This Week: July 1, 2016

BOOKISH FINDS:

I used to be a voracious reader. I’m talking like four books in one day kind of gluttony.

I was one of those people who would side-eye someone if heard them say, “I haven’t read a book in months/years.” Craziness. Seriously impossible. My ravenous brain monkeys were relentless; I couldn’t read fast enough to satisfy them.

I’d bring home piles of books from the library and read the entire pile in a week. Heck, sometimes I’d read an entire series in one day/night. (I’m looking at you, Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewls Trilogy. I started the series on a random weekday afternoon and finished it sometime around 7 or 8AM the next morning, napped for a bit, then went in for my closing shift at the Job. Totally worth it…one of my best reading marathons EVER!)

…but now…

I’d be lucky if I could finish a book in a week.*

I do have competing priorities for my time now like never before, which has made me pickier on which books to spend my time. And, I have decided to *Adult* and focus on getting enough of that Sleeping thing that so many people have told me was beneficial for my health.

(And, yes, OK, so my eyes don’t bother me as much, and perhaps my skin and overall immune system is a thousand times better…still…)

But, I ‘d gotten overwhelmed with how many books I’ve acquired and have a list of books I have been told I NEED TO READ, that I ended up doing what I’ve always done with things that intimidate me or make me anxious.

I avoided them. I either read something else entirely or ignore reading altogether.

Since reading makes me happy (my original blog title!), not-reading makes me not-happy. So, I’m embracing my first love, and making it a focus to read All The Books (and why I’m returning to this Reading and Writing blog format).

All that said, here are some titles that I was so excited to see available in my digital library (I promise next week I won’t ramble on and on so much before sharing 😉 ):

  • Lair of Dreams, Libba Bray (audiobook)
  • Shadowshaper, Daniel Older
  • Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  • Truthwitch, Susan Dennard

I absolutely LOVED The Diviners, by Libba Bray, and had waited so long for the sequel that it fell of my radar! So, when I saw it available, I immediately snatched it up! I also loved the hype around Shadowshaper…anything Urban Fantasy intrigues me.

Some people can’t get into audiobooks, but as someone who commutes to the Job and values efficient use of time, audiobooks are an amazing way for me to get through my lovelist of books. (And, when my eye is irritated, which it often is, audiobooks are a great escape for me!)

Plus, there’s something about audiobooks that makes it easier for me to read books that were “too boring” to read as a physical book…I’ve found and finished so many amazing books this way!

For those who love audiobooks, SYNC is a free summer audio book program for teens 13+ that gives away two audiobook downloads a week (powered by the Overdrive App) from May 5-August 17. I really love this program, because I get to test out books I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up, or re-read a fun classic. (It was through this program that I’d read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys three or four years ago? Worth it!)

This week, SYNC is featuring Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle (easily one of my top ten fave books of all time) and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (They have weekly themes, which I’m always delighted by!)

WRITERLY RECAP:

Most days, I’m staring at my WIPs wondering WHAT DO I WRITE NEXT, but today all I want to do is work on my NANOWIP (my clever code name for my WIP that I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2014). Maybe it’s because I watched a whole slew of comicbook movies recently. Or maybe I have a whole load of feels because I may not be able to do my annual summer trip to NYC. Or perhaps it’s the news that this year would be Stan Lee’s last year at NYC Comic Con.

At any rate, I’m really excited and motivated to revisit the rough draft and get a game plan started on it. It’s the only YA Contemporary that my brain elves have fashioned together that survived past the seedling idea stage to bloom into a full-blown story. Hopefully, other people will enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of a teen-aged Filipino girl who secretly works on her art projects while at science camp.

As for WIP 2, I have printed off the manuscript and am currently sifting through it. Oftentimes, I feel like I’m raking through a Maui beach with a back scratcher, but I’ve found so many typos and tense/POV shifts (still!) so, it’s a tedious-yet-necessary step. Considering it took several back-and-forths for my query to finally be typo-free, I was inspired to re-read my manuscript and I’m so glad I did!

Speaking of the query, I’ve sent off my latest, shiny query to Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino for a workshop critique. I’ve already gotten positive responses from my writing buddies on this version, so I’m eager to hear his feedback! Then, in about three weeks, I go to my writing workshop! So excited!

My goal is to get the manuscript all cleaned up without these silly typo/spellos, so that it’s ready to send off into the world in August! (After re-reading it a million times, of course.)

Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to bribe myself enough to submit to Pitch Wars in August. We’ll see.

So tell me: anything new with you?

GChatting With Friends. Where the Magic Happens.

If you don’t have trusted writing friends to be a sounding board to your novel-in-progress, get some. Your muse(s) will thank you. Plus, you get to have random conversations like this:

 me: YES do it!

kill MC and make BFF go on a quest!

Melissa: lololol

“and she found a note – “In the event of my death, go on a mighty quest!””

“and lo, she quested. and it was good.”

These bits of brainstorming made possible by NaNoWriMo, Google chat, and crit partner of Awesome, Melissa Veres. (I look forward to my dedication page when your book is finished and published!) 😉

Writing is a Sanctioned Form of Insanity. Embrace It.

Writing is an exercise in insanity. Day after day, I bang away at the keyboard hoping for brilliance, and getting mostly word vomit.

But, I keep writing anyway.

Because…

…I know that I probably have to throw down ten words, sentences, scenes, to get to the one worth keeping.

…I know that after the vomit leaves my brain, I won’t be distracted by it (even if more vomit threatens to fill the void that the previous vomit left behind).

…I know that each word, sentence, scene added to the WIP gets me closer to a finished story.

And, I know that sometimes, if I’m very, very lucky, I will write a scene that surprises me, one that just makes sense, and opens to many more possibilities and choices for the character.

The moral of the story? Embrace the insanity of this process. The muses may be fickle and capricious. But they can’t resist a working artist. Especially an insanely focused one.

Image: By Feuillu

Road Trip Wednesday #100: Your Writing Journey

I haven’t participated in YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesdays before, but since I’m a sucker for milestones and round numbers, I felt like this Road Trip Wednesday was made for me. 😀

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs.

This week’s topic:

What has your writing road trip looked like so far? Excitement? Traffic jams and detours?

Where are you going next?

My blog is sort of an answer to this question, since I keep it as an accountability tool for myself. Ever since my first posts, (“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” “Prioritizing My Life” and “Music, Fitness, and My Muse“) (I just noticed they were posted on Star Wars Day, May 4, 2010…yes I’m a BIG nerd!), I have been focused on making the most of the time I have, and have challenged myself to finish a novel in a year.

After my declaration to pursue novel writing seriously, I have fumbled my way through my writing process, eventually participating in NaNoWriMo, and winning! My novel wasn’t complete at 50,000 words, but I eventually reached The End in December.

The satisfaction of reaching The End didn’t last since I knew my story was a Hot Mess. After a break in January, I tried to get back into the story and revise it. During that time, another story (Scrap Metal, aka WIP2) begged to be written. After scribbling down the first two chapters on post its and index cards at my pay the bills job, I dutifully ignored The Shiny so I could make my Hot Mess less messy.

I attended my very first writer conference, SCBWI. Though I enjoyed the experience of hearing from industry professionals, by far the best result from that conference was meeting local writers. (I’ve enjoyed many a business lunch with them since that conference. :D)

Then, I went to a John Green reading, and that was the aha moment that “gave me permission” to let go of my Hot Mess (for now) and start drafting WIP2.

With WIP2, I’ve learned the value of slowing down and delving into my scenes (“Stuck” “Stuck, Redux“), and that I can balance plotting and pantsing to design a story worth reading. (I’m still learning the rhythm that works best for me).

I’m currently in the Plotting portion to develop the Act 2 of WIP2. I participated in ROW 80 to keep me on track. My goal is to have a rough draft finished this month, and have a prettier draft by the end of this year.

I know that I have so much to learn about my process, but the best thing is knowing that when I’m creating stories, I am truly happy. All throughout my life, schooling, jobs, relationships, etc, everything seemed to come easily for me. I’m grateful for that, but when I look back at my life, the road seems kind of fuzzy; like, it’s all been one big dream. And then, I come to the point in my path when I committed to finishing a novel. The path from that point on sticks out in high relief. With that decision, I became aware. When I decided to follow my dream of writing stories, I awakened to the rest of my life.

I know I talk about writing in almost transcendent terms, but honestly, I don’t know how else to describe it other than an epiphany. A mindset altering, life changing decision. With writing, I have found my purpose in life. How can I treat it as less than a spiritual awakening?

*I couldn’t have gotten this far without my writing partners, alpha/beta readers, and cheerleaders. They keep me refreshed and motivated to keep pursuing my dream, and for that reason I’m ever so grateful for social media for helping me find my writing circle.

So, what has your writing road trip looked like so far? Where are you going next?

Creative Limitation

Cover of "Story: Substance, Structure, St...

Cover via Amazon

{So, I decided to start yet another series of posts for the best reasons of all: because this is my blog, and because I can. It’s simply titled, The Magic of Writing—that indefinable, ineffable relationship between the writer and the muse.}

Over the weekend, I glutted myself on books on story craft and architecture as part of my ROW 80 goals. The book that I just finished yesterday was Robert McKee’s Story. I’ve read through that book last year, but it didn’t really speak to me then as it did now. Don’t get me wrong, I thought that book was genius last year, but I hadn’t finished my first WIP yet, and so I didn’t grasp the full significance of the principles then as I did now.

My main A-HA moment came from the principle of Creative Limitation. I’d been floundering for a while in my WIP2, not really knowing where I should go, and I’ve simply discovered that I didn’t know WIP2’s world enough. And, since I didn’t know the world (which is the first step toward a well-told story), I didn’t have internal laws of probability that my characters would follow (read: no conflict, stakes, or reason to read the story).

That may seem like a little thing, but once I started sketching out my world, possibilities, decisions, events started floating up in my mind’s eye. McKee wrote: “Talent is like a muscle: without something to push against, it atrophies. So, we deliberately put rocks in our path, barriers that inspire. We discipline ourselves as to what to do, while we’re boundless as to how to do it.” (We were all teenagers once. The more rules set before us, the more creative we were at bending (but not quite breaking!) them.)

So, you see, creating a world with a set of rules has allowed me to create a list of possible scenes and events that may happen (FYI, list is still growing). Finding the boundaries didn’t kill my imagination, it awakened it. Sure, I like the idea that On The Spot Inspiration can take me through a story, but if I’m honest with myself, I realize that ideas taken from the top of my head are probably regurgitated stories of what I’d seen or read recently, and will come off as cliched or unoriginal.

Really delving into the world, and finding scenes from my brainstorms that are truest to my characters, to their world, and which have never been done quite in the same way, are the scenes that I want to write into my novel.

What has inspired your imagination lately?