Let's be real II

Happy August to everyone! This continues to be my terrible attempt at an online journal documenting my writing and my odd relationship with it. I've had an interesting morning. 

At first, I thought this post would be upbeat positivity, but as I opened my computer and logged in, I realized that this was really a continuation of my last post from July 15 "Let's be real." To recap, I was miserable writing Serango and I had lost almost all momentum. I have been writing it since January, and I was ready to call it quits. This would have been the first project I had quit mid-first draft in almost a decade. 

That was July 15th. I was feeling marginally better about Serango, but still frustrated. The other day, my friend left my apartment and I declared that I was going to my coffee shop to write. But as she walked out the door, I was filled with such dread that I actually put my bag down.

I knew that I ought to power through and just sit my ass down and stop complaining. I knew that was the advice I'd give someone else, albeit in a nicer fashion. 

But, the idea in that moment repulsed me. I think my mindset stems from this I'm-not-querying-I'm-writing-what-I-want phase, and I've always believed that if you find a project boring or tedious, the reader probably will find it to be that too. Make it interesting, I would tell someone. Blow something up. Make someone kiss someone else. 

So, I paced my apartment, walked off the dread, and then I reluctantly resolved to just go and work on outlining and brainstorming Kabuki-ish. Which has the dubious honor of being the Next Thing. I went to the coffee shop. I worked. I made good progress on Kabuki-ish. I did that the next day. I worked all on paper, which felt great because I've been staring at screen all day for work. 

Then, with a bounce in my step, I packed up my things this morning, and like usual, I went to the coffee shop. It was later than usual, and the barista was different. We've shared a couple words, and I think I told him I was writing a novel sometime in the past. 

Anyway, as I ordered, he asked me how the novel was going. 

The guilt, it was real, and like any horribly guilty person, I lied. Well, I sort of lied. 

"Actually, it's hard right now. It's like work. Well, it's always like work, but it's become work that I don't enjoy doing." 

He didn't really have a response, and I don't blame him, because even if someone I knew dumped that heaping pile in my lap, it would take me some time to respond. I shrugged, which sort of allowed him not to respond. 

But the lie was that I was even still working on Serango, which was the novel he was asking about. Not specifically of course, because I do not think enough of my projects to summarize them for baristas, who are essentially held hostage to the counter, and even saying "I'm writing a novel," makes me feel horribly pretentious. It's much easier to claim to be working on something vague, which can allow people to assume you're doing spreadsheets or some serious work. Not writing probably bad fiction. 

Anyway, that barista is the first person in a while to ask that basic question. How's the novel going? And the guilt, not only from giving up on Serango, but then lying about it to basically a stranger just made me... 

I went to my table. I sat down. I hadn't brought my computer because I had resolved to work Kabuki-ish out on paper, and I thought to myself, I should write Serango right now. 

I opened my notebook, and fidgeted. I stared out the window, I stared at other people, and I went to retrieve my latte. I tried to remember where I had even left off, so many weeks ago, and vaguely knew. 

Then I forced myself to figure out what happened next. I had a detailed outline on my computer, but the sheer complexity of the end of the novel—and the outline—and all my still unsolved questions and problems had probably crushed my enthusiasm. Screw what I have, I thought. If I can't keep the story straight in my head without notes, neither can the readers. 

That's a bit of, I believe, incredibly useful advice for fantasy writers. That isn't to say that you shouldn't carefully plan, but I really do think you should have the broad strokes for each plotline in your brain. 

And basically, I outlined simply what had to happen next. I jotted down dialogue. It was maybe a page and half of brainstorming and re-working, but I fixed so much and the next pages felt doable. The end felt more in sight. And given that the novel is almost at 70,000 words, the end must be in sight. 

I came home and re-read my opening, made pretzels, and here I am, not giving up on this book. I don't think anyone will really like Serango, but I owe the book a completion. I really do. 



Let's Bookfest 2017 (ft. writing insecurity)

I cannot believe that it's been almost a month since that silliness on Twitter. 

Where am I? Writing these posts feels like scribbling on a bit of paper and firing it into space. Where am I? Well, I'm still idly paddling around in the space ship. I've been asked by a few people if #Pitmad went anywhere, and the answer is a resounding no. Take that and fire it into space. I have gotten a few lovely rejections and I am patiently waiting for the last one to free up the anxiety section of my brain. 

Fortunately, I am very busy, so I can't re-fresh my email and wonder which iteration of industry subjectivity or voice I will receive in my inbox. Papers are due, and then I am going off to Japan! It's going to be wonderful. 

In the meantime, I am plugging away at the novel that I am convinced absolutely no one will want to read. How is Serango going? Well, this morning I reached the 63,000 word mark, which means I am butt-up against the third and final act of the book. I think this is the closest I've ever come to actually matching my acts and outline planning in a long time. So, that's positive. The negative is that this book is so hard to write. I like the characters, but I'm not convinced they'll be likable for anyone else. Also, there are so many characters! And this book isn't structured in a friendly, easy way like Six of Crows where the story evenly switches several main characters. I'll spend a couple chapters with one person, then move to another because it makes sense for the plot. Will a reader tolerate that? I don't know. Do I care? Also, don't know. I feel like I should care more. 

In addition, I am a little terrified that nothing happens in this book. Maybe this is an irrational fear. It feels like there's a lot of feeling, talking, and describing. I kind of dig that, but I feel like more stuff should be blowing up or something. I don't know. 

I keep having these days where I love what I've done. Where the characters are funny, or something dramatic has happened. Then, there are other mornings when I sit down to write and it's such a slog. Thank God I am not intending to query on this. What a nightmare it would be.  

Anyway, in the spirit of positivity—I hear you are supposed to only be positive on blogs—I will say that it is nice having some sexual tension between characters. And there are some truly absurd descriptions in this book, but... there it is. 

In this scene, which I wrote this morning, some guards have come to take a young woman named Nemesca away from the revolvists. She has joined the army because she wants to be a revolvist, and she wanted to escape her marriage to the prince. The General, Airfield, is trying to determine whether or not they should fight to keep her in the army. 

Anyway, the last couple weeks have seen some book festivals around Los Angeles, so I thought that I would share some snapshots. Last weekend, the University of Southern California hosted the LA Times Festival of Books, and this past Saturday, there was Yallwest. 

The unexpected highlight of the Festival of Books was the "I'm too sexy for this book" panel, which featured romance novelists. I've enjoyed a pile of Julia Quinn novels, so I decided to sneak into this sold-out panel. They talked about their work schedules, raising and supporting families, and stigmas of the profession. They had a real no nonsense approach to writing, which was frankly refreshing. "Writer's block is a disease of the privileged," or some such gem was said. Afterwards I bought a copy of Because of Miss Bridgerton and had it signed. 

Yallwest, the YA book festival in Santa Monica, was only one day this year. And because it was on the same day as Independent Bookstore Day, I had to do double duty. I woke up, wrote, went to my local bookstore to snag a copy of Rainbow Rowell's Kindred Spirits, and then went straight across the city to Santa Monica. I arrived in time for a panel on writing series (cue laughter) and then a panel on mythology in YA. At a panel on animation featuring artists from Disney, Pixar, and the Simpsons, I ran into an old friend. We re-connected over banana pudding (because there's a truck for that at Yallwest) and then I found Samantha Chaffin. It was like finding a creature in its natural habitat. Anyway, we talked, and maybe she will write another pirate book? Maybe I'm at peace with never having an agent? I'm looking forward to the pirate book! 

Let's Enter Stage

I want to talk about character descriptive intros. 

There's this really, really fun trope in Japanese warrior tales (gunkimono) where when an important warrior appears on the scene, we get a full-blown description of his wardrobe and accessaries:

That's the introduction for Atusmori, a young warrior (and courtly musician) in The Tale of the Heike. We get a description. Then, they fight. I won't spoil it for you. 

Anyway, lately I've been writing introductory passages for characters in this latest novel, and because the style is so different from Food of Magicians, which was sparsely written, I'm frankly having a lot more fun. Every story has a rhythm, a pulse. If Food of Magicians was frantic chopping by impatient teenagers, the rhythm of Serango is a slow, luxurious cadence that wouldn't be out of place in an older book. 

Fortunately for Serango, it's not YA, so I can count on a longer attention span that might indulge its style. I had a lot of fun introducing two characters recently, a secretary and a dancer who both play major roles in the story. Because their storylines cross, I wanted to play off themes and metaphor (or simile) in both. Every other day or so, I come back to tinker with these, but here is Mercon and Yama's descriptions at the end of March. They appear in different chapters. 

And then Yama's...

Yama's description has been much harder, and no doubt, it will undergo even more editing. It's been hard balancing her sex appeal, her strength, and this essence that defines her throughout the book. I was originally going to compare her to both "a ship in a city square or a carving on the front of a great ship," both ideas that came to me at 2AM, but they got cut down and changed to a "palace statue." Who knows what changes will come? 

My darling count has undergone various descriptive introductions, but I do not like any of them yet. He is too important not to be described properly. He is frustrating because I want him to have some appeal, some fear, some affection... He's very circumstantial, my difficult count. And I don't know if he's handsome! That word keeps being removed from this passage. 

Sometimes I end up breaking up descriptions throughout story, but it can harder to keep track of (for readers). I might have to do that for him. 

This next one is probably the most recent lengthy introductory description. It's Nemesca, a teenage girl who wants to leave her family for the army:

I would probably be amiss if I did not include the only other introductory description, which is of General Airfield. 

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That's all so far! This book is very hard to write, but when it works, I swoon. I'm sure when I hand it off to readers, I'll have more reservations and less swooning. 

Let's Twitter

Well, that was a very strange morning. 

After a couple PitMads that went absolutely nowhere, I cannot begin to tell you how ridiculous this was. I hate comp titles. I'm burnt out on the metaphorical fumes of agents' cars as they drive away. I wrote that pitch and checked out, until I was told that I probably ought to check Twitter.