WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Camp NaNo Week Four Roundup

<cue Europe’s “The Final Countdown“>

Two more days and Camp NaNo closes for another couple of months.

Have a bit of bad news, then we’ll zoom into the good. First up, I got an email regarding my internship application to the literary agency. They said they were going with another candidate. It was a personalized rejection, and I appreciated the person taking the time to do that. While that would’ve been an amazing intro to the publishing industry, let’s look at the bright side here. The position would’ve been for three months. There’s no guarantee that they would ask me to stay on with the agency. Besides, this was literally my first attempt at diving into the biz and I’m 99.9% sure there were dozens upon dozens with more experience in the industry than yours truly.

Sliding into the good news? Well, more opportunity-fueled, really. Right after that email, there was one from an independent film school that is also hiring. I had applied for a remote position there with the same expectations as the literary agency. I’m inexperienced but eager to learn. This time, however, they would provide paid training will the possibility of the part-time position becoming something more permanent. I’m filing this in the “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” category, and I’ll apply for the position. When one door closes, and all that, right?

I’ve fallen behind on the two 5K short stories, but I’ve still got time. One’s due on Friday and the other one Saturday. Of course, as I was busy prepping for them last weekend, I happened upon another publication opportunity that was for 2-6K due last Sunday. I still had that file open and ventured into the potentially gainful territory. Since that deadline was first, I had to take my shot there. I’ll keep you posted on the progress for that and all the other submissions.

So, I went into the final week expecting to produce two short stories and have since hopped back on track after writing a third one to squeeze into the week because, why not?

All of this, along with the notes and recent information I’ve gathered for my MG Fantasy manuscript, and I have to say this has been the most productive NaNo I’ve every done.

I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied in the months to come. I’ll be sharing more details in upcoming posts.

I hope your April was as productive as mine, if not more. I’ve got to keep the momentum going and will head straight into May with a plan and positive determination.

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

Until next time,

T out.

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.

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.