Finished Draft 6!

I’m only 5 days belated from my goal of finishing this draft by the end of 2019, and I don’t think that’s bad at all! I even went from 105K words to 93K words, so I am quite proud of myself.

What’s next? I’ll just polish it up a bit, then off it goes to a copyeditor. After that, we’ll see, but I’m both excited and relieved that I’m finally wrapping up this project.

Teetering between MG and YA

Last weekend, I surprised myself by reaching the 24th chapter of my sixth draft. It seems like I might just be able to finish this draft before the new year. That was my initial intention, but as I slowly lost steam around the half-way point, I became resigned to the possibility that I will finish much later. I’m still thinking of giving myself some slack, because the holidays are a busy time of the year, and I don’t know what might come up and derail me.

But yes, I’m on chapter 24, out of 31 predicted chapters. Now that I’m nearing the end of this draft, I’m once again thinking about where in the MG/YA spectrum my story really falls.

Initially, I set out to write The Malicious Wind with an MG audience in mind. In particular, I thought of the 9-10 year-old me who would have loved an adventure story with flashy magic and mythological creatures inspired by my country of origin.

Granted, in the process of writing the story, of digging into the complications of the world, and of sharpening the character arcs, I might have pushed the age-level up unintentionally. The action scenes got more risky, and identity became the major theme of the novel.

I still tried my best to keep violence to a minimum. And even though my world is made up of multiple regions that have complex relationships with each other, these complications manifest only as 2-option choices for my protagonists (ie. “Do I team up with so-and-so, or not?”). In other words, I’m not really writing Megan Whalen Turner level of political machinations.

I have been reading a few articles, blog posts, and have even asked a couple of published authors about what really differentiates MG and YA. Here are some of the major differences I got from their answers:

MG

  • focuses on the protagonist’s role in their family and their community
  • the conflict is an “intruder” in their normal world, and its resolution returns the world to normal
  • complex issues are handled obliquely, with humour, or with side-characters experiencing them

YA

  • focuses on the protagonist’s relationships outside of family and community
  • the conflict is something inherent in their world, and its resolution forces the world to change
  • complex issues are tackled head-on by the protagonist, with insight into how they feel about it

So, as you can see, it’s a little hard for me to locate my story given these criteria. Both my protagonists have been separated from their family/found-family, and have the intention of reuniting with them at the end of the story. Both of them are unsure about their place in their community, but wants to belong in said community. The Malicious Wind is an intruder in their normal world and needs to be defeated, but in order to do that, they also need to defeat the power-hungry king. The only criteria that my story fulfills completely is that complex issues are faced by the protagonists head-on, and that pretty much makes it YA.

The thing is… I’m very reluctant to label my novel as YA. As someone who likes to read YA, I’m aware of current YA trends, and I can’t help but feel that my story just wouldn’t fit. It doesn’t have any romance in it, it’s not dark or gritty, and its narrative is pretty straightforward. I know there are other YA books that don’t have romance, or aren’t dark and gritty, or have simple plots. There are many YA books that are for younger teens, instead of the older audience being targeted by recent trends. But perhaps I’ve just seen too many Goodreads reviews of some amazing MG or lower YA books accidentally picked up by readers expecting an older YA novel, and were consequently given low ratings because the quality of writing is for younger readers.

I guess I just feel that the MG space, with its wide range of adventures and oftentimes whimsical atmosphere, would be a better home to my story. I don’t know if I’m just having a hard time relinquishing my original vision of this novel, and maybe after 6 revisions, the novel has a different vibe now. Maybe it will end up being more appreciated by older readers.

At the end of the day, I just don’t want to mislead anybody. I don’t want readers being bored because there’s not enough angst; or having nightmares because there are stabbings. I want them to try my story and feel at home in it.

Anina

Today I want to talk about one of my protagonists, Anina.

It’s still a little strange to sit down and decide, “Yes, it’s time to talk about a character,” because part of me feels like it’s still premature. Although my story had already gone through multiple beta readers, a developmental edit, and a line edit, sometimes I still feel like I’m at that earlier stage where at any moment, my story can crumble to pieces, and I’d have to make yet another major revision.

However, I do think that it’s time to open up a little more about my story. Many of you have been with me since the inception of this blog, and I have been posting about my writing process since late 2016. Since then, I have ranted about the woes of writing, blogged about NaNoWriMo challenges, and shared all the artwork I made related to this novel.

Yet in all that time, I’ve never really talked about the components of my story in fair detail. I’ve dropped character names, but who are they really? Why should you care about them? Why do I feel like spending years and years crafting their story? What kind of world do they live in?

So I’m hoping that in this new series of posts, I can share with you more information about the different pieces of my story and what inspired them.


Anina is a sixteen-year-old girl who is looking for a way to gain magic. She has been searching for a few years, but nobody had been able to answer her. One day she hears of a reclusive mage up in the mountains who dabbles in illegal magic. Hoping that this person can help her, Anina decides to seek her.

Unfortunately for Anina, when she arrives at the Hermit Mage’s house, the mage herself is nowhere in sight. Even worse, she finds the king’s warriors trying to arrest the mage’s son, Sano. Without meaning to, Anina gets caught up in the conflict, and ends up fleeing the scene as an accomplice of a fugitive.

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Butuan Gold

Is it too early to start talking about a new story, when I am nowhere near the finish line with The Malicious Wind?

Well, early or not, I am quite eager to share this new idea that’s been brewing the last few months. Partly because I am incredibly excited about this idea (that sometimes I wonder about shelving TMW and starting on this), and partly because I would love to hear what you all think about it.

Premise

A double-heist set in 15th century Kingdom of Butuan (now a province of the Philippines), the story follows two groups of characters.

The Dimatulak family are expert con-artists who have swindled their way through the Tagalog nobility. Bored and looking for a new challenge, they set their eyes south to Butuan, a kingdom brimming with gold. Rumours tell them of an underground treasury with more precious minerals than all the islands of the archipelago combined. Doing what they do best, the Dimatulak family comes up with a plan to steal the treasure.

On another part of the archipelago is a rag-tag group of former servants and slaves, who have recently survived a shipwreck. With no money and no master, they hear of similar rumours and decide that freedom and wealth would suit them better. They bring together their skills from hardened lives to empty the treasury and fill their pockets.

Unbeknownst to both groups, they set the robbery to the same time: the upcoming lunar eclipse. Both are more than prepared for their own heists. Unfortunately, they didn’t prepare for each other.

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My Art Process

It’s always fascinating to me to see other artists’ processes of making artwork, so I thought I’d post mine. I’m only an intermediate artist, so this is probably not going to be as complex as others you might have seen. Actually, I think my process is pretty straightforward.

Before I jump in, these are the tools I use:

I used to use GIMP, but these days I mostly just use it to manipulate images once most of the painting is done on Krita. (I love open source software, by the way, as you can tell.)

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Names from my WIP

For those of you who have been following me for a while, you would know that my current WIP (tentatively titled The Malicious Wind, by the way) is inspired largely by precolonial Filipino culture. However, the setting isn’t exactly precolonial Philippines, just something more or less based on it. So the names I’ve chosen are also based on Filipino words, but with some letters altered.

Names based on Tagalog words

There are two groups in my story that are derivatives of the Tagalog peoples: the Katamans and the Dayungans. In the story, they are in conflict with each other, which is why I chose to base them on the same group. Otherwise, I think I would be drawing inappropriate or inapplicable parallels where the conflict is concerned.

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Back on BetaBooks

Hi guys! I have uploaded the newest version of my novel on BetaBooks here. The previous one is disabled (not deleted, so I can go back and reread readers’ comments), so if you’ve signed up to read the old one and can no longer access the link, this is the new one.

I know that I have been negligent in giving updates, but part of that is because I’ve been focusing on working on the product, and I’m unsure what would be of interest for me to share. Not to mention, I have been incredibly distracted lately by… of all things, Idol Philippines, hahaha! Oh man, what a poor excuse.

To get me back on track, I have picked up several books that will hopefully allow me to focus on building a brand surrounding my novel, and to a certain extent, my author persona. I think the main reason I can never get traction in making official artwork and setting up that website I’ve been planning for many months, is because I don’t really know how to present this product yet. I don’t know how to design my site, or what feel the artwork should give that will be consistent from piece to piece.

For a long time, I’ve been intimidated by the marketing and branding field, feeling like I know too little for a bit of reading to help me get better. Now I feel bad that I didn’t pick up this book sooner. How to Style your Brand lays down the basics of branding in such a straightforward way that is incredibly helpful for newbies like me. Certain sections are formatted like worksheets, designed to really get you into the right mindset. Working my way through this book, I already feel incredibly inspired.

Another thing I’m struggling with is just writing posts on my blogs (which you can all probably tell, considering how infrequently I do it, heh). When I learned of this book, I bought it right away, because I really need help figuring out how to leverage my blogs into something that will be helpful for me as an author.

So hopefully these books will help, and during the next few weeks, I will really try my best to polish up my online presence.

Draft 5: Week 8 Update

Right, I know that I haven’t actually made an update in weeks, but this one is pretty important. Because *drumroll*

I AM FINISHED!!

Ahh, I feel relieved! I mean, I know there’s more work to do. I literally just finished typing the ending a few minutes ago, and I still have to go over the entire draft to polish it up a little. I was supposed to trim it down from draft 4, but I somehow ended up with 4K more words, haha!

I am really surprised that I was able to finish this draft in 8 weeks, considering the past couple of months have been quite difficult for me. I was stressed about a lot of things happening in real life, and I got distracted by so many other things too (*ahem* books *ahem* Philippine Idol).

Draft 5 is important too because this is the draft that I’m planning to send out to editors. I’ll also replace the version on my BetaBooks account to this draft instead, so anyone who wants to read the novel can get what I hope is an improved experience, hehe.

I will make a new post soon to say what my next steps and plans are. I only have a vague idea at this point, so it’s probably a good idea for me to figure that out first.

Draft 5: Week 2 Update

I really wish I had something quite significant to put on this update, but believe it or not, I managed to finish reading 2 whole books this week, which didn’t leave much for writing.

What happened? I don’t even know. It’s just one of those rare occasions where I happened to pick up books that I just couldn’t put down, and well… there went my time. Yikes.

Writing Update

Well, this *is* a post about my 5th draft, so I’ll start off with that. I am now on Chapter 7, which is about 1/4 way through my book. I’m glad to say that about 75% of the previous draft has remained intact so far, apart from a few grammar and stylistic changes. I’m trying to prune down words as well, so I’m shaving those off whenever I get the opportunity. The other 25% is rewriting. Overall, not bad. I wish I were faster though, and I think if I hadn’t been so distracted with reading, I would be further along.

What was I reading?

I finished Swift and The Weight of Our Sky this week. Both were page-turners, and I highly recommend. I’m still making my way through Red Seas under Red Skies. I remember going into Lies of Locke Lamora two years ago and being somewhat impatient with it (though I enjoyed it a lot), and I’m just reading RSURS with the mindset that these books are meant to be savoured and not rushed.

Draft 5: Week 1 Update

This week, I began Draft 5 of my story.

I spent the last week of April and first week of May poring over the feedback I received from the beta readers who were able to make it through the entirety of the previous draft. Then I brushed up a few things, wrote a tighter outline for the character arcs, figured out a few plot holes, and then I decided I might as well take the dive and start the next draft.

There’s always a moment’s hesitance whenever I start a new draft. I always feel like I could plan just a little better, I could answer a few more questions, or maybe wait for my writing “flow” to come. But I understand that’s just a little bit of anxiety caused by a blank page. After you’ve been writing 100K words, it’s hard to go back to the beginning. And I’m also the type of writer who finds momentum in the previous sections of my story. That’s why the beginning is so important to me, because the tone I set there, the voice I begin with, will permeate the rest of the novel.

So I really took my time this week to begin with a good note.

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