Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A bookworm's manifesto

When I was younger, I would wrap myself in a blanket and open a book and not move for the next three hours. I could get utterly lost in the confines of a small bookstore and engage myself in the drama of fictional characters in a heartbeat. Stories were, ultimately, what made up my childhood.

When I grew older, I started to lose the long days of the summer, and the 8-10 PM blocks that had become my reading hours. I stole in snippets before school and after, forged on late nights with the latest installments of my favorite series, and wrote furiously when I had time. I wrote terrible stories, short stories, atrocious poems. 

A little bit later on, it was not only the time that matter but the resolve to read and write stories. My friends bragged about how they hadn't touched a novel since junior high, and with the accumulating schoolwork, teachers weakly pushed out book recommendations. I would rarely discuss books with others because there was so much more to discuss that seemed more "productive", "relevant", and "important". I began to slowly slink away from my favorite fantasy novels, the turn-of-the-century books I'd so loved as a kid.

It's sad, how I grew up with such a cultural impression that reading fiction was frivolous, nerdy, and irrelevant, something done by absentminded daydreamers. Novels aren't just vocabulary clogs or forms of an old school pastime. Reading makes you feel for others and express empathy. If you love stories, it means you give a damn about people you've never met and situations you've never been in before. Reading and writing means you're willing experience the lifetimes you create and encounter, instead of just living the one you're given. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thoughts on NaNo this year and other things

I want to do NaNo this year.

I love the event. I love it so much. Somehow, in the middle of November every year, I find myself half-crying near the computer, staring at what seems like a big shitty blob of words and wondering all over again why I was doing this in the first place. But then I look back on it, and I laugh at my mountain of questionable prose and remember the electric word sprints and caffeine-induced epiphanies.

It was my favorite part of the year, to be honest. Like a crazy little tradition of mine, where, for a month, my wild stories and rambling prose got top priority.

Can I do it this year?

I don't know. This past year has led me all over the place in terms of writing, and I'm still at this place where I'm not quite sure what path I'm on and what my goals are. I've been elated, exhausted, hopeful. I'm not sure I have the high-powered threads of ideas, or perhaps the time to do the 30 day sprint. (But in the past years, the trend seems to be me deciding on a last-minute, hurried basis, so...)

To be honest, I feel a little lost, and uncentered. After going through an extremely tight-scheduled summer with a constant sense of panic. It drained me a little, mentally and creatively. , I feel like I haven't had a proper rest in a while. And this blog has been receiving a little, just a little bit of neglect.

Through everything, writing's still absolutely been my home. It's where I know I can safely store my thoughts and laugh at my mistakes. Writing stories and prose still feels like the most natural thing in the world. For that, I'm thankful.

I've gotten a ton of experience in the past year, and that's incredible. But I still want to stay as centered as before, and I'm still trying to find my way.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Why Revisions Continue to Elude Me

When I began seriously writing (aka not scribbling out a novel and immediately trashing it), I knew what was next; revisions. I think there's a quote out there that says, "writing is rewriting" and I agree with that 1000%. 

I wanted to be a Good Writer. I wanted to print out the hard copy of my MS, crack open a box of highlighters, assemble stacks of index cards and tab stickies, and get to work. But I couldn't. I was not wired to be that systematic, meticulous reviser with a perfectly organized system. 

Oh, how I wished to be one. How I wished to read through my manuscripts with a perfect eye for mistakes. How I wished for those structured, rigid rubrics like the ones they gave out in English class. I didn't want to be the one who stared at my writing and numbed my fears with ice cream. 

I love books about the writing craft. I take those in and savor every gold nugget of wisdom. They make it seem so straightforward. Compelling characters, with secret desires and fears. Pacing that's tight like a fishing line. A plot with a proper structure. And fearless, breathless prose. 

It's never that easy for me. 

I can scribble notes and fill up worksheets and write out all analysis. I can pretend to be a therapist, a master planner--and be someone who actually *knows* what she's doing. It's not enough for me to take in concepts, to follow a system. 

For me, I have to feel. I'm really, really not trying to sound abstract here. But it's true--I have to reach a point of wordless understanding before I can revise a single work on the page. I might have a half-paged outline for a book, but before I draft, I have to play things out in my head. My way of revising is feeling things intuitively--which is a blessing and a curse. 

I think I've written a post about this before. I've come to terms with accepting my own process of writing--but on days like these, it's hard. It's hard to stare at a blank document and not be able to think of a *single* way to write the plot down on paper. Plotter's block, we'll call it. 

In the end, I want to tell the best story I can. But some days, it's pretty hard to think of getting there. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Quiet Cocooning

In Chicago, there comes a time, in the precious two weeks from the middle of May to the beginning of June--that tiny window of true spring, where it isn't bitterly cold or humid, sweaty, and hot.

I love this time of year.

Where am I?


Cartoon Network just gets me.

I'll be on and off this blog for a while. Final exams are coming. I'm getting reading to map out one of the most challenging revisions I will have done. I've already announced a Twitter hiatus because, well, it was destroying any shred of productivity I had, and with all the RT convention and BEA buzz going on...well, I decided to just step back a little.

I just read this beautiful, heartbreaking book yesterday, called Code Name Verity. I know it's been out for a long time, and I *just* got around to reading it, but it was every bit as gutting as everyone said it would be. And I fell in love. It was a story of a girl held captive by the Gestapo, as she scrawls out her written confession that is about her and her best friend--the one she left the night the plane with both of them crashed in enemy territory. It is a story of torture and war and friendship and love--not just the family or romantic love, but the love you feel for your best friend.

And I reread Princess Academy, one of my favorite childhood books. It was every bit as lovely as I remembered it. The books were both beautiful. And inspirational.

Now...How about a song for the week? I've been listening to this nonstop--got it from the 2013 Romeo and Juliet trailer (which, by the way, we're reading in class :) )

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hello, May.

My current mentality:

I would love a slice of cake right now.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I LOVE the book/publishing community

...Because yesterday and today, an awesome, AWESOME thing happened. Nearly everyone I follow on Twitter was tweeting. With the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.

Streams of tweets with reasons for why diverse books are needed, with characters of every race, gender and orientation. Situations that defy the stereotypes.

I've never been very much a person to stand on a chair and shout for a cause. Growing up, I knew that my race was different from others, and for the most part, I was fine with it. Of course, I didn't see too much representation of Asian characters in novels (other than the heavily stereotyped), but it was okay--I still found strength and an identity in myself.

Until I wrote TeaNovel.

Up until that point, I had been writing fantasy novels. And...though it wasn't at the front of my mind, all my characters were mostly white. Well, some weren't. But I still wrote in a strictly English-based world.

TeaNovel is something close to my heart. It wasn't that way at first. I was...scared to love TeaNovel. Scared to write it. Even more scared to talk about it.


Because it is a novel that isn't set in an English-based world. Because it touches on another culture that, in my opinion, isn't represented enough in YA literature. Because it has characters that are of another race.

You know what my dad said about it?

"It's not very marketable, is it? A novel with a culture based on imperial China? They won't connect with your characters."

My dad did not mean that in a malicious way whatsoever. In fact, he's quite supportive of me and my writing. But I know--my dad probably hasn't read an english book about characters in Asian cultures.

But the way he said it--so matter of fact--it made me a little sad.

And for a while, I believed him. And I worried. I worried that no one would connect with a novel I loved because it was set in a different culture.


I realize now that people love to read about different things. They love to touch on the exotic, the foreign, especially if it's portrayed beautifully.

And guess what?

The manuscript I originally thought wouldn't appeal to anyone? It's actually gotten a few requests from agents, and people have marveled over the world I've portrayed. It makes me proud. Proud of my novel and its wonderful culture. Proud of how hard I worked on it, and proud of the world and different characters that I wrote about.

This is amazing, people.

Authors and writers, go on. Write about places you've never seen, but have fallen in love with. Characters who are different than you are that touch your heart. Because for once, the book and publishing community come together as one, and from both sides, they advocate: "WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS."


Sunday, April 27, 2014

In other news...

I'm going to the 2014 Writer's Digest conference!

In New York!


I'm actually very, very excited. This is the first legitimate writer's conference I'm going to, and I can't wait to go back to New York! (I'm under 18, so I couldn't go to SCBWI last year :(--but they were very kind and sent me some materials to make up for it!)

I've been a longtime fan of WD and to attend an actual writer's conference, with pitch sessions and keynotes and panels is just...a writer's little dream come true.

I'm so, so excited. I'll wait to collect all the responses on TeaNovel--I still have some fulls out, but likely I'll be working on MagicalNovel by the time the conference rolls around (August 1-3).


Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Thing about Middles

When we read a book, we remember the beginning and the end. The beginning lines, the first conceptions of a story. We remember the lingering feeling of the last lines as we close the pages of a good book.

The middles are a blur.

Story middles are meant to be messed-up by design. Middles are stories of tiny victories and looming despairs. Middles are where the hero gets lost, where the protagonist gets beaten down again and again.

Middles are sometimes forgettable. There are some bright lights that stand out in the darkness, but they're generally remembered as the mess the character goes through before the emerged, changed and victorious in their own way.

But middles are the most important parts of a story.

Because through the mess of circumstances, a hero changes. They become stronger. Their character arc becomes darker. They get kicked down, but the bruises make their bones stronger and the cuts leave battle scars. They learn to hold their head high.

Middles are where discoveries happen. There is the unexpected, beautiful line of prose. The sudden action of a character that spins you for a surprise.

When you are living your story's middle, you have no idea where you're going. You don't know the end. You can't peek at the last pages, because they haven't been written yet. You must fight your way through.

Middles are complicated, frustrating, and confusing as hell. But in their ways, middles create their magic too--a nostalgic sense of journey, of reaching for something you've only had in your dreams.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A little look into TeaNovel

After I did the "Writing Process Blog Hop", I decided to go a little into the novel I've been working on for a while (and am now querying). Today is a little bit of a "teaser package" for my story that I've been talking my ear off about.  Songs, outlines, visions,'s featured here today.

This was--is--my editorial vision for TeaNovel. 

I guess this was my "revision" plan, in the very literal sense--I was "re-visioning" my story.

I want readers to be immersed into a beautiful, detailed, imaginative world.

I want readers to be sucked into mystery--I want to build intrigue that makes the story hard to put down.

And I want a memorable character. My main character isn't an incredible kick-ass at the beginning of the novel. She's spent her life fading into the shadows; she's a little tragic, a little broken.  But she has a story to tell. She has a quiet strength inside of her. And she is the one who saves the people around her--and herself.

 The "song" of this novel:

Maybe it's the opening chords, or the background instrumentals, or Lana's sweet, sad voice...there's something in this song that stayed with me throughout TeaNovel's hardest rounds of revisions. This was the song I kept going back to, the song whose mood seemed to sum up the essence of the novel. (Even though the lyrics have nothing to do with the story :) )

And a teaser:

"It was spreading, filling the air with the sickly sweet scent, until I gagged and doubled over as the smoke filled my head...
They were moving towards me. The lily smoke was filling the room. I clutched the knife until the edge of the blade sliced into my own fist.
A long shriek echoed around the room. The knife trembled in my hand, the smoke stinging my eyes. My head spun.
Time and time again, I had thrust out the knife, and ran.

This time, I stood against him, and I lost."

Sooo...that's it, I guess? I feel like a teaser like this was a little overdue, since I've been talking about this WIP for so long...:P

Next post will probably be on spring things and the lack of chocolate. May involve some tea.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Writing Progress Blog Hop

So a few days ago, the amazing Adriana (AKA YA BookNook) tagged me for this. I thought it looked like a pretty awesome/informational/update-ish thing to do, so here goes!


1. What am I working on?

At this point in time, there is not a lot of solid writing/drafting being done. Nor is there a lot of revising. Mostly...simmering.

This spring is basically a transition of sorts. I'm a big believer in taking breaks and hiatuses to recharge for another "writing season" ahead (On the other hand, when I'm drafting, it's an intense month, or two months. Revisions are the same--they're done in frenzied chunks of about 3 months.)

As of now, I'm querying TeaNovel--tentatively titled Blood Lily. It's basically a YA light fantasy--sort of like Memoirs of a Geisha combined with elements of a drug thriller. Querying is basically an essay made of long sentences of waiting, punctuated by an occasional period of  "RE: QUERY" (cue the millisecond of frenzy while your fate loads onto the phone screen).

But starting in May, when my schedule calms down, I'll be heading into revisions for MagicalThing, which involves fairy tales and a competition of magic, of two empires that head into centuries-old war. I'm very, very excited.

2. Why do I write what I do?

I write because when I was a little kid, my grandfather told me historical stories and myths and somehow, I became a storyteller.  But my imagination has always been way too big for my own good.

3. How does my writing process work?

The truest answer is; I don't have one. (This post of mine goes a little more into that)

But--I have many writing tendencies. I'm the "write drunk, edit sober" kind of person. I speed through the first draft, usually the wild, crazy NaNoWriMo style. I don't rush--I just pack an insane amount of drafting within a short timeframe, and then I take a month or two off to recuperate.

I prefer complete rewrites over big revision overhauls, but my favorite parts of writing are the first drafts.

I am a strange kind of pantser--I cannot, for the life of me, outline on paper, or on Post-its, or index cards--but I won't write a scene until it plays itself out in my head.

I like music--a combination of soundtracks and songs with great lyrics/music combos.

Tea and coffee are equal wordboosters in my mind, and I love them both. But my default is usually tea.

Chocolate is always the best food option. When it's not available, I eat my writer's angst and self-doubt for dinner.

But at the end of the day, I think stories are the most kickass things in the world, and I love every bit of the process--writing them, reading them, telling them and hearing them.


Those were really nice questions! I tag: Rosanna Silverlight and Marisa Hopkins

Sunday, April 13, 2014

On the Timesuck Vortex of Waiting

If there's one thing the process of querying has taught me, it's this: patience.

I am an impulsive, impatient person by nature. I'm quick to learn, reluctant to drill and practice. Writing's the one thing that's challenged me consistently, and the first out of many things that showed me that above luck, above talent, it's the hard work that makes things happen. It smoothed some of that impatience out of me.

There was that one thing though--writing was controlled by me, and me alone. I had my timeframe in my hands.

But when you submit your work out--when you send your manuscript baby out, or submit it to betas and CPs--you hand over some of that control. You get introduced to this little rascal, called Waiting.

Waiting is hard. Waiting is agonizing. There were times when I refreshed my email inbox 100 times a day. When I clicked on my mail app every 4 minutes.

I don't do that anymore.

Sarah J. Maas says that querying makes you a spine of steel. I think she's right.  For me, it's not the requests or rejections that define querying for me, but the waiting.

Strangely, now I'm okay with this. Even from the beginning, when I was frazzled and impatient, I seemed to instinctively understand from the get-go that publishing would be a waiting game, and now I've internalized it. It's not like I'm in no hurry--I still have quite an ambitious mentality--but I've become quite accepting of the process.

April is so busy with crazy schoolwork and extracurriculars that it's taken my mind off from querying. A little.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Music Monday and Camp Nanowrimo

(Ooh, look, it's 64 degrees and sunny! I thought this spring would never come...)

So today will be the music edition--in which I share three songs that I've been listening on repeat this week. 

1. On Our Way by Royal Concept

I *love* this song. My sweet spot in music is a combo of alternative/pop tunes (although I can't resist a unique alternative beat), and I feel like this song is perfect for me--light, fun, with great lyrics.

2. Bon Voyage by Marlene

This is like the other side of my alternative taste--this one is definitely unusual, but catchy. This is the song I've actually been writing my queries to (and the song title is rather appropriate, lol)

3. The Smallest Piece, from the soundtrack of Beasts of the Southern Wild

Out of the three, this might be my favorite. Actually, it's one of my favorite soundtrack pieces of all time (and I hoard soundtracks like crazy). (Also, I will probably have to see this movie soon because the trailer made me cry.) It's magical and breathtaking; it's been the cornerstone piece of inspiration for one of the novels brewing in my head...

Speaking of novels...

Camp Nano.

Sadly, I'm not doing it this time because I have an insane schedule. Next month, I'll be lucky if I even have time to write/revise like, a chapter or something, and have maybe refresh my inbox another 234598703 times for query updates.

BUT. I will be cheering on from the sidelines. 2012 Camp Nano was the first time I successfully completed a 50K novel in a month--so it's an event very close to my heart.

To all of you setting forth tomorrow into NaNoLand--

HAPPY (almost!!!!) APRIL!!!! I have to think of a trick to play on my friends tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A small PS

By the way, I'm entering the Dear Lucky Agent contest--it's for YA fiction and the agent is going to be Andrea Somberg from Harvey Klinger. I highly recommend any YA writers to enter this contest! (This will be my first time, but I'm excited--people have told me the agent critiques, if you win one, are super-helpful) 

Here's the Link

Good luck, all!

Blog Update: Querying, Divergent Movie, and Ben and Jerry's


Thing 1.

I have found my Ben and Jerry's Flavor.

Cherry Garcia, you are mine.

This is at the top of my list because I know my priorities. 

Thing 2.


1) "Wheeee! Oh, wow, I'm finally QUERYING agents! Shiny, professional agents!"
2) Waiting.
3) Waiting.
4) "There's still some Nutella in the jar..."

After a long, hard series of revisions (mostly hard; revisions/rewrites took about a year and a half), querying feels like something NEW. As it should. People say it's a rollercoaster--and I agree. There are a *lot* of emotions involved. The story's been living in my own head for so long that now that I'm sending it out...

(Waiting is hard. Querying is hard, and slow. BUT--a part of me is in complete awe of agents. Think about it--if you ate the same kind of food every day, wouldn't you tire of the it pretty quick? Like, agents are the ones who read unsolicited manuscripts EVERY DAY in search of that one project out of many that they like. It's their job. They still love books, even after reading thousands of them in their various raw, unpolished forms. And they also do all this sweet publishing negotiation stuff that personally would make me weak in the knees. At the end of the day, they're super-objective, but you gotta admire them for their stuff, ya know? *claps*)

Anyway. Thing 3.

Divergent movie.

It was good. Not a-FREAKING-mazing like Catching Fire. It was...good. I personally looooved the book, and even though I read it once 3 years ago (wow, three years? Time has gone fast), I still remember virtually every detail of the book. The movie? I feel like they did the best they could with the book, and it turned out okay. Loved that quick shot of Veronica Roth at the bungee-jumping scene, though. =)

Among other news: Snowed in Chicago Yesterday, All My Friends Are in Mexico, and I Love My New Snuggie.

Happy spring, everybody! ;)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The book that led to a journey

There are those books that change your life.

There are the books from your childhood that turn you into a reader, books that make you want to write stories of your own.

I've had many books leave a profound impact on me.  Books were what shaped my childhood. Books were my friends when I was a belligerent, stubborn child. Books gave me my imagination, and stories are one of the things I value most in life.

But there was that one book from two years ago--the book that, in essence, changed my life. I'm not much a person who emphasizes on milestones, but to answer the occasional question of "what was the thing that made you write?" this would definitely be one of the answers.

2012. I was in middle school. About a year before, I had written my first novel ever--a fantasy novel that involved my childhood trademark of erratic magic and inexplicable, tangled plots. My dad was gently encouraging me to think of publication--but at that time, I was still a child. I didn't know who to reach out to, and I had no idea of any sort of "trend" or protocol to become published. I loved writing, but I felt...almost burned out by the outdated fantasies I was scribbling down.

It was March. It was raining outside the window, the day before Spring Break. I was in the school musical production, and I remember making my way to the school stage area, reading for another day of practice. I clutched in my hand a book that my wonderful librarian had introduced to me.

Rehearsal break. I was off for the next few scenes. I cracked open the book.

"My mother thinks I'm dead."

It was early 2012. As the words and pages went on to paint a thrilling story of dystopian Los Angeles, and introduce two characters that I immediately fell in love with--Day, the street-smart, Robin Hood rogue, and June, the brilliant military prodigy. It led me through a refreshing, thrilling plot unlike anything I had ever read before.

I finished the book that day.

I don't know how to adequately describe the feeling you have after you flip through the last pages of great book. It's the feeling you get when you come close to the end of a journey, or lose something you once loved. It's the hollowness in the pit of your stomach, like the book took a part of you. The afterglow of the story is still sweet on the tip of your tongue, like an aftertaste--but the book is over. The story, the characters--they're over.

Only this time, the hollowness lasted. All through Spring Break.

Legend, by Marie Lu, was the first book that I read and recognized as YA--even though I had read others like The Hunger Games and Divergent before. Legend somehow clicked with me in a way that other stories couldn't--and it impacted me greatly. It introduced me to a new style of writing and a new genre--for which I am forever grateful. It opened me up to a wonderful community of authors--and it set me on the track to write and read more YA.

That summer, writing came back to life for me. I started brainstorming stories. I did Camp NaNoWriMo and wrote a (copycat) novel that in general was a terrible mess--but I also went through I process that I loved dearly. I proved to myself that I could write another novel. I proved to myself that I could write a novel within a month.

And that fall, I wrote a novel that would become TeaNovel.

So many things have happened within the two years, from March 2012 to now, March 2014. I started reading and writing YA novels. I did NaNoWriMo, and won it three times. I started looking into the industry and learned about YA styles and trends. I attended a conference. And now I'm querying TeaNovel and I'm looking for possible future publication in the books I continue to write. I'm a serious writer now.

It's strange and amazing, how something this big all started from the one special book that inspired me.

I finally got to meet her in November. I was now in high school and she was on tour for the last book in her Legend series, Champion. Since I was dead last in the long signing line, I was afraid that once I got to her, I wouldn't be able to talk to her for long. I had been waiting to see her for two year--but when I got to her, my mind kind of blanked.

What ended up coming out of my mouth was a long-winded ramble of how much her books and her writing affected me, how I was now an aspiring author, etc. Insert some fangirl squeaks and a measure of incoherence.

She was so, so gracious. She listened to me. She hugged me. And now this hangs on my wall.

Marie Lu, thank you. Legend was a book that inspired me two years ago, and I am forever grateful to you for that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Today it is raining.

Pouring. Literally.

I live in Chicago. The city in the winter is usually poker-faced with an emotionless, blustery gray. The wind was vicious as always, and the dirt-flecked slush was wilting in the streets.

The winter has been long. Too long.

The rain always puts me in a bit of a contemplative mood. For some people, it makes them depressed. For me? It's soothing.

I'm thinking of the things that will happen. Amidst the brainless homework and everything with school, I know that somewhere under all that stuff, something is beginning.

I've been talking a lot about starting anew, I know. I just don't know how. Or what.

But today it is raining, and I feel that now it is truly spring, something, something is finally, slowly beginning.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On Revisions

My lovely writing friend Rosanna is doing revisions for her epic novel right now, and a few days ago we were talking about the process. She expressed how slow revisions can seem--on how she was supposed to write out ever itty bit of her plot out on index cards and how she was supposed to follow certain "steps", but how she was so ready to jump in--but she wasn't supposed to.

And because I've been through the long slogging process of it all--and I'm going to be back in Revisionland soon, I want to throw my own two cents in there.

I wanted to be a "pro" at revisions. I wanted to proudly display sticky-notes on the wall and whip out my typed-out Excel outline and brandish a staggering pile of index cards that were crammed with the goodness of Story and Writerly Things. I wanted to follow a clinical, procedural checklist that others did. I wanted to write out a synopsis and be organized for once, dammit.

I wanted to be a Writer. A Writer who Revises.

I couldn't do it.

Why couldn't I? Why couldn't I get myself anywhere near an index card? Why did writing out my plot feel so torturous and slow when they said it was supposed to figure things out? What happened to the Post-it notes?

Was it because of the story? Was it so beyond salvaging that it just couldn't be broken down?

How was I supposed to revise, then?

You guys won't believe how much quiet frustration I went through, when I was on Twitter and others showed pictures of their plot binders and character cards and I thought to myself, Am  I supposed to do this? I thought that if I didn't have a "system"--I wasn't legitimate.

In the end?

Well. I ended up pulling off revisions just fine. Without a single index card. I went through months of revisions and figured my story out--with the help of only a legal pad (with messy stream-of-consciousness scrawls) and my brain.

Oh, maybe a pen, too.

I am a writer that lives by intuition. If the character's decision "feels" right--I'll go with it. I'm ready to write scenes, novels even when I can "picture" it running through my head, structured almost like a movie trailer.

I figure things out in my head. I think and I sit and maybe I eat the entire jar of Nutella, but in the end, I think it through. It took me nearly eight months to solidify the plot of my story--but I needed that. Because I finally constructed a plot that I never thought I would have done in the first place--and I love it.

In the end, it didn't matter what kind of route I took through revisions. I got the job done. And that's how I operate. By an unconventional intuition.

Because here's the truth. I know that if I only had one piece of advice to give to writers, it's this: find your own process. 


Find your own process. 

It's not like people try to deter you with their advice--they're trying to be helpful, I promise. And to be organized, to have a systematic way of going about things--that's amazing. There are people that swear by index cards. They get the plot down on the first try and its brilliant. I love it, and I sometimes wish that's how I work.

But it's not my process. Maybe my process isn't common or even advisable, but it works for me, and I'm so glad I found it.

Don't be so easily swayed by people and resources that say that something is "the way it works". Go with your gut. You could be a Post-it person. You could be a checklist person. You could be a person that just writes and revises along the way.

Find your own process.

In the end, revisions aren't about endless index cards. They're about getting the job done.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Something new

As I'm querying TeaNovel, I realize that there has been this small gap in my life in where the project once was.

I remember--a year ago, this project was going nowhere. The characters and plot made a terribly messy story. But I did it--I tore apart and rewrote and rewrote some more and revised it and twisted my mind into pretzels. I figured out the impossible ending. 

Where's it going? I don't know. But I hope somewhere good. 

Now, though--now, I can finally focus on my other project.

The MagicalThing. 

Oh, yes. This was the novel with the playlist and all the amazing bits of inspiration. This was the novel that first hit me while I was staring into the atmospheric sunrise over Sweden--up in the air and in a plane. This was the novel with some of my favorite things--and this is the fantasy novel whose first seeds of inspiration struck me back in 2011. 

I'm excited. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A bit of a beginning

Hey guys! It's March!

*peers outside at snow*

*shrinks back in*

I've finallyfinallyfinallyFINALLY finished revisions/edits on TeaNovel/Lilies. After about a year and a half of working like mad over it (getting torn apart and put back together and then getting torn apart again and then...) It feels great. Now that I've taken a step away from it, it turns out that its not actually as bad as I thought it was in the midst of revisions. Things may be looking up...

I think that now that TeaNovel revisions are over, I'm going to go back to the novel I wrote in NaNoWriMo '13--the book of Magical Things. I've actually crafted a playlist, little by little, of the novel and every time I hear Bravado by Lorde or Illumielle by Jo Blackenburg, I'm instantly transported back into those awesome days of November. (Awesome, crazy, hectic, insane, but mostly awesome.) And I know there will be some more head-splitting revisions involved...but man. I'm excited.

In the Life of Christina, I've been so busy these past few weeks and scrambling around, and I have a strong sense that things will start to get even crazier/busier in the coming months. I feel like in the midst of all this running around, this blog is like a nice little cupcake shop I can tuck into when I have that little pocket of time. Nom.

Now that I've started to take one step away from the project that basically defined my last year, I realize that I'm so glad 2013 happened. In retrospect, it was a little hazy and some parts of the year were awful and I was basically stumbling around, completely clueless about writing and revisions and blogging and the "industry", but to see what I was like in 2012 and to see what I'm like now...2013 was really a year that bridged that gap and taught me so much stuff about writing and about the process, and where before I was the perfectly oblivious, slightly reclusive writer, now I'm opening up, and I've met so many cool people!

Here's to an even more awesome future.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Song rec

Sometimes I encounter some sounds so pleasing to my ears and so meaningful that I feel like I should share it to spread the goodness of it.

Especially the lyrics:

"We will have to cross the ocean
This is the price we'll have to pay
Standing just these know it's good for you and me. 
There is gold beneath the ashes
No matter what I have to say
There is a roaring sea there passing hard to find
And I dream of Zarathustra
Sailing through the Caspian Sea
Oh, the way the shining heart is
The fire of the Northern light.

We can build the temples for our fires, 
Set the world ablaze.
Whatever, after all this the way we chose
The beginning and the end 
Send me back to the Rockefeller joys..."

(adapted and revised from

There's so much about this song that speaks of the journey--of the sacrifices and goals of reaching something that is "the beginning and the end". 

And also the music is amazing. I love it. 

Happy Monday, everyone! :)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pep Talk--on Overcoming Jealousy

Today, let's talk about something that all passionate writers/aspiring authors go through.


(side note:: it's not just writers; everyone goes through this.)

Authors Sarah J. Maas and Mandy Hubbard have both written incredibly articulate posts about this; (here) and (here) and I thought I'd like to talk/rant about it too. 

You know that feeling. When you're puttering around on twitter and your feed is positively glowing with great news from everyone else. When you scroll through blogs you follow, and someone just announced something amazing. When someone gets an agent. When someone sells a six-figure book deal. When someone happily squees over their own cover reveal and proudly displays the fan art they get from adoring readers.

And you're there, in your polar bear pajamas and gray sweatshirt and the empty pot of coffee, half-thinking about your own unpolished manuscript and blatant anonymity...let's just say that your heart dips a little bit. There's a little internal sigh of disappointment.

 Every writer feels this, and the words jealousy and envy sound so conniving and evil but most of the time, it's just this one tiny voice in your head that quietly says, "What about me?" 

It's the small feeling you get when someone you are friends with suddenly has a writing breakthrough. An author you admire sells another solid book deal and everyone is singing praises.

Here is the thing though: you know they deserve it. They deserve every inkling of their success. Their manuscript is amazing; the author is brilliant and kind and hardworking. But hell, you work hard too and you wonder if the day will ever come when someone talks about YOUR writing and praises your characters. 

I would like to call that feeling The Want. 

The Want is like a small, baby lizard.Or perhaps a little imp, a species derivative of the Monster (what I like to call my voices of self-doubt). Yes. let's stick with the imp. 

It's small and nagging, but if you feed it thought and doubts and feed it flames and then it turns into the Dragon of Jealousy. Which happens all the time. Unless...

If you stick with the Dragon of Jealousy and feed it more flames and resentment and anger, then the Dragon eventually destroys you and takes over your thoughts, and ends up hurting only you. Trust me. If you don't trust me, trust Sarah J. Maas. 

You can't ignore it, just like you can't ignore the Monster. 

Here's what you do; you use it.

You turn the envy and use it to fan the flames of your ambition. You take a look at your shelves of all the successful authors you look up to and you think, this is where I will be, and the conviction alone turns into pure motivation. You take the energy of envy and jealousy and turn it into an awesome, "THIS IS SPARTA" drive that will make you an unstoppable force. You vow to yourself that you will work hard, that you will writewritewritewrite until your writing is so good, so solid and beautiful that they have zero chance of rejecting you. 

And you snap some reins on the Dragon and race it to victory. 

Because there's something fiercely brilliant and freeing about being the underdog and the dreamer. Because at the end of the day, writing is your sport and you love writing and you love books and no one's accomplishments can take that from you. 

You hear that?

Use The Want. It is an incredibly, incredibly powerful tool. Take another's success and shape it into your dream and goal. 

And in the end, I may still be a completely unknown writer who is sitting in polar bear pajamas and blogging about dragons, but at least I am writing my stories, one word after another and slowly shaping my dreams into reality. 

Use The Want. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A few words on writing

Usually, it is my habit to make a cup of tea before I start writing, and lounge around with some music.

Today? I didn't make my tea. Some days, I get so caught up in my "writing rituals" that it makes me procrastinate. In order to get into the 'writing mood", I get caught on doing the things that relate to writing instead of writing itself. 

And here's the truth:

Writing doesn't need to be done to a big pot of coffee or a soundtrack blasting in your ears.

Writing doesn't need to be done with scrumptious tea or kittens lounging by your side. 

Writing doesn't need to be done with Scrivener or fancy plotting cards, even though they help.

You don't need an outline, but you can have one.

You don't need five thousand Stickies and a to-do list to prove that you're a writer.

Some people will tell you their processes and methods, their exact "methods of success" to writing.Some people have perfectly organized methods that I frankly envy and admire, but I have realized that it's just not me.  

And their organized processes can be perfectly effective, but every writer's process is unique. Sometimes, when I get too caught up in my own rituals, I just like to sit back and think and completely take myself back to the essentials.

Because you don't need "proof" that you're a writer. Scratch that; you need one.

You need to put words down on a page. One word after another. Then you're a writer.

And everything else--coffee, kittens, gin and tonic, stacks of writing books, even outline--that comes second.

Just words on a page, and you are a writer. What you do next is completely up to you. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Finally, a small breakthrough

So yesterday, I was working through some particularly tough scenes. 

Actually, this one particularly tough scene. 

First off, I want to describe my main character. 

I personally don't think she's particularly strong or feisty like many YA heroines that I love and adore. She's not too dramatic or unique, either. She's quiet. Where another character deviates from the rules and talks back, she keeps her mouth shut. She's a little broken inside, from something that happened to her a long time ago. 

And then this thing, this circumstance comes back to haunt her. I can't really say what it is at the moment, but it is something that once took her family from her and now again--after she thinks she's escaped from that, it comes back and again, it forces her in turmoil and begins to take everything she has gained.

What does she do, now that she's forced to face her inner demons? She has no choice but to become strong. She doesn't instantly transform into a kick-butt heroine--it takes a long time for her to find herself again.

I was writing the scene yesterday, when literally, everyone, everyone she loves is gone and what she holds dear is completely destroyed.

And--for the first time, ever, I broke down and cried. 

I've been writing for quite a while--and this book, especially. I have devoted more time and energy than I ever have to any other book I've worked on. 

But--I never cry in books. I cry in movies, but words rarely move me to the point of tears. I have always experienced this sort of detachment with my characters. In the back of my mind, at the end of the day, they lived on the page. For the longest time, I obsessed over the plot and the inner workings of the premise and didn't devote enough heart to my characters. 

Yesterday, for a long moment, I finally actually felt the main character's pain. I don't want to sound cheesy or melodramatic. It was perhaps the darkest scene in the book, where she hits rock bottom and she can no longer swallow her anger or hide her emotions behind her face. 

I think--for me, it was a sign of victory, of reaching the point where finally, I cared about the people I created enough to see the world through their eyes and reach their fictional hearts, and cry for them. It has taken me years to reach this point of writing, and I realize that no matter what happens to this book, it has certainly taken me to the next level of writing and given me an experience I won't, and can't, forget.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Er, music? On a Friday?

I realized I have written two quite philosophical posts in a row and so today I will blog about food and writing updates and chronicles from the revision tunnel.

Brief update/Not so frequently asked FAQ/conversation with self:

Q: Hi!
A: Hey. :) You look fabulous today. 

Q: What's up?
A: You're asking what is up? Snow. Lots of snow. Snowsnowsnowsnow. Some days have gotten so cold, really. It's 30 degrees out and almost feels like summer. 

Q: Any good books lately?
A: I recently read The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. I loved it and there was a page in the book full of MATH PICKUP LINES and it was the sweetest. Definitely a recommendation. 
ALSO; I read an ARC of Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard and SO MANY FEELS. 

OH OH OH Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is officially  2015 Abe Lincoln award nominee! 

Q; Books you're excited for?
A: Dreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor. April is so far awaaaayyyyyy. :(

Q: How is revisionland?
A: Hm. It's going okay. By okay, I mean with some moaning and writing and drinking way too much tea and thinking way too much about imaginary people. Being in revisions is like being stuck on that Lethargic Island or something like that in The Phantom Tollbooth; time passes so slowly and everything takes FOREVARRR. 
On the bright side, I now have a taste in music. :) :) :)

Q: Any music recommendations?
A: Definitely. Anything by Bastille. Anything. 

That's it! I'm quite close, actually, to finishing this round of revisions. Which is awesome. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Revisions update

Hey guys!

School was canceled for two days because of sub-zero weather, so guess where I am? The revision rabbit hole! Well, more like editing.

My writing may not be at its most coherent right now, because I was up until 2 am yesterday editing the midpoint (the feast scene, with gowns and drama and whatever) and I'm a little behind on where I thought I should be. That will definitely get fixed, though.

So, after discovering the Is There Anybody out There album, (link to the post here) I listened to it nonstop. And I'm still flailing around in my story and trudging through my suck dragons and shouting my fears down in the face (Susan Dennard did a fabulous post here). But for the first time, I feel like I can finally cup the core of my story in my hands, instead of groping blindly through mountains and piles of words in a futile attempt to latch onto an idea.

It's no longer the thrilling flash of discovery as you find a scene spilling out of your fingers, raw and brilliant, but more like polishing a chandelier; it's tedious work, over and over again, but as you rub and rub, you slowly see that it, indeed, can be pretty.

My earphones are back in. I'm off for now. :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

For all the dreaming writers and aspiring authors.

This album says it all.

Every song in there expresses all the longing, all the dreams, all the hopes I ever had, with music made of notes that somehow connect in your brain and make you dizzy from an overload of awesome. 

("If only New York wasn't so far away...")

<3 <3

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Author's purpose! (and food comparisons)

When I was a little kid in elementary school, I was in one of those accelerated programs for reading. And...teachers said I wasn't good at reading comprehension.

Turns out, I am actually quite good at analyzing works of writing. But they gave us a dreaded list of terminology we had to memorize, and worksheets to be filled...and they were boring. Things like mood, scene, antagonist, denouement,'s purpose. 

I *dreaded* that. 

Now, roughly five years later, I am talking about author's purpose. Maybe I'll wait a few years and be chugging black coffee and running on 3 hours of sleep. 

But sarcasm aside, today I kinda want to talk about author's intent and purpose, with some food comparisons. (no, really. There's actually is food involved.)

So today I came across a lovely video on YouTube with author Kiera Cass...talking a little about author's doubt and her book will make a difference and why it stands out. 

So basically she is in the midst of editing her book The Selection. She says (if I may heavily paraphrase), "There are some books that are chock-full of information. Like those dishes that are healthy and have a little bit of every food group in it."

"Come to think of it, my book doesn't really have *nutritional value*."

She goes on to say, "And there are some authors with ideas so grandiose and complex--you know they're shooting for the New York Times Bestseller List. They're like those restaurants with those fancy square plats and the swoop of sauce and that fancy green sprig you're not really sure you're supposed to eat or not."

"My book really isn't like that, either. My book isn't fancypants."


"You know what my book is like? Mac and cheese. Mac and cheese and potatoes and apple pie. My book is comfort food. No matter what, you always return to it."

Man, oh man. Kiera Cass, you are a smart cookie. 

I have a brilliant author friend who once was a concert pianist, and she once told me about how to play a piano piece. "You have to think about the intent," she said, "Even past the dynamics and melodies and has to build up to a meaning, an intent." 

So, to author's purpose. And to me thinking about what my book was about.

I will come up front and tell you that TeaNovel is different. Very, very different. It's not a grand, magical, glittering fantasy. It is not a cute, swoony romance. it is not a terrifying, haunting dystopia, complete with horrifying scientific measures of law enforcement and a love interest that stepped out of a model shoot. 

Clearly, my novel intent isn't an electric, fast-paced plot. It isn't a formulaic novel that hits all the YA checkboxes. No. My novel's story--I would describe as strange, but reminiscent of home. A Marriott inn in a foreign country. Exotic, but hopefully comfortable enough. 

And for my novel's prose--I want you, the reader, to feel. 

I want to evoke emotions. I add some literary flair, but weave it in the lines so it is nearly inconspicuous among the concise prose, but just enough to leave an aftertaste on your tongue. I want you to know what sadness feels like without melodrama. It's not operatic tears and moans and screams, but it's that quiet, bitter coldness that reaches your bones before you realize it. 

That is my author's intent. 

My novel is a hanging mess of balancing acts, but I hope someday the cards will fall right, and it will turn out well and hit the sweet spot I have imagined for it all along. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On story endings...

This is something I have been thinking about for a long, long time.

It's been in the back of my mind a lot, but as you all probably know, two months ago, Veronica Roth's Allegiant, the third book to the Divergent series, came out.

And...there was a lot  of backlash.

Author Samantha Shannon brought it up on Twitter a little bit afterwards, asking thought-provoking questions such about endings and society's expectations of how stories end, especially one with such hype and acclaim as that of the Divergent trilogy.

So I know I am quite late to put together my thoughts, but I wanted to take things into consideration when the storm had quieted, a little. This isn't a review of Allegiant. It's an blog rant, I suppose, on the relationship between the author and the reader, between doing the story justice and doing the readers justice--they usually go hand in hand, but what if they clash? And when they clash, what happens?

There will, however, be spoilers. I think a lot of you have read this book already, but just in case--a disclaimer.




At the end of the series, at the end of Allegiant, the main character, Tris Prior, dies.

This is a very unusual decision for the author to carry out. Some considered it even egregious, and the book was slammed by readers almost based on the ending alone.

Now, I know that some readers did find faults with the story, with character development and with the writing, and offered a harsh, but fair critique. I respect that and understand that. Despite everything, we do need negative critics in this world.  However, some readers hated the book and the author solely because she did not deliver a happy ending on a silver platter with dancing fawns. There were vicious insults and physical threats involved.

Bookverse, we need to talk about that.

I realize that readers are very important to an author. In today's world especially, when social media is so intertwined with the publishing industry, readers have more power than ever. Readers are not regarded as a passive species anymore, but as an active, dynamic, presence, and through Facebook, Twitter, and blogs and various other social platforms, the author is so accessible to the readers--they interact with us and prompt us and value our feedback. Readers have power over the author, and rightly so, because we are the ones who buy their art, so we must have a say. We shape the audience and the general populace. Sometimes, many times, authors are pressured to change stories to adapt to the mainstream tastes--sometimes even against their own will.

But in the end, we are just that--readers. We are not the author, and though we are fully entitled to enjoy or dislike a book of our own free will, we have absolutely no right to directly interfere with the author's purpose, or the story to get a version that we want, and we cannot presume that we have such a right.

Because in the end, even before the readers, the authors owe themselves to the story.


I know that once, Veronica Roth wasn't a smash-hit New York Times bestselling author with a rockstar celebrity status in the publishing world. Once upon a time, Veronica Roth was a college student who sat alone in her dorm room and wrote the novel of her heart. Ages before any of you guys ever caught a glimpse of Divergent, Veronica wrote the book, and in that moment, the story was hers. It was hers to tell. The story, the characters' fates--it all belonged to her.

And people--she did it right. In the end, I believe she did the story justice.

Because the world of Divergent wasn't like a scary movie set. It was brutal and broken and dark, through and through. In a world that seethed with danger and violence and tragedy--was it not realistic that even the main character could possibly die? I admire the courage Veronica took to stick to the guts of the world, to make the circumstances devastating and real and--dystopian. It's not a suspenseful bedtime story where you're taken through some frightening twists but all's well in the end. There are consequences. And there is death.

Some may argue that Veronica crossed the line, that she killed off the main character to create a gut-wrenching scenario or to add shock value--but she didn't. She clearly had the series planned out, and she explains it so, so well here. There was a clear character arc, and death was a vital part of it. If it was an illogical, brash ending, I would have joined in on the protests--but it wasn't.

And to me--the ending felt right. I'm not one of those people who crave melodrama. Sure, I bawled my eyes out. Sure, maybe I was angry, a little bitter about the ending. But the feeling didn't last long, through, because in my heart of hearts, I knew that was the only ending that would fit the story and the world she created.

So back to readers, and authors. One thing many wise readers understand (and it's still something I'm struggling to grasp) is that authors are artists, and they contribute art to the world that is sometimes very difficult to understand. We, as the readers and consumers, are the judges and critics and admirers. But there is a fine balance between the reader's rights and the author's rights; the authors feed us wisdom and emotions and ideas, while we make it possible for them to carry on their work.

But we can't touch the art itself. We can't demand for the author to rewrite the ending and publish it. In the end, we must respect that balance, in order for truly good art to be made.


So this post was actually quite emotional to write...any comments? Thoughts? Please feel free to share.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The new year is upon us.


I hope 2014 is going to be a great year :)

My heart's full of goals and dreams and wishes, but I shall leave you with two songs:

Team, by Lorde--what more can this song say? It's about teens who are growing up, discovering that the world is not as perfect as it was portrayed, but loving their lives anyways.

My favorite line: "We live in'll never see onscreen, not very pretty but we sure know how to run things."

I'm changing and evolving this year. Even in the writing world--these two blog posts by Jessica Spotswood and Erin Bowman open up and are honest about the good and the bad side of the very competitive book industry, how it is not all glamor and promotion and book tours--and how sometimes, you may not live to your expectations.

But I'm happy writing. I'm love the world I'm in. I  am in love with storytelling and writing novels and creating places and emotions out of a sea of words. It may not be the shiny, instant NY Times Bestseller life that others see, but I love it. My dreams still hold steady, but I want to love the world I'm surrounded in, regardless of how imperfect it seems.


It's Time, by Imagine Dragons.

I love this song to death. And I think the words--"It's Time to Begin..." are perfect for the New Year and for the hopes I have in me.

Any songs to define your goals this year?