Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas!!! / Hiatus

     Hi everyone! It'll be a quick post today, because of the crazy busy season it is. I hope you're having a wonderful break or holidays, and will keep having it through Christmas and New Years'! It's been an amazing year on this blog, and I can't thank you all enough for all your support. I love all of you, seriously.

   I'm at a very big transition phase in my life. In case you're not aware, in mid January I will be moving from Thailand (after 14 great years living here) to Australia, which is where I was born. I'm a mix of terrified, excited, dreading it, looking forward to it, and grieving my leave. For this reason I'll be going on a hiatus until the beginning of February, so I can focus on myself and my family.

   Merry Christmas, and see you soon!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Let's Talk Editing: Is Your First Draft Totally Useless?

     The Let's Talk Editing series is back! I realized it'd been ages since I'd written a post for Let's Talk Editing, and with me slowing sinking back into edits for Draped in Deception, we've ended up with the next installment! If you're interested in the other posts on setting and first chapters, you can click here and here

     Today's topic, and something I've been thinking about a lot recently, is, is a first draft totally useless?

     When writers mention the words 'first' and 'draft' together, you will definitely get some screwed up faces and winces. First drafts are imperfect, gaping with plot holes, and the POV's voices run together into an indistinguishable mess. NO ONE sees the first draft except the writer. 

     The purpose of editing is to fill those holes, clarify characters, and polish the thing till its shine is blinding, right? So once you've moved past cleaning up the first draft, and you're on your third or fifteenth draft, why should you ever return to it?

     Well, you should.

     And here's why: if your final draft is a cut, polished, and sparkling diamond, then that makes your first draft a gem hidden behind rocks and blemishes. You must have seen something in it to take the time and effort to transform a hunk of mineral into a glimmering necklace.

     A few weeks ago I was squinting at my computer screen which held an attempt at planning my massive rewrites of Draped in Deception. I was majorly stuck on how I was going to show a character's change now that the main instigator of it was cut out (as a result of me scrapping the ending third of my novel). As my mind often does, it started to wander down its little creative path while I went off to do some unfortunate life responsibility.

    Then: Aha! My mind brought up a key world-building element I had all but forgotten in the second draft, but in my first draft, it was a huge part of showing my characters' a different side to their world. Now, I know this sounds sort of vague, but I can't go around letting you know all the spoilers can I?

    What I'm trying to get at here is that don't forget about your first draft the deeper you delve into editing. Remember that the first draft is raw, and honest, and true to themes that poured from your heart. It has both good and bad elements. When you return to it ignore the plot holes and look to its core. You wouldn't forget about the diamond underneath all the grit when you were polishing it, would you?

    So when you're stuck in your edits, go back, and take inspiration from the rough gem it is, because no, your first draft is not totally useless. It may need a little or a lot of work, but it is beautiful, because it's raw, and because you wrote it.

Have you ever returned to your first draft for inspiration? Do your edits stick close to your first drafts or do you go waaay away from them? How's your writing going?
Let me know in the comments, and have a wonderful day! <3

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Character Guest Post: Isla

      Greetings everyone. I'm Isla, and it really is so wonderful to meet you. *offers a cup of ginger tea* I'm so glad we could sit down and chat today. How are you?

      Once again, I'm going to interrupt our lovely guest speaker here today. This is Melissa speaking in italics, by the way. Today Isla from Safe-House will be answering a few questions about her personality, job, family, etc. I did a previous post with a similar format with Mercy if you'd like to check it out, and here's some background on Safe-House.

     Okay Isla, are you ready?

    Of course!

1) What is your role in the Safe-House?
      I'm the maid, or overall helper, though technically I'm not paid, as I'm an indentured servant.

2) How did you become an indentured servant?

     I lived with my uncle growing up, and he was big on gambling. From betting on knuckle-bones, to card games, to how many days it would rain that month. He was a good man at heart, really; he took me in after my parents caught a deadly disease that swept the city, but he didn't know when to stop betting. He got in some deep debts with those in the Rat Guild, and when he couldn't pay them he...well, he sold me, to put it quite simply.

     The Rat Guild takes criminal activity that one step across the line. While the Desirable Goods Guild sells drugs, and illegal goods, the Rat Guild deals in people. Selling people. Because they bought me for such a high price, it took several months to find someone who would double that price to buy me. But Zelma--she's the founder and headmistress of the Safe-House--paid it, so now I work for her. The pay I would receive every month if I was a regular servant is instead crossed off of the debt I now owe to Zelma.

Symbol of the Rat Guild
3) Three quick facts about you?

     #1: I believe strongly that if you do good for others, then good will come onto you, whether in this life or the next ones.

     #2: Ginger tea is my absolute favourite drink of all time

     #3: I'll take harmony over intrigue any day

4) What's your greatest fear?

     I guess...that I won't be able to fix things. That conflict will just keep happening, continuously getting worse, and that I won't have a positive impact on any of it--and everyone will hate me because of it. That would be a nightmare.

5) Any passions?

    Creating things gives me a lot of joy. I love to be able to take what other people might discard and recreate it into something beautiful. Everything deserves a second chance.

6) If you could leave the Safe-House a free woman, what would you do?

    Wow, that's difficult. I suppose I've always been thinking about how long it will be until I've paid my debts, not what comes after. I'd like to leave Low End, where all the Guilds are based and hope seems forgotten, and get some sort of creative job if I can. Nothing feels as good as creating, you know?

    I do indeed Isla. Thanks for joining us!

How is your WIP coming along? Are you editing or drafting right now? Any suggestions for which character I should have guest post next?
Let us know in the comments, and good luck with your writing! <3

Saturday, 3 December 2016

What My Stories Have Taught Me

      When I think of the word 'writer' a thousand different images pop into my mind. Someone typing in an aesthetically pleasing coffee shop, a person griping about characters while eating chocolate, frantic typing as someone wears a NaNoWriMo shirt and pretends they've slept, and on and on. But another picture that comes into my mind is of a person sitting down at a desk, carefully arranging a story to share their life experiences and what they've learned from them.

     I'd like to say I'm always the last image, but that's not true. I reflect some of my life experiences in my writing, of course, but it's never been just about me teaching my characters; they've taught me.

     Here are just a few things out of many that my stories and characters have taught me:

1) It's okay to feel like you're a contradiction

    In my first draft of Draped in Deception, there is a scene where Lissaer shares all her contradictions, such as being a warrior who never wants to kill, and how alienated she feels because of them. Her physician friend Adam, who's with her, says, "When I was working in the labs, they had us experimenting with these two dull looking chemicals. The only thing they had in common was how completely different their properties were. When we mixed the chemicals together, they exploded. Not in flames, but in colour. They were a rainbow in a test tube. It's ok to mix opposites, Lissaer: you get something beautiful."

   Maybe it isn't the most remarkable piece of dialogue, but the conversation struck me hard. I was going through a time where I was insecure about certain aspects of my personality, and this story helped me through it.

2) Standing up for something you believe in doesn't always mean starting a war

    I can't say too much about this one because of spoilers, but this has to do with Safe-House. In it is a character called Clyde, who battles with drug addiction, and how he is being controlled by others because of it. Clyde is so brave even after all he's been through, and it's so inspiring. Violence isn't always the best route; being non-violent can be an even stronger protest.

3) Patience and endurance

   I'll be the first to admit I am far from a patient person. I get irritated when things aren't done quickly and sigh a lot when someone else is late. So it surprised me when I wrote my first novel how long it took--and how willing I was to stick with it for such a long period of time. Throughout my years seriously writing I've learnt to accept that some things will take awhile, and that's okay. As long as I keep working at it, keep going, it will be worth it in the end.

What have your stories taught you? Did you expect finishing a book to take so long when your first started writing? What's your WIP about?
Let me know in the comments and good luck with your writing! <3

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Am Currently... #5

    Welcome back to another Am Currently! November has been such a crazy month, with NaNoWriMo, moving preparation, and a build-up of tests and exams. I haven't been as productive as I would like to be, but I've managed to sneak in some reading and writing.

    I finished 'Pride and Prejudice' a few weeks ago! I absolutely loved it and I swear I was silently laughing throughout the whole thing. The humour is so great, and I have such respect for Jane Austen's writing skills now. 

    My current read is 'Riders' by Veronica Rossi. It's going pretty well, and the POV has a distinct voice which adds some excitement, as does the unconventional start of the book. I'm hoping it finishes on a high!

    Sooo...NaNo. Currently I am 20,788 words into the first draft of Safe-House, which is far behind the 50K most people have already or are going to reach. My plan for this month wasn't to reach the 50K though; it was 15K. I knew the ridiculously busy month I was going to have, and while I'm happy I reached that goal, I can't help feeling a little disappointed I haven't gotten more done. 

   I always enjoy listening to Casting Crowns, especially 'Broken Together' and 'Dream for You'. Their lyrics are beautiful. Since Christmas is approaching I've also pulled out Pentatonix's wonderful Christmas song covers again to get me into the mood.

    Very, very tired. I have a huge dance performance on Thursday, and so from Monday to Friday we had after-school rehearsals until five. This, combined with teachers deciding it would be a great time for last minute projects, was the major force that prevented me from churning out more words for NaNo. Life seems to be getting the better of me for the moment, which is why I have an announcement to make.

    I'll be shifting my blogging schedule. I want to get the best content possible out to you guys, so now I'll be aiming to blog once a week on Saturdays, which means no more Wednesday posts, until I feel like I can get the best quality ones out. Right now I'm struggling to keep up with everything.

How are you? Is life getting the better of you as well, or are you soaring? (I hope you are!) Read any amazing books I just have to read?
Thank you for all the support on my blog! Have a great week <3

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

How to Choose What to Write Next

     One of my favourite writer terms is 'plot bunnies', which it used to describe new ideas. I can just picture little bunnies poking their heads out of their burrows, and instantly commanding all your attention. It's the same thing with story ideas: once they get stuck in your head, its hard to shake them off and put effort back into your WIP.

     Another thing about plot bunnies is that there are too many to count. When you've finished a project, which one do you focus on next? How do you choose?

    There are two questions I ask myself to decide.

1) Which one excites me the most?

    Whenever a plot bunny pops into my mind, it seems like the best book idea ever at the time. It'll be a bestseller! I'll become famous! Twenty-four hours later...yeah, not so much. For me, time is a big factor in determining my excitement. I've developed a system that when a plot bunny comes, I focus all my thoughts and creative energy on it for a day or two, jotting down everything that comes to mind.

    Then I leave it.

    When I'm ready for my next project, I browse through where I store my story ideas, and read through them all. Usually I won't have touched them for a month or even six, so by refreshing my mind on the concepts, I will immediately latch onto one that I'm desperate to write.

2) Can I combine these ideas?

   Sometimes answering the first question will be hard, because I might be equally excited or intrigued about several. If that's the case, I'll see if there is a possibility to combine the ideas into one large novel. Some of the ideas might be small aspects like a world-building feature, while others could be a plot.

   Here's an example. You might remember me talking about Golden Revenge a few months ago (it's currently waiting to be edited). That story was a combination of many separate ideas or concepts I wanted to write about.

Refugees + civil war + gender-bent retelling of King Midas + mercenaries = Golden Revenge

   Some of the ideas worked more naturally together, but others seemed like there was no way they could co-exist at first. But when I challenged myself to craft a story out of this mishmash, I ended up with a story I loved all the way to its heart.

How do you deal with plot bunnies? Do you take time to consider which story to write next, or do you jump straight in? 
Good luck with your writing! <3

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Character Karaoke Tag!

    The wonderful Ellie @ On the Other Side of Reality tagged me for the Character Karaoke Tag, which a mix of talking about music and your WIP! I always love giving characters theme songs, and since I'm in the midst of NaNo, I'll be sharing about Safe-House again. (Let's be honest here: my mind can't juggle two stories in November. It's literally impossible).

    To the tag!

What song best describes the mood of your novel?

    The lyrics fit Safe-House super well. There are dark moments where the characters feel like: 

I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go
Where the wind don't change
And nothing in the ground can ever grow
No hope, just lies
And you're taught to cry into your pillow

    But at the end of the day:

I'm still breathing
I'm alive

    That is, except for the dead characters...

Pick a character and a song to describe them.

    Ash's optimistic perspective basically embodies this song. He has a love for thrill and adrenaline:

There's a moment
In your bones when
When the fire takes over
Blood is running
Heart is pumping
As the battle gets closer

    And he believes he can do anything:

Keeping us down is impossible
Cause we're unstoppable

One of your characters is at a karaoke night when-gasp! They've been chosen to get up and sing! What song do they choose and how do they perform it?

    Mercy would knock this out, perhaps not with the best vocals ever heard, but with a lot of aggressive passion. She would really connect to this song on a personal level from being in a past relationship with someone who was a lot of 'trouble.'

    Also, in the music video (which wouldn't let me put it in this post) several of the lines said in the beginning are very true for Mercy as well, like:

I think that the worst part of it all wasn't losing him.
It was losing me.

Go-to song for writing battle scenes?

    Though the song starts off a little slow, there is a build-up I love which rolls into an awesome explosion of music. Always great for those epic battle scenes.

   I tag...
And anyone else who wants to join in!

What kind of music do you listen to while you write (or are you a writer who likes silence?) What song defines one of your characters?
Let me know in the comments; I love hearing from you! <3

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

WIP Snippets!

   How dare life take place in November. Doesn't it know that I have NaNo writing to do?

   I guess it doesn't, because it hit me straight in the face last week. I was whisked away on a mandatory field trip for three days where I had no access to my no writing. It was horrible. And now school has slammed a load of work on me and I have late dance rehearsals every day next week and...enough of me complaining. Simply put, I'm very behind.

   But! Being behind doesn't mean I can't share with all of you some snippets from my WIP, Safe-House. If you don't know what Safe-House is about, the simplest way of describing it is: Cluedo meets Six of Crows.

   All the snippets are unpolished due to NaNo so be warned!

   I really love this first one, said by Ash's sister Catfoot as a warning to him:
"The optimistic cat lost all nine lives jumping from the top of a five-story building because it believed it could land on its feet; the cautious cat didn't lose any because it took the stairs."
     From Mercy's POV:

 If Mercy's father was there, he'd call her into his study. They'd sit on the herringbone patterned floor, in the midst of a cloud of her cigarette smoke and his tobacco leaves, polishing daggers and sharpening blades. They'd toss about ideas for creating new weapons. Knives hidden in hairbrushes. High heels with actual spikes for support. A recipe for a metal that could pierce armour like it was nothing but air. 

But it was if Ash had found the recipe, and his masterfully crafted sword of smiles, touches, and warm words ripped straight through her chain mail. It sunk deep into her chest, piercing her heart. Blood spewed everywhere, painting her emotions with red tears. 

   I love the dialogue I get to write between Mercy and Clyde. 

A holler echoed from upstairs. "This guy keeps thinking I'm going to kill him! All he'll mutter in his sleep is 'mercy, mercy, mercy.'"

Mercy rolled her eyes. "He's calling for me, you idiot."

    Some more Mercy and Clyde banter...

Clyde watched Mercy with high eyebrows as Ash stormed off. "Nice boyfriend."

She huffed and stabbed the bottle of ink with the quill. "He's not my boyfriend."

"If he's your cousin the both of you are messed up."

    Description from Hood's perspective at night, after an invitation from Mercy to sit with her.

The two sat in silence as time ticked on to the thud of their hearts. The clatter of dishes and gurgle of water rushing out from the upstairs bathrooms to the nearby gutter mingled with the fading cheers of a distant bar. Newness, neither shiny nor gritty, drifted with the humid wind and settled on Hood's tongue. 
Mercy tipped her head up to watch the pinpricks of stars. "They remind me of my sister. Gorgeous and peaceful, but so far away."
Hood's words changed into a sweet, mellow tune with help from the voice box tucked into her collar. "Is she dead?"
"Maybe. I don't know."

How is NaNoWriMo going for you? Are you conquering it like a master or falling behind like me? Feel free to share snippets of your work in the comments too; I love hearing about your writing! <3