FLOR & LOTR Re-watch

Recently this indie band called Flor popped up on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist. The song Hold On was so catchy I decided to listen to the whole album. It put me in such a good mood I started listening to it in the mornings to get pumped! I found out later that they were set to go on tour, and lucky me, Seattle was their first stop.

So that's how I spent the beginning of my weekend: dancing and singling along to Flor's performance Friday night. They were so great live. My only complaint was I wanted a longer set. Ha. 

To continue the weekend fun, Michael and I set out to do a Lord Of The Rings rewatch. It's something he's been wanting to do for awhile, and I hadn't seen it since, I don't know, maybe a decade? So it sounded like a good idea. Spoiler: it was a great idea.

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We ended up working during the day--me with my writing, him with his coding--and then we would meet up in the evenings to watch. Can I just say how great these movies aged? I still can't believe that most of the sets were built, the costumes made, and the make up done. Now with CGI being all the rage, it was refreshing to see the careful craft of this movie. Suffice it to say, the re-watch was totally worth it. We devoured the whole trilogy in a weekend. The Two Towers though is still way too long for me pacing-wise (I get restless). The series as a whole is amazing though, and it makes me want to do a Harry Potter movies re-watch now too. Not sure, if the hubs will be up for it, but maybe I can entice him with stove-top popped popcorn.

Anyway, besides our fun weekend, I also managed to clean my office, bathroom, and closet. Sometimes when my living space isn't organized, I find it very difficult to focus. My thoughts when I revise start to become so scattered I can't get any good work in, but after the deep cleaning, I felt so much better. I even reformatted my MS and printed it out so that it would look and feel different. There's something so awesome about revising on paper. The contrast of red pen against the black ink thrills me for some reason. I know, I'm weird.

Some other ways I've been filling up my creative well:

  • Watched Dunkirk - This movie was so good. I can see why it's gotten so many Oscar nods
  • Books I've read lately in YA: YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE, THIS IS NOT A TEST
  • Homemade chocolate peanut butter cups - I'm getting into the habit of making my own chocolate at home with coconut oil/butter, stevia extract or maple syrup, with cacao powder and nibs, and a pinch of sea salt. So delicious.
  • Coconut Lattes - I tried to quit caffeine, but it's so hard because I love the taste of coffee. So I'm starting off slow by weaning myself off a bit by opting for decaf coffee or substituting with a coconut milk tea lattes. (as you can tell coconut is my new best friend)
  • Podcasts - I listen to them all the time. Whether it's about food, wine, or living a creative life. I can't get enough.

Some things I'm looking forward to:

  • Friends visiting this weekend
  • Going back to Sac to see my family for the Lunar New Year
  • Dining at Atelier Crenn in SF
  • Finishing my revisions

 

 

Your Time Is Sacred

This week I've been thinking a lot about time. How much I have of it. How much I feel like I don't. How sometimes I feel like I'm wasting it. And how much I feel like I'm not going anywhere as each day passes. It's been a struggle. Time moves too fast when you don't want it too, but too slow when you do. Except it's not. It's all relative, right?

Even so, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in a day versus the time I actually have to complete such tasks to see how exactly I am maximizing my time versus wasting it.

In regards to maximizing my time, I've noticed I get more done when I've planned my day. Usually I get an idea of what my day is like the night before, and I try to eliminate as many decisions I have to make in order to free up my mind for my creative pursuits. This meant, I pack my gym bag, my breakfast and lunch, and what I'm going to wear the night before. This saves me the time it would take for me to be indecisive as well as gets me going in the morning with a purpose. At work, I leave a pile of the things on my desk I need to get done in an order of priority, before I even navigate my inbox so that I don't fall behind.

But the thing is, I don't do that with writing. I track what I've accomplished, and I have revision notes, but I don't plan my writing sessions like I do my work block or my gym time. My goals are too vague. Hit 40K by this date, etc. I could hit it, but if this 40K was as crappy as my last 40K, I've accomplished NOTHING. As I hit another wall, I realized that this was my hang up lately: I was wasting time aimlessly figuring out what I needed to do next. This always happens in the thick of the story--the dreaded middle. It's like the saying right? If you don't have a plan, prepare to fail. I'd been too vague with my revision notes. I needed to directly point out how I could fix a scene or chapter by hitting this, this, and this in my writing session. BLAH. Can I just say it sucks when you feel like you're wasting time?

Speaking of wasting time, here are some other things I noticed that sucked up valuable time. Social Media. I read an interesting article about millennials and instant gratification, and how it affects our ability to empathize or socialize, and I'm like, wow. That's kind of true. Like instead of keeping up with friends, I'll just check out their insta or twitter, and it fulfills the need of me 'catching up' with their lives without the actual social interaction. That's great and all, but it shouldn't be a substitution. Then when it comes time to actually interact, everything feels redundant because I already saw it unfold online. I'm not saying social media is bad. I mean, I use it as well to connect, especially since moving out of state, but it's not a necessity. And limiting my time on it, actually makes me feel better. It actually makes me look forward to spending time with friends or family and fully being present in the moment.

So yeah, social media is a huge time waster when it does not serve you any purpose. Also, it's distracting as hell when I'm trying to get stuff done. I'm on it still, but I cut down my time on it a lot.

Another big time waster? Negative emotions. Our actions and behaviors are based on our emotions. So as I mentioned this month, I've been dealing with a hormonal imbalance, and the side-effects have really messed with me psychologically. I'm not happy when I have reason to be, I feel sick, when I know I'm not. I get really critical of myself when what's happening inside of me is out of my control. All of this negative emotion then festers in me until I throw my hands up in the air and curl up in a fetal position. My symptoms make no logical sense to me when they are controlled by imbalanced hormones, but accompanying them are the negative emotions which feel like ankle weights, pulling and drowning me into a hazy cloud that makes it hard to think straight. It's exhausting, and it wastes a lot of time being upset at myself for it. So what I've started to do is daily journaling. I let out the negative, and by writing it out and dealing with it, I can move on or ride it out. Acknowledge, accept, move on or ride it out. That's all I can really do, and pretending otherwise is nothing but detrimental to my productivity.

This was a longer and more rant-like post than I intended, BUT I hope it makes you think a lot about how you spend your time. After all, your time is sacred. Fill it with what makes you happy and makes your day--and life--better. Fill it with love, the people who mean the most to you, creativity, and anything that brings you joy or benefits your mental or physical health.

<3, Michelle

 

WPR: One week into pass two and a look back at MS7

Monday night I hit a wall (figuratively speaking). Trudging along in my Pass 2 for my YA Contemporary, I got spooked by the fact that my manuscript was changing so much. I'd only revised about 12K of it, but change--when it happens all too fast--can be scary which left me as a perfect vessel for doubt to creep into. #writingwoes

What scared me the most was the idea of this story straying so far from my initial vision when I'd set out to write it. It made me question whether I was doing the right thing. Was the heart of the book the same? Or was it something else entirely? Give two writers the same writing prompt, you'll end up with two different responses. It kind of feels like that. With each pass, I was creating a different response, so the question I asked myself was whether or not it was getting better.

After freaking out a bit, I tried to zoom out to the big picture of what I was trying to accomplish. To do that, I looked at my writing calendar to see how this MS had grown. Was the story growing upright and developing branches? Or was it a tree getting blown over by the wind?

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I'd drafted this MS sporadically in May, September, and October.

I revised draft 2 as a huge rewrite from October through November.

Did two read-throughs before embarking on draft 3 in November & December.

Took 3 weeks to input my write-ins and make my changes during my first pass from the end of December to mid-January.

Now, I'm a week into my second pass. All the while, wondering if this story will kill me or if I'm really that stubborn that I need to finish it.

Comparing my current draft to what I'd written in May, I can see the growth, but it's still not where I want it to be. This tree/story still has a lot of growing to do, and I'm running out of patience.

I'm really starting to miss fantasy right about now.

*goes back to revising*

 

Hawaii 2018, Pass 2, & other updates

Hello 2018! Time for my first post!

I started off the year with a trip to Hawaii with the hubs and the in-laws (who graciously hosted). During vacations I usually want to do a lot of stuff, but my 4th quarter at work was crazy busy and I hadn't been feeling well (update on that below), so I made it my mission to decompress and relax. Besides a few posts on Instagram, I basically unplugged which was nice! I ate well, drank well, read well, and managed to get some writing done. 

While in Hawaii Michael and I got to celebrate our first year of marriage! It was nice for our first anniversary to go back to the place where we said our vows and got hitched.  It brought all the warm and fuzzies back, except this time was so much better because I didn't have a wedding to execute! So yeah, being married is great. Especially to this guy.

On the beach, I managed to read three books in a week. My favorite of the three was The Memory Book by Lara Avery. Where has this book been all my life? Why did no one recommend it to me? This is a laugh, cry, then sob kind of book with such lively characters. Easily one of my new favorite books that I will reread in the years to come. Pick it up. I dare you. Then once you're in the sobbing phase, come cry on my shoulder, and I'll feed you chocolates to lessen the gut-wrenching blow that is this beautiful work of art.

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Anyway, this book, along with the others I read on vacation really got me thinking of MS7 and what type of reaction I wanted to invoke in my reader. After finishing pass 1, I decided I needed another major overhaul during Pass 2. More specifically: revising the voice, tone, and fleshing out the characters. My dear reader, I want you to love, laugh, and cry. That is the goal. :P It's a big change, but I think it'll make the MS better (that is, if it doesn't kill me first). Like seriously, this manuscript is so hard to write, but feels worth while, and one of my goals this year was to write the best book possible. There's still eleven months to go to make it SHINE.

Even though I've been agent-less for awhile, I'm starting to feel really good about my writing again. Last year I'd wrestle with so many doubts wondering if I had it in me. The thing about your low years? It really shows you what you want, and for me it reaffirmed my belief about who I am and what I'm meant to do. This year, I've been exploding with book ideas and it's only January! For the last two years, I kind of had a drought so it's kind of a relief to get drenched with all these ideas.

So yeah, the start of 2018 has been all about positive vibes! Something I've been doing is listening to upbeat music in the morning (Any FLOR fans out there?). If I'm am work, I'll jam out in my cubicle. If I'm at home, I put on my headphones and dance in my office. This new habit just makes me feel happier, and it makes me think about my story and what I'm trying to do, and how to bring more meaning into my story world.

To fully understand how much of an improvement I've made on my outlook, I should confess that the last three months I've been dealing with terrible pain from ovarian cysts due to hormonal imbalances. I haven't felt like myself at all, and there were days when I would just lay about because being away from the heating pad hurt so much. My writing took a hit, and I was such bad company I basically kept to myself. The good news is, I'm dealing with it and getting my hormones under control with natural supplements and cleaning up my lifestyle. It'll take a while to find my balance, but I'll get there.

Now, that I'm back home I'm really excited to dive back into my goals, my writing, life, and making the most of this year!

 

A White Christmas, The End of 2017, & Looking Ahead to 2018

Alright, my last blog post of 2017! It's hard to believe 2017 has come and gone. I got married, I made some big decisions, made some mistakes, and learned a lot about myself. Here's hoping 2018 is better. ;)

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I'm skipping the WWPR post this week because I haven't made much progress during Pass 2 on my MS. I could blame it on the holiday craziness, or the fact that I've been feeling unwell, but in plain black and white, I didn't do much, so I'll accept the consequences of carving out some revision time in Hawaii. Then again, writing time in a relaxing place doesn't sound too bad, right?

I hope everyone reading had a wonderful Christmas! If you follow my instagram, you'll have seen the huge surprise we received from Mother Nature on Christmas Eve: snow! It was my first ever white Christmas. It was beautiful and magical! I loved it! Because of it, Christmas Day was at our place. It was Michael and I's first time hosting Christmas, so that plus the snow will always make it a memorable one.

Here's a quick highlight of my 2017 in no particular order:

1. Getting married

2. Michael's 30th surprise party

3. Santa Barbara wine trip

4. My birthday in the desert & at home

5. Thanksgiving in California

6. Seeing Banners live!

7. Mother's day visit

8. Meeting K&K / TIU Tour

9. visit from Mic & Joan

10. LA Trip

And because, who doesn't love New Years Resolutions:

Writing Goals

1. Finish my YA Contemporary - the current project I'm working on

2. Draft my YA Fantasy - the one I made an outline of last month

Health & Fitness

1. Level up on yoga - i.e. no more intro classes. I'd like to do more advanced classes and get more comfortable with inversions.

2. Stick through a workout plan - I like to dabble in all kinds of workouts and do them based on how I'm feeling, but it' be nice to finish one completely from start to finish. I've decided to do BBG2 from start to finish when I get back from Hawaii.

3. Learn more new recipes - everything I've been making is getting kind of old. Time to revamp my culinary skills.

4. Practice gratitude more often to keep a positive mindset.

Personal

1. Make more time for people and keep in touch more - I have a tendency to keep to my writing cave and my little bubble.

2. Explore the area - whether it's coffee shops, bars, or new restaurants. I used to be all for trying new things, but I've had the tendency to stick to my favorites (and while there's nothing wrong with that--I do enjoy the novelty of new experiences).

3. Live minimally -  as in don't buy things unless I really need it so I can reduce on clutter. I'm no hoarder, but I do have trouble letting go of paper memories, whether that's journals, photographs, cards, or printed manuscripts. The thing is, they end up in my closet or in trunks, which means I have no space for anything else. So, yeah. I'll try to work on that. 

4. Study up on Wine - I'd like to increase my knowledge base enough to past the level 1 somm test!

 

 

 

 

WWPR: Cold & Overwhelmed (Pass 1 Week 2)

It's been really cold here. Like so cold my toes never feel warm. I'm from California so me and the cold do not mix which led to some general feelings of unwellness. I'm crossing my fingers that my immune system does not get compromised before Christmas like last year... Now, that was a sad Christmas. 

Anyway, week 2 started off great in terms of productivity, but then somehow, I crashed and burned. On the bright side, I was ahead of my deadline for Pass 1--finishing up on Sunday the 17th instead of the following Saturday (the 23rd). Huzzah!

This week in writing:

THURSDAY: I started the week pretty strong by revising chapters 18-24. I guess I just wanted to keep the ball rolling ;) 

FRIDAY: Because Thursday was so productive, I allowed myself a night off for an in-home Date Night! Michael and I opened some vino, made some dinner together, and rented a movie (I was so tired though, I fell asleep like 10 minutes in).

SATURDAY: I put my butt in the chair and set out to get a lot of work done. I ended up revising chapters 29-39. Chapters 25-28 would be new scenes to add (which I have yet to write) once I started Pass 2. It was so nice to feel accomplished before going out for the night. Michael and I tried out a new restaurant Revel (which was delicious by the way) and ended with a night cap at The Barrel Thief in Fremont.

SUNDAY: I couldn't sleep. I ended up waking up around 6 a.m., made myself some coffee and finished going through chapters 40-47! Almost a whole week before my deadline! My back started to hurt though so I made a makeshift stand up desk to start writing in my changes. I ended up typing in changes for chapters 1-5 thinking I'd get it all into my scrivener file and then go back and do Pass 2 once I finished. I quickly realized this was the wrong approach. It was so mind numbing, and my brain was quickly starting to hurt from going to paper then to computer then back. Suddenly, I felt REALLY overwhelmed about the whole project because it still needed a ton of work so I started psyching myself out. I had to accept that it probably wouldn't be in CP shape by the end of the year, so I stepped away from it.

MONDAY/TUESDAY: Oyyy. I was not feeling well on either of these days. I don't know if it was merely exhaustion, the cold dip in temperatures, or whatnot, but I was extremely fatigued. It was to the point where I'd collapse onto the living room floor and balled myself up by the fire. I ended up taking a break from writing on these two days and focused on wrapping presents and rereading one of my favorite books to wipe my brain clean of my story.

WEDNESDAY: I still wasn't feeling up to snuff, but I had had enough of my self-pitying and told myself that I wasn't in enough physical pain to excuse my laziness so I managed to force myself back into my office and started on my pass 2.

I decided I would focus on doing 2-3 chapters a day, first by typing in my changes and my notes, then rereading and line-editing for pass 2. It worked much better this way because it kept my mind engaged with the story and had the benefit of being improved with another layer of close reading. It also allowed me to slow down with the story to make sure I got everything I wanted in each scene.

Ideally, I want to finish this before I leave on vacation to Hawaii in January, but I also want to enjoy the holidays, so most likely I'll have to extend my deadline to the end of vacation and work my magic in the sun.

Here's hoping I get one third done by next week! Hope you all have a happy holiday weekend! As always, thank you for reading!

 

WWPR: MS7 Revision Notes & Pass 1 (Week 1)

It's been a whirlwind of a week! But I'm so excited to sit down and get into this WWPR, because it feels like a celebration. For one, I am fully functional now, and the cold I had is becoming more like a distant memory as each day passes. With the increase in energy levels, I gathered all my notes, scene cards, and my running list of problems in my MS, and focused this week on finding solutions!

Here's my week in writing:

THURSDAY: Reviewing the macro problems first (plot, character, setting), I placed all of my scene cards on the floor to rearrange them and placed my solutions onto the notecard with stickies. I'll save you the long spiel on how I did this by referring you to Marissa Meyer and Susan Dennard's websites. My method is basically a combination of their revision process, and they provide a lot of info on how to go about revisions if you want to read up on it.

I worked from 4-8 p.m. (make sure to follow my instagram @michelletranwrites to see my insta stories), but it was so worth it because by the end of the night I knew where I wanted to take this MS, and most importantly, how.

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FRIDAY: I began my first pass of revisions by making the changes I wanted directly on the printed manuscript. My goal is to finish this relatively quickly (2-2.5 weeks) and then type in the changes on my computer while concurrently doing a second pass of the manuscript afterward.

Pass one will focus on getting the plot nailed down with all the scenes in the correct order and roughly putting the character arcs in place to compliment the plot.

Pass two will be to get the character arcs fully fleshed out while also fixing the flow/transitions of the story since I had to move a lot of scenes around.

Depending on where I'm at with pass 2, I anticipate a pass 3 and 4 to focus on setting, dialogue, and prose. Maybe then I'll feel confident enough to ship out my MS to some CP's.

SATURDAY: I flew back to Sac to celebrate my nieces birthday! It was a quick trip, but I still brought my manuscript, just in case. I was able to get one chapter done on the flight there.

SUNDAY: Since my niece was just too cute and wanted to play, I didn't get any revising done. I ended up having quality time with her and the family. I built her new birthday gift I had chipped in to buy. It took me about 4-5 hours, but her excitement for her play kitchen was worth it.

MONDAY: Since I didn't get much done during my weekend in Sac, I had to turn it up a notch and make up time for it. I ended up getting through 5 chapters!

TUESDAY: Pass one continues. I've made it to one third through of the write-in portion of the revision. To make things even better, I got some surprise holiday mail from 2 of my great CP's Mic & Krystal!!! THANK YOU!!!

WEDNESDAY: ALMOST HALFWAY DONE. Cue celebration with this WWPR post!

All of this planning and organizing during the revision process has really inspired me to keep myself on track--not just now, but for 2018. To do so, I'm using a planner instead of my typical spreadsheet or notebook so I can jot down my progress. Hopefully by the end of 2018, I'll have a full planner focusing on making 2018 my best writing year. Here's what the planner looks like reflecting this week! For the month portion, I quickly jot down my progress and what week I'm on. For the week portion, I also jot down how I'm currently feeling about the process to help me reflect.

Hopefully by next week, I'll be done with the write in part. Wish me luck, and happy writing!

What are your ways to stay on track? Comment below!