mid-week link salad (and some happy things!)

Writing for a living takes a lot more than just ample cash in your bank vault, according to literary agent Carly Watters.

 

Indeed.

 

It takes luck, a wide readership, years of dedication, luck, perseverance and ability to roll with the punches, and oh did I mention luck? Luck for agents and publishing houses to take a chance on your book (of course, substance counts for a lot too), luck for the RIGHT agent and publishing house to pick up your book and sign you on, luck for ever-changing reader diet, luck for movie producers and bookstores to decide to buy the rights from you, luck that you can write full-time and live comfortably, not paycheck to paycheck.

 

Watters paints a stark picture of what it’s like for most writers who aren’t international best-selling ones. Kind of a depressing reality, but no one said this path was easy. Literally, no one. The publishing market is one of the toughest ones to break into. Aside from dealing with writerly angst (don’t dismiss it until you’ve experienced it), the business itself makes being a novelist a difficult game to play.

 

Okay, enough doom and gloom. This was supposed to be an upbeat post!

 

Over at Mythic Scribes, they offered some tips for developing characters in romance novels.

 

And here’s some mind-boggling architecture for you. Number 19 and 21 are my favourites. Imagine living in a spiral building! The rooftop is just begging for a sled race, no? So much potential for a story setting, too.

 

Impulse buy: greeting cards!

 

 

You never know when you need one. And even if you don’t, they make a great mood-lifting collection that you can admire once in a while. I mean, look how cute these are! I ended up buying just six, even though there were a lot more adorable designs available.

 

Other happy things for this thundery week:

 

 

Speaking of TVD, I refuse to believe ***spoiler alert!*** Katherine is dead. She just can’t be dead. She’s one of the most delicious characters on the show – so much potential for mischief and havoc and eventual pathos (see season 5 episode 12). It would really suck if she left and we’re stuck with boring, whiny, indecisive Elena with whom, for some reason, the boys are in love.

 

And speaking of boys, here’s a gorgeous one:

 

 

Yes, they are the same person, in case you were wondering.

 

Also, if you’ve watched the Korean drama, Secret Garden, you’ll definitely appreciate this parody done by Big Bang:

 

 

*choke*gasp*splutter*laugh my ass off*

 

This video has been around for a while, but it still gets me every time! Can I humbly request for Super Junior to do a drama parody too? That would be awesome, thank you.

 

Speaking of awesome (see how neat and connected is today? Ha!), here’s something that will hopefully get you through the rest of this week:

 

feeding your soul

So it’s Monday again. Gosh, how quickly we’re zipping through the year. We’re almost done with 2013? Where did the last 300-odd days go?!

Anyway, so I know I intend for this blog to be mostly about writing, but I don’t want to be one of those writers who go on and on about the craft and their book and writing process and blabbity blah blah blah. So here are some updates on the personal front before I end with something writing-related again.

1. Last Saturday, I went for my first ever facial and pedicure. I know, it sounds unbelievable that a 23-year-old city girl has never experienced either of those, but I’ve just never really cared about stuff like that before, and I don’t have older sisters or mom to bring me to these places. My friends aren’t really into facials and pedicures either. I don’t know – it’s strange. But the bottom-line is: I’m not a facial or pedicure virgin anymore!

My dad’s the one who kept nagging at me to go for a facial and start paying more attention to my face, so I’ve been scouting several places to do one. But then Body Contours, a body-grooming spa, randomly contacted me in the middle of the workday and offered me a complimentary trial session as part of their marketing plan. I Googled the company and found that it seemed relatively credible, so I headed down for my appointment.

Of course, before anything else there was the sales talk by the manageress, who wanted me to throw down 800 bucks as deposit for a laser treatment package, which she almost had me convinced I needed because my skin is RAVAGED by the effects of my environment and age. (We Libras are notoriously indecisive and impressionable.) But after half an hour of dithering, I eventually decided to try out the skin renewal facial before making any drastic commitment.

My biggest problem is blackheads, and to say that the beautician was appalled at the state of my skin is an understatement – she kept tutting at the state of my skin, though not in a mean way. While they don’t look blatantly terrible in photos and upon first glance, up close my pores are HUUUUUGE. Plus, they’re clogged up with accumulated dirt and oil. So all in all, UGH.

What ensued was A LOT of steaming (the heat was very unpleasant, even though a lot of girls seem to enjoy that), kneading, squeezing and pinching out the crap in my pores (which HURT), before essential oils were rubbed on, along with a cold mask (which was the loveliest part, since it felt good and smelled lovely, all mint-y and lavender-y).

I ended up signing up for the facial package, for which I tossed down a $500 deposit for 6 more similar sessions. It’s actually quite worth it, in retrospect. At least my pores can breathe now, and they aren’t crater-like anymore when you scrutinise them up close (which I wish you wouldn’t do, because hello I’d like my personal space, thanks).

And as for the pedicure, it was $40 at City Nails, which I know isn’t the best deal out there, but it’s in a mall near my house so I’m okay with paying for the convenience. Besides, the shop was spacious and bright and each customer is led to a private booth (unlike many nail salons, which are usually cramped and everyone can see each other). The service was good, too. So that was $40 well spent, since my calluses are gone and my cracked skin is healed.

I just realised how much we have to do to maintain the condition of our bodies as we grow older. From dry hair to cracked heels, clogged pores to crooked teeth, there is so much to look out for. I would just leave them be if I could, but my dad has always emphasised the importance of personal grooming, because like it or not, people tend to associate more positive character traits with a person who keeps herself in tip-top condition. His words, not mine. And I suppose there is some truth in that, but phew, personal grooming is hard work!

(I know, First World Problems. I apologise for my insensitivity.)

2. MAMA 2013, aka MNet Asian Music Awards on Friday evening was a blast to watch, particularly with pop acts like Icona Pop and Big Bang present. Newbie group EXO performed well too.

I’ve never really been a K-pop fan. In fact, less than a year ago, my impression of K-pop fans are rabid tweens who fangirl over pretty boys and pretend very hard that they’re Koreans living in Korea. My interest in Korean pop culture only extended to the occasional K-drama, and it was only a few months ago that I started listening to K-pop and tried to pick up Korean. All thanks to Super Junior. And this boy:

Ahem.

The way I see it, you may turn up your nose at other brands of music and stick staunchly by your cool-as-shit indie music, reject other cultures and other types of pop culture. But then you’re just restricting yourself to what you know and allow yourself to be exposed to.

After I started watching Korean dramas, I learned of many other stereotypes and archetypes that are different from those in American dramas. There are new narratives to be discovered in different cultures, different personalities and way of life, and that can only make your book characters richer and more varied.

Likewise for music. There are only so many times you can listen to P!nk or Adele without wanting to stab yourself. And while I regularly source for new music online such as this:

And:

What’s a few more options for some listening pleasure, right? It doesn’t really matter that I don’t understand half of what they’re singing, as long as the music’s good: it either sets the right mood for a scene I’m writing, or gets me pumped up and grooving (in the privacy of my room, of course) … Wait, do people still use the word “grooving”? Ah, whatever.

And really, K-pop is just harmless good fun. (We need some of that on this cold, grey and wet Monday.)

 

Girls Generation with their catchy track I Got A Boy.

Bittersweet by Super Junior, which was perfect for writing several scenes in UNTIL MORNING.

Some Fantastic Baby by Big Bang to get you leaping out of your seat!

Still hopped up from the previous track? Here’s more: I Am The Best by 2NE1.

See? Does it matter that it’s in a foreign language? Music is a universal language on its own! Music is meant to be fun and engaging! If you open yourself up to new music, you’ll discover a world even larger and richer than the one you’ve cooped yourself in.

sarah dessen quote

And while we’re in the vein of music recommendation, this track by Bassnectar helped immensely while I wrote a scene for BLOOD PROMISE:

 

While this track by Paper Kites is soooo lovely – it reminds me of Where the Wild Things Are, for some reason:

The band’s just released its first full-length album, and their songs are just as pretty!

 

Also, this one called Safe Hands by Paper Aeroplanes is bittersweet in some way:

Hope you enjoyed those tracks! And if you have anything to recommend, do share! I am ALWAYS on the lookout for new music, regardless of genre or nationality. My soul is starving, and only music and stories can satiate it.

3. Here’s me and my dad taking a selfie (there’s something to be said about the world we live in for the fact that it’s the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year) after our usual Sunday brunch.

He’s been transferred to the west end of the island, so this will be our last Sunday brunch together in a long while. He gets occasional weekends off, but they’re rare. Plus, now that he’s working further, we’ll get less time to spend together. Which sucks. But if I look on the bright side, it means the time we spend from now on will be even more precious. On my more emo days, I wish I can provide sufficiently for the both of us so my dad doesn’t have to stress so much at work or just kick back and do the things he wants to do instead of what he has to.

Okay, I’ll stop before I get completely maudlin.

So finally, as promised, I’ll leave you with some beautiful writing quotes:

“There are some books which refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn’t because the book is not there and worth being written – it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.”  

~ Mark Twain

“Giving up is for giver-uppers. It’s the lamest thing ever. Your book is just a book; it can’t beat you. You are a real live person with will and imagination and typing fingers! You are superior to it in every way. How could it possibly beat you? That’s just silly. Of course you’ll win.”  

~ Laini Taylor

~ from CORALINE, by Neil Gaiman

“I think that the reason I write what I write is because of the passion and urgency and hunger of those younger years, the intensity of that period of becoming, when we are dreaming ourselves into being.”

~ Laini Taylor

Hope the writing’s going well for everyone! Keep feeding your soul and keep telling stories!

(Speaking of stories, I am just about done with the BLOOD PROMISE rewrite. Just one final tweak in the climax to make, then a complete hawk-eyed read-through, before I beg and beseech my critique partners to read it. In the meantime, I’m finally getting round to reading THE DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Stiefvater. Yay!)

Have a great week!

mondays don’t have to suck

Because it’s Monday,

1. For those of you plotting your story out there, here’s a tremendously helpful list you can use to bring that Shiny New Idea floating around in your head to paper. I know I’ll be using it for INDIGO TIDES.

Yes, INDIGO TIDES is the name of my new novel. Nothing more can be revealed because nothing else makes sense anyway – yet. I’m hoping that will change once I get to the end of that list.
2. In the similar vein, here’s another guide on how not to get lost in your story and finding your way from start to finish. Some suggestions like a) plotting your novel chapter by chapter, b) writing a script beforehand and c) delineating character arcs are pretty useful – at least for me. I’ve tried them before, and they make it so much easier to crank out the words. 
a) For LAMBS, I plotted about two to three chapters for the next day, and wrote an average of 3,000 words each day. It’s how I managed to complete the first draft in a month. 
b) UNTIL MORNING was originally a script (as those of you in EN3271 Advanced Playwriting might remember) before I ran with it and turned it into a novel. The first few scenes took less than a couple of days to write because I already had a little more than the skeleton of each scene ready. 
c) Just a simple line of how you expect the character(s) to change over the course of the story can help provide more focus on where you want to take them. Worked for me for 15 MINUTES, which I finally finished after letting it languish for months and months and months because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my characters.
So give those tips a try and you might just make sense of that Shiny New Idea after all.
3. If you’re a grammar Nazi, you’ll probably want to figuratively make babies with this website, if you haven’t already. I stumbled across it when I wanted to find out what the deal was between addictive and addicting. The latter has never sat well with me, because it sounds about as grammatically credible as “would of” instead of “would have”, probably because the only times I’ve ever seen people use it is when they comment on how “addicting” [insert addiction such as Kpop or a drama series or a figurehead for a beloved book character like Jace Wayland] is. 

Not, of course, that I’m a grammar Nazi.

4. And in case you start thinking I’m only about writing and books and blah blah she has no life blah, here’s something other than writing and books.

In the words of Sarah Dessen, “Don’t think or judge, just listen.”

And this:

And:

I’m not one of those crazy fangirls, but I have to say Big Bang produces some really sick (original) songs. These instrumentals keep me awake during the workday, and are great for working out to!

Have a great week, everyone!

(And just so you know, I’m not usually this organised. I usually just dump all my words into one indiscernible paragraph and attempt to slice it into something more structured after that, but for the sake of those reading it I’ve decided to be less annoyingly trend-of-thought-y.)