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.

No NaNoWriMo & An Early Look At My 2020 Plans

Since I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2016, I have participated in every single WriMo challenge, including the camps in April and July, up until last November. I got to the point in my novel where I didn’t find the fast-paced, get-your-words-down-at-all-cost objective of NaNoWriMo helpful anymore.

That’s still true this time around, so I’m a little sad to say that I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Even though my participation spanned less than two years, it still feels odd not to be gearing up for it. I remember how I used to prepare all of my notes and outlines just in time for the challenges, and studiously keeping up with my word counts when it was time to crunch them. In some ways, even though they were exhausting, I miss those months. It gave me something to focus on outside of work, and my consistent progress made me feel very productive.

Now I’m working on my sixth draft of The Malicious Wind. I’ve submitted the previous draft to an editor, and the revisions I need to make are highly targeted to certain areas. So the 50,000 word goal just doesn’t make sense. I started writing draft 6 halfway through October, and I’m only on chapter 6. That means I’ve taken an average of 3 days to edit a single chapter. (For reference, each chapter is below 3K words, so if I were doing NaNoWriMo, I would already be very much behind.)

I’m hoping to finish draft 6 by the end of this year. Early next year, I will submit it for copy-editing, and perhaps another round of beta-reading. Once I get feedback from those, I will write the final draft.

Yup, that’s it. I’ve decided that I will stop after that.

A part of me feels like perhaps I should work on it more, especially because this is my first original novel I intend to share with the world. But another part of me feels like I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.

When I was still in school, I had a (very wise) friend who told me of a story or proverb about two novice potters. One of them spent an entire month making one pot, trying to get it to be as beautiful as he could. The other one spent one day each month making a different pot, with improvements on the one he made the previous day. In the end, on that final day, both their pots were just as beautiful as each other’s.

I mean, okay, perhaps this story cannot be applied to everything. Perhaps not even writing a novel. But I do feel that because I’ve been working on The Malicious Wind for close to four years, I have squeezed as much learning experience as I have from this novel. Maybe it’s time to move on to the next, to hone my craft on a different project. Goodness knows I have so many ideas lined up. I will try not to worry if TWM is not the best story out there. First novels rarely are.

I’m still not sure how I will publish this novel. At this point, I’m really just thinking of posting it on Wattpad, or building my own site to house it. It would be nice to eventually monetize my writing, but my goal right now is to just share it with people. Which is hard, because I have very little marketing skills. And lately, I’ve even been lamenting my art skills too, which I’m increasingly afraid aren’t enough to attract people to my work. (I’ve just seen a lot of poorly designed covers recently, and I just thought, “There are authors out there who think these are good covers. What if the design and artwork I feel are good actually…aren’t?”) So I’ve just been experiencing a lot of self-doubt. Even if I’m taking an unusual publication route, I do want my story to appear professional.

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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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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Quick Update

Hello guys! I know it’s been a while since my last post. I am very much aware that I am more sporadic than heat waves here in Canada (not impossible, just rare and unpredictable), and I am hoping to rectify that. I know I’ve said this before, and you probably don’t have a very good reason to believe why it should be different this time, but I am actively planning a blog post schedule. It turns out that I do have a lot of things I want to talk about; it’s just that in the past few months, I have been too lethargic to believe these posts are worth talking about. But I think with a bit of effort, I can make them interesting for you guys.

I also want to get back to blogging more regularly, because the writing process is so solitary! Maybe I feel so lethargic because I just don’t have that sense of community. Maybe I’ve been experiencing something of a chicken-and-egg problem.

Here are a few ideas I have for upcoming posts:

  • what inspired certain aspects of my WIP
  • ideas for my next stories (yes, I have lots of ideas — the problem is finding the time to work on them!)
  • art-related posts like the Schoolism courses I’ve been taking or my process for completing a piece
  • book reviews, or at the very least, things I’m reading or planning to read
  • personal posts about things I deal with as I figure this “author” thing out
  • music — yup! I have never posted about music before, but I listen to lots of music, and I have been meaning to share my favourites for some time now

Feel free to suggest other ideas as well. Like I said, my blogging skills have stagnated a bit, and I am not up to date with the blogging world. What would you guys like to hear about from me?

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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