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.

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.

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!

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!

 

 

WWPR: Read-Through & Revision Planning

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Before I spend the rest of the day in gratitude and spending time with my family, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads this blog, follows my journey, or believes in me. Writing always feels like a solo endeavor, but I don't think I could ever push on and continue the good fight without everyone's support and encouragement. So thank you.

Now, onto this week in writing:

M8-Outline

Last week I took a break from M7 to outline M8, and I'm happy to say that I've completed the outline and am 100% happy with it. I'm so excited to draft this story up in January. It'll be a great way to start off writing in 2018, and I get to fall back into a world I've desperately missed. I finished it up last Thursday before heading out to a wine event, which was awesome because it gave me more cause to celebrate.

M7-Read-Through & Revision Planning

Like I mentioned, I set aside Saturday and Sunday to flash read ATLWTO even though I was traveling. Because I was traveling, I couldn't have a pen and notebook with me at all times to jot down my thoughts, but I didn't want to waste time either. Travel days encompass so much time wasted anyway, so I really wanted to make the most of it. I made it my goal to read quickly and throughly so I could see how all my elements were working as a whole. To accomplish this, I ended up downloading my MS onto my kindle app so I could read on the go. For notes, I kept it brief and big picture, and typed it quickly in my notes app.

Some of my thoughts while reading:

  • OMG, this beginning is terrible, should I change it again? 
  • Okay, this part isn't too bad. I can expand on this part. There's something there.
  • With this character, there's a lot of pain here. Gonna exploit that, but hopefully she doesn't over power my MC.
  • Ow. Okay. Getting a little teary-eyed. Next time I read this through, I want to be balling snot-tears. I could have done more.
  • There's some hope at the end, I need a better resolution. I need to draw these things out a bit more.

These of course differ from my actual writing notes in my app, but the thing for me to see here is there are some good parts and bad, and a whole lot that I can to to improve it. This is a GOOD thing. I've had some read-throughs where I know it's so terrible or it lacks something for me, so I end up tossing the whole manuscript.

I finished the read-through in about 3-4 hours which is fantastic. I read a third before bed, woke up at 4 a.m. to hit the airport, read as I shuffled through TSA, and then finished on the flight.  So if you're ever traveling and wondering if you have time to work on your MS, it's totally doable.

By Monday, I had many, many thoughts percolating before sitting down and writing up a revision plan.

I'm a list person, so I basically jotted things from macro to micro that needed to be fixed as a whole, and then organized them into a list. Tuesday, I went to my favorite coffee shop back home and typed out my revision notes and went through my outline scene by scene to see what needed to be fixed until I had a plan that focused on plot and character arc for my first pass. Though the list seems overwhelming, I'm excited to shape this story more and more, and see where six more weeks of revision can bring this.