April 2018 Books

I’m a little sad to say that I haven’t read as many books as I would like this month. Because of my participation in Camp NaNoWriMo, as well as other things going on in real life, I didn’t really have a lot of time or energy to sit down and read.

I did manage to finish one book, which was this one.

23281639The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

I’ve read one of Kelly McGonigal’s books before, the one about willpower. I knew she had written another book about stress, because I had seen her TED talk a few years back when I was dealing with stress at a new job I had then. Now that I’m dealing with quite a bit of stress again, I thought it would be a good idea to read her book on it.

And it was!

This book isn’t really about how to manage stress, but more about changing your mindset towards stress so that you can actually use it to your benefit. There are lots of scientific studies that backed up her claims and her suggestions. And the storytelling style of the book makes it very easy to read. I think this was a good book to break up my reading slump. I haven’t been able to finish any fiction book lately, and I think it was because I just needed a break from fiction.

I was thinking of talking about Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, which I began at the start of April. I managed to get about 60% of the way through the book before my copy expired. I put it on hold again, and I think I’ll wait until I have finished the entire book before I talk about it.

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Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Final Update

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Well, this is it for April! I’m officially finished with Camp NaNoWriMo. Although my target word count was 50,000, I already finished my 2nd draft at a little more than 46K, so I bumped down my target word count to 45K just so I can say I won, hehe. I wouldn’t totally consider it cheating since finishing of my second draft was my ultimate goal.

What happens now?

Well, to my absolute horror, as I began to write the climax at the beginning of this week, I started to realize that I don’t actually want my story to have this particular ending anymore. It’s a little startling to realize that, because even before I began writing the first draft, I’ve had the idea for this ending already. And no matter how many revisions the plot line went through, the ending always remained more or less the same. I think that’s where the pitfall came. The ending I’d envisioned still belonged to the sprawling, epic story I started with at the outset. And it wasn’t something I caught until I wrote it out, because in the outline, it seemed fine. It was only when I was arranging the scenes together did I realize that I kept veering away from my main characters while they’re supposed to be cresting their character arcs. I really want their arcs to be the focal point in the climax.

The upside to this is that I’m not too sad about it. I’m actually looking forward to thinning down the ending. I think it will make for a more organized and streamlined plot overall. However, it also means that I will probably have to rewrite the story all over again. There will still be some reusable scenes from draft 2, but not much. That said, I think that draft 2 really helped clarify the direction of the story for me, and when I plan my next draft, I know the things that I need to strengthen.

Well, that’s a wrap!

I will be taking a two month break: in May and June, I will be focusing on completing my Schoolism Pictorial Composition course, and perhaps brainstorming the changes for draft 3. Then in July, there will be another Camp NaNoWriMo, which I will use to jump start my next draft. If I can keep up the momentum, I’m hoping to extend the NaNo experience into August to complete the story. And after a bit of polishing and editing, perhaps I won’t be too embarrassed to start sharing my story to beta readers and editors by the time autumn rolls in.

Man, time moves so quickly, doesn’t it? 2018 is already one third over!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Week 3 Update

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It definitely seems like I’ve been nothing but consistent during Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I’m on track to finishing my second draft. I only have two chapters left and an epilogue to write in the final 8 days of the month. (Though one of the chapters is going to be extremely long). I’m actually surprised that I didn’t regress too much, especially because at the beginning of this week, I had an issue with a package I bought that prevented me from writing more than a hundred words.

I keep reminding myself this is something to be proud of even as I look at my second draft as a whole, and feel the staggering amount of work I have to do for the third draft. Moreover, April has just been a weird, stressful month for me, so the fact that I can churn out a steady stream of words is something to be happy about.

There has been quite a few stressors in my life lately. I’m taking driving lessons again, aiming to get my license in May. For those who have known me for some time, you probably know I’ve failed my G2 road test twice now. I am under a lot of pressure during my refresher classes. Also, the project I’m doing at work is in a weird state right now. My partner for the project went on a short-term disability leave, and we haven’t been able to find a replacement who can help me. It’s really looking like I’m the only developer who would see this to the end. (Though one guy said he’d help me when he has time from his two other projects. I really appreciate his help.) The project manager role also switched between two people late last month, and we’re still trying to organize the release plan.

Because of the anxiety that these two things are causing me, I find very little enjoyment even in the things I used to enjoy. I dread the days when I have driving practice even though it only takes up an hour of my time. I don’t know why I get so worked up about it. I also don’t feel like reading when I’m on my commute to work, because I just feel lethargic about the project I’m working on. Every book I tried reading on the train these last few weeks have bounced on me, which is sad, because I did look forward to reading some of the ones I picked up.

Anyway,  I don’t want to be such a Debbie Downer. I do wonder how much of my anxiety is caused by me worrying too much. I want to have a positive outlook, and hopefully that would help me get my energy back. I’d really like to be the kind of developer who can face setbacks on a project, and somehow manage to turn it back around and make it successful. I’d also like to be the kind of developer who can drive. Hehe, yeah. It would make my life so much easier if I can just drive to work.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Week 2 Update

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It’s day 15, and I’ve churned out 30,698 words so far. That’s more than half of my 50,000 goal, so I’m very happy with my progress. As it stands, I only have 5 more chapters to go before the story finishes. I’m at the last leg of my story and these five chapters are going to cover the climax, and are going to be a bit longer than my average chapter.

At this point, I’m really starting to feel the solitary aspect of writing. I always knew how much of a singular endeavour writing is. I choose to do NaNoWriMo and its Camp versions because they really give me the push to just sit down and churn out some words, advance my story one day at a time, until I get to the point where it’s finished. But at the same time, the discipline of writing every day leaves me with very little time and energy for anything else. Even now on a Sunday, when I’ve already reached my writing target and I still have the rest of the afternoon ahead of me, I just don’t have the energy to work on anything else. This means that I pretty much neglect my social media and fandom life. I didn’t even get to participate in last week’s Queen’s Thief Appreciation Week. And because I felt so sulky about not being able to participate, I stayed away from the fandom. I know, I know, it was a little petty.

But anyway, I have 15 more days to go, and after that I can get back to the more social aspect of creativity. That said, I’m still not sure if I’m going to be as active in the Queen’s Thief fandom. I think that I’ll be producing more artwork for my story to help get word around. I also need to work through my Schoolism course. I keep forgetting that I did pay a subscription for it after all. It expires in December, but I sincerely hope I’ve worked through Pictorial Composition by then, and taken a few other courses.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Week 1 Update

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Aaand folks, it’s day 8, and I’m just a few hundred words shy of 20,000 words! Okay, I have to admit I cheated a little bit. I started continuing my story a little bit before April 1, but I included the word counts I gathered in those days. I figure I’d need as much buffer as I can because some days I might not reach my target word count. (Like the past Friday for instance.)

My only goal for this Camp’s NaNoWriMo is to just finish off draft 2. That’s really what I want to achieve. Every time I sit down and write, I tell myself, “Keep the plot going.” Right now, I don’t even care whether the words are pretty or engaging, if the characters are compelling, if I’m telling rather than showing; I just want the plot down, so I at least have some material to work with for the next draft — I don’t want to do a complete rewrite again (I mean, it’s looking like I need to rewrite a significant portion, but I also want draft 2 to be more usable than draft 1 was). I also find the actual process of writing to reveal plot holes and inconsistencies, so it’s better if I manage to write this all out to catch problems earlier on.

Anyway, I’ve been planning to bring this up for a while now, but I figured it was too short of a thing to talk about, so I’ll just include it in this post.

What is a draft?

For other authors out there, what do you consider a draft to be? Is it just one written version of the story from start to finish? Do you consider unfinished versions a draft?

Since I’m a slow writer, I get ideas or fixes for issues in my story faster than I can write a single version of the story. And I don’t want to waste my time writing an outdated idea, so what I do is continue with the story as if the ideas I just had were planned all along. So for example, when I continued writing again last week, I added a mark where I left off in January, saying, “Xiehun is no longer a character.”

This happened in draft 1 too, by the way. About halfway through the story, I changed some very fundamental things about my protagonist. So what I have on my hands really seems to be drafts of different stories that just happen to morph steadily into one another. Is this normal? Do I actually have 2 drafts or more?

 

I’m Thinking of Going Indie

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So Camp NaNoWriMo has begun! I’ve been writing the past three days to gear up for the month (and to give me buffer for the days when I fall below my target). I figure it’s a good time to talk about the direction of my writing process, because while I’m still working on my 2nd draft, I do wonder about the fate of my story.

Before I say anything else, I’d like to establish that I’m still not sure about this decision, but that the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of going independent. I am still not very familiar with the publishing process, so I can’t say for certain whether the independent route is definitely better than the traditional one, but there are a few reasons why going indie is becoming more and more attractive to me.Read More »