I’ve come to accept the middle portion of books as my greatest writing nemesis. Skylight spent a long time sitting with a strong beginning and a workable ending, but lots missing in between. The words were coming slowly, and the story’s connective tissue was taking much longer than I would have liked to piece itself together, but I think I’ve finally gotten past the hump. The beginning is done, the middle is done, and I know how it ends. I have hopes to finish the writing by October 31st and pass it off to my forever #1 beta reader before edits and looking for other people to beta read (if you’d like to be one of them, please let me know!).
In November I have plans to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and write a very silly and hopefully very fun Fantasy novel about a Canadian farmer who is tasked by some otherworldly being with saving the world (or the universe, or a shelter housing less fortunate dogs, I haven’t quite decided yet). This is an idea I’ve had sitting in the back of my mind for over a year now, slowly gathering other bits and pieces to grow in to a real story, and I’m excited to get it out.
With Yuna getting her TPLO surgery on Tuesday (a million thanks to all of you who helped us with donations to pay for that, she’s doing well and we’re looking forward to her being fully recovered, but that’s going to take some time) we’ll be spending a lot of time at home and I’ll have lots of opportunity to get this work done, so hopefully I can stay on schedule and have some fun stuff to share with you all soon. For now, here’s a brief and poorly-worded synopsis of Skylight, although some of this is likely to change:
#1059214, formerly Emmy Hendridge, lives in a tower high among the clouds. The Sky Complexes house the remainder of human kind. Below, the earth is covered in hyper-evolved plant life which has made it a highly adverse environment to human survival.
Emmy, along with every citizen of The Complex, lives the same day, every day, over and over and over again. The majority of her memories are wiped at the end of the day; everything outside basic motor function and speech along with whatever skills she needs to do her assigned job. Complex rules dictate that all its surviving citizens must live this way, so as to remain complacent and not question what lies outside the tower. But on the forest floor, there are survivors, and they need her.
It is OH SO important to find your voice, because there’s a good chance that incredibly unique one in seven billion story idea you just thought up has already been written. It’s hard as hell to write a story nobody has ever heard before, so we must find new ways to tell old stories in a uniquely you fashion. That can be really hard sometimes, and more than a little scary.
New ideas are possible. They’re appearing every day. Yours could be one of them. Buuuuuuuuut there’s nearly 8 billion people out there. That idea about wizards fighting aliens while a sasquatch army assembles in the lost city of Atlantis to overthrow the government is probably floating around the internet somewhere already. At least, I hope it is, because that sounds awesome and like something I would love to read. So, as it grows harder to come up with something new and unique, it’s becoming more necessary to develop your voice and say things in your own way.
The fact of the matter is this: you’re likely to sound a little bit like a whole bunch of other people before you come to a point where you’re finally sounding like yourself. It’s normal and it’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it can be really helpful to accept it. The people you admire are the ones you’re most likely to mirror, and there’s certainly a reason you admire them, so this can be hugely advantageous to figuring out your own voice.
With that being said, there’s a pretty big difference between piecing together snippets of those you admire to build the mosaic of your own personal voice and blatantly ripping someone else off. That old adage of Be Yourself Because Everyone Else is Taken is annoying as shit when it’s blasted all over a poster or your social media feed (usually accompanied by a photo of someone like Kurt Kobain), but it does have some truth to it. In finding your own voice, you want to become someone that not only other people but you yourself can admire. If you’re a carbon copy of someone else, no matter how cool or talented they are, it’s going to be hard for you to take real pride in what you’re doing.
Stop censoring yourself, stop thinking you need to act or sound a certain way, express yourself openly and learn as much as you can from those you admire. Let that beautiful voice of yours treat the ears and eyes of those you love and who love you. You’re probably a badass and you probably sound great already. So, let ‘em have it!
The Vigilant Principle is a book about the grey area of personal justice – a vaguely broken moral compass which points in the right direction (by sheer luck) once in a while but strays off in to dark corners the rest of the time. It’s a story of someone getting lost in what they think is right only to find them self in the wrong. Searching for the line between black and white often ends with wading through the ocean of grey which that line really is.
The story in the book isn’t my own views or opinions on the matter. Those are just characters living their own lives and making their own decisions. To be honest, it’s a subject on which I have a lot of trouble taking a stance. The easy answer is the archaic one; ‘an eye for an eye’, ‘if you’ve hurt someone I love, I’ll hurt you back twice over’. But I don’t think that’s always, or even often, the correct one. Our justice system is obviously flawed, there’s basically no questioning that at this point, but is there not also a flaw in becoming some sort of Judge/Jury/Executioner cliché.
One of the first things writers on the internet will tell you is that you should try to avoid clichés. So, it seems logical to avoid being one. Cliché. Cliché. If I say that one more time it’s not going to look like a real word any more. It’s making me think quiche. Words are weird.
We all love a vigilante. They’re the type of character that most people can relate to or even admire. They act in a way most of us have wished we could act. I think there’s real moral consequence and struggle to those characters, though, that aren’t often addressed in a realistic way in fiction. That’s what I wanted to do with The Vigilant Principle. Not to point anyone in any specific direction, just to raise questions and promote thought about what our idea of justice really is. As with most things, I think the answer lives in the grey area. There is no universal right or wrong for every predicament. Everything is situational.
This is absolutely shameless self-promotion, by the way. If you haven’t picked up The Vigilant Principle yet, and anything I said above strikes your interest, then you should. If you do, I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, I still like you.
Where do you draw the line between keeping up with the most modern quirks of the English language and refusing to contribute to the destruction of the words that you love?
We all use and abuse it every single day. We’re cool and hip and we’re having fun, OK Dad?! But, there’s got be a line, right? Right!? A handful of very successful writing careers have been built upon completely made up words, and I’m certain I don’t need to tell you who I’m talking about (Dr. Seuss. It’s Dr. Seuss. But there’s others, of course, like that one old guy they call Shookspork or… or Shakeweight, or something like that). Quite frankly, if you’re writing Science Fiction, it’s almost impossible to get by without making up a word or two. So why, do you ask, am I so crotchety about modern slang terminology?
Because I’m a grouchy ninety-five-year-old trapped in an only slightly less grouchy twenty-four-year-old body, I suppose. Get off my damn lawn with your “yeet”s and your “turnt”s and your “fire”s.
It’s total hypocrisy, of course. Ten minutes ago, I told my girlfriend how dope I think bagels are. Dope. If that doesn’t date my level of coolness, probably nothing will. Because it can’t be dated. Because I will never stop being cool.
Slang is almost certainly one on a long list of things that every generation, every subculture, every person thinks 'we did it right and you’re doing it wrong'.
Speak however you like. Say whatever new neato phrases your favorite hip hop rappers are using. Not everyone is going to like it, but if it’s the person you want to be, then be it. But stay off my damn lawn if you’re gonna be yeet-ing and doing lits.
Just kidding. Be your terrific self. Don’t let my whining affect your decisions.
Well, tomorrow is the official book signing/launch party/narcissism event for The Vigilant Principle! Let me tell you, it feels weird not only inviting but encouraging people to attend something that is basically all about me and the story I wrote. Not only weird, it feels downright wrong. I’ve never been the type to actively seek attention, but now, in a way, that has become exactly what I must do to succeed. Does the obnoxious feeling ever abate even slightly? Does it ever get easier to say, “hey friends, pay attention to this thing I’ve done, it’s important to me so it should be important to you too,”?
I’m honestly not really expecting it to. I love the fact that people are reading and enjoying my book, but I’m not entirely sold on the idea of pushing it in to people’s hands. Finding the happy medium between loving my stories enough to share them and aggressively shoving them under your nose is going to be one of my biggest goals and toughest struggles.
Largely, though, I’m really just excited to meet people who are excited about reading, and to discuss the act of putting words on a page, and hopefully encourage someone with a book inside of them to get it out! It was one of the most liberating and therapeutic things I’ve ever done, to bring these characters and places and events to life. In a way, it was even a cathartic experience, to explore these ideas of morality and consequence through the eyes of fictional individuals.
I’ll never be able to vouch enough for writing as a form of stress relief. It doesn’t even have to be good. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Just tell the page how you’re feeling; or what you want; or make up a world where you’d rather be; or even something that scares the absolute hell out of you. Put the words down as a form of escape, if you have to. Build yourself a safe place in the lines of text on the paper in front of you.
I started this blog post afraid to face tomorrow—to speak to anyone about the story I’ve told and the time it took and the reasons why. I’m still afraid, and I’m still extremely nervous, but I do feel a little bit better about the fear. That’s one of the most incredible things in the world to me, and that’s a large part of why I think writing is so important.
Anyhow, thanks for reading my rambles. I look forward to seeing some of your faces tomorrow or any other time in the future. You’re all absolutely lovely and I appreciate every second of your time that you’ve given me.
Well, we're both here, so the choice has been made. The irony of a blog post about how much distaste I have for blog posts certainly is not lost on me. In the back of my mind all I hear is "xoxo, gossip girl" and that bothers me a little bit. My knee jerk reaction to the idea of a blog would be a firm shake of the head. The word itself sounds like a dry heave to me. Bleeehawg. But, I felt the same about Twitter approximately two weeks ago, and now I'm checking it often, seeking the approval of strangers on the internet. That comes with the territory of being a writer, probably. It's all fairly new to me!
But, honestly, how cool would Gossip Girl have been if it were reimagined as a supernatural crime drama on HBO, in which the Gossip Girl is some sort of omniscient deity picking off New York's most talked about young adults? Am I allowed to talk about Gossip Girl like that here? Am...Am I supposed to be portraying myself as a professional? Is it abundantly clear that I have no idea what I'm doing? Huh... That's neither here nor there, I suppose, but I've been thinking about it for a while. If you have a friend at HBO, let me know I guess?
So if you're here reading this, then I thank you for giving me a minute of your time. Maybe I'll get better, maybe I'll get worse, but more blogs will begin to pop up eventually.
xoxo, Mark Karsten
(That's not going to become a thing, don't worry.)
Who am I?
I'm Mark Karsten. I'm from a city called Lethbridge in Southern Alberta, Canada. I read, I write, and I snuggle puppies at every given opportunity. It's lovely to meet you.