WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Camp NaNo Week Three Roundup

Welcome… and the beat goes on.

A flood of ideas can easily take you over when you’re super excited about your WIP. I spent a lot of time researching story technique, and consulted with fellow writers, agents, and other industry experts. It was important that I could see where things worked and areas that needed improvement. What I want to do can be done, but not in the amount of time I had to do it. Even after I complete the revisions, there is still the need for critique partners, beta readers, then further revisions before I could even query. Seventeen days just wouldn’t cut it and still produce a fully thought out story ready for publication.

After coming to terms with the magnitude of what I wanted to do in the short time frame I had to do it, I realized it was still a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and grow as a writer. I needed to respect all the new information I learned and the perspectives shared for me to reflect upon, that it wouldn’t be right just to cram everything into a couple of weeks and send it off. It almost feels like a “Meh. Good enough.” approach and that feels icky.

What it did help me with is provide a proper direction to work towards. That excites me. I went from thinking that I’d been the furtherest along on this writing project, to thinking I’d fallen off course, to being right back where I need to be to reach my destination. With all those ideas fresh in my mind. I’m going to return to it next month after I’ve worked on some shorter form submissions.

Here’s a quick look at what I’ve been up to on all things writerly this week during Camp NaNo:

  • Joined more writing groups with members who specialize in the field. We’re talking everything from medical procedures, fire and rescue, police interrogations, and all manner of death. They are truly aimed at helping writers stay accurate in their scenes. Hypochondriacs and potential criminals need not apply.
  • Connected with fellow writers to set up a time to beta-read/critique each other’s WIPs. Over the next couple months, I’m going to be reading my fellow writer’s amazing stories we’re all preparing to share with the world. It’s exciting.
  • Researched for upcoming short story submissions. It’s so tempting to go down the rabbit hole, but thankfully, I also asked questions in my writing groups to keep the queries focused.
  • Kept tabs on questions I threw out into the interwebs about my MG manuscript, so I know what steps to take to shine it up nice.
  • Had a great FaceTime chat with The Sestra. Caught up on what’s going on with her, spent some excited time discussing fandom, especially the highs and lows of both WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. We then brainstormed on the manuscript because she’s the one who’s the most familiar with it since its inception.

I’m already in the initial stages of drafting each short story, so I’ll be spending the final week of Camp NaNo drafting and polishing them for submission. Overall, it’s been an exciting and intensely productive April. There were pleasant surprises and new connections forged along the way. The writing continues and I can’t wait to see what stories I can conjure up by then.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FRIDAY FX: Carving Out Some Time

With only 24 hours in a day, and a handful of those where you’re hopefully sleeping restfully, how well and wisely do you spend your time?

I watched a webinar recently and was reminded of something called the Pomodoro Technique. Of course, my first thought goes to food and how I could go for a nice angel hair pomodoro right now, but I digress. This post is about focus and productivity. This is a perfect example of how easy we can lose track of time, time we can’t get back, whether we have access to a TARDIS, or not.

Where did this idea come from?

Back in the late 1980s, Francesco Cirillo was working the grind as a university student. Just the thought of going back to a time where my love for learning was weighed down by the pressure of successful evaluations thereof makes me queasy. Cirillo also felt overwhelmed but figured he could at least try honing in on ten solid minutes of studying.

Why a tomato (which is pomodoro in Italian)?

He wanted to time himself. Decades before the era of “your phone can do almost anything,” he didn’t have a timer handy so he found a kitchen timer which happened to be in the shape of a, you guessed it, the beloved fruit. Yes, it’s a fruit. It has seeds. Fight me on this.

So what is this technique all about?

Cirillo fine tuned the process and the Pomodoro Technique was born. He shared it with the world, and has created a bit of a productivity empire from this simple, yet effective method of time management.

I take a look at this and I say to myself, Self? You can do this. It seems like a reasonable concept and isn’t asking for a blood oath or anything, so I decide to give it a whirl.

A girl could’ve been that Basic B and just used the iPhone timer, but noooo, I’m THAT B and looked up some apps in the App Store. I settled on two and, as I write this, I’m in my second Pomodoro using the second app I downloaded. I did a quick glance of the features and this one appealed to me more. I might try the other one tomorrow and to a comparison review. The app I’ll briefly discuss today is aptly named, Pomodoro. It’s labelled as a Pomodoro Timer & White Noise. I’m currently using the free features. I’ll post a review of the app after I’ve used it for a while.

Here’s an example of how I’m using the app:

  • 25 mins of dedicated research
  • 5 mins break
  • 25 mins of dedicated writing
  • 5 mins break
  • 25 mins of dedicated writing
  • 5 mins break
  • 25 mins of dedicated writing
  • 15 mins break

When I draft a blog post, I’m often writing and looking for images online. Every minute I’m not writing is a minute closer to the upload deadline. By organizing my tasks in manageable segments, I’m able to focus on the content. What’s great about this method is that you can tailor it to whatever you need to do. You can have more pomodoros, which are the focused blocks, less, longer or shorter pomodoros, and longer or shorter break times. It’s flexible so that if you’re hesitant to try it, you can ease into the technique and once you’re comfortable, you can increase the duration, as needed.

These focused blocks can be about whatever you want. For instance, if I’m working on my WIP, I can use the pomodoros for writing sprints. So for those tasks, they can be changed to 15 mins or 1 hour, depending on how you like to sprint.

I also plan on taking a scene and using each pomodoro to write it from a different POV and tense, or any combo thereof, as it pertains to my story. There are so many different ways you can use the app, and I’m digging it so far.

Use the breaks to reward yourself. Having a little snack near you. Take a stretch. The Pomodoro Technique also promotes health and wellness while on the writing journey. Not to mention the computer voice telling you it’s time for a break, or it’s time to get back to it. You end up feeling more motivated, and at the end of it all, you’ll really have accomplished more than if you approached this in a more scattered manner.

So, when we decide to carve out time for the things important to us, we do it because there are only so many hours in the day and a kazillion things to do, right? It’s interesting when people say that they need to take a break, get away and have some “me time.” What I’ve noticed is that all the time you carve out in a day, whether it’s to be productive, to play with the kids, to veg out in front of a good movie or book, that’s ALL me time. Every decision you make in terms of productivity is going to have a profound effect on your life, so if you think of it that way, you’ll value how you use your time a lot more. Eh, but what do I know from this technique anyway? Everyone’s got their own way of doing things. ToMAYto, toMAHto.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. I’m the first to agree that there are some days when laying in bed for thirteen hours is exactly what you need. So, you do you. Just know that there are things that you can do to make that time go by more effectively. Whatever you’re doing after reading this post, I thank you, and I hope it’s time well spent.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Camp NaNo Week Two Roundup

Greetings from the writerly trenches!

Buckle up, Campers! Camp NaNoWriMo had some unexpected twists and turns in Week Two. I already flipped the bird to my early Camp plans when I caught a case of “the new and shiny.” My April writing plan 2.0 involved moving up my MG Fantasy WIP revisions with the aim of being query ready by April 17. This new plan included the 3Rs: review, research, and revamp naturally went off with a handful of hitches, and sometimes laced my days with some Bizarro 3Rs: react, reconsider, and regret.

Well, maybe regret is a little too harsh. Let’s switch that last one to regression.

There.

Carrying on, my wayward ones…

What I did:

  • I re-read the 67K manuscript taking note of the POV shifts, catching the odd typo here and there, and did a quick run through on story flow.
  • Did a deep dive on Asian Mythology and Folklore with primary focus on Chinese and Filipino legends.
  • Took to the online writing community to talk about POV shifts in MG.
  • Watched MG/YA panels and sought out articles and forums on the nuances of each category and the sometimes fuzzy overlap, as well as sub-genres such as Fantasy versus Speculative versus Magic Realism.
  • Looked into character voice and how writing from a certain perspective can help or hurt a story.

What I learned:

  • I had a LOT of POV characters. POV characters should have an active arc throughout the story and move the story along. i.e. they should deserve their POV status. (Girl, this ain’t Westeros. Calm down.)
  • MG Fantasy rarely has multiple POVs, anyway. And my pickle? Aside from the B Team, the two other POV characters that had the most POV chapters were the MC’s father and another adult that works for the antagonist in the story. Since we need to provide recent comps when we query, this would be a hard sell. I was informed that an MG book where this POV combo existed, an outdated technique that isn’t used anymore, was published in 1994. (Erm, but who doesn’t love a good comeback story?)
  • If I stick to a single POV, that of the 10yo boy, I need to figure out a way to tell the story I want to tell, even though major plot points occur when he’s not there. At his current age, and where the story is set, it’s almost impossible for him to be involved in that portion of the plot. (This is why the child needs help from the adults.)
  • Something important to keep in mind is that reader age and protagonist age aren’t always mutually exclusive. Just because I have a younger protagonist doesn’t mean the themes of the story would make it a Middle Grade story. Also, any substantial amount of adult POVs in kidlit might make it less relatable to the intended audience. (But, I’m still going for enjoyment at any age.)
  • A lot of MG/YA books are written in first person, present tense. There’s some debate on the effectivity of urgency over lack of the ability to include ample foreshadowing if going with present versus past tense. Along with the magical elements, I need to figure out where my story falls on the genre spectrum. The current WIP is written in 3rd person, past tense. (I ended up with more questions than answers.)

What’s next:

  • I’m okay to whittle down the POV character list, if I’m able to determine what story I’m writing. What’s the genre? Who’s this book for?
  • There’s a lot of things to consider before I can do a deep revision. This includes which POV/tense I’m going to write in, along with how the Mythology/Folklore aspects work in the story.
  • Heading into Week Three, I’m going to take a bit of a breather on this behemoth, and work on a couple anthology submissions due at the end of the month. I already got the research covered as it overlapped with my folklore perusals. I think switching gears will help keep the momentum going. (And yes, I’ll probably tinker around with this project, as well. Can’t be helped.)

Again, I don’t regret the process, at all. I definitely learned a lot, but it left me with what I’ll call educational frustration. I know my novel should be a thousand times better, taking in all this new information, but I’m slightly frustrated because I thought I was farther along than what ended up happening. So, it’s a no to sending the query this Saturday, and thank goodness for that! All I need is a ‘kick me when I’m down’ moment, when it’s a hard pass because of so many industry requirements that I need to abide by–at least until I’m a more established writer. I need to learn the rules before I can break them. (In writing, of course.)

No one said this was an immediate process. Heck, NaNos are a month long, so I know we all get that it takes time. How ‘about you? How are things in your neck of the digital woods? Hope your week has been just as eventful.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FRIDAY FX: Have a Literary Nosh When You’re Feeling Bookish

Hello, people of the world!

Before we begin, might I make a small request of you? Something has been going wonky with WordPress for the last few weeks. Some of my posts, primarily the recent Writerly Wednesday posts, aren’t getting seen. I’m not sure if the stats are accurate or not, but I’m curious if people are getting the email notifications or seeing the links to the posts on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, as before. So, kindly blink twice if you’re getting the posts alright, or better yet, please contact me, if you can. It’s one thing if people are viewing the posts and just not commenting or liking them, but from what I’m seeing, the posts aren’t even reaching you guys like they did a couple months ago. Please and thank you!

On with today’s post.

Last week, I wrote about an opportunity for a summer internship program at a literary agency. While it did change my initial writing plans for Camp NaNoWriMo, and April, in general, I sent in everything on Easter Monday. Part of the submission requirements for the internship application was to provide a writing sample in the form of a book evaluation. We were allowed to pick a book, published in 2018 or later, in the genre we’d like to focus on, and to match my MG Fantasy WIP, I went with kidlit.

Given the limited desire to foray into the sometimes unmasked civilization, I decided to check for options online. I was perusing a half a dozen or so ebooks because that meant I’d get them instantly rather than waiting for a certain online store to accidentally ship my books to a different address–again.

Then it occurred to me to tap a resource that was right in front of me–and by “in front of me,” I mean, on the internet and some clacking of the keyboard and clicks to the right “in front of me.”

I’m loathe to admit that I haven’t picked up a book, physical or otherwise, in such a long time. The content I’ve read in the last few years were from medical websites and journals, non-fiction writing craft books or news and entertainment articles on the internet. But to grab a book for leisure and immerse myself in a different world? To escape from the insomnia, the stress and anxiety, from the frickin’ global pandemic? How in the frilly heck did I manage to go so long without reading a good book?

Right! Sure! But hang on a sec. It dawned on me that since being stuck in this geographical location for over a year now, I haven’t gotten myself a library card yet. *facepalm*

Onto the interwebs I searched and when I got to the public library’s website, I was tickled to discover that one could apply for a digital library card and instantly get access to a world beyond the daily doldrums.

I was a kid in a candy store. So what if most of the latest titles were already checked out? I now had the opportunity to discover new authors, especially writers of color and, for the first time in forever, I was excited about reading again.

Off I went and, naturally, checked out four ebooks. You know, to give myself a chance to dabble. Also, I always like to have options. Although I had only a few days to read a book, I checked the page count and figured I could get it done. Each book was an average of 200-300 pages. I gave myself the first two chapters to decide if I wanted to continue or not with that title. I ended up inhaling two books in as many days. I paused on the other two to keep going with my Camp NaNo plans already in progress.

Mind you, there were times that I might have been pulled out of the story because my Writer Brain activated. However, it’s interesting to read books again after years of learning how to become a better writer. You’re able to identify the writer’s specific tools, the word choices, the mechanics, that stitched their tale together. Unfortunately, it was for that same reason I was pulled out of the initial story I thought I’d review. The protagonist was young Asian girl who wanted to become a famous writer. And while I understand that precocious youngsters can have an expanded vocabulary beyond their years, I found myself unable to enjoy her world because she, an 8 year old, was talking like a 15 year old. It was too much an ask of which to suspend my disbelief.

What makes these analyses so important to me now, as a writer, is that I can see what my contemporaries are doing, what’s working and what isn’t, and how to craft my own stories to ensure that I effectively relay the desired message to the readers.

I’ll get back to that book, in question. I still have the third of the four to finish. When the craziness of April has settled, I’ll likely pop back on here and share some book reviews.

What books do you enjoy reading? If you’re also a writer, do you like to only read in your genre or prefer to dive into other realms of existence? Has the continued joy of reading helped or hindered your writing process? I’d love to know the hows and whys behind why writers read.

For now, I will continue to read in my downtime. I’d forgotten what a joy it was to do so. And being an avid reader will undoubtedly help me to become a better writer.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Camp NaNo Week One Roundup

Greetings, fellow Campers!

Last week, my flexible Camp NaNoWriMo plans were flexed almost immediately upon discovery of new opportunities. To recap, this was my original Camp schedule:

Week 1: Submission Call out entry, due April 30. Getting it done sooner will afford me more time for revisions.

Week 2: Read through/revision of a MG Fantasy WIP

Week 3: Read through/revision of a Grounded Sci-Fi Thriller WIP

Week 4: Buffer week for any of the projects.

Rather than words, my Camp efforts this month are time-based and the goal is to work on my writing projects for a minimum of six hours a day. I laid the out the plans, posted them here, and sure enough, as we neared midnight last Wednesday, I already found reason to play Musical Chairs with my weekly itinerary.

I submitted my application for the internship and I’ll update on how that goes. As for the MG Fantasy that I intend to query, I’m approaching this realistically.

Given the importance of this and the time required before the April 17 query submission, I’m going to aim for it, but not put pressure on myself to send it off to that particular literary agent because, really, that’s just ten days from now. This would be my first query submission, my first synopsis. It’s a big deal. It’s Lucy first stepping into Narnia big. So much for no pressure.

They say it’s good to leave a project for a while to come back to it with fresh eyes. When I’d shelved this first revision seven years back, it clocked in at 67,000 words. It’s been long enough that I can dust off the digital cobwebs on the thing and bring it back to life. If I were to leave the characters and plot line as is, I’d need to read through the entire manuscript again to gauge the flow of the story before paring down the excess. Since I’m currently in writer/editor mode, I’ve already caught some technical errors that I glossed over during that revision. Plus side, I’ve developed my skills since then and now see where the story can be improved.

However, as mentioned in my last post, I’d been tinkering with the essence of the story and wanted to infuse my Asian heritage into the narrative. That meant an overhaul of characters, culture, and the necessary research to incorporate folklore into the existing plot. I want this to be a strong story through and through, so it would be such a disservice to myself and my intention of showcasing diversity and inclusivity in this debut release, by trying to rush a deadline.

The opportunities are out there, but I need to make sure I put in solid work before I take that next step. I know that seems like such a common sense approach, yet I think that’s why I’d always semi-ignored those social media hashtags such as #mswl#querytip#amquerying, and #literaryagent before now. I’d always assumed that the publication stage was so far away that I didn’t want to think about it. Now, it’s all I’m thinking about, so much so that I’d only slept two hours this morning. The stress, anxiety, and excitement of all the possibilities had my insomnia take over.

So, as we head into Week 2, I’m going to focus on 3Rs for this WIP: review, research, and revamp. It’s safe to say I can push my Week 3 plans to May. If I don’t make the April 17 deadline, that’s okay. I’ll pause and use the rest of the month to work on the Submission Call out entry that’s due April 30. Whatever happens, I’m excited at the direction this WIP is going and it’s the farthest along I’ve been on any of my novel-length WIPs before, so I have to keep going.

How was your first week at Camp? Everything go smoothly or are you also facing some plot twists of your own? First week down. Came out of the gate at full force. Let’s keep going. We got this.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.