Novel-In-Progress Update:11,333 words

I don’t have as many words on the novel as I was hoping by now; it’s been 3 weeks that I’ve been writing seriously on it, and my goal is 5000 words a week. At this point, I’ve got 18 weeks of writing to go to hit my estimated goal of 100,000 words, which is only an guess until I get closer. I’ll accept anything over 90k, really. That’s not the limit for where it will end up after editing, but I’m hoping to write enough in the first draft that I can cut whatever I need to. (I’ve always been a “write too much, cut down to make better” type of writer, and I’m a little nervous I’ll end up with a novella instead of a novel if I’m not careful.)

The lower word count doesn’t represent the amount of time I’ve spent over the last three weeks, though. The first 5,000 words were down in the first week, but I quickly realized there was more to the story than I’d imagined. Much of my time was spent expanding the outline, and researching, once I figured out the story wanted a different ending, and a couple of extra plot points. That’s not a surprise. This novel is like an origami animal: I can see (in my head) the shape of it, what it is, but I have to unfold it to see all the nooks and crannies.

I know the characters get from A to B to C, and that they change along the way, but I write organically, the way that makes the most sense to me. If I set my story in a real place, and I send a character out in one direction, what will they actually run into? If a kid who’s never been outside has to sleep in a forest, how will they react to rain? Or bugs? Or a sprained ankle? Writing those things out requires knowing the answers.

My research this week has included:

I’m building a Pinterest page for my novel, if you’re interested. This week’s image is the reference I’m using for one of my main characters, Zora:


Isn’t she lovely? She’s not the MC, but she’s one of the two most important other people in the book (and let me just say right now that I’m not going to allow any editor/publisher to “whiten her up”). She was a minor character when I start drafting the novel, but by really thinking about her motivations and how she’d react to the situation I put her in, I realized I was putting her into a certain trope that a flesh-and-blood woman with the personality I gave her wouldn’t fall into. I like her more, as a person, now.

Stay tuned for more updates!

I’ve updated the big list of Asian Speculative Fiction Authors! Are you on it?

What am I looking for to include you on this list? You must be a published author, publicly marketing yourself as Asian, Asian-American, etc.

The point of the BIG LIST OF ASIAN SPECULATIVE AUTHORS is to promote the reading of authors who don’t always get included in recommendation lists because of subtle or overt racial bias on the part of the people creating those lists. We’ve all seen these big end of year or “best of” lists that are all white, all male, and so on. Sure, most of the time, that bias isn’t intentional. But it’s there, and it sucks.

Authors who don’t appear to be visibly non-white, authors with Anglicized names, authors who don’t allow themselves to be described as non-white, who don’t include that information in their bios – I’m included in that list – we have a certain amount of advantage with readers who prefer to stick with “traditional” (aka, white, American) authors, thinking that we’ll write a certain kind of story they’re familiar with. Sad but true fact: our ability to at least pass as white benefits us with some readers. It’s my hope that by collecting a list like this,  anyone who’s open to reading more broadly, reading outside of their experience, will be able to easily find new authors and new stories to try out.

There’s a fear some readers have that the authors on this list – non-US or non-white authors in general – create work that is “ethnic” or strange. That they won’t understand it because it’s about people and places they don’t know. That hasn’t been my experience. Not only will you find that there are hundreds of fabulous writers, and stories, on this list, but a great many of them are American, Canadian, or British authors… authors whose work is colored not only by their lives as Asians, but as Americans (for example). They write in, and are influenced by, the traditions of science fiction and fantasy that readers of my blog are most familiar with.

There are also authors whose work focuses much more deeply on their homelands, and their experiences as non-white people. There are stories with characters, plots, settings, and even story formats you may not know. Read those! I firmly believe that the more we read, not only are we better writers and readers, because we’ve expanded what we know, but we’re better people, too. The more widely we read, the more we expand ourselves.

I’ve added recent suggestions from the comments/email/Twitter. All authors mentioned prior to 3/17/2016 are now included. If you’re not on this list but should be, or if you’re on it but want me to link to a more recent story or current website, comment below. Really, I want to update this list with accurate information and a link to your favorite work, but you need to give it to me. (Please note that in some cases, I’ve spoken to an author that someone else suggested, and they’ve told me they don’t feel they qualify for this list. If you think I’m missing an obvious choice, check with that author first, and then let me know!)

Current Thoughts On My Novel

I’ve recently started what I think of as the committed phase of writing: I’ve gotten enough of the framework in place that now I’m setting aside a little time each day to work on my current novel. I’m in it, now, and I will see it through to the end, which I couldn’t have said for certain 6 months ago. The end may not be completion/publication though – I’ve written other novels that I trunked, and absolutely should have. They were writing exercises: the epic fantasy novel I wrote in high school, the couple of zombie novels I wrote during stints of NaNoWriMo, the novel I wrote last year that is basically modern YA fanfiction of a movie I loved from childhood. I’m glad I wrote them, because I learned from everything, but aside from the last one (which, maybe) they’re the writer’s equivalent of homework. You want to be a great writer? You practice, practice, practice, and file most of it away, because it isn’t a finished product worth showing people, it’s an exercise.

If I could teach every writer in the world one thing, it would be that.

The fake working title of my current novel is An Inheritance of Footsteps, so I’ll be referring to it from here on out as FOOTSTEPS. (I always give my writing a title that I fully expect to change once the project is finished and I have a better idea of what key moment or feeling I want the title to reference.) An Inheritance of Footsteps is the second title this novel has had; the first fit my original idea which focused more on the post-apocalyptic nature of the book, but as it’s developed, it’s become more about journeys, the world we’re leaving to our children and the one their great-grandchildren will inherit. It’s about climate change and government control and societal evolution.

I’m not keeping the current title because it’s ridiculously pompous. It’s the sort of title that you can put together from Electric Lit’s “How to Name Your Big Important Novel” infographic. In fact, I used that post to help me create it. It makes me laugh a little whenever I think too much on it, and I think that’s important. I want to avoid letting my ego get into the way of what I’m writing. I don’t want to keep anything because oh my precious words none can be deleted or can’t kill that character, they’re secretly me!

For the record, none of the characters in this book are secretly (or overtly) me, but I’ve seen authors get so attached to the version of themselves, or someone else, that they wrote into their story – the better version, or the version that gets the love interest, or defeats the enemies – that they can’t see how to edit that character when they need to. I do care about my characters and I am invested in this story, right now. When I’m writing is the time to fall in love and want to tell everything about these people’s lives. Later, when I’m editing, I’ll have to step back and be ready to give up what I originally wanted for them. I’ll have to focus only on what’s the best way to tell this story… and that may mean drastically changing a character, part of the plot, or even cutting things entirely.

We’ll see.

There’s a lot of world building in this book, and that’s what’s taken up most of my brain where it comes to creating it. I’ve written hundreds of scenes in my head over the last several months, turning them around and looking at them over and over. I’ve thought about how it would look as a movie, what the ramifications of certain words or actions are for the characters. For example: I realized that I need one of the main characters to have a completely different reaction to the introduction of the MC than I’d originally jotted down. If she reacts negatively in any way, she loses control over what happens next, basically reacting to her emotions, being carried along by it, instead of choosing for herself to be involved. If she accepts the MC’s presence and more than that, makes herself a part of what’s going on, chooses to be there for what happens next, then she’s got some control over the situation, and has a much better chance of ending up where she wants to be. I want that character to be strong, even when she’s struggling, and to be the kind of gracious and generous that you learn to be when you don’t have a choice, rather than some trope of “the other woman”. So, I have to write her that way.

More later. For now, back to work!

What I’m Writing: October 2015

I spent most of September sick and sleeping. The couple of months before had been so hectic, with such big life changes – leaving my day job, going back to college, DragonCon. When I came home from D*C exhausted, then realized I had a cold, and then watched it develop into bronchitis, I had to put aside everything but the bare minimum for survival. I spent a couple of weeks on my couch. I’m just now starting to feel better, though I’m certainly not caught up yet. (I shudder to think what my multiple inboxes look like.)

The one thing I was able to do consistently in September wasn’t sleeping, or working. It was thinking. I thought about me. I thought about writing. I have a million reasons for why I don’t write as often as I want to but they basically boil down to feeling selfish when I write. That time could be spent trying to earn money for my family. (Yes, writing pays, but my fiction takes six months to a year, or more, to see a return, and freelancing money helps with the bills I have now.) That time could be used washing dishes, folding laundry, cooking dinner, helping my son with his homework, doing my own homework, filling out forms, buying groceries… Writing time is stolen time, and I never quite believe I deserve to take it.

But writing is glorious, isn’t it? It’s a joy and a challenge. I feel a little empty, sometimes, when I’m not writing. I’m not wasting every day but I’m wasting a part of it, nearly every day that I don’t write, because I’m keeping myself from setting these stories loose. All I’m really doing is making myself sadder and isolating myself from the parts of me I like best. So… Fine. Okay. You win, little words. Fly.

Be free.

I am going to write now. I’m going to tell you about it. And if you catch me not writing for long periods of time again, you get to call me on it. Deal?

My current writing in progress:

FOOTSTEPS – the working title of my new novel. Status: Fully outlined. Researched. World built. Ready to write. 3000 words so far. Needs 97,000 more on the first draft. (2015)

The cookbook – a companion to the novel. Yes, it’s an actual cookbook. I’m not sure anyone will see it, but it’s where I’m collecting the recipes that I’m writing for the novel, info on foods, growing advice, etc.

“Last Bus” – short story. 1400 words. Written, needs to be revised/expanded. (2015)

“Lucky Old Sun” – short story. 3500 words. Written, needs to be revised. (2014)

“Space Squid” – short story. Okay, that’s not really the title, but it’s not finished yet. 800 words, needs first draft finished. (2014)

“Bug Jar” – short story, 1100 words, needs first draft finished. (2012)

“Dream of Houses” – short story, 650 words, needs first draft finished. (2011)

“Swamp Music” – short story, 800 words, needs first draft finished. (2011)

Some of those start dates are from years ago! (Yes, I know I’ve written, sold, and published other work since, but we’re talking about the unfinished stuff today.) I’ve got more, notes and ideas and stories started but stopped and then maybe reconsidered, once in a while, but these are the ones I’m most confident about being able to finish, if I put my mind to it.

I just need to convince myself that it’s okay to be selfish, a little bit, just for this. I can write and still find a way to pay my bills. (You can help with that, if you’d like.) If I can believe that I can write without ruining everything else I’m trying to accomplish, at least not the most important parts, then I can allow myself the time I need. Not much time. An hour a day, maybe? That’s more than I’ve let myself have in a long time.

Hello, October. Let’s see how well I do.

Open Thread: What YA do you love, and why?

For reasons, I am looking into YA novels in a new way. Reading them, reading essays about them, looking at trends and favorites and how YA is marketed. Everything, really.

Here’s your chance to tell me (and everyone viewing this) what to read. In the comments below, please tell me your favorite novels, authors, or essays about the craft. There’s only one rule! You must give me at least a hint as to why. If you simply list off titles, that’s nice, but I won’t know what those titles mean to you. I won’t know why I should give them a try. So, if you have work you want to share, please take an extra moment to explain a bit about how it appeals to you.

Thank you.