2019

Wow. It’s 2019. I can’t believe it.

At times it felt like 2018 went at a snail’s pace, but as I look back I’ve come to realize it went as quick as a blink of an eye. 2018 was such an amazing albeit crazy year. I celebrated my one year wedding anniversary, then quickly after found out I was pregnant, became a finalist for the New Visions Award, had a baby, and then adjusted to motherhood. I’m not sure if 2019 will top that, but I am hoping it will.

As we enter the new year, I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to focus on this year and how to accomplish it while balancing motherhood. Before having a child, I thought I didn’t have enough hours in a day to do the things I wanted. Now that I have a baby, I realized that I had all the time in the world. Why did I squander it? Finding time in the day when another human being relies on you for everything and you are at the whim of their sleeping and feeding schedule makes you see the value of time and also the little things you took for granted. Like taking a leisure shower, making yourself a nice meal, having an organized and clean house, enjoying a glass of wine, or going to the movies. It’s a whole new life when you become a parent, and you become essentially a whole new person.

But even though life changes completely, the essence of who you are does not.

For me, it always goes back to writing. That deep and almost painful yearning to wrestle a manuscript into a gratifying story. The process, however, is far from gratifying. It’s hard. Some days I feel like I’ll never make it. Some days I feel like I suck. Some days I feel like the words are always out of reach and that I have no talent or skill. But the more I stay away from writing, the more guilty I feel for neglecting it because it feels as if I’m starving my soul. The small fleeting moments of clarity and rush of adrenaline when the story’s heart beats against my own though, always gets me to come back.

And in 2019, I still keep coming back.

This year, I’m going to finish my current revision and finally put the story I’ve been working on and off for years to rest.

This year, I’m going to finish that half written draft I had put aside in 2018.

This year, I’m going to write, revise, and hope for the best that maybe this will be the year that I get closer to the dream.

Hello Motherhood

After an almost 14 hour labor from my water breaking to my son’s arrival, I’ve officially entered into Motherhood! Despite the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, and the constant breastfeeding, I’ve never been happier.

It’s funny. I never considered myself maternal at all. Kids are cool and all, but I always thought I could do with or without them. In fact, one of my worries during pregnancy was the fear of losing a part of myself by devoting such a huge portion of my time to someone else. Now, that I have Micah, I can’t imagine him not being in my life. I can’t imagine not wanting to be with him every minute of the day. The love between mother and child really can’t be explained. It’s like finding your life partner or soul mate. It changes everything. The way you feel, the way you see the world. Just. Everything. It makes me see my own mother as well as all moms in a whole new light.

Right now, I’m still adjusting to our new addition to our family and my new role, but just like my son is his own person, I am reminded that so am I. True, I am a mom now, and as much as I love it, it’s not all I am. Once I find my rhythm, I look forward to going back to writing and revising. Still chasing that dream and leading by example so that my son never gives up on anything he deems worthwhile.

So, anyway, that’s where I’ve been lately. Still here, alive and well, watching my son grow as I think about all the stories I want to read and write for him.

July: Writing Update & Latest Recs

Writing: Know where you're headed, but don't rush a good thing

Currently, I am working on substantial revisions for one of my manuscripts. When I had set out to do this revision, I planned all my changes on a spreadsheet and gave myself deadlines (I'm a type-A planner. Can you tell?). At first I was moving pretty steadily, making my daily, and weekly goals, and then things got sticky. I pushed through anyway. And then I got stuck. After what felt like taking a huge step forward with the revision, I realized I had taken two steps back. By trying to meet my daily goals and weekly deadlines, I had rushed the story and it showed in my writing. Every scene felt forced.

*weeps*

One and a half week's worth of work needed to be re-revised. That hurt. That really, really, hurt. And my mindset became totally wrecked as the finish line slipped farther and farther away. And when you're feeling down, all the other negative chatter follows, making it hard to be focused or passionate about the story when all you can see are the flaws in it.

I got myself out of it by taking the time to go back and seeing where things went wrong and being honest with myself with what needed to be done to get me back on track.

Here are some tips and tricks that helped me:

  • Always, always, always, have an updated outline as you revise. It helps to sort out the changes you've made to easily compare it with what the draft used to be. Since there are so many moving part to revising, I use a spreadsheet which has two outlines. One is the previous draft and the other is what I want the revised draft to be. I use columns in between these two outlines to jot down notes for myself on what needs to be changed. Think of it like going from point A to point B. How do I make the draft I have now into what I want it to be? That's what you need to figure out during the revision planning process, and then revising is all about executing it. Though, I will mention, nothing is ever set in stone. As you are knee deep in revisions, you might change your mind on how you want the finished revision to look like. That's totally okay, but update the SS to reflect the new changes so you always know where you are and where you're headed when your knee deep in revisions. (If you guys want a full explanation on how I make revision spreadsheets, let me know, and I can make a resource post for it.)
  • Remember to never rush a good thing: This applies to life but also drafting/revising. You can always tell where an author put in a lot of time in a piece of work, versus rushing through a plot point. Rushing leaves the reader unsatisfied. I mean forced plot, forced character, forced everything, wouldn't that leave you unsatisfied? You know how you can tell when someone is trying to hard? It's basically the same thing. You're trying too hard to make a plot point or character arc stick and it shows up as being inauthentic.

So happy to say that I am almost two-thirds done with this revision! Middles for me are always the hardest, so I am looking forward to revising the ending and being done with this layer of revision.

Motivation & Inspiration

Motivation: Showing Up & Never Giving Up

This month in the woes of my revision I looked for some inspiration and found them in some podcasts featuring Sarah J Mass and Julie Dao! If you need a motivating boost, check them out!

  • Showing Up - Sarah J Mass interview at '88 Cups of Tea': I absolutely adored Sarah's conviction and dedication to her craft. Her belief in herself and what she wanted to do with her life since 16 really restored my belief in myself and what I want to be: a writer! Her most important advice? Show up, every day. If it's the job you want, you have to work for it.
  • Never Giving Up - Julie Dao interview at Write or Die: I knew a little bit about Julie's road to publication but not to this extent! She goes through her journey in detail which goes to show that the only failure in writing is in giving up. Her persistence is awe-inspiring and gives me hope for my own journey. She made a great comment about how you never really know when success will arrive. It may be right around the corner and you don't even know it. So that should be reason enough to keep going, and never give up.

Inspiration: Latest book & music recs

Book-wise these two have been my highlights:

Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young - Thank you Ms. Young for bringing me out of my book slump! This standalone YA fantasy had so much action and heart, and was seriously my cup of tea. I devoured this beauty for its fun adventure and gut-wrenching plot. These are the kind of fantasy books that I want to write so this story just felt like home bringing me to a brand new place with such a feisty, but flawed heroine! Oh and also, the slow burn romance. Bonus points for that. Fiske fan forever! *end fangirling rant* (She also had a great interview with Sarah Enni on the First Draft podcast, that I highly recommend listening to as well!)

You Are A Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero - This was a Mother's Day gift from my sister. Now, that I am pregnant, I've been kind of stunned at how much it costs to raise a human being! I always had the mentality that money does not make a person happy nor does it define your worth. One thing I have to admit: money makes life a whole lot easier as long as you are able to manage your money well. Though some parts I couldn't get behind 100%, I felt like this was a quick and uplifting read to encourage you to step out of your shell and ask for what you want.

Own the day, Own your life by Aubrey Marcus - So I really enjoy listening to self-help/motivating books on audiobook (it makes doing chores/the commute go by so much easier). I highly recommend you do the same for this one. Marcus illustrates how focusing on optimizing and doing your best each day is the best approach to owning your life instead of getting owned by the day to day. Focusing on all aspects of your life, this book really resonated with me (I'm a productivity junkie--anything to be more efficient and make the most use of my time always gets me inspired) by emphasizing balance and how to achieve it. There were so many takeaways from it that I'm still digesting everything I learned.

Music-the latest adds to my spotify playlist: I've been on an alternative kick lately!

Panic! At The Disco - Thank you for the new album. My faves are: Dying in LA, High Hopes, Hey Look Mam I Made It

The 1975 - Girls, Somebody Else

Rosie Darling - I Fall Apart

Behind the scenes: 2018 NVA finalist & the gender reveal!

When I first moved to Seattle and my sister came to visit me, we decided to see a fortune teller for fun off Broadway in Capitol Hill. I'll admit, I sometimes go once a year to get my fortune told. I don't know if I believe in them one hundred percent, but when I get good news, I like to think it manifests itself into reality.

Anyway, this particular reading occurred in the summer of 2014, and the only reason I remember it is because the fortune teller told me, Writing for you, goes hand in hand with your love life. I took that to mean that if my relationship was good, so would my writing be. Who knows if it's true, but my young twenty-something self had recently moved to Seattle for love, and I was one year into seriously writing novel-length works with the intent for publication. Back then I had been naive. I thought I could make a three-year plan to be published, and I would be financially stable enough to quit my day job. I'm shaking my head at my past self as I write this. Oh, how I wish I could have warned my past self just how difficult that would be. That's not to say it can't happen--because it has for the fortunate few, but I am not so fortunate. And the reality is, most authors still have a full-time job in addition to their writing contracts.

The whole point of going to the fortune teller though was for me to ask if I would make it into PitchWars, to which I got the vague reply, Writing will be a long journey, but when your door opens, it will happen very fast. Suffice it to say, I did not get in that year, and my relationship with Michael was still relatively new. After that summer though, I stopped thinking about that fortune, until things started to line up.

In 2015, Michael and I went to Vietnam with my family. During this trip he asked my mom for my hand in marriage. When we came home from that trip, I started working on a manuscript inspired by that trip. That was the year I got into PitchWars and Michael proposed. For a moment, it looked like things were getting serious! Writing and relationship-wise!

In 2016 we booked the venue for our wedding, and I also got my first agent. Finally, I thought. Something is happening! During this year, I wedding planned and also went on submission for the first time. All the while, I waited thinking, This is it. My door is opening!

Except it didn't. The rejections came in, and my writing confidence took a hit which showed in my other works. I started to doubt myself and my ability. Then my 3-year plan was up.

In 2017, I got married, but then my agent and I parted ways amicably. I felt like a complete and utter failure. I felt like I'd failed everyone whoever believed in me, and then eventually, I stopped believing in myself.

I took a long break from writing after that. I thought of doing something else for awhile. Maybe I should learn to code? Maybe I should become a sommelier? Maybe I should focus more on my career! Looking back, I know that my hesitation to pursue my dream came out of fear. I didn't want to admit I failed on my dream.

But with the push of writing friends, I decided to try again. It's only failure if you stop, right? Except when I tried, I was faced with rejection yet again (Seriously, miss fortune lady. Where is this door? And why won't it open?). 

Then I saw the New Visions Award contest, and I thought, why not? I liked the imprint's mission, and it became more important for me to want to share my story with readers then to simply be published. I also wanted to give an old manuscript one more shot before putting it in my trunk forever. So I submitted, and retreated to drafting once more.

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In 2018, I got pregnant. And then the beginning of my second trimester I found out I was a finalist for the award. I didn't win, but I was finalist, which meant, I wasn't outright rejected. I was in the top five, after feeling like the past five years of writing amounted to what seemed like nothing. After years of rejection and setbacks, I didn't realize at first just how monumental or how much this affected me until I received an encouraging e-mail from an editor.

Sometimes, you just need encouragement from someone who isn't family or friend who sees something in your work for you to realize, Hey, I've improved over the course of my journey. Which means I can only get better if I keep at it. And if I do, maybe a door will finally appear.

So sure, being a finalist was a small victory, but one I needed.

I have no idea whether or not the fortune lady will be right, but that's really besides the point. As long as I believe in myself then eventually some door--wherever it may be--will open. Only because I won't stop pounding on it until someone let's me in.

There will be no more 3 or 5 year plans for me. Only a lifelong dream.

Now, I'm about to dive into a cool writing opportunity this summer which may or may not come to anything. But I'm excited to tackle it just because opportunities in the writing world don't come up every often. Hopefully I'll rise to the occasion, but if I don't, that's okay too as long as I try my best, because I know I'll grow and learn from the experience (which I consider a win). To do so, I'll have to put drafting The Gilded Cage on hold, but I plan to get back to it soon.

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On another life-related note, I'm having a baby boy. We revealed the gender to the family on Mother's Day, and my heart is full of warmth and happiness for my family and in-laws from all the support we've been given. My son is already loved by everyone, and we haven't even had the pleasure of meeting yet!

The fortune lady was right about one thing though: writing and love goes hand in hand for me because the act of writing is the best way I know how to express my love.

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!

WWPR: Detailed notes are your best friend.

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Last week I mentioned being sick which completely threw off my productivity. In hindsight, I guess I kind of deserved it. I stopped working out during Thanksgiving week and wasn't eating as healthy as I normally do. Combine that with the fact that I've been pretty stressed at work (Q4 is the busiest time ever), and how I've been pushing myself to revise as much as I can,  my body was susceptible to catching something--especially while traveling.

Fighting a nasty cold, my body was telling me to stop and rest. That everything would have to wait. That I needed to check out for awhile and relax. So I did. I slept and binged on Alias Grace on Netflix (so good btw!). By the weekend, I felt well enough to go to wine country for a preplanned trip with some friends. Then by Tuesday afternoon I started feeling more human so I slowly transitioned back to my normal schedule.

But when I sat down to do my revisions, I had a huge problem: my revision notes weren't very detailed. They were general notes I'd written about what needed to be changed in the MS, but not how to do it.

I cursed my past self for reading my MS on the plane ride without taking detailed notes (note to self: don't ever do that again). SIGH.

So this week I focused on doing another reading--take 2! This time writing detailed notes about every little thing wrong with it so that I could come up with solutions (aka a micro-game plan to complement the macro notes I had from the first read-through).

No one likes doing anything twice, so this time I made it my intent to be thorough. I printed out the MS, gathered my pens, highlighters, index cards, and planner so that I could catch every little problem.

I read the MS again in two days and ended up with 5 pages of handwritten notes and all of my chapters outlined in notecards. It felt so good to finally have detailed notes on what wasn't working. Now, I can focus on finding the solutions and making a clear cut revision plan.

Tune in next week to see how I do just that!