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.

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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 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!

UPBEAT!

My secret writing weapon has always been my writing group, who are really just my childhood friends who I have largely coerced into adopting writing as their art. It’s okay. You can judge freely.

Lately I have been relying on them more than usual as motivators and support. Cya over at 2WriterNot2Write has been doing her damndest to get me back into my previous schedule of a chapter per week. She has even offered HUGE, INCREDIBLE suggestions that tie up some loose ends I have been trying to fix for SIX MONTHS (or more. Very probably more.), which makes me feel occasionally inadequate, if always, always grateful.

In any case, I have been told be be UPBEAT (to be referred to in all caps from here on out like some sad reminder).

This is probably not UPBEAT.
But still relevant.

So here is my half-assed GUIDE TO BEING UPBEAT. Actually, this is not even a guide. It is an attempt. Update: I have been sitting here for a good twenty minutes trying to decide how to follow up the previous sentence. This is not a great attempt.

I have always viewed doubt as an inevitable — if not necessarily essential — part of writing, or at least my writing. It can be and currently is crippling, but most other times it allows me to go back over drafts without getting bored or becoming too stubborn to cut large chunks of text. I have also never known how to react to confident writers. I respect their courage and craft but often find myself doubting the veracity of their statements — which is deeply unkind, but there you go. In any case, their confidence has little to do with my doubt.

So where is the UPBEAT silver lining?

I am confident in my craft and technical writing. There has been some wavering in light of some as-yet unresolved plot holes. BUT I have gotten validation and positive feedback for my general writing time and time again. The constructive criticism has never been malicious and, for the most part, has given me much to consider and continue to work on with each new piece.  Why is this not an adequate safeguard against the ever-present doubt?

Mainly because the doubt has nothing to do with the actual writing, either the technique or story. I doubt the overall product and its reception. I doubt my ability to be validated as a published author. I know these are things we are told never to think about while we write. Obviously I and this blog stand as living proof of how these thoughts will only hinder stories. Short stories have always felt like breathing out; everything is expelled for my benefit and I have always been satisfied with the product, before, during and after editing. This longer novel-length work is draining in terms of producing all this work for myself.

Will all this time and effort expended still be worth it if it never gets published?

Frame this. Never forget.

This is still not UPBEAT. The only UPBEAT thing I have left is to say that this is the story I want to write. I WANT TO WRITE THIS. And it drives me to frustration and madness, elation and deep depression. But at least I still have that, the drive to keep going. That’s something. And I am clinging to it even as I drag my feet with starting new chapters and obsess over old drafts and all the loose ends to tie up or change.

I know I would regret leaving this puzzle unsolved and all this work unfinished more than completing the project and never getting it published. Logically, I do know this. It is the doubt itself that is illogical. In reality, it’s just easier to succumb to it than to struggle and break through.

But I think it’s time to start struggling again.

TO REMEMBER. Keep going.
By Kate Holden

“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.” – Robert Hass

Mid Novel-Malaise Part II: STILL STUCK

To quote Julia Child in a letter to her co-author and friend, Avis, “HELL AND DAMNATION, is all I can say. WHY DID WE EVER DECIDE TO DO THIS ANYWAY? But I can’t think of doing anything else, can you?”

I’ve been taking a short break from writing after hitting an extremely rough patch about halfway through the novel. Over and over, I have been told that this is perfectly normal, but it does nothing to diminish the awfulness and subsequent self-loathing. At this point, the following became pertinent questions:

1. Is this something I want to write anymore?
2. Is this really something anyone is going to want to read?
3. What is the meaning of life and why is it absolutely nothing at all?

bb1

Bob's Burgers recreating an exact conversation between my father and me.

Bob’s Burgers recreating an exact conversation between my father and me.

There are probably a lot of trite things I could say but the truth is that I’m still figuring out things as I go and I think I’d feel better in this world if more people did that as well. It makes sense that all we ever see of a finished product is, well, the finished product, but reading about the (often long) histories of how other books, inventions, and successes came to be makes me feel a lot less like giving up altogether.

For now I’m trying to get back in the swing of things with significantly less self-pity and anxiety for the future. What seems to help most is not bemoaning what will not be simply because there is still time to keep trying or something.

(This is not true. This is placating. This is the blog post everyone writes and it is the fake smile one wears because someone orders you to smile. And so, the reality: The words and words are piling up and I know I’ll feel better if I let them out, that it will be just like vomiting and what will initially follow will be stark relief. But then will come the clean-up and, shit, that’s the hard part. And then what if all that comes out are the ugliest cliches and the trite boring plotlines I’ve been fighting against from the start? The rewriting and rewriting can be good — has been very good — but all I end up doing is rewriting in circles and calling it progress. At times it feels good unraveling the puzzle, searching for the solutions, but then I take a step back and see my exhaustion mirrored in my characters and…I have to wonder if I’m doing the right thing at all.)

horse

Okay. But the fact is people are putting out a shitload of art every day (see above horse-head, lady-body) and being bitter about their accomplishments has little to do with my own failures. Books are going to continue being published regardless of whether or not I stop writing. As much as I would like to stay in my mire of emotion, wallowing in the self-righteous flights of fancy about how great my story ideas could be if written, at some point doing the actual writing is the only thing that will satisfy. It is also the only thing that is going to eventually be publishable.

Blargh.

comic
On a more positive note, read about Bout of Books and more at 2WritersNot2Write, especially since Cya and Plutark continue to fight my battles for me.