Making time to write … and other (near) impossible things

chuck supernatural writing hard

We feel you, Chuck.

Juggling a demanding day job, two manuscript edits, and a new novel means some things fall by the wayside, and unfortunately this blog is one of those things. I have only two and a half hours of free time between dinnertime and bedtime to do everything I want to do, so something’s gotta give.

Actual image of me rn.

But I promise I haven’t forgotten about this blog, or the short story blog, where we’re dialling down things a little because LIFE. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ You might have noticed we haven’t been posting as regularly at Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand – and it’s not what we wish to do.

Believe us, there are so many things we had planned and still want to do for the blog, but time is just not on our side. We have full-time jobs that sap so much brain juice and head space and take up a huge part of our week. The remaining time we have is spent working on our manuscripts – working to make our author dreams come true – or spending time with our loved ones, reading and imbibing new narratives.

Same, Jo. Except in the present tense.

And writing short stories requires more time and brain cells than people realise. It takes work to make a story coherent and impactful, no matter the length.

writing is hard

Okay, Lisa might be a little dramatic here but she’s not wrong.

But the good news is – we’re relinquishing some of the space to guest writers in the coming months! We’re inviting other writers to try their hand at our prompts and have their work published on our blog, because we KNOW there are a lot of writers out there who are quietly plugging, honing their craft but afraid to share their work. And some of you are actually better than you think you are. You just need to take that first step, put your work out there, and it will get easier with every story you publish. Soon, you will dare to writing longer stories, you will dare to pitch your stories to agents, and one day you might just see your book on the shelves.

Imagine that glorious day.

So yes, this is an open call for submissions. If you want to give our prompts a shot, OR if you think you have something about writing you would like to talk about or some tips or insights you would like to share, drop us an email at museinpocket@gmail.com and we’d be happy to host you and your stories/posts!

Meredith, Nicole and I will still be posting from time to time, so you won’t have to miss us too much! But I think now is a great time to start featuring more writers – be it aspiring, new or experienced – on our blog and giving them a voice and platform.

We accept stories in any genre – as long as there’s no gore or explicit content. If you’d like to read some of our stories, check out these links below:

My stories

Meredith’s stories

Nicole’s stories

Becky’s stories

Guest writers’ stories

Okay, this was a quick one. Rushing off to work on LAND OF SAND AND SONG (only round 2 of edits, kill me) and maybe work on the next short story (March prompt) too! ❤

 

Do you find that there are not enough hours in the day for you to accomplish everything on your to-do list? How do you prioritise and manage your time? Share your tips with me in the comments, please!

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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! 🙂

A Single Girl’s Guide to Being Happy this Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend. Which means a weekend of enduring the sight of couples wearing cheesy coordinated outfits and men presenting stuffed teddy bears to girls, as well as the barrage of commemorative photos on social media. #truelove4eva

Funny how it’s been years since this occasion was first given so much commercial value, and people still buy into the whole fanfare.

Maybe I’m just a cynic, or I don’t understand what it’s like to be in love. But while I’m sure there’s much to appreciate about being in a committed relationship with someone, there’s also a lot to be thankful for as a twenty-something singleton.

As I navigate the dating minefield, I’ve also been collecting dating and relationship advice from well-meaning friends of mine (who have witnessed me at the height of an infatuation and suffered through my tales of unrequited interest, on my part and on the chaser’s).

Here are some that struck a chord in me, along with other lessons I’ve learned on my own:

 

1. Know Thy Worth

If you make someone your everything and he only treats you as his something, it’s going to end in tears. You expect too much. You want more. You start getting resentful. It’s only going to wear you out in the end. And you deserve more than that.

So remember what you are worth. If the guy isn’t putting in any effort at all, then he isn’t worthy of you.


2. Focus on Being You

Nobody likes a wallflower with the personality of a sock. Be happy in your own company. If you don’t even enjoy being with yourself, then you can’t expect someone else to. So fill up your life with the things that make you happy. Have goals. Strive to achieve them. Start creating a version of yourself that you will be proud of. When you’re so busy being you, you won’t need validation from anyone else but yourself. And that itself is a powerful thing.

 

3. Take Your Time

While my Facebook feed is choked with pictures of friends and acquaintances flaunting their engagement rings, anniversary photos and even (gasp) babies, there are also many who are single.

Sometimes, it can feel like this:

But I don’t see the point in going into a premature relationship and then half-assing it. “Trying out” with someone I’m not 100% into would eventually just wear out an INFJ like me. Like my friend Liz said, timing is important. If two people are at different stages of their lives where they are seeking different things, then it’s likely that they will run parallel to each other and never meet, even if they do like each other. Tragic, but true.

So I guess time takes time. Better a happy singledom than an unhappy relationship.

 

4. Be Open … But Have Some Standards

I’ve been told that my expectations are too high – a statement that I really don’t agree with, by the way – and that you could have someone who ticks all the right boxes in your checklist (if you have one) but it still wouldn’t feel right … as Glamour’s experiment below proved.

Girl Meets Her Perfect Match

That doesn’t mean you settle for anyone who shows the slightest bit of interest in you. Rather, it’s taking the time to know more people so that you understand what you’re really looking for so that you don’t end up rushing into a relationship.

 

5. Don’t Sweat It

A rejection isn’t the end of the world. A non-reply – or a curt, half-hearted one – may dent your dignity, but what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger. Sometimes, you can do everything right and things would still not work out the way you hope it would. What are you going to do, mope and cry?

Once you start placing less importance on one thing, you’re freeing yourself up to many other things. You’re giving yourself the space to pursue other things and saving yourself a whole lot of angst in doing so.

Besides, no one said you only had to go after one thing in life. And frankly, you have better stuff to worry about than why he blue-ticked you on WhatsApp.

 

6. But Don’t Ever Give Up on Love

This one came from my dad. Despite all the horror stories we’ve heard about relationships gone wrong and people being screwed over by love, he still believes there’s someone out there for me. And according to him, the worst thing you can do for yourself that would diminish your chances of ever falling in love is to become disillusioned by the notion of love.

So even if consecutive lacklustre dates and humiliating rejections may convince you that you’re better off alone after all, I guess the key is to have faith that someday someone will appreciate you for being you, and vice versa. In the meantime, stay awesome and get comfortable with solitude.

 

What other dating advice have you received that you think is worth imparting? Share them in the Comments section below! I’m all ears.

This article first appeared on ZALORA Community.

 

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how Girl, Interrupted completely wrecked me

Girl, Interrupted Poster

So thanks to my friend’s recommendation, I watched Girl, Interrupted (1999) over the weekend. She kept raving about Angelina Jolie’s performance and told me that since I was so interested in psychological disorders I should watch the movie.

So I did and now I don’t know if I’m still out of that funk. You know how some stories wreck you from inside you and stay inside you for days, maybe weeks or years? Girl, Interrupted messed me up and turned me into a complete emotional wreck.

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Speaking of Misha, he had a tiny role in the movie too. I couldn’t help it – I burst out laughing when I saw him try to seduce Winona Ryder.

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Castiel, socially awkward since 1999.

What It’s About

Susanna (played by the beautiful Winona Ryder) is admitted to Claymoore and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder after a failed suicide attempt.

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There, she is thrown into a contained, isolated world far removed from reality as she struggles to make sense of her emotional turmoil. She meets a host of patients each with their own diagnoses – a pathological liar (Clea DuVall), a bulimic cutter (Brittany Murphy), a burn victim who behaves like a child (Elisabeth Moss), an anorexic (Angela Bettis) …

And then there’s Lisa (Angelina Jolie), charming, manipulative, rebellious, “dead inside” Lisa, a sociopath who has been in and out of Claymoore for eight years.

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Lisa takes an interest in Susanna, who now lives in the ward vacated by Lisa’s best friend who killed herself. Susanna finds Lisa exciting and magnetic, but is drawn into a downward spiral the more she hangs out with her.

How It Broke Me

The scene where ***spoiler alert (for the rare few who haven’t watched it)*** Susanna found Daisy the bulimic cutter dead in the bathroom after she hung herself completely broke me. It just made me think about all the people out there who battle their inner demons daily, pushing away the voice in their head in an attempt to feel normal and be normal.

Some parts got close to the heart, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels alone or sad or like a failure sometimes. Some days, all you want to do is just curl up and be alone with your feelings, to cry yourself to sleep and let the debilitating self-doubt and sadness consume you. Other days, you just want them to go away and wish that you didn’t feel anything.

But it’s probably easier to give in to these emotions than dust them off and press on. The trick, I guess, is to keep moving and not stay stagnant with those feelings curdling around you and holding you back.

Favourite Quotes

“Crazy isn’t being broken, or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you, or me, amplified. If you ever told a lie, and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child, forever.”


What Susanna wanted to say to Daisy (after Daisy killed herself):

“…I will never know what it was like to be her. But I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can’t. You hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside.”

Psychiatric nurse Valerie’s advice to Susanna:

“I think what you’ve gotta do is put it down. Put it away. Put it in your notebook, but get it out of yourself. Away so you can’t curl up with it anymore.”

I wanted to give Valerie a hug too after she said this!

Scene between Susanna and her psychiatrist:

Susanna: I’m ambivalent. In fact that’s my new favorite word.

Dr. Wick: Do you know what that means, ambivalence?

Susanna: I don’t care.

Dr. Wick: If it’s your favorite word, I would’ve thought you would…

Susanna: It means I don’t care. That’s what it means.

Dr. Wick: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings… in opposition. The prefix, as in “ambidextrous,” means “both.” The rest of it, in Latin, means “vigor.” The word suggests that you are torn… between two opposing courses of action.

Susanna: Will I stay or will I go?

Dr. Wick: Am I sane… or, am I crazy?

Susanna: Those aren’t courses of action.

Dr. Wick: They can be, dear – for some.

Susanna: Well, then – it’s the wrong word.

Dr. Wick: No. I think it’s perfect.

I love how this exchange shows how we are in control of what we think, what we allow ourselves to feel, and the reality we construct for ourselves.

Afterthoughts

Girl, Interrupted is the kind of story that you don’t know whether to love or hate, like this little book called We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. On one hand, you love it because it is so well executed and emotional and moving; it opens up your eyes to the lives of mentally ill people and makes you see the blurred lines between what’s real and what’s in your head. On the other, it totally runs you over like a freight train and leaves you in pieces all over the ground; it worms a little too close into your heart for comfort, and I found myself sobbing during more than one scene towards the end.

I love stories that take you through a whole range of emotions. They make you feel so pathetically human, yet so wonderfully alive.

Okay, I think I’ve written my way out of this emotional fugue. Back to normal life!

Have you watched Girl, Interrupted? What are your thoughts about it, or of mental illnesses in general? I’d love to hear from you! Oh, and if you have any more recommendations on similar subject matter, feel free to share!

february’s to-read list is not kind on the wallet

The wait is over! February is here!! Sorry, wallet. February’s not a good month for you. Blame the publishers for coming out with a slew of titles I’ve been dying to get my hands on:
1. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

I know I’ve gone on for too long about this book. But the concept! The premise! The conflict!

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It would really suck if the book didn’t live up to expectations, because it looks so delicious I could gobble it up right now. (I didn’t read the seven teaser chapters because I want to read it all at one go, and not wait for weeks before reading the rest of the story.)
2. The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

If you’ve read Holly Black’s Curseworker series, you’ll know how brilliant she is at weaving complex but un-confusing plots that keep you turning the pages. And this book looks as deliciously sinister as The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, with vicious faeries (also an obsession of mine that led to Blood Promise), gifted siblings, and a horned boy waking from a long, deep slumber to fight the fairies.

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3. Monstrous, by MarcyKate Connolly

A girl born with a spiked tail and wings meant to save the girls in her town from their mysterious fate is spotted by a boy who leaves a red rose for her every evening.

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4. Beastkeeper, by Cat Hellisen 

A girl who grew up lonely and longing for magic and on the run learns the truth about what they’re running from when her mother abandons them and her father transforms into something beastly. Best part is, she’s cursed too, and can only break free of the curse when she falls in love. It’s a slightly different take on the Beauty and the Beast story, since the protagonist is beast, so this should be good.

5. The Last Time We Say Goodbye, by Cynthia Hand

I’m not usually into tear-jerkers, but I’ve been in this mood ever since I started watching the Korean drama series, Pinocchio (the music! the romance! plus, the relationship between the protagonist and her cold, distant mother), and read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, which is more heart-breaking than I had ever expected.

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This is probably why No Room in Neverland is turning out way more emotionally intense than I had intended. I’m on page 185 now, by the way! Woohoo!

What’s on your To-Read list for February? :0)

9 Ways to Put Off Writing Your Novel

1. One word: Tumblr

2. Actually, make that another word: Pinterest

3. Consider new ways of complimenting someone

The Surrealist Compliment Generator, man. It says the strangest, loveliest things. Go on, try it. Here are some of my favourites: 

If you were a camel your humps would be esoterically bald from overuse. 

Your soul contains all that is found in insects, pigs and vermin.

Your nasal linings will last as long as the skin of rocks, thrust enigmatically upon a distant shorline of mating beetles. 

I find your eye sockets to be a wondrous amusement park of neo-plastic pleasures and oncogenic delights.

Seven donkeys and a concubine cannot compare with the tarnished sheen left in your path of combustion. 

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Can you tell I’ve refreshed it many times. Ha!

4. Fangirl over other people’s writing

from Stay, by Deb Caletti
from The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

5. Clean your room

Because I’m a neat freak that way. Not because I’m trying to procrastinate. Definitely not.

6. Look for new music on Spotify and 8tracks

What? I’m making a playlist. FOR THE NOVEL, OF COURSE.

7. Read terrifying reviews on Goodreads

I go in there to look for book recommendations, only to end up reading snarky reviews that are equal parts mean (imagine if you were the writer!) and hilarious.

It’s enough to make you swear off putting your work out there ever again.

8. Write a blog post on how to procrastinate

9. And hello, Boxing Day sales!

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Really, who can resist? At the very least, it helps to take my mind off the fact that another year has come and gone and I still haven’t achieved shit.

Happy holidays, everyone!

when not writing, I am planning an itinerary

It’s mid-December already?! How did THAT happen? Where did 2014 go??

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Donghae is as amazed as I am. Except consternation looks better on his pretty face.

It’s always as the year wears on that you get more disillusioned. Not only did I not accomplish any of my goals, I’m falling behind on my word count. Why, Joyce, WHY. Procrastination is a terrible colour on you. All those time you were waiting for the muse to strike – keeping unnecessarily busy with creating playlists for your stories, decorating your room, looking for new music, and reading (mean and scary) reviews on Goodreads – you could have plowed through your sucky writing and found a way through your manuscript.

It was around this time last year that I started on Neverland, and I’m STILL writing it, STILL haven’t written its ending even for the first draft.

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Don’t judge me, Siwon!

It’s one thing to write at your own pace, and another to put off writing it because you’re afraid you’ll fail again like you had the first two times (Neverland is at Draft 3 now).

Good thing for good books in the meantime.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15818357-dreams-and-shadows

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14061955-siege-and-storm?from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9361589-the-night-circus?from_search=true

*

Also, I’m planning for a trip back to Korea next spring!!

Truth is, I’m a travel noob. I’ve never travelled free-and-easy before. It’s just easier to have travel agencies plan everything nicely for you. But I really want to learn how to plan a trip from scratch, get around on my own, and explore places I wouldn’t get to see on a package tour. Everyone I know travel on their own in their twenties. I mean, what better time to do that, right?

And where better to visit than the land of K-pop? Yes, I have become a legit fangirl and I’m not going to be ashamed about it. So I like K-pop, I enjoyed Korea the last time I was there, and now I’m going to make this spring 2015 trip happen.

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Donghae approves, obviously

But there are so many sites for flight and accommodation deals and so many places I want to visit and things to take note of (public holidays, for instance – you do not want to jump into the fray at train stations or the airport), transport preparations (e.g. buying train tickets beforehand) that quite frankly I’m getting inundated by it all.

So if you have any tips on flights, accommodation, places of interest, and getting around (we’re planning to travel around Seoul, Busan and Jeju), do share! All help will be greatly appreciated by this travel noob :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. (Although I had one who called me Joshua and some who responded with just one line: not for me but thanks.) Case in point:

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.

 

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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*

It’s NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month entails copious cups of green tea, manic pounding of the keyboard, dreaming up scenes, talking to your characters, considering what they’d do in your shoes as you go about your life, and basically being taken over by this snarling, squalling, blossoming thing called the Work In Progress. Anything that helps churn out that 50K-word manuscript in a month.

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WIP is going relatively well so far, considering how it had bucked and stalled like a horse that needs to poop for the first couple of drafts before I decided to take a break from it (let it, um, poop, so to speak).

Page 198 was where it succeeded in boring the brains out of me, so now I’m giving it another try, this time with a structure I’ve never quite dared to attempt before. Narrative within a narrative. Flashbacks (always risky). Non-linear chronology. Something like what Karen Foxlee did with The Midnight Dress.

Once I decided on this structure, it’s like things finally clicked into place. This is what gets me fired up and excited to write the story! This is what’s missing in the first two attempts! This is what makes me dig deeper into my characters!

Okay. *cracks knuckles* *flexes fingers* Let’s do this.

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Just so we’re clear, I’m probably not going to finish 50K in one month. I’m not going to embrace that kind of insanity. But I’ll just try my best and log in the daily word count and see where this takes me.

For my fellow NaNo-ers, here’s some wisdom from best-selling author Chuck Wendig on the writing process:

“We wish the best for our stories. We want them to be great. We want them to win awards and climb to the top of the bestseller mountain and maybe they’ll change somebody’s life and earn us a giant sack of cash which will allow us to buy a jet-boat or an oil drum full of that very rare civet-poop coffee. Maybe a jet boat fueled by civet-shit coffee.”

Yup, that’s Chuck.

“… go forth and write.

Without pressure, without fear, without the expectation of doing anything but crossing the finish line.”

 

And some civet shit-free wisdom from Laini Taylor (please update your blog, Laini – I’m dying for some snippet of your life!):

“Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a jungle in, let’s say, Borneo (because I have a fascination with Borneo). You have a rough idea of how big this jungle is — you’ve flown over it in a helicopter and seen dense green treecover, and you know what’s on the other side. You know where you want to get to, and you have a very vague idea of what’s IN the jungle, but you have no map, and as of yet there is no trail. What you do have is a machete, a blank roll of paper, and a grease pencil.

There’s only one way to get to the other side of the jungle: take out your machete and start whacking. Carve your way forward and forward, sometimes sideways and sometimes back, until you get to the other side. That first time through, you’re going to come across ravines, swamps, viper nests, rivers, all sorts of things you didn’t expect and you’ll deal with them and get around them, over them, through them, in all manner of resourceful ways. And when you step out of the jungle on the far side, what you’ll have in your hand is a sprawling, wrinkled, sweat-stained mess of a map of the territory you’ve just discovered. It might not look very pretty, but it is a glorious thing, a document of discovery. You clutch it to you, and after you’ve rested and healed for a while, you go back to the far side of the jungle and. . . you start again.

This time, with your messy map in hand, you’ll know where to go and where not to go. Some of the things you discovered your first time in, you’ll want to avoid like the plague; others will be perfect, serendipitous things that make the journey richer than you could have imagined when you set out. You’ll know your jungle/story intimately, the good and the bad, from ground level. Outlines, I think, are kind of the equivalent of aerial photography — you get some idea, but you can’t really see what it’s like down below — not until you’re walking through it. And when you find things to be not exactly as they had seemed from the air, you have to adapt.

Be nimble.

The second time through, your passage will be much more elegant than the first, and it will also be less exciting. Nothing will ever be so miserable or so thrilling as that first bushwhack. . . that first exploratory draft. The misery and the thrill are intertwined — that’s exploration for you, taking the leeches and fevers with the discovery and getting to name islands and swamps after yourself! The second time, you’ll know what to expect. You’ll be refining your map. It will get more perfect and less exciting with each pass, and then one day you’ll be done. Done with that jungle and ready for a new one.”

Yes, this analogy is perfect.

Yes, Laini Taylor is perfect.

Yes, I wish I could write like her.

Speaking of whom, yay for more Laini goodness: her short story, which is collected in this anthology called My True Love Gave to Me, has just been released!

Image from GoodReads

Laini’s in good company too: Holly Black, Kelly Link, Stephanie Perkins, Myra McEntire, and more!

And you guys, the UK version has HOT PINK pages:

SO grabbing this from the bookstore.

May the writing gods be with you this NaNoWriMo! :0)

Book Review: Shadow and Bone

Fair warning: this post contains fangirl moments over Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, the first of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. If fangirling gives you a massive headache, walk away now.

Otherwise, OMG THIS BOOK!!


The Story


Set in an alternate ancient Russia, in a place called Ravka, the story opens with a boy and a girl, both orphans adopted by Duke Keramsov before being posted to different vocations: Alina a cartographer, Mal a tracker/hunter. They live in a country that is constantly under siege by Fjerdans from the north, and Shu Hans from the south, and there’s this thing called the Fold that the Darkling and his men have to cross on their voyage across the Unsea. There, bird-like beasts called the Volcra feast on human flesh. The inciting moment is when Alina is taken across the fold and manages to save those on board with her once-dormant power of light.

The Darkling, by the way, is the leader of the Grisha (the magical elite) who is trying to wrestle for power from the passive king and rule all the land. He finds use for Alina, who is revealed to be the Sun Summoner, the one who can drive the Volcra away and ensure the safe crossing of the Fold. Alina is taken under the Darkling’s wing and hailed as the new hope for the people of Ravka.

But as she is taken deeper into the world of the Grisha, Alina uncovers more secrets and is forced to question her loyalties to the Darkling.

The Pacing


The first 60 percent of the book was kind of forgettable, and more than once I questioned where this was all leading up to. The flirty little moments between the Darkling and Alina, where the latter is lured by the promise of power and affection (things that had been denied to her when she was an adopted orphan), the lessons Alina had to go through, the petty politics of the court, where Alina was the subject of gossip and underhanded attacks by a jealous Grisha girl. I was ready for Alina to stop whining about how pathetic she was physically and get on with honing her powers already.

But then: PLOT TWIST PLOT TWIST PLOT FRIGGING TWIST!

Only it came about 100 pages too late. I would’ve liked things to move a little quicker, especially around the first 60 percent or so of the book. I took three weeks to read this book because I gave up on it halfway and moved on to other books. But once you survive till 65 percent or so, you will be glued to the page. There, I didn’t give anything away, did I?

The Writing


I wasn’t really a fan of the prose at the beginning. There were just too many I’s in the sentences, and after a while I was like, Vary your sentence structure, pleeeease!

Case in point:

And lest you think this is typical of first-person narrative (I know people who scoff at first-person POV), it’s not. There are a lot of writers whose writing feels natural even in first-person.

But then you’ve got moments like these:

And it’s just,

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Sentence structure what??

The Romance

Um, need I say more? Malina (Mal + Alina) is endgame. (I peeked at the end of the last book), and that makes me happy *insert cheesy grin*

So I can get past the excessive use of I’s and rote reporting of events, because OH YES THIS IS HOW YA FANTASY SHOULD BE DONE.

And the good news is: books two and three await.

Happy Friday! Hope you’re lost in a good book too :0)