Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pitch Wars Edits / Writing Progress Report 2

YAAAAAASSSSSSS! I turned in my first round of edits in yesterday night to my awesome mentor Brianna and I am both thrilled and nervous! It's also the last day of September! Which is grand, because I love October. I may just have to get a pumpkin latte to celebrate!

Anyway, so here's the skinny on my first round of edits. If you missed my first progress post last week, click here. Last time I talked about what I learned about myself in the process, this time I'm going to post about my method for it.

First and foremost I gathered all my notes from my edit letter and my video call from Brianna into my handy dandy writing notebook and made a list. The photo below is a simplified list I wrote up, with in depth details on the preceding pages (that I did not post). On the right side of the notebook is a progress log showing which chapters I worked on which day. I'm one of those people that works better in chronological order (gives me a sense of flow). As I write I also tend to jot notes down on a sticky and add them in.

My handwriting is pretty messy, but you'll notice that chapters 6, 7, and 12 were chapters that I had to work on for a while. What do they all have in common? They're scenes that has or leads to romantic tension. Yeah, the *feels* are tough for me. Luckily, Brianna sent me some really good articles to read. An article from Roni Loren was included which resulted in me divesting all of her blog posts for writers. I forgot which post it was, but Roni suggested the book below so I ordered it.
I found the book to be extremely helpful. It's not something to depend on entirely, but it helps when you get stumped and is pretty easy to navigate, so I recommend it.
So after I incorporated all edits I made another list for my read through:
A read through is a MUST. For me, I loaded my ms onto my Kindle so I could look at it in a different medium. This helps spotting issues you wouldn't otherwise notice.
During my read through I was able to read my changes with the rest of the novel in a short span to see if they worked or not. Two of my edits in chapter 4, and of course, 12, did not. So I ended up rewriting those again. But besides that, the ms read better. Things not included in my checklist were things like varying sentence structure, word choice, taking out passive voice, renaming chapter titles, and etc, which I changed as I read.
My draft is INFINITELY better than the draft I submitted to Pitch Wars. I love that I can see the improvements after having a mentor. My ms is almost there, but I think with a round of line-edits I can get it where it needs to be.
Edits are tough though. I was starting to hate the ms because I couldn't get some scenes to work, but after my reread, I fell in love with it all over again. I suffer from bouts of doubt from time to time, but I am also proud of myself and hopeful of where Diamond Queen will go.
To end, here is a song that I feel encompasses Diamond Queen. If I imagine the story like a movie, this would be playing at the end credits.
Some days
It's hard to see
If I was a fool
Or you a thief...
Made it through the maze
You found my one in a million
And now you're just a page torn from the story I'm building
And all I gave you is gone
Tumble like it was done
Thought we built a dynasty that heaven couldn't shake
Thought we built a dynasty, like nothing ever made
Thought we built a dynasty forever couldn't break up
The scar I can't reverse
When the more it heals, the worse it hurts
Gave you every piece of me,
Don't wanna risk missing
Don't know how to be so close to someone so distant
And all I gave you is gone
Tumble like it was done
Thought we built a dynasty that heaven couldn't shake
Thought we built a dynasty, like nothing ever made
Thought we built a dynasty forever couldn't break up
It all fell down
It all fell down
It all fell
It all fell down
It all fell down
It all fell
It all fell down
It all fell down ehhh
It all fell down
It all fell down
It all fell down
And all I gave you is gone
Tumble like it was done
Thought we built a dynasty that heaven couldn't shake
Thought we built a dynasty, like nothing ever made
Thought we built a dynasty forever couldn't break up
It all fell
It all fell down
It all fell down ehhh
It all fell down
It all fell down
It all fell down
(And all I gave you is gone)
It all fell
It all fell down
It all fell down
Thought we built a dynasty forever couldn't break up


Monday, September 28, 2015

An interview, a read through, and some writing inspiration.

Happy Monday Everrrrryone!

I cannot believe that it'll be October soon and the Agent Round of Pitch Wars is about 5 weeks away. Eek! If you haven't seen it already, check out my Pitch Wars interview with my amazing mentor Brianna Shrum below!


I spent the majority of my weekend working on first round of edits and I finished on Saturday, whoo! So now I'm going to do a quick read through and I'm planning to tweak one of the chapters a little bit more before I turn it in to Brianna. So for now, I've loaded it onto my Kindle and making changes on the computer file whenever I see something that needs to be corrected. I highly recommend you reading your ms in a different medium. It helps point out things you wouldn't normally notice on the computer screen.

To end, one of my mentee mates Cindy Baldwin shared a great blog post by Robin LaFevers this weekend with the rest of us so I decided to pass it along. Check out Surviving Nearly There for some writing inspiration!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Suggestions for your TBR pile.

In lieu of writing up multiple book reviews of my current reads these past two months, I've decided to make a list that you may want to add to your TBR pile.

For you contemporary lovers: Stephenie Perkins's Anna and the French Kiss, and Isla and the Happily Ever After

Why you'll like it: Very cute YA romance set in the idyllic Paris at a school abroad. You'll fall in love with the city and the MC's in one quick read.

Why you'll like it: Another cute YA romance using some of the cast from Anna and the French Kiss. This one had a deeper romance and the MC's quirky and artsy. The setting also takes this from New York to Paris, to a charming town in Spain.

For you fantasy lovers: Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy

Why you'll like it: Want an immersive fantasy that's a tad dark, but also fresh? Try this Russian-inspired fantasy. I devoured this series immediately. It's so good, it may even sway you to root for the dark side.

And for those of you who love retellings (or even if you don't): Brianna Shrum's Never Never

Why you'll like it: This is a hooky (pun intended) tale about a bad ass captain. But is he truly the villain? Shrum takes you on his journey from a little Lost Boy to one of the most frightening pirates in Neverland. Pick this up, now. Though I feel I should warn you, you may end up SWOONING for the man with the hook ;)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pitch Wars Edits / Writing Progress

So, first and foremost, Happy Fall! This is my favorite season! Bring on the scarves, hats, gloves, sweaters and hot drinks :) After moving into the house and finally feeling settled in, I'm excited to deck out the place with some fall leaves and pumpkins :)

With the cooler weather, it's the perfect time to get cozy, break out the fuzzy socks, sit by the fire, and get back into the groove of writing. This time, however, things are a little different with being in Pitch Wars and all.

Being in Pitch Wars is pretty darn awesome. I'm still stunned at finding myself in this position and I intend to enjoy every minute of the process (no matter how much my eyes want to read anything but my ms! I've read it so many times, the words are mushing together--but more on that later). It's been really great connecting with the Pitch Wars community; everyone is so sweet and kind, not to mention extremely talented--it's a great honor to be amongst you all.

But what comes after the PW announcements? Hard work.

After getting my edit letter and video call from my amazing mentor, Brianna Shrum, I had my list of things to tackle on my MS. It was nice to have some sort of direction going into revision. I went through my MS with my CP and made changes before submitting to PW, but in my gut I knew it wasn't ready yet. Brianna really hit on the nail for me when she explained what my MS needed--which I've realized is one of my weaknesses. None of my edits included major macro changes though, and for that I was pretty happy with because truth be told, I'm not sure if I could handle a huge overhaul in the short time frame. So to you Pitch Warriors cranking out those huge edits, I applaud you.

To break down this month and next, I'll be taking the rest of September to revise my manuscript. I'm planning to be done by this Sunday, and then I'll do a read-through on Monday and Tuesday to make sure that all the changes are cohesive. Then off to my mentor on the 30th, where I wait for line-edits! As I wait, I'll work on my pitch, query, and do some agent research on who I'd like to query outside of the contest when it's over.

Sounds pretty peachy, but how am I doing exactly?

Well, the edits were harder than I thought they'd be (aren't they always?). I really only did heavy changes to one chapter so far, but I feel like I'm being hyper critical when I read my manuscript that I'm going at a snail's pace, second guessing every single word choice. I am driving myself mad I tell ya. Because I feel like I'm doing something, but when I look at my track changes, it looks like I haven't done much at all. The story looks the same (plot-wise), but I am hoping it *feels* different.

Hopefully when I do the reread and I'm reading it on my kindle versus MS word, I'll feel better.

But here are a few things I've learned about myself in the process:
  • The gut twinge - This happens when I read something in my MS and I instantly hate it. This tells me that it can be written better, but I don't know exactly how. It just feels off, so I tweak and tweak, hoping it solves the problem.
  • Rearranging & transitioning - When you rearrange paragraphs within a chapter, you lose the initial flow, so you have to revise so the flow in the chapter works, but also with the whole of the book. This is actually much harder than it sounds and probably contributes to me feeling like I'm doing nothing.
  • Bad eggs in the carton - Some chapters are really great, and then there are others that aren't so much. But you can't just toss that bad egg out, or in this case, the chapter. You need it to make a dozen. So you patch it up and try to make it work, but it still doesn't look whole. The yolk is oozing from the cracks. Chapter 12, I'm looking at you.
  • Digging deep - Since plot is there in the MS, I'm focusing on building up the emotion throughout the novel. Considering I'm an emotional person since I cry at basically everything, you'd think that'd be a breeze. But it's difficult bringing the emotions of characters to life without being melodramatic. You teeter between that fine line, and you don't want to tip over the edge.
There are some positives though:
  • This is probably the best polished manuscript I've written (and within a small time frame too, whoo!).
  • After doing major tweaking on one of the chapters, I think my pacing is right on!
  • No insta-love BS in this manuscript, which I take as a compliment, because looking back on M2, I could have built the romance part better knowing what I know now.
  • This book's more hooky than M2, which I think will make it more commercially viable.
  • I'm making significant progress in novel writing from when I began in Fall 2013.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Family visit weekend.

September has been ridiculously busy! But sometimes it's good to be busy, if being busy includes a visit from my family! This was the first time my mom and my sister who had just moved back from NY came to visit. We did all the touristy things. I think I've been on the Space Needle about 5 times now? And it will definitely be my last (I hope). Now that everyone has visited, I've made it pretty clear that I am done with all things touristy!

The weekend was really a great one though. I haven't seen my mom much this year. Even when I visit home, she has to work a lot, so it was just nice to have her vacationing up here. She's the one thing I miss most about California. (I am, and will always be, a mama's girl) ut she's very happy for me and has given me her blessings to pursue love and to reach for my dreams. Which I am beyond thankful for. She is the fuel to my fire when I write, the reason to keep on going when I feel like I can't go any longer. She is my muse, she is everything I am. I miss her already. If you are blessed to see your parents on a daily basis. Be grateful. We never know how much time we have left to spend with our loved ones.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chicago Series: A foodie day instead of museums.

Day 4 in Chicago was HOT. The hottest day of our stay, but we rallied and went to the Bridge House Tavern for brunch. It's a really neat place right off the river with great food. For not having reservations the wait was relatively quick (though we were drinking mimosas, so that may have past the time) and we got one of the best seats in the house.

So funny thing is, Michael is normally the one who loves savory foods while I always like things sweet. When it comes to breakfast/brunch though, it's the opposite. Yet when the waiter arrived, he didn't want to be the one to order the sweet dish so he ended up ordering the crab cake benedict for me, and I got the brioche French toast for him.

After brunch, we planned to hit some more museums, but because it was Sunday and a holiday weekend, the lines to get in were long and outside. We were melting and decided it wasn't worth it and rested at the hotel. To end the evening and our trip, we got some drinks before heading out to dinner at Travelle.

The food was amazing, and on the healthier side of what we had been eating on the trip. Michael paired it with a Grand Cru Chablis, making it perfect.

To end the night, we went to The Kitchen Chicago, one of our favorite bars to end the trip with a night cap.
But of course, when you're drinking so much, you can't help but get the munchies so we ended up ordering garlic fries (another weakness of mine).

The next morning was spent leisurely before heading to the hotel. From that point on, we went back to our normal diet, because let's face it, after drinking and indulging in high fat food, you start to feel it wearing down on you.

But, if you're a foodie like me, Chicago is definitely a place to go!

As for the next urban adventure, I'm thinking about maybe Washington DC, or even Baton Rouge? Or maybe get out of the city and see some canyons? What do you guys think? Where would be a cool place to go within the states?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chicago Series: Cloud Gate, Buckingham Fountain, Deep Dish

Day 3 of our Chicago trip, I saw the bean! It reminded me of an alien egg dropped in the middle of the city. It was actually cool to see despite it being ridiculously crowded.
Up close, it actually had some scratches along the surfacee that I wondered how in the world do they clean it? Up above, I'm sure it would make great target practice for the birds.

That day we had a late start so we skipped breakfast altogether and went to Remington's for lunch. Please don't judge us, but it was a bad eating day. And when I say bad, I mean full of guilty pleasures. Mac n' cheese is my weakness and I wanted to see how the mid west did it. Creamy cheese, with texture on the top, but the noodles were a bit mushy. I need my noodles chewy. It was great to try though.
Michael ended up with the lobster roll/sandwich. It was pretty big. The portion sizes on this side of the country is nuts!
After, we walked along Millennium park until we reached the Art Institute. It's a pretty large museum with a lot to see. We ended up staying there for over two hours, but still hadn't seen everything. My aching legs won out though so we left to see the Buckingham Fountain.

After we went back to The Gage for a pick me up. Mussels and drinks! Yum.

After, we went back to the hotel to freshen up before going out to get deep dish pizza. It was cool to try, but I don't see the hype in it at all! It was monstrous, and shouldn't even be called a pizza. The cheese was rubbery and the meat probably not a high grade. The only good thing was the crust, but even that was too buttery at times. Can someone explain to me the hype? Am I just not getting it?

After that we went to get a night cap before heading to the Navy Pier for the summertime fireworks. It was another great day despite the let down of the pizza.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Chicago Series: Poetry Foundation, Chicago Style Hot Dog, and the Architecture Tour

Day two of Chicago was sunny and cool. We started with grabbing a quick lunch and walked along the Magnificent Mile.
Halfway through we took a left to cut through the north loop of town to see the Poetry Foundation Building which houses a complete library of poems.

The space was beautifully designed and the performance room's acoustic was right on.

It was neat going through the books as I found some poetry books from my professors at UC Davis here. We spent an hour or so reading.

Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet, so I couldn't help but take a photo of a few of my favorites.


By the time we were done, we were pretty hungry so we walked to Portillo's for Chicago-style dogs. I'm not a hot dog fan, but I actually thought they tasted pretty good.

After we went to this cute tea shop to rest up our legs. Next door was a Patisserie so I grabbed a few macaroons to go with our tea.

We continued our walk up the Magnificent Mile until we reached Oak Street Beach, which had a pretty cool vibe nestled just out of the hustle and bustle of all the stores. 

From there we biked along Lakeshore using city bikes, which really are the worst because I'm so tiny and can hardly fit them. I almost got into a collision with another biker within 5 minutes. From Michael's point of view, it was highly entertaining. I rolled my eyes and continued on the bike. In the end it was a cool thing to do, but it really sucks to be so short in this scenario.
For dinner we went to Union Sushi, recommended by my sister, and it did not disappoint. I loved the drinks, east coast oysters, beef skewers, and black rice sushi! The fusion vibe really worked in the restaurant's favor so I can see the appeal.


My picture of our dessert doesn't do it justice, but this was a mocha pumpkin cake and it was gooey, soft, and so moist packed with flavor.

To end the night we did the twilight hour of the Architecture cruise. If you are ever in Chicago, this is something to put on your must-do list. It was really fun to learn about the buildings and the city. The sights were also nice on the eyes.







We ended the night with a nightcap at The Gage. All in all, another great day in Chicago. Such a fun city to visit for sure!