Brick Walls and Critical Mass

In which I look at my method of writing. . . if you can call it a method.

I usually start a book with a general idea of character and plot. I don’t make notes or do character interviews. I have an idea of where the story starts, where it’s going and how it will end. Everything else I just let happen. It’s not the most efficient way to write, but it works for me. Especially once I’ve passed the brick wall and hit critical mass.

Brick wall? It’s my term for that part of your novel that is so awful to get through that you don’t think you can continue at all. I’ve hit the wall in every one of my books.[term]=brick%20wall&filters[primary]=images
Photo by just-in-sane at Photobucket (Click to find)
The wall is too tall to climb over, too wide to go around, and its foundation extends too deeply to tunnel under. The only way to get past the brick wall is through it, brick by brick, prying and chiseling out  each individual stone until your fingers are bloody, your skin is raw, and you can’t catch your breath any longer. You’re sweaty, and dirty, and exhausted. You can’t see the other side, all the progress you’ve made until this point has been futile, and your soul is crying for you to give up. Well, that’s my metaphor anyway. There is always some point in the book where I just want to throw it away and never look at it again, but I keep going. You have to keep going.

Because by now I know that just beyond that brick wall is the critical mass. It’s that point in my novel where enough of the story is done that the weight of what’s written overpowers what’s yet to write, and the novel won’t stop writing itself. Just like a boulder rolling downhill. It starts slowly, sometimes seeming to falter, then suddenly it gathers enough speed that nothing will stop it until it reaches the bottom and comes to a rest.

Reaching critical mass is my favorite part of writing. I reach a point where I want to see how it ends. Okay, I know how it ends since I’m the author, but it’s more fun to see it on paper than in my head. There’s something so concrete, so uplifting, about finishing a manuscript. I don’t care if the novel is dreck; the dang thing is finished. It doesn’t mean the writing is done. Oh, no, for then comes revising and polishing and fixing, but in my opinion, which I’m allowed to express here because this is my blog, working on something that already exists is easier than fixing an empty page.

A completed manuscript in any form is an accomplishment. It’s an amazing feat, whether it’s your first book or your thirty-first. You wrote a book. You just have to get keep going, especially when you hit that wall.


Books I’m reading now:

Obsession by Jennifer Armentrout

Eyes Turned Skyward by Rebecca Yarros


The Series Killer

No, not “serial.” That is not an error. In which I show my excitement for the supposed demise of series novels. What ever happened to the stand alone novel?

I heard from a second and totally unrelated source that novel series are losing their appeal (for romances–I can’t apply this info to other genres; please chime in if you’ve heard something). For me, this is good news. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a series (romance) and grew tired of the same setting over and over. Sometimes you can tell the author just didn’t want to write another book in this world. There are exceptions–Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons, for example, but each book had a complete story, connected only by family, well, connections–but most of the time, I enjoy a novel and then forget the details. I remember the warm feeling I got while reading it, but when I pick up a second or third novel in a series and am taxed to remember which cousin introduced the oldest brother’s mother-in-law’s grandchild to the American relation, the story loses its punch for me. Series work for me when the story in the series isn’t dependent on previous works; where I don’t have to know that this character is the niece of the neighbor’s second cousin who gave the duke’s half-brother who is now married to the uncle’s sister-in-law’s vicar’s daughter a beating when they were children. In other words, if I can’t pick up a book out of order, read it, and enjoy it, it isn’t the work for me.

I can hear you saying hypocrite right now. I have published two and a half series. The first are tied together by family, but you don’t have to read them in order, they do stand alone, and you don’t have to know the history to understand them. My second series was cut off after the first two books were published (I still have plans to finish that third one, but a few other things have to happen first before I do), but it wasn’t by my choice. And the last series are definitely connected stories that I hope can be read and understood without reading them all, but there is a story line that arcs over all three books, so you’re better off reading all three. These are also fantasies, though, which leads me to my next point.

I don’t mind series in fantasy or sci-fi. Movies or books. Star Wars was fantastic in part because of the ongoing story. But Indiana Jones are all stand alone. I love Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series (book three appears soon this month). My only fear with series like that is that they become successful and the publishing houses want to extend them to more books. If this story doesn’t end in this book, I’ll be pissed (American sense, not British sense). You can write new stories in the series, but finish the stories first. That’s why I like Once Upon a Time. They finish stories, then throw the characters into new situations. That I can get behind. And of course, I’m still waiting for GOT to finish. Two more books to go. Ugh.

So back to me (it’s my blog, I can be narcissistic if I want). Most of my books are single title, stand-alone books. Yes, I could finagle a second book in the series, but the stories would involve different people and a different story. So if you’re tired of series and just want a fun read, try one. (Fantasy romance recommendation: The Falcon and the Wolf; historical recommendation: Temptation’s Warrior, To Tame a Rose, or one I shall be putting up soon called The Sea Eagle–stay tuned; Even Ever Yours is totally stand alone, although technically it’s part of a series, but they’re not connected in the way you think and every story is an individual story and has no effect on the next). I have a couple of manuscripts I’m working on that are totally stand alone.

And if you like series, I have those too. I guess there’s room for both.

What are your thoughts?


Books I’m reading now:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N Holmberg