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.

Advertisements

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.

Read More »

Writing Update

I was going through my blog and I realized I never gave a dedicated update about my novel. In the general update I posted a while back, I passingly mentioned that I finished my novel in February and it was now up on BetaBooks.

Ah, yeah, it’s up on BetaBooks, guys! Complete with a better summary and all. You can follow that link and sign up to read it. Mind you, this is a beta, and I’m just looking for feedback for my next draft. This is by no means anywhere near finished.

In hindsight, I feel like I did myself a disservice there. It’s an accomplishment to have finished a story, considering that it took me 3 years to write a draft that I felt comfortable sharing. Then I just bury the news in a post that was about four other things. I mean, to be fair, I did post a lot about it on Tumblr, where I am more active and have more followers. I think there was just a point after finishing the novel where I just didn’t want to write any more, including things like self-congratulatory blog posts, haha. I was so tired. Also, I guess for me and more introverted writers, trying to hype up your book to get readers interested in it doesn’t come so naturally, and hence, requires a lot of energy that I just didn’t have at that time.

Read More »

Brainstorming Titles

It’s one of those days I don’t feel like doing anything productive, because I’m somehow just feeling super burnt out (a combination of difficulties at work and my consistent output for hobby-related activities these last few months), but I don’t feel like wasting a weekend by doing literally nothing. So I decided to work on generating a title for my story, something that I’ve been putting off for a while.

Mind you, I just started the brainstorming process, and none of these options are particularly stellar, but I do hope that by writing about them, or by showing off what’s on the table, that it would inspire more ideas that can guide me to a better direction.

Warning: a few spoilers

Read More »

Up on BetaBooks!

Guys! Guess what? The first quarter of my story, the entire first act, is up on BetaBooks, and I’m now looking for readers to start beta-ing. Ah, I’m so nervous, but here goes.

What’s it about?

Sano dreams to explore the world and to be a hero, which is a little difficult considering nobody’s supposed to know he exists. When his mother leaves him for a few days, a careless display of magic catapults Sano out of his reclusion, and he finds himself pursued by the king’s warriors. Thrust into the world he knows next to nothing about, aided only by a superstitious girl who wants stronger magic, he must find a way to reunite with his mother.

But it’s a dangerous time to be a fugitive in the Kingdom of Dayung. Friction among the regions is getting palpable. A shameful, shadowy past is creeping back to haunt its people. The greedy, ruthless king is desperate to eliminate any threats to his power. And to top it all, a mysterious wind is plaguing the kingdom, turning all wrongdoers into wood.

As Sano navigates the world for the first time, he must make choices that challenge his dreams and force him to confront what it truly means to be a part of the world.

What’s it called?

I don’t know! T__T I’m hoping some of my beta readers will help me brainstorm a title.

But is there anything interesting in it?

Okay, themes that it explores:

  • family, friendship, community
  • languages
  • erasure of history
  • importance of stories

Um, what else? Oh, the protagonists fall under the red oni, blue oni trope, which personally, I quite like.

Oh! It has a magic system based on programming. (‘Cuz that’s the only magic I know, haha)

And the world is inspired by precolonial Philippines! I really hate to make it seem like I want cookie points for that, but on the other hand, if you’re interested in seeing a different culture in a fantasy setting, well, here’s a story for ya. Also, I spent a lot of time doing research so if you can provide guidance on that regard, I will honour you forever.

Are there things you should be wary of?

This story is meant to be MG-level. Violence is kept to a minimum; no gory details. No romance maybe if you squint.There’s polytheism and animism, so a warning if that’s not something you’re comfortable seeing.

Where can you see my novel?

Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll send you a link! You’ll have to sign up to BetaBooks, I believe, but it’s completely free if you’re just reading. I have a monthly subscription that allows me up to 20 beta readers. I’ve outlined some guidelines for the critique, and hopefully it’s self-explanatory.

The Tricky Thing About “Show, Don’t Tell”

“Show, Don’t Tell” is one of those really popular writing advice that I keep struggling with. Maybe I just haven’t read enough guides on how to do it well, but it’s probably safe to say that at this point, I’m not a fan of this advice. My biggest issue with it is that people who give this advice rarely illustrate how much to show.

Take these examples:

Level 1: Jane Doe was agoraphobic.

Level 2: Jane Doe was afraid of stepping out of her door. Ever since she and her mother were attacked under gunpoint and their wallets stolen five years ago, Jane had found the outside world unbearable.

Level 3: Jane’s sister told her that today there would be a solar eclipse. Jane didn’t even need to go very far to see it. Her sister had given her a pair of glasses to peer through, and all she had to do was step out on her balcony. And yet, even though that sounded so simple, Jane could not bring herself to do it. Just seeing the sidewalk, even if it was different from the one she and her mother had taken that awful night, made her heart hammer in her chest and her hand clammy with sweat. No, she much preferred the view and the atmosphere inside. She was not going out.

Okay, so clearly Level 1 is telling. We’re just dumping the information straight out. Level 3 is clearly showing. We’re describing a situation and Jane’s responses to it as it is happening.

But what about Level 2?

This is the part I find so tricky. Level 2 is “telling” when compared to Level 3, but it can be considered “showing” when compared to Level 1. So if I write something that is similar to Level 2, is that actually showing or telling? And perhaps showing and telling isn’t really determined by the writer, but by the reader, you know? If I’m reading and I expect Jane’s agoraphobia to be “shown” like Level 3, then Level 2 will feel a little disappointing. On the other hand, if I’m impatient and I don’t find Jane’s agoraphobia all that important, Level 3 might seem excessive, when there’s Level 2 that will perfectly do.

I don’t have a good way of ending this post. I’m just saying… I find “Show, Don’t Tell” a rather stiff advice. Not to mention, sometimes you don’t want to “show,” right? Sometimes all you want to say is “roughly squared wooden beams, wooden carriages, and cannon,” instead of describing the actual wooden grains of the cannon.

 

PSF11 Launch, 07/18 Camp NaNoWriMo Overview and Other Updates

This post is a month overdue, but I was too busy crunching in my word counts for Camp NaNoWriMo to write this.

Without further ado, Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 11 is out now!

philippine-speculative-fiction-volume-11

It’s been a long time coming. This volume has been in the works for almost 2 years, and I am so, so honoured that the piece I submitted was accepted. My short story is called The Goddess of Debt and it’s about a young woman who is unexpectedly chosen to be a human sacrifice. Yikes, I know that sounds a little morbid, but the story isn’t really about the sacrifice, as it is about the Goddess who offers her a way out, and about whether she will take it or not.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the PSF series, it is an annual anthology that celebrates speculative fiction written by Filipinos about Filipinos for anyone at all who is interested in the genre. It’s one of the few avenues out there that brings Filipino stories out to the world. The good news for you is that all the stories in the anthologies are written in English. So please support it if you can! It would mean a lot to me, whose piece is the first original fiction I’ve written that has ever been published, and to the producers of the anthology who work tirelessly year after year to serve an underserved area of fiction.


And on to Camp NaNoWriMo…

For those of you who have followed my blog for at least a year now, you probably noticed that I try to participate in as many as NaNoWriMos as I can. It’s because it really motivates me to just write down my story. Another reason why I join is because I get an excuse to write about my writing! Writing is such a solitary process, but when you’re part of a program that you know hundreds of thousands of other people are also doing, it makes the experience a little more social.

This month, as I tried to churn out those 50K words while real life was trying its hardest to prevent me from doing so (I swear, it really seemed like it was), I’ve come to realize how much I appreciated the messages written by the camp counsellors. These are real writers who take the time out of their lives to give us newbies (or seasoned — depending on where you are in your career during NaNo) some tips and tricks, as well as kind words to keep us going. Sometimes, I would come home and feel like I don’t even want to open up my word document, or I’d start to lose heart in my story (again), but I would see one of these messages in my inbox, and I’d have the strength to just put down maybe a few hundred words.

So I would like to share with you some of the messages that really helped me this month.

From author Claire Kann:

One of the hardest parts of drafting is getting to The End! While drafting do you prefer to revise as you go, rereading and polishing your previous day’s work before moving on? Or do you prefer to write out of order as the scenes come to you and connect the dots later? Personally, I am a zero drafter. I word-vomit the entire story in chronological order, not stopping to fix anything. There are multiple ways to draft, and no one way is going to work for everyone. It’s important to find a method that works best for you.

And what do you know, I’m a “word-vomiter” too!

From author Kristin Chen:

Just as important as writing every day (or as close to it as you can manage) is reading every day. I read as much as I can, and broadly, too, not just research for my work-in-progress. In my experience, it’s often the books that resemble yours the least that end up unlocking something in your writing. And when this happens, it’s a wonderful reminder of how mysterious and magical this whole process is—and how lucky we are to be writers.

I don’t read every day, nor do I write every day when it’s not NaNoWriMo. (Can you imagine? I have a full-time programming job, and my hobbies include reading, writing and drawing. Practitioners of all 4 of these get told to do these things everyday! I’d be dead if I were to try that!) But I do appreciate Kristin Chen’s advice that we shouldn’t avoid reading when we’re writing, because it’s food for your creativity!

Here’s a bit from Gloria Chao:

Everyone’s process is different so listen to your gut: if you’re not feeling it today, it’s okay if you don’t hit your word count. Take a break, read, relax, and come back when you’re refreshed. You can make up for these days later when you’re more on a roll. And remember: it’s not about the number but the work you’ve put in, which sometimes can’t be easily quantified.

I always have an equivalent metric for the word count, like number of chapters or the part of the story that I should reach by a certain date. It helps me contextualize that this isn’t about the word count, but about helping you reach the milestones in your story.

And finally, from Jessica Strawser:

I once had the privilege of interviewing Patricia Cornwell—who was adamant that insecurity can be good for a writer. “I’ll be honest,” she said. “When somebody has written their first novel and they tell me how fantastic it is, I know it’s probably not very good. It’s usually the person who says, ‘I’m not sure what I think…’ and then you look at the thing and go, ‘Now that is really special.’ So it’s not bad to be a little insecure. It makes you work harder and pay attention.” When I’m pushing through a draft and that hopeless feeling creeps in, I remember this. Feeling uncertain could be a sign of real magic! You’ll never know if you don’t see it through.

You guys know me. Y’all have seen all my Writing Woes posts. I have major angst about my novel. Knowing that it’s okay to feel uncertain about your story makes me more hopeful that it’s probably not as bad as it might seem.


So where does this get me?

This camp helped me get to the midpoint of my 3rd draft. I really want to finished the 3rd draft before fall, so I will take a few days break, write the outline for the rest of the story, and use August to finish it off. I am hoping that after a little bit of tidying up and editing, I can start letting other people read my story to get some feedback.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on my online presence. I usually drop off the face of the earth when I’m doing NaNoWriMo, but I know I need to improve my reach if I want to get some feedback for my story. I’ll be reworking my website, probably spend a bit more time blogging, and of course, there’s always my Schoolism assignments to help me generate original artwork to post.

Here’s a question for you guys. What are you more interested in seeing? Do you want to see more posts about my story? About the writing process? What I’m reading? The research? How about posts that are more collaborative, you know, something that doesn’t scream ‘Me, Me, Me’ like all my posts do? Lol. Let me know, because I have a hard time gauging the interests of people. If it were left up to me, I’d just talk about my story. But I know that there are people who don’t like that, because the story should speak for itself, and once the story is out there, nothing the author says about it that isn’t written as canon ever really matters.

So, yup, let me know!

Blanking Out on Titles

sanino_comp

Hey guys! I know I haven’t updated very often lately, but it doesn’t mean I’ve been slacking off! On the contrary, I’ve signed up for the next round of Camp NaNoWriMo next month, and during the last couple of weeks I’ve been preparing extensively for it.

First of all, do you guys like the new artwork? =P As I mentioned in my last blog post, I decided not to do my Schoolism assignments one by one, but rather, take note of each lesson and apply it to whatever I’m working on. I haven’t drawn Anina and Sano in so long, and I was in need of some new official art. I really tried to apply the things I learned about pictorial composition here. (On that note, does anyone know how to properly assign resolution to web images? I heard 1200px is the best, but my images still turn out oddly low-res.)

Anyway, I’ve spent the last few weeks restructuring my story. When I finished draft 2, I was convinced that it needed further leaning down and I was prepared to take it apart and put it back together in an entirely new way. As things turned out, the outline I have now is actually not that far from the previous version, which is great because it means I get to use some of the material from draft 2. Even though I tried to approach the story in an entirely different way, I still ended up coming with the same general flow — I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing though. It could mean that I’ve already nailed down the things that make the most sense for my characters, or it could mean I’ve gotten stuck into a single frame of mind. =/

One big change though is the names. I was never truly satisfied with the names of the places I’ve been using, so before I begin this new draft, I chose better-fitting names. One downside (or possibly upside) to this is that while I was browsing my Tagalog-English dictionary, I discovered that the word “aplaya” was actually derived from Spanish. I had intended to name the setting of the story “Alaya” from “aplaya,” fashioning it after the pattern of naming Filipino provinces after places near water. “Aplaya,” or the Spanish original, “playa” means beach. See, this is what I get for using Google Translate! Good thing I bought the dictionary. Needless to say, as this story is inspired by precolonial Tagalog culture, I can no longer use “Alaya.”

And because I’ve been using “Tales of Alaya” as the title for my work, I can no longer use that title either. I’m wary now of including names in my title just in case I make another goof-up, and end up changing names later. So now, I’m in desperate need for a title. Any suggestions? If you’re a writer, how do you usually come up with names for your works?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Final Update

camp-2018-winner-twitter-header-1

campnanowrimo

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

campnano

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.