If you're on the *right* side of booktok and bookstagram, you may have spotted Isabel Agajanian's debut novel Modern Divination wowing readers worldwide. With its mystical vibes, dark academia romance, and stunning cover, this is a debut worth watching.
Today I'm very grateful to have Isabel on the Poppy's Pages blog to chat about their
authoring journey, and advice for aspiring writers.
A while ago, I wrote the first draft of what would later become my debut novel, Modern Divination. It was terrible. I loved it anyway. I finished several drafts and revisions in what felt like the blink of an eye. I loved it into existence.
In the wake of my second book, I find myself wondering how the first ever came to be. I’m struggling to draft, my well is depleted. The word count in my document seems to stay the same no matter how long I sit behind my computer and type.
Maybe I’ve run out of ideas. Maybe this one isn’t any good. Where is the love and joy that drove me before?
I’m asking myself countless questions that sound just like this, and the fear of not knowing is just as demoralizing as the unchanging word count. The advice I find online isn’t helping me. Rather, I’m left feeling like there’s something wrong with me, something missing from my coding that inhibits me from experiencing the success these words seem to give other people.
I am not here to tell you to write. I am not going to say “Finish the book.”
I am here to give you permission to take your time.
You certainly don’t need my permission. I have no more influence than a New York Times bestseller or a literary prize winner, but there is plenty of ambitious advice out there to follow and few reminders to step back and breathe. It’s something I forget often. I have to set reminders for myself to eat, to hydrate, to check my mail, to do most things. Not everyone gets overwhelmed the way I do, but then again, not everyone needs to flip through several pages of articles of rich, successful novelists telling you how to write a book just to discover their methods don’t work for you.
So, if you’re anything like me, take a step back and breathe.
Your story isn’t going anywhere.
I wrote Modern Divination while working a full-time office job, scribbling dialogue down in a composition book between emails and losing myself to themed Spotify playlists. I would expand on my notes in the evening after my commute, feeling inspired and motivated. It was something I loved and looked forward to every night, but by design, I couldn’t let it consume me. Only by giving myself space from my work did it have room to grow.
If you’re someone who considers their time away from their book to be a detriment, I get it. I am not particularly fast at typing or concise with my words. But time is invaluable. Breaks are vital. A story will take from you and drink from your well. Allot yourself sufficient time to forget about your book and consume media that inspires you, be it good or bad. Take a walk somewhere scenic. Sit in a cafe and consider the person across the room from you.
Take a deep breath and let the image of it develop in your mind. What can you hear? What takes root in your mind if you tend it like a garden?
Inspiration blooms in unpredictable places. A character quirk from a stranger’s habits. A scene from the scent of someone’s too-strong cologne. It’s so easy to miss when you devote all your time to the intricacies of craft.
In the end, your story is a derivation of you, and you are a conglomeration of everyone and everything that has ever happened to you in your life. I like to say that every book I’ve ever read has stayed with me in some way, whether it showed me something beautiful or showed me what not to do. There are things my childhood friends have said to me that inspire the fears of my characters. There are songs I cannot hear without thinking of colorful scenes—where would those words come from if I’d never given myself permission to listen?
Be gentle with yourself. Let the story that lives inside of you rest from time to time When you’re ready to write, there will be so much more to draw from.