Lessons Learned By A Writer With A Short Attention Span

As of June 21, 2012 I completed my first draft of Sunrise, nine days short of my goal. As I reach another milestone in my writing career, I’d like to dedicate this post to everyone who suffers from PTSD and ADHD. The latter I see as a positive because the hyper-focus characteristic that comes with it enables me to finish large projects quickly. I can’t see anything that produces such positive results as being negative.  However, the former can be crippling for me. I only recently discovered that these old feelings and emotions that crop up and get tangled up in present events  are flashbacks. Through the years I’ve dealt with them successfully through mindfulness meditation, chanting and  remaining steadfast on my spiritual journey. It keeps me grounded in the moment and allows me to maintain a focus I’ve never experienced before.  I  accept the events that led to my condition will forever be a part of me, and this acceptance helps with my healing and forgiveness of those who’ve imprinted themselves into my psyche. It’s only through forgiveness that I’ve been able to progress to a place where I love and appreciate the life I’m living.

As a side note, Harmony, a technology used in my novel, Unison, eliminates traumatic emotional memories from the past. The protagonist’s conclusion as to whether or not that’s a good thing is answered in the book and also mirrors my own conclusions.

Now…on to the writing stuff!


Discomfort leads to growth

I always remember that when I decide to take the road most traveled, which for me would’ve been to have an unnamed narrator in the omniscient voice. However, it’s my named narrator that strings the whole story together and brings it to a satisfactory resolution. I focus on that whenever I think about going into the book and taking out all the references that identify the narrator. All in all, Sunrise  has grown on me because of a strong likable cast of characters that came alive because of the specific narrator and her personal views towards them.  Another unexpected surprise for me was that I found that writing in this voice is not unlike first person—except for the fact the voice doing the narrating  isn’t directly involved in the story. I like the level of mystique this adds to the story.

A question I asked myself at the start of this book was:

Could I write a fulfilling story with twelve characters and complete all their arcs in an emotionally satisfying way without writing thousands of pages?

Answer: Yes, and using omniscient narration helped me achieve this in under 80,000 words. After my next edit, which I scheduled in for September, I’m fairly certain the number count will go up a bit. With Unison, it moved up over 25,000 words! I’m fairly certain that won’t be the case with Sunrise as I’ve been editing as I go along, and I don’t forsee many holes that need plugging. As I’m free until July 1st, I’m going to continue to clean up the last remaining chapters.  When I come back to this book, I’ll have an easier time because of the following techniques I’ve improved upon.

Editing as I go along –  In July I’ll begin my edit on Jessie’s Song, and I dread all my visits to Autocrit to see how many times I overused it, that or was. Not to mention all those duplicate words that I failed to notice because I was more interested in getting the story down! It’s emotionally daunting—and draining just thinking about it. With Sunrise it will be a smoother—and faster edit.

Don’t start typing until I picture the complete scene – Before each chapter, I lie down and listen to music or go for a walk to visualize the scene. When I’m away from home, I carry a digital recorder, so I don’t lose an idea.

Channeling a character – This one is a first for me. I channel the characters and have discovered that it’s a great method to reveal character motivations.  After I played it back, I was surprised how my voice changed to mimic the character! I’ve saved them as MP3s and will make them available on this site after Sunrise is released. All these techniques shortened my writing session which is important to someone like me as I have a short attention span.

Run through as many setting and scene alternatives until one screams out “Write me! Write me now!” As I run through the scene, I keep at it, coming up with as many scenarios as possible. When I get to the one that makes me jump up from where I’m sitting and run to my computer, I know I’ve found the right scene, setting or idea.  I won’t write anything down until I get that aha feeling.

Add editing-type columns in my outline – This was another big one for me. I outline my chapters using outline software.  I color code all the different threads, and this helps ensure I have an even balance between them. As I work out of order, I have to take notes to remind myself of what chapters I edited. Making things more complicated is I do different kinds of edits.  I first use WhiteSmoke for grammar checks.  I then run my chapters through Autocrit for redundancies and overused words. Although they help a lot, software can’t replace a personal understanding of grammar, but it does help speed up the editing process. After my first clean-up, I do a Kindle read through using speech to text for flow and tempo.

To keep track of the above, I made four check box columns in my chapter outline. Each time I complete an edit, I check the appropriate box. Kindle gets an extra column because the first read through is of the first draft only. I do another read through after I edit and will sometimes go through a third time if necessary. With Unison I had to do four because of the complex timeline involved. I highly recommend Omni Outliner, which I started using only just recently. Wish I got this one sooner.

Change the sex of the narrator – This works great for distance, especially for a first person narration. Unison is in first person male, so when I did the final read through, I switched it to female and that gave me some additional distance.

Writing has become a lot of fun for me because of the creative ways I find my stories. These methods work especially well for ADHD-type personalities.  I hope some of these tips can be applied to your situation.

I’ll be releasing an Ebook on my writing, editing and producing Sunrise after it’s published. I’ll also include some additional spoilers along with concerns I had with several of the themes I used in this story

Love and light,


How A Ballerina Danced Her Way Into Her Own Conflict

Today I’m going to write about my character, Rahjni, and how I set up a scene before I even begin typing. Rahjni is one of the twelve characters in my current work-in-progress, Sunrise. 

Choosing the setting and tone…

While I was working on Rahjni’s backstory, I had envisioned her as a professional ballerina. Multiple Sclerosis took away her ability to dance. I had to demonstrate the consequences of her illness by how she reacts to them, and  I didn’t want to get weighed down by too much backstory.   Late last week, I arrived at the scene where I had to have Rahjni deal with all the issues she’s been avoiding. The scene had to be intense and show her struggles. To keep up the pace I’ve set meant I  had to arrive at the scene goal quickly and without making it seem rushed.

Before I set out to write Rahjni’s scene, I had no idea what setting I’d be using. I had an understanding of what I wanted the scene to accomplish; Rahjni needed to uncover a hidden aspect of herself that led her to the point where the story takes place. I had to figure out her own unique way of bringing her secret to the surface. My reason for going with my intuition on making Rahjni a ballerina soon made itself clear when I envisioned telling her story via the ballet. The moment that idea entered my mind, something clicked, and I knew I was on the right track.

Now that I had a setting in mind, I set out to find the ballet that would serve as both Rahjni’s final professional role as a ballerina and also run as a parallel story to what she’s endured throughout her life. I went on the internet and studied different ballets thinking it would take hours to find the right one.  Ten minutes into my search I found the ballet that meshed perfectly with the scene goal: La Bayadère. Translated in English, it means Temple Dancer. From the moment I read the synopsis, I knew this ballet was the perfect fit for Rahjni’s conflict reveal scene. I found a youtube video of  some of the dances, specifically the Kingdom of Shades  and the death scene of Nikiya, the temple dancer.  I immediately pictured how the whole scene would play out after watching both dances, and I wrote out a quick draft. After I finished writing the scene, I loved it, but man did it go to places I never expected!

Watching two dances wasn’t enough to absorb and appreciate the whole ballet. I purchased the score performed by the London Chamber Orchestra, and the next evening I watched the complete ballet performed by the London Royal Ballet with my daughters. I paid close attention to the visuals, props, colors, costumes and music, taking notes on each aspect. I’ve also been jogging to the score to internalize the music.

For further assistance, I joined a ballet forum in hopes of finding a source where I can find what piece of music corresponds to a particular dance. I found out that it varies from ballet company to ballet company, so I opted to keep the name of the pieces out, which would of only pulled the reader out of the intense visuals I wrote into the scene.

Character development builds the story.

The middle of a story has always been the most difficult for me and is typically the last thing I write. A major aha moment for me was when I first realized it’s the character that leads to the conflict. No matter how carefully and methodically I’ve plotted a story, in almost everything I’ve written, the conflict is the most difficult for me. I need to spend a lot of time with the characters to get a sense of who they are.  Their struggles unlock the door to the conflict that should seamlessly flow into the climax of the story. When I started writing Sunrise, I knew the conflict I outlined wasn’t strong. I mused over which of the twelve characters would bring about the conflict that would push them all to the climax that I had already written. Yesterday, one of my other characters revealed the conflict, and I wrote out the scene.

After I completed Rahjni’s ballet scene,  the conflict of this particular character  revealed itself organically and had  presented me with a new thread I hadn’t expected. Now I needed to choreograph that scene and find a setting. The answer came to me while I was working out at the gym. I posed a question about what truth the conflict will reveal, and a whole other strange and surreal setting came to me in full color! I took my daughters out to lunch and then we headed over to the library where I wrote out the scene.

My last few writing sessions have been quite productive. I got out of them  the main story conflict, a character conflict, plus a character reveal scene.  I also began structuring a new story inspired by my husband.  I’m the type that prefers to have a lot of projects ready to go. It keeps me motivated.

First review for Unison – 4.0 Stars


Rating: 4.0 stars

Reviewed by Trudi LoPreto for Readers Favorite

Unison by Eleni Papanou is a well-written science fiction book. It is told by Damon, the leading character of the story, in great detail. The time is after the Great Cataclysm and the city is Unity. Home is a very large dome offering protection from the contamination of the Outsiders and their world. Damon advances to a high level in Unity and is responsible for creating the technology that is wrongly used on the people. Damon believes the time is right and that it has become necessary to escape and explore the real world. We travel with Damon as he is reincarnated over and over and re-lives his life remembering the errors of his way and always trying to make the changes that would correct his mistake. With each reincarnation Damon finds himself outside of Unity, in the same cabin, being faced with the same horrors, trying to go back and fix the wrongs. As he awakens from each reincarnation he is faced with the same doubts: Flora the woman he loves trying to bring him back to Unity, leaders chasing him and meeting the same people again and again. Each reincarnation brings him closer to the truth and he is able to handle the situations differently. Upon his final awakening, Damon and we learn the truth of his journey.

Unison is written for the science fiction reader. Eleni Papanou presents the story in a believable way with characters that are strong and well defined. The last chapter of the book does a great job of answering all of the readers’ questions and it also includes a great ending that I didn’t see coming. If you are a science fiction fan then I recommend you pick up a copy of “Unison”.

Unison Interview at Carol Grayson’s Blog

Interview from Carol Grayson’s Blog

Hello Eleni, you´ve written a SciFi book entitled Unison. Tell my readers more about your book and yourself, please.

My book, Unison, is  an allegory of my own spiritual journey that began after my spontaneous kundalini awakening.  It literally turned my life upside down in that it challenged my world view.  Giving up everything I ever believed in was quite traumatizing. I spent years journaling, questioning, thinking and healing. During this time I got married, had two daughters and then had to deal with a cancer diagnosis. This was what really strengthened my spiritual resolve.  I survived and got back into writing after taking a few years off. 

Unison revolves around a scientist who learns he’s reliving his life. He uses this foreknowledge to try to stop himself from inventing technology used to enslave his people.  To do that, he must first  save himself and his girlfriend from an elder who keeps killing them and who wants to breed slaves using his technology.  But looming underneath all his struggles is something far greater than he realizes, and if he can make it past these obstacles, he’ll uncover a hidden truth about his origin. At it’s very essence, it’s a story about love and redemption.  

I’d like to mention my editor told me she normally doesn’t read my type of book, but she was hooked. I was glad to hear that because I want Unison to be appreciated by people who don’t typically read science fiction. In the end, I feel a good story is about strong characters who find themselves challenged, and as we read about them, we feel their pain, cheer for them and want them to win.  I firmly believe if you can do that, genre becomes less important. I know it does for me as a reader. 

When did you decide to start writing and how did you develop your world?  What influenced you at the most?

I’ve been writing  poetry since I was a child, and I started screenwriting in my twenties. But it wasn’t until I began to write novels that I found my true calling. Something about the format allows me to connect more with the story world in that I could get into all the details I couldn’t in a screenplay. Unison actually started out as a screenplay with only two characters, and now it’s a full blown epic with three more books I’ve all ready outlined. 

I develop all of my story worlds while meditating or exercising. It allows me to quickly connect to my right brain. I won’t start writing until I can picture everything first. Sometimes the pictures come out so clearly it’s like I’m watching a movie.  Another new novel I’m working on,  Sunrise,” is very surreal, and I’m getting a lot of cool visuals in my meditations.  I blog about my writing of Sunrise on my website. 

Do you think that women are writing another kind of Science Fiction than men do? Can you imagine to write other genres as well?

I don’t think there’s a difference between men and women who write sci-fi, and I don’t limit myself in genres. My next release is a supernatural thriller. I’m also plotting two other novels that would be considered dramedies.  What does link all of my work together is that they’re all under the umbrella of  visionary fiction in that the character’s mind and spiritual growth drive them forward, but it’s never done with proselytizing and because I write allegorically, the spiritual aspect is not in your face.  For instance, in Unison, I was inspired with the eight lifetimes of Shri Ganesh where he had to get over his eight weaknesses. I thought it was the perfect vehicle for my story, and I used that as the driver for my main character’s inner-journey. 

Do you have favourite author? 

There are too many good authors out there, but I appreciate Douglas Adams, Margaret Atwood, Ayn Rand, Stephen King, Robert Anton Wilson and George Orwell…to name a few. 

Can you image to write with a co-author? If so, which one would you prefer? 

I’ve worked with other writers on screenplays, and I prefer to work alone because when I begin a book, I know exactly where everything needs to go. But it might be fun to work with another writer. I just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s, The Penelopiad. It would definitely be fun to write some poetry with her!

What are your plans for the near future?

To release as many of my screenplays as books, write new ones and maybe one day publish other visionary authors.  I’m also a musician and composer. I’d like to write music to accompany Unison. I’ve all ready started writing lyrics. It’s only a matter of finding time to put it all together.  In addition to writing, I homeschool my daughters and that takes a lot of time as well. I sometimes marvel that I find time to write!

Thank you for taking the time for this little interview.


Any time!

Oh Those Battling Hemispheres!

Discomfort and inspiration come as a pair. It isn’t something writers usually talk about—at least I don’t often hear it discussed in forums or blogs I visit. Even a search through Google didn’t yield many results. What has been discussed is its link towards madness, and I’m fairly certain everyone out there who is right-brain oriented can sense this connection.

There is a level of bravery required to fully surrender to inspiration. In this realm, some crazy, wild, unexpected and unusual ideas can spring out of your mind. Sometimes what comes at you can be so intense, you’d swear someone or something is forcing you to throw away every reservation you have, and you write everything that pops into your mind. “Yes! Someone make me stop! I’m on fire!” you proclaim loudly. And then it all ends. Splat! “What just happened to me? I was so excited only a millisecond ago!” You look at your screen, highlight everything you’d just written and consider erasing it. Don’t do it!

If you learn to keep balance between creativity and self-judgement, you’ll develop that masterpiece you’ve always dreamed of. The right brain is fearless, unbeatable, unstoppable, all powerful. The left brain is wussy, over-analytical, vapid and self-defeating. But you need it to make sense of the amazing stuff your right brain produced for your story. It’s a constant battle between these two hemispheres. Each time I think I’ve built a permanent bridge between the two, a bomb blows it to pieces, and I’m forced to rebuild to keep the balance.

With my current manuscript, Sunrise, the whole concept of the story was foreign to me when I first started writing it. Between the omniscient narration and my large cast of main characters, I kept asking myself if I was nuts to put myself through all this. But now, 50,000 words in, I’m so fully engrossed in the story—and curious about how it will all end—my inspiration screams louder than my fear.

Tipping the balance in favor of inspiration.

This is what being in the zone feels like and why I love writing so much.  This realm is free from judgement, and each time you visit, it’s like your traveling to some foreign land. There’s never a dull moment there. Even as an outliner, I have no idea what my right brain is going to throw at me when I visit the zone.  The one thing I find most exciting and humbling as a writer is that structure is never permanent; it can be knocked down, and oftentimes is.  Just don’t visit the zone while driving. It can be hazardous and more distracting than talking on a cell phone!

A better bridge can be built.

If you want to write your best story, realize nothing is permanent. No character, plot device or witty phrase is too sacred to sacrifice. I find by internalizing this, I keep myself permanently open to inspiration. There is definitely a level of faith required here. Faith that inspiration will come around whenever you need it. It will, as long as you’re open to receive it.

My plotting stages of Sunrise

  • Developed the story structure
  • Developed the characters, their personalities and  arcs.
  • Laid out all the chapters and wrote summaries.
  • Story research
  • Made a timeline of the various story threads.
  • Started building the physical attributes of my story world.
  • Rearranged the chapters as the story became clearer
  • Started writing the manuscript.


An outline is only a skeleton.

Once you start adding the meat, new possibilities emerge. If it’s one thing I learned, the right brain isn’t a vegetarian. It likes a lot of meat, and if you’re receptive enough, you’ll be delighted to discover its appetite is limitless, and it has no understanding of writer’s block.

It can be exhausting to rework ideas, but my past experiences remind me when I pay attention to the images my right brain presents, my scenes are stronger and resonate more.  I was recently given the image of a green flame, and I had no idea what it meant. I put it into the story, and it made the scene very effective. I knew I’d eventually figure out its significance. After I wrote the scene, I found my answer, went back in and added the new information. End of chapter!

Ideas are recycled.

Because I listened to my right brain, it led to my getting rid of two characters. The first didn’t drive the plot forward, but I used some of her backstory for another character.  I had also written a minor character in the first chapter who was only supposed to usher in the inciting incident. He was so strong, he ended up replacing my original antagonist, but I used some of his backstory on the new character. I also added a gray parrot to the cast, rearranged the chapters and changed the resolution.  Now, as I passed the mid-point, I’m expecting even more changes.

Make your voice fit the story.

I consider myself a storyteller first and a writer second. I say this because I focus my writing around my story and not the other way around. I’ll make whatever adjustments are necessary to make the story work. And I’ve made quite a few all ready! This  all leads back to my blog about Donna Summer and how she explained she made her voice fit the music and not the other way around—which  would’ve made her voice sound forced and unnatural.  This philosophy can be applied to all forms of artistic expression.  It’s about the art, not the artist—at least that’s how I see it.  When I first made this subtle shift in mindset, it brought my writing to a whole new level.  I wonder if Donna Summer read the Tao Te Ching!