WWPR: Manuscript baking & outlining.

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Any followers from 2015 remember my WWPR posts? Yeah, me neither, until a bout of nostalgia propelled me to dig into my archives. WWPR stands for 'Weekly Writing Progress Report'. I started it when I drafted M4, the manuscript that got me into PitchWars and also landed me my first agent. It was, and still continues to be the book of my heart.

One thing I loved about M4 was how easy it was to write (well easy in comparison to all my projects after it and before it) that I got to wondering if blogging about it was the secret ingredient to making it so enjoyable. So, out of curiosity, I dug back into the archives to read about my process, and it brought all these fond memories containing such great nuggets of illuminating advice current-me can still learn from and appreciate. With all of my discussions about my process and how beneficial it was to my craft, I wondered why I ever stopped? Sure I had some posts about my other projects, but this weekly snapshot of seeing it grow and how it became an integral part of my life was truly something.

(If you're curious about those posts, click here and it will lead you down the rabbit hole)

Thus, I'm bringing WWPR back for my pleasure and enjoyment, and also hopefully yours!

So here we go!

This week in writing:

MS7: ATLWTO, YA own voices inspired Contemporary
Status: Draft Two, finished
  • This week I'm letting my YA Contemporary 'bake' so that I can get fresh eyes on it before I do my read-through this weekend. What's cool about letting it bake are the ideas coming from having more brain space to think about it instead of focusing on writing/revising it. I've been jotting down notes on my phone in hopes that they will come in handy when I start making a revision plan for draft three.
  • I did share a small excerpt with my husband on Monday to see what he thought of it. He's only read a beginning clipping from draft one, but I changed the tone and voice in draft two so I was curious to see what he thought. He liked it, and there are parts I do too, but I know it has a long way to go before matching the vision in my head.
  • READ-THROUGH PLAN: Currently I have Saturday and Sunday blocked out on my calendar to do a read-through. I'm also traveling though for the holiday, but I'm hopeful I can still knock it out since it's only 59K.
MS8: ADOSAE, YA Fantasy
Status: Outlining
  • Some background on this project: I've had this idea since forever. Remember the book of my heart I mentioned earlier M4? I guess I should have said one book from a series of my heart. Totally dangerous territory, but I can't help it. This project is my prequel to M4. It's dangerous because you should never put all your eggs in one basket, but there's something about the world and the wide nest of characters that I'm desperate to explore. I guess the one perk of not being agented right now is the fact that I get to write whatever I want for the sake of pure enjoyment. To be frank, this world is my escape so I'm gonna roll with it because I love it so much. And that's kind of awesome because I'm going to follow my heart. It's also a great break from the serious contemporary WIP above.
  • Outlining - My process changes with every book, but on this one, I couldn't help but recreate my environment from M4, so I went through my drive and notebooks to see how I outlined it and it was so simple. So simple I feel like I'm cheating. M4 only used a skimpy outline and a list of possible scenes that I kept adding to as I wrote the story. So for M8 I'm doing the same, but I'm going to be a tad bit more detailed since I won't be drafting this baby until January.
    • How I Outline (in 3 Layers):
      1. I first start with a skeleton plot (a la Sarah Dessen). Find your beginning, your midpoint, and then the end. Once you have that, make a list of scenes and try to put them in natural order that gets you from Point A to Point B. Or in this case from the beginning, middle, to end. For this part, try not to think too much, just let your creative side loose and capture all those images floating in your mind. By this point you have a very skeletal outline that might look like a scene list, and you might get stuck. Totally okay, because that brings us to layer two.
      2. Now that I have an idea of what my plot looks like, I start to think about my major characters. Who are they? What do they want? Need? Afraid of? This method is something Marissa Meyer delves into on her blog and it's always stuck with me. Plot is really your characters doing stuff. i.e. making decisions, that lead them to another, and so on until it gets progressively worst for the character (but great for the reader). I'll drop the link here for you to check out.
      3. Once I get my characters semi-developed, I start to see how they interact with the plot, and this usually ends up generating more scenes and clarity to my outline. Then to make sure I hit all the plot points, I compare my outline to a beat sheet to make sure I have all the elements of plot, and then I trace through each major character arc to see if I got that too. Review and repeat until you're satisfied. By this point, you should have a triple layered outline loose enough you know where you're headed, but not so strict that you can't deviate ;)
  • I should mention this method seems to work with my YA Fantasy pretty well, but not Contemporary. For Contemporary I switch the first and second layer in this method by planning my characters first and using the plot to serve their arc.
  • Another tip, outlining by pen and paper usually stirs more creativity than going straight to a word processor to brainstorm. I usually free write the ideas and then arrange them all typed up so I can move it around, but that's your call ;) We all have our personal preferences.

Lastly, to the dreamers:

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I'm talking about those of us who aren't quite there in publishing land, but are keeping up the good fight. Those of us who've made some milestones, but have also had to dust ourselves off and pick ourselves back up. It's easy to be down on yourself as you see everyone around you (or so it seems) getting published and making their dreams come true. It's easy to be jealous or envious thinking they have it made. But appearances can be deceiving. Everyone has their own challenges, everyone still has to write, and so do you. In the end, we're all just writers trying to share the stories that matter to us. I think we sometimes forget that when all we see is a dividing line separating the ones that have 'made' it from the ones who haven't. This is an imaginary line. We're all people trying to find a home for our stories in our readers.

So keep up the good fight. Take a break if you need to. Your stories will be waiting for you when you're ready.

Finding the frame for your vision.

Over the weekend I finished the second draft of my WIP (for nomenclature purposes I'll refer to it as ATLWTO--which is shorthand for my working title). Though it only took me three weeks to crank out, I felt like it was emotionally draining so I didn't really celebrate.

Draft one, which I will deem my exploratory draft, was just all over the place. I couldn't decide on the tense, I fiddled constantly with timelines--it was basically a mess of me trying to figure out what was the best way to tell the story. My outline did not help whatsoever. Sometimes unfortunately, you don't know what works until you're knee deep in 30K words, and then you reread some bits and think, this would be better if I wrote it this way instead. Then there were the scenes that I thought was important to show but it did not serve the plot. Oh and then one character who I didn't really like, kept convincing me that he did not fit in the character box I was trying to fit him in, so that threw a wrench in things.

So you can imagine when I started my second draft how daunting all of this was when draft one became a mish mash of broken pieces. For draft two I simplified things by focusing on one thing, and one thing only: plot. I needed to nail the frame down for my vision, which meant I had to decide on the tense and stick to it. I had to decide if I wanted to do multiple timelines and why. In the end I decided I needed one thing solid to build off, because I was not going to go through a revision nightmare. Thus in three weeks, I revised the chapters I would keep, and then rewrote half of the MS fitting in the stepping stones to connect the plot for me to flesh out in draft three.

Case in point: Figure out the frame for your vision before you begin. It's like when you have a very dear photograph you want to frame. Do you just put it in any one you find? Or do you actually spend time looking for the perfect one that will compliment your photo? Note to self: take frame shopping seriously.

This week I'm going to take a much needed break from the MS by outlining the next idea. Then during Thanksgiving break I'll do my read through and make a heavy lifting revision plan for draft three--which I will give myself 6 weeks instead of three to complete. If all goes according to plan I'll have a working draft going into the new year!

On the other hand, since I've been obsessed with getting this MS done, done, done, I've been more introverted as usual and off of social media. The introverted thing can't be helped sometimes. It's SO DAMN DARK in the PNW so all I want to do is hibernate, but I will say being off social media has been a great 'breather' which increased my productivity.

 I'll end this post by dropping some reading recs that were my favorites this month and jotting down a few life updates:

An Enchantment of Ravens - I adored the love story, the adventure, the world building (so lush), and the pretty but to the point writing :D This will probably be a book I revisit. I read the whole thing through during a weekend.

Body Love - I always love reading up on diet and nutrition in the hopes of optimizing my lifestyle and I really loved the science-y explanations on blood sugar and hormones. Not to mention the simple approach to balanced eating.

I traded in my natural hair color for a balayage. Still getting used to this lighter version of me. Hopefully I'll have a better picture of it up on the blog later.

A dusting of snow came early to my neck of the woods. It made for pretty writing weather but terrible conditions for my already dry skin.

Lastly, I tried out Bounty Kitchen in Seattle with some TIU girls. Definitely a cool spot to catch some healthy eats in Queen Anne.

Changing of the Seasons

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It's been awhile hasn't it? Fall is in full bloom, pumpkins are everywhere, the week long rain has begun over the greater Seattle area. My day's uniform now consists of waterproof ankle boots and my trusty raincoat. I will most likely wear this outfit for the next two months and then switch the raincoat for my down jacket. Fall I absolutely love, but winter is where I struggle. Nonetheless, I'm trying to embrace the seasons while also wishing for a shorter winter (last year was the worst since I'd moved to Washington--let's not have a repeat of that). Though the days get darker sooner, I have a lot to be thankful for.

This month I've been filling up my time with friends and family. Each weekend has been celebrated with loved ones and holiday festivities. There's always something on the calendar for the weekend which has kept me happy. I'm also reading pretty voraciously which I haven't done in a while, but it keeps my creative well full (so note to self, never stop reading).

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I've also brought myself to write again. If you've read my blog this past year, you know I've been up and down with my craft--like a full blown hate-love affair. It's been a painful road with my work. I've felt so low that I had avoided writing anything at all. Plus, every time I tried, I felt paralyzed. I felt foolish. Like I wasn't even worthy of my dreams. My heart begged this question to be answered: why I was doing this? Why do I want to do this?

I had to dig down deep. I thought it over for months and months wavering over possibilities, feeling stagnant, and also a bystander of a world I felt no longer part of. I felt alone. So per usual, I turned to books.

In one of the books I'd been reading, there was a section discussing how your childhood can clue you in to what you really want to do. If you think of the moments of happiness, the turning points that changed you, it can clue you in to how you'd like to spend your life. A child's heart is more in tune to their subconscious because it hasn't had the world and outside voices interfering and telling them who they should be. As a child, you are just you being you.

I recall my turning point in middle school. I was reading Wendalin Van Draanen's Flipped for a Battle of the Books competition. The scene where Julianna has to give up the Sycamore tree and her father comes into her bedroom and gives her a painting of the tree with her in it made me cry. You have to read it to fully get the impact of this painting. It was the first book to get such a strong emotion out of me. And when I'd finished the book, I felt changed though the world around me wasn't.

I'd like to think after that when growing up got really tough, books were the thing that saved me. It became my escape. I went down the rabbit hole and never looked back.

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I think about now and why I write. Of course I'd like to make a career out of it. Who wouldn't want their dream job? That really isn't a good enough reason though, is it? Everyone has a dream job. What marks the difference between having a dream and making it a reality? Is it more than just passion? More than love and a sacrifice? Is it a service? Do you do something you're passionate about because you believe it can make some impact or do some good in the world? Or is it only a pursuit of a selfish gain or validation?

I'm going into a too long of a tangent, but I guess when it comes down to it, I see my young adult self struggling, and I wish to put a story in her hands and change her world for the better. Maybe I'll change her views, maybe I'll give her an escape. I just want my stories to be out there in case she needs them. It's a big selfish, but also a service. An in between or a compromise to my above dilemma, I suppose. This is my 'why' though and it's brought me back to writing.

My current WIP is a pretty difficult story to write. I have no idea if it'll pan out. But I'm hopeful, and that's something I haven't felt in a while--so it's time for me to run with it and see where it takes me.

And so with the changing of seasons, I also feel a change in me. So yeah, that's where I've been.

TONE IT UP TOUR - SEATTLE

Ahhhhh! The TIU Tour came to Seattle last week, and I am so happy that I got to attend! As my #tiuhubby knows, I'm kind of obsessed with all things Tone It Up, so it was no surprise that when tickets came out, I bought them ASAP and splurged for the VIP. Luckily, I have a husband who supports my TIU addiction :P

So lo and behold the day finally came for the first ever tour! I got to meet up with some badass babes, flowed with Corepower yoga, got my ass kicked by Jillian Michaels, and sweated it out with Katrina & Karena. The day was filled with awesome empowering vibes, rose, and newfound friendships. And of course, a huge dose of inspiration and motivation. I always leave the TIU events on a high. It's obvious I'll be forever in love with this community <3

It's been almost a year since I joined Tone It Up and lately I've been thinking about how it's affected me:

  • I have been consistent in working out this past year (and bright and early in the mornings no less)!
  • I've learned to bake with protein powder. Not a big feat, but it's a pretty cool to healthify some baked treats once in a while.
  • I've fallen in love with smoothies and salads! I've always been a green smoothie lover, but now I've incorporated protein and super food powders to the mix, so I feel like I'm become a smoothie wizard! Before Tone It UP, I was a salad twice a week kind of girl, but now I seem to want them 5-7 days a week.
  • Even though physically I haven't changed much, I feel less soft and my fitness has improved.
  • I find that I can be brave and show up at an event without knowing anyone. I used to be super self-conscious meeting new people, probably because I always had some kind of network or friends to do things with, but when you move to a new place, you're forced to start over. For my first year in Seattle, I was afraid to do just that, but I found that TIU has helped me embrace being open with others.
  • It's brought my sister and I closer. My TIU membership was a pre-wedding gift from my sister to help me get in shape for my wedding. She ended up joining too after seeing how much I enjoyed it that we recently made our LA trip TIU themed!
  • I am kinder and more accepting of myself. I used to be really negative about myself and my body. I would never ever body shame another woman because I think of all woman as beautiful in their own right, but when it came to myself I had no problem dissing and dismantling my self-esteem. In a way, I've found some inner peace with myself (though of I'm not immune to having those difficult days; I'll just counteract them with positive vibes).

As I go into me second year of TIU, I know that what's finally blossoming within me, will slowly, but surely be reflected on the outside.

As always, thank you K&K.

 

TIU LA Trip: Day 3

Like all things, the trip came to an end, but we made it an eventful one to celebrate my sister's birthday. We woke up and started at Two Guns Espresso which was absolutely delicious. Best coffee during my trip was had here, and they make a killer garlic toast, so try it if you ever go.

After fueling up, we went for a 4-5 mile hike to check out the coastal views. It was so peaceful and tranquil that I had to strike a yoga pose or two. It has been a while since I delved into my practice though, so I'm gonna make it a point to get back into it.

After the hike, we walked along the Santa Monica Pier then headed to Venice to replenish at Café Gratitude. I loved this café so much, I really hope they come to Seattle. I loved the vibe and the positive affirmations. Not to mention the delicious and good-for-you food.

We rested at the beach for a bit before getting ready for the birthday dinner at The Strand House then celebrated the night at Elevate Lounge to ring in the birthday at midnight. The next day was a travel day, and though I had an amazing trip, it also feels good to be back home with the hubby and kitty.

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TIU LA Trip: Day 2

Hands down, day 2 was probably my favorite day of the trip, probably because I've been dying to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and this was my opportunity! 

Before we headed out to Universal, we started our day with a morning run and then went to Sunlife Organics for some Acai bowls.

Then we spent the whole day at Universal where I got to drink butterbeer, go one rides, and enjoy the sun. It's been so long since I've been to an amusement park, and I really enjoyed this one. It's a good size that you could do it all in one day (as long as it's not too busy). We definitely lucked out too because we barely had to wait in any lines for the rides. I thought it was worth it just to do the Wizarding World, but that's just me.

To end the night, we had dinner at Perch and watched the sun set from the rooftop bar. All in all, it was a very good second day in LA.

TIU LA Trip: Day 1

As I write this, I am so filled with thanks and gratitude. The past week has been amazing! My sister and I traveled to LA for a TIU/Birthday trip, and when I returned to Seattle, I had the pleasure of attending the TIU tour! I'm still coming off from the high of this week, so be warned, the next 4 posts will basically be me fangirling about Tone It Up ;)!

On Thursday, my sister and I met up at LAX to begin our trip! After grabbing the car and checking into our hotel, we headed out to lunch at The Source Café. For all our foodie needs, we basically followed the LA TIU City Guide for suggestions on where to go and eat for some delicious, healthy, and instagram worthy places and they did not disappoint! We ended up splitting a green smoothie and paleo salmon toasts.

Afterward we ended up in Venice to go mural hunting to find the 'Look For Love' hearts that K&K used for the challenge and basically had a blast snapping photos and walking around. For dinner we went to The Butcher's Daughter to split a pizza (which was sooooo good--and that's saying something since I'm not a big pan of pizza).

Slightly tired from the travels, we headed back to the beach right outside our room to enjoy the sunset, then had some snacks and sparkling rose on our balcony to end the night.

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