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.