Writing Progress Blog Hop

Hey there! I’ve been MIA because in real life I am a law student with a lot of regrets about choosing law school plus I have to deal with exams coming up. Anyway–not much writing getting done as a result.

Rosie over on twitter tagged me for this blog post so I guess I have to dust this old thing off and give it a go. You can visit her here!

1. What am I working on?

Before I lost my sanity over school, I was working on a 3rd draft of my baby manuscript Queen of Shadows. It was going good, at least right before I had to stop. I was meeting with my writing partner weekly and writing with her. I had to rework the characters, the plot, the mythology, and it just exploded into this huge story that wasn’t really there before. Such is writing! I love it!

Other than that, I’m stewing over Rose in the Stars, my failed NaNoWriMo baby (killed last semester by exams too). God, every time I think about the characters and the story I just get so giddy. Sometimes I listen to the playlists I created for both of my books and I want to drink deeply from a bottle of wine. It’s like listening to a mixtape your ex made. Except you made it. And it’s about people who don’t exist except in your head.¬†

When I first started Rose, it was like any other idea I’ve had in that it resulted in a flurry of writing and me crowing over every scene and line. I need to learn to harness that better because I took a break and never got it back again. So I’m trying to plan a little more, write down the scraps that come to me in a brainstorming notebook, and just stew. ūüôā¬†

I don’t really have much other than that!¬†

2. Why do I write what I do?

Tough question. Why? I couldn’t tell you really. I read a good reason why Melina Marchetta writes fantasy and it resounded with me. I’m an extreme person with (at times) extreme values concerning honor and what is right. It’s a bit silly to be that way in the real world, but it totally works in a fantasy world. What I’m saying is, I’m a drama queen.

Science fiction goes hand in hand with fantasy. It’s nearly the same thing at its core (at least, the kind I like to read anyway).

3. How does my writing process work?

Ideas come to me when I least expect it. Sometimes it’s after I read or watch something really good and I have more questions. Other times, I am just sitting there and suddenly I’m on my knees screaming, “I HAVE TO WRITE IT. TELL ME MORE BRAIN.” Okay, and this is bad, but sometimes I just really, really love a character and want to make a story for them on their own.

After I get my idea, I ask a lot of questions. These days, I try to write down what comes to me initially. I flesh it out as much as I can, but I don’t outline in the traditional sense. Traditional outlining is too stiff and rigid for me and I end up making inorganic choices that make me not want to write. I just do it, scene by scene, the “headlights” method if you will.¬†

Right before I write, I jot down a quick sketch of the scene: the characters, the plot points, the actions, etc. Then I slave through it because writing is hard, I am bad at it, and first drafts suck. 

Revising is easier for me because I can see a bigger picture. I’ll be like, “Oh, I have to add this so this other things makes sense later. Oh, they should have a turning point here. Oh–damn it why didn’t I think of it before now I have to change stuff.” I don’t line edit at this stage, but I do tweak some wordings just to make myself happy.

I’ve never really gotten to the stage where I polish my work within an inch of its life, but hopefully soon!!

I tag Christine!!!!

Sansa Stark Is Princess Of My Heart

One trend I’ve noticed in TV, books, and media is the ‘Exceptional Woman.’ This is not to be confused with the ‘Mary-Sue.’ She’s different from the others. In a world full of bland, mundane, vapid ladies, this one stands out because she is not only competent, she looks down on the things that are traditionally considered feminine. Rather than going shopping or focusing on her looks, this woman is fighting with swords and kicking ass. Often times, she’s the most compelling of all the characters because she works against the curve and proves herself to be exceptional.¬†However, I’m going to argue that having¬†only¬†this kind of woman character dominating our culture is actually detrimental and follows the usual patterns of looking down on women as a whole.¬†

You see the Exceptional Woman ¬†everywhere and she is written so that she is the standard to which her gender should strive, she is good enough to be ‘one of the boys.’ A pack of dudes are on a mission, they kick ass, they can hack like nobody’s business, so how does she set herself apart? By being better than them. Only by showing them up, is she accepted as their equal. They never thought before to include a woman’s talents into the group before this because women had never been an option. Yay, she won against the odds.

This kind of narrative shows up in fantasy worlds as well–one where we assume because they are derived from Medieval Europe (or at least, Tolkein’s idea of Medieval Europe), women are automatically in the backseat. It’s even clearer in these settings ‘why’ women were excluded. The excuses are typically insulting: women are physically weaker, women are baby caretakers, women tempt men and distract them. So to overcome these odds, the Exceptional Woman hones her skills so that men don’t have to worry about her getting hurt or getting in their way. She joins men in looking down on other women because she internalizes masculine traits and derides feminine ones.

“Most girls are stupid,” said Arya.

Arya is no doubt a cool character. She’s a survivor. However, it is my belief that George R.R. Martin did NOT write her to be an Exceptional Woman. She is rather, along with her sister Sansa, a study of this strange hatred of the feminine. The most common thing I hear about Game of Thrones is that Sansa is stupid and weak while Arya is smart and strong.

What?

Whaaaat?

I think this kind of reaction derives from what we’ve seen in the mainstream, where there is always a female focused on things without consequence and serves as a contrast to the Exceptional Woman. Step back for a moment and think why there is such a negative backlash to Sansa. Sansa and Arya go through parallel challenges–one within the court and the other in the wider world. Both are settings where they are in constant peril, yet they learn, they grow, and they maneuver through the waters with ever increasing skill. They are not contrasts of each other, rather they are two complementary parts of the same picture. There is more than one way to be strong.¬†

 

I guess I’m just tired of people ragging on Sansa for no reason, other than it was their gut reaction to hate her.¬†

My other issue with the Exceptional Woman trope is that her arc is dominated by her escaping the expectations of her society….which is based on our society. It’s a world the writer made up in her head. I feel like women are therefore limited if in this made-up world where anything can happen (even a setting that is technically modern) they are STILL thought of as the exception to the rule if they do something cool.

Not to say that I don’t think that the Exceptional Woman is necessarily bad, but it’s not exceptional that women have fought in wars or they were doctors. They’ve done it all along yet we pretend that for the majority of history, they were silent, which is why in the stuff we see today, the cast is largely empty of females. So why do we limit the role of women to what we believe is ‘realistic’? Why is it realistic that all the ladies in your fantasy world are weak and stay inside all the time? Why does anyone want that reality?

 

 

At the moment

So I’ve picked up Queen of Shadows again and spent a lot of today wrestling with it. And I keep finding that while I know what’s happening in the moment, I can’t even see an ending…What is up with that? I don’t know what it is, but my mind’s been in a fog for a while now. I think it’s a combination of burnout from school and a feeling of inadequacy. I feel like I am not dedicated enough to my craft, to my dreams. Where do I go from here?

My words are stopped up again because it’s been quite a while since I wrote, but I have come to learn that just keeping at it really does help. I know how my story works, I know the tools I can use to make a great book, yet at the same time the skills I have always feel uncertain.¬†

I don’t feel enthusiasm for anything except…reading. But I can’t do that right now. I have things to write before school starts again that I won’t have a chance to until summer. The urgency is there, but the words don’t come.

Exhaustion

As some of you may know, I have started law school recently. The PLAN was to revise my book in the free time that I had available to me while I was studying.

Now, I’m not sure how I can do that.

It’s not that I don’t have free time. I’m not studying constantly. However, in that free time, I would rather lay down and not move. I want to let my brain chillax. And the brain desperately desires that chillaxing period. I don’t know how to deal with this. I’m tired. Weh.

I feel like what is in control more than anything is my ability to study and that, my friends, is something I am good at. So I devote myself to this, but writing falls behind. I haven’t revised my poor book in so long. I was in a good place too. Sigh.

Recovery

Have you ever received feedback that kind of made you sit down for a second and want to weep? 

I know writers are supposed to grow a backbone, but sometimes, hearing that your reader just “couldn’t get into it” or that your country names you made sound like you got them out of a word-generator….just…ouch. I feel like I need to crawl into a hole and breathe into an oxygen tank for a bit.

Well, to be fair, my reader did read a fairly early version of my first chapter. So by the time she got back to me, I had already revised it with other feedback. 

But then I looked over my revised crap and it just felt terrible too. I wonder where it stops. I wonder if I can improve.

I hate my sentences. I love my story, but I hate my sentences. Sigh. It’s just hard to not go back and fix every little one of them right now. Because I can’t–there are bigger things to fix. Plots to clean up. 8 (¬†

Just a few days ago I was really happy with my writing and today I’m just like, wow, the worst. I know of others who have persisted and improved, but is it something I can do?

Too early

I recently exchanged drafts of query letter with my dear CP. Thank god she ripped it apart!! Then I wrote a different draft and sent it to her, but I’m regretting it because I change more after I sent it to her. I wrote it last night and looking at it this morning it’s so much better. But maybe that’s because it’s too early and I’m not thinking correctly.

When did I become so wordy? I am not sure. It’s like I have an aversion for short sentences. Bah.

As a small update, I’ve started law school, but if anything that’s made me more inspired to become a published writer. Odd. I just daydream more when I’m bored. Daydreaming = Story ideas.

I was a little depressed for a while because I couldn’t think of anything. My story, I can feel it. It’s in my grasp!!! This is going to be the one, I know!!!¬†

I just looked over my query letter and I was just like, “Wow, this can happen.”¬†

Now all I have to do is fix this manuscript. SIGH. There’s so much to do. It’s still too early.

June Update

Hi there! It’s been a while. I’ve been keeping busy with my writing , talking with friends, planning my future, and studying for law school. I’m about halfway through my second draft of my book and it’s been a bit of a slog to dig into, but at least it’s going. I have confidence in it and that I can make it better. I’ve also read a few books while I was away–I don’t remember all of them because they were all library books and I was only allowed to have them for two weeks. My kindle makes it marvelously easy to read. One that sticks out was the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. So lovely, lovely. Keep reading, friends, and if there’s a topic you’d like me to address, feel free to leave something in the comments!