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 I was informed that an MG book where this POV combo existed, an outdated technique that isn’t used anymore, was published in 1994.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.

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.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: The Music in Me Vol. 2

In case you missed my first instalment discussing music and my WIPs, you can catch up here. Musical choices in storytelling fascinate me. After watching the LoTR franchise, I can’t fully appreciate life in The Shire without hearing the jaunty melody that enhances the light and playful experience of running through the grass. The juxtaposition of rock and roll and other more modern songs in A Knight’s Tale doesn’t seem like it would work, but it does. And our favorite erstwhile bounty hunter The Mandalorian, a.k.a. Din Djarin, travels about in a galaxy, far far away, to what? Space Opera music? Space Western music? You can hear some of the score in the Season 2 Final Trailer here. (Fair warning, there are spoilers if you haven’t watched the show yet. And if not, what are you waiting for?) Whatever we want to call it, the music brings that part of the universe to life in a way uniquely its own.

It’s as though the music becomes as integral to the worlds we create and the characters within them. One could argue that the music we ascribe to the stories we tell are characters in their own right.

Yes, these examples are for a different medium. However, I’m a visual writer and have been told as much by others who’ve read my work. I want my words to leap off the page and into life, whether on the page or on screen. I aspire to write screenplays as well as adapt the WIPs I’ve already begun in book form. Either way, music has always been an essential part of my writing process.

If it’s not music I already love that I incorporate into my WIPs, I somehow hear a score as the scenes unfold in my mind. There’s no other way to describe it than that. I’m not adept at music production but I am intrigued by the process. As part of the various creative outlets that I’m pursuing for my own edification, as well as for their therapeutic benefits, I want to delve more into illustration and music creation. The art supplies have been purchased and I do have music apps and tech that will (ideally… hopefully… lol) help me bring out the musical notes that have been dancing around in my cranium as I write. Adding other tangible aspects to my stories to supplement and enhance the words is an exciting prospect for me. Considering the technology available to us and how innovative people have been during the pandemic, I would be keen to try an immersive, interactive and potentially collaborative means of storytelling. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for years and there’s no time like the present, right?

Have you ever seen behind the scenes footage of a show or film you like? They’re blocking the scene, filming it from different angles, but it’s completely silent other than the actors speaking or certain sound effects activating. The score is added in post-production. The viewing experience is completely different when you have music accompanying the various emotions of a scene. How about moments where no words are necessary but you see a character realize something crucial to the plot?There are musical cues and dramatic pauses that allow the audience to come to that realization along with them. You’re really brought deeper into the story and find yourself in suspended disbelief. You’re no longer a spectator but an active participant in the story and the stakes are just as high.

I have a very similar experience when reading or writing stories. The scene unfolds, the music swells, and I’m right there with the characters amidst the adventure and turmoil. I’ve had to close a book because it left me overcome with emotions. The respite is almost immediate as I’d be drawn back into the story, no matter how late into the night I’d go. As an insomniac, it’s so late it becomes early–as in, early morning.

Do you have musical inclinations when you’re drafting your stories? Do you like listening to music to help you get in the writing mindset or do you also enjoy particular music to help inspire the scenes themselves? Either way, music is a powerful component of my story creation.

A compelling score adds texture and nuance to the scenes as they unfold in my mind and translate to words on the page. What are you writing? And what music, if any, moves you? Music that moves you to write, music that moves your story forward. I’d love to hear what inspires other writers and add to my playlist.

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

Until next time,

T out.