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.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: This One Time at NaNo Camp…

And a Happy Camp NaNoWriMo Eve to one and all!

After some self-reflection (read: tumultuous debate with myself, dry erase markers, and my mirrored closet doors that ended up looking like a scene from A Beautiful Mind), I’ve come up with a strategy for April.

Since Camp NaNo doesn’t have the strict 50,000 minimum word count to stick to, I’ve decided to track time versus words. They’re still working on the tech behind the tracker variations now that they’ve merged the Camp NaNo site with the original NaNo site, so in the meantime, I’m using their math to convert the word counter to represent time spent working on the project(s).

Reminding myself that this is a flexible plan, that wiggle room is allowed, accounting for wind chill, and carrying the one, I’ve set my sights on a minimum of six hours a day devoted to my writing projects which by conversion standards comes out to a 10,800 word (or minute of time) goal. I certainly intend exceed this goal, but I wanted to give myself something realistic to work with.

So, how am I divvying up the time? There’s a submission call out that interests me with a deadline for April 30. It’s a 5,000 word max short story submission, no fee (yay!), and I have the option of submitting up to two stories. I will begin with one, for now, see how that feels and go from there.

Here’s my tentative working schedule for Camp NaNo:

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.

Experience has shown me that taking time away from the drafting to the re-reading of my work can offer more insight than barrelling through each stage without pause. I’ve seen the evolution in my writing. I have the opportunity to adapt new techniques I’ve learned and improve the overall flow of the story. There are a lot of considerations now that involve current global events that might effect how my story is received, especially since some of them were first drafted more than a decade ago.

I still have my awesome writing groups that are always buzzing with daily activity, as well as some upcoming writing craft webinars I’m excited for, so those will be interspersed in the schedule.

If April goes according to plan, I intend to continue this method throughout the year in hopes that I’ll have a handful of polished manuscripts ready for the next stage of review, edits, beta reads, and *gasp* the foray into querying for a literary agent, mayhaps?

A lot of great apps and services are available to Camp NaNo participants at a discounted price. Winners often get an even bigger discount. What’s great about these offers is that some companies extend their usual free-trials so you can explore the product in depth during Camp, a few extend a couple weeks beyond, as well. This is the best time to try these products and it’s unlikely you’d get a better deal outside of this. Many NaNos ago, I bought Scrivener at 50% off it’s already reasonable price. It’s a robust writing software program that seems to be the go-to one stop shop for writers these days. I still haven’t explored its full potential. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but what it does, it does well.

But don’t wait too long, or even wait until the next NaNo comes along. I could’ve gotten a lifetime license of Campfire Pro with the World Building module free at a lower price point. I heard they were working on something called Campfire Blaze and it purported to be better than its predecessors. I took the gamble and held off on the purchase only to discover that Blaze was subscription based and they no longer offered the version I wanted at the price point I could’ve gotten it beforehand. They do have some discounts available during Camp, however, and I’ll do more research before forking over the dollars.

Last NaNo, I took advantage of their discount offer and finally joined Sisters in Crime. There was a discount for ProWritingAid and World Anvil, but I held off on those, at the time. I’m looking to explore these programs further. YouTube vids are helpful, too, both with reviews and tutorials. I’m tempted to get ProWritingAid. I’ve never seen a lower price than this. And let me tell ya, these prices are in American dollars and when you convert that to Canadian… I American’t sometimes, you feel me? It’s important to grab these opportunities before the prices go back up. For us struggling artists in the world, every penny counts.

Here’s a quick reference with links to NaNo Offers I recommend and that I’m also interested in (These are non-affiliate links and taken from the NaNo site itself.):

  • Scrivener – 20% off for all Camp NaNo Participants; 50% off for all Winners. CODE: HAPPYCAMPER (EXP: 05/07)
  • Sisters in Crime – 20% off the first annual membership (for new members). CODE: SINCCAMP21 (EXP: 08/01)
  • ProWritingAid – Save $200 on a Premium lifetime licence (pay $199 instead of $399). (EXP: 04/30)
  • World Anvil – 30% off 12-month memberships of Master Tier and above. CODE: CAMPNANO2021 (EXP: 06/01)
  • Campfire Blaze – 30% off lifetime purchases of modules (Pro excluded). CODE: CAMPNANO2021 (EXP: 08/01)

There are other offers available and they may still add more before Camp is through. When I first checked a few weeks ago, World Anvil had not yet been included in the offers, so be sure to have a look around and see what might interest you.

Whatever your plans for April, I hope it’s filled with writerly goodness. I’ll be checking in each week with the highs, lows, lefts, and rights, that I’ll be trekking through in hopes that this will be my best Camp NaNo experience yet.

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

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: A Little Not So Light Reading

I’ve amassed plenty of writing resources, be it digital or physical. In preparation forĀ CampĀ NaNoWriMo, I’ve curated an initial selection, keeping in mind some aspects I want to focus on in my writing project.

I’ve been a long time fan of K.M. Weiland. She’s an amazing author who’s active on social media and her website, Helping Writers Become Authors, is a treasure trove of information from story structure to character arcs. I recommend any of her books. I bought Outlining Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel Workbook years ago and last year purchased the software version of the workbook, as well.

I’ve been reading up on Deep Point of View. It’s a technique I’d already been doing, was eager to learn more about, but had no idea there was a name for it, as what I’d been doing is a sub-category of the more widely known Third Person Point of View. I read some articles by other writers on the subject, but still had questions. I decided to google “K.M. Weiland Deep Point of View” and wasn’t surprised that she had written on the topic. Reading through her explanations, examples, as well as the exchanges she has with writers in the comments section, was like I’d been sitting in a writing masterclass. Such a great writer and teacher.

Word choice for maximum impact can be a challenge, at times, especially if you find that you’re starting to sound repetitive as the story rolls on. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi wrote the immensely popular The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. I’m looking forward to adding more of their books to my collection soon. In the meantime, their website, Writers Helping Writers, is another writing resource gold mine.

Sometimes you need answers in real time. If a Google search turns up empty, I’ve discovered a game changer in research and it’s currently the primary reason I’m even on Facebook anymore. I can’t believe I never knew about these groups before, but once I started following along in a few writing groups I’m in, some fellow writers suggested the following groups, all of which I’m now a member of and I’m thoroughly fascinated by each post I read, and the comment threads that follow. I even had some of my own questions answered already in the short time I’ve been a member in these groups, and it’s remarkable and encouraging to know that my people are out there and they get me!

The members are comprised of writers and professionals in their respective fields that volunteer their time to help ensure scenes and situations are accurately depicted in our writing. You have to apply for membership and answer some questions prior to being approved, in order for them to weed out spammers and such. Here are just a few of the groups and the descriptions as written on their respective pages:

Trauma Fiction – Trauma Fiction is your resource for finding medical, trauma and illness information for your characters, plot and scenarios. Hosted by Emergency Medical Technician veteran, author Elizabeth Otto.

Legal Fiction – Legal Fiction is your resource for finding information about attorneys, the law, and the courtroom for your characters, plot, and scenarios. Hosted by attorney/author/editor at Twitching Pen Editing Jennifer Severino.

Cops and Writers – This group is dedicated to answering authors and screenwriters police related questions. Police procedure, equipment, police culture, and investigations are all fair game.

Authors Fire/Rescue – The Group is set up to help those write realistic fire/rescue and arson scenes.

I know there are so many more writing groups out there, especially on different platforms such as tumblr, reddit, and Discord, but with the high rate of activity I’m already getting with these ones, it’s better if I ease into these new communities.

I’ve gained insight into improving my writing, that’s always an ongoing process. There are such impassioned discussions, truly helpful approaches to tackling sensitive topics, and a dynamic group of talented people with common interests. You know how much I love infotainment.

What resources do you turn to when writing? Have you had a chance to immerse yourself in these various group threads? If you haven’t heard of these resources yet, do check them out and join in the conversation.

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

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: For Your MCU Viewing Pleasure

I’d been so busy with everything under the sun the last couple of months that I didn’t give the time and love that WandaVision so richly deserved. It’s okay, though, because it’s still within the spoiler zone, so a more in-depth discussion of how that story unfolded will come in a future Fangirl Friday post.

For now, without going too much into it, I want to share how excited I was to see Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their respective roles in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The long awaited first episode in this 6-episode run is ready to stream at the time of this writing on Disney+.

One thing I can freely discuss and praise is the diverse cast of characters in this premiere episode. I’m not just talking about ethnicity, but also the character traits, quirks, and flaws that each person brings to the story.

For those already anticipating the buddy-cop dynamic between Sam and Bucky, all I can say is that if the trailer was any indicator, we’re in for a real treat. Just the recall to their shared scenes in the movies were some much needed tension release from the heavier storylines.

I wish I could into further detail but I’d rather people watched it first so I don’t give anything away. As for the streaming platform, say what you will about the recent controversies with Disney, they’ve been putting out a lot of outstanding programming, of late, and I can only hope that it’ll keep getting better from here on out.

Be sure to catch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier each Friday, streaming today, March 19 with the final episode streaming on April 23. Before the year’s over (is that enough time to be out of the spoiler zone? lol), more discussions and story element breakdown to follow.

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

Until next time,

T out.