A new perspective, a new approach.

I am done counting the WPR weeks. I have accepted the fact that I am not projected to catch up on my word count based on those weeks. Please don't be disappointed in me! I did make it to 30K, and no I am not quitting on The Gilded Cage! The 'fast-first-draft', however, just wasn't working for me for this particular story, so I knew I had to change things up. The plot is more intricate than I expected which burned my brain out quickly when trying to keep up with the threads.

A few weeks ago when I was wallowing in despair, a CP offered to read what I had so far to give me feedback which I happily accepted! I sent off my rough pages, and while waiting, I made a six page outline of the plot so I could bounce off ideas with her. Since I had yet to hear from her I thought I should continue drafting since I had an outline to work off of. I added about 7K more but then I got stuck, again. Something felt off, just as it had felt off when I got stuck the first time around and sent off the rough pages to my CP. I contributed it to doubt making me second guess myself, but it had been five years since I started writing novel-length works. Hadn't I learned something? Shouldn't I trust my gut? Shouldn't I have cultivated some type of intuition by now?

Suffice it to say, I stepped away from my WIP yet again, and picked up old manuscripts. I delved into my trunked stories starting with the first and worst and immediately cringed. I read a few passages and then moved onto the next story and the next. Some were left unfinished, some thoroughly revised, but funny enough, I could see why they didn't lead to publication. With what I'd learned over the years, I could pinpoint exactly why an old MS of mine's wasn't working. So why couldn't I see what was wrong with my WIP? I'd obviously improved, yet why is it that writing had become harder than ever?

I think it came down to this: I know I can do better. I know I can be better. So when I don't see it reflected on the page, I get discouraged. But it's a first draft, right? It's supposed to be vomit. Just get it out. Right? For TGC, I couldn't do that. The last two manuscripts I'd done that process and what did it leave me with? Numerous rewrites! Instead of deepening the story in each draft, I basically ripped it to shreds and rewrote the whole thing multiple times! It was exhausting work, and I know writing is a lot of rewriting, but it seemed so inefficient! It drove me mad. I couldn't go there again. So what was I to do?

Going back to the old manuscripts, I picked up the one that had gotten me close to my dreams: Diamond Queen. It was one of my best works though it could still be improved (revising is endless). I missed how enjoyable the writing experience was for this one. The story, the characters, I just knew it without realizing it because it had always been a book I'd wanted to write. It had always been ready for me, it just took me being ready to get it down. So maybe that was the difference? It had the time to develop and marinate in my head and my heart before I even got it on the page. And once I did get to the page, it felt as if it had written itself because I'd already told myself the story many times.

So maybe that's what I was missing. This love, this deep intimacy of knowing my story, of this impulse to get it out. Maybe that's what was missing for TGC.

Knowing that, I knew I was not ready to face my WIP. Deep down, I've been holding TGC at an arms length, not wanting to get my hopes up again.

Then two weekends ago, Michael and I went to go see Echosmith in concert. One of their songs, 'Tell Her You Love Her' heavily influenced one of my old manuscripts. As I sat there, listening to the song live, I thought about how the years had passed since I had written that story. Between that time, the band themselves had been on hiatus trying to figure out the sound of their sophomore album. I found that I didn't really connect with the sophomore album, but I did connect with their struggle to find their 'sound' because I had been struggling the past two years to find my 'voice'. And yeah, my sophomore stuff after DQ was very experimental, but it pushed me as a writer, and I learned so much from it. The manuscripts weren't 'the one' but they were stepping stones to 'the one' (or at least, that's what I am telling myself).

This weekend, Michael pushed me to go on a date with him (to be honest, I haven't been able to bring myself out of the house much--bad wifey, I know), but because he is wonderful and I knew we needed it, I went and I had a good time. We ended the date by going to the bookstore, and I picked up a craft book, Story Genius, hoping it could enlighten me. I spent the weekend reading from cover to cover, but it was just what I needed to get some much needed clarity.

The reason why I couldn't move forward with my MS, was because something was wrong in the pages I'd already written. A plot point or an emotional beat wasn't leading me down the right path which resulted in a ripple effect. I needed to go back and fix that before I could move on and the ripple effect became to large to contain. I realized this plot was too intricate for me to rush through. It needed careful planning. If I barreled ahead, I would be screwing myself by writing a ton of words that I would end up rewriting anyway. No, this was not a fast first draft story, and my gut was telling me so by getting me stuck every time by telling me to stop and think about what I was doing instead of simply getting to my word count.

This was a layered story, and I was not doing it justice. I'd put my guard up, not wanting to get too close or too attached to this story or the characters in fear that this WIP was again, not the one. That thinking, however, was detrimental to my work, and it showed in my words, and I felt it during the writing experience.

I got into writing to put my heart on the page, when had I become so afraid? Had rejection made me that fearful? That doubtful of my work? I guess it had, but it was no way to write.

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It took me a couple of weeks to cultivate a new perspective and new approach going into TGC, but it was much needed. I needed to allow myself to get close to the characters, to immerse myself in their world, and allow myself to hurt and grow alongside them. I needed to take my time with it. There's no rush, no ticking clock. Just me, my characters, and their story. Go at their pace, not some arbitrary deadline I've placed upon myself.

After coming to that conclusion, I felt much better, and now I know what I need to do for myself and for this manuscript.

After five years, I had learned something after all. Now, to continue trusting my gut and intuition.

WPR: Week Two & Three of TGC

So end of week three... I should have crossed the 30K deadline, but I didn't. -_- I'm actually 10K behind, but my sister was visiting, and then I went on vacation to the desert, so yeah. I'm not too shocked I've fallen behind. But I am determined to keep my deadline the same so it'll be a few weeks of catching up, but I'm fine with that.

Since I've had so many distractions, it's been really difficult to get into the mindset of my story. I've never craved routine so much since I've come back from vacation. I've realized that I've been traveling each month which has been wearing me down, even if the travels are for fun! Now that I have six weeks coming up without any traveling whatsoever, there are no excuses for me not to make it.

Here's how the weeks went:

Week 2 word count: 13,171 (words written: 2,927)

Week 3 work count: 20,005 (words written: 6,834)

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It's been tough writing-wise, but I've brainstormed a couple of scenes to add to my to-write list, so hopefully that keeps me busy. I'm also currently building my writing playlist for this manuscript which always helps me get into the headspace. This week I'm aiming to get to 32-35K to hopefully catch up, but we'll see. As long as I sit myself down each day, I know I will eventually get it done so keeping positive about the whole thing!

WPR: Week One of The Gilded Cage

I mentioned in my last post that I was drafting something new. Alas, my working title for my YA Courtship Fantasy is The Gilded Cage.

For this project I'm giving myself about 8-9 weeks to draft an 80-85K manuscript so aiming for 10K per week.

I am happy to report Week One went well, and I met my 10K goal. First week is always the easiest though since there's so much excitement regarding the new project, but we should always celebrate the little things.

 End of Week One Word Count: 10,244

End of Week One Word Count: 10,244

So what is TGC about? Well, I have a short synopsis written, but I don't want to give too much away since it's still developing, but I can tell you what inspired it. During the 2016 elections, there were a lot of heated debates about healthcare in the US which inspired the political climate of my fantasy world. I wanted to explore both the moral questions and the scope of how healthcare affects everyone (Who should be entitled to healthcare? Those who can afford it? Or everyone? And what would be the cost for everyone to receive basic care? Should more taxes pay for it? And why is health insurance for profit?). These questions spurned the idea of a highly coveted MC--the last healer of the realm. Combine that with my love of BBC period dramas and you have The Gilded Cage.

Other things I'm excited about:

1. This is my first MS where I am writing in third person with four close POVs. You read that right. 4 POV's, which ummm, I've never done before. But hey! Gotta try new things.

2. Speaking of the POV's. I love each and every POV I've created so it'll be amazing to explore the ins and outs of each character!

3. Set design! Since I've been deep in the contemporary route, it's so refreshing to come back to fantasy and get to design the world and the set pieces, the clothes, the culture. I've never been so excited to world build. Some inspiration that I'm loving is the Versailles palace from my trip to France five years ago, and all the BBC dramas I've watched in the last decade. SWOON. Can't get enough of that long, burning, and misunderstood courtship.

4. Fun. It's been awhile since writing has been fun instead of a slog. With contemporary, I felt so much pressure to write something that meant something. Writing and reading though, has always been an escapist thing for me and a way to explore some place new and watch daring heroines make their mark in their world.

Now, onto week 2! Hopefully the excitement bug stays with me!

March'ing On & PVRIS

It's March. I can't believe it. It feels like this month just flew by.

In my last post, I mentioned some things I was looking forward to which basically took up a lot of my time. No complaints though because I loved seeing my friends, visiting my family for the lunar new year, dining at Atelier Crenn, and making memories. The only downside? I got sick shortly afterward. Like the worst cold ever type sick. I was basically bed-ridden and survived off soup and rewatched the Harry Potter movies and binged on Imposters on Netflix. Not a bad use of my time, but I would take being healthy over yucky sick days anytime.

Sometimes I think I get sick because I have a lot on my plate or I'm trying to do too much, and it's my body's way of putting on the brakes to get me to slow down. Because of that I had a lot of time to think. Especially about my current MS.

Just when I thought I was getting a grasp on it, it sprouted heads, like Medusa's hair, taking me this way and that. When I started to recover from my illness, I tried getting back to the computer to work on my revision, and I just couldn't. I started crying, having a full on meltdown on the carpet in my office, feeling like a failure. It just wasn't working. It didn't meet my vision.

My husband really had to pick me up and give me a pep talk about how stepping away from the MS isn't a sign of weakness, but strength. It takes a lot of courage to know when something isn't working and to step away from it. It doesn't mean we've quit or failed. We're just setting it aside until the idea has fully formed, and we have the skillset to accomplish it.

I always knew this MS was too ambitious and would take a lot out of me, and though I'm sad I'm not near where I want to be, I've decided I needed a clean slate and a new project to escape and fall into. Contrary to my new year's resolutions, I'm going to work on a story I hadn't plan to draft this year. So far I've written 8K and I feel the same rush I did with Diamond Queen.

This year isn't going as I'd planned, but sometimes life doesn't and that's okay. It's March, and I'm still marching on towards something great, even if it's not what I initially envisioned.

This week I also got to see PVRIS live again. My manuscript from last year was heavily influenced by their music, and though the manuscript never went anywhere, it still brought a lot of heartbreak and joy. The kind of emotion that grips you in all the feels (good and bad) because that's what it did to me while writing it. It makes me realize that no MS is a waste of time. Each one teaches you something about yourself and pushes to improve your craft.

As I head into the next two months drafting my new fantasy idea, I'm going to keep that in mind.

Things I'm looking forward to this month:

  • My sister visiting me
  • Going on vacation (again) to California (because I desperately need more sun)
  • My birthday

 

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*