Reports from Winterland

It occurred to me that I have almost but not quite abandoned this blog and I most certainly don’t want to do that so here I am.

Sort of.

I seem to have lost myself. I haven’t been able to push the world away and sink into a book like I used to. I am not unhappy. In fact, I dare say I am happier than I have been in a long time. But for some reason, I can’t turn my brain off and simply read.

I only finished 10 books in January and it seems the number will be even lower in February. I have a lot of books to read but I can’t stay up past 1 a.m. without vicious headaches and the day is full of things I must do.

It’s not that I have completely stopped reading. I can’t do that. I read a page or five every day from a volume here and there but the speed at which I have read is s l o w.

But the rate at which I acquire books has sped up now that I have some money to spend. *shrug*

But this post wasn’t meant to be anything other than a hello, I’m still alive.


2017: A Wrap

This year was almost dumpster fire, almost but as it is, every bad year has a few good things going for it to save it from being entirely terrible.

Many things have happened this year. Most of which my brain doesn’t want to remember.

I wrote two books. One of them twice. I found a job. I was super sad. People died. I made friends. I lost them. I came to terms with the fact that certain people I like don’t like me as much. I learned that people I didn’t think liked me do. I was able to confront my shortcomings and if not resolve them, take a step toward correcting them. I was able to look into the mirror for once. I looked at the woman in the mirror and said the most difficult things. Like, “You are beautiful. You matter. You do not have to be a certain shape, colour, or size. You deserve good things.”

Stuff like that. I learned that I need time. I learned the acid taste of anxiety. I learned how the darkness can spread inside of you until all you are is a scream no one else seems to hear. I learned that at the end of it all, there are people who care. (And some who don’t.)

I learned that sometimes dreams come true. And I learned about faith.

I did a whole lot of learning but obviously I have a lot more to go.

I also did a whole lot of reading which is why I’m here in the first place. To do a wrap up of my reading habits this past year.

I read 249 books this year. This is my lowest reading count in 6 years. However, the number isn’t truly illustrative of all the reading I have done. This year, unlike other years, I didn’t count the (large) number of manga titles I consumed. I also read a fair number of unpublished manuscripts as well as Korean webtoons in the original Korean. I reckon the number would be much higher were these volumes all counted.

  • 127 of the 249 books were from my own TBR pile. The rest of them were from the library.
  • I read 24 works of nonfiction this year.

All in all, I feel like I read some pretty good books this year. Check out The Book Wars for a longer post on the books I loved in 2017.

So I end 2017 with the hope that you guys are well, happy, and holding on.

Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

Revisions: The Second Step

So you have finally finished reading your magnificent work of art and managed not to die from the shame of having written it (or maybe that’s just me). You have underlined and annotated and shred apart your self-esteem until all that remains of it are fading memories.

You have questioned your every plot point and identified weaknesses that make your magnum opus slightly less magnummy. Now what?

Well, if you are me, you isolate those questions:

Stage 2a

Then you answer them:

Stage 2b

Obviously every writer will have their own set of rules of what works for them and what doesn’t. But for me, the act of writing out things works similarly to thinking out loud. When I put my questions into writing, I can answer them better.

I usually don’t pants my way through a book and this experience was horrific enough that I hope never to do so again. However, some stories demand to be told in certain ways and for me The Wild Ones demanded to be told in a wild away: forging ahead often blindly.

Now that the book is written, I can go back and recreate a more solid foundation and build from there.

But man, the plot holes.

Happy writing!

Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

Revisions: The First Step

A Twitter friend of mine, Patrice Caldwell, recently shared her revising process which led me to share mine and it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to not just me but other people if I were to collect those tweets in a post and elaborate on them.

I am revising the novel I finished less than two weeks ago because clearly I can’t stop writing/revising for more than a week without feeling like my life is ending. I haven’t spoken about the novel much on here (but then I haven’t spoken about much here on this blog) but The Wild Ones is part social commentary, part fiction, and entirely feminist.

The novel is vastly different from anything I have written so far and I feel like it could offer the literary establishment something new but only if I manage to whip it into shape. To be completely honest, it is somewhat terrible right now but then, first drafts usually are. Add the fact that I actually the pantsed the entire thing (I’m an outliner through and through and you have a novel that is barely held together.

The good thing is, I am entirely aware of the faults. The bad thing the faults are many. Hah.

Which brings me to Step One When Revising a Novel (any novel):

The First Read-Through

Say you finished your novel one bright November morning and after a torrential outburst of tears at making it through alive, you resolve to leave it alone for at least a month before returning to it. However, you cannot leave well enough alone and send a copy to your poor agent and ask she read it and critique it so you can revise it.

Then barely two weeks later, you decided you have had enough rest and decide to start revising your masterpiece. You read the first page and it’s well enough so you continue reading and make conscientious notes–it’s not perfect but it’s close.

And then you read the page and you realize that what you have written is nowhere near perfect, not even in the same galaxy to perfect. In fact, it’s about the same distance from perfect as the earth is to the sun.

So you leave yourself mean notes because the embarrassment is crippling.

first read

Another tip is to make chapter summaries. This will help you see structural deficiencies and figure what each chapter lacks. A CP suggested that I chart emotional highs and lows but that can come at a later stage.

Ask yourself the hard questions at this stage because you will be able to answer them without much penalty. Trying to answer the hard questions at a later date will make you cry. Loudly.

Chapter Summaries

This is where I am at the moment.

Another thing I suggested paying attention to at this stage is the subtext. I don’t know if authors normally pay attention to subtext but since I’m first an academic, what the subtext says is important to me. There are many ways to use the subtext to add an extra dimension to your writing, an extra layer that will satisfy those readers who tend to read more deeply (like me) and maybe if your book is studied at a university sometime in the future, someone will discover that one esoteric fact/technique you used.

Sometimes the subtext can be harmful entirely unintentionally. Try not to be resistant to the idea that you could be unknowingly problematic. It happens. Though your CPs will be far more helpful in this instance to make you are of any problematic elements in your work.

Just keep in mind that while this book is something you have slaved over, dreamed about, and wept for, at the end, it is not perfect. You will need a certain level of detachment and distance from this novel to craft it into the best it can be. You will need to cut away things that you absolutely do not want to and you will need to sometimes submit to a vision of the novel that doesn’t match the original vision you had of it but that fits it better.

Don’t excuse or try to hide the novel’s flaws. Rip it apart and then put it back together. As I am trying to do.

Lord help me.

I will be back once I move on to Step Two (if Step One doesn’t kill me, that is.)

Happy writing!

Discussion · Roundups

November Wrap Up

November was a rollercoaster. Good and bad things happened.

I found a job. (More on that at a later date.)
I finished the first draft of the novel I was writing. (I will start revisions after a break.)
And my uncle was run over by a car while crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing. Even if he lives, he is going to be bound to a wheelchair. I…am angry.

Anyway, I read a fair bit this month but the stuff I read weren’t books. I read Korean webtoons, a lot. Too much? Maaaybe. I still don’t feel like reading. I think this fatigue of reading comes with writing. You deal with words so much that after a while you just want to turn off your brain. Still, the month wasn’t a complete write-off, bookwise. I did manage to read some books. They are:

  1. The Graphic Canon of Children’s Lit collected by Rus Kick.
    This was beautiful.
  2. Behind the Canvas – Alexander Vance
    This was good but for some reason I didn’t love it as much as I had thought I would.
  3. Lines by Suzy Lee
    This wordless picturebook was amazing.
  4. The Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo
    Apart from one or two stories that didn’t work for me, this collection features some very strong storytelling and absolutely gorgeous illustrations.
  5. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
    Look out for a review of this one here soon.
  6. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison
    I seriously loved  this one. I reviewed it on thebookwars.ca if you are so inclined.
  7. Cheese in the Trap Season 1 – Soonki
  8. Cheese in the Trap Season 2 – Soonki
  9. The Ghosts in the Castle – Zetta Elliott
  10. The Phantom Unicorn – Zetta Elliott
Discussion · Roundups

October Wrap Up

October ran away from me. I was busier than I had expected to be, sadder than I had expected to be, and just not in a reading mood. I still managed to read 15 books which I suppose are no mean feat. I mean, it feels like nothing to me. Do you remember the time I used to read about 60 books per month? I don’t know where she went, that girl.

I wrote 13295 words in October and I am proud of that. Every word hurt.

Bo Gum sad.gif

Anyway, here’s what I read:

  • 3 graphic novels
  • 3 literary novels
  • 3 middle grade novels
  • 2 adult genre
  • 1 poetry collection
  • 2 YA novels
  • 1 nonfiction

I feel that is quite eclectic a range, don’t you?

Here’s the list of titles I read:

  1. Chemistry by Weike Wang
    So fantastic. I adored this.
  2. Boundless – Jillian Tamaki
  3. No Rules – R. A. Spratt
  4. The Big Bad Fox – Benjamin Renner
  5. Demi-Gods – Eliza Robertson
  6. Murder in Thrall – Anne Cleeland
  7. The Poisoned House – Michael Ford
  8. Don’t Call Us Dead – Danez Smith
  9. Song of the Current – Sarah Tolcser
  10. The Glass Sentence – S. E. Grove
  11. 300 Arguments – Sarah Manguso
  12. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
  13. The Cloven Viscount – Italo Calvino
  14. A Conspiracy in Belgravia – Sherry Thomas
  15. The Dam Keeper – Robert Kondo

On Being Alive

We are, aren’t we? In gasps and outrage, in shock and horror, in reluctant smiles over the most unexpected happenings, and always in sorrow.

2017 has been a battlefield in many ways and from the looks of the world, things are just going to escalate until our hearts are but repositories of pain translated into things we can endure.

I have learned many things over the course of this year. For instance, how to get sunk deep into a story, so deep that you can smell the air in the city you made, so deep you can hear your characters laugh and cry in real life. I have learned what it means to carry around a broken heart because you are somehow never enough. I have learned to value people and their stories and their silences. I have learned to look at the world in moment and notice the minute details. I have learned not to accept the limitations the world seems determined to place on me. I have learned to continue writing even when every word hurts. I have learned to be more than what I am.

And I have met people. Good people who inspire me in small and big ways. People who with their passion and desire for life and work have inspired me to keep holding on.

Generally this is the kind of post I would write on the last day of the year but I have also learned that life is short and can end unexpectedly so just in case, let me get this out.