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.

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