past three days. It’s heavily based on one of my novels. If I’m completely honest, it’s me, disguising the Gray Morning universe as much as possible, changing character names/titles etc so that it reads like it’s based in the US, and so that people might not have their eyes roll into the back of their heads.

Except my antagonist, Mitchel, is so clearly himself. The protagonist of the scene, Amelia, is clearly herself, as well, but in the book she’s a minor character; her role is huge, but her screen time is very understated. Mitchel? Well, he’s been the focus of an Idol piece or two, and how his actions and words have a huge impact on my novel’s protagonist, Savin. He’s been deconstructed in a piece or two of meta I’ve written for the competition, as well.

I don’t want people to recognize him, but I do. I don’t want people to go “Oh, she’s writing that *%$#)*% novel again,” and back out of the entry. Not to mention, the topics this go around (we had to pick one out of a group of 5) are so open-ended and up to interpretation, and the voters have been favoring the very literal, very close interpretations this season. For people like me who sometimes view the topics abstractly, it’s been a challenge boxing myself in, a little.

The basis of this piece? Mitchel is undergoing an interrogation for the murder of Jasper (Jazz) Callahan — except, of course, the names are changed. Jasper is the Emperor of their particular world; Mitchel is his second-in-command, in a way. So I changed it from their world to the US; Mitchel is Vice President, Jazz President. Amelia is head of the Secret Service and is doing the interrogation herself.

Mitchel’s motivations are varied. He wants power. He wants control. He believes that Jazz never should have been handed this position — that Jazz is effortlessly perfect (and here is my topic connection — Mitchel believes that Jazz is a man of “shibusa,” though if you know Jazz’s character, you realize this is just a projection on Mitchel’s part), and therefore, shouldn’t have it.

There’s also a jealousy component — Jazz fell in love with Savin and married him, and not Mitchel, who Jazz had known first, longer, and just as intimately.

But in the interrogation scene I’m writing, I’m essentially doing it from Mitchel’s POV. I am deep inside his head; using his syntax and his word choice and just general state of mind. He is in control. He is lethal. He believes he isn’t going to end up charged with anything, though he is under arrest.

And seeing outside of his very narrow view point (me me me) and his own perceptions of himself (I am perfect and great and smarter than the rest of the world) is so difficult, I’m having trouble seeing what will trip him up. Because Amelia will get him to falter. She WILL get that confession. And she WILL secure the ability to indict Mitchel for treason.

But getting it down on paper when I am so deep in Mitchel’s POV is difficult.

I guess this is why I don’t write in first person. It’s hard, working so close to a fictional person’s brain. And I’m not even writing in first! It’s in third! But to write like how he speaks, I have to strip away that extra layer of distance.

Characters, man.

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The Great Debate

So every few months or so, I sit here and I start to think about the Tomorrow Trilogy. 

More specifically, I’ll get hit with an idea for book 3, Gray Morning. Keep in mind that I am a discovery writer. Also keep in mind that I force myself to write in order, because otherwise I will just sit here and write bits and pieces of a book but never actually go anywhere with it. I actually did that for so long, with writing pieces out of order and trying to make them stand alone, I tend to be a little repetitive — even when writing in chronological order. 

It’s a bad habit, and a hard one to break. I’m still working on said habit, but I’ve been getting better about it, too. But when I write out of order, I don’t tend to write things that can be easily pieced together, and that’s an issue. Gray Morning has almost always been the exception to this rule. Because whenever I write a piece of it, it might be out of order, but I tend to write a chunk. A scene progression spanning several chapters, usually. Last I touched it was back in May, and now I’ve written three pieces of it this week.

Thing is, I’ve been sitting and turning over things for the Trilogy in general. I don’t feel fully inspired for Seize the Day, and I feel that the outline I have now is a little draggy. Is what I have enough conflict? Do I have a clear antagonist? Etc, etc. I do, but he’s really not standing in Ryin’s way enough, I don’t think. And I don’t think I can stretch the basis of my plot to the word count I think the book needs without it feeling repetitive and boring. 

Which brought me back to this debate I had maybe a year ago — maybe closer to two years ago, now. Can I squeeze it down to two books instead of three? Now, to understand this, I went from originally thinking this was going to be four books. Then it went down to three. Then two. Then back up to three, because I wanted to include a particular subplot that kind of evolved into its own plot.

Except now I’m thinking that particular plot (book 2, Surrender the Night) is unnecessary and doesn’t do a particular character of mine justice (Jordine). She deserves her own book, one free of the world I’m still remodeling for the Tomorrow Trilogy. It’s definitely based on Earth, likely some far future version of it, and do I really need this plotline? There’s plenty enough drama with Ryin becoming Emperor and then dying and then Jazz having to take his place, and the adjustment/protections they need to make to ensure their safety as Emperors, etc etc, and a civil war, and —

So overall, I don’t think I need it. But I’m unsure of how to pace Seize the Day in order to move into Gray Morning and cover the romantic subplots that exist. Because Mitchel and Jazz’s relationship is important, Jazz and Savin’s relationship is important, so is Jazz’s relationship with Ravi… These three things overlap and I need enough time to pass and enough events to occur to make the progression of these three make sense. 

But the overall self-destruction of the Empire, too, is vastly important and comes to a head in Gray Morning and is the driving force behind it. So Seize the Day needs hints of that happening. I originally had the idea that the Movement was separate from the Resistance — and maybe it is, or maybe the Resistance is a splinter cell of the Movement, like I originally thought when I developed the Movement, in the first place.

Maybe the two books focus more or less on Ryin, and then Jazz, coming to terms that their Empire isn’t perfect. That their lives won’t ever be perfect, and that they need to determine their own destinies and their own pathways to happiness. Same with Savin. 

Either way, out of the two (three?) books, Gray Morning always speaks the loudest. I know what happens in that book. I know what the main conflict is, how it’s resolved. Seize the Day and Surrender the Night, not so much. Maybe I just need to start the book with the moment Ryin becomes Emperor. Maybe there’s a book after Gray Morning, and it’s the book that’s in the middle. After all, I don’t think the story necessarily ends when the Resistance wins. Maybe I’m handling this all wrong. 

This is why I can’t ever seem to finish this, and this is why I struggle with it. I refuse to restart Seize the Day. I have seven chapters of it written, and I wanted to make the next 50k of it my NaNo project this year. Maybe I’ll reread what I’ve written, cut what I feel needs to be cut, and start from there on Nov 1st. I don’t want to look over the current outline just yet; I’m not sure I can stomach it. But maybe I’ll reevaluate the outline, too, and try to just let the story take me where it wants to. 

I swear, no other novel of mine gives me nearly as much trouble as this damn series. 

The Struggle

Sometimes, the words just don’t want to form on the page. 

You struggle for each one. Tilt your head from one side to the other, crack your neck, crack your knuckles. Each motion shouts, “Hey! I mean business, over here! Get to work!”

But the page remains blank. 

Slowly, a single sentence forms. Then another. And those? Those are hard-won, but unremarkable words. The emotion is flat. The scene too dry. And if you know it, then you can be damn sure your readers will know it, too, when they click on the link containing your work. 

Your child wants to be chased all over the neighborhood. Your ex wants to fight you one minute and butter you up the next. Your cat yowls, begging for your hand to run over the length of her body. Your attention split, your focus shattered.

Seven hundred and fifty. It’s not November, you can stop at seven hundred and fifty. And maybe you even have that, now. But you want to at least finish writing this page. You want to reach the end of this scene. 

And you will. You just need to claw those last few sentences free from the recesses of your brain.