Things I’ve learned from revising so far

Hi, everyone! I’m almost a month into revisions of my novel and while I’m not as far along as I hoped I would be, I have learned a thing or two so far in this process. So here are those things.

  1. Don’t be afraid.
    Revising anything, from a novel to an email, is difficult and slightly scary. There’s always the fear of being misinterpreted or misunderstood. It seems like there are a hundred little decisions for each sentence and that if you get one of those wrong, you’ll mess everything up and it’ll be ruined and no one will ever want to read it. But that’s just not true. Libba Bray once made the joke that writing isn’t like brain surgery, if you get something wrong, you can just fix it. This is so important to remember. It might take a long, long time but you will get there and your story will be what you want it to be.
  2. Don’t start the Beta-reading process right away.
    I called for Beta readers before I even started revising. While I’ve been very lucky in getting quite a few friends to read my story, I made the mistake of thinking that I could just revise the chapters and immediately send them out for review. After just two chapters, I’ve found out just how silly I was to think that way. So make sure you have a good bit, if not all, of your manuscript revised before you send it out to your beta readers. You can send it to them chapter by chapter or send them the whole thing. However you want to parcel it out, make sure the manuscript is as good as you can make it.
  3. Keep going and give yourself time.
    As mentioned before, revising is scary and difficult. But it is important not to give up and to keep going. While persistence is important, it’s just as vital to give yourself time to step away from the story to let your brain recover and to think of new ideas. Always remember: give yourself time because no one else will.

I don’t normally offer writing advice, but I just wanted to share these three insights in case any of you are in this perilous revision boat with me. If you are and you need someone to commiserate with, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here for you guys <3.

P.S. If you want to read a little story of mine, you can read it here.

Years and raining blossoms

Hi, everyone. I’ve had two realizations this week and it’s only Tuesday. The first is that it’s April and April means it’s National Poetry Month and I haven’t put up a single poem yet. The second is that, as of tomorrow, I will have been keeping this blog for an entire year. That is bananas. This time last year, I was a college senior struggling to keep it together long enough to graduate. And now, well, I’m still struggling, but I’ve been able to write and do work that I am grateful to do. I just want to say thanks for reading and sticking around, everyone. Here’s to hopefully many more years of blogging! And now, without further ado, here is a poem to celebrate National Poetry Month.

They say that, when the blossoms rain early,

the sky is not too far behind,

that the days will stretch out

and then shrink back in on themselves

again, reaching

for the blackness

that, summer or winter,

is always there,

after the sun sets

and before the dawn.

I wonder about that night

before the dawn,

if it feels neglected since people

almost always want it gone.

Or if it doesn’t care

and shines forth regardless,

casting the sky in crowds of stars.

Some time,

I will stop wondering

and start wandering

and seek the answers

to the world,

to the darkness,

the light,

and the everything in between,

myself.

 

Thoughts on finishing a first draft

Guys. IT’S DONE! The first draft of the novel I’ve been working on since last June is done, as of 10:19 p.m last night. Huzzah!

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Courtesy of Tumblr.

I can’t believe it’s done but at the same time, I’m so glad it is. I feel slightly less relieved than when I turned in my thesis, which was when I felt the most relieved I’ve ever been about finishing anything. At the same time, I miss it already and I feel like, with a lot of work ahead, it could be something good.

This isn’t the first first draft I finished. I finished the 188 page mess of a first draft of a different novel on New Year’s Eve in 2009. This one is 275 pages and is still a mess, but so much less so, it seems. Maybe it’s because I let myself work on the scenes I wanted to work when I wanted to work on them. Perhaps it’s because I’m not 15 any more, as I was when I finished my first initial draft of that other story. I know so much more about writing and about myself and maybe that’s what has made all the difference between that first story, which was so difficult to write, and this one, which was much easier to handle.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t make much sense. My brain is still so addled from finishing it. But I just wanted you to know that the first draft is done and you’ll no doubt be hearing more about it as I revise and eventually send it out into the world. But first, it’s time for a break to pursue some other projects.

That’s all for today, loves.

 

Never too much reassurance

It’s okay

don’t listen

when they say

you have to have it all figured out

because the journey

doesn’t end

when it’s yours to win.

That’s when it all begins.

 

Hey, lovelies. I just wanted to put up a little poem I wrote a few weeks ago. I hope everything’s going well for you. I have a crazy couple of weeks ahead of me but I’ll be blogging a little more once things are done. Hang in there, everyone.

Briefly

There was the smallest lull at work today when I had to go watch the reference desk for a few minutes. I grabbed a scrap piece of paper and wrote some tiny poems. I don’t post many photos, but I thought I’d snap a picture. It doesn’t take long to inject meaning into a few minutes simply by writing a some words. This was taken on my long-suffering lap desk. Keep going, everyone.

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Please forgive my crazy handwriting.

A wee little story

Ahoy, everyone. Today’s post is just a tiny one to tell you that I’ve got a new story out! The marvelous folks at 101 Words published one of my stories and you can read it here. Theirs is a fantastic website full of amazing, bite-sized stories. A huge thank you to them for publishing a story about a struggle of mine.

Do let me know what you think about it! I will see ya’ll soon!

7 things I’ve learned so far in 2017

Hello and an incredibly belated Happy New Year to everyone. I’ve been meaning to post for a while, but if you’ve been following this blog for more than a little while, you’ve probably noticed that blogging is the first thing that gets thrown to the wayside when life gets crazy. I’m going to work on that, I promise. To bring everyone up to speed with what’s been going on in my life, here’s a list of 17 things I’ve learned so far in 2017.

  1. I really need to fix my sleep schedule.
    It’s kinda ridiculous how much this needs to happen and how long I’ve been putting it off.
  2. Being immersed in a writing project is one of the most amazing, forgiving things.
    I’m heading toward the finish line with my current manuscript. It’s been an exciting, difficult, but totally rewarding process and I’m eager to keep working on it and make it better.
  3. While I consider myself a good writer, I know I’ll never write anything as remotely cool as Hamilton.
    I finally finished listening to the whole soundtrack on Monday. I cried three times. Favorite songs right now are “Wait for it”, “Dear Theodosia”, and “History has its eyes on you.”
  4. In a time of quick action and loud protests, contemplative silence and calm listening can be subversive but necessary acts.
    I’m not going to say too much about this, but let’s just say I’m an American who doesn’t like joining in on flame wars on social media. That should tell you all you need to know. More importantly, listening and observing what’s going on can be just as crucial as reacting to current events, when direct action is not mandatory, of course.
  5.  Watching a dog learn to play with toys is fun.
    We bought Pongo a tug of war toy when we first got him. He’s shown no interest in it until now since I took it into my head to try to channel his biting habit into something that doesn’t end up with me covered in dog slime. It’s worked really well and he’s becoming really protective of it. It’s adorable.

6.Manga is amazing both as an art form and a method of storytelling.
I started reading Library Wars when I saw it on the “To be shelved” cart at work and I picked up the first three volumes and immediately loved them. It’s a story set in an alternate future in which censorship has become the norm under law except for libraries and the librarians who staff them. The fight for censorship has become so vehement that a library defense force was created, an organization that Iku Kasahara has wanted to join since she encountered one of the defense agents in high school. Though she’s much too opinionated and clumsy to be totally suited to military life,  her passion and verve see her through. It’s a funny, upbeat, and surprisingly deep series that makes me smile no matter what. Definitely check it out!

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Photo credited to amazon.com.

7.Time doesn’t owe us anything.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Toward the new year, it seemed like everyone was so ready for 2016 to end. And I can understand why. It was a tough year on a number of levels. But for all the bad that happened, there was good that happened, as well. Despite all the bad things, now more than ever, we need to recognize good things when we see them because they are the things worth fighting for. Also, time doesn’t owe us anything, as I said earlier. The only thing time owes to humanity is to keep going. It’s the ultimate soldier, it just keeps marching on. And if it stops, that’s it, for Time and for us.

What have you learned this year so far? Feel free to let me know in the comments. As previously mentioned, I’m really into my current project right now (for more details, read this). I will try to maintain a somewhat normal cycle of blogging, but we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for sticking with me, lovely people.

2016 Reading round-up

Hello, everyone! So it’s almost 2017 and like many, I am reflecting on this year and all it has had in store for me. More specifically, I’ve been reflecting on the reading I’ve done this year. It’s been a bit uneven. I began this year reading more canonical, more academic, and theological works for the first few months of the year. I barely read for fun, yet a few days after I returned home after graduating from college, I began binge reading novels to my heart’s content. Then, toward the end of the summer, I didn’t really want to read much of anything, though I continued to read now and then. Regardless of its ups and downs, 2016 was a pretty good reading year all around. I managed to read a tidy total of 25 books. I thought I’d share my thoughts about some of those books in a question and answer format. Let’s get to it.

1.Which of the books you read this year was the biggest disappointment?

This one is fairly easy. It’s And I Darken by Kiersten White. I read this a little over a month after it came out and while I initially enjoyed it since the story started off really well, it quickly grew slower in terms of pace. It’s basically a gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler story. The characters were incredibly complex and interesting and were the only reason I made myself push through my reluctant reading feelings and finish the book. Maybe it’s because I don’t know that much about Vlad the Impaler, I don’t know. It had some wonderful elements and could have been a truly fantastic book if it was paced a little bit better. Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, it was still an okay read.

2. Most unusual book you read this year?

That would have to be To Stay Alive by Skila Brown. It’s a novel written in verse about the Donner Party’s tragic journey west in 1846. Let me just reiterate that. It’s a novel written in verse. About the Donner Party. I just finished this novel today and while I’m fairly sure it’ll be the last one I finish this year, I will definitely be thinking about it well into 2017. It tells the story of Mary Ann Graves, who’s 17 when her family sets out to settle in California. I can’t really say more than that without spoiling anything. It’s a gut-wrenching, gripping read where the land they traverse becomes a character in and of itself that challenges them and pushes to their limits.

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Courtesy of skilabrown.com

3. Which book was the biggest surprise?

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. I’ve never read anything by Kendare Blake before, but I heard quite a bit about this book when it came out in September and I loved the cover when I first saw it on the book shelf at the library where I work. It’s a story about three sisters who are all princesses of a diverse island and they will have to battle each other in order to see which of them will be crowned queen. This story was surprising in that while it wasn’t well-written, I couldn’t put it down. The characters didn’t change much and some of the characters were completely unnecessary. The setting descriptions were pretty good but nothing too special. What really had me turning the pages was the premise of this story. It’s incredibly rare that a book’s premise will keep me invested in a story, yet it was that yearning to know who would eventually become queen that kept me reading. And of course the book ended on a total cliffhanger. I’m fairly sure it’s going to be a trilogy, so hopefully the books will only keep getting better as the story progresses.

4. Which book are you likely to reread next year?

I read so many books this year that I might be tempted to pick up again in 2017, but the one that tops that list is A Torch Against the Night  by Sabaa Tahir. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked forward to a book release more than this one. That’s a lie, the seventh Harry Potter book probably has this beat. This book is a follow-up to the smash hit An Ember in the Ashes  that came out in 2015 and takes up Laia and Elias’s story as they flee Blackliff and head north to rescue Laia’s brother from Kauf prison. I read this story in three days, breezing through it because I just HAD to know if they made it in and out of Kauf alive. In reading it so quickly, I feel that I missed quite a bit of the nuances that the story has to offer. I’m already wanting to reread this, but I should probably finish some of the books I’m currently reading.

5. Top three books you read this year?

It was hard to whittle it down to these three but here we go.

3.Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge. This is an adorable graphic novel about a teen artist who moves from Virginia to New York City with her family and has to undergo the highs and lows of a new school and finding new friends. The art in this graphic novel is amazing and the artistic struggles that Paige undergoes are incredibly real and not romanticized in any way. Even if you’re not a fan of graphic novels, check this one out. You won’t be sorry you did.

2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This was my first Gaiman novel that I’ve ever read (I’ve read a few of his short stories and am amazed that you can be that awesome within the confines of a short story). I tried reading this last year and got about 30 pages into it and decided to return it to the library. I picked it up again early on in the summer, began reading, and couldn’t stop until the last page was turned. This is the story of a man who returns to his childhood hometown for a funeral and, as he wanders down to a house at the end of the lane, starts to recall what happened there when he was little. A truly fantastical tale, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one book you definitely should read. I’m only sad that it took me so long to do so.

1. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This book wrecked my heart in every way. It’s the story of four teenagers who find themselves aboard the doomed ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Everything in this book is so well done. The characters, the pacing, the descriptions, and the historical detail all make this a stunning story that will break your heart, only to glue it back together to make it bigger. There are two things that I found especially chilling and important about this book. The first is that it’s about refugees. The narrative of the refugee is incredibly necessary right now because of the millions of refugees that are crying out for help right now. The second is, astonishingly, the character Alfred. He truly is an amazing character in how bad he is and how strange he is. And while his perspective is difficult to read, it’s important to not only consider the stories of those who rebelled against the Nazi mentality but the stories of those who went along with it or embraced it. Sepetys tackles this subtly and through Alfred, explores not only the sick and twisted Nazi mentality, but how sick and twisted people could become by adopting that mentality. It’s just a truly fantastic work and completely deserves the Goodreads award it won. Please read it.

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Photo credited to goodreads.com. 

So that’s the best of my 2016 reading. What were your favorite books of 2016? Do let me know in the comments and if you’d like a recommendation, please don’t hesitate to ask. I will write again soon! Bye for now!

 

 

Ten first sentences story challenge

Hello to one and all! So I came up with a challenge idea that’s probably been done before, but what the heck, let’s do it anyway! As the title of this post implies, the challenge I thought of is simple: create a story with the first sentences of books. Feel free to use any books you like, but I’m choosing to use books that I either have read, am currently reading, or want to read. So don’t take the books I use as a formula, go crazy with your own creations! Let’s go.

“This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. To begin with the rigmarole of childhood. Pippin looked out from the shelter of Gandalf’s cloak.  It was a very distinct sound, the quite scraping of steel on stone, that first told him that his visitors had arrived, followed by a strange sort of tapping and the shuffling of feet. Autumn had come too swiftly.

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. Those who can, do. They’re out there. True!-nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! It’s finished.”

Whew! That was more difficult than I thought it would be, but I’m so pleased with the result! Feel free to take on this challenge yourself and let me know how it goes! To keep copyright and attributions straight, here are the books I borrowed from, in order: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, Here there be Dragons by James A. Owens, The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, and To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this experiment! God bless!

Thoughts on my first attempt at NaNoWriMo

Hello,everyone! As I mentioned in my last post, I participated in NaNoWriMo and I thought I’d share some of my  experience and thoughts about that process.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, an annual contest in which people try to write a 50,000 word story in the month of November. This was my first attempt at NaNo and I failed. I knew I wasn’t going to reach the goal of 50,000 words for two reasons. One was that my schedule was very up and down during that month, so I figured it would be better to have a more manageable goal. The second reason was that I hate word counts. I hated them in college and I will hate them forever. I’m not even sure why I don’t like word counts. I think it’s because they cause me to focus more on the word count rather than the quality of the words and sentences and paragraphs I’m putting on the page. So I set myself the seemingly more reachable goal of 2 pages a day, 60 pages for the whole month.

While I had every intention of writing every day, I quickly fell into a pattern. I would write my 2 pages, maybe a little more, for a few days of the week, then wouldn’t write anything for the rest of the week. I was initially angry with myself for developing this kind of pattern, but then I shook it off and tried to make the most of it. I draft long-handed and was pleased to fill up a notebook I had been using since the spring of 2015 and to start using one that I had started drafting a story in, but decided to put it on the back burner (where it simmers still). I did NaNo with some a few friends, which was great. We were able to report and talk about our progress and different problems and victories we encountered. It’s always nice to have friends along when you try to take on a challenge and I definitely encourage anyone who wants to try NaNo in the future or who maybe hasn’t been successful with it in the past, to try to get some friends involved. It can be a little distracting, but it will definitely help.

Not only did I fail my first attempt at NaNo, but I also kind of cheated. The idea of the contest is to work on a new idea and I worked on a manuscript that I have been formulating for the past two years but only began working on in earnest in June. I went from page 71 to page 109 in my manuscript. It wasn’t what I hoped would happen, but it was pretty great all the same.

The thing that really stood out to me about NaNo was how normal and right it felt. Other than the fact that I had my friends checking up on me every now and then and I beat myself up more severely than usual for not writing, NaNo was incredibly similar to what my creative life normally is. And I take that as a very good sign. Now that it’s all over, I’m still trying to work on my novel every day. It’s a struggle, but one that I’m learning to wrestle with. I bet you’re wondering what I’ve been working on, but I’m afraid that will have to remain a secret until the manuscript is in much better shape than it is. This is my first draft of the story and though I’ve been building it in my head for nearly two years, it still has a long way to go before I’ll be comfortable sharing it. But this is where the magic happens, where the story and the people become real. In the years that I was slaving away on my degree, I had forgotten the sheer bliss of worlds flowering under my pencil, of people becoming real through my words. I’m so lucky to be able to experience that and it’s something I thank God for regularly.

I hope you enjoyed this little writing ramble and I hope all is well with you, dear readers. God bless you!