Ten Mistakes I Made in The Stars Fill Infinity

sfi mistakes header

Hello there! Before I get started with today’s post, I just wanted to give you guy’s an update on what’s going to be happening around An Ordinary Pen in the next few months.

Life’s been crazy lately, but I’m (hopefully) going back to my posting schedule (Saturday) for the rest of December. I’m going to take a hiatus for most of January (I haven’t decided whether it will be just the first two weeks, or the whole month), and I’m thinking of using that time to do a remodel of the site. We’ll see how it goes. 

I’ve also got exciting news! Some of you, if you’ve been around for about a year, would remember the series I did last year on “What God Has Taught Me This Year”. Last year, I had a bunch of amazing young women come and do guest posts on my blog, and this year, I have the super awesome Celeste and Christine, who will be guest posting for you, starting tomorrow! I’m really looking forward to sharing their words of wisdom and honesty with you 😀

Anyhow, today’s post is a bit of a mixture of playful poking at myself, and a serious look at writing mistakes I’ve made. I wanted to particularly look at some of the mistakes I made in the first draft of The Stars Fill Infinity, just because I’ve recently compiled all my beta feedback, and so I’m currently very aware of my failings 😛 I hope this serves as a reminder that none of us are perfect, and that learning from our failures (and other people’s failures too), is extremely helpful.

1 Lack of Technology

I hadn’t really thought about this until multiple betas pointed it out. For a futuristic world, my dystopian version of Australia really lacked even basic technology that we use constantly nowadays. This is something I’ve been trying to remedy as I edit, and I’ve come up with a few cool ways of integrating technology into the plot. 

2. Too Little Worldbuilding

Part of this ties with the above mistake. There was hardly any worldbuilding in either the first or the second drafts, and again, it’s an issue I’ve been trying to correct as I wade through the third draft. It’s actually pretty exciting to do worldbuilding for this story, to help make the story come alive in an even more vibrant sort of way. I’m enjoying the challenge so far.

3. Weak Character Motivations

This is actually an interesting problem. Several of the characters, including, but not limited to, Sean Darcy, Kendall Streatfield, Jonas Oriah, Augustine Quillon and Maria Caderousse, had little to no motivations in the first draft (and even to an extent, in the second as well), and this wasn’t so much because I neglected to give them motivations, but more because the parallel characters in Les Mis often had vague motivations as well, so I swept the issue under the carpet. 

Of course, Victor Hugo’s mistakes should not translate into my mistakes, so I’ve also been working on improving the motivations of these characters by giving them more solid goals and arcs. 

4. Occasionally Preachy

Personally, I feel I did quite well in this regard. I tried to avoid those super cheesy, shallow conversations about God in this book, but yeah, I did occasionally get a bit preachy, even for my own tastes. The advice of one of my beta readers stands out the most to me, when dealing with this problem, “Show the characters living these sorts of lives, don’t tell us that they do” (paraphrasing). 

5. Letter Writing

There’s a lot of letter writing for such a futuristically advanced society. I mean, who writes letters nowadays? 

6.Lack of Description

The lack of the description stems, in many ways, from the lack of worldbuilding. Anyway, my descriptions were often vague, repetitive, or simply not there. Description has always been a point I struggle with, but hopefully I’ll be able to remedy this as I worldbuild and focus more on the aesthetic and general look of futuristic Australia.

7. Too Much Romance

If I was to write this again, I would leave out a lot of the romance that I had in the first draft. I would probably only leave the relationship between Sapphire and Sean (which is absolutely essential to the plot) and Sapphire and Quillon (which isn’t, but is so very cute). Chessy’s infatuation with Justice could easily be replaced with more of a hero-worship, and several other relationships could be left out. 

However, as it is, I won’t change any of this, because it’s become part of the characters, the plot, and me as well. It’s definitely the most romance heavy book I’ve ever written, but it’s main theme is love–friendship and platonic love, the love between a father and daughter, sister love, and also romantic love, so I think to remove the romance would somehow lessen it. 

Still, I kinda wish I hadn’t been so romantic in the first draft.

8. Vague Backstories

All of the characters had lengthy backstories plotted out in my planning notebooks, but many of these backstories never translated to the page, even though including snippets of them might have helped improve the lack of motivation I mentioned earlier. 

So in my quest to flesh out motivations, I’ve been revising these characters and their backstories, in order to make them more lifelike and three dimensional.

9. Justice’s Illness

*Spoiler alert*

The climax of the novel basically ends with Justice in a coma and refused entrance into a hospital because of his status as a revolutionary. He is then taken to his rich grandfather’s house, where he is cared for by a private doctor.

This was not actually a plot point critiqued by my betas, but it is one that now strikes me as a massive mistake. I’ve been in hospitals quite a lot lately, and there’s no way Justice would be able to survive in a coma without the help of a plethora of machines, which would likely only be found in a hospital. Also, Justice’s grandfather has enough money to do almost anything he wants, and the officials at the hospital are described as being corrupt, so surely his grandfather would have enough money to bribe them into caring for his grandson?

And finally, it takes a massive amount of emotional, mental and physical fortitude to sit day in and day out by someone’s bedside. I honestly don’t think Chessy has that fortitude, despite how romantic a notion it may be. 

10. The Ending That Wrapped Everything Up So Nicely

Story time. 

Originally, SFI was a standalone, but in the end, my dear friend (and first person to ever read the novel), thought that the ending was too farfetched (no one else has ever read the original epilogue. And yes, she was right). So she suggested I write a sequel to fill in the gap between the end of the last chapter (which is the same as it is now) and the epilogue (which is not). I did that, but I think, when I made it a trilogy, I wrapped everything up too neatly in the first draft and didn’t really change it in the second. Personally, I think it left readers just a tad too satisfied with how everything had played out, and I want them to be dying for the release date of my next book. 😛

I’ve been trying to change this by leaving a few things loose, in the anticipation of a sequel, not to answer every question, and to make sure Justice, Quillon and Chessy don’t have every answer either. This might take a little bit of work, but it should turn out well once I’ve done it.

So, there you have it! My top picks for mistakes I made when writing SFI. Hopefully, you’ve managed to avoid these sorts of things, but if you haven’t, I wouldn’t feel too bad about it 😛 What mistakes have you made? What are some areas in writing that you find difficult?

Know The Novel: {Part 3–Writing and Beyond!}

(Hello there! You might not remember me, but I’m Chelsea…and yeah, I know, I’ve been away for a long time…almost a month, yikes… But I’m here. I’m back, I’ve been going through a lot, and I’m thinking of taking a hiatus, but, yeah, I’m here for now. Also, I’m using the new WordPress editor, so if we have weird formatting…you know what went on).

Anyway, disclaimers out of the way, we’re here linking up to Christine’s last Know the Novel link up.

1. Firstly, how did writing this novel go all around?

Um…..

Okay, well, I got my 50k for NaNoWriMo…but I didn’t finish Wattle Fire, I didn’t even get close. And by the end of it, I was so fed up with the story and the direction it was going, that I stopped writing at midnight November 30 and haven’t picked it up again. 

So it went okay, as in, “I won”, but not okay as in “I’ve finished my novel!!!!”

2. Did it turnout like you expected or completely different? And how do you feel about the outcome?

It turned out completely different to what I was imagining, mostly in bad ways. I don’t feel great about the outcome, but it’s not too bad. I don’t think anyway. 😛

3. What aspect of the story did you love writing about the most? (Characters, plot, setting, prose, etc.)

It’s a toss up between the characters and the setting. I absolutely love the characters, especially Yilla and Courageous, but I also love the setting. Actually, I’m totally head over heels in love with all the different places I’ve created in this story. There’s something really magical about Courageous’ palace (which is based off Linderhof Palace, one of the palaces built by Ludwig II, the so-called “Fairy Tale King”), and there’s something wild and amazing about the wilderness and landscape of Traumlant. I love it. 😀

4. How about your least favourite part?

The plot…

*headdesks*

*Groans*

*Various other frustrated noises*

5. What do you feel like needs the most work?

The plot.

Or, the lack of plot. Either way, there’s basically no plot except that a few people get stabbed and there’s quite a lot of bantering between Courageous and his sister, Hopeful. (But sibling bantering is so good).

Pictures not Mine

6. How do you feel about your characters now that the novel is done? Who’s your favourite? Least favourite? Anyone surprise you? Give us all the details!

My favourite, as I mentioned earlier, is a toss up between Courageous and Yilla. Poor little Courageous is so hurt and broken, he’s so insecure in himself and so unlike any other character I’ve ever written that I just can’t help but love him. I also love Yilla, but she’s more self-sufficient. I also loved the experience of writing a character who fits the “strong-female character” stereotype almost perfectly, but making her into her own person, rather than little more than a cliché.

As for my least favourite…High-Praise hasn’t really managed to capture my attention. In fact, I’ve made the decision to take her point of view out of the novel, because I just don’t enjoy being inside High-Praise’s head all that much. It’s not really anything against her, per se…she just isn’t as interesting *cringes, because that sounds terrible*.

Hopeful surprised me by being so…exuberant and odd. I love her, but she did surprise me.

7. What’s your next plan of action with this novel?

Well, I’ve pretty much scrapped everything I wrote, currently I’m doing a sort of storyboard and trying to figure out how to fix it, to give it an actual plot and give the characters better motivation and personalities, and to do a little more worldbuilding.

8. If you could have your greatest dream realized for this novel, what would it be?

I want to say that my greatest dream is that it would write itself, but instead I’ll say something philosophical and deep.

If this book shows just one person who feels insecure, who doubts, who grieves, who feels they need to be strong, who craves peace and safety, that they have worth, that there is a King worth trusting, that you can cry, that peace and safety are not fairy tales…if it could show just one person (even if that person is me) these things, than that would be my greatest dream.

9. Share a snippet of one of your most favourite scenes!

The bushranger brought his solid stick above his head, manoeuvred out of the way of Courageous’ sword, and then brought the stick down on Courageous’ sword arm.
Yilla heard Courageous cry out and she clenched the hilt of her dagger even more fiercely. She watched as he dropped his sword, clutching his right hand to his left wrist. For a moment, she saw rage and pain flash across his face, and then he knelt down and picked up his sword again, this time in his right hand.
She decided right there that, yes, she loved this man as much as she loved Limirru and Gamu [her brothers] and that, yes, he was mad and he was a fool.
Letting out another cry—this one sounded like a gravely wounded hare—Courageous flung himself at the man and the fight started in earnest. Perhaps now he’d realised that fencing would get him nowhere in a forest full of greying light. Perhaps some primeval, protective switch had just been flicked and he now cared very little for his own protection. Either way, he was actually now making marks on the man’s body, actually fighting with the fierceness of a small lion.

It seemed all the bushrangers had fled, the convoy—scattered all over the place—were counting their losses and milling about in disinterested, confused gaggles. Then a figure broke away from the huddle of women and came flying toward them.
Verily, of course. Bless her.
Verily knelt by High-Praise, who had curled herself into the fetal position in order to sob more efficiently. Satisfied that the queen was being taken care of, Yilla turned her attention to Courageous.
He was lying flat on his back, one hand held to his head, where a massive black bruise was already beginning to form against the redness of his skin and a long trickle of blood appeared from between his fingers. His breath came in ragged gulps and Yilla decided that the Divine and Autocratic Ruler of Traumlant was trying not to cry.
“You are a fool, Courageous,” she said, before holding out her hand and letting him take it. “A stupid, stupid fool.”

I really enjoyed writing this scene and this is one of my favourite snippets from it (for some background, the royal convoy was attacked by a bushranger gang and High-Praise almost killed. Courageous throws himself into the fray to protect her in an attempt to be heroic, but of course only ends up getting hurt).

Pictures not mine

10. Did you glean any new writing and/or life lessons from writing this novel?

Yes, I think I have. Here’s a few lessons I’ve learnt in the process of writing this half-draft of Wattle Fire.

I am not mature enough to tackle every theme.

I don’t know, for some reason this surprised me? When I started writing this book, I had a lot of themes I wanted to cover (too many for one book, let’s be honest), but the more I tried to address those themes, the more I realised that these topics were not topics I could write about. I do not currently have the emotional or spiritual maturity to do so, and maybe I never will. But as I wrote, other themes began to show themselves, themes I do have experience with and that I can address. Themes such as insecurity, grief, peace, not fitting in, carrying heavy burdens you don’t feel like you can share, duty…these are all things I can speak about, so these are the things I’m going to address.

I really am not a pantser

I’m just not. I didn’t even really pants this novel, I did have an outline. Just a very vague one, and yeah…it didn’t work. I need super detailed 10k outlines please and thank you.

Linderhof is the most beautiful palace anyone could ask for

Seriously, I could look at pictures of it all day. Ludwig may have been mad, but he knew how to design an architectural masterpiece. 

Writing late at night may be good for the wordcount, but it is not good for my brain.

It just isn’t. I can’t write late at night and not suffer from it, even though–like the rather loveable idiot I am–I still do it.

I can write even when the world is falling apart around me

Honestly, I’ve gone through so much upheaval and pain in these past few months. For some reason, when this all began in September and October, when I was outlining and planning Wattle Fire, I thought it would be all over by November and that I’d be able to continue on with NaNoWriMo as usual.

But then October 30 appeared, and nothing had changed. In fact, things got worse. So I had to make the decision whether to participate in NaNo or not. And trust me, I was ready to give up before I’d even started. I wondered if writing a novel was the best thing I could be doing with my time, writing seemed insignificant. But on the 31st, I really felt I should at least attempt it. 

So attempt I did. I struggled through November, writing every single day. It was hard. It hurt and it was incredibly frustrating, but I did it. I don’t know if it helped, but it did show me that I am capable of writing even when I don’t feel like it, even when I hate everything, and just want to curl up and sleep the day away.

Know The Novel Linkup {Part 2}

Know the Novel Part One Banner

Hello there! We’re in the middle of NaNoWriMo now and all of our sanity has flown out the window, never to be seen again.

However, in order to give us a break from slaving over our beloved (or possibly not so beloved) novels, Christine has posted Part 2 of the Know the Novel link up! This was hugely fun to get involved with last month, so of course I’m doing it again! And there’s going to be snippets 😀

How’s the writing going?

Terribly. Okay. Fantastic! I’m slowly dying…

Okay, I feel like the writing is going terribly, but I’m actually doing fairly well. Not great but okay. I’m one of those super fast writers who likes to do 100k during NaNo…but that’s not happening this month. I’m disappointed about that and keep beating myself up over it, but I need to keep telling myself that I’m still doing well. I’m on track at least. Continue reading

Lest We Forget: Some Books To Read On Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day

Last year, I drafted a post of Remembrance Day book reviews, but never published it, for some reason that escapes me now. However, since today is the centenary of the end of WW1, I thought I might dig it out, dust it off and publish it today.

Not all of these books deal with the First World War, but they all deal with war in one form or another, and they are all well-written, engaging and heartbreaking, whether they are about WW1 or WW2.

So, here’s my original post! Enjoy 😀

young diggerYoung Digger–Anthony Hill

I just finished reading this book today and it was amazing. I think it broke my heart in several places. Here’s the official back cover blurb: Continue reading