post-christmas state

Reading this:

Image from Goodreads

This book makes me want to delve into another fantasy project! Leigh Bardugo has a knack for creating vividly imagined worlds, endearing characters with fully fleshed out back-stories, and quiet tension that keeps you flipping the pages way past bedtime. It’s not hard to see why she has such a passionate fanbase, or why Six of Crows debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Watching this: 

Image from Drama Fever

My Lovely Girl (starring Rain and Krystal) came with mixed reviews. Some said the plot was too slow, and some loved the character development. But it’s surprisingly engaging, with the sort of K-drama moments that I love (you know, the ones where the characters don’t say a word and the music swells and you just feel all the feels and hear all the unsaid words? It’s those moments where you feel yourself falling for a show and start rooting for the characters. Those are the moments I want to create in my stories.)

Plus, Krystal is always a joy to watch.

Girl crush!

Missing this:

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donghae cute smile.jpg

Discovering this: 

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His name is James, and he’s the bass guitarist of the Royal Pirates. You’re welcome.

Listening to this:

It’s been two years since they debuted. Can we please start appreciating this under-rated band more already! I’ve raved about them here on ZALORA Community (yes, unabashed plug here), so I won’t say more. Just give them a listen.

Writing this:

Receiving this:

Sigh. Into the Rejection folder this goes. But I am still beyond grateful for the feedback, even if this isn’t quite the result I was hoping for.

Nothing like some heartwarming fan mail to lift your spirits and spur you on!

And lastly, finding strength in this:

Happy holidays! :0)


The week of rejection letters

Three weeks into NaNoWriMo and my word count stands at … 28k. Yup, just as I expected. I’m not going to make it in time.

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As Chuck Wendig said,

It’s harder just not to create art than it is to actually sit down or stand there and commit. It’s easier to think about creating something, or to talk about creating something, than it is to actually will yourself to that act — a very difficult, transitional, sacrificial act. It’s easier to think about stories or dream stories or imagine your published stories than it is to actually carve them letter by letter across a piece of paper.

Thinking is easy; dreaming is easier. It’s the doing that feels like carving out your skin inch by inch, but it’s also what gives you the most satisfaction. Now, if I could just hold on to that thought…

Literary agents, however, have had a very productive week in terms of responding to emails. At this stage, any response is better than none. I’m not really a fan of the whole “We’ll reply only if we’re interested” policy more and more agencies are adopting these days.

This week, I’ve had three rejection letters. Nice ones, but crushing nonetheless. I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to the sting. It’s nothing personal, I know. It’s just … you feel like you were soooooo close, you know? They’d already requested the full manuscript for consideration. They liked it. It JUST. WASN’T. GOOD. ENOUGH.

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It’s enough to make a writer want to give up sometimes. If your best still isn’t good enough, does that mean you’re just not cut out for this after all?

At least most of the agents are really kind. I’ve had one who called me Joshua and some who responded with just one line: not for me but thanks.



Rejection Letter #1:

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for submitting Until Morning to Giant Squid Books. Your novel is a fresh take on romantic YA and I have not seen many like it! However, the switching perspectives and long dream sequences did not resonate with us, so I do not think we are the right fit. I am confident that you will find a home for your novel and I wish you the best of luck.




Rejection Letter #2: 

Dear Joyce,

Thanks again for sending me UNTIL MORNING, and for your patience as I read it. I’m a big fan of Haruki Murakami, and your use of magical realism really reminded me of his work. I loved the way the characters’ lives were interlaced, and how they meet inside Lexi’s dreams of Sam’s paintings. I thought the way you constructed their worlds was very fresh and interesting. I loved the twist of her being in a coma. Overall, I thought the concept of your book was very imaginative.

I felt like I had an immediate impression of each of their characters. Lexi seemed very free-spirited (in her dreams), while Sam has always had a lot of structure in his life and pressure from his father. I wanted to learn more about their characters, to see them develop and expand as I continued reading, and unfortunately, I didn’t see that as much as I would’ve liked. It was interesting to learn that Lexi is much less free-spirited in real life, because it helped give more nuance and depth to the version of Lexi that appears in the dreams. However, I still didn’t feel that I got to know either of their characters as deeply as I wanted to. I also felt that the way they appear to be complete opposites in the dreams, yet become close so immediately, felt a little too perfect and unrealistic. The similarities between them as well (both having a sick mother) felt a little too coincidental to be realistic.

As much as I admired the overall concept of your book, I’m afraid I didn’t connect to the characters in the way I’d hoped, so I have to pass. I wish you all the best in finding the right agent and getting this published.

Best wishes,
Annie B



Rejection Letter #3: 

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for submitting to the Collaborative. Unfortunately, while your concept is intriguing, we recently sold a project that involves a romance conducted via dreaming, and as a small company, we need to be very careful about taking on projects with too much overlap to titles already on our list. I’m sorry this wasn’t a match but I wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect home for your work!

All my best,
Annie S


Rejection Letter #4: 

Dear Joshua,

Many thanks for sending us Until Morning.
I am sorry I can’t offer to represent you at this time, but I wish you every success with your writing in the future.

Best wishes,

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Can I go wallow now??

NaNo-ers, power on anyway! It’s a daunting task, seeing a novel through to the end without getting held back by rejection or self-doubt, and writing is a much less lonely business during NaNo. But nothing beats reaching the end, you know that.

Also, BIIIIG thanks to everyone who stopped by with an encouraging note or remark – you don’t know how much it means to a writer. *kisses you fervently*

on rejections letters and class gatherings

Another rejection letter, this time straight from the publisher itself. But gutting as it is, it’s a PERSONALISED rejection letter. Which means FEEDBACK.

It’s hard to get feedback as a writer. Aside from the handful of earnest and objective critics (LOVE YOU GUYS!), most people are either too busy to read your book, or they’re too afraid to critique it in case they offend you, or they don’t give the type of feedback you’re looking for.

For instance:


Me: So what did you think?

Reader: It was pretty good.

Me: What did you like or dislike about it? Any bits where the story dragged on or didn’t make sense?

Reader: It was exciting enough to make me read on.

Me: What about the characters? Could you relate to them or empathise with them? 

Reader: I liked xxx. He needs his own spinoff.


And so on.

So even if it’s a rejection letter, I’m thankful for the feedback.



Thank you for your interest in BookFish Books! Unfortunately, we cannot move forward with UNTIL MORNING at this time. It’s hard to know where to start without feedback, so here is some of ours:

We loved the portions with Night, but the portions with Lexi did not capture our attention. Some of the dialogue felt too formal for the YA genre, particularly in the Lexi sections. Also, for YA, the traditionally accepted length is 40-60K words, with a bit of flexibility on either end. 

I personally am sad to be passing on this one because I really wanted to know more about Night.

If you want to do a revise and resubmit on the changes we suggested, we’d be happy to take a fresh look at in the future.

All the best,



Of course, this is still my general response to it:

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But, you know, after YEARS of receiving rejection letters, you sort of heal faster and soon you’re just like,

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And that was what I did for the entire afternoon before going for my class gathering on Saturday. For Blood Promise, that is.


1. Changed Ian’s parentage and identity

2. Killed off a character

3. Changed the speech style of one character

4. Tweaked the history of the island and took a deeper look at its customs and language (thanks to the suggestions my Super Critic Partner, Jenna, gave)


With that done, I psyched myself up for the class gathering.

Is it just me or do you get gripped by social anxiety before every gathering? It doesn’t matter that you know those people are nice, or that this isn’t the first time you’ve met up with them, but before every meeting with someone other than your family members, you just seize up with panic and worry. It’s like a reflex reaction to the word “social” or “gathering” or “meetup” or “human interaction”.

No? Just me? Okay then.

I mean, at first you’re like, This might be fun! I need some human contact.

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Because, you know,

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But then you start wondering if you annoyed them with your incessant Facebook and Twitter updates, and if they’re like all

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And pretty soon you’re like, I’m never going to be normal. They’ll hate me.

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But then you try to convince yourself you’re worrying about nothing and you’ve known those people for ages and hello, they’re NICE.

So you SHOW THE HELL UP and start working those rusty people skills.

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But then you sort of get the hang of this human interaction thing after a while and you’re like

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So here’s us (13 years on!) in a terribly grainy photo thanks to my phone:

Yes, I survived human interaction and I actually enjoyed it loads. Till the next gathering, guys!

Hope you’re having a good start to the week! :0)

Monday moodlifters (apart from that rejection letter)!

So I was video-surfing on YouTube yesterday and chanced upon this lovely artiste: Laurel.

That’s it. Laurel. I have no idea who she is – Google doesn’t even know her by her mononym yet. She is that new.

But a deeper search provided some answers: Laurel Arnell-Cullen, a 19-year-old British girl who’s been writing songs since she was 12. This instills a deep sense of shame in me. What was I doing when I was 19 – or 12, for that matter – instead of writing gorgeous songs like hers?

But I’ll stop talking now and let her music speak for itself.

This one’s called Fire Breather. It was used in episode 16 of The Vampire Diaries season 5. I haven’t watched it yet, but apparently it was used for some Delena scene (meh, whatevs).

That voice! That beat! Excuse me while I punch the crap out of the Replay button.

This one is called To the Hills:

Oh. My. Gosh. I DIE. Can we just pause whatever we’re doing and LISTEN to her?

Those words! Those imagery! Can’t you just imagine a scene already? SO dramatic. I filled 6 pages of my notebook just listening to her – wrote a short story too, although that could be attributed to re-reading Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor.


Her songs are like a delicious mix of Lorde and Lana Del Rey, perfect for writing some sweeping fantasy story – which, I admit, is an idea I’m kind of toying with. I PROMISE I’ll come back to Neverland … someday. For now, I don’t want to pin myself to a story that’s not working and restrict myself from working on anything else.

Speaking of a story that’s not working, I just received my first non-form rejection letter – i.e. a personal rejection letter, which is what you get after a literary agent decides to look at your manuscript – for Until Morning.

A form rejection letter goes like this:

Dear author, I apologise for the impersonal nature of this letter, but after careful consideration I have decided to pass on your manuscript blabbity blah blah more depressing blah. 

So a personal rejection letter is a tiny step up – still depressing because it’s like having your crush lead you on before telling you he’s not into you after all.

Wait, where did THAT analogy come from?

Anyway, here’s the first heartbreak for Until Morning:

Dear Joyce,

Thank you so much for allowing us to read the first 50 pages of UNTIL MORNING. Catherine and I were very drawn in by your expert use of lyrical language and cleverly imagined scenes. Unfortunately, I think we will have to pass on the project, as it’s just not quite right for us. The work is of such high quality that it deserves an agent who will be able to grant it his or her full attention. 

I do regret that we have to pass on this, but I am confident that you will find an excited agent soon. I wish you the best of luck in your continuing search for representation and publication.

All best,


Office of Catherine Drayton


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Sigh. So close. So damn close.

Happy things? Much needed.

I’m weirdly obsessed with deer art these days:

by AnnyaKaiArt on Etsy
Deer cookies
by CirqueDeArt on Etsy

And this boy:

And adorable babies:

Speaking of babies, isn’t this picture of Prince George so darn adorable?

Image from

Awwww! Those cheeks!

Also, in a bout of Harry Potter nostalgia, I found an article listing out 6 possible spinoffs and oh yes please to all of them!

I’ve been going on for ages about a Marauders spinoff (more James Potter and Sirius Black bromance; more James Potter, period):

The Marauders Art Print by sevillaseas on

but a Founders spinoff and Auror spinoff sound intriguing too. See what happens when you write a richly imagined series? SO much room for potential spinoffs!

Also, if you haven’t already seen this, you should. Gorgeous photography by Katerina Plotnikova. So many story ideas zinging around. I mean, look!

Okay, a little too many antlers for this post.

Peter Pan quote

Have a great week, everyone! :0)

The kindest rejection letter for BLOOD PROMISE so far

Dear Joyce,

Thank you once again for sending BLOOD PROMISE to us to read. Clare Wallace and I have both really enjoyed it.

Sadly though, after some discussion we’ve had to come to the reluctant conclusion that we can’t offer to represent it at the moment. There are many good things about it but as it stands there are just a few missing elements that mean overall it isn’t quite right for us.

I’m sorry that this is a disappointing outcome for you, but you should have an agent who is very passionate about your story and Clare just doesn’t feel strongly enough about it as it is right now.

We really don’t want you to be too downhearted about this, though. The opening in particular is so strong and beautifully written and clearly demonstrates how much potential you have as a writer. The book overall has an engaging tone, your characters are appealing and the dialogue feels natural. And you have a really good instinct for keeping the chapters short and ending them on a note of intrigue, to keep the reader turning the page.

There were just a few small concerns that we identified. The writing doesn’t always maintain that magic that it has in the opening chapters. In a way you’ve almost shot yourself in the foot with the strength of those chapters, as the reader’s expectation after that is so high.

There are occasional problems with the pace. While the dialogue is well-done (which isn’t an easy feat and one many established authors still sometimes struggle with, so you should congratulate yourself on that), there is too much of it at times. Perhaps cutting down on some of the talking and injecting more action would help to up the pace, particularly in the middle section.

And while the voice of April definitely has its own quirky feel – which is great – that differentiates it from that of Sean and Ian, the two boys are bit too similar at times. The voice in their chapters needs a little bit of work to keep them separate in the reader’s mind.

I hope that all of this makes sense. If you have any questions please feel free to come back to me. If you did decide to make some revisions based on these notes then Clare has said that she would be very happy to take another look at it. it goes without saying that if you produce any new work we would be delighted to consider it.

Otherwise, we very warmly wish you all the best in the future.

So here I am now, working on BLOOD PROMISE again like a girl on fire. You call it insanity, I call it renewed purpose.

At least I have slightly better luck than Snoopy!


Another rejection slip

Hi Joyce,

My apologies for the long delay! Thank you so much for the chance to review BLOOD PROMISE. While we loved the concept and your interesting take on fairies in a rapidly growing genre, ultimately I didn’t connect with the manuscript as much as I wanted to. April’s voice and your writing were really beautiful, and I found her parts of the story compelling, but I felt somewhat disconnected from Sean and Ian. However, another agency may feel differently, and you’re definitely a talented writer; I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation!


And here’s basically me after reading the email:

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Whyyyyyy?! Why don’t you love it? Why don’t you believe in it? Why don’t you want to represent me?! Whyyyyyy?!

Excuse me while I crawl into a hole and wallow for the rest of the day. Don’t mind me, I’ll be (almost) fine by tomorrow.

And the responses stream in

I’ve been querying literary agents for BLOOD PROMISE, and while a lot of the response was promising, none of them quite hit the mark. I’m getting more personal responses (i.e. elaborate emails on why my work is rejected) rather than form rejections these days, but it’s hard not to get beaten down by rejection. If anything, the blow is harder because you realise you were THISCLOSE to getting a nod from an agent. You begin to wonder if your story is really not good enough to be published. And as my list of agents to query starts to run out, my hope of ever getting BLOOD PROMISE out in the world is fast diminishing.

Here are some personalised rejection slips from agents who have requested partials and fulls (as in, pages of the manuscript):

Dear Joyce,
Thank you so much for sharing BLOOD PROMISE with me. I would absolutely love to read the first 100 pages, sent as an attachment in .doc or .txt. format. Also, if you could let me know whether or not other agents are looking at partials of fulls, that would be helpful, as well. I look forward to reading more!
Jennifer Azantian
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
And here’s her follow-up after I sent her the pages:
Dear Joyce,
I really enjoyed these pages from BLOOD PROMISE. I feel your writing is very strong, but I didn’t connect with the story in the way that I need to in order to request the remainder. I also think the use of multiple POVs made it difficult to become invested in any of the characters. I’m sorry to not have better news for you, but I’m sure another agent will feel differently. I wish you the best of luck on your writing journey.
Here’s an initial response from Ms Sara D’Emic:

Dear Ms. Chua,

Thank you for your query. You have a great premise and I enjoyed your sample; I’d love to read more. Could you please send first fifty pages, along with a complete plot synopsis (each in a separate word doc)? I look forward to reading.

Sara D’Emic
But it ultimately didn’t grab her. Here’s her reply after I sent her the full (after requesting for the partial, she asked for the full):


Dear Joyce,

Thanks again for sending this over. Unfortunately, I have to pass at this time. You’re a strong writer but the narrators of each section had very similar voices. And while the world was unique I felt lost in the mythology at times, and would have liked to be brought more into the world. April and her brother being changelings was one of the most intriguing parts of this and I wanted that to be concentrated on more. These were just my impressions though I hope they’re helpful. I wish you the best of luck.



Sara D’Emic


And another:

Dear Ms Chua,

Thank you for the opportunity to review BLOOD PROMISE and for your
patience in awaiting a reply.

I enjoyed reading your sample pages and can sense that there’s a lot that
works well here: solid world-building, an interesting premise, and a
memorable cast of characters, just to name a few elements I like. I
particularly appreciate how you effectually capture the sights and sounds
of April’s environment, drawing me into the rich setting and her plight as
supplies dwindle. I think she really leaps off the page as a fully-fleshed
character; her relationship with her brother is both complex and belivable
— something readers will be drawn to.

Unfortunately, though there is much to admire, I just don’t love it enough
to represent it in today’s competitive marketplace. This is just my
opinion, of course, and hopefully another agent will have another
perspective. I wish you the best of luck with BLOOD PROMISE and all your
future literary adventures.

Best wishes,
Kathleen Zakhar
Harold Ober Associates Incorporated

And another:

Dear Ms. Chua:

Thanks for the opportunity to read the sample pages of BLOOD PROMISE.

With regret, I’m afraid I will be passing on this one. While I remain
intrigued by the concept of your novel, and found your opening
chapter compelling, I felt the motivations of some of the characters
didn’t always come through clearly on the page (e.g. Sean’s decision
not to tell his father about finding the body or being questioned by
the police).

Sorry I couldn’t give you a more positive reply. Thanks for thinking
of me, and best of luck in your search for representation.

Jennifer Jackson
Donald Maass Literary Agency

Disappointing responses they may be, I’m still extremely thankful these agents took time to offer detailed feedback on my story. Now, on to reworking this damn book because heck I am going to make this work.