Posts Tagged ‘novel’

On Being Edited

Posted: March 9, 2022 in writing
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So after Followers and during a pandemic, I wrote another novel. Spawned from a blend of world events and inspiration from random history articles, this story took me out of the horror genre for the first time since I started publishing my work. This story also flowed out of me like Savages, and I felt very strong about it. When I started editing and reworking it, I didn’t change much.

Insert red flag.

Then, when I thought it was ready, it got universally rejected. I know every parent thinks their baby is adorable, but even I could understand that this meant something was wrong with my creation. So, for the first time, I turned to an independent editor outside a publishing house.

I have worked with editors before (on all my published works), and I always use beta readers in my drafting process. Yet this is the first time I have interacted with the editor prior to the submission acceptance and outside the publishing process. Call it a new author experience for me. My authoring career is evolving, and I can hitch this on to the dreadful agent querying process.

My book clearly needed help, so I asked around and got recommendations for an independent editor. I sent her my raw, trembling, little baby, and she (and an associate) went through it before providing me an editorial letter of feedback. Standard process, as I understand it.

OUCH!

It is what I asked for. It is what I needed. But damn, it stung.

With my previous books and stories and my other editors, we have worked my pieces over very collaboratively. However, they have never ripped any apart or suggested severe rewrites. In short, I have been spoiled. I have been pushing my boulders up gentle hills and have just now encountered my first mountain.

Currently, I am in the “processing the feedback” stage. I have the editorial letter, and I am digesting the many ideas therein. Next, I will meet with the editor(s) to discuss and brainstorm. Then the fork in the road–what to do? I will need to decide whether to pursue the story, and if I do, I determine what changes to make to it.

Insert heavy sigh weighed down by how daunting this all seems. Didn’t I just finish this book?

My initial emotional reaction was, with so much feedback, was there was anything redemptive in my book? If the plot and the characters and the names and everything need to change, is the story even worth salvaging? Is it really only the idea that survives? Honestly, these insecure pangs still nibble at the back of my brain as I mull it over.

As I am processing the ideas and they are cooling, the sharp edges are blunting. The looming shadows are scaling down so they no longer blot out the sun and I can see over them. Critiques are gradually reshaping into possibilities. If I can remain pragmatic, I can use this arrangement as intended to improve and evolve my story, to level it up into something an agent will accept.

This is not my first critique and far from my most brutal. This is not new territory. However, I feel like I have been coasting for a while, sneaking by in a sweet spot that did not force me to confront my shortcomings.

As I type this, I know that is what I need to do and also what I will end up doing. My feelings have just not caught up yet. My emotions are wounded and tangled on any part that hurts. Based on rejection on so many other fronts, this just seems to deepen the wound. My brain seeks out the confirmation for the pain. As I work my way through it with this words, I see that what I feel isn’t even really about the book or the editorial feedback.

I had finally pulled myself out of a writing slump and dumped myself into a new story. This has knocked me out of that groove. This has me questioning my writing, my quality.

Unfounded, I know. This is part of it, I know. But feelings are feelings.

I need to remember that I do not always need to be accomplishing something. I can rewrite my novel at my leisure. There is no deadline. I can return to my new WIP whenever I want. It is not going anywhere. It is OK to take the time and take the breaks. It is better to get it right and make it better. I do not understand my own urgency, but I need to undo it.

Deep breath… Next step…

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

Holy hell, November is over. Wasn’t it just Halloween? Wait, wasn’t it just summer? Or last November? I’m still in some sort of pandemic time warp where time simultaneously flies by yet drags on. How can it be both?

This year, I arrived at November beaten and bruised (mostly psychologically). I decided that November needed to be a self-care month. Part of my anguish centered around my writing career. I was struggling with finding my passion buried under marketing and promoting and querying and the general business of being a writer. I determined I would participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo – a challenge to write 50,000 words in November) for the second time. However, I would use it differently this year.

For my inaugural year of NaNoWriMo, I used last November to complete my WIP novel, Green Eyes. The goal and accountability kept me very motivated and on track, and I did finish the draft of my book. That book now stresses me out as I attempt to query it to agents.

This year, the prospect of what happens after the writing had been weighing on me. Editing and submitting and publishing and promoting and selling. I wanted to get back to the writing, so I targeted NaNoWriMo to just be about the writing. Inspiration handed me the solution. I had my very first idea for a fan fiction piece.

Fan fiction can never be published for profit since the characters are copyrighted. I would never have to worry about submitting or querying it for publication and release. I could write in my little sandbox, and it never needed to go farther than that. I supposed that could be true about any piece, yet with fan fiction, I would never be able to talk myself into more.

So I wrote 50,000 words just to write 50,000 words. I wrote fan fiction just to play and try it out. It was fun. It was liberating. It was no pressure. I even learned some things. In short, it served the purpose I wanted.

For my project, I decided to write within the Scream universe. It seemed fitting to dabble in fan fiction there since it was my first horror movie, where my love affair began.

My story is basically the first movie but centered on Billy Loomis and Stu Macher. It also includes some before the events of the movie and some after. Spoiler alert: Billy and Stu are the killers, so the story details how they decided to start killing people, how they selected their victims, how they constructed their plan, the logistics of how the pulled off the events of the film, and what I think happened after the credits.

To accomplish this story, I wanted to remain loyal to Scream, merely augment it with additional perspectives, give it more depth and explanation. To do this, I watched Scream probably ten times in stuttering 2-5 minute increments.

Then I also found the movie script online to lift necessary dialog. This was a true learning experience. I am not familiar with script writing. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen or read a real script. I am, however, pretty familiar with the film, so it was a trip to see it captured on the page. Where the actors adlibbed or followed the lines. How much is scripted versus directed. These are things I never knew or appreciated.

So I spent the month just writing and living inside one of my favorite movies.

Is it any good? I have no idea. No one has read it yet, including me. What will I do with it? I honestly have no idea. Perhaps I wrote it just for me. Maybe it was just a writing exercise to get my creative juices flowing and my passion rekindled. Or perhaps I will put it out on this blog for free, which is about all I can do with fan fiction.

What do you think? What should become of my little pet project?

While I was not as successful on the rest of self-care November, my NaNoWriMo project did the job. I feel refreshed to approach Green Eyes again. I also have a new original novel idea. Then I have five existing books out there to sell!

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

What happens when online followers show up uninvited into real life? Find out in this reading from Followers. Out this Friday from Crystal Lake Publishing!

You can pre-order Followers on Amazon.

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

My fifth book, Followers, comes out from Crystal Lake Publishing on Friday. It seems like an appropriate time to introduce some of the cast of characters contained within its pages.

Sidney lives part of her life with the people around her but also has a secondary life online. As such, the characters in Followers appear in Sidney’s real and/or virtual life.

Real Life

Sidney

Sidney is the protagonist of Followers. A single mother with a dull day job, Sidney has big dreams of becoming a full-time horror reviewer and risqué gore model. She’s determined to make her website a success, and if her growing pool of online followers is any indication, things are looking good.

Sidney loves horror, perhaps too much to see horror blossoming in her own life. Despite all the grief she gets from her mother and ex-husband, she continues to pour fake blood on herself in pursuit of her goal. She uses all the online followers she accrues online to soothe the insecurity she feels from wrecking her marriage. The more she amasses, the more addicted she becomes to the adoration.

Kendra

Kendra is Sidney’s roommate and cofounder of their Divorced Wives’ Club. Kendra may loathe horror, but she supports Sidney’s ambition within it. She only wishes Sidney would be more cautious and calculating with all those strangers online.

Cameron

Cameron is Sidney’s young son, muddling his way through his parents’ messy divorce. Cameron presses his mother’s guilt to persuade her to let him watch horror with her.

Brady

Brady is Sidney’s extravagant photographer accomplice. As Jagged Rainbow Photography, Brady creates all of the fake blood photographs Sidney uses for clickbait on her horror articles. Brady and his husband, Jordan, also step in to help Sidney when she needs emotional support.

Aiden

Aiden is Sidney’s ex-husband. Still bitter from Sidney’s infidelity and the resulting split, Aiden makes interactions very unpleasant. He cites her love of horror as evidence of inferior parenting.

Wes

Wes is Sidney’s horror buddy. He conducts live tweets and also attends horror film festivals with her. His online persona also crosses over with hers.

Virtual Life

Adam

Adam is Sidney’s longest follower. They speak online all day, every day. Though flirtatious, he asks her about her day, and they talk about nearly all aspects of their real lives. Sidney considers him an actual friend.

Oliver

Oliver is a long-standing follower who flirts shamelessly and aggressively with Sidney. He messages daily with compliments and demanding pictures.

Max

Max is a new follower who emerges after Sidney’s blood bath pictures. He begins with the normal follower pattern but quickly escalates with alarming horror references.

Allison

Allison joins Sidney’s live tweet then begins messaging her more regularly. Sidney feels a strange safety messaging with her. They quickly become friends. Sidney finds herself confessing things to Allison she is not telling anyone else.

When Horror Crosses Over

Sidney thinks horror and her followers exist on the other side her screen. Yet the more she plays, the more she pushes on that boundary, the closer both come to her real life. Until they cross over. Find out what happens when Sidney’s online followers bring horror into her real life in Followers… on Friday!

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

As I keep saying, Followers is coming on September 24th from Crystal Lake Publishing. What better teaser than the first chapter! Meet Sidney and her photographer friend, Brady, as they make fake blood horror art in the opening scene of Followers.

Followers will be released September 24th by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Emma murders her dates in THE REST WILL COME. Listen to me read one such encounter. find more in THE REST WILL COME.

You can find The Rest Will Come on Amazon.

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

I started my reading practice videos with Savages. Fitting as it is my first book. Months later, we are back at Savages again. Have I gotten any better? You tell me…

You can find Savages here (including audiobook!): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C2T88RZ/

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

New mic, who this? Darth Vader, apparently 😆

I wrote Savages amidst the post-apocalyptic zombie craze. How do I feel about it years later after a global pandemic and watching people freak out over toilet paper? And how do you feel about it?

Find Savages here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C2T88RZ/

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Per my marketing plan (that I am trying to hold myself to), I am supposed to be writing a blog about my book Savages.

However, if I’m honest, my mind is like quicksand lately. Thoughts turn into holes that swallow and crush me until I can no longer breathe. Motivation and focus are figments I cannot seem to get my hands around. Whenever I seem to catch my balance, a hole in the bottom of my brain opens, and I am dragged below the surface again.

I am in this place for many reasons. Things happening in my life, my brain itself. This place is not new. I am a frequent visitor.

And perhaps these broken fragments of my mind do piece back together and relate to Savages. Savages started in this place, after all. The idea came from the darkness, blossomed in my hopelessness.

Sometimes, there is inspiration in the darkness.

Other times, like now, there is mental catatonia there. Lethargy. Detachment. Resignation. Overwhelm.

Yet Savages came from that terrible and wonderful balance when the darkness pinched and sliced and bled some brilliance out of me. I took everything awful I felt and tried to say something beautiful with it. Did I succeed? You would have to read it to decide.

When I read Savages (and I have and I have listened to the audiobook), I always feel the same swell of emotions that inspired and drafted the book. Savages will probably always be my baby, my first book and my first love. They are all still tucked right behind the words. I feel all the darkness soaked into the pages. So I’ll never be able to see the work objectively (as if the author ever could). It will always exist in the dark place for me.

I don’t know why depression and writing walk hand in hand for me. Mania and writing surely do not, though I would love to fuel my craft with that energy. There is just a certain point in the descent, a certain shade in the darkness where my mind unfurls and all the words pour down on me. Any deeper and it swallows and crushes me, but before that pain is some terrible sweet spot.

I have been asked if it is worth it, to suffer the pain for my art. On some days, curled up at the bottom unable to think, I would say no. However, on most days, when I hold something like Savages in my hand that was born from that darkness, I do not even hesitate. It is always worth it, and I honestly do not know how I would function without it.

If you want to read my dark baby, you can find Savages here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C2T88RZ/ I personally recommend the audiobook, but I might just love to hear my words in someone else’s voice.

(Apologies for the detached brevity. Hopefully, next month finds me more solidified in my efforts.)

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Last weekend, I took myself on a little miniature tour through Tennessee. As with all things in my life, it was a whirlwind.

Initially, this entire trip was planned around attending the Behind the Mask Author Event. I had never previously done a mass book signing event, so when the organizer invited me, I figured, why not? I might as well try it out, investigate and experiment for myself. I selected this particular event because it was located in Nashville, so I could pair it with a visit to Chattanooga.

I lived in Chattanooga for about five years. It has now been five years since I returned home to Colorado. We moved for my husband’s job. I briefly deployed to Iraq with my job then returned to working from our new home, knowing no one. Eventually, by several clever turns of fate, I found the morbid cabaret belly dance troupe (yes, such a thing does miraculously exist) the Corpsewax Dollies. These girls became my community, and dancing with them became my passion.

I leaped at the chance to pair an author event with a more nostalgic visit. Plus, having that time with the Dollies served as a safety net. Even if the signing was a complete, depressing bust, the trip would not have been for nothing. The Dollies then sweetened the deal by planning a show for me to perform in with them and allowed me to dance as my own serial killer Emma (from The Rest Will Come).

Undoubtedly, I have missed the Dollies themselves the most. The sisterhood, the community, their devilishly individual personalities. Yet the lack of the stage and performing in my life has also left a vacancy. A vacancy I never really confronted since I have not performed with them in five years (since my farewell show) and have only done haflas with the teachers I have taken up with back in Colorado. My performance life was never grand or exceptionally successful, but there is simply something different about dancing on a stage versus dancing in a classroom.

Between the book signing in Nashville and performing in Chattanooga, the trip became something of a mini author/dancer tour.

I flew into Nashville on Thursday night. The travel in itself was quite the adventure. I ended up stuck in traffic mere miles from the Denver airport when a truck ahead of us overturned. Then I spent almost two hours on the tarmac waiting for the plane to be deiced. Once we actually flew and landed, the Nashville baggage throwers jammed the carousel with our bags. A semi trailer blazed in full flames on my drive down to Chattanooga in the fog. A surreal comedy of minor errors.

But I did make it.

Even from the first steps off the plane, things felt very strange on this trip. When we lived in Tennessee and traveled, my husband used to say that the minute we hit Tennessee airspace, my disposition changed (read: I became a bitch). In this same way, when I exited the airport, it felt almost as if I had never left, as if I hadn’t left a life in Colorado to return. I have returned to Tennessee before this, and it has felt like picking up where I left off, but nothing like this amnesic feel. However, I dismissed it and carried on.

On my first day back in the Dirty South, I met my first and former running mate (the Dolly I was staying with) on the Riverwalk for a run. After I had my daughter, she had been the unfortunate victim who took up running with me. We spent countless mornings and an untold sum of hours jogging up and down that riverwalk. In the dark. In the rain. In the heat. Like dance with the Dollies, the activity became foundational. Running remains so for me now.

After the run, I met with Ricky Davis of TRD Photography to get new author headshots. After all, I have not been orange for some time now, so my current ones seem a bit like a lie. I figured might as well get them refreshed with a photographer I knew from back when I utterly sucked at “modeling.”

That night, dress rehearsal. Back in the studio with the Dollies preparing for the show, just like old times. The experience was strangely gut-wrenching. Simultaneously, I felt the vivid joy at being back and the searing pain at knowing it was fleeting. I felt welcomed and included yet inevitably on the outside. The contrast, the duality was visceral. I couldn’t stop smiling, and I also wanted to cry. I simply savored every moment of it.

Saturday was the epicenter of the trip, the author event itself. One Dolly and I got up painfully early and drove back to Nashville. Navigating the venue and parking and unpacking and locating the event was laughable clusterfuck, but, again, we made it. She was instrumental in getting me where I needed to be, especially when I kept sending her back to the car for everything I forgot.

When we walked in to the ballroom and looked over the other tables, I knew I did not belong at this event. Most tables boasted huge standing signs advertising the author’s name. From the macro pictures of chiseled male abdomens and pink calligraphy of the font on these signs, from the chapstick lined up and chocolate strewn over the tables, I knew I had stepped out of my genre. Somehow, I had ended up at a romance author book signing.

One might argue that The Rest Will Come is a dark romantic comedy. One could say that sexual tension is at the root of Savages. One might even try to argue that The Waning offers an extremely twisted love story. I would say that a romance reader would not agree on any of these points. I knew I was incongruent; I just did not know if it would be a good thing to stand out or not. I did not know what to expect from any of it.

In the morning, the readers steadily trickled through. I sold a book here or there. Many potential customers wrinkled their noses and walked faster once they realized that horror graced my table. I did have some delightful conversations regardless.

The crowd dwindled around lunch time, and instead, restless authors began roaming the booths. These romance authors seemed quite excited about what I offered in The Rest Will Come. I ended up selling more books to other attending authors or their support crews than any person who bought a ticket.

The afternoon monotony was salvaged by the arrival of more Dollies. They arrived to buy a good chunk of my books and keep me company. By this point, authors had abandoned all professionalism, walking between booths to talk other events, drinking bottles of wine or eating at their tables. I elected not to wander but still connected to a few kindred spirits and was annoyed by others.

The book signing event finally rounded to a anticlimactic close; however, it went better than I anticipated. Not as well as I could have hoped or dreamed, but I ended up selling about half of my books, enough to not have to ship them home. I had feared I would not sell a single book, so I considered this result a win.

The Dollies and I retired to our hotel room to drink and prepare for the masquerade ball that was a part of the author event.

The masquerade ball was terrible. We arrived an hour late to find less than ten people sitting idle at tables in the dark, barely even speaking. The provided food was minuscule, and the drinks were grievously overpriced. We ate the miniature food and had a weak drink. We watched the DJ fail at enlivening the crowd. By the time we bailed, there were maybe 20-30 people there, but the entire thing felt like a flat wedding reception. Free booze and sleep at the hotel was much more appealing.

Sunday, back to Chattanooga! Admittedly, my brain was a bit raw from the event. After so much unknown and anticipation to see if it would break my author heart, I felt overstimulated, maybe emotionally hungover. Then, I also spent some time driving around the city by myself, which allowed strange feelings to swell over me. The nostalgia became paralytic at times. In the quiet, I was confronted by shapeless emotions I had not anticipated. I did not know how I felt, only that I felt. A lot.

Yet there was no time for all that. Sunday night was the show.

This serial killer show was held at the same venue where I participated in the majority of performances during my time. Despite the name change and some fresh paint, it remained largely unchanged. Once again, this was somehow both comforting and upsetting, forcing my mind to awkwardly straddle the past and the present.

After crawling into someone’s head to craft the character of Emma, it was ridiculously fun to pick a dark anthem for her then fetish her up into a costume. I ended up looking like some gothic lumberjack with a bloody shovel, but I don’t think I would have cast her any other way as a Dolly. With my bloody shovel, I danced to a solo I choreographed myself. More nerve-wracking than dancing to someone else’s!

It was a blast. All of it. I managed to not completely mangle the dances I was in, even those learned over a tiny screen and Google Hangouts. Even if I did mess up, I didn’t care. I just laughed and kept dancing, kept watching, kept cheering.

Afterwards, the Dollies put on a fire show in the parking lot. I definitely wish I had been around when they started playing with fire. It was amazing to watch.

Then it was tearful goodbyes in the parking lot and a midnight run to Waffle House.

On Monday, it was over. All the Dollies were at work and back at their lives as I packed myself up and headed back to the Nashville airport. From the moment I woke up (after not much sleep), my head was an absolute disaster. Though I had imbibed the night before, I do not think I was hungover. I managed to rouse with zero physical symptoms, and I did not feel drunk at the time. However, my memories for the previous night were scattered and fractured. I would say definitely drunk except this effected lasted until I napped on the plane.

This oddity was unnerving in itself, but it was also coupled with the most crippling depression I have felt in months. The emotional surge went so far as to affect me physically. I felt like I could not breathe, like I should not move. This is not entirely unfamiliar, but it has been so long since the depression reached so deep. Again, this could be attributed to alcohol, but it hinted once I hit Nashville and had no accompanying hangover.

I drove past my old house and managed to make it worse. I am not sure why. I miss the Dollies, but I do not think I miss living in the South or that house in particular. Though my husband and I had my daughter and became a family there. Perhaps it was the swell of memories on a vulnerable mind. Perhaps it was that many of those memories are edged in pain and depression akin to what I was feeling. I cannot accurately say because my mind’s narrative was so splintered as I was experiencing it.

Whatever was happening made my travel home excruciating. The logistics themselves were fine. I arrived to the airport early. My flight was on time. I had a lovely friend willing to pick me up. All of that was easy, but my experience of it was terrible. I felt like I was barely holding it together the entire time.

Again, I am honestly not sure why. I used to feel somewhat similar (turned WAY down) when I would visit Colorado while living in Tennessee. I have returned to the Dollies before and do always feel these feelings (turned WAY down). I don’t have an explanation as to why emotions ran so high this time. Did I dissociate? Did I depersonalize? What happened? I only know it has taken me almost four days to resurface.

All told, the trip was a rollercoaster. Emotionally more than anything. Yet I would not trade a single moment. Even the darkest moments made the pleasant ones burns all the more bright. I am still glowing. And maybe crying too.

As far as authoring, I think I learned some valuable lessons. My first publishing contract included a marketing class, to teach us to sell our own books. One basic premise was to not do BOOK things. Don’t do book events or book venues or anything centered around books. The idea being that you place yourself in direct competition with other books. Instead, it would be more advantageous to be the only book where your target audience might be.

After this experience, I can see it. I think I agree completely. But I needed to try it. I needed to experience it and learn for myself. Now, I know. Now, I have other ideas of what to do and try.

Tennessee the mini tour, totally worth it.

Christina Bergling

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