2016: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Oh Charles Dickens.

Now that it’s February, I know I’m sooooo late on looking back on 2016, but better late than never. The nature of how 2016 ended keeps coming back to me, even as we’re already in 2017. I keep thinking back on how I was talking to my sister about this a few weeks ago, on of how people jokingly (let’s be real, seriously) talk about 2016 being the worst year EVER. And I think we all know why without me having to spell it out, since the darkness still follows us everywhere we go.

But what my sister said really resonated with me. She said, “You know what, 2016 was the year I peaked. I ran a marathon, got out of a bad relationship, became a Fulbright scholar, etc.” But then the world completely shifted toward the dark, which seemed to shadow every good thing that came before, every moment of light that filtered in between.

In many ways, I sort of agreed with my sister. For me, 2016 was the year I achieved more than I thought I ever could—I signed with my dream agent, I tackled THE hardest revisions I’ve ever had to complete and came out with a stronger story, I traveled around to conferences and met so many other wonderful writers, I mentored another writer who I’m so proud to see is now agented and progressing along her path to publication.

I don’t want to discount the very dark direction 2016 went down, and I also don’t want to overshadow it by raising my own personal silver-linings that came out of it. Ultimately, I do think what I’m most at peace with, coming out of 2016, was that I felt so much stronger by the end. Beaten, but not defeated. Down, but always rising back up. Wonderful things happened, yes, but nothing made them greater to me than being challenged by what those good things brought (and the bad as well), and feeling like I learned so much more about myself, about how to proceed from here on out as someone who’s more aware, active, and prepared for what’s to come.

And to start 2017, I also want to look back on my 2016 resolutions—to see how I did, and keep them strong in this new year as well:

  • Finish a book.

Sooooooo, I think I cheated a little bit because while most of 2016 was spent revising Pirate Fantasy, I felt like my process of revision and rewriting turned it into a completely new book. The story I wrote before is SO different from the story it is now, but I absolutely love the new monster it’s become, the way it’s evolved and grown even closer to my heart. The sheer amount I’ve rewritten (and rewritten and rewritten and ughhh) and the new additions I’ve made feel like I did finish a brand new book, and I honestly couldn’t be prouder of it. But for this year, I do hope to finish another book which I feel is totally doable. And necessary. My urge to explore new worlds and characters is itching at me!

  • Revise Pirate Fantasy, while working on something else.

I feel like I can say I actually fulfilled this!! *confetti* While I wasn’t always working in tandem with revising (my brain was already close to exploding enough times on just Pirate Fantasy), I did manage to beast out over 90k of Phantom Fantasy in 2016! However, the pantsing is still going strong and the story is far from over, which means this first draft is going to be one HUGE baby. Along with drafting this project, I also want to tend to my garden of other ideas and projects–which surprisingly grew a lot last year!–and see what other stories are leaping for my attention.

  • Read, read, read.

I’m just going to be flat-out honest and say 2016 was not a great reading year for me. AGAIN. I have a hard time reading when I’m revising, and since I was on the revision train so often, that meant pushing back reading as a priority. Yikes. The good thing about 2017, however, is that I’ve been back to reading like an absolute FIEND. I think because I’m desperate for even the briefest escape from the world, I’ve turned to books—and they’ve embraced me back with open arms and provided me comfort like nothing else. I’m actually 7 books ahead in my Goodreads challenge which is unheard of for me, so I’m hoping to keep up the reading momentum, as well as reading widely and more out of my usual comfort zones 🙂

  • Progress as much as you can on the writing journey and never lose sight of why you’re on the path in the first place.

2016 was a huge year for my writing and me, and sometimes I still can’t even believe what’s happened has actually happened. But for me, progress also comes in so many other forms that aren’t just those milestones on the journey to publication. My ultimate show of progress, I feel, was going from feeling like I was constantly ten steps backwards with my story, to fighting and revising my way through draft after draft until I overcame all of those missteps. 2016 was the year I learned the art of creative patience and honoring the story—of feeling like no matter what, the fact that I’ve produced something I love, that I know I’ve worked hard on, and that I’m proud of by the end of the day will be enough. With no guarantees in this industry, it’s especially important to feel fulfilled by the work that you put forth and pour from your heart, not what you get in return for it. This is one lesson of many I know I’ll always treasure.

To add to this ever-growing list of resolutions I seek to meet however I can every year, here’s a new one that I also want to uphold:

  • Prioritize being a support to others who need it, providing the encouragement and listening ear I wish I had when I first started writing.

Before I found my wonderful group of writing friends and critique partners, I was every bit that sad picture of a lonely, young writer who didn’t know how to put herself out there, how to be confident with her writing, or how to go about advancing her writing career. When I think about it, it really wasn’t that long ago (like 3 years ago haha), but SO much has changed since then. The writer I was back then would not have believed how much luck was coming her way in the form of friends, a sense of community, and opportunities she would soon be encountering. Last year, I mentored in Pitch Wars and had the BEST time helping a writer along her journey. I’m already mentoring again this year for Author Mentor Match (HI TANVI, IF YOU’RE READING!!! Guys, Tanvi is my mentee match from this program and has breathtaking prose for days ❤ ), and I want to keep lending a hand to other writers whenever I can, and however I can.

OKAY. Done with resolutions, and now it’s time to stick to them and see them through! Last but not least in this post, I’ve once again dipped into my collection of fortune cookie fortunes and am tacking up some brand new ones onto my cork board to reflect the new year!

“Treasure your good memories and you need not worry about ending a banquet.”

“Happiness is around the next corner, wealth down the street.”

“Welcome the good change coming soon into your life.”

Wishing everyone a positive new year with lots of good luck and happiness 😀

10 Things About My Writing

Thank you to my lovely and hilarious CO-G Erin who tagged me to do this post, which was honestly wayyyy harder than I thought it would be because 10 THINGS ARE A LOT OF THINGS. Okay. Here goes.

1. I’m a pantser. I’ve honestly tried not to be—meaning, I’ve attempted plotting, character graphs, outlining, story bibles, and whatnot, but they all fizzle out. Which SUCKS because that sort of organization would be enormously helpful for the hot mess that is my brain. But for some reason, the minute any sort of formal organization enters the scene, my brain riots with cries of “THOU SHALT NOT ORGANIZETH” and sabotages my attempts. But to be fair, I’ve embraced pantsing. I just love that freedom and unpredictability with writing, since it can produce some of the best scenes, characters, and turning points of a story. I’m still trying to assume a more organized method (aka slightly less messy), but at heart, I am a panster.

2. I’m a loose mental plotter to a point. I think this is the only reason I can pants as successfully as I’ve been able to (is it successful? The jury’s still out on that one….). Being a mental plotter for me means without having to write it all down, I already somewhat have a loose string of events I know HAVE to happen to jumpstart the story. The overall plot isn’t completely figured out, but it’s enough to keep me excited to keep writing and discover what comes next. With all the characters and plot points jumping around in my head, it definitely makes my mind an even more crowded place, that’s for sure. And scary.

Mental plotting yayyy *sobs* source

3. Music is my guide. Music plays a HUGE part in my life—not only because of my musical background, but also because some of my first memories are of hearing my dad singing, as well as Lea Salonga cassette tapes on repeat (hello throwback). As such, I’ve always tied music to memories and emotions—and when I tie emotions and memories to writing, music naturally falls into the equation. I listen to ALL sorts of music and build my story playlists like no other. Not only is music helpful for tone/mood research or getting re-inspired when in a writing slump, but it’s a great way of giving your story some structure without having to outline a single thing  🙂 Except most times when I’m listening to my playlists as I’m writing, I look like I’m possessed as I’m typing. Lots of swaying, head bobbing, and more movement than is required for actual sitting.

And this is why I rarely write in public

4. Inspiration-wise, I am a mean fuser. I like to fuse ideas with each other and see what comes of it. Thus, the “This meets That” high-concept pitch has been my friend with lots of projects. I do this with movies, books, TV, and musicals, and sometimes it’s not even the literal “This Story meets That Story.” Sometimes it can be as simple as a flash moment of inspiration, colliding with another, that gives me a snapshot of what a story could be. There’s just something I really love about taking two extremes and letting them settle into each other, seeing the vibe/mood of what I love while carving out my own story from within. Obviously it’s not copy-cut-paste of the two ideas (because hello, plagiarism), but for the most part, I see my fusions as a tribute to two things I really love. And also my excuse to indulge in them as much as possible for “writing research.”

This Unicorn meets That Unicorn = all the yay (source)

5. I’m also an eager idea gatherer. Unfortunately, aforementioned fusion does not happen instantly (boo). Sometimes I get an idea I realllllly like, but it’s just not ready to be a story yet. I’ve gathered the “This” but not the “That,” and so patiently I wait until that last piece of the puzzle falls into place. Sometimes it’ll take years to find the “That,” but in between that time, I’m gathering ideas for the story and letting it take up residence in my head. But when the times comes when the “This” finally meets its “That” in my head, it is the BIGGEST aha! moment in the world. For Phantom Fantasy, it was reading a book and then finally listening to the right piece of music years later.

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6. Lastly, I’m a steadfast incubator. This leads into why I can pants and mental-plot—I capture these ideas with this method I’ve laid out above, and do the tedious, tiresome task of . . . letting them sit. For a while. Like when a baker instinctively knows when the cake is ready without keeping time, I know it’s time to write. Especially if the story is quite literally DRIVING ME CRAZY. I incubate these ideas until they’re begging to come alive, haunting me every day to a point where it’s painful not to be writing it all down. Now that I say this, it all sounds super punishing and weird BUT it’s how I remain super excited about my stories and characters even during the really low writing times. I’ve waited this long to write the story, so you bet your bottom dollar I’m going to finish and love every moment.

Welcome to the world, dino-story, YOU ARE READY TO BE WRITTEN source

7. I hear voices in my head. Yes, I hear the voices of my characters, lines that spark scenes and interactions, and swells of music in my head—which can get overwhelming, but hey, it’s a sign that I’m feeling extremely inspired by my story (enough to hear it pretty much wherever I go). This stems a lot from tons of day dreaming when I step away from the computer (because really, do writers EVER stop thinking about their stories?) and can drive me crazy most times, but I like that feeling of a story following me around. I’m not done with it, and it’s not done with me, so it will keep stalking me until I go back to writing.

8. I paint my nails the color I feel best captures the story! People who know me know that I like to keep my nails fresh….mostly because before, my nails looked like crap from so much nail-biting. To break that high anxiety-driven habit, I decided to do my own nails as a brand of therapy (taking control of even the smallest things really helps!), and tie it in with my writing by assigning colors to my stories! Nothing is better than looking down at my keyboard and seeing an awesome pop of color on not-too-shabby nails beasting those words out. For Pirate Fantasy, dark purple/night-esque shades are my go-to colors, and my CO-G Erin sent me the BEST nail polish ever (Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish—quite possibly the fanciest nail polish to grace my fingers) which I’m now currently wearing and loving!

ALL the Sailor Scouts know the power of having strong nail game

ALL the Sailor Scouts know the power of having a strong nail game   source

9. I’m an emotional writer. Another reason I don’t like writing in public is that I cry when I write (no surprise since I cry over almost anything). I get really into the emotions of my story and my characters, and there’s something about crying while writing that adds a rawness to the character’s voice. It’s feeling words rather than trying to phrase them the right way. It’s in those powerful moments when I feel like I’m truly connecting with the heartbeat of the story, and makes me fall in love with the book all over again (even when I’m knee-deep in Revision Draft #29384782).

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It me, all day every day   source

10. There are random things I love which I always must include in my stories. This ranges from loads of fire metaphors (I love fire), nods to the color red (my fave color), foxes (fave animal!), birds (so beautiful! And they remind me of my parents!), music (see #3), masks (PHANTOM! TUXEDO MASK! ZORRO! ETC!), and dancing (dancing shows are hands down the best). There are definitely so many other random things to add to this list, but for now, these are the ones I’m not entirely embarrassed to admit  🙂

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Wow, that was a lot of things. For anyone else who wants to join in on this, do it and have fun reflecting on all the quirks that make you the writer you are!!!

Remember, Remember to Give Thanks in November

First off, how many here feel personally victimized by November?

Yup. It was a hard month. Not just for me, but for the many, many people who were affected post-election. Like so many others, I had a difficult time processing and writing because to me it felt like, in Hamilton terms, the world turned upside down. And not in a good way, but in the way that feels like all of what’s surrounding you has become so topsy-turvy that you hardly recognize the home you’ve been living in for your entire life.

At heart, I’m a happy, positive, and optimistic person—and November really challenged that side of me, the one that strives to always find the silver-linings that help me accept and process the hardest of times. But even though it was challenging, I’m happy to report that as we welcome in December, November never beat us. Though we were struck hard, we got back up with a fury. We continue to fight, even as we still heal.

I just wanted to write that all out first because it’s been weighing heavily on my mind for a while, and it would be a flat-out lie in my heart to gloss over November and say it was amazing. Some parts were (like family! Food! Thanksgiving! Becoming a godmother! Writing!), but there was a dark cloud hanging over it that could not be ignored. To push it aside would be to push aside your pain and the pain of so many others, when in reality, I confront pain because it pushes me to act. Grief over a hard loss pushed me to bring a story to life, just like an intense bout of hopelessness has now pushed me to keep working on the story that I wish can bring hope to others.

From all the artists and writers I follow, it’s been uplifting to see such amazing responses of encouragement, solidarity, and above all, creating important and powerful stories in this time of need. I’ve definitely been taking to heart the inspiration that’s risen from these times, and I’m hearing loud and clear the call for more diverse books and voices. It’s prompted me to tackle my revisions with a vengeance, and the work I’ve put down feels stronger than ever with an emotional heartbeat that just keeps pounding louder and louder.

Though lots of emotional head space in November was occupied by everything above, there were also so many positive highlights. I’m now an official fairy godmother to my BEAUTIFUL nephew, saw lots of my family, had tons of puppy therapy with Master Skywalker, aaaaaaand ate all the food during Thanksgiving.

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GODSON, I am your crazy fairy godmother

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THE TURKEYS HAVE THEIR REVENGE: In which a flock of turkeys aggressively invaded the front lawn on Thanksgiving morning

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Master Skywalker’s “please let me cuddle on the couch” pouty face

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Dat Thanksgiving spread

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Thank you snapchat for giving me the ability to make a fried turkey terrified

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Our other turkey baby ❤ (who we definitely did not eat)

Along with cool family and food shenanigans, more updates and good news were what kept my spirits up during November. First off, MY PITCH WARS MENTEE HAS AN AGENT!!!!!!!!!!!!

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-2-03-50-pmI am so, so, SOOOOO proud of Judy. It was an honor to co-mentor her in Pitch Wars with Axie, and nothing has made me happier than to see her rise like a star from our slush pile four months ago to becoming an agented writer this week. She rocked the agent round, and it’s been nothing but constant cheerleading and hip-hip-hooraying for all the awesomeness that Pitch Wars has brought. Oh Judy. If you’re reading this, sorry for gushing so hard BUT I CAN’T HELP MYSELF. You’re an amazing storyteller with such a great heart, and I can’t WAIT to see you take the publishing world by storm….and also to get my copy of HUNGRY GHOSTS in hardcover soon in the future ❤

Mentoring a writer has been one of the biggest highlights for me this year. To help other writers on their journey is so rewarding, but finding life-long friends makes the mentee-mentor experience even greater. With that said, because I just can’t get enough, I’m part of ANOTHER mentoring program called Author Mentor Match, spearheaded by the lovely Alexa Donne and Heather Kaczynski!

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It’s a new program that’s just launched this year, and the submission period opened recently enough that you can STILL submit if you have a polished MS ready and are interested in a mentor to help you brave the next steps of the publishing journey! Deadline to submit by is December 6th, and there are SO many fantastic authors and agented writers who are offering to mentor (whaddup Axie, Kat, Katy, and Mara) so you really can’t go wrong  😉 For insights on my mentoring style, check out my profile where I basically am just begging for friendship and fun!!

All in all, November was tough, but toward the end when Thanksgiving hit, you can’t help but also reflect on the things that bring you light and that you’re grateful for. I’m so thankful for all the opportunities this year has presented, for the friends who always keep me sane and inspired, for the new people who’ve come into my life and have helped me grow, for the family that’s always supported and believed in me, and last but not least, for writing—for the stamina to keep at it, the endurance to push through the frustrating times, and the passion to love every single second of it.

Guess Who’s Back/Remembered To Blog

Hello world, I’M STILL ALIVE. For some reason, it escaped me that I hadn’t updated my blog in 3 MONTHS which is seriously a problem. Like . . . where was I? WHERE WAS I?????

Favorite overreaction gif

Accurate portrayal of me overreacting, source

Oh yeah, I was off doing things—LIKE BECOMING AN AUNT!!!!! I won’t go into all the details of how I officially earned that title (because that entire hectic night/day in August is now more like a sleep-deprived blur in my head), but rest assured, I have the most beautiful, wide-eyed nephew who will be victim to ALL of my storytelling and funny face-making. And humming. I remember holding him one morning, trying to ease him away from one of his crying spells, and started humming the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song which actually calmed him down enormously. Needless to say, this kid and I are already getting along just GREAT.

Also, I was off being a Pitch Wars mentor with my very favorite co-boo Axie Oh! For the longest time, we labored over our wish list (especially choosing those snaps and gifs. Man, that was a trial), just hoping we would cover enough ground to spark interest in some hopeful mentees—and we ended up with a gloriously full slush inbox that simply floored us during the submission period. Words cannot express how grateful we were to read and receive all those entries, and I’m not even joking when I say the talent out there is RIDICULOUS.

me during PW, source

It killed us that we could pick only one, but Team Rocket ended up with our dream Meowth mentee Judy Lin, whose YA horror blew us away. I think the best thing about the choosing process was that Axie and I certainly didn’t expect it would fall into our inboxes just based on our wishlist . . . but we were SO glad it did. Now, I completely understand when agents says “I want something I didn’t know I was looking for” because that was Judy’s MS for us. It’s a FABULOUS horror story told in a voice as funny and spunky as Veronica Mars, takes place on Taiwan during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, incorporates the most chilling Chinese ghost stories, features the cutest romance EVER, and has the most drool-inducing descriptions of food I’ve ever read. Seriously. Once this novel is unleashed upon the world, I dare you not to be aggressively hangry by the end of every chapter.

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No joke. SO hangry. (source)

And then along with Pitch Wars, there was the Boston Teen Author Festival in September! I was SUPER stoked for this because not only was it wonderful being a part of all the year-long, behind-the-scenes organizing as an official BTAF team member for the first year (!), but it was also amazing seeing my true loves, Maddy and Akshaya, as well as seeing the loveliest of friends both old and new. Of course, it was a crazy hectic day that resulted in many a blister, but was ultimately SO rewarding just to be a part of an exciting celebration of YA, readers, and writers. Reunions seriously can’t get any better than that.

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Trying to look legit

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Whoa this book buying line

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WHOA the book signing lines

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I can’t even remember WHAT this drink was, only that it was so necessary post-fest

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All the agent sis/Team Thao love!

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The LOVELIEST group of writers to ever take over Daedalus

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Post-fest recharge/writing retreat in the Cape

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Blood orange mimosas are heaven’s tears

And soooooo, along with other short family trips in between that would probably bore everyone on here to tears, this has been where my head is at. And then of course, there’s revisions—which in itself has been a wild adventure all on its own! But rather than ending on the nitty-gritty of that note, I’m offering up an inspirational image instead. Because I’m sappy.

While at the Cape, I took the best walk ever just around the neighborhood to explore the beachy areas surrounding us. Nothing clears your head more than smelling the sea, feeling the wind whisper through your hair with the sun still warming your skin. I remember sitting on a rock, observing the tiniest crabs crawling stealthily beneath the sand. And then as the breeze picked up, I looked up at the sea streaming along the shore to see a lone, small seagull swimming against the water’s current.

All the birds had flapped away once the wind blew, but not this one. This one kept paddling in the opposite direction of where the water flowed, making it harder on itself. I kept wondering, why don’t you just leave like the rest? Or even, why don’t you just relax and let the water take you? Why resist and throw so much energy against a current working against you?

But the more I stared at this bird still going against wherever the wind blew as if to spite it, the more my questioning reflection became an epiphany. I felt like this bird. And I knew I’d seen so many people I admire be this bird as well, pushing against something that seems unconquerable and resisting the urge to let it define your course. You set your own course, despite what others do or what the wind says. And if you can maintain that sense of self-direction no matter how hard the breeze tries to throw you the other way, then that is wonderful.

Of course, the seagull probably had NO idea I was pretty much stalking its progress with all of these crazy, spiritual, bird-lady thoughts. If it noticed me, it didn’t scatter like most birds usually do. Instead, it eventually gained dominion over the majority of the stream because it didn’t fly away. It stayed, it kept going. It became quite a sight to behold, because the boldest birds don’t always have to fly to be seen. Sometimes all it takes to be acknowledged is just maintaining your own course, tireless and fearless.

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I’m Still Not Over Zootopia

So, I watched Zootopia last week and it totally blew me away. Then I watched it again at the end of this week and it continued to be a brilliant cinematic star. In my world, if it calls for more than one theater viewing, it really is that good. Correction: IT IS ACTUALLY GOLD ON A SILVER SCREEN.

And because I’m just super infatuated with this movie, lemme passionately blog about it—and if these ten reasons can’t tempt you into watching it, I don’t know what will.

1. The main character is basically Leslie Knope if she were a rabbit. And she is just so darn inspirational. Every obstacle she comes across, she conquers it with a smile and endless pep.

2. THERE IS A SLY FOX. AND I’M KIND OF IN LOVE WITH HIM…AND HIS CHARACTER ARC.

3. Scratch that, I’M IN LOVE WITH THEM TOGETHER. Their team dynamic made me squeal a lot.

4. Animals! Lots and lots of glorious animals!

5. The world is pretty freaking amazing and so cleverly built. For reals, I wish I could live in Zootopia.

6. Speaking of the amazing world, it allows for moments like this. Enough said.

7. The feels and humor are so on point. When I wasn’t crying, I was choking on popcorn from laughing.

8. Wonderful plot, teeming with rad sleuthing and detective work.

9. Most importantly, this movie is just so RELEVANT. Insanely smart, outrageously timely, and tackles so many of the serious issues in the world today in a way that makes this film kid-friendly, adult-friendly, and—hell, let’s be real—mankind-friendly. It’s mind-boggling to me that this movie is released now of all times, as we’re in the midst of a very controversial race for the presidency that’s raised the same fears and concerns touched upon in this movie. From this standpoint, watching Zootopia honestly felt like looking into a mirror and seeing a cautionary reflection of what is already happening, and what may worsen if we don’t stop it. To avoid spoilers, everyone should just watch Zootopia! I mean, can you really resist the promise of powerful underlying messages within this film, as well as the opportunity to see a fennec fox in an elephant costume?

10. Lastly, it’s impossible not to do a little happy dance to this inspirational jam right here 😀 *immediately adds to motivational playlist*

 

It’s all in the cards, Moulin Rouge-style

Positive changes are afoot! Physically, I’m finally back at that point where I can run on the treadmill without dying. I’ve changed up my usual nail polish color (once purple-ish black, now a killer red). And I’ve been chugging along with my new WIP, Phantom Fantasy, and having so much fun. Honestly, there’s no better feeling than having all of the words just spill onto the page and suddenly getting stuck in the middle—

Oh wait, that’s not positive. In fact, that’s very not positive.

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But OF COURSE, when I encounter this stage, the eternal optimist in me automatically goes into survival mode and refuses to let the not-positives stand in the way.

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Hitting roadblocks in the middle of drafting is TOTALLY normal for writers. I mean, we all lose steam eventually. Everything does, and it is our job to recognize when we need a resting period. Think about it, when you’re driving and you see the signs that your car needs gas (i.e. the needle of death drops closer to the empty side, the dreaded gas warning light comes on, etc.), is that the green light for you to keep driving for miles on end, hoping for the best? HELL NO. Nobody wants to be driving on empty. Not you, not your precious automobile, not anybody.

Writing can be a lot like that. A LOT. Your creative tank is only so full for a certain amount of time before you need to stop and refuel—at least for me, this is true. For the people who are just endlessly creative and productive every single day of their lives without complaint, you are just straight up superhuman. Are you even real?

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I am definitely NOT superhuman like that. I started out drafting this shiny new WIP super strong; however, once the middle blues hit, they hit HARD. It’s inevitable, unavoidable, and all just a part of the process of cranking out a novel. Once you’ve made peace with that, the only thing you can do from there is to recover and rebound—give yourself the time you need to figure out your next game plan, and then jump back in.

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For some reason, I find that this problematic portion of the writing process brings out my creative “fight or flight” response where my quickest thinking comes in. Frustrating as feeling stuck is, not only does it force me to look back on what I have of the story, but it sort of commands my brain to figure out what the story needs. This time around with Phantom Fantasy, I realized that I needed to know more about the world .

Soooo, how do I discover what parts of the story world I need in order to keep moving forward? Plain and simple: I make a deck of cards, and design fun games to go along with it.

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Yeahhhh, when I type this out now, my method just seems so brutally unhelpful and maybe a complete waste of time. How will making some froofy cards possibly help me understand the intricacies of the world? The plot? The characters?

In a lot of weird ways, it’s somehow helping me understand the story WAY better than if I’d just sat down with a notebook and skimmed online article after article after article. Not that article-digging ISN’T fun (it definitely is), but creating these extra materials that exist in my world actually helped ground me in the story even more. It’s opening my brain to other possibilities, making me think about my story differently, and overall is giving me a physical tie to the world I’m writing about.

I was pretty stuck at one part during the week. But over the weekend, I sat myself down to fold sheets of paper, drew on them, and cut them out. It brought me back to first grade arts and craft time, and you bet I was enjoying every second of it. Someday I might post pics of them here when they’re not looking so rough and flimsy. To be honest, they’re really not the most sophisticated or well-crafted cards by any means, but they’re pretty dang awesome to me. Even more awesome, I forced my sister last night to help me do a trial-run of two games I’d invented to go along with the cards—and by some miracle, THEY ACTUALLY WORKED. Of course I need to fine-tune the rules a bit so that the games don’t last a thousand years, but the basics I have now are not a total disaster! Huzzah!

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The time I spent making these cards was so valuable because it also motivated me to hand-write backstories of the world and a certain wicked character of mine. I also finally watched a documentary DVR’d for story research that I hadn’t been able to get around to until now. Even though most of my work wasn’t drafting, this experience helped me understand that it’s okay. There are other ways you can add to your story that’s more than just typing out words on a document, and I honestly believe using the inevitable ohgodimcreativelystuck time to explore these routes is such an effective way to breathe more life into the story. It felt just as important to my writing process for this book, so in many ways, I’m immensely happy that I got stuck in my writing.

Yup, the eternal optimist in me prevails once more.

Now, back to work. Onward.

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Squad Love

Can I just say how much I LOVE the new Suicide Squad trailer!?? I’m absolutely crazy over everything that’s going on in it (villains, teamwork, insanity), and these glorious two and a half minutes of awesome mayhem are only making me even more pumped for the movie! Also, it’s getting me super excited to write—which is probably why I’m even more obsessed. Seriously. I feel like I’ve pretty much abused the repeat button and have watched it around a million times since the trailer released. Hopefully it will tide me over until the movie’s release date in August . . . which now just feels like an agonizing amount of forever. Sigh.

*sits back and views trailer once more with heart eyes*

If you haven’t watched it, WATCH IT NOW. IT’S BRILLIANT.