Monday link salad!

A post full of random stuff today:

Funny fashion memes. Anna Wintour meets Mean Girls, anyone? Also:

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Strange things people found in walls. Money and shoes, I get (sort of), but fingernail clippings and hair?

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This old post from ex literary agent (now author), Nathan Bransford that offers a really useful tip for figuring out your novel: creating one-sentence, one-paragraph, and two-paragraph pitches.

A query is basically a two paragraph pitch with some query-related detail. But sometimes you’ll want to use a one sentence pitch (for a bio, if you’re into that whole brevity thing), or a one paragraph pitch (for briefly describing in real life conversation when you don’t want someone’s eyes to glaze over).

My feeling: get it all out of the way at once. Save yourself the headache and come up with a one sentence, one paragraph, and two paragraph pitch before you even start to query. Then: practice and memorize your pitches. You never know when you’re going to need them.

Speaking from experience, it really does help to have a pitch ready even before you plunge into the novel. You get a clearer sense of where your story is going, what the conflict is, and what the stakes are. You also get to pare down your character to his/her most basic trait, the one that defines her and her actions, and the one that you as a writer set out to change by the end of the story.

I should have done that for Neverland. (Actually, I should have done that for all my novels.) Maybe then I wouldn’t have gotten stuck.

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Also, I’ve started blogging for work.

One of the plus points of working for an online fashion retailer is that I get to fangirl over fashion trends and celebrity styles unabashedly in the name of work and write about them. Is this the marrying of two loves?

I’ve written quite a number of these articles so far, but the team is selective about what goes on the blog, and when. Here is one article I wrote about “must-have tops“.

Of course, they’re not really must-haves — people just write that to get you to read the article ;0)

 

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Blood Promise, otherwise known as The Manuscript That Will Not Yield, is in the midst of some radical changes right now. I intend to rip out the awful saggy middle and whip it into something that will put Victoria’s Secret models to shame …

Okay, that’s quite a mean feat. I mean, it’ll be really hard to top this:

Favourite VS angel ever, Doutzen Kroes.

 

But it’s okay. Because I HAVE A PLAN NOW. So let’s do this.

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In the meantime, I will heed this advice.

And this:

 

And keep happy with these:

from allthingsshabbyandbeautiful.tumblr.com

Peter Pan quote

 

Oh, stop. What are you trying to do to me?!

by Gelrev Ongbico

 

The view from the pier yesterday

 

Also, I’m really loving D&E’s new album. Aside from When You Cry, which I shared in an earlier post, this song, Teenage Queen, is another favourite. So catchy and upbeat!

 

And on that note, have a great week, everyone! :0)

last post for April!

OMG, IT’S ALMOST MAY.

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WHERE DID A THIRD OF THE YEAR GO?!

Terrible, tragic things happened (I can’t read an article about the Sewol disaster without fucking crying – why do awful things happen to good people? They were only kids, dammit!), the world is still crazy, and it’s already (only?) May. Can 2014 please be kinder?

 

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In other news, author Chuck Wendig dishes some brilliant advice for young aspiring writers. So much gold in this post!

You’re not actually meant to be good. Not being good is how you get better. Not being good means you’re in that formative, fundamental blobby parthogenesis period where The Authorial You just starts to emerge. Not being good is how we are forced to take the time to not just Get Good, but also Become Us. You’re not yet the Author That You Will Become. This is all normal. Be bold enough to suck with gleeful abandon — but also know that your critical urge to be better-faster-now is a good one. Don’t quit. Don’t rest. Force yourself to improve.

You find your voice by doing. And by rewriting. You won’t want to rewrite now. You won’t want to edit. Edits feel like you’re not good, like you’re being insulted, like having to fix it means it was broken to begin with. But recognizing broken things is a value. A skill. You get as many shots at the goal as you want. Let that be freeing, not punishing.

In writing a lot and rewriting a lot, your voice will find you.

 

 

Author Natalie Whipple also shares her wisdom:

Sometimes You Have To Cut Your Losses

I’ve grown to kind of dislike the “Never Give Up” advice. Sometimes you gotta give up on something to move forward. Maybe not on writing as a whole, but on a story idea that is not strong enough to hold its own. Or on a novel that’s been on sub two years. Or on that first novel you ever wrote that has seen 200 rejections. Moving on can open up a new world. I’ve done it a lot. Never regretted it. If you find yourself pining over something from the past, you can always go back, too.

 

So here’s to rewrites and new beginnings, the pain of letting go and moving on.

 

 

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And because I really don’t want this post to end on such a heavy note (I can’t read an article about the Sewol disaster without fucking crying – why do awful things happen to good people? They were only kids, dammit!), here are some happy things for a Monday:

 

Funny signs

 

Advice from children

 

Life hacks to make life simple for girls

 

Cool wedding ideas (not that I’m dreaming of my own)

 

Pretty pictures:

Swooooon. Those colours!

 

Atypalaia, Greece – this is what fantasy stories are inspired by.

 

Oh, you sweet sweet boy

 

 

And lastly, a lovely song:

I may not understand the lyrics, but Donghae’s voice! As sweet as his face.

 

Have a great week, everyone! And happy Labour Day!

monday happy things!

So, a few things:

 

1. Singapore is in bloom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Said it before, and I’ll say it again. The world is more beautiful with flowers in it.

 

 

2. On a whim, Dad and I visited the zoo on his birthday last Saturday. Pictures will come … soon enough. But first, this:

 

Saturdays – this polar bear is doing it right.

 

3. I am thisclose to giving up on Neverland.

 

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I know, I know. Yet another story that didn’t make it. (To be fair, I might have given up on Until Morning – then called Mint – but I went back to complete it eventually.)

 

But I’ve tried to hold on for as long as I can – 198 pages, in fact – but I can’t ignore the voice that’s telling me this is all wrong – the story is told wrongly, the characters are weak, the conflict falls flat, there’s no heart in the story anymore, and it’s futile to press on for the sake of pressing on.

 

 

I hate quitting in the middle of a story. I feel like a failure, like oh there she goes again, unable to see things through and giving up halfway. But I know that the more I drag this on, the worse the story is going to get, and at some point I won’t be able to return to the place where the story fell apart because I’ve lost sight of it.

 

 

 

So maybe I’m not going to divorce myself from Neverland completely, but I’m definitely taking a break from it. Problem is, I tried getting started on Indigo Tides, and my brain just got equally blocked.

 

 

 

 

Over at Writers Helping Writers, they pointed out three signs you should take a break from your novel, and I ticked every one of them:

… here’s the best thing about these often sad experiences. They really aren’t failures. They’re just stepping stones. As Samuel Beckett said: Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

If you feel you’re writing a dead-end story, take a moment to evaluate your future with it. More likely than not, you’re going to keep on writing, edit your way to a fabulous book, and end your relationship with this story on a victorious note. But if it doesn’t quite work out that way—if you realize you need to move on—don’t count it as a failure. Close the file on your computer, take stock of what you’ve learned, and move on to write your next masterpiece.

 

Rachel Coker over at Go Teen Writers offers equally upbeat advice.

 

But then YA writer Malinda Lo, advises against giving up during the drafting stage:

I think the main thing that causes discouragement during the drafting stage is the idea that writing a novel is an exciting, fun-filled, joyful experience full of blissful, genius inspiration and creativity. Any writer who sits down expecting this experience is going to be thoroughly disappointed and will probably want to give up.

For years and years I struggled with discouragement because those moments of genius came so few and far between. I’d have fabulous ideas and launch right into writing novels, and a few chapters in I’d come to a screeching halt when all the fun seemed to get sucked right out of the story. I’d struggle with continuing for a little while, but soon I’d give up.

In retrospect, I know why I gave up. Those story ideas weren’t exciting enough. The characters weren’t interesting enough. And I expected writing to be fun, because it used to be fun.

I know exactly when writing ceased being 100% fun and games for me: when I decided that I wanted to get published.

In my case, this is how I learned how to not get so discouraged that I wanted to give up:

I chose to write a story that I’d wanted to write forever: a retelling of Cinderella.

When I encountered things in life that forced me to stop writing for awhile, I tried to not beat myself up about not writing.

When I felt ready to write again, I picked up from where I’d left off.

I stopped expecting writing to be 100% fun and games.

I didn’t give myself a deadline; I let myself take my time.

I didn’t start other projects when things got difficult.

I didn’t allow myself to think about getting published while writing the first draft. I wrote the story for me.

 

Yes, maybe some distance will help. Neverland, I will be back! (I promise.)

 

Meanwhile, if you’re experiencing a brain fart like I am right now, here’s something to chase the writer’s blues away.

 

Also, Mondays may be the busiest day of the week, but there’s always time for a little happy:

 

 

 

 

Super Junior M is back! And Donghae is in glasses!

 

 

Oh, Park Bom!

 

Remember when Stefan was the Ripper?

 

 

A very liberating quote
 

A very empowering quote

 

Have a great week, everyone! :0)

6 highlights of the Taiwan trip (and then some)

Because I regret not doing the wonderful trip to Korea any justice by writing a more elaborate post about it, I shall now do a proper one for the Taiwan trip.

On hindsight, the trip wasn’t too bad. There were several enjoyable moments that came in the form of:

1. Lanterns!

There was the sky lantern

on which we wrote our wishes, then lit up and sent to the heavens.

The shop is run by the old lady (left, in the picture below) who lives alone. Her kids come back on weekends to help out. Look at those pretty paper lanterns! ❤

And then there were more lanterns, like these at the place where we had barbequed meat and steamboat for dinner in Hualien:

And these in a temple next to Raohe Street Night Market in Taipei:

And even more lanterns at the Raohe Street night market itself:

Well, it is an Asian country, after all. I went completely shutter crazy. Thanks for satisfying my lantern obsession, Taiwan!

 

2. The scenery

The sea, the sea! The Pacific Ocean was right there before me! If I squint hard enough, I might even see California. Ha.

SO gorgeous. The perfect mood-lifter to start the day.

The beach was filled with pebbles rather than sand, and it’s literally a crime to take them back – well okay, get all precious about your beautiful beach, why don’t you?

 

This is the look of someone in love with the beach

 

Also, the mountains. Taiwan came about when two tectonic plates, the Philippine Sea plate and the Eurasian plate, collided, and a mountain range was formed right in the middle of the island. So everywhere we went, we were treated to the sight of misty mountains

 

and fresh air. Taiwan has been hopping on the green track in recent years, by implementing little things like narrowing down smoking spaces, fining drivers who leave their engine running for longer than 3 minutes and creating wider paths for cyclists.

Finally, there was this:

The view from our hotel room at Fleur de Chine

 

The largest lake in Taiwan, the Sun Moon Lake was so named because it is made up of the Sun Lake (the shape of which resembles the sun’s) and the Moon Lake (which is curved like the crescent moon). It is 27 metres (89 feet!) deep and has a surface area of about 7.93 square kilometres, and that tiny island in the middle of the lake is called Lalu.

We took a boat out to the corners of the lake
 

My attempt at an emo shot. Ha.

 

3. Flowers

Well, of course this would be one of the highlights. Anything is better with flowers in or on it.

SO dreamy

 

What’s that? Petal-crazy, you say? Sorry, can’t hear you over the song of flowers.

 

4. The hotels

Oh, man. THAT was good. We stayed in 7 hotels in all, 2 of which came with a hot spring in the bathroom.

Our room at the Luminous Resort Hot Spring and Spa

 

That area in the left is where the hot spring is
 

At the lobby of Luminous

 

Dining hall of Luminous
 

Our room at Fleur de Chine, which overlooks the Sun Moon Lake

 

Lobby of Fleur de Chine

The view from the dining hall at the Fleur de Chine

 

Our room at Chateau de Chine, not to be confused with Fleur de Chine

 

Aside from the hot springs and the lovely rooms, there’s also the food. Breakfast and dinner buffets – yay!

There was this dinner at Luminous:

And breakfasts of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, fresh fruits … of which I forgot to take a picture of because I was too busy stuffing my face.

There were also some meals provided for that were good, like this one at a cosy little restaurant by Sun Moon Lake:

Bamboo rice

 

 

And the meal we had at the 85th floor of Taipei 101:

And this meal in a Japanese restaurant Dad and I found on one of the nights we were supposed to settle our own dinner:

Their soup came in a teapot! Too cute.

 

All that for less than S$15!

Okay, I’m starting to sound like a glutton now. Moving on!

 

5.  The streets

 

 

6. The amusement park

It was a Greek-themed amusement park. Hence:

The kiddies came out to play after their exams!

This thing spins you around 360 degrees in your seat, and then another 360 degrees in the air. See that huge spinning arm? And believe me when I say it goes fast. Dad and I decided to give it miss since we came straight after breakfast. (Did I mention how awesome hotel breakfasts are?)

And then there’s this fellow:

And his friend:

And THAT wooden horse:

I’ll take you to the candy shop

E-da wasn’t huge like Everland, but man it’s been too long since I stepped into an amusement park. With their cheery music and candy colours, it’s a place of happy things and the safe, comforting memories of childhood. Call it commercialised fun if you want, but amusement parks still hold that special allure for me. Guess that’s why so many of my novels take place in one.

 

Other notable moments of the trip:

 

1. A pretty face!

Well, hello there! ❤

 

Of course I took a photo!

 

I am inordinately in love with this shop

 

2. The subway ride

Taipei was a lot more similar to Singapore than the other cities were. I particularly liked their train station, for some reason. Their trains were a lot spacier, which made me rue our crowded trains where everyone’s packed like sardines in a can.

At Taoyuan station

 

This scene reminds me of some J-drama starring Takuya Kimura

 

Here comes the bullet train!

 

The prerequisite tourist selfie

 

See how orderly and neat everything is in the train? Plenty of leg room, too

 

 

3. Temples

I’m not big on religion, but their temples were pretty postcard-worthy.

The temple overlooking Sun Moon Lake

 

 

3. Views

There. Taiwan wasn’t so bad now, was it?

I’m back! (Or: a quick summary of my Taiwan trip)

Man, I’ve missed home. Home with its wireless network everywhere, home with its palatable food, and home with its clean, familiar environment.

Taiwan wasn’t too bad, but I remember enjoying South Korea more. I guess the Taiwan experience varies with different people, but for me the hotels were the best part of the trip, with their hot springs and breakfast buffets.

Hot spring in our bathroom at Fleur de Chine, which overlooks the Sun Moon Lake

 

 

 

Mmm, sashimi

 

I know a lot of people loooove the street food in Taiwan, but I found it pretty hard to get used to it. My dad and I aren’t really into street snacks from night markets, so we spent most of our time taking photos and chilling in cafes while the rest were going crazy with oyster vermicelli, bubble tea, fried chicken schnitzel and Taiwan sausages.

We survived on Starbucks and 7 Eleven, the latter for snacks like yoghurt and apples and nuts. The only unhealthy street food I tried was the barbequed corn on the cob, which turned out to be drenched in oil and barbeque sauce.

Shopping was okay – I got a pair of shoes, a Kindle sleeve and a trenchcoat (whee!) – but anything from international brands are crazy expensive since Taiwan imposes a 120% import tax, so a pair of Converses costs upwards of S$100. Anything locally made, though, was a steal.

The people were nice – the service they provide is definitely better than that in Singapore, so that’s a plus. I got to practice my rusty Mandarin, chatting with the service staff.

Environment wise, Taipei was the place that came closer to what I was expecting. Halfway through the trip, my dad and I got pretty nostalgic for Jeju Island and Seoul, and started making plans to go back. (YAY!)

I’ll see you again, lovely

 

That’s all for now! I know I promised lots of photos, but I’ve been swamped with emails since this morning. One week away from work, and it’s a mad rush to catch up on everything. So photos will come in a bit, pinky swear!

In the meantime, it’s Monday! I’m still in a holiday mood, so here are some happy things.

by Crosby Newell Bonsall

 

Have a great week, everyone! :0)

a few things before I fly off

Ugh, packing. Travelling would be a lot more fun if we didn’t have to care about the nitty-gritty details like how many pairs of socks to bring or whether we’ve bought travel-sized cleansers or how much money to exchange blabbity blah blah blah.

Anyway, I’ll be gone until 29 March, so be prepared for photo-dumping when I get around to blogging on the 31st!

And so I shall leave you with these happy things:

Plus, you get to swim ALL DAY. Heaven.
Speaking of whom,

Now you know what I do when I’m trying to put off writing the novel.

It is that easy.
And in celebration of finally finishing the final final FINAL (no, really – FINAL) draft of Until Morning, here’s something that my characters kept going on about:
The soft colours at the corners of the world

The exact words were:

“There are times when all magic in the
world seems possible: in dreams, in a story, a painting, in the hour between
night and day when the light at the corners of the world appears the softest. I
call them the soft hours. They are ones that you cling on to long after you
wake up, long after you grow up.”

~ Lexi, Until Morning

In related news, I’m starting to query agents again so FINGERS CROSSED!!!

I really wish for Until Morning to reach you guys. I loved writing it,
and it would be the – sorry for the cliche – biggest dream come true if
it got published on an international platform.

 
Pink makes everything look better

And finally, but most importantly,

Have a great weekend guys! I’ll be back when I get back :0)