Wednesday, November 1, 2017

IWSG: A Sign from the Universe

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group day, a monthly event where authors in the blogosphere can share about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. First, how was your Halloween? The good number of trick-or-treaters who came by my house as unicorns, Rubik's Cubes, and Ghost Buster characters tells me that the '80s are making a comeback. 

Today's IWSG question is: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?  I "won" NaNoWriMo awhile back and am still working on the manuscript- it's my YA food novel KISS MY BUTTER. Earlier this year, I had to put the project aside although I still worked on it inside my head. As I was preparing to immerse myself back into the writing and re-read the working draft, I worried the break I'd taken would make me rusty. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. Reviewing my manuscript, I can better see the story's strengths and weaknesses now.  

What's funny was that the night after I picked up my manuscript again, an author friend I hadn't corresponded with for a really long time emailed me out of the blue that following morning.  She wanted to know if I was still working on my novel. She even remembered my book title. I took this as a sign from the universe that I should continue to push forward on this book project....even though it has been quite awhile since I started it. 

What do you think of when you think of the '80s? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this month? Have you ever received a sign from the universe?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

IWSG: Overfilled Cabinets

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group day, a monthly event where authors in the blogosphere can share about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. I'm posting late Wednesday evening. First, I want to check in with my readers. How have you been feeling? I'm feeling overwhelmed and sad about troubling current events, with the most recent being the horrific and tragic incident in Las Vegas last weekend. My deepest sympathies go out to any of you who have been affected by any of these events in the past month.  

Today I don't have a writing insecurity. I just want to share some thoughts about cleaning out an overfilled cabinet. A few years ago, I subscribed to several magazines at a time. Sometime after the first three months of getting these magazines, I realized I didn't have time to read everything. I could've cancelled the subscriptions but never got around to doing it. So I kept the magazines stored away in a cabinet. Being environmentally conscious, the idea of just throwing the magazines away made me feel bad. (Think about all the trees that were cut down to produce these glossies!) But for the longest time, whenever I opened this cabinet, the magazines would start spilling out. Recently, I finally took a couple of hours to clean out the cabinet by dumping most of those magazines into the recycling bin. (Sorry, trees!) 

The cabinet is much neater now.  But it still fills up rather easily, as magazines can easily be replaced by other stuff.  I have to continue making the effort to clean out that space. 

Treating an overfilled cabinet can be an analogy for other things in our lives. 

What was your experience cleaning out an overfilled space? What magazines do you subscribe to or have subscribed to?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

No Good Deed...

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group day, a monthly event where authors in the blogosphere can share about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. Today's IWSG question is:  Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? I don’t know if this counts but once I wrote a short story about the supernatural and later found myself frightened by some of the ideas I created in my own work. 

Today I don't have an insecurity. I just want to speak in vague generalities about some stuff I've been thinking about: Back in the winter, I did a small favor for someone. It was a favor I didn't have to do, and refraining from this favor wouldn't have been a breach of ethics in any way. Someone I know needed guidance and I helped out. Since then, the ripple effects of my favor have sometimes been a source of stress for me.  

My experience makes me think of the saying: "No good deed goes unpunished." Come to think of it, I can think of a bunch of other instances in my life that this quote supports.

That said, I still believe in helping others (but while being mindful of my personal boundaries and natural instincts.) 

Being a writer and a reader, I have been reflecting on how much of the fiction I've seen tend to show positive reinforcement for kind deeds. While I've also come across fiction where negative consequences punish a good doer, I'd say I spot this less frequently. But with the latter kind of story, the potential for character development could be quite interesting. After all, what is the motivation for one to continue doing the right thing if they have suffered for doing just that? A story that addresses this question could be more enticing to explore than a story about a character who consistently gets a pat on the head for doing the right thing.

Have you ever been "punished" for doing a good deed? Can you name stories that illustrate negative consequences from good deeds?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

IWSG: Unwelcome Spoilers

It's Insecure Writers Support Group day, a monthly event where participating writers can share insecurities and other details about stuff going on in their lives. Today's IWSG question is: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

There is a pet peeve that has come up before while I'm reading a story or being exposed to any medium of storytelling (e.g. movies, film). I get annoyed when I have been introduced to a new story that interests me or when I'm moving deep into a story and I learn a major spoiler or the ending. That's why when I'm watching a TV show that has already been out for a few seasons, I try to avoid reading any articles about the show. I also try to avoid viewing reviews of a book while I'm reading the book. Sometimes I still encounter spoilers though.

If I'm already hooked on the story, I can continue on with it, even though I know what's coming ahead. Good writing can keep me around.

I hope that if my WIP ever get published and somehow my story's spoilers reach readers, they will find a reason to stick around too.

Do you continue reading or watching a story after you know how it will end?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG: Tuning a Piano

It's IWSG day, a monthly event author Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. Today's IWSG question is: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing? I've learned not to compare my journey to other people's journey. I find that some who might appear to be ahead can have the same doubts and insecurities as I do.

Last month, I played a song on my piano after a long piano playing break and I cringed at how creaky and distant the notes sounded. So I hired a piano tuner to come over. I’d actually never gotten around to having the piano tuned before. When the piano tuner was finished working on my piano, I was amazed at how clear and clean the notes sounded. While the piano tuner worked on my piano, I was worried that I would be told that my lack of attention to tuning the piano all this time had permanently damaged the instrument in some way. But all it took was an attentive tuning to return the piano back to shape.

I wonder if the concept of tuning a piano applies to the various interests we have, such as writing. Sometimes I feel quite rusty returning to a writing project after a writing break. I’m sure my words come out creaky and distant sounding, like an untuned piano. As much as I wish I could hire a “tuner” to refine my fiction writing muscle when I’m returning from a break, I know I need to get back on track on my own. But I welcome tips on how to get there. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

IWSG: Broken Promises of Writing Time

It's IWSG day, a monthly event author Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives.
I know I'm posting really late Wednesday night. I have been crazy busy with work, family, and it's also the last week of school before summer break at my daughter's school, etc...  

But if I am extremely disciplined, I can finish off my workload for next week and have a free week to work on my novel! I have to admit that I've been somewhat neglecting my novel because of all my other responsibilities. But the idea of a juicy week to indulge in my WIP is really motivating me to keep burning the midnight oil. 

My cynical side keeps reminding me of the times the promises I made to myself of free time were broken when something unexpected came up (e.g. a suddenly comatose laptop, a power outage, someone gets sick) to infringe on that free time so that the free time was never more. Sometimes just the thought of losing the free time I worked so hard for slows me down.

But I've been working on my WIP long enough that I just need to do what it takes to finish it, even if it means pushing myself to earn a week of free time with the risk of losing it. 

What unexpected things have infringed on your writing time?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

IWSG: Beauty and the Beast

It's IWSG day, a monthly event author Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. This month’s IWSG question is: What’s the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story? I don’t know if this is considered weird or cool…But since my WIP has a culinary theme, I’ve been spending time in the kitchen trying new recipes. When my recipe is successful, it’s fun to eat my research. (And when the recipe is a fail, I consider it a learning experience.)

Today I don’t have an insecurity to share but a thought about how stories can be interpreted differently from one audience member to another.

Back in March, I took my daughter to see the live-action movie for Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson. Both my children have seen the Disney animated movie. Lately, they have been listening to the soundtrack for Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast. 

I’ve always interpreted the story’s villain as Gaston, who shows no empathy to the suffering of others, tries to have Belle’s father incarcerated and killed, and attempts to kill the Beast once he realizes Belle has feelings for the Beast.

The other day, my son asked me if the Enchantress who cast the spell on the Prince to turn him into a Beast was a bad guy. I responded that the bad guy was Gaston. My son persisted and asked why the Enchantress had to turn the Prince into a Beast. I explained that the Prince wasn’t nice to the Enchantress- he unfairly judged her looks-and so the Enchantress wanted to teach him a lesson about looking past outside appearances. My son responded, “Just because someone isn’t nice to you doesn’t mean you have to turn them into a beast.”  

I have always been fascinated by the character of the Enchantress in Beauty and the Beast. In the recent live-action movie, I was particularly pleased to see that the Enchantress played a bigger role than she did in the animated feature.
(Actress Hattie Morahan did a great job.) I never saw the Enchantress as a villain but a character who existed to support the fantastical elements of the story.

Nonetheless, my son’s perspective is also valid and offered an idea I hadn’t considered before. It is true that you don’t have to turn someone into a beast just because they aren’t being nice. (You can just imagine doing it, haha.)

What do you do when you encounter someone who isn’t being nice?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IWSG: A Quote for the Overwhelmed

It's IWSG day, a monthly event author Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. I hope that those of you who are participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge are having a good time so far. I did A to Z last year, but this year I decided to pass.

Today I don’t have much to share except that I have a lot on my plate right now with an endless to-do list. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Sometimes it just feels like a 24-hour day isn’t enough to do what I need to do. Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed too? If so, here’s a quote for you and me:

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” –Williams James

What quotes or thoughts do you find comforting when you are overwhelmed? How are you feeling today?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG: Skiing Down Bunny Slopes

It's  IWSG day, a monthly event author Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. Today's IWSG question is: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out? There is a novel I began working on shortly after I graduated from college that I didn't finish. In recent years, I've considered rewriting the story from the beginning. Sometimes when I'm watering all the story seeds I nurture in my head, I still think about all the places I could go with this particular story. 

I don't have an insecurity to share today. I just want to share some travel reflections. Last weekend, my family and I went to Tahoe to go skiing with some friends. This is the first time I've skied in a really long time.Once I got onto the snow, I remembered stuff I learned eons ago about skiing, like keeping my knees slightly bent while going downhill and making a pizza with my skis when I wanted to break or slow down. Surprisingly, I did okay, much better than I'd expected. Being on easy hills helped. While I was making my way down, I eyed snowboarders defying gravity on other slopes that were super steep. They glided through the snow effortlessly, as if they had wings. I can't snowboard. And even if I could snowboard, it would undoubtedly take me endless hours of practice to get to that level of expertise. Still, I enjoyed what I was doing where I was on my short beginner skis on the bunny slopes. Here, I could safely pace myself.  

I can enjoy doing something even if I'm a beginner at it.

Bringing this analogy into my writing life, sometimes I need a reminder that even though I'm new to novel writing (I'm still an unpublished author, after all), I can still take moments to enjoy the process of doing what I'm doing. I'm not ready for the steep slopes of the author's journey right now but maybe someday I'll get there. 

What do you enjoy the most about doing something that's new to you? What are some steep slopes of the author's journey you have survived?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: Viewing My Work Objectively

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event author Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. It's 10ish PM here on the West Coast...still Wednesday! Today's IWSG question is: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader? I find that being a writer has helped me approach books with more attentiveness to character and plot development and how the author works (or doesn't work, at times) these elements into their writing.

Recently, as I was reflecting on my novel, it occurred to me I should switch out one of the supporting characters for another kind of character. So far, I am pleased with my choice. Awhile back, I decided to remove another character altogether, another decision I was glad to have made. I find that some distance from my work-in-progress helps me to view my story in a more objective light when I return to it so I can more easily identify areas that need attention. That's one benefit of having a work-in-progress that I've been working on for so long because my ideas and intentions for it have changed over time. Still, sometimes I still feel frustrated that I have not yet written THE END on my project yet. And that's what I sometimes feel insecure about.

What major editing choices have you made in your work after you've taken a break from it?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IWSG: Information Dumping & Clearing Out Office Space

Happy New Year! Today is IWSG day, a monthly event author Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about insecurities and other stuff going on in their lives. Today's IWSG question is: What writing rule do you wish you'd never heard?  One writing rule I don't care much for is the one that warns writers not to information dump. I find that information dumping in earlier drafts of a story can help me better flesh out a story in my head. Besides, excess details can always be trimmed in future drafts. I also find that an author can get away with some level of information dumping in a novel AS LONG AS they can still hold my attention. Lately, I've been reading some YA fiction by an author who information dumps quite a lot and it doesn't bother me at all because she's such an excellent storyteller. 

Now for my insecurity...at the dawn of 2017, what I really want to do is to continue on with a long-term project I’ve been working on (besides my novel) and that is to clear out some space in my office. This has been a challenge for me and I wonder if I'll ever have a truly neat desk or office. Stuff that take up a lot of space in my office are my books, articles, and research materials. On my shelves, I keep many books I’ve read, books I haven’t read yet, and books I’ve received as gifts. (It's no secret among those who know me well that I love books!)  I also hold onto a number of articles and clippings that inspire me in some way whenever I look at them. And on top of that, I keep folders full of stuff related to research and "homework" for my various projects. It's hard for me to decide what to let go of! 

How do you minimize the clutter among the items in your reading and writing life? 

What are your thoughts about information dumping in writing?