Friday, February 5, 2016

The Recap

So if you read my last post, you know that I was gone for about nine months. This is just a brief post that will recap some of the bigger things that happened in the last nine months. And it's going to be in list form, because it's one of those days :)

1. I graduated from my university in May. A year early. With honors. So there's that. And the last full month of school, I also started writing a very special book (see number 4). I still don't know how I exactly did that to be honest.

2. I started my gap year with the goal to write 50,000 words every month until next September, which sounded crazy when I first decided back in May, but save for July (when I was out of the country) I have met that goal every month and plan to do so until September 2016.

3. I decided to shelve THE LOY because it was a little too derivative compared to the current YA market. It was not an easy decision. And to be honest, it still stings when I think about it.

4. I decided to write and revise another novel that I absolutely love. Like seriously...this is "the book of my heart". I didn't even know what that phrase really meant until I wrote this book. There's just something about these characters and this world that makes heart.

5. That book of my heart has been through at least three sets of revisions and there's still more work to be done, but this is the first time I'm not sick of the story or the characters. All I want is for it to be the best book possible before I start querying.

6. I sent out my first every query for a feedback event hosted by the agent. It made me quickly realize maybe the book of my heart wasn't exactly ready. At least the first ten pages weren't good enough. But it's great motivation and only made me want to be published and pursue writing more seriously.

7. I met an awesome Critique Partner (CP) through Susan Dennard's CP Match-Up. I'm still working with her and I am so grateful to have her as a CP. She's critiqued THE LOY and she's critiqued the book of my heart and I couldn't be more grateful for her sticking with me. She's an amazing writer and I know I'll see her books in the stores one day and you can bet that I'm going to be first in line to buy them. I learn something new about writing and revising from her every time we talk and I really couldn't imagine going through this without her.

Those are the big things that's happened in terms of my writing journey with a little hint of my life :) Hopefully I won't write one of these for a long time because I'm going to at least blog about writing and my publishing journey once a month. But now that I look back on the last nine months, I can't say I really regret anything--not even leaving/forgetting about blogging because it's been a good nine months. I don't have anything to show for it other than my unagented self and the five manuscripts I've written, but it's made me happier than I've ever been, which really just goes to show: do what you love.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Return

I'm the worst. My last post was from April I am the absolute worst. Let me just say it's so easy to fall into the habit of not blogging. Skip it one day and then the next and before you know it's been nearly year.

Honestly, I was a little surprised at how long it's been, but I know the exact reason why I stopped blogging. Technically there were many reasons, but one of the main reasons is because I was trying to do too many things at once (I have tendency to do that). I was trying to make this blog a place for reviews and update it with my writing journey and soon enough it became a chore to even think about it. And the more I look back at my old posts, the more I realize it wasn't just a chore. It was a little like wearing a mask. Don't get me wrong, those posts are still written in my voice and I wouldn't (and won't) take any of them down, but it doesn't feel like me. Or maybe that's just a sign that I did a lot of growing and changing in the past nine months.

But now that I took a very long break, I'm coming back with one goal in mind. The first goal I had. This is going to be a place to document my writing journey and that means, I don't need to have a post every week--frankly there's not that much I can really talk about in terms of my writing and my journey. It's a lot of what you think it is: sitting in front of a computer and typing away. And it means I don't have to pressure myself to put up reviews for books unless I want to. This is a safe place for me to just talk about things that I want to share. It is not a place for me to fulfill a certain requirement/obligation.

Now this isn't a recap post (that's going to be on here in a few days). This is more of a promise to myself that I don't have to do it all. But the things I do choose to do, I need to love. I've spent a lot of time thinking these past few months, and the conclusion I've come to is the fact that I owe it to myself to do this. I have this space and I might as well use it. Because ten years from now, I want to be able to look back. I want to see how I processed things.

Writing and publishing is a long journey and I want to remember all the tiny steps.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: I'll Give You the Sun

My review of I’ll Give You the Sun, the winner of  2015 Printz award, by Jandy Nelson is below. Those strange noises you hear are nothing to be concerned about…it’s just me crying and dying over this book. 

Summary (from goodreads): Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Rating: 5.0/5.0

How is it even possible for me to have another book worthy of a re-read? I’ll tell you how, Jandy Nelson decided to write I’ll Give You The Sun. 

Just like Jellicoe Road, I didn’t expect this book to hit me so hard. I didn’t expect to fall in love with this book. I started the book and though I wasn’t confused, it didn’t grab my attention completely. But somehow, the book snuck up behind me and practically consumed me because, once again, I was about 100 pages in and I couldn’t put the book down. (This was an actual problem because I had class at eight in morning after—I almost missed class). 

Past affects the present. Amazing characters and plots. Twins who are willing to do anything and everything. I loved it all. I’m doing my best to keep this spoiler free, people, but it’s so hard. I want to fangirl about everything in this book. 

I once again fell in love with the characters before the plot in this book. At thirteen,  Noah is the person I was when I was in high school (and kinda of even now). Jude was the person I wanted to be. At sixteen, Noah was the person I envied and hated. Jude was the person I wish I was courageous enough to be. 

Ms. Nelson does a perfect job in depicting a brother-sister relationship. I don’t have a twin, but I’m best friends with my younger brother and everything that happened with Jude and Noah—the jealously, the misunderstanding, making each other angry just because they could—I have been through it with my brother.

Then there was their passion for art. Both Noah and Jude are artists and I really connected with that. Now, I’m not an artist—I tried it for a couple of years because my sister was and is really into art—but the passion, devotion, and determination the two twins had. I saw their passion reflected in my own pursuits with writing and that was really cemented my love for the book. 

The plot also helped. I can’t say much without giving everything away, but I’ll put it this way. There’s a reason I loved both I’ll Give You the Sun and Jellicoe Road. There’s a reason I’m willing to read both again. It’s because both books had authors that knew how to tell not just one story, but two. Two stories that are intertwined from root to branch. 

Have you read this amazing book? What did you think? Please tell me you loved it :) 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Believing Myself

This is a short companion piece to what I wrote on Monday. I didn't want to leave like that and so this post was written *superhero pose*

I am a kick-ass writer. Excuse my language, but I need to say that again. I am a kick-ass writer. 

I know it sounds a little odd, but don’t worry I only really ever say that phrase in my head. I do say it many times to be honest. 

Like all writers, I get crushed by self-doubt and fear. It’s enough that I really can’t even think about writing when those negative feelings are present. It usually occurs in cycle so I’m good about knowing when a mood like that’s going to turn up. And while I haven’t found a cure, I’ve found  pretty good way of staving it off or at least reducing the blow. 

It’s with that simple statement: I am a kick-ass writer. 

Henry Ford said “Whether you are or you aren’t—you’re right.” Well I applied that to my fears and doubts about being a writer. So whenever I feel self-doubt, I deny it with the fact that I am a kick-ass writer. I repeat that phrase until I have some momentum and I can smile.

Our expectations and thoughts are a tricky thing. I’m very quick to assume the worst and I’m definitely more pessimistic than optimistic, but I realize with writing, I can’t be that way. Because if I’m feeling pessimistic about my writing, anything I write will be crap. And to ignore the self-doubt and the tiny little voice in my head that says I’m not good enough, I shout back that I am a kick-ass writer. And even though I’m not the best writer, I’m learning. And one day I really am going to be the epitome kick-ass writer. There’s nothing left to it. 

But until that day, I’m going to keep repeating that simple statement because it’s going to come true. It’s going to take some time, but I’m going to get there.

Do you guys have a quick way to pull yourself out of the spiral of doubt? Care to share? 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Doubting Myself

I’m going to be frank. There are a lot of days I doubt myself. It’s not just a simple—oh I can’t do it. It’s more like—nothing’s going to work out, what’s the point in trying, what if I do all this work and it amounts to nothing, etc. (I’m a tad dramatic).

And to make matters worse, it doesn’t just affect my overall mood, it affects my writing. I seem to cycle through different stages. 

Stage 1: After a week (or longer of not writing), I feel the urge to write. It’s a casual thing. Sort of an obligation. A reminder that writing should also be a priority of mine. It’s just a small idea in the back of my mind while I’m doing homework or studying (inevitably this occurs around or after times I’ve had my series of exams for school) 

Stage 2: My fingers twitch, my synapses are making new connections, etc. I need to write. On my home from class, I’m hit with a brilliant idea and I know how great its going to be. I can see all the scene playing out in my head.

Stage 3: This is after stage 2 has died down. I’m in more a hopeful state. I believe that this rush and hit of inspiration will be able to continue. I’m a little delirious and irrational. I believe that it can last a long time. I’ll be able to write as much as possible. 

Stage 4: I actually think about the logistics. The reality of wanting to publish and become an author. That what I want—my dream— hinges on everyone else saying yes (agents, publishers, readers). It’s depressing to think about it in those terms. There’s no point in me continuing my writing. It’s a waste of time. I should be focusing on something  that will actually be productive. 

Stage 5: Then that worry morphs into self-loathing. Am I stupid and irrational for wanting this? I’m not good enough to publish a book. I’m not good enough to even submit to an agent. I should focus on something that requires a little less of me being so vulnerable and open for rejection and pain. It infects me. It seeps into my entire life for some time. Ruining me. Making me sit on my bed every night with thoughts of why? I stop writing. 

Return to Stage 1 (and go through it all over again) 

It’s easy to let Stage 4+5 to take up the majority of life. We’re wired to remember the bad parts more than the best moments in our life. I’m guilty of falling into the trap of Stage 4+5. It sometimes takes me a month to get out of it, but the truth is, I pull myself out of it sooner or later. 

I recently read a post on PubCrawl (great website for writers!) and it said “Do what you love because you love it. Don’t let terrifying “what ifs” control your life”. I know I need to listen to this perfect piece of advice because I do love writing and I can’t let my fears hold me back. 

Do any writers get into slumps out there? Comment below if you’re comfortable sharing your own experience! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: (On the) Jellicoe Road

This book. This book. (Imagine me shaking the book in front of you.) I never thought I would say it, but I have a favorite book. I don’t even know where to start. Characters, setting, plot, backstory. *Incomprehensible noises* It was all amazing.

Now that I’ve calmed down a little. Here’s my review of On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Summary (from goodreads): I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.
Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs - the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.
And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

Rating: 5.0/5.0 stars 

I would re-read this book. It’s been a good two weeks since I’ve finished this book and I still find myself thinking about it. I’m planning on buying this book and all of Ms. Marchetta’s other books as a graduation gift for myself. This is how much I loved this book. 

The way that Ms. Marchetta weaves two stories together is amazing. I loved how perfectly everything with the two stories was set up. I don’t even know how many hours Melina Marchetta worked to craft this story, but I can tell you it couldn’t have been easy. I loved that as I read the book I could guess what was going to come next. There’s just enough information given to you so you can guess, but the reveal doesn’t come in the book for a couple of pages or even chapters later that you can’t help but doubt yourself. I don’t think I’ve ever been so worried while I was reading a book, honestly. It was predictable, but only because Ms. Marchetta wanted it to be that way. This is how you write an amazing book.

Then the characters. I wanted to be Taylor. I understood Narnie. I fell in love with Jonah. I saw a little bit of myself in every single character and connected to them all. Yes, the plot was amazing and that alone is enough to get you through, but in the beginning when there isn’t much to go on, you read because you love how tough and sassy Taylor is. 

I could go on and on about this book.

But I’m not going to lie. The beginning was confusing. I was frustrated because nothing was explained, but once I got about 100 pages in I was hooked. I literally read the rest of the book in one sitting and the whole time I was screaming at various moments throughout the book. I am so glad I kept reading. 

If you have this on your to-read list, bump it to the top. If you thought about reading it, do it. If you have no clue what this book is, read it. I promise you, you won’t regret it. And even if you do, that’s fine with me. It’s your opinion :) But seriously, read this book. 

Has anyone else read this amazing book? Please tell me I’m not the only one that adores this book? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Long Road: Beta-Readers

Here’s the low down, peeps. (Yes, I just laughed at how ridiculous that sounds. It is yet another reason I love blogging. It’s good practice for making yourself vulnerable, but I digress). 

I’ve recently finished my first draft of revisions for my urban fantasy YA novel called THE LOY. This book is the book. And no, I don’t think it’s going to be published right away once I start querying. It might not even be received well by the agents I query in all honesty, but this book is my book. This the first manuscript I’ve loved and hated enough to get through revisions. This is the first novel I am going to query. This is the first book I’m going to feel the sting of rejection from. 

This is also the first novel I’ve let my friends read. (Technically they’re reading it right now.) I have my three closest friends reading my novel. This is what’s known as beta-readers. They love me enough to suffer through this first draft that isn’t completely perfect and they’re willing to give me comments and critique.

This is a huge step for me. Before this novel, the only people I let read my book was my sister (who is, undoubtedly, my alpha-reader—a person who looks at a writer’s drafts even before revision) and my brother. I stuck to my siblings because they’re safe. 

I know a lot of people say don’t have your friends or family read your novel, but I disagree. I need a buffer between writing and sending it off to a harsh critic who will rip it to shreds. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t give my novel to any random friend or family member. There’s no reason for me to give my novel to my parents who don’t really enjoy reading unless it’s in Korean—their first language. And I definitely wouldn’t give my novel to one of my friends in my biochemistry class because he doesn’t like reading and he doesn’t even know what YA stands for. There are certain people you shouldn’t give your novel to.

But I chose these three friends to read my novel for various reasons. One is a screenwriter and loves films to the point where she talks about them for hours. My other friend is a rather critical reader and won’t put up with a book if it’s boring or annoying. Then my last friend reads the most YA in my group of friends and has the same taste as I do; she’s also amazing at giving feedback and critique without destroying my hopes and dreams. 

I need to have my friends as my beta-readers. I know they’re going to provide me with awesome comments and ways I can improve my novel. They understand how serious I am about publishing. They also know that I’m ready for critique and open for all suggestions, but my skin isn’t quite thick enough to handle the blunt comments that others may give. 

 Basically, my friends as beta-readers is like jumping down a flight of stairs into a nest of pillows. It’s going to hurt, but at least there’s some cushion.

Did you guys have a hard time letting people read your work? What’s your opinion about friends reading your work? Comment below!