NaNoWriMo: Day 19-21 (Except Not Really)

SO BEHIND IN WORD COUNT.
10K BEHIND.

I am both figures pictured here.
Created by Lucile Patron.

One day there will be a blog post about how I am on word count and everything is wonderful, but that day is not today.

Instead I have been on a reading sprint this week to start queuing up for reviews over at OKPotato, Cya’s and my new blog about diversity in (YA) lit. Young Adult literature is far from my favorite genre these days, half due to the general writing technique and half to do with the lack of diversity (both representation and general story lines). HOWEVER, YA is such a portal into the wider world of fiction for so many teenagers who benefit from media representation in much different ways than younger children.

As a young, gay Asian teen, I scoured the library for all LGBT books and usually ended up more satisfied with gay and lesbian couples in manga than in any Western YA lit. I don’t know if what I read in high school has shaped what I read today, but Cya and I are looking back at YA particularly because of the lack of diversity in all of its subgenres (fantasy, science fiction, supernatural, modern/contemporary). There seem to be more titles available now than when I was in high school (and I’m not that old, guys; this was back in the early 2000s), but those numbers are relatives. There are still pretty slim mainstream pickings.

In any case, Cya and I went on a book spree this past weekend, journeying from a library book sale to Barnes & Noble.

FullSizeRender
We did our best to look for female protagonists and non-white main characters, although the book sale was basically a rummage sale. You can read my review of Benjamin Alire Sanez’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which features two queer Mexican cis male main characters, at OKPotato. (Although I think Ari can be read as transgender.)

I also had the opportunity to borrow Cya’s newly acquired used copy of Grace Lin’s Newberry award-winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. It’s an illustrated novel that repurposes traditional Chinese folktales into a young Chinese girl’s fantastical journey. I’ll probably be reviewing it at OKPotato some time soon, but thought I’d mention it here to justify my time away from NaNo.

There are less than ten days left in NaNoWriMo. It will be interesting to see if I can catch up to at least the 50K, if not Cya’s 75K challenge. Update you all on Monday. Have productive writing weekends!

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NaNoWriMo: Day 16-18

Laughably behind on NaNo but I’m convinced I can catch up by the end of the month. Foolhardy delusion though it may be, I’m still glad I took on this challenge because at least something is getting done, even if I don’t meet the full goal.

In the meantime, as I continue to procrastinate on today’s work, Cya sent me this lovely gif:

Bob Ross, patron saint of self-doubting artists.

Thus, I present to you a list of things that I have put (forced) into the world of my novel for my own happiness…in no particular order:

  • A large group of main characters
  • A flying vehicle that is more home than transportation
  • Discussion of mental illness through characters (panic disorder, PTSD)
  • Characters across the entire spectrum of LGBTQAI, who are not solely defined by their sexuality
  • An all-POC cast, with a focus on Asian Americans
  • Homages to my friends and loved ones: crocheted animals; all Spam meals, all the time (albeit under a different name); the shame and gratitude of everyone who has ever sat with me through a panic attack; dinosaurs and cephalopods and technology, oh my!
  • All the badass womens.

The rest of the stuff is the hard part, of course. I am continually reminded of how far out of my comfort zone I am whenever my characters and I are confronted with all the difficulties I throw at them which I know nothing about. All this science fiction stuff makes the problems about five thousand times harder to resolve and make logical and make feasible, all while keeping my crew in character and off-kilter enough to keep the story moving. There have been six different versions of what happens after their ship is hijacked by another rogue crew: Negotiation? Hostile kidnapping? Calm explanation and recruitment? Different permutations of characters have been taken and left behind and each time I think I’ve made a final decision, I think of new trajectories the overall story could go if I just change this combination of characters or this bit of dialogue.

How do you make peace with your choices? I’m starting to think that peace doesn’t come until the very end, if that. These drafts will forever be in limbo until the whole story is laid out and ultimate decisions can be made. If this ever gets published, I’m sure there will be regrets and secret stories testing out the possibilities left untouched (secret post-hijacking dance party~ Massive orgiastic rave to Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends”).

Another image that should have been forced into my story.
…There’s still time.

As I wade through all the possibilities for this next chapter, make sure to look for my post tomorrow on OK Potato. Check us out on Tumblr too. Annnnd I am on Twitter SO throw book recs at me!

NaNoWriMo: Day 14 & 15 (Diversity in Stories)

Today and tomorrow are more marathon writing days, but for now, let’s talk about diversity in stories!

Yes, good. Thank you, Mulder.

Granted, The X-Files is not exactly a shining example of diversity in media, but Agent Scully is a fairly fantastic example of women’s representation in media, which is part of what I want to talk about today. The irony that I used the picture of the white male character to lead into this post is not lost on me, but look at that tumblr text post caption. Let’s fix that:

Taken from here. Rad.

That’s better.

The novel I’m currently working on for NaNoWriMo has been a long time coming and centers on a group of entirely mixed races, particularly mixed Asian Americans. Five of the six characters are female and my male character, Gregor, is treated deliberately as a token male. Much of this was decided in reaction to the representation of diverse characters in the books, movies, and TV shows I consume.

I love stories in all incarnations and I things are generally starting to get better in terms of media representation — sort of. Different races are at least kind of present in most media, although very rarely as main characters, let alone speaking characters. (I am forever upset at how Glenn Rhee is being used in The Walking Dead. WE COULD HAVE HAD IT ALL. ROLLING IN THE DEEP.) Different sexualities are becoming more present, especially in TV, and I can sort of think of a few examples of disabilities and representation of various body types. Asexuality and intersex genders are still conspicuously absent but Laverne Cox’s new The T Word series, focusing on transgender youth, gives me hope that audiences are being primed for true diversity in media.

Michonne and Glenn from AMC's The Walking Dead.

Michonne and Glenn from AMC’s The Walking Dead.

However, you will note that all of my examples are based on visuals — television and film, even music videos. Literature is the trickier subject. Certainly you can easily find nonfiction books on people of color or different genders and sexualities. Rifling through fiction to find specific types of diversity can be frustrating and, often the ones you do find focus specifically on the Otherness of that character or use diversity in supporting characters, not main. I can easily find fiction with Chinese main characters set in China (especially historical fiction), but finding Chinese American characters in modern settings outside of Amy Tan books? Very hard. Especially if I want to read about steampunk Muslim girls battling mechanical cephalopods or 60s Japanese biker boys wooing the black girl in the poodle skirt at the local malt shop. Even just a book about the Okinawan girl battling depression and anxiety in high school in America — where does that exist? (Sorry for all the Asian examples, but I am Japanese-Okinawan and deeply, deeply deprived.)

These stories matter, too, and waiting around for someone to provide me with those books hasn’t done me much good in twenty-five years. I took on a science fiction novel as my first challenge in order to use a diverse cast, as science fiction generally seems more receptive to that kind of representation. My niche is modern, realistic fiction, so it is a bit of a stretch for now, but I want to eventually move into basic representation — the everyday lives of characters that aren’t white, able-bodied, middle-class people in dire love triangles, who consider themselves Special Snowflakes that have led them to be “outcasts” their entire lives. That is all well and good, and those stories can matter and make an impact, but we as readers need more than just the same stories that have taken up our bookshelves for years and years.

Cya and I are launching OK Potato: Diversity in Media Reviews on a quest to seek and promote media representation in books and to discuss these issues more in-depth than this single blog post. I will still be discussing NaNoWriMo and basic writing progress and tips here, but I hope you’ll join us on our journey to bring diversity in media into the mainstream!

More on NaNo next time, guys. Thanks for reading!

NaNoWriMo: Day 7 & 8

IT IS DAY EIGHT AND I AM ALREADY 8K BEHIND HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? (Never mind; I know exactly how this happened.) No post today. Too busy playing catch-up. Check my Twitter for my descent into insanity. I will also be editing here in case this day gives anyone else hope, watching me claw my way out of self-imposed hell.

It was between this and a picture of Mulder with a single tear running down his cheek from my google search of "xfiles sad."

It was between this and a picture of Mulder with a single tear running down his cheek from my Google search of “xfiles sad.”

Edit: Hit 10K of 16K.  Send help.

Edit 2: Have a song for your writing pleasure. (Note: I don’t know what’s going on with this X-Files NaNo thing any more. My writing has nothing to do with aliens or the supernatural.)

Edit 3: What are words. What is the meaning of life.  12K of 16K.

Edit 4: Took a break by exercising but the excess stress turned everything into overexercising. Regret. So much regret.

Edit 5: 14K of 16K. Why is this my life. NEVER AGAIN, NANO. I HAVE LEARNED MY LESSON ABOUT FALLING BEHIND. I AM A CHANGED WOMAN.

Edit 6: That’s a lie. Five seconds after posting that edit I was filled with a surge of immense pride. Look at this! I can fall behind whenever I want and it will be fine! I’m great. This is great. This is the best NaNo day ever.

Edit 7: That was also a lie. Five minutes later and I am back to dying. My fingers hurt.

Edit 8: Showered to avoid writing. Came back to see some tweets from fellow people avoiding NaNo by checking twitter. My people.

Edit 9: Have an inspirational video: Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” commencement speech. Alright. 2K more. Let’s do this.

Edit 10: HRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH. 16K OUT OF 16K BITCHES, WITH A LITTLE EXTRA TO GET ME THROUGH TOMORROW. I AM SO TIRED. NEVER AGAIN.

Current word count: 16,492

NaNoWriMo: Day 5 & 6

Lately Chebk and I have been discussing the brainwashing involved in any writing, but especially for NaNoWriMo.

But, first, obligatory X-Files 90s Computer cap:

Sexy.

Sexy.

So: Brainwashing. Some of you may remember my tragic Mid-Novel Malaise (Pt.1, Pt. 2),  and my somewhat apathetic downfall involving a very simple solution: Not writing. Anything. At all. Ever. Obviously that was not the best long-term solution to finishing a novel, let alone a short story. Chebk convinced me to join NaNoWriMo with her so I would start writing again, just as she was jumping back into her novel-length project, which had also been put on hold. Birds of a feather and all that.

We’re still in the first week of the challenge and there is already despair (Chebk) and ruthless optimism disguising even deeper despair (me). We are both admittedly rusty about getting back into the swing of writing daily and I have decided to approach this by convincing myself, every day, that I am THRILLED to be writing. We’re going to finish the challenge! We will meet every daily word count! Look how fun this is! Aren’t we doing well?!

Hysterical and depressing though this may sound, ladies and gentlemen, this has so far proven useful. For one thing, it keeps me from thinking too hard about what I’m writing because the part of my brain in charge of persistent judgment is drowned by the other new part yelling IT IS OKAY EVERYTHING IS OKAY JUST KEEP WRITING WE ARE HAVING FUN LOOK AT ALL THESE WORDS KEEP GOING YAAAAY. To be honest, this usually comes out in a voice reminiscent of a person who knows their plane is going down and is trying to keep their three-year old child very calm. But still. It drowns the judgment. That’s the part that matters.

anxiety

This is the last vaguely depressing comic for this post. Promise.

Day Five involved about 500 words and a lot of TV due to some health problems.  (The GF and I marathoned How to Get Away With Murder which inspires me to write if only because of the inconsistencies and predictability that make me want to do better. It is a very pretty show though — and Viola Davis! This has been a tangent.)

Today is Day Six and the litany of hysterical optimism is back in full-force, especially since I am now officially behind in my word count. I’ll be back to update my word count unless it is too shameful to post. Hopefully this weekend will bring a boost in word count and self-esteem.

Thank you for reading the beginning of my spiraling descent into true NaNo madness.

NaNoWriMo: Day 3 & 4

So maybe I lied about updating daily, but for honesty’s sake, this early in the game not much interesting is happening. The real breakdowns will come later. Fret not.

Also, of note: I play either music or reruns of TV series on Netflix in the background when I write.  Lately I’ve been playing the first season of The X-Files for the umpteenth time and let me say, Agents Mulder and Scully use their computers a lot more than I remember and it is fascinating. Look at their struggles! If I had no idea what they were writing via voiceover narrative, they could be in a commercial for NaNoWriMo. The concentration! The frustration! The sad sighs! Someone make this a YouTube video. I won’t pay you but I’ll definitely post it everywhere I can.

Are you fucking kidding me with this word count? That's it?!

Are you fucking kidding me with this word count? That’s it?!

Day 3 was FUCKING AWESOME — until it wasn’t. I broke my first rule — yes, day three and already breaking rules — and started editing what I had worked on for the first two days. This was, surprisingly enough, not out of procrastination. I decided to try a solution to the slow pacing of this particular section by taking out an interaction entirely and replacing it with an action scene. I think it worked out for the best.

EXCEPT that it reduced my word count by over 1,000 words. WHAT.  On the one hand: Jesus. How wordy must I have been for that interaction to go on that long? Granted, it was a hostage negotiation. On the other: Put it back. Put that stupid scene back and use those extra words for your goddamn word count.

Too lazy to put it back. Suffered in quiet dignity instead. Lowered my NaNo word count on the official site. The shame.

Make this your computer background. You will not regret it.

Make this your computer background. You will not regret it.

Day Four: I moved on to my second chapter of Part Two today. My novel alternates between six limited third-perspective narratives, i.e. my main six characters: Suo, Quincy, Eiji, Gregor, Charlie, and Cassie (Gregor is the only male, mind.) Each chapter is limited to each main character. So I’ve completed Eiji’s for part two, although she may get a second chapter in this part later. I have now moved onto Gregor.

Gregor is my deliberate Token Male. If you do not appreciate this, you are not my target audience. He is not necessarily timid or weak, but amidst the much more pronounced presences of the women aboard the crew, he doesn’t stand out much. He is also a happily married man and has no romantic interaction with any of his crew, which I think takes away a plethora of plot lines for him. WELL, GOOD. His narrative currently stands out as the least attached to the crew, which presents an interesting choice in the face of their hijacking. Left abandoned with his wife, Talla, does he take the ship and try to find his crewmates in a deadly environment, or does he take the last gift of a safe house and live out his years with Talla, alone with their regrets?

My main struggle with Part Two has been to show enough of my characters’ pasts and balance it with the present narrative. Today was neither excellent nor devastating in terms of progress so we’ll count it a success.

Does anyone have any recommendations for other multi-narrative (third person limited; no first person) novels besides A Song of Ice and Fire? I’d appreciate it.

Current word count: 8506 of 75,000

PS: Find me on NaNo. Let’s be friends!

PPS. Sorry, Chebk. Next post will be about how I brainwashed myself to enjoy writing. Promise!

NaNoWriMo: Day 1 & 2

Alright, so I’m doing it: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2014. This challenge has been around for a while, but if you don’t know anything about it, basically it’s a challenge to write 50K in a month, roughly enough to be considered novel-length. The entire challenge is geared towards word count, not quality. It is (supposedly) a great way to get you writing daily and get a story out without holding yourself back. (DOESN’T THAT SOUND FAMILIAR.)

So to get me out of this writing rut once and for all, here goes nothing.

"Current mood: Mulder typing sadly at his computer." Pic and caption via tumblr.

“Current mood: Agent Mulder typing sadly at his computer.”
Pic and caption via tumblr.

In an effort to keep myself honest, I will be blogging almost daily for the month of November to keep track of my progress. My writing guru, Chebk over at 2WriterNot2Write, is convinced 50K is a cakewalk for me (lies) so I have the additional challenge of meeting 75K by Nov. 30.  NaNoWriMo calls for about 1,700 words per day to meet the challenge in 30 days. I will be writing 2500 words per day to meet Chebk’s awful, awful challenge.

Day One went mostly well. Unfortunately, most of the day was taken up by previously-scheduled engagements with my mother that ran late. I was able to write for a couple of hours in the morning and one more at night to total 1,000 words. Yikes. I then fell asleep, REMORSELESS.

One thing worth mentioning, is that I lost some of that writing time to attending the Hawaii Film Festival to watch the documentary Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which chronicles Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s history and progress with their recent animated film, The Wind Rises. It moved me deeply as an artist and writer to hear Miyazaki, a master in his own right, discuss the difficulties he encounters in his craft. At one point, he and his staff draw Zero plane after Zero plane and all are rejected. The producer, Suzuki, explains that it is because Miyazaki does not want the plane to be animated the way it actually flies but the way Miyazaki sees it fly in his head — how it could fly, how it should fly.

That is definitely something any artist can relate to, and something I struggle with daily. The story I write is never going to be as good as the story in my head but at least it will be real and completed. Lesson learned.

ghibli1

Scenes from Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. Or: in which Miyazaki continues to be my life's aspiration.

Scenes from Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. Or: in which Miyazaki continues to be my life’s aspiration.

Day Two: Today’s going better, gang, (she said, prematurely). I’m mostly reworking what I had of Part Two, starting with the beginning. The first chapter is still mostly intact but I like to type things from scratch with both docs open to fine-tune things, so it was an easy writing day but it really boosted my word count. Tomorrow is when the hard work begins as I will be rewriting the rest of the chapters from scratch. I’m hoping to deepen my characters’ struggles by separating them. I love the scenes they all have together but they rely on each other too much and it creates too much of a safety net in terms of growth or real danger. We’ll see how it goes.

Current word count: 7,405 of 75,000.