The 5 Stages of Finishing a Novel

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I’m finally done with not just the shitty Draft 0 of LAND OF SAND AND SONG, but the first round of edits too (i.e. Draft 1), before I send it out to critique partners and beta readers WHO MIGHT POTENTIALLY JUDGE ME FOR THE WORD VOMIT THAT COMES OUT OF MY HEAD.

rapunzel excited

excited.gif

This whole journey been far too long (from planning in late Oct 2016 to completing the first draft on 28 Feb 2019) with far too many starts and stops along the way, topped with a lethal mix of self-doubt and despair at ever finishing, and more rewrites than I bothered to count….

But hey, IT’S FINALLY DONE. I can finally dust my hands off this manuscript (at least for a while) and go work on something else.

bye sucker

And by something else I mean the 3428945076 other stories, including old manuscripts and half-baked new ideas, I’ve got brewing in the pot.

wicked witch cauldron

But then I kinda miss this world. Part of me wants to linger on. IS THIS WHY PEOPLE WRITE SERIES? Because they can’t leave that world they created behind? I’m convinced that has to be part of the reason. There is comfort in that mad little world we’ve created.

cheshire cat mad.gif

Then again, it’s time for me to resurface to the world and be a normal human being again instead of a writer burrito in my hermit cave.

ariel wanna be with people

*squints into sunlight*

But when I’m out in public, I can’t stop thinking about writing and what I’m going to write next. I’m scrolling through Tumblr for writing tips and prompts, I’m taking notes and creating story and character arcs in my notebook, I’m daydreaming about different lives.

stitch pull hair.gif

So I guess it’s back to the writing cave for me. Have fun out there!

pocahontas dramatic wave.gif

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a short story or two to devour, we’ve got some for you over at Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand! ūüôā

The 15 stages of book addiction

1. At first, you come across the book with the pretty cover and you’re like

 

 

 

2. First chapter in and you’re still like

 

 photo emma-watson-hermione-granger-thinking_zps731cc5d0.gif

 

 

3. But halfway through you become like

 

 photo donghaecoolnod_zps1bbe4c36.gif

 

 

4. And then like

 

 photo donghaesurprised_zps4eaff9b1.gif

 

 

5. By the final chapter you’re like

 

 photo babyfuriouslyreading_zpseb7ed87d.gif

 

Even though you’re like this

 

 photo sleepyduck_zps4b550c8b.gif

 

 

6. After you close the book you’re like

 

 photo iloveyou_zpsd7a77ba4.gif

 

And

 

 photo annasophiarobbexcited_zpsc5b25010.gif

 

 

7. You rush out to buy the hard copy even though you’ve already got the e-book.

 

 

 

8. You look for someone to fangirl with over the book, but it’s like

 

 

 

9. But then you find a fellow fan at last and it’s like

 

 photo cutebabyanddog_zpse3c816a2.gif

 

 

10. Later, you learn that the sequel is out and this becomes you

 

 photo sheldonineedanswers_zps3c2a3e62.gif

 

 

11. But then the sequel won’t be out until next year and you’re like

 

 photo donghaewhatwhy_zps3d9af7b6.gif

 

 

12. Finally, the sequel is here and you’re like

 

 photo jeremyrennerexcited_zps85194e5c.gif

 

 photo giveittome_zpsb32e4e36.gif

 

 

13. You repeat stages 4 and 5, only this time you’re more like this

 

 photo emmawatsonfangirl_zpsaebd2abb.gif

 

And

 

 photo rapunzelinlove_zpse345427d.gif

 

And

 

 photo loveit_zps37eeed27.gif

 

 

14. And now that there’s a final installment, you’re like

 

 photo excitedgoat_zps7ca94bb1.gif

 

 photo donghaelaughingbouncing_zps9362525c.gif

 

But since it’s the end, you’re also like

 

 photo mishadontdothistome_zps27fc875f.gif

 

15. So you ration your candy, so to speak

 

 photo arieliwantmore_zpsa6b05ceb.gif

 

 

The above chronicle is all thanks to this mindblowing, awe-inspiring, wonderfully crafted epic trilogy:

 

 photo dosab_zps5fd75b10.gif

 

(gif from Laini’s blog)

 

Thank you, Laini, for sharing your beautiful writing with the world.

 

Valentine’s Day lovelies

Too many links and pictures to share this Monday! But first, a recap of the weekend.*

*Which is probably just a nicer way of saying, “Here’s some photo-dumping and inane rambling.” But there you go.

Saturday was spent writing.

 

And writing.

 

And more writing.

 

By Sunday, I was ready to break out of the house. After our usual brunch, my dad and I went strolling around town and booked a trip to Taiwan in late March. Yay, travel!

I really believe that it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do that matters, but the company you keep. My dad and I don’t go to special places often, or eat or live extravagantly, but I always have a good time with him, even when we’re just rambling around town, taking photos.

Because the tour agency was in Chinatown, we ended up walking around the area. (Yes, again. It’s funny, but from architecture to shops to people, there seems to be endless things to discover¬†no matter how many times we visit that place.)

 

 

 

 

 

And because I am irrationally obsessed with flowers, I went a little shutter-crazy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s that for the weekend. And now, link salad!

1. Being a writer is a lot more like sitting alone with your computer, ploughing through the suck of your own doing, sending out query letters and hoping and wishing and praying for someone to love your story. Sometimes, reality falls short of our expectations. But thank goodness for critique partners, awesome writers who write beautiful books, and green tea!

2. This infographic shows the¬†million and one things you’re doing wrong with your script, which can also be applied to any story you’re writing.

3. By the way, I never realised how snarky Disney characters were until this post! For instance,

 

 photo sleepingbeauty_zps39601b7a.gif

 

 photo alice_zpsa23eb28d.gif

 

 photo lokiburrrrn_zps0b9b6a44.png

Check out the article for more!

 

3. And since it’s Valentine’s Day week, here’s a slew of Valentine’s Day-related stuff that made me laugh out loud.

 

Something for the LOTR fans:

 

And something for singles who have plans to avoid Valentine’s Day (and the obnoxiously lovey couple or ten that are bound to appear on every other street):

 

Some grumpiness to counter those overheard love confessions and sightings of couples in matching outfits?

 

Just so we’re clear, I’m not anti-Valentine’s Day. It’s just funny how so many snarky memes have sprung up because of some holiday that now means¬†overpriced flowers¬†and¬†Valentine’s Day lingerie¬†(because, of course, Valentine’s Day is important enough to have special lingerie dedicated to it) and¬†couple’s dining promotions¬†more than anything else.

Speaking of love, what do you love? I’m going to list 5 things I love, and I’d love to hear your list of 5 things you love! It’s too cliched – and not to mention maudlin – to write a post on the 5 people I love, so let’s keep it light, shall we? (Of course, if you want to mention the people you love, by all means confess away.)

Go like this:

I love:

1. Lovely prose

From Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

 

From Lock and Key, by Sarah Dessen

 

From Wonder Show, by Hannah Barnaby



2. Happy babies

 

3. Pretty faces

 


4. Whimsical art

 

by Kathy Hare

 

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry



5. Beautiful nooks and crannies in the world

Mykonos, Greece

 

Pretty lilac!

 

Atlantis Bookstore, Santorini, Greece

 

Tellaro, Italy

 

Do share your loves (and toss me a link to your list)! Pass it on, too, so more people can know about love-ly (geddit?) mood-lifters!

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to just be about people or, more specifically, your other half. It can also be about the FEELING of being in love with someone or something, being passionate about someone or something. The feeling, not the thing. Share the things you love, and EVERYONE can be in love every day of the year, not just on Valentine’s Day.

Wow. This has been too much sappiness for one post. Think I’ll stop now, before I start vomiting rainbows and unicorns.

Unicorn Vomiting a Rainbow by TheIckyMan on Deviant Art

 

Have a lovely week! (Okay, okay. I’ll stop with the love puns now.)

some Disney (boy) loving!

Nathan Bransford offers some advice to writers struggling with their manuscripts:

Force yourself to get going – That very normal hump that you have to get over to force yourself to sit down and start writing when you don’t want to can feel like Mount Everest when you’re stressed out. So start climbing. Open up the computer, make yourself get started.

Don’t be afraid to cut back – Even if you do power through and keep writing during a stressful time, chances are you’re not going to be as productive as you are normally. That’s just the nature of being distracted. Plan ahead for this and don’t put extra pressure on yourself to maintain the same pace.

Also, more¬†hard but very sound advice¬†from author Charles Finch over at Writer’s Digest. These particularly stood out:

PATIENCE

To me, the single biggest mark of the amateur writer is a sense of hurry.

Hurry to finish a manuscript, hurry to edit it, hurry to publish it. It’s definitely possible to write a book in a month, leave it unedited, and watch it go off into the world and be declared a masterpiece. It happens every fifty years or so.

For the rest of us, the single greatest ally we have is time. There’s no page of prose in existence that its author can’t improve after it‚Äôs been in a drawer for a week. The same is true on the macro level ‚Äď every time I finish a story or a book, I try to put it away and forget it for as long as I can. When I return, its problems are often so obvious and easy to fix that I’m amazed I ever struggled with them.

Amateur writers are usually desperate to be published, as soon as possible. And I understand that feeling ‚Äď you just want it to start, your career, your next book, whatever. But I wonder how many self-published novels might have had a chance at getting bought, and finding more readers, if their authors had a bit more patience with them?

HABIT

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.” ¬†~W.H. Auden

If there’s a single idea I emphasize when people ask about writing, it’s that there‚Äôs no right way to produce a book. ¬†But I do think that whatever you do, you should do regularly, whether it’s waking up at midnight and drinking vodka or waking up at dawn and drinking tea … The more consistent your habits are ‚Äď and this ties into having your tools nailed down ‚Äď the more secure your brain will be to run free and create.

PRACTICE

There’s more mystical nonsense written about the process of writing than almost anything. Inspiration, genius, “the muse”. So I want to lay out one huge, comforting, wonderful fact: the more you write, the better you get at it. Writing is like a forehand or driving a car or playing guitar. Practice makes you better.

That’s not to say inspiration and genius don’t exist. ¬†Not everyone can become Tolstoy through hard work. What it means is that, wherever you start, you can improve. And the way to do it is to write a lot.

As long as you produce a little something every day, every week, in time, invisibly, you‚Äôll get better. Trailing behind every successful writer are a million words that never saw the light of day. Sometimes it takes five million words. The most important piece of writing advice anyone can give or get is simple, and therefore can seem uninteresting, but it’s true: just keep writing.

Okay, enough of the serious stuff. Time for something frivolous – Disney!

Some life lessons that Tangled apparently teaches.

Some more life lessons that Disney movies teach.

And a few more:

Okay, the last two probably aren’t the best lessons to take home!

And¬†this one¬†… I just find it funny. It’s about Flynn Rider from Tangled. He’s not my favourite Disney male lead (that would be John Smith from Pocahontas), but he’s becoming one of my favourites.

Speaking of Disney boys, ever wondered what they would look like in real life?

I knew I was into Prince Phillip for a reason!

Although I’m not complaining about the Hemsworth brothers and Ryan Pretty-Face Reynolds, I don’t agree fully with this list. For instance, wouldn’t Ian Somerhalder be better suited for Prince Eric, with his raven hair and electric blue eyes?

Well, hell-o!

Or Jamie Campbell Bower for Prince Adam (aka Beast from Beauty and the Beast)?

I’m hopeless when they have hair like this and a smile like that.

Or Sam Claflin?

And, um, Jared Padalecki for Flynn Rider?

Oh, Moose!

Which Disney guys were your favourites?

I’ve always been into Prince Eric and Prince Philip (from Sleeping Beauty) because:

Eric’s hair! Eric’s eyes! Eric in that white shirt!

 photo princeeric_zps0707fed3.gif

TOTAL. DREAMBOAT. Though my favourite Disney princess was Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty), Ariel totally had a sweeter deal.

But Prince Philip wasn’t that bad either. He had style – who else can pull off that jaunty cap and cape combo?

Plus, so broody.

 photo princephilip_zps05918de8.gif

Broody boys are a pain in real life, but in Disney, they’re just yummy.

Yes, even back then I was a superficial piece of shit. Haha.

BUT.

It wasn’t until I got older and rewatched Pocahontas (my all-time favourite Disney cartoon) that I learned to appreciate John Smith.

 photo johnsmith_zpsc80fc027.gif

“I’d rather die tomorrow than live a hundred years without knowing you.” My favourite line out of all the Disney movies. Swooooooon!¬†‚̧

 photo john_zps25bd21a9.gif

This moment when they first met was pretty darn magical too. Swoon swoon love!¬†‚̧

Besides, doesn’t John Smith look like a blonde Daniel Henney, especially in the lips?

Okay, I think that’s enough male appreciation for one post. How about some male¬†un-appreciation.

You know you should back the hell off when a girl has that reaction to you!

How about some girl talk? Disney/Mean Girls crossover, anybody?

I love how well-cast the Disney princesses are: Ariel the redhead as Cady Heron, spacey-eyed blonde Cinderella as ditsy Karen Smith and Queen Bee Aurora as Regina George!

(By the way, can you believe Mean Girls is 10 years old? I watched it when I was 15! Man, I feel old.)

Happy mid-week! :0)

a post of random things (it’s Friday – anything goes!)

This is going to be a whole post about random, unrelated stuff. But whatever. Nobody said everything in life has to be related.

1. Have you seen Zuhair Murad’s spring/summer 2014 collection?!?! IT. IS. INSANE. SO. GORGEOUS. CAN’T. FORM. COHERENT. SENTENCES. THOUGHTS. WHAT? PRETTY. I DIE.

 photo vanessahudgensexcited_zpsbee55c06.gif

Get ready for the onslaught of pretty! (Pictures all found from Pinterest – I swear, that site is a Black Hole!)

Don’t these remind you of Elie Saab’s designs? Murad’s creations are pretty similar to Elie Saab (also a Lebanese designer), except that the latter’s designs are a tad more girly and feminine and dreamy, while Murad’s are a little bolder, more risque, and contain sexier elements.

Saab’s designs:

Elie Saab can do no wrong.

Soooooo dreamy and ethereal!!

 photo rapunzelexcited_zps24772edc.gif

‚̧‚̧‚̧

I’ve been in love with Elie Saab’s designs ever since I first laid eyes on them, while Zuhair Murad’s designs are usually a hit or miss for me. Remember those crazy numbers Kristen Stewart wore to the Breaking Dawn premieres?

… Yeah. Not completely crazy about those. Good thing for her makeup in both instances, though.

But Murad’s SS14 collection is LOVE. LOOOOOVE!

2. So it seems apart from writing good stories, being a people person is also vital to a lucrative writing career:

If you‚Äôre in business, you’ve got to be a people person … Be genuine, be funny, be yourself. Reach out to your contacts and connections to build bridges. Go to writer‚Äôs workshops and befriend everyone there. Talk to everyone you meet in your town, and tell them what you do. Organic and sincere networking is the best way to develop a bridge to success. The friend you meet at the workshop could introduce you to his or her agent. However, don‚Äôt go into it thinking about what you‚Äôll get out. Just focus on relationship building and the rest will flow naturally.

This does not bode well for a hermit like me. For the sake of my dream, however, I will do what needs to be done.

3. Here’s¬†something funny¬†that English majors can probably relate to. I know there a quite a few that ring true for me. Most ardently ;0)

Crush on fictional characters?

Check.

(Shiver remains my favourite book from Maggie Stiefvater. There is nothing quite like reading that beautiful, intense story for the first time.)

Geeking out on authors?

Yes. I. Would. Think. So.

Wow. I really seem thisclose to kissing the ground she walks on. So, check.

In love with my book collection?

Check.

(Speaking of books, I headed down to the bookstore two days ago and got my hands on Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby. Yay for new book purchases!)

And one more thing:

Isn’t that the worst?

4. An update on Neverland: it’s slow going but it’s going. Can’t ask for more than that sometimes. I don’t know where it will take me for sure, or how it will meander towards the end, but I’m having fun on this journey so far.

At least Neverland isn’t as disappointing as Blood Promise.

My critique partner has just finished reading Blood Promise (a million thanks, Jenna!!), and although she was very very kind and constructive with her feedback, the bottom-line is that she didn’t love it like I hoped she would.

 photo samanddeanuglycrying_zps79b446cb.gif

I feel SO BAD, like I’d just wasted her time making her read a substandard story. I actually don’t hate Blood Promise. I actually thought it was better than it had been previously. But I get this way: I’d love my story if people gave me positive feedback, and absolutely hate it when they’re not crazy about it.

And once Jenna said it out, I saw the truth in her words. It¬†did¬†need more work. I probably¬†did¬†need some time away from it, until I heard the story that begged to be told. Because Jenna may just be one reader, but she’s also representative of my target audience. Listen to your readers, I say!

If anyone’s willing to invest some time in reading my manuscript, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on it! In the meantime, I’m hiding out in Neverland.

5. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed after reading Jenna’s email. While I deeply appreciate her forthrightness (why are people so afraid of hurting a writer’s feelings? Just tell me honestly what you think and I’ll be eternally grateful!), I am desperate for some perk-me-up right now.

So…

Awwww!
Paros, Greece
FABULOUS pink hair! LOVE, WISH, WANT.
Russian doll cookies! SO cute.

Can you tell I’m a sucker for guys with hair falling over their eyes?

And finally:

Love these boys (plus the drummer, Harry, who isn’t in here)! They’re one of the few groups that sound good live, write their own songs and have lasted for almost a decade (has it really been that long?!). Long live McFly!

excuse me, aren’t you supposed to be writing?

Okay, okay. This will be a quick one, I promise. I’m just dropping off some quotes from Laini’s blog before I dash.

Laini on reading:

… readers¬†inhabit¬†fiction. We experience novels from the inside, and they change us.

This is just so true. There are some books so lovely I just want to crawl inside them and live there.  

Like that!

And this one, back when she first started on Daughter of Smoke and Bone (THREE MORE MONTHS TO DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS, GUYS!!!):

I had the most beautiful, brilliant, joyous writing day yesterday! Every word was sheer fun. The air crackled with ideas so that my hair got static and stood on end. A shimmering window opened in the air and butterflies flew in. A polite goblin brought me a key on a golden pillow. I don’t know what it opens yet, but I’m sure it’s something awesome.”

 photo tomhiddlestonmindblown_zps1a5d5a6b.gif

 photo leamichelegenius_zpsaa4230b6.gif 

My god, I am OBSESSED with her prose. O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D. Such pretty imagery! Ugh, what goes on in that wonderful, brilliant mind of hers that she can so easily create such beautiful writing that ignites the imagination? Can I inhale the same air as her? Read the same books, look at the same art, go to the same places? (She doesn’t really watch TV.)¬†

This is probably the reason why I read her blog. 

Not just because her tone is so conversational and upbeat and engaging. 

Not just because I love reading about her lovely,¬†loving¬†family and her glamorous writer’s life (book tours! book parties! readings! award ceremonies! talks!).

But because I want to know the sort of life she leads so that I can, in my own meagre way, expose myself to the influences, the sights and sounds, that she is exposed to. So that I can somehow translate that into my writing like how she has translated that into her writing, in some way (although given how bright and happy everything in her life is, her prose is incongruously dark and dramatic.

Okay, I should probably tone this down a notch. I’m starting to sound like a creepy stalker.

Speaking of toning it down, here’s someone else who needs to calm down.

And something from Laini on keeping the love alive:

I’m sure you’ve been there on the first day with a new idea. Like a relationship, a book will not always maintain that same level of infatuation, but hopefully like a relationship it¬†can¬†sustain deep affection and attraction and commitment.¬†Love.

It’s true. Everything is always so much fun at the beginning. The mood is fresh and new, and there a song that constantly plays in your head as you craft your scenes and develop your characters. It’s all skip-hop and twinkly toes and flower petals in the air, until you realise you need to develop some conflict and everything starts to get complicated – or worse, convoluted – and what do you know, you’re halfway through the story!

That, my friends, is when the mid-story goblin starts his awful cackle, rubbing his hands with unbridled glee.

No. You are not getting me this time, you little sucker.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Good question, Castiel. What am I doing blogging so often when I should be writing?!

You know what I’m really doing? Procrastinating, that’s what. Because blogging is much easier and doesn’t deplete my brain juices as much as, say, WRITING A NOVEL, I’m hiding out here instead of working on bumping my word count as I ought to be doing.

 photo bellejudgingyou_zpse2d1bb16.gif

Don’t judge me, Belle!

Okay okay. I think I’ve held this off long enough. Back to Neverland.

Bring on 2014!

The quote above is from author Margaret Peterson Haddix’s German ski instructor, Horst, when she was learning how to ski. And it seems so simple but true. This shall be my mantra ¬†for 2014. Now I just need to decide where I’m looking.

And how are we on the New Year’s goals front? I’m still working on mine. But the basic gist is smile more, write more, live more and worry less. The specifics I shall flesh out here and now.


GOALS FOR 2014 (this sounds so officious it will be a crime to not achieve these goals!):

1. Get a literary agent¬†already. It’s been too many rejection letters – generic ones and kind ones – and near-misses.¬†

Despite¬†the daunting odds¬†(approximately 0.2% of aspiring writers actually score a literary agent and/or a publishing contract), it’s time to get someone interested in my stories already. To do so, I would need to


2. Write the best damn novel I have ever written, even if it means hours and days and months of tweaking and tinkering and obsessive perfecting of my manuscript. The process is not fun for someone who prefers jumping on an idea to working out the details. First drafts may be painful, but at least they’re exhilarating. Everything that comes after, i.e. editing, is torturous.

Still, I’m in too deep to pull out now. So with all or nothing, I’m going for all. Be it Blood Promise or Until Morning, I WILL get an agent on board for 2014. No more pining and wishing and envying; more doing and getting and having.


3. Be happy. An entire year has just passed, and more of them are just going to whiz by as quickly. Why mope? Why waste time and effort on being sad or angry with people and things that make us sad or angry?

For someone who cries when someone gets snappish with me, you can see why I’ve been struggling with this goal for ages. I can’t help it. People’s emotions rub off very easily on me (have I mentioned that I’m weird and sensitive?), and any negative mood from others can make¬†my¬†mood plummet faster than my colleagues can attack the packet of Tim Tams in the office.

So what I do now – and plan to keep doing – is think of a happy song, or a pretty face, whenever I feel my spirits start to flag.

 photo donghaesmile_zps9f50335a.gif 
 photo donghaesmile2_zpsf71234f4.gif

‚̧

Besides, if you’re happy, people around you are happy. I swear, it works.¬†

Often, the ones we are closest to bear the brunt of our emotions because we’re so used to having them around and being showered with their love and concern that we take them for granted.¬†So I shall smile more at my family, talk to them more often and always be patient with them so they’ll never doubt how much I love them.

(Okay, getting too maudlin for my liking. Moving on.)


4. Believe in myself more. I realise that sounds very vague, a resolution just begging to to be broken, so to be more specific, my first response to every bit of self-doubt would be 

 photo deadwinchesteryoureawesome_zps6ece8b28.gif 
 photo little_mermaid_bitch_i_m_fabulous_zps756949ca.gif

 photo workbitch_zps3b8d22a1.gif 

And no, this is not being narcissistic or egoistical. This is an attempt at confidence. You fake it to make it, as they say. And I say, hey whatever works. I am so done with putting myself down and worrying about not meeting people’s expectations and letting them down.

That applies to bad hair days, daunting writing tasks and everything else.

5. Set a proper schedule to learn Korean and French proper, instead of just visiting my notes and videos when I feel like it.

 photo joeyspeakingfrench_zps9c299d92.gif 

6. Finish No Room in Neverland and write the sequel to Blood Promise OR get started on Indigo Tides. Either way, COMPLETE ANOTHER NOVEL.

(On a side note, I learnt a new term today!¬†Introducing the “newt”, also known as a New Weird Thing, according to¬†Laini Taylor.

That is, a writing project that is usurping the place of another writing project. Also known as a “slutty new idea”. Newts are to be discouraged, despite their unfailing awesomeness.

Here’s hoping newts don’t come attacking in 2014! More COOL THRILLING IDEAS – cooties? Right. So more cooties, fewer newts. Although really, any idea is welcome. I’m not discriminating. Newts have the potential to turn into cooties, after all.*

*Taken out of context, the above paragraph can probably certify my sanity level.)

That’s all I can think of for now. It always seems a little pointless to plan too far ahead since you never know what can happen two months down the road. But for now, this is my road map for the year ahead.

I hope 2014 treats you well! :0)

too many books, too little time

With so many fantasy and urban fantasy series in the market these days, sometimes you just DESPERATELY crave for some good old contemporary fiction. With real characters you want to root for and real problems you can relate to and real insights you can apply to your own life and real lessons to live by.

So I scoured Goodreads (despite the flak on author-bullying the site has gotten recently, I still love it for its user-friendly layout, enthusiastic reader community and comprehensive info on the books) for some contemporary young adult fiction.

And those literary agents, book editors and publishers weren’t kidding when they said contemporary fiction is on the rise again. I found SO many enticing contemporary YA books I’m seriously wondering if I can ever finish them.

Here’s a list of the top 10 books I’m dying to read.

Contemporary YA books to read (click on the links to read the blurbs):

1. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve read only great things about this breakout author (she’s the 2013 Goodreads Choice Award winner for Best YA Fiction!)¬†and after browsing her books in Kinokuniya last weekend I was SO tempted to buy all her books. The mood of the story and narrator voice kind of remind me of 500 Days of Summer – whimsical and light-hearted with a dash of poignancy.

Plus, FANGIRL. Hello, what better character to relate to?

Ahem.

Anyway, I have high hopes for this book.

 photo excitedbaby_zpsc7c0dec4.gif

2. Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller

Gotta love a good coming-of-age story about a girl coming into herself despite the adverse conditions she was brought up in.

3. Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira

I’m starting to get into epistolary fiction. Letters are a great plot device for moving the story along and revealing insights about a character. In fact, my novel Until Morning wouldn’t be the same – or complete – without the letters Lexi writes to Night, or Sam writes to Lexi. There is just so much about a character you can reveal from the intimate letters he writes to someone special.

4. What I Thought Was True, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I read her debut novel, My Life Next Door, and really appreciated her effortless writing style, genuine character voice, and the circumstances in the story that didn’t seem contrived or melodramatic. Some people say it’s too fluffy, and gets draggy towards the end, but I think it’s a sweet and refreshing voice. So, next book – on my To Read list!

5. Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

Okay, this is cutting it close, since it’s a spin-off novella from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which is pretty much high fantasy as far as I know. Still, Zuzana and Mik’s love story should be monster-free, since they, unlike Karou, are completely human and don’t have a secret past (no spoilers here! This is a spoiler-free zone).

6. The Last Forever, by Deb Caletti

I mean, come on. It’s Deb Caletti. I’ve read pretty much every book she has ever written (aside from her latest, He’s Gone, which is adult fiction), and she has never disappointed. Sure, I have my favourites, and some that I love more than others. But Caletti’s prose is unpretentious, and her characters are so painfully real, their relationships at times so delicate and at times so explosive, they make the stories incredibly compelling. Wild Roses will always have a special place in my heart, but I’m definitely looking forward to this upcoming one.

 photo britney-dancing-happy_zps498e4ca6.gif

7. Wild Awake, by Hilary T. Smith

I think this excerpt is reason enough to read the book:

“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.”

 photo TomHiddlestonomg_zpsdccb668b.gif

 photo iminlove_zpsc1d6e2e7.gif

I’M IN LOOOOOVE!

Also, mental illness, tonnes of imagery, coming-of-age story about a girl coping with her sister’s disappearance? I NEED THIS BOOK NOW!

So many books, so little time. Where to begin? Still, if you have any good books to recommend I ain’t saying no to them, because

Also, I’ve moved on to Act 2 for No Room in Neverland! Wheeee! The plot thickens and I can’t seem to stop cackling while doing the happy writer dance.

Okay, I’ll explain. Unlike what I’ve done for my previous novels, where I just plunged into the novel after drawing up a plan for the entire novel and plotted chapters all the way to the middle of the story, this time I decided to write the first draft in script form before rewriting it in prose form. For one, it saves time, since crafting prose takes me more time and effort than writing a script ¬†– I can’t stop obsessing over each single word. For another, writing the first draft in script form allows me to visualise the entire story before I get down to it proper – it’s sort of like a testing ground for me to get to know my characters and the world they live in before writing their story.

I’m trying this method because of my experience with Until Morning. As you know, it started out as a script for my play-writing class. I wrote the first few scenes and then decided to turn it into a novel, and those chapters for which I had the pre-written scenes flowed much easily – I pounded out 10 pages (about 2500 words)¬†in 3 hours.

 photo madlywriting_zps55a755b3.gif

So hopefully writing Neverland will be a less angsty process than writing the others. At least I can tackle the mid-story goblin without worrying about prose. And goodness knows that sneaky little bastard is creeping up on me now.

Good times back in Act 1 Scene 11:

Still, I keep telling myself to dig deep. Gouge out everything inside your characters and serve them on a plate, innards and all, and then play with it. (Why yes, I’m PG-13 that way. Why do you ask?)

On a more family-friendly note:

If I had to sum up my main character, Gemma, in one quote, this would be it.

What Disney cartoons have taught me (plus one random fact of the day)

What Disney cartoons have taught me:

1. The Little Mermaid: Men, when hit on the head, will think that whoever sings to him when he wakes up will be his one true love. And you do not want to upset octopuses, especially those that can turn you into shrivelled up nothings that live at the bottom of the ocean.

2. Cinderella: Mice and pumpkins are your friends. And before you leave on your first date, remember to leave something for the guy so he can comb the entire city looking for you.

3. The Sleeping Beauty: Again, men are foolishly attracted to girls who can sing well. And why the hell would you want to touch a stupid spindle?

4. Beauty and the Beast: A beast looks hot when transformed back into a man, so be nice to him!

5. Snow White: You have to do all the household chores if you want to live with seven short men. Remember to stroke their egos while planning your escape from patriarchal oppression.

6. Aladdin: Beware of boys from market places with pet monkeys. They lie about their identities so you will fall in love with them. (That said, I do like Aladdin.)

* Random fact of the day:
Lifeguards wear sunglasses not only because the sun’s too strong, but because they won’t get caught sleeping on the job.

I’m in my Philosophy lecture now. The number of people turning up for lecture seems to be dwindling week by week. Well. Apart from one reason that I won’t mention here, the other is that there’s webcast for it, so that’s probably why some people don’t really see the need to turn up for it physically.

Anyway, I just had my Sociology of Pop Culture tutorial, where we discussed pop culture icons in representing gender and ethnicity. It was rewarding, to say the least. For our Sociology tutorial, we generally just sit in a classroom and then take turns proposing an idea each, with the tutor starting the ball rolling. He gave Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a representation of Asian American masculine figures. Some others proposed the idea of a shift towards androgyny in fashion trends (eg, boyfriend blazers and jeans, etc), as well as a move towards curveless models. Someone else talked about Barbie dolls as a representation of the ideal female, with her Kelly doll, so she’s seen as a mother figure, whereas Ken doll drives a car and looks cool and often isn’t sold with the Kelly doll, so it seems as though he doesn’t have any responsibilities. Which is a really cool way of looking at it. The whole Barbie, Ken and Kelly doll package also represents the traditional family with heterosexual parents. And lately, Barbie has been modified to look like a real woman, and other forms of Barbie have also been created to encompass other ethnicities.

I talked about Disney’s princesses, like Jasmine and Snow White. There wasn’t enough time to talk about Ariel, because I also talked about Victoria’s Secret Angels. ‘Angels’ – deification of women by males in a male-driven industry (backstage crew is mostly comprised of males). The Angels pander to male fetishes, the male gaze, but also send out messages of female empowerment because they have curves (eg, Doutzen Kroes, one of my favourite models) and are tanned, toned and strong (eg, Alessandra Ambrosio). Lately, though, VS is moving towards skinnier models like Miranda Kerr (only like her face, but not her body, because it’s so skinny I feel awkward for her when I look at her). I don’t like this trend. VS models are the only models I like, because they look strong yet feminine. Why feature skinny minnies like Miranda Kerr when we already have (way too many) catalogue models like Chanel Iman and Kate Moss? So what does this all say about the male gaze? And the heightened female consciousness of that male gaze? Why are we so conscious of how we look, as compared to guys, who just pull on a polo shirt and berms and are so secure in their skin? Male ego is one thing, but I think women are still inherently dependent on men, so they still see having a soulmate as their ultimate goal for security in life. Males are more financially and physically independent, so they don’t care for that as much as women do.

For Jasmine, she’s one of the sexiest Disney princesses, and on YouTube, I see how guys slobber over her. So even if she’s in her ethnic costume, her outfit is sexually suggestive. Plus, even though she fends off Jafar’s advances throughout the show, she ends up using her feminine wiles to distract him so that Aladdin can save the day. She also, despite being Oriental, has Western ideas of freedom and Aladdin is therefore the person who represents adventure and escapism, and she ends up running off with him and ignores her father’s wishes of arranged marriage.

Snow White is constantly pining for her damn prince, wishing he’d sweep her off in his white horse and save her. She does end up being saved by him too, as does Sleeping Beauty, so does that suggest that women are the weaker sex and can only be saved ultimately by men? Plus, Snow White offers to do the domestic chores for the 7 short little men so that she can stay with them, because them 7 little guys, being guys, are portrayed as being unable to clean up after themselves and shouldn’t be bothered with it, since the male duty is to go out and work (in the mines, in the dwarves’ case) and then come home and have dinner ready for them. And her beauty, demureness and domesticity even wins over Grumpy.

And then someone else talked about magazines like Cleo and 17, and how it defined the feminine identity, etc etc. And someone else mentioned gay culture and pointed out how it’s not so in the closet anymore, and how butches in girls’ schools are idolised, while effeminate guys get their asses kicked in boys’ schools as the ass-kickers assert their masculinity, etc etc. Other magazine examples include T3, some cars and girls magazines for guys. Someone said the girls have absolutely nothing to do for the cars, but the tutor suggested the power of the cars is translated into a (phallic) power to attain the girls. Okay, so there is a link after all, if you put it that way. Objectification of women is still a prevalent practice now – jeez, guys.

And then there was the James Bond example, where the women are given horribly degrading names like Octopussy (my lips curl in disgust). But a reversal of roles is observed, when Halle Berry in Die Another Day was the one in a bikini (or, as Ris Low says, ‘bigini’) coming out of the water, it is now Daniel Craig coming out of the water in his tighties in Casino Royale.

Sex and the City was mentioned too, as was Desperate Housewives, and it was pointed out how that triggered and fuelled the trend of ‘cougarism’. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw, was the one who dreamt about marrying Mr Big – thereby reinforcing the idea of marriage as something that completes a woman, as the ultimate goal that women should strive towards – while Kim Cattrall’s character, Samantha Jones, was the cougar who spied on her neighbour changing. Desperate Housewives promotes promiscuity, because of the proliferate affairs – clandestine or otherwise so – throughout the show.

And then we moved on to talking about the representation of women by the media. There were only 4 guys in our class, so it sort of felt like a women’s book group when we talked about the model issue and how they are becoming skinnier, etc. While curves were celebrated in the past (see Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, etc), thin is in now, as seen by examples like Chanel Iman (go google her if you don’t know who she is), Jessica Stam and Agyness Deyn. I like Doutzen Kroes because she’s got an angelic face, but womanly curves. Her beauty is breath-taking. Oh, and am I the only who thinks she kinda resembles Carolyn Murphy?

We talked about a lot more, like Buffy and Grey’s Anatomy, The OC, Gossip Girl, Britney Spears and Madonna, etc. It’s so cool how we get to talk about that and analyse all these pop culture icons for school.