Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Music Magic: I'll Be Good

"I'll be good, I'll be good. For all of the times that I never could." I think it's trying to send me a message. Like how lazy I've been with my writing. Ugh.

So, I recently came across the song I'll Be Good by Jaymes Young. The melancholy feel combined with brilliant lyrics explains why I have it on repeat (also, it's great writing music). All I can say is this guy is exceptionally good. Enjoy :)

If you haven't heard of him yet (somehow), go check him out! NOW. What are you still doing here? Go go go. Shoo.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What I learned from NaNoWriMo

Dear NaNo,

When I gave you (and later your more flexible incarnation CampNaNo) a chance, I thought as you and I would race down toward that haloed goal of 50K words, we would cross the finish line and ride into the sunset hand in hand together. Well, that’s before counting on the engine breakdown and innumerable flats after we’d barely begun our soon-to-be disastrous journey of doom.

Sadly NaNo, you and I were never meant to be. It’s you, it’s not me. And yes, this is my break-up notice.

Yours untruly etc. etc.

Remember that last time I said I was doing NaNoWriMo in an effort to finish my novel? Guess what? It didn't go well.

I'm not saying that NaNo is useless. In fact, it's a pretty neat tool for writers. For people who struggle to write without a deadline or some kind of do-or-die motivation, NaNo supplies that missing fuel to power them through an ugly first draft by pushing their dreaded inner editor off the bus and running them over. That's right, NaNo is like a freakin' coach ride where pesky things like inner editors, laundry and showering get shamelessly left behind.

The pros:
  • The word count stats are awesome. Especially when your word count is progressing and you get an estimate date of when you could finish that novel.
  • The writing community. You're not alone or writing in a vacuum. There are hundreds of thousands of writers across the world struggling as hard as you to pour 50K words out of them by the end of the month. You can add writing buddies to accompany you on this journey and offer some much needed support to each other and also keep track of others' word counts.
  • The endless writing resources. Throughout the entire experience, NaNo's superhero staff sends you links to various online resources to help you finish your novel or often, a much needed word of encouragement (otherwise known as sanity-saving moral support).
  • The weekly pep talks by pubbed writers sharing their experiences and advice (the BEST PART in my opinion!)
The cons:
  • The stress, man so much stress. (That's what broke NaNo for me after a few days of trying.)
  • The purpose of NaNo is to write a substantial word count really hard and really fast. Whether those words are actually usable or not is another kettle of fish.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

It's Been Awhile...

I feel like I've abandoned this blog. I should be charged with gross blog neglect. So, where was I?

Right. I've been in a huge writing slump since the beginning of the year (since last year actually). And I've tried to motivate myself. Tried is the keyword here.

To start with, I created a "Working" notebook for my current novel (yes, it's the same one since I started this blog back in the mid-2012, so...gulp?) to generally organize my ideas about the novel and jot down new ideas as they occur to me, including bits and pieces of conversations between characters. It's helpful, it is. It helps me figure out the story little by little. But I still don't have a complete novel. So, my guess is it only works partially?

Then, I created a "Writing Journal" on my laptop to track my progress on said current novel . And I gave myself pep talks in each entry before each writing session. The pep talks didn't last very long and weren't very effective.

Next, I created a "Story Ideas" notebook, which works great for generating ideas, but not for THIS novel because it hates me (more on the aforementioned notebook in a future post - Sidenote: Dear Future Me, if you don't write that post, I will kick your ass.)

Finally, I created an "On Writing" notebook, which contains the greatest writing quotes EVER by authors I love, to motivate me to write. I know, I do love my notebooks (I know what you're thinking right now because I can read your mind). But again, maybe this isn't enough.

So, I have to ask myself: what in this world is enough?!

The answer may be simpler than all the stuff I've tried. It's simply sitting down and writing the damn book. I know this works. I know this works dammit.

And now, I'm actually doing NaNoWriMo in an effort to FINISH this godforsaken novel (I chickened out at the last minute and instead of starting something fresh and new, I decided to give said current novel a go because dammit).

I actually kind of know what happens next now that almost all the major characters (almost all) have made their spectacular (or not-so-spectacular) entry and I'm getting a handle on their motivation and stuff. So, onward (I actually typed "onword" before editing, so maybe that's a sign?).

It's just occurred to me that maybe what I've been trying to do with my notebooks is simply searching for inspiration and I know for a fact that inspiration lies in actually just doing the work (because it likes to find us working when it comes).

That's all for now, folks! I'll go and try to slightly raise my pathetic word count so far.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Music Magic

Last year in April (wow! it's been a year already), I wrote this post about listening to music while writing. Around that time I'd decided to stop doing both of things at the same time because I felt the music was artificially influencing the stuff I was writing, and I wasn't comfortable with it.

But SO MUCH has changed since I wrote that post, including me as a person as well as my taste in music. And recently I've started listening to music again while writing. Without feeling that it's leading my story away from the path I'm hoping it will take.

In the past year, I discovered that my "writing music" needs to be the kind that makes me want to conjure worlds into being. That makes me dream relentlessly. And most importantly that suits the mood of the story I want to create.

And that is the kind of music I've been listening to lately. I hear that wordless writing music helps too (it actually does). I might be posting links to some of them from time to time.

Lately, the song I See Fire by Ed Sheeran won't leave me alone.

I've been humming it over and over (and currently have it on repeat). There's just something about it. It moves me, tugs at something inside of me. And indeed, I see fire.

It turns out that my alter ego* was right all along. She suggested that on the contrary the fact that music might influence my writing could be a good thing. And it is. I just had to start listening to the right kind of music.

* Last year, I met someone on the wilds of the Internet and tend to think of her as my alter ego because we sometimes get into each other's heads (that is not creepy at all). She's totally real and not a figment of my imagination. I just haven't met her in person, 'kay? 

P.S. Sara, if you're reading this, please don't shoot me.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to Not Plot a Novel

I’m basically writing a novel where I don’t know what happens next as I write each scene. For anyone writing seriously, this is terrifying. I touched on this before in this rambling post about finding the story.

Why don’t I just plot beforehand, you ask? Plotting just doesn’t work for me. I attempted it painstakingly before (on a very different version of the current novel) and the storyline in question became so contrived and ARTIFICIAL that I just lost interest in it and chucked it. I don't regret the wasted words though, because they taught me how not to write this story.

As hard as I try to plot my current novel from start to finish or even the next few chapters, it just WON’T HAPPEN. But wait. Stop. Do I need to plot at all?

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow

Here’s the thing. I find that plot germinates from scene to scene. This means that with each decision I make on the page concerning my characters and important story elements, this impacts how the story will unfold later on.

Though I don’t outline my chapters before writing them, I do outline them afterwards so I can keep track of what has happened so far in the story. An outline is just life-saving when you temporarily stop working on a story to focus on something else and then decide to come back to it months later.

Also, when I’m in the middle of writing a scene, I tend to get ideas of things that may happen in future scenes and I make a point to jot them down so I can explore them later. And Mr. Picasso makes a very important point here:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

When I’m working on a story, I’m always thinking about it even during the time when I’m not actually writing the story. And this is when I tend to get revelations about so-and-so character and discover plot holes.

Sometimes, I find that there are several possible pathways down which my story could develop. In that case, I try out a couple of experimental versions (even if there is a chance that I might not keep it) until I find one that works for the story. And I never know where each version could lead me, but all I know is that it could lead me to someplace I never expected to find (Sparta! Or you know. Someplace cool).

Even discarded scenes are not a complete waste of words (and time) because maybe there are elements, bits of descriptions or even entire characters that might be worth keeping. In fact, an important character from my current novel emerged that way (from an experimental storyline that I’m not keeping).

At some point, it occurred to me that the only way to finish writing this book is to keep writing it until it's done.

Recently, I came across invaluable writing advice by the brilliant Timothy Hallinan and apparently, he doesn't outline.

Also, here's a hilarious post about writing a novel: The Nine Stages of Dating a Novel by Tahereh Mafi (a guest post on Nathan Bransford's blog).

P.S. I'm in the grovelling stage right now. Hundred more Word pages to go, before I finish some semblance of a first draft (or should I say "experimental" draft? O_o).

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Touch of Southern India

So, I recently went to India for the first time. Finally! Because I'd been wanting to visit for a while now. This time round, I toured just the southern part of the country because India is just so huge that you can't explore it all in one go, especially in just 10 days!

When you are a writer, traveling is a good way to resource yourself and recharge your batteries. And of course, it's really just an excuse to wander around cluelessly and run into countless surprises. But I survived!

Surprises are part of the deal and sometimes, you just have to take it in stride (as long as you don't die, it's all good, right?). The food and the cultural experience were amazing for one. Some of the people I met were kind beyond my wildest expectations. And all in all, I had a good time.

Unexpectedly, I even learned how to ride a canoe!! Since my friend and I had zero navigation skills, I'll attribute the feat of getting the thing to move without overturning to our irrational fear of taking a dip in the filthy waterway and drowning in muck. See, fear is the ultimate motivator in situations like this. Anyway.

If there is one thing you can't accuse the south of India of, it's blandness. It is filled to the brim with strange and wondrous things...and colors! Here are a few glimpses...

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Right Word

We, as writers, sometimes lose so much time looking for the right word. Most of the time, it is right under our unsuspecting noses. Sometimes, we look down on it because it looks too simple and we are ashamed to use it because we think "we can do better". But that's because we forget that there is beauty in the humblest of words. I just wanted to share a couple of quotes to begin this new year.

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." – Mark Twain

"Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful. If you hesitate and cogitate, you will come up with another word – of course you will, there’s always another word – but it probably won’t be as good as your first one, or as close to what you really mean." – Stephen King (On Writing)

So, on this day, let us make the solemn promise to leave our shame behind and dare to use the right word. And speaking of lightning bugs, here's a short story by Sara Seay.
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