NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND

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17-year-old Gemma, whose patchy memories of her childhood consist of regular visits to the idyllic, imaginary Neverland before her mother fell sick.

When Gemma meets Cole, a disenchanted boy who stirs up more than just memories of her adventures in Neverland, she begins to piece together the tragedy of her half-forgotten childhood: her mother sick with longing for Neverland, the accident that ripped her family apart, and her father who abandoned her when she was a child.

But as she inches closer to the truth, Gemma begins to spiral deeper into Neverland just like her mother had.

NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND is a 76,000 word contemporary YA novel. 

It’s time for #PitMad again!

Image from Middle Grade Mafia

It’s harder than you’d expect, writing pitches no longer than 140 characters that are supposed to summarise your stories and entice agents to ask to read the full manuscript. But here’s the final product for BLOOD PROMISE, NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND, and UNTIL MORNING:

Just a couple of hours into PitMad (it started at 8pm and ended at 8am for me because time difference is not on my side) and there were already more than 400 tweet pitches. Can you imagine the total number of tweets in 12 hours?? How is an agent supposed to sieve through all that? The odds are high, but good thing there are some agents who tweet the following:

So writer friends, did you #PitMad? :0)

Neverland is DONE!!

One script, three drafts, and more than a year later, I am finally – FINALLY – done with the complete first draft of No Room in Neverland.

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*throws confetti*

*does a happy dance*

*spends a day taking a complete break from Neverland*

*reality sinks in*

Now for the even harder part – crafting a query letter and synopsis. Because, really, how are we supposed to condense a 79,000-word novel into approximately 250 words that will hook a literary agent to request for the complete manuscript and eventually sign you on (query letter), or 500 to 750 words that will cover all the salient characters, plots, sub-plots, complications, and resolution (synopsis)? HOW?

*bangs head on desk*

*stares blankly at page*

*writes a draft*

*visits Tumblr*

*rewrites*

*posts an Instagram photo*

*rewrites again*

*keeps rewriting*

Happy Tuesday! :0)

June reads, pink hair, and manuscripts that just. won’t. end.

I couldn’t blog last week because work was relentless (ZALORA’s digital magazine community is going live soon!) and I was nursing a fever, sore throat, headache, and runny nose last week (doesn’t rain, but it sure pours).

Buuuut I’m back – with bolder, brighter, and pinker hair! :0)

I was going to go with just the darker copper this time, but it felt a little too dull. So I went and doubled the pink streak! Here were some hairstyles and colours I considered:

Totally leapt up when I saw this – SOOOOOO GORGEOUS!!!!! *__*
I’d love to go this red, but I’m not as fair as pretty Ms Han Ji Min
So I settled for this slightly browner tone like Tiffany’s
Not gonna lie – I wish I had the guts and freedom to go as nuts as Laini Taylor because look how fabulous that shade of pink is! But my dad will probably flip. Maybe someday, if I ever make it onto the NYT bestseller list, I’ll do this to celebrate!

My dad shook his head at the expanding pink strip as soon as he saw it, but oh well I love it. EMBRACE THE PINK! :0)

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And as if my May reading list isn’t long enough, here comes another one for June. But with more swoon-worthy tales of literary apothecaries, OCD romance, mysterious guardians, kidnappings, and magical guardians, the reading list just won’t quit! I mean, just look at these drool-worthy tales:

1. Every Last Word, by Tamara Ireland Stone 

A girl with purely-obsessional OCD finds her place amongst a bunch of misfits, and falls in love with a guy who plays guitar and writes poetry. Sorry, but I’m a sucker for stories like this.

2. Emmy & Oliver, by Robin Benway

Touted as a book to satisfy Sarah Dessen fans (that’s me!), a girl meets her childhood friend whose father kidnapped him years ago. Ever since The Snow Queen, I’ve loved the idea of childhood friends who become lovers. Plus, this one has got all the drama and tears, so I don’t care if the plot seems cheesy. It’s not cheesy if it’s well written. And based on the reviews on Goodreads, it sounds like it might be!

3. The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins 

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.” Don’t you want to read it already? I know I do!

4. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George

Books to heal a myriad of ailments and undiagnosable woes, a literary apothecary – sounds like a delightfully magically realistic poignant read already!

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And finally, an update on the WIP that is No Room in Neverland.

It feels like I am NEVER going to finish this story. The word count currently hovers close to 79K. 79K! This is the longest I’ve ever written. Granted, it has two stories in one (Neverland Chronicles, and current day), but come on, 339 pages for a YA contemporary, really Joyce??

I’m trying to convince myself that it’s better to write too much than too little. But that just means you might end up cutting out a lot of scenes that drag down the story. And that’s just as hard as trying to thicken the plot! Conclusions are just as hard as beginnings, if not possibly harder. You have too much to lose by the end of the story to mess it up, so the pressure is ON to tie up the story nicely without making everything too convenient or cheesy or draggy or rushed.

My problem with the first draft of Neverland was that it didn’t have enough of a plot. But this third draft feels like it has TOO MUCH of a plot, and there are so many loose ends I haven’t finished tying up. And I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to end everything neatly because that’s just lame. A story doesn’t end just because a book does … Am I making sense?

One more scene. Two more chapters. And I’ll be done. And then I can go back and hack out all the extraneous parts. Come on, Joyce. You HAVE to see this through. You’ve spent way too much time and effort on this to stop now.

Writer friends, how do know when to end your story?

when you hit the 70K mark!

Crazy busy at work this week (yes, I have a day job – it’s to feed myself to keep the writing dream alive), on top of writing Neverland.

Met a minor road bump at page 298, but it was nothing a bit of sleep and mulling over the plothole couldn’t solve. So now I’m back on track and making my way towards the end … but also trying not to reach the end at the same time! There’s this conflicting desire to finish the novel but also … not, because that would mean the end of this story and I’m not sure I want to leave Neverland just yet.

But still, I just realised I’ve hit 70K this morning!

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Heading out for brunch now. Have a good Sunday! :0)

Highlights of the Bali Trip!

Touched down late afternoon on Sunday after a four-day trip to Bali, and as promised – pictures!

Day 1

 

We hit our villa straight after arrival. The Bali International Airport is only five months new after renovation!

Our villa (which cost only S$125 a night, and is owned by a Russian couple who currently live in Bali) in Seminyak was a rather touristy area that’s like a mini town with shops and cafes and restaurants packed close to each other and is only a stone’s throw away from the sea.

This is where I spent my early mornings

Bali was crazy hot, so it was a relief to step into this quaint cafe named Corner House for TWO glasses of freshly-squeezed watermelon juice:

The nicest, most street-savvy girls I have ever been on tour with

 

 

Followed by some shopping (yes, in that heat):

Local handicraft – look how cute!

And, of course, the beach

Then dinner at this hip Italian restaurant called Ultimo, where we got drunk on music, laughter, wine, and food.

Day Two

We brunched at this adorable diner called Sea Circus:

Sea Circus is well-known for its brunch menu

And then hit Karma Beach, where you have to pay about S$10 for a magnificent view:

 

We took a cable car down to the beach

On the cable car ride back up
The hotel room there costs 800SGD a night, apparently

Lastly, we went to this temple in Uluwatu called the Water Temple to view the sunset:

The temple was on a cliff overlooking the sea

It was like monkey kingdom there, and our guide told us to hold on tightly to our belongings or the monkeys will snatch them away! Our sunset viewing was punctuated by periodic screams of tourists who got their hats or cameras or scarves snitched by frisky monkeys.

 

We concluded the day with dinner at a seaside restaurant, where we had a seafood spread at Jimbaran Beach.

Day 3

We had a light breakfast at our villa before heading on a two-hour drive to Ubud to see the padi fields, lunch at a famous barbequed ribs place, and do some shopping at the local market. Our driver for the day got a little too enthusiastic and drove like a fiend. We swerved in and out of traffic and sped towards Ubud, and by lunchtime the girls and I were feeling too queasy to stomach much of our lunch (although the ribs at Naughty Nuri’s were good).

Shopping and padi field sightseeing made us feel slightly better, though.

By the end of day 3, the effects of too much sun and food kicked in. One of the girls had a bad case of food poisoning, while I was dehydrated and had a sunstroke. So we headed back to our villa and completely crashed.

In the evening, Huimei’s food poisoning got worse – she was throwing up every few minutes – and we had to take her to the BIMC Hospital in Kuta.

Thank goodness we all felt better by the next morning so the trip didn’t end on an entirely bad note.

Plus, I managed to get some writing done on the plane.

Still, it’s good to be home. See you again, Bali! Thanks for having us.

Bali Bound! (and struck by quarter-life crisis)

bali I’m off to Bali this Thursday! And given that it’s my first time there, as well as my insane love for the sea, you can be sure I’ll be flooding this spot with pictures after I get back.

This is a much-needed break from the routine I’ve gotten so used to. Working, writing, sleeping, swimming. I know I have the luxury to swim every morning, and time after work to write, something a lot of my peers don’t because they are so consumed with work. But I just feel like I’m … grazing. Going about my same old routine in the safety of my comfort zone. And lately I just feel trapped, going stir-crazy in the same spot, still not going anywhere two years after graduation. But then the thought of stepping out of what I know paralyses me with fear.

I know I’m not the only twenty-something who feels this way. Do you feel like there’s just so much you want to do, places to go, people to meet, but there are so many factors holding you back? Money, family, the conventional way to live. I’m supposed to get a job straight after graduation, get promoted within a few years, meet someone along the way, get married by 30, have two kids – all because that’s the “right” way to live. What if there are other options? I wouldn’t know what other options are out there because I haven’t really stepped out and LIVED.

A lot of people – especially those older than us – think that quarter-life crisis is laughable. The thought that we should suffer from that debilitating sense of aimlessness is ridiculous, because we’re only just starting out in the real world. But I think this is the point in our lives where we start panicking because we feel like we should have done so many things already, but haven’t achieved anything much. I’m nowhere near my goals, relationship or career wise, while people around me are getting married, having babies, and making the news.

What do you think, is this just me being greedy, wanting everything without daring to take the first step? Maybe this is the “loneliness loop” people talk about:

… it’s possible for us introverts to get stuck in a cycle of loneliness. This “loneliness loop” can happen because staying home alone is often our default. We might find it hard to muster up the energy to hang out with people, especially after a long day of work or classes.

Plus, we don’t like superficial socializing: “We desire and require deep connections and would rather be lonely alone than in a crowd,” Dembling writes in a Psychology Today blog post. “But realistically, those deep connections are not easy to find, and if we get caught short and our only choice is superficial socializing or nothing, we can get lonely.”

Anyway, this post is getting too depressing. On to better news. I’m charging through the last 50 pages or so of No Room in Neverland. Here’s where the words pour out and sweep you towards the end. It’s the most exhilarating part, and also the most all-consuming. The part where you live, breathe, and dream about the story, where it creeps into your veins and you become it and vice versa. Full speed till the end!

On a not-so-upbeat note, I received another rejection letter for Until Morning:

Dear Joyce,

Thank you for the email and interest in The [name redacted] Literary Agency. I’ve carefully reviewed your query and submission of UNTIL MORNING.

You are a very skilled writer, and I find your overall premise of this story to be quite interesting. With that said, I’m wanting to feel more connected to the characters of the shifting points of view (Lexi and Sam). And while I don’t want to know every detail in the first couple chapters, I want to have a pretty good grasp of what the story is about, so that as a reader, I’m fully there.

With that said, possibly another agent or agency will feel differently, and I wish you well on your search for the perfect home for this story!

All my best, Vicki

But while it is a rejection letter, I’m strangely glad to receive it. Beats receiving NO reply at all, at any rate. I’m this close to giving up on Until Morning. This is what I mean by being trapped. You try and try and try and try and try. And try again. But you’re just not going anywhere.

it takes courage to grow up

Illustration by Kris Di Giacomo

So yes, Bali. Bali is much needed.

Have a crisis-free week!