There is a state all creative people try to reach when they’re working on their art. For me, the point where everything else fades away and all that’s left are the words. I see nothing but the story, and everything else goes away. Whether I work quickly, or slowly, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing else but that.
Lately, reaching that state has been rare for me. I just got done with a bit of editing, and I had the fortune to be in that state. I usually don’t feel that way at night since I’m more of a morning person, but I’m grateful to feel it when I get the chance.
I’ve been working so hard on this book and working so quickly that it really has gone by in a flash. Sometimes, I feel like I’m working on Extinction. It’s all melding together for me. After six books, you’d think it would get easier for me. In a way, it does. But each book presents new challenges, and this one is no different.
I got the first draft done relatively painlessly. There were moments of pain, for sure. I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, or how the characters would get there. In some sense, all that is still subject to change, because writing is an ever-changing process. Even though I had some idea of what would happen, what I wrote completely surprised me. The ending, not so much, but how they got there.
There have been days last week where I could barely bring myself to edit. I found myself distracted, unable to focus, unsure of how to make it better. First edits always seem to the roughest, and usually it goes much more smoothly after that. After the first edit, that means when I go back and look at it for a second time, I won’t be distracted by things such as clumsy sentences, contradictions, or things that seem out of place…
Honestly, I’m starting to wonder how I feel, writing this very last book in this series. In a way, I thought it would be a bit more emotional, or sad. Maybe those feelings will surface at some point. For the moment, I feel nothing. There’s just the work. Changing a sentence here. Adding a thought there. Breaking up a long scene. Mostly technical stuff.
Sometimes, under the pressure to release a book quickly (it’s a pressure I put on myself), the creative flow, the feeling of being completely absorbed by the art of it, can slip away. You can forget why you started doing this in the first place. I never started doing this because I thought I would make a lot. I did it because I loved writing, loved creating characters, worlds, and stories. I still remember as a kid, even if the stories weren’t too good in retrospect, the thrill of creation, and how it felt almost as real as real life. Sometimes even realer.
That feeling gets lost, sometimes, and I miss it. I remember feeling that way a lot while writing Revelation, especially, and also the moment Alex gets out of Bunker 108 in Apocalypse. This might sound weird, but when I read Apocalypse and get to that spot, I can’t stop reading, even though I wrote it and I know exactly what happens. The best part of writing for me is when a character is discovering their world, the real world, and trying to survive and find their way in it.
We see Alex grow from this sixteen-year-old kid who doesn’t know anything until a leader in his own right. By Xenofall, he hardly resembles the kid he once was, both from what he has gone through and the people he has met. A reader told me recently that she has to remind herself that most of the characters are “kids” by today’s definition – sixteen, seventeen years old. But a lot of the time, they really don’t act like it, because of their circumstances.
Our world, given that we survive it, molds us into who we are, whether that’s surviving in the physical sense, spiritual, emotional…so on so forth. I just love the moments in writing where everything clicks, where the sentences flow, where every line is like a path laid down before the larger themes, communicating more than the basic words it tells. Most of the time, I’m not aware of that. Sometimes, I feel like I lose that ability.
But whether I feel the flow, or not, the point is to keep writing. It’s easy to get discouraged and not believe in your abilities. Emotions, or the lack of them, can make it feel like I’m not making any headway, or make me feel like everything I write is devoid of feeling. I think this happens when you work hard, you start seeing the trees and not the forest (or however that expression goes). I’m still so close to The Wasteland Chronicles that I can’t imagine what the entire story is like.
Sometimes, I feel like my readers have a better idea of what it means than I do. I wasn’t intentionally writing anything for the sake of being poignant or deep. For the most part, it’s just an action-based hero’s journey kind of story, but like any story, there are glimpses at the emotional, the spiritual, what it means to be human. I do think one of the larger themes of the story is the impossibility of the battle they are fighting, and their willingness to never give up, no matter how impossible it gets.
I guess I should take that attitude as I try to finish this series. Not that it feels impossible or anything. It’s just a matter of one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time.