Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Last Thing

Here's to 2013...and 2014

You know, on any other normal New Year's Eve I would go to sleep, or stay up to see the ball drop, or whatever. I wouldn't feel too keen on blogging as the last hours of 2013 slide by.

But this year...is different. Important.

First of all, I've been blogging on this thing for a year. A year. I thought, last year when I first started up the blog, that I was doing it because...everyone else had been doing it, I guess, because it was a Publishing Key Marketing Move and I wanted something to remember my writing process by, something to look back on in the future maybe when I was successful or something. 

Right now? I've been blogging for a year. And I don't have much readers, but I love blogging. I love typing my thoughts out and ranting when the times get hard and gushing when I read a lovely book. It's like shouting into a nearly empty canyon. It's quite liberating, actually. 

Also...I grew. I learned. A lot. A. LOT.

I remember last year, when I was tucked into my little corner, worrying my heart and brain out over TeaNovel. I had just discovered the platform of YA authors. My dreams were naive and big; I was slowly, slowly finding myself through the writing world.

In 2013, I made writing a Serious Job. I'm still a student, and during the day, I still go to school and geek out with friends. But this year, I set goals for myself. I let myself peek at a chance of publication for TeaNovel. I discovered what it meant to rewrite and rewrite a novel. I discovered what a query was and what it meant to get a literary agent. (Which I really, really hope can happen to me someday!) 

In 2013, I set a foot in the publishing business. The day after my 8th grade graduation, I flew to New York, where I attended BEA in New York City. I had never been in a more inspiring convention center, surrounded by authors with their stacks of ARCs and watching, awe-struck, as the role models I admired from afar were literally standing ten feet away. I remember the first picture I took at BEA was a random snapshot of Sarah J. Maas standing next to Susan Dennard's autographing station and I was sort of having an internal mini-breakdown. The fangirl kind, of course. It was like seeing your favorite movie stars on the red carpet, except the carpet was blue and they weren't swirled up in some fancy Dior gown, but cardigans and dresses and All Things Authorly. 

I also attended my first three author events; Rae Carson & CJ Redwine, Sarah J. Maas, Marie Lu. Rae and CJ were lovely ladies; when I approached them after the event, they both gave me great writing encouragement. Sarah...well, I did a whole post on her back in September and she is just so amazing and inspiring and kickass and so so KIND. As for Marie--I remember going up to her in the signing line and just spilling--literally ranting--everything I've wanted to tell her in the past 2 years. Because Legend was the book that changed my life, and I am so, so grateful that it did. 

2013 was the year many stunning sequels came out (Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas and A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard were my two favorites), and the year that stunning trilogies came to an end. (And YES, I absolutely loved the ending to Allegiant.)

In November 2013, I wrote an 80K novel from scratch, in 30 days, and by near-pantsing, I crafted a story that I am very, very excited to work on in the new year. 

I know this sounds so silly, but 2013 has, in so many ways, bridged that enormous gap between 2012 and 2014. Sure, there was a lor of angst and frustration, and there were many times I thought I was never going to get anywhere in my writing, but when I look back, I see everything. It's been such a developmental year and I am sure I am a different person today than I was back in 2012.

I'm so glad this year happened.

And I can't wait for 2014. Now my eye is on Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor and Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard (and Sarah J. Maas's untitled Book 3 of the Throne of Glass series!). 

As for the New Year...

In 2014, I have only two resolutions;

1. To Grow.

2. To Do Epic Shit. 

It sounds so vague, but in my heart, I know what those resolutions mean to me, very, very clearly. 

Okay. Fine. A specific resolution. 

I want to start querying agents. (Which really branches under the To Grow category, but I think announcing things give it some validity.)


I want to read more books. See more. Experience things that surprise me. 

In 2014, I want to grow, to love, and to do epic shit. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

I love Frozen.


A week ago, i saw Frozen.

If you haven't seen it, go see it. Now. It's amazing.

And now I can't get this song out of my head.

Behold the cutest, saddest, most heartbreaking love story in a Disney movie.

All in three minutes.

*sniffles* <3

Friday, December 27, 2013

Making it right.

I hope everyone had a beautiful, happy, healthy Christmas! Wow, 2014 is coming in about 4 days. I still can't quite wrap my mind around 2013...hahaha.

Anyways...here is a writing post.

So this post's title was actually something coherent this time (instead of me being all like, "ehhh....I'm too lazy to think so I'll just title it something creative like "cool stuff" or something specific along those lines). And...it's about me thinking about, ha, TeaNovel.

So...a few days ago (Christmas Eve, I believe) I wrote a blog post/review of Days of Blood and Starlight. Wasn't really a review--more like a rant/fangirl gush of me discovering Laini Taylor's genius. (I know, I'm quite late. But Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the third book, is only about 4 months away...which is still not really okay because LAINI, I NEED IT NOW.)

So of course, I want to know the genius behind the masterpiece, you know?

A writing friend recommended her blog to me a while ago during NaNo, but after reading her books, I did some more in-depth browsing and came across this blog post:


It's a very, very good post.

Hilarious pictures aside, Laini talks about the writing process and getting it right, not getting it fast. She quotes advice from Patrick Rothfuss, "It will only be late once, but it will suck forever."

Here, she put it in caps and big font, so I will too.


There? Okay. We can go on. I'll explain.

So basically, I was a teen when I wrote the TeaNovel. I still am a teen. Coming off multiple successes and bounties from NaNoWriMo, I always had the solid mentality of "Get it down, you can fix it later. Blindly throw crap at the wall and hope it sticks."

Which was good advice...for the first draft.

But numerous rewrites later, I still had the "Get it down, you can fix it later" mentality. I wanted to get it done. I was being so smug and everything, telling the few people I trusted, "Yeah. I rewrote the entire thing in a month."

Okay, so I still continued some of my successes. The plot improved drastically. Huge improvements and developments.

But the writing...not so much. I thought I was making so much progress, rewriting a scene over and over without slowing down, and when I got the plot down and it came down to the writing, I passed it off and I vowed that I would fix it later.

Without slowing down and paying attention to the writing, I thought I was finishing the story, but I was so focused on getting it down rather than getting it right, that the gap in the writing that I ignored came back to bite me in the ass, and I faced mountain after mountain of rewrites.

Let me rephrase it, in big font.

Because I was so focused on racing through it and getting it down, I thought I was finishing the story faster, but in reality I was setting myself up for more work in the end. 

This time, I'm doing my last edits on it. Plot is okay, but the writing needs a LOT of work.


But this time, I'll give it the time it needs. Maybe I'll take more than a month. Now as I'm getting nearer and nearer to the finish line I have set up for myself, it all comes down to the writing.

I will be careful. I will be meticulous and I will be gentle and delicate and intricate.

This time, I know I have it down. This time, I want to get it right. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Days of Blood and Starlight

Hahahaha I lied.

I didn't completely disappear of the face of this blog.

Not yet.

Blog, I am completely, utterly, fairytale-swoon-esque, glitter and fairies, absolutely starstruck with Laini Taylor and her writing.

I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone about one or two months ago, and I remember being interested in it, even though that cover flap summary did fall a bit flat. But at urging of Samantha Shannon on Twitter, I decided to give it a go.

I liked Daughter. I love how it painted a slow romance and intrigue, how Laini handled everything so smoothly, so effortlessly. There was humor, there was magic, there was blood and a semi-apocalypse that grew into a bigger apocalypse in Book 2.

But I LOVED Days of Blood and Starlight. Laini Taylor said in an interview that Daughter and Days were very different book, with Daughter being a romance and Days being a war book. And it was so, so true. Daughter revealed Laini's grace and talent, like a singer coming up as a contestant in a show with a simple, glittering dress, singing a sweet, beautiful ballad or something. I could sense something new. Something else. But Days---oh my goodness--it was like the singer coming back on stage and lighting it on fire and smoke while dancing in Katniss's burning dress and belting out Idina Menzel's "Defying Gravity."

It was electric. Emotions were amplified and brought out with her expert prose. There was indeed violence and gore, and sex, but it was so well-handled that it was essential to the plot, and nothing seemed strained or overplayed. Themes resurfaced and I remember crying--literally crying during the scene when Akiva and Karou met again after the awful truth--it was full of stakes and tension and such raw emotion. I could sense every bit of sadness and betrayal and oh, oh my God. It wrote of a pure love that was the double-edged sword that hinted at hope and redemption, but also brought upon consequences of a deadly war between the seraphim (angels) and the chimaera (devils).

Laini Taylor does it perfectly. Even the humor is subtle and incredibly nuanced. It was heavily fantasy, but it also had a fairytale folklore element that made it so it wasn't a cliche, archetypal high fantasy. The world of Eretz, where the seraphim and the chimaera dwelled, was so, so real. It was magical and ethereal and heartbreaking and a work of art.

Now I am eyeing the release date for Dreams of Gods and Monsters...

April 8, 2014.

Dear God, can I wait that long?

*grabby hands*

Okay, back to my writing.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Princess makeovers. And, uh, other stuff.

My blog post titles are getting atrocious. Apologies.

I have been slowly, slowly coming to a realization.

So these posts of distress I have been putting on the blog? I have been reading over my TeaNovel.

To put it in a brief summary; It was a little rougher than I thought.

Plot is solid. I can see the potential in the story.

The problem lies in the prose, and the pacing--my writing is very odd and fast-paced in all the wrong places and it sounds so undoubtedly juvenile.

So basically, if I may make the comparison, it's like Anne Hathaway in Princess Diaries.

This is what my novel is like right now:

This is what I want it to be like:

And sometimes I read the amazing, brilliant novels of the YA genre and they're so awesome and beautiful and gorgeous like this:


I realize that I have lots to do, on the small-scale level. Right now, I see some good parts of my novel, but the writing, when I'm being critical (as I should be), is a bit of a mess. Nowhere near the status of good. It will need a lot of changing.

The good news? I don't need to break every bone in the plot anymore to make it work.

Bad news? I need a curling iron. And some contacts. And makeup. My novel needs a makeover.

I have already disbanded from Twitter for a short while, and though I may blog sometime this Winter Break, my time will pretty much be fully devoted to writing and studying for Finals. Oh, and I also have a pile of projects that my classes decided to throw in at the last minute.

That GIF is a work of art.

Happy Holidays, everyone!!!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Yes, a mountain is staring me in the face.

This winter break will be completely hectic.

Not only do I have finals to study for (my school's finals are in the second week of January! Euhh!) I also have about fifty projects to start and complete. Oh, right, I almost forgot. I also have a novel to edit.


This week has been so busy. Because of the aforementioned sadism above, the week before winter break is cleared for teachers to squeeze in tests and throw in a project or two.

So the plan is this, friends; this Winter Break, I'm going to be disbanding from my good friend the Internet and go hermit in my library and edit and eat chocolate and possibly cry.

I have so, so much to do.

But I will do it.

But here is a song for you, though. I swear to God, if I get through the next two weeks alive...

Beyonce will make it happen.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Some things I'm thinking about

This is going to be quite an honest post.

Right now I'm sitting in sweats, listening to Skinny Love, sung by Birdy. Cheap earbud inserted into my ear. Procrastinating on my English and World Civ. homework.

But it's rather funny, isn't it? These times when you're in the most normal of situations, but this feeling rises in you that you can't quite explain, like everything inside you is radically shifting, changing, when all you are doing is tapping away at a keyboard, pouring your thoughts into a blog post.

This past weekend, on Friday the 13th specifically, a lot of seniors from my school got accepted to the college of their dreams.

I'm a freshman in high school right now. And I'm not going to lie; there's a lot of college talk. Not just from my parents--it's been discussed lightly in halls, words passed off as casual banter.

I've been wondering about this a lot and I feel like today, I'm going to finally open up about my thoughts.

College has always been the gold standard of education. I totally do want to go to college, get a good education, and move into what is supposed to be the beginning of an accomplished adult life. College is a privilege, not a right, and I respect that.

But I'm wondering--and please don't blame me for this--can college make you blindsided?

My parents, my friends, some teachers put the goalpost of COLLEGE firmly planted in my sight. I should be getting serious about college. Do things to get into college. Get good grades. On and on. It has never been explicitly told to me, but the presence of college pops up freshman year, and then throughout the years, it intensifies.  

I have aspirations to publish a novel. Nowhere is "publish a novel" in the proverbial checklist to get into college. Writing is indeed very personal to me, and publishing is a hard world to break into, and even harder to become successful in.

Is it wild of me to have aspirations that are beyond getting into college? To dream of something that most adults would frown off? I have looked up so many author blogs, done research on agents. I have read about the entire publishing process. I have goals set for me and my novels. I know that if I fail one time, I try another. I may not be good at writing, but I know this; I do truly aspire.

Should the fact that I'm a high school student and that I should be focusing on schoolwork and extracurricular activities deter my writing? I have been told that I can always do my writing "later" but I don't want to start writing seriously "later" because why not start now? I'm fourteen--by the time I am twenty-four, I will surely write better than I do now.

And I've always had this little anarchist side to me, this urge to express my thoughts and honesty. The point I'm making is; I want to get into college, and I will definitely try hard to get into college, but I really, really don't want predetermined assumptions and generic expectations to get in the way of doing what I want to do at my age.

Whew. I hope I got my scattered thoughts into one coherent post. I'll be back.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I have just realized

The second part of my novel is the part that makes me cringe.

Its like--like seeing a childhood friend of yours and it's waving enthusiastically at you but you're standing there, thinking, "Uh. The clothes she wears...and she hasn't brushed her hair..."

Inside, my novel's middle part has a good core, I believe. And if I told it to brush its hair and put on a respectable t-shirt and stop wearing mismatched socks on purpose, it would be much, much better.

Thing is, right now I'm afraid, embarassed to even stare it in the face.

Means only one thing.


That old, dear friend has come back again.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On embracing fears and being willing to work hard.

It's been a transformative few weeks. 

Right after NaNo, I jumped back into my old TeaNovel. I posted that lovely calendar for myself in a burst of energy. 

And then I reread TeaNovel.

It was...not as good as I expected. 

I began to see some of the flaws that I hadn't seen before. I saw that though the pacing was good, the mood wasn't set, and it was all a bit shallow. It didn't have enough depth. 

And I was moaning and groaning to myself, whining that I had already rewritten TeaNovel 3 times, that I thought that I had mostly untangled knots that weren't supposed to be there. 

I was afraid, really afraid that I would spend so much effort to do this, but in the end, it would all be for nothing. The publishing world really is fair. I believe in that strongly. 

Today I realized something. 

Now, I have to be willing to work. 

This isn't the school world, where you write snippets of essays and turn them in for a grade, and if it was long and well-thought, it got high marks. Not to mention that the teachers are obligated to read the papers. 

The publishing world isn't like that.

It is real. I am on the real arena, the real stage, being evaluated. In short, I have to ask myself: would someone spend potentially hours, weeks reading this? 

I was used to half-ass my way through school and get good grades. Now that I'm in high school, it's considerably more challenging, but still I'm not walking along the edge, completely focused, my stakes hanging on the tightrope.  

But for writing, I finally realize what it means to completely devote yourself to something that you love, to be willing to put in hours and days and potentially months and years to dedicate yourself to this one story that could potentially fall short.

I have to try anyways. 

The fear is there, real and ever-present. It resembles a small house-elf, staring at me with its spiteful little eyes. "You can't do it," it says. "Go back and do legitimate things. You're not good enough."

I try to be patient with the little monster. Give it cake and listen to the sharp, brutal words. 

And I try really, really hard to take in the fear. 

It still is difficult. 

But what else can I do?

Because in moments like these, there is no choice other than to pour your heart into something like this. 

Don't complain, Christina. You're doing what you love and in the end, you have to work as hard as you wish for it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Also: must-watch for teens/fans of Maggie Stiefvater

This is a TED Talk she gave a while ago.

I actually watched it for the tenth time when this message finally sank into me, but she gives great points and charming anecdotes, with that dry, Maggie humor of hers.

The point of the video? Don't blindly believe in the labels others stick onto you. Stay true to your own self.

It's a great talk.Watch it.

stuff to do

Okay, so today I played at my last piano competition.

*whew* That's out of the way.

(After a hugely stressful week, you have no idea how much joy it brings me to sit in sweats and type out a blog post.)

So after these few crazy weeks, I will have the entirety of Winter Break to study for final...and revise!!!


I have tests, projects, stuffs and stuffs to do, so for this week and the next, well...I hope it passes fast.

Right now, here are my goals:

-Dec-Jan 2013/2014: Finish last edits on TeaNovel, and then start querying/sending it out.

-Rest of Jan 2014: Plan out my SuperShinyNovel.

-Feb-April 2014: 2nd draft overhaul/rewrite of SuperShinyNovel.

-Nebulous time in the summer/fall of 2014: Query SuperShinyNovel.

That makes me a tiny bit nervous to type out. But my plan is to wrap TeaNovel up, and then while I'm querying it, I'll take my mind off of it by focusing on my current novel.

I seriously have no idea what to expect.

So yeah.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

And I won.

End word count: 80.184 words.

A few days before NaNo started, I posted a letter to NaNoWriMo.

I wrote that letter in a stage of general fear.

I hadn't written down a single word of plot plans, and I had no idea what my novel was going to do. I had the first scene, and one smidgen of the conflict, and the last line.

That was it.

I never knew that roughly 30 days later, I would stand, my novel completed, at 80,000 words.

I never knew how exhilarating, how beautifully frustrating and challenging this novel would be. All in all, in might be my favorite novel yet.

But the best part of pantsing the novel was the act of throwing caution to the air and being open to any ideas. It's that sudden, unexpected twist your story takes that changes the arc drastically. It's the discovery of truths and beautiful lines hidden in the drivel. It's the feeling you get, in a coffee shop; you are shaking, literally shaking, as your finger stumble across the words that slams the plot together, and you discover the truths and revelations that only become clear the moment the words touch the screen. They leave you surprised, shocked, and absolutely breathless.

It's an experience unlike any other.

Thank you. For everyone who supported me on Twitter. For NaNoWriMo, the program that kicked me in the pants and made me leap into the unknown, with abandon, only to come back on a badass steampunk parachute and with a velociraptor perched on my arm.

I feel so, so...overwhelmed. And giddy. And proud.

So many feels.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Day 29

Today is Friday, November 29.

My current wordcount stands at 74,007.

I have 6000 words to write. Six. Thousand. Words.

The end, my friends, is near.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I am so, so close.

Dear NaNoWriMo,

As of this morning, I stand at 64,000 words.

I am no longer at the point where I'm afraid I'm not going to finish. I have sixteen thousand words left.

Normally, had I been at 34K with the sixteen thousand words left, I would have freaked out.

But this NaNoWriMo has been different from all others.

My very very first NaNoWriMo, I was writing with a friend. We inspired each other, bounced ideas off of each other, but  it was a tough going. I loved my story premise, but then hated it. Though I reached 60,000 words, the story ultimately failed.

My second NaNoWriMo, I absolutely fell in love with the story, but it was so hard to write it. Nearly every scene was a struggle. I came in at around 52,000 words with the complete novel.

But this NaNoWriMo, I had Susan Dennard and her NaNoBootCamp, with all the wonderful NaNoCadets. I found a community, and I made great friends on Twitter. I did word sprints.

And even though I jumped into this novel with nothing written down on paper, and no index-carded plot, I knew my setting. I knew the barest bones of plot. And I knew the last line of the book.

That was it.

But I wrote it.

Perhaps it was because I had so many points of inspiration, or because this was a much more complex, convoluted plot for my novel, but this year, even with absolutely no written plot, I wrote many, many words.

And I sound so sure now, like it was all meant to be.

But in September, or even October, I was nursing another idea. But somehow, in the last two weeks of October, the idea of this novel pieced itself in my head. It wasn't done--I had to figure out some of the plot from the trenches of NaNo. I loved the points of inspiration, but I wasn't sure where this novel would take me, or if it would ultimately result in a mess of broken plots and story lines.


I wrote it. I threw myself headfirst into a story I intuitively loved. I made some amazing friends and I sprinted with them, and they cheered me on when I was sure the story was going to give up on me. My writer friend Andi was there for me, always welcome to my texts, always firm and reassuring.

There were school days I wrote 3K, 4K, no problem. Days when I struggled to break 1K. There were miraculous days where I plastered my butt to the chair and set my hands on fire, and I came out victorious that day with seven thousand words.

And the story--it's developed so much, fleshed itself out, but in the roots and the vision, it is nearly fundamentally the same.

And I am so, so close to the finish.

It's like those last miles of a marathon, where you see everything sort of flash before your eyes, and you experience simultaneously all the emotions of elation and frustration and joy that brought you to this moment.

I know 16K sounds like a lot, but compared to the work I have done on my novel thus far, the 16K will be written, and I will be at the finish line on November 30th, dazed and awed.

NaNoWriMo, I will see you there.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NaNo Week Four Revelations

So OMG, the weeks have flown by! One day, I was staring at a blank Scrivener document and panicking about not having a plot and now, I'm almost done with my novel!

62,068 words. Woo. Oh, wow.

Week Four is harder. Much harder. Basically, it has gone from this:

To this:

I have never gone as far as 62K in *any* NaNoWriMo before.

And I am aiming for 80K. O_O

I will do this.

Right now I'm saving my words, haha, but I promise there will be a much more detailed blog post after NaNo has ended. NaNo has not killed me, I promise! :)

Want a song, though?

It's from my playlist and describes one of the main characters perfectly.

Oh! And another:

It's the most beautiful, magical song ever.

See you at the finish line!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Life during NaNo and inspirations

So, cheers for braving the first week of NaNo!

So, I didn't expect much. Like, honestly, I had not plotted out a single smidgen of structural plottiness in the waning days of October. I expected my dazzling story idea to splat on the page, and leave me to scrape up the pieces through grueling 1,667-word chunks.

But what I did NOT imagine was emerging out of Week One with 19,000 words under my belt!!!!


Last year was hard for me. Like, hard. I loved my story to death, and I still do, but it was pretty much mentally painful to struggle to get myself to the quota. Sure, there had been times when words were flying out, in tandem with my organized (?!) thoughts, but that happened like, 0.5 times. Point made; NaNo was no piece of cake.

And it still isn't. But there are some things I didn't expect, and they genuinely shocked me.

1. How many words I can write in 30 minutes.
I guess all the sprinting paid off, eh? The first time I attempted, seriously attempted NaNoWriMo, I managed around 900, 1000 words an hour for an all-out sprint. And then I cut it down, for chunks of 500 words in 15 minutes, which, truth to be told, I struggled with.
But this year? Some of the practice has finally paid off. I can top 1000 words, easy, in 30 minutes. Maybe in 25, if I'm super-inspired.

Uhhhh....what? I'm not the fastest typist on earth, but some demon has taken over me, I'm sure.

2. And this year, my scenes are no longer problematically short. My zombie-brain has no idea whatsoever I'm filling in the scenes with, but I know it's not painful padding. My scenes, on average, around around 1000 words. Wow. And a few 30 minute sprints mean...
I've had three nights in the first week, when I've written 3000 words or more. (There was that INSANE school night when I wrote like 4600 words --but it is legendary, and I doubt it will happen again.)

3. How the story is coming to me.
Sure, I still need to think through things and sure, they're not coming easily but when I say I had no bit of plot, I MEAN I had no plot. Nada. Zip. Nothing written, at all. And...

...the pantsing has worked, for me? For this novel, at least? Usually if I can picture scenes in my head like a movie, I'm good to go.

4. Music
Now music fuels my writing. I mean, I can't write without plugging in a favorite soundtrack. I think it's just special to thsi novel--the scenes come so fast and furious, and...this novel just has been very special to me.

So overall, happy surprises! Watch out, Wrimos--Week Two might hit a slump, and watch me come back crying and smeared in guilt chocolate.

But until then, here is a song that I absolutely love, and it fits the spirit of NaNo perfectly.

Happy first week of NaNo, guys!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A letter to NaNoWriMo

Dear NaNoWriMo 2013,

--I'm scared.

I think the writing life constantly cycles between various stages of fear and excitement. Each year I do NaNoWriMo, it gets increasingly harder--as I'm getting older and moving into higher levels of education, schoolwork gets intense, life builds up, and right after I scale a mountain an even bigger one is there for me to climb.

And it's three days 'till NaNo and I am so, so scared.

I have barely any plot. I know my story very, very well, but only on the most instinctive level. This is the story I have been getting the first seeds of since I was in eighth grade, the story based on the things I loved most, a dream of two lands; one frozen with ice and one glittering gold with power. There will be a brutal, ancient war and otherworldly, violent, savage creatures. It all sounds very lovely in my head right now.

But ultimately, I know it might splat. My friends and family think I'm possibly crazy for even attempting. On the outside, I wear my bravado--because what else do I have? How do I rightly justify myself in the eyes of society, a girl who weaves dreams and lies for fun and stays home, eyes worryingly intent on a manmade glowing contraption, fingers clacking out her childish fantasies instead of oh, I don't know, STUDYING, maybe? How many hours of time and energy will I have to forgo to make it through another season? Might I turn into a zombie? Very valid questions, but I have no idea.

But then people say, "You can totally, like not do this." And that's possible, easy even, but

No way.

I will not quit. Not doing NaNoWriMo has never been on my mind (Ask me again in two weeks, please.) I gripe and moan and complain, but in the end, I love NaNo with all my heart because it made this girl write. It made this girl believe that she COULD write a novel in a month if she wanted to. It made her believe she could write a novel. And it DID make her write novels.

I will always be eternally grateful to NaNoWriMo. Because last year, when I suddenly decided that I wanted to do NaNoWriMo, three days before the event, it made me scramble for a plot and think...and think...

And I came upon a story that I absolutely, absolutely loved. And I'm going to start querying it, this January.

I love NaNoWriMo because of its go-go-go mentality, its encouragement to chuck caution to the wind and just create something, anything. I love it because it calls for exuberance and wild chaos, beautiful crap-dumping that would later be polished to stunning prose. It allows you to make mistakes, and not give a damn about it.

And I may question myself constantly, asking myself why I'm being a nutball and deciding to do this every year, but I will never quit because I love making stories, and the idea of not participating in this when I could have will hurt me 10x more than plugging through this month-long purgatory.

And I know that in a month, I'll be so, so glad I did this.

As I stand on the bleak shore, staring out at the choppy, formidable waves, I pray to the NaNo gods for another successful season, and I hope my stubbornness can brave me through the rough tides.

This is it. Here we go.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

And then I don't feel alone.

Another post for today.

So a few weeks ago, I posted about meeting up with Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series (No, like seriously. Read it. READ IT.) I talked about how I was so awed and humbled by her, because she worked on the story for a freakin' TEN years and now she has tons of amazing fans and she made it on the NY Times bestseller lists.

Her books are amazing. But look carefully on her blog, dear reader. There, she has the most honest, beautiful, inspiring posts.

I go on her blog often when I'm down, because she doesn't have technical posts, such as how to worldbuild or how to submit to publishers. She tells us a story, a long, winding tale of her road to publication.

It starts in 2007/2008, when she first starts blogging. And as I read her posts, going back all the way to when she first graduated out of college, revising Throne of Glass (it was Queen of Glass at the time) .

She talks about her rejections, about life, about how to reach for your dreams. And she posts this: http://sjmaas.livejournal.com/382573.html

I read that today...and I teared up.

Because she works so hard, and she shows it. She doesn't hide her troubles, but she doesn't complain. Sarah is honest, thoughtful. She tells her story like no one else.

She works. Hard. She wrote the book through high school and college. Through vacations, cutting classes. She rewrote and edited it until it was better, many times over. She is the only one who even dared to kick Celaena's ass--her amazing, steelhearted, stubborn main character.

She writes; "If writing had things like boot camp or practice or tryouts, I would have been the first one on the field and the last one to leave. I would have been the one running so hard they puked." 

"But I’d go to sleep at night, unable to stop dreaming about this one book, which had gobbled up so many years of my life, for which I’d honestly walk through hell to get published. 

That's what you do, though--when you want it badly enough, you start to realize that the only limitations are the ones you set for yourself. And once you realize there are no limits--THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO WHAT YOU CAN DO--nobody and nothing can ever hold you back." 

And I admire her so. much. more. 

Because I want to dream, too. Sometimes I go to bed, so excited about the book industry, dreaming so hard, that I can't fall asleep. There's this constant ache in my heart, where I want something so badly, and I'll do whatever the hell it takes. I look at the shelves of a library or a bookstore, and they are my heroes. They are the ones I look up to. 

Because I want to share a story of my own. And I don't know where the path will take me. But I'll work, harder than anybody. I'll write and rewrite. 

Because I'm going to write an effing good book, and no one is going to stand in my way. 

Why I love Lorde

As you might know, there’s a new star on the scene: Lorde. Not only does she have a distinct style that shot her up the Billboards charts, there’s something else: she’s sixteen years old, and for someone at that age to make such big waves in the grand, sprawling international music industry is legendary.

Now, I don’t follow music that much. I’m not obsessed with current pop/country stars, and throughout the years I’ve singled out a few of my favorites. I only have absolute favorite songs, not artists; my music palate is quite picky and I’m wary of songs that become popular just because they have catchy music and no real deep meaning behind the repetitive words.

The first time I heard Lorde’s smash song Royals, my reaction was like, “That’s it?” The tune was queer, different. The music video was minimalist, with alternating shots between the artist herself singing into the camera against a blank wall and of boys living in a grayscale, suburban-town world. The lyrics had no effect on me whatsoever. “So, what’s the big deal?”

But the song stuck with me for weeks at school. I found myself humming the song on breaks and with friends and the lyrics and tune refused to let go. And when her fame escalated, on a bored Internet search, I looked up the meaning to the lyrics of Royals. And the more I began to understand the words she sang, the deeper the appreciation I felt for her.

She talks about how other songs depict a glamored, unrealistic Hollywood life, with “Gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom…” and “Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece…” She talks about how she doesn’t really care for a life like that, and how “We aren’t caught up in your love affairs.” She talks about her own humble roots—how she came from a low-key town. She talks about how she—and the rest of us—can’t afford such a glossy, flashy life, how we can only dream about ruling our small-town worlds.

In the book industry, there’s long been an unspoken secret on why most books are successful; because they have “real” characters. In popular books such as The Hunger Games, The Fault in our Stars, and Divergent, they all have honestly shaped, intrinsically flawed characters. They don’t have to be beautiful, or the nicest people on earth. They can be scarred and defensive and weak and small. But despite their shortcomings, their troubles, they rise above and conquer and become, in the loosest sense, heroes of their own small stories. 

And that’s why I love Lorde.

 Because she is real. Because the music industry has been so pretentious, so hyped with glitter-dusted stars and wild concerts, with an undercurrent judgement on beauty and looks. And Lorde breaks that norm, with her softly dusted voice that echoes her intelligence and quiet strength. Her songs don’t brag. She has a personality—she recently called Selena Gomez out on anti-feminism in her song Come and Get It, with its provocative lyrics. Some might view that as obnoxious, for even daring to challenge a popular pop singer, but I think it’s refreshing. People are scared to stand up to the pop stars because of their status, but I think it’s nice when the queen bee is challenged and critiqued once in a while.

The music industry needs that. The people that look up to the music stars need that. They need a down-to-earth role model that they can connect with.

Lorde has no mask of arrogance. Because in the end, she speaks the whole, courageous truth. She doesn’t just speak to us. She speaks about us, too. She is one of us.

In that irony, she truly rose to be her own “queen” of the Billboards. And I, someone who isn’t even into today’s pop culture, say bravo.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Music on a Monday!

Hey, Internet! How are you?
I was feeling super inspired by music today, so I'll post bits of songs that I really like/have really liked in the past.
And...it's a Monday, so it totally fits!

1. Burn by Ellie Goulding
I just heard this like maybe five minutes ago, and I'm already in total LOVE with this song. I always feel like Ellie Goulding's songs have a sort of meaning behind its words, instead of just slapping together catchy words and tossing it into a pop tune. But this song...I love it. I can totally tell it will be one of my pump-up songs for NaNoWriMo this year.

2. Young and Beautiful by Lana del Rey
This was the song of my summer. For reasons unknown, it was so inspiring, so moving, and it helped me pull through my last rewrite. (It was HARD. 45,000 words in two weeks. It took nearly everything I had to grind my teeth and drag myself through the doubt, the fear...)

It's one of those songs I listened to over and over and over again, and I remembered this clearly; headphones jammed into my ears, arms sticky with sweat against my sides, furiously typing away at 3 in the morning, while Lana's words and songs stirred something inside me and fed me strength.

Seriously, guys.

I digress.

3. Conquest of Spaces by Woodkid.
I recently started listening to this song, and the lyrics--and the music--really spoke to me. Again, I think it might be part of my playlist for NaNoWriMo. All-around epic song!

And that's it for a Music Monday! What are your pump-up songs? Tell me below in the comments!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

So Much Excitement!

It's October, which means fall and Halloween and cool holidays. It means honeycrisp apples and excessive coffee and tea. It also means that I have been in school for over a month.

That is CRAZY.

Anyways, the things that I am super pumped for!

1. Books.

Come on. With THREE huge series reaching its conclusions, how could I not be freaking out?

House of Hades by Rick Riordan
I have been a steadfast Camp Half-Blood fan since I was a 3rd grader, and I remember for my tenth birthday, I got The Last Olympian as a present--right when it came out. Now, four years later, it's hard to imagine that things have changed so much. I'm such a different person, yet still mostly the same, and I'm still in love with Percy Jackson--and so is my brother. The Mark of Athena destroyed me in the best way possible, and I am biting my crossed fingers that the conclusion to this series will be EPIC in the most mind-blowing way possible.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth:
I remember reading this series in the fall of '11, right when it came out. Back then, I thought it was amazing and kickass and refreshing. It also was one of the first YA books I read and vaguely recognized as YA (after The Hunger Games) and the hype has finally caught up! The series takes in Chicago (Chicagoan pride <3) and I'm sad and thrilled and really, really looking forward to the end.

Champion by Marie Lu
Again, I think I was one of the early crowd--I read Legend in early 2012, and this book CHANGED MY LIFE. I don't even know why or how. All I remember was setting down the book at theater practice, stunned and completely blown away, and walking around for the next freaking WEEK with the book hangover. It was the book that SNAPPED me into YA, and inspired me to take on writing again after my derivative, childlike fantasy novel that I did in 6th grade. It totally shifted my gears and it changed my course entirely. When/if I ever meet Marie, I am going to thank her. For everything she did in Legend to inspire me, even though I don't completely understand how.

2. NaNoWriMo!

Chill, it's still a month till the race. But people are readying their weapons and gears. For me, I have the idea of my story, in the vaguest forms. I know the plot and Things I Want To Include and the last line of the story and how it begins. That's pretty much it.

But anyways! Never mind that. I'm proud to say that I'm a participant in Boot Camp NaNoWriMo, a NaNo community hosted by the amazing Susan Dennard. In November, you can catch me moderating the forums and shenanigans over here: http://forum.susandennard.com/?forum=nanowrimo-bootcamp-2013-2. Come and participate!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Meeting Sarah J. Maas

Last Wednesday, I met Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series.

It wasn't easy--it was a school night. I lived about 30 miles from Naperville. My school was hosting this curriculum night thing--so my parents had to attend.

But tenacity was in my blood. I vowed to see Sarah, and my lovely dad supported me. So right after school, we took off for Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville.

When I arrived at the store, it was 4 pm and the event was to start at 7. Waiting wasn't long at all; hours passed easily in a bookshop.

At around 6 pm, I was buying a copy of Little Women at the front register. Then I saw Sarah walking down the street. She turned...and walked into the bookstore.

When I saw her, I said--no, squeed--"There's Sarah!"

In a millisecond following, I fortified myself not to collapse all over the countertop and drool.

Because she was there. I had never been so excited to see an author in my life.

So we introduced ourselves. She was very, very friendly and I commend her for not being scared off by my 14 year old fangirling vibes.

Sarah then went to all the autographing table and engaged in book-event-business-y stuff and I ran into the shelves to hide.

So fast forward to 7 pm. The people were assembled in chairs, a good-sized group. Sarah came in and instantly put us at ease.

I really can't describe it. Sarah was incredibly down-to-earth and kind. Though I had read her story to publication time and time again, she managed to make it sound fresh and engaging and hilarious. She highlighted her geeky side of childhood and confessed to having a life-sized cardboard cutout of Legolas from LOTR that was lipsticked all over--which all had us howling in laughter. She sounded humble, she sounded grateful, she was real--she spoke about how she grew and how Celaena, the main character in the series, grew with her.

But somehow, the whole event seemed surreal. While waiting in line for the signing, I chatted with a few people (Namely, Katie: http://thepolishedpageturner.wordpress.com/) and we geeked out over all sorts of books and how trilogy thirds like Champion and Allegiant were coming out this fall. It was amazing to talk with people who actually knew the books and could carry on a conversation. We talked about the saddest deaths in Harry Potter (I voted Fred Weasley, Katie voted Hedwig) and then I found myself standing in front of Sarah J. Maas.

It wasn't until then that it all became very, very real.

I stacked the books that I had brought--and the books that my friends had begged me to bring--all in one pile.

"My friends and I love you," I said.

And that was the beginning of everything that spilled out. Sarah was so amazing, and she listened and smiled while I told her how I discovered her on NaNoWriMo, how I followed her blog, how on the day Crown of Midnight came out I swore to my dad, "This is going to be a NYT Bestseller"--and it did. I showed her my friends' fan art, told her how she was such an inspiration for a young, unknown writer. I told her how she deserved Every. Bit. Of. Success. that she got because hell, she had been working on it for ten years and more and how when she was on The List, we all felt like we were on the list with her.

And at one point, Sarah stood up, and walked around the table to give me a hug, and told me she just KNEW I was going to be published one day, and it was one of the most gratifying moments of my life.

And when my shaking hands finally took the signed books off the table, I walked to a corner of the bookstore, gingerly set down the books, and knelt there, just staring at her books. My brain was completely numb.

It's hard to tell someone else just how much Sarah J. Maas means to me, how much her writing and her story to publication speaks to me. But she was struck down, again and again, and she stood up. When she first got her book deal, she put up a video thanking the people that helped her--and sobbed in it. The journey took her through everything and she came back and she is one of the authors that deserves her success, and every bit of it. The whole time I talked, she kept thanking me. 

I am so INCREDIBLY grateful for the night I had, for the sacrifices my dad made to drive me to and back from the event.

And I so, so, wish that I could give back. I wish that one day--one day--I could give her a book I wrote and thank her, again and again, for what she did to me.

...One day.

Monday, September 9, 2013

So...2013 is more than 2/3 over?

Oh my goodness. I just realized that.

2013 is no longer a shiny new year.

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

I realize that I'm ranting like an old person here, but...wow.

Time does pass fast.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A beautiful song

So yesterday, my awesome German teacher showed this video to us. 

Of course, it was all in German, and I am in the beginning stages of learning the language. I always has this stereotypical concept of German songs being a mix of guttural syllables and angsty hard rock. I had NO idea why. But  that has been totally wrong, and German music has its own kind of strange beauty too.

Watch it. Watch the video and you'll see why I teared up.

It's not about youth painting the town or doing drugs or whatever American songs are about these days. It's a friendship/love of an elderly man and woman, spray-painting the town walls, skateboarding, pulling pranks, doing what the children and the young do, like what Liesel and Rudy did in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

And again--I had NO idea what the song was about, but I think it's something about having a childlike spirit. And I see the two in the video--free of burden, laughing and smiling.

And this made me sort of smile and tear up at the same time, because I think that as we get older, our souls kind of get heavier and heaver. I once heard Jennifer Lawrence say that as a teenager, she was a sort of a hotheaded, rebellious girl, an all-goes, almost naive kind of spirit. She said that as she got older, she got more more self-conscious, more aware of her mortality. 

And I think--when you get that old, is it possible to still have a light spirit? Are you forever a well of memories and burdens and regrets? Is it not possible, if your body is willing, to be old and still raise hell and smile easy? 

This was totally not a writing post, but in a way, it may have been. I don't know. But this was a song that made my week, and I hope it would make yours too :)

Any songs that you would like to recommend?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How Rainy Days turn out to be Extraordinary

Yesterday, it poured.

I live around Chicago, so rain isn't too rare an occurence, but yesterday, it rained in kind of that ominious inky sky, downpouring sheets of rain kind of way.

My brother was going for this tournament of his. It was in Naperville, and I found out that morning that authors Rae Carson and CJ Redwine were going to be in town.

I had actually been keeping my eye on that Sarah J. Maas event, but I thought, hey, why not?  I liked Rae Carson--I had LOVED her Girl of Fire and Thorns books. Plus, I had never been down to Anderson's before.

So long story short, I found myself sitting in the small, cozy bookshop of Anderson's that afternoon.

The event started out quietly--just the two authors first introducing each other, giving reading recommendations, and then answering questions from the crowd of about 20-25. Not too big--it was great. I sat in the second row and managed to get a good view of the authors. Rae and CJ were witty and amazing and I found myself nodding along to CJ's Strong Female Characters argument (check out Erin Bowman's kick-butt post on that: http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2013/08/28/on-strong-female-characters/) and I asked a question of my own.

I wanted so badly to buy their books but I forgot to bring money. So after the event ended and the signings commenced, I slunk quietly to the bookshelves and settled down with a book. After a bit, the crowd had cleared and the chairs were packed up, the two authors wandered over to the bookshelves. And Rae Carson was there, standing literally two feet away from me, scanning the Sci-Fi and Fantasy shelf.

So I screwed up my courage and spoke. She recognized me from the event. I told her she was an inspiration to me and how I was a writer too, and how I wanted to be published some day. At this point CJ Redwine had joined us. So it was the three of us, talking about writing and publishing. The two ladies were so kind and humble and there and real. 

And at one point CJ asked me, "What's your name?"

"Christina," I said. "Christina Li."

"Christina Li," Rae said. "I'm going to look for your name on the bookshelves one day."

And that's what made me nearly teary and absolutely giddy with happiness. To have an author--A NY Times bestselling author--look me in the eye and say that to a young unknown teen...I was speechless. And endlessly grateful.

And I spent the rest of the afternoon reading The Bone Season, which was stunning and complex and completely, totally epic. It lived up to my expectations and more.

My kind of a perfect afternoon.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stuff in August and General Bookish Excitement


School has begun, which means that a LOT of things are picking up pace. Summer has changed, from slogging, hazy days that pass by in a trickling morass, and into days full of getting lost in hallways and meeting new teachers and seeing your old friends and gearing up for another school season.

Speaking of seasons...

Wow. There's a LOT of hype surrounding a book called The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon. TV shows, magazine articles--it's been featured in everything from the Today show (the very first pick of their new book club!) and the People magazine. I briefly saw Samantha Shannon back in June, at BEA--I really had NO idea that she was part of such an explosive series! 

And look at that cover...

Delicious, I know. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

But I'm also reallyreallyreally pumped for something else. 

Yup. You saw that. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. Coming out this Tuesday.

That has gotta be the most badass cover I've ever seen. 

I've heard people who managed to snag an ARC at BEA gush and froth at the mouth over it and say it's the best book ever and no, they refuse to read other fantasy books this year because nothing else can quite manage to attain the awesomeness of Celaena. 

I am SO. SO. excited. Like, jumping-off-my-chair-because-I-know-it's-gonna-kick-serious-butt excited. 

In other news, I'm taking a wee break from TeaNovel. But it doesn't matter, because my time will be occupied with piles of schoolwork and that timer that ticks down the days until Crown of Midnight comes out.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Beth Revis and her genius


Internet, author Beth Revis is an amazing kickass.

Because of this:

I had seen this video a while ago, maybe a year. At that time, it resonated with me, but not in a soul-shaking, revelation kind of way.

Beth Revis, the author of the New York Times bestselling Across the Universe series, talked about failure.

Before she wrote Across the Universe, she wrote ten--TEN--novels. But the thing is, she said--and this was the part that hit me the most--that she thought each of those ten novels was "the one". She edited them meticulously, poured her her love and her soul into each of those novels, and she edited the absolute crap out of them. Each. One. Of. Them.

None of those ten novels ended up getting published.

She showed the stack upon stack of papers that reached about two feet high, the legal pads full of notes and edit letters. She showed the three drafts, the thousand pages that made up the comparatively slim, small book of A Million Suns (her sequel).

And I saw a woman who gave everything she had into her writing. She took her energy and passion and tenacity and fragility and wove it into each and every one of her books. She didn't crank them out like scientific papers or magazine articles. She genuinely thought that each of them was the one. 

And that was the part the hit me and struck me and slapped me in the face.

I will admit a secret. This past week, in preparation for this online conference I was taking, I had rewritten an entire novel in two weeks, and two-thirds of that novel in one week. I wrote 37,000 words in the course of eight days. I set my alarm for 3:00 AM every night. I was working like a mad, crazy scientist on the brink of discovering a new set of atomic laws (well, as crazy and furious as I could get in the wee sluggish hours of the morning. )

I loved my TeaNovel. I loved it so much to rewrite it over and over again, four times and rack up about 300,000 words over it, to spend my days worrying about my plot and wondering if it would all work out.

And I was worrying that all this would go to nothing, all of it would slip away if/when my novel ultimately gets rejected.

And I'm still afraid.

I shouldn't do this. I should be a good high school student and do Stuff that Will Get Me Good Grades and Stuff that Will Get Me into College. I should go watch movies and go squee over Taylor Swift and go outside more and Get A Life.

I shouldn't be writing a novel. To tell you the truth, I'm breaking a lot of the rules I was wordlessly given.

And there is the question: is it all worth it? 

Beth Revis had asked herself that question. She said that if she knew it would all be this hard when she was just starting out, she would have said no. That it wouldn't be worth all the work, all the struggle and the angst and the heartbreak.


She says yes.

And her ending words are, "My name is Beth Revis. And today, I didn't talk about failure at all. I talked about success."

Thank you, Beth. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fear, Procrastination, Repeat.

So I've been working on this novel for a while. Let me just call it TeaNovel, because it involves tea in some aspect and that's what I've been telling my friends. It was my NaNoWriMo novel last year, and it has had me twisted in pretzels to make it work.

I have rewritten it about five times and each time, it gets way better. And each time, my morale pretty much sinks a bit.

I no longer have that super-shiny-novel-OMG-wheee! buzz. The plot still has problems. It has rounded out in many ways, and my characters have really developed, but it's still...I don't know. There's still a long way to go.

And I'm sitting here, at my desk, chomping at it. I want this ready for this online conference I'm attending. It's in six days. I need to write a query and a synopsis. It's supposed to be a 70,000 word novel.

I have 45,000 words. 25,000 of which were written in the last four days. Which nearly killed me. I need to write 25,000 more.

On the bright side, it's an incredible motivator. On the not-so-bright side, well, I can't write Thursday and the weekends are pretty off limits, so I have today, Friday, and Monday. You can do the math.

I am listening to everything from Celtic jigs to Lana Del Rey to Christmas carols.

It's the middle of August.

What's worst is that my inner editor won't shut up. It gripes about plotholes and inconsistencies and my nemesis; the too-convenient events. I love my inner editor sometimes. It makes beautiful prose. It gets me an A on my papers. But...not when I need to rewrite my novel in like, a week.

I am completely, totally, procrastinating right now. But I don't have time to even procrastinate. It's a self-made (well, conference-made, I guess) deadline that doesn't even give me room to breathe.

I...need to go.

See you in a week, if I make it through alive.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Piano and Mistakes

Today I was practicing piano, one of those beautiful pieces by Ludovico Einaudi called Nuvole Bianche. He doesn't have the mathematical and musical precision as say, Beethoven or Bach or Mozart did, but he makes these clear, ethereal melodies that have a feeling of fragility and richness at the same time.

And I was getting lost in the music and being sucked in by the perfect harmony of the notes and then...
I made a mistake.
An ugly one.

It was a slip of the key, an accidental sharp or flat, but I cringed at the same time and at that moment multiple thoughts were running through my head, like Ugh! It was supposed to be perfect! You ruined it! How could you even ruin such a pretty piece with just a wrong-placed finger? Why couldn't you play it just like Ludovico Einaudi did? 

And I sort of had this little epiphany, I guess.

What if Ludivico played it wrong, too?

I know that sounds really stupid, but it changed a lot of things. I kept asking.

What if Ludovico also cringed at a wrong chord?

What if Nuvole Bianche didn't come out perfectly the first time? What if it was a mess of chords and then, slowly and slowly, it became beautiful?

And that's something I've struggled with a long time since my childhood; my expectations of myself. Call it perfectionism or something, but when I was a kid, I would have fits and these mini-tantrums...at myself. I wanted to give beautiful art art and music justice.

That's why I would have the fits, the times where I actually broke down and cried at the piano, because I could not get this beautiful piece torn apart by my clumsy, mistake-prone hands.

And then I remembered this old Chinese saying; Lotuses bloom in mud.

Lotuses had long been the symbol of purity, but its roots are firmly anchored in ugly, brown mud. And I realize this is how beautiful art comes, just like in writing; fast and ugly at first, torn with mistakes and mired in messes, but with careful hands and devotion, it can become stunning.

Monday, July 8, 2013

These Summer Days

Sometimes I don't know how to title these posts.

But as of now, I'm sitting in the family library, and from the view out the windows, it is a perfect brooding gray outside. Of course, a rain day.

Rain days create this certain aura of nostalgia, and they create this sort of closed-in atmosphere that is...cozy, I guess. I don't like cloudy days, but I love days that storm and rain, where I'm safe inside, reading classics on the sofa while the skies above throw a loud fit. 

Writing is slow. Everything is slow. Of course, when I am trying to chug through revising/rewriting in a month because this rewriting business has gone a bit far too long, writing a thousand words a day is considered terribly dragging. Today's the last leg of my rewrite for Part 1.

I'm thinking about making myself a cup of tea right now.

I suppose I should focus on a bit more objective thing, such as writing a post on the craft of writing or something. But I shy away from the idea, because in reality, I am still very much a beginner. I am still learning a lot.

And I'm not really trying to gain a big readership, not right now. I don't really care about subscribers or comments or regular readers. For now, I just want something so I can look back in the future, and read what my thoughts were back then. I like tangible records, and I'm not a good journal-keeper.

Well. That's all for now.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The book I read

You know how I said I checked out a bunch of Middle Grade books to avoid YA for a while? Well, I lied, sort of. I did check out that one YA book, that was decidedly not dystopian or sci-fi.

The Storyteller, by a German author named Antonia Michaelis. 

It begins the day Anna finds the child's doll on the floor of the student lounge. When it's claimed by Abel, the school drug dealer, Anna becomes determined to learn more about this mysterious boy with the military haircut and deep blue eyes. She follows him after school and discovers a secret: Abel is caring for his six year old sister Micha, alone. Anna listens as he tells her a fairy tale , the story of a little orphan queen pursued by hunters across the oceans for the treasure she carries: her pure, diamond heart.

It's a story with parellels to reality. Social services and Micha's abusive father could take her from Abel if they discover the truth. 

Despite friends' warnings, Anna is drawn to Abel and Micha, and falls under the spell of the story of the little queen and her desperate voyage. 

But when people Abel has woven into his tale turn up dead, it's Anna whose heart is in danger. Is she in love with a killer? And has she set out on a journey from which there is no return?
Antonia Michaelis has written a spell-binding tale of suspense, danger, and transformative love.


I don't even know where to start.

It was a new idea, a combination of fairy tale and dark reality, scarred and edgy to the core, but beautiful and lyrical. Antonia Michaelis truly pulls out a beautiful, original tale and executes it almost flawlessly. I wanted to cry and laugh and cry, but I could only stare on in stone silence, at the simple, haunting cover, and wonder how it could hold so much power in the pages and words. The book caught me, held me, and when I closed the it, I felt that aching, gut-wrenching bittersweet feeling, the hollowness that settled in my heart. It was not fangirling or gushing over characters--describing it as that would be almost sacrilege. I felt a deep love and heartbreak in finishing it, and it would only be the utmost appreciation I could ever offer as a reader.

The combination was perfect. Please read it. I love it so much, and hope that you will too.

Greetings from Revisionland

It is rather confusing here. Sprawling, lush hills with roads that twist about, jungles you get lost in, and when you emerge, a searing hot desert.
In short: it's fun, overwhelming, and hard. 
So many ways! I have seen outlining scenes with index cards and writings 20 page outline and highlighting and color coding.
I am also deep in research--something I did not go deep enough, and now my brilliant friend (and writer) has pointed out that my supposed "fantasy" world is like sheer strands of thread that cannot form a tapestry rich enough. 
(She also very rightly pointed out that I needed description. As you hopefully tell, I have been practicing that in this blog post.)
It's really a lot to take in. Because though I rewrote my novel two times already, I wrote them in a Nanowrimo-style madcap dash to the end. And while my plot improved SO much, well, my prose? My characters that sound all the same?
I think I may need to do another kind of rewrite--the scene level rewrite. 
I went to an Office Depot and got myself some index cards. And sticky tabs. And I did not really know what to do with them. 
But just I was getting lost in all these index-cardy tricks and highlighting fashions and color-coding I felt like I had stumbled upon this unwelcome pit of quicksand--
Just as I was writing the title of this post, I was thinking of this very word--revision. Revision. Re-vision. It kind of hit me, made me think for a second. 
I am re-visioning my novel. 
Creating higher standards. Ratcheting up stakes. Making characters move and dance and make crushing mistakes, and pay for it. I am seeing it not in the flat, two-dimensional plot arc I have had for too long. 
I may have to rewrite most of my scenes--but this time, the plot structure is there. I have the foundations and the supporting beams. 
Index cards may help, but what matters most is my vision. 
See y'all,

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Approaching Revisions and Reading Miscellany

 I am already in revisions, but as I see the mountains looming ahead, I find myself looking at a map.
Several maps, actually.
I am in severe confusion. Because my novel right now is sound in plot--but it is not good or near finished, by any means. It needs characters that aren't just a bunch of talking heads. It needs worldbuilding--I based mine off of Imperial China, but I need it to not feel sound like it so the reader would make take on a unique vibe for the place and country, instead of being an alternate China. My improvement; I've put jewels in the women's hair and introduced Persian rugs.
Aside from that, and back to my first point; I have so many ways of revising right now. I am trying to get myself to an index card, and I might very well make it and actually revise like what an Official Writer does, while my muse wants loll around and eat Danish cookies and watch some more Sailor Moon. (Long story short; Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder, talked about it so much on her blog that I decided to give it a try--and guess where I am now.) I want to do the index card, planning-out-each-scene method, but I feel it is needless and redundant.
I don't know what the mountains are like. I fear they contain dragons.
It is summer, and while I have been traveling for weeks (hence the long gap) yesterday I got back and went to the library.
I walked straight past the YA shelves and went straight for the middle grade, Juvenile fiction.
I don't know why. I don't write middle grade. For the past year or so, I've walked past to the YA section, where I would read and, I don't know, learn, maybe?
But I realized that I've been narrowing my scope. I've begun to see that reading only YA has not freshened my perspectives on writing, but quite the contrary. YA fiction has begun to be--and I never thought I would use this word in literature--conformist. That's crazy, but it's true. I realize that every YA book has essentially the same elements. I'm either reading dystopian or sci-fi or some watered-down version of a fantasy that served its purpose to include--no surprise here--a love triangle. I feel like I'm burdening myself each time I read a flap cover.
So I'll take a break. I checked out two middle grade fantasy novels, one of which was a favorite I read long ago and still remembered, and one of which was on gothic Hamburg and sounded really interesting. I now return to the shelves that once were and still magical for me. Children's books, I feel, have a much broader collection, and each book is not a copy of another, but they are refreshing and unique.
And they have such clear themes, such good characters. I feel like though the content is less mature, and I am more knowledgeable about YA than children's, I have a feeling that the standards for children's fantasy are higher, in a sense. Each journey is so different. 
And as I enter high school, I would love to be a child again. For a summer, yes?

Friday, June 7, 2013


I'm back! It has been an amazing week of traveling!
First up, BookExpo America--I woke up on May 31st at 4:30 AM for my 6 o'clock flight, but I wasn't a bit tired--I think I was being super hyper or something. And then the whirlwind of the convention took me up. The place was so huge, and there were so many people. I met amazing authors--namely, the Young Adult authors I had been following for a bit of time: Erin Bowman, Sarah J. Maas, Susan Dennard, and Kat Zhang!
This is them! I am second from the right (Sarah wasn't pictured.) 
I also met Robyn Schneider, whom I long admired, and was super sweet. 
But best of all, I met Grant Faulkner,the director of Nanowrimo--and I think I was kind of fangirling (which, by the way, Blogger wanted to correct to fang idling--which doesn't make any more sense). He was amazing. Being the nice and humble person he was, he agreed to take a picture with me, and when I told him how much Nanowrimo had helped me, he seemed to be surprised and happy at the same time. 

After my two-day explosion of BEA had ended, my dad and I went down to Baltimore, and then to Philadelphia to meet author Andi Buchanan!
I emailed Andi back when I was 9, and her Daring Book for Girls book had come out. Eventually, we established a great friendship over email, where she is a brilliant mentor and we talk about books and writing and piano--I have been learning it for a long time, and Andi herself was once a concert pianist. And 5 years later, I was so incredibly glad to finally meet her!

And then there was the stack of books that I acquired. I think the picture speaks for itself. 
I just have to get through them all...
But I cannot express in words how INSPIRING this trip was--to connect with industry professionals, to meet the authors I wanted to meet for a long time, to tell them thank you. 
I wasn't sure about this trip, because I wasn't anywhere in the industry yet--after all, I still was an unknown writer. But BEA went above and beyond all my expectations, and I returned with a suitcase of books and a heart literally bursting with the energy and inspiration--just what I need for the next stages of my writing. 
Speaking of which, I will have another post up shortly, about the ongoing journey into Revisionland.