FRIDAY FX: “Hey, What’s the Big Idea!?”

TGIF, fellow writers!

This generation has got it good. We’re living in an amazing era of technological advancement and innovation. <cue curmudgeonly mentor voice> Why, back in my day, we didn’t have this, this Google, you speak of. Ever hear of a library catalogue? Familiar with the Dewey Decimal System?

Between that and waxing poetic on walking 15 miles to school through three foot snow drifts uphill–BOTH WAYS–in the dead of an extended Indian Summer, you get the idea, right? Information, these days, is truly at our fingertips.

So when we’re not typing various questionable entries into our trusty search engine, or bombarding Siri or Alexa with weather updates or what to make for dinner, what other methods do you resort to for information gathering?

BG (Before Google)

We didn’t always have the world at our fingertips. We literally had to do our own legwork. Libraries were, and still are, our brick and mortar haven for knowledge. Speaking of legwork, as long as we’re social distancing, there are benefits of going to the library for research or leisurely reading. Writing challenges and other literary enthusiasts will tell you to get butt in chair and write. However, we need to take breaks to stretch because the sedentary lifestyle isn’t doing us any favors.

That’s not to say that libraries are there just for research purposes. They have activities, events, and rooms to rent for private use, group chats (book clubs, writing clubs, etc.) I used to tutor students at the library, conducted business meetings, and even had documentary screenings with college organizations. There’s way more to a library than its book aisles. It’s like the world is at your fingertips–AND you’re amongst likeminded creatives. Libraries are among my most favorite places to visit.

Eavesdropping/Peoplewatching

I’ve experienced the most intriguing, and sometimes intensely WTF moments, by being adjacent to, or in the vicinity of the strange and otherworldly conversations that happen around me. Thanks for the (sometimes mind-boggling) entertainment, humanity.

Start off small. Coffeehouses, on the bus, at the mall, during a walk in the park. You name it, there are seeds of a story waiting to grow once the idea reaches the earshot of a writer. You’re surrounded by diverse groups of people from every age group, or a combination thereof. Many of my story ideas have begun this way. However, set the bar low. It might be strange, at times, but never boring. There’s plenty to hear, but some situations aren’t worth repeating. But, boy, when you do find that nugget, it’s hard not to run with it.

And who knows? On the way to the library, that walk/commute/drive might provide you with the much needed insight you’d been looking for. Or, you might find inspiration in the change of scenery, versus staring at a screen most of the day.

Writing Groups

I may look to Google for an initial query, but oftentimes, when I know my topic could be tossed in a group post in a writing group, I look forward to that method of brainstorming. Give or take a few hours, to account for international time zone differences, there’s active real-time discussion that you couldn’t get from search engines or online wikis that are edited, at will. These discussions are shared amongst people with experience in that subject and who can add nuances to your topic based on their particular background and geographic location. Of late, my writing groups are online, but when it’s safe to do so again, in-person writing groups are fun and motivating, especially when you’re in exciting conversations or revved up to do writing sprints. Online or in-person, find your tribe.

Social Media

Whether you go to Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram. Ideas are everywhere. There’s tumblr, Reddit, random memes. I use these as story prompts all the time, and they’re fun. Heck, you’ve seen a cornucopia of memes that I’ve included in my posts since I returned to my blog. They. Are. Everywhere. Ideas a-plenty. If not for a story prompt, use the visuals as inspiration for settings or actor pics as your character inspo.

Of course, we’ve got the ol’ standbys of books, television, and film. There are great (and not so great) stories out in the universe. As the reader/viewer, that perception is, of course, subjective. As a writer, however, these are extremely effective tools, because you can see final products out there in the world. You have the ability, along with the rest of the world, to determine what worked and what didn’t.

Just because an idea has been done before, that a story’s been done before, that shouldn’t deter you. Your idea, your story hasn’t been told yet because that’s uniquely you. You add the flavor and nuances from your own life experiences and knowledge that another writer can’t offer. You bring something new to the table. Remember, the majority of plot lines found in books, television, and film are also found in the bible. Brother against brother, massive calamity, plague, public persecution and discrimination. It’s all been brought up before. How will you take these ideas, some old, some outlandish, and create a fantastic read to share with the world?

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

Until next time,

T out.

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.

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.

FRIDAY FX: Then It Sneaks Up On You

Feliz cumpleaños, Pedro!

Welcome to the inaugural Friday FX post. Considering I’m writing this amidst a fan-freakin’-tastic ocular migraine, SPOILER ALERT, these posts share the good, bad, and ridonkulous aspects of my writing journey. It’s cathartic for me. Maybe you’ve had similar incidents happen and can relate to the struggle. It’s a reminder that while writing can be an isolating endeavour, we, as writers, are never alone.

For instance, the voices in our heads keep us company, whether we want them to or not.

Let’s skip the opening crawl and jump straight to

Episode V: The Self-Sabotage Strikes Back

In my last Writerly Wednesday post, I talked about my strategy for Camp NaNoWriMo this month and emphasized the importance of flexibility when making writing plans. Some wouldn’t dare admit this, but there is life outside of writing, even if it’s currently socially distant and somewhat monotonous.

I haven’t been this excited to be writing in a long time. We’re talking years. Years of my life when I just stopped writing altogether. Of course, there were many things going on, at the time, but I never thought I would push writing so far out of reach. I tried to get past a major illness by diving into work. I didn’t give myself the time to process what had happened. My life had gone sideways and it took a physical, mental, and emotional toll on me. Sure enough, that’s when I decided it was okay to compartmentalize. Oof. The whole hindsight thing is a kick in the teeth sometimes, no?

The last five years or so have been a broken roller coaster ride. The haphazard twists and turns, the sudden stops with me teetering over the edge, just waiting for the world to drop from under me. I’m finally on the meandering road to recovery, but I’ve taken active steps at proper self-care this time around.

I can write about galaxies far, far away, create brand new places where my characters live, yet the “anywhere but here” stories that I write are what anchor me to this world. Writing is as fundamental to me as nutrition and breathing, yet I deprived myself of it for so long.

I thought it would be great to be back in the saddle again. I went in all hyped up, determined to take on anything that came my way.

But, it’s been more like this:

And with far less flourish.

It’s one thing to take note of an intriguing idea as soon as it comes to you. However, when an idea pops into your noggin right before regularly scheduled bedtime, as a bonafide insomniac, I advise against indulging the sudden motivation to do a deep dive on the internet at 3am. You know how that goes, one click turns into several and you’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole, not even the rabbit can keep up.

Saw a couple opportunities that looked intriguing. A submission to a literary agent and a potential internship. Click here, scroll there. Then I found myself on Twitter sifting through hashtags like #mswl, #querytip, #amquerying, and #literaryagent. Click here, link to submission guidelines, link to submission deadlines.

Okay, I got this. Just switch around my Week 1 and Week 2 plans to give myself more time. Oh, I gotta do this thing, too? No problem. First 20 pages? Sure. Query letter? Got it. Synopsis? Yup.

Hang on, didn’t I want to rework my characters, infuse more of my heritage and folklore into the narrative? The base is pretty straightforward. That’s good. But with these revisions, there are those aforementioned flourishes that have yet to be expanded upon, nuanced, to dress up the now naked tree. Research. Gotta do more research. Yeah, it’s fiction, I have leeway to write what I want, but I’d like some ties to the familiar, so the folklore needs to be the right fit, but which ones? Which concepts work best with my plot line? So, it’s pretty much a complete overhaul and I’ve got two weeks. Less, if we’re considering the other thing. Right. That deadline’s sooner. And there’s a writing sample that involves evaluating a book. So I need to read a book in the next couple of days. And the resume. That’s gonna be fun given the last five plus years of absolute chaos.

And…

Yikes.

So, here we are, two days into a new month of crippling anxiety–I mean, the continuing adventures of this writing life. I had a nice talk with a trusted confidante and they reminded me that just the act of making these goals and taking those steps forward is already a win. I overwhelmed myself, overloaded and fried my circuitry, as it were, coming up with all sorts of scenarios and I shut down. It’s probably what led to my only getting a couple hours of sleep lately and most likely the precursor to the migraine, among other things.

I need to remember to breathe, then write. Maybe include some food and water, every now and then. I need to point out that a year ago today, I was slowly adjusting to a new normal–my recovery process that coincided with a global pandemic. Two years ago today, I was still suffering from agoraphobia. If I take the time to appreciate the progress I’ve made since fully committing myself to live my passion and return to writing, I’ll be okay. I can overcome the self-sabotage, one word at a time.

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

Until next time,

T out.