Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Therapy Session: Between a Writer and Their Story

     They sat on opposite ends of the velvet couch, staring at the empty armchair, never at each other. Silence choked the air. As the therapist entered, the writer offered a strained smile, fiddling with a tiny notebook jam-packed with snippets of ideas--none of them for the story sitting next to her. The story crossed arms covered in fine black ink.

    "I'm so glad you both could come today," the therapist said as she lowered her lithe frame into the armchair. The nameplate pinned to her crisp blue uniform sparkled a simple name: Victoria. "You've already made an important first step by coming to see me: admitting you have problems."

    The writer snorted. "Oh, do we have problems."

    The story gnashed its teeth. "We have problems? You're the one who--"

    "Hold on a minute." Victoria held up a hand. "Let's get your names first, yes? Then we can work through this issue from the beginning."

    "Melissa," the writer mumbled, eyes already drifting to something else. A hundred books crammed the two bookshelves claiming half the office, some bound with smooth brown leather, others with glossy paper covers. She'd give up her quill pen to explore their pages, soaking up the scents of a thousand paper worlds.

    "....Melissa?" Victoria lifted a perfectly arched eyebrow as Melissa tore her gaze off the books. "Is it fine with you if I refer to Draped in Deception as Draped?"

    "Um, sure." It didn't matter anyway; she was so done with Draped.

    "Wonderful." Keeping up a bright smile, Victoria jotted down a few words onto a notepad. "Let's start with you, Draped. What caused this discord in your relationship, in your opinion?"

    Draped huffed and shot Melissa a withering glare with eyes like ink wells. "Everything was going very smoothly with the third draft rewrites. I was co-operating, she was coming up with good plot points and scenes, and then suddenly, bam! She just stopped writing me. No reason given, no explanation, just 'bye-bye, I'm not going to open your document anymore'." It lifted an arm coated in a thick layer of dust. "See?"

    That was not how it happened, not at all. Melissa leaned forward, hands spread wide as if the more distance between them, the more Victoria would understand. "I admit, I did stop writing, but not because I hate Dra--" She paused. "Okay, maybe I did for awhile, but right now I'm just full of doubts, and worries, and potent thoughts. What if...what if Draped isn't worth my time?"

    "Woooow," Draped moaned. "Savage, much?"

    Victoria finished a line of her notes, and switched to her 'serious face'; pinched lips, drawn together eyebrows, a slight head tilt. "Is that your biggest doubt, Melissa?"

     "No." Melissa sucked in a deep breath, and closed her eyes. She swallowed back a lie; what was the point of coming to this session if she wasn't going to be honest? "It's that I'll never get Draped edited well enough. That I'll keep going on, and on, and on, and no matter how hard I try it'll never be perfect."

     "And what do you think about that, Draped?"

     The hard, punched out lines of Draped's face softened with those few words. It twisted its paper body to look at its writer. "People can never be perfect, so how can something created by them be?"

     Victoria and Melissa stared.

     "What? Us stories get all the epic one-liners."

     A smile crept onto Melissa's face as Victoria praised such wisdom from Draped, and blathered on about how to create a healthy writer/story relationship. But Melissa wasn't listening, not really. Her mind was still on Draped's one question, like a song stuck on loop.

     Was there such a thing as a perfect story? Or any kind of art? Or would there always be something to work on, to strive for, to push to be better? And, her mind whispered, does that make the story worth writing?

     Victoria's voice floated in. "...the most important thing is that you take your time..."

    By the end of the therapy session, Melissa and Draped sat a little closer, and for the second their eyes met, they smiled.

Hey everyone! I hope you enjoyed the post today; I know it's quite different from what I usually write, but hopefully that's okay with you! It's far from award winning writing, but I wanted to talk about my struggles with editing Draped in Deception in a post which wasn't just me ranting, so I wrote this instead.

Would you like me to do more posts like this? (Feedback's welcome!) Have you ever really, truly struggled with a story? I'd love to hear about your experiences. <3

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Am Currently... #6

     The last month has been a chaotic mess of running around airports, trying to straighten out school enrollment, and adjusting to what seems to be an entirely different world. 

     In other words, I'm now in Australia. My plane landed a little over a month ago, which is crazy to think about; time has both rushed past and dragged on. But enough about that for now! First I'll crack into the other things I am currently doing.

    For my Extension English class, we're reading Dracula. I wouldn't say that I'm enjoying it, as the pages upon pages of descriptions aren't exactly my style, but it is slowly becoming more interesting. I'm not much a horror fan, so hopefully the 400 plus pages will be worth it in the end.

   As for pleasure reading, I may or may not have gone on a bookstore splurge and when the lady in the shop asked if I needed assistance, said, "No thanks, I'm just in heaven right now." *facepalm* Excuse me while I go hide in a hole and sew my mouth shut.

   Yes, so moving on from that embarrassing moment; I'm about halfway through Safe Lands: Captives by Jill Williamson. The world-building is spectacular and I'm loving all the different POVs with their distinct voices. Thoroughly enjoying it. My next read will either be The Shadow Queen or Empire of Storms. Let me know which one I should read next!

     A lot of exciting things to announce here! The first of which is that I'll be writing a piece for Project Canvas. It's an amazing collaborative writing project for teen writers, about sharing tips and talking about all things writing! If you're interested in writing a piece for them, I totally suggest checking their topics page out and getting in touch. It's a fantastic opportunity!

    I wouldn't say that my personal writing life has flourished lately, but it has showed buds of promise. In my last post I revealed my latest project, Splintered Crown, which I'm currently world-building and brainstorming for. I expect I'll be doing that over the next few months, as well as doing a read-through of Golden Revenge's first draft (remember that old idea?). After that, it'll be a break for a week before I attempt to tackle this monster of a stand-a-lone novel.

    If you're wondering about Draped in Deception, well, I'm sorry to say that I'll be leaving that book alone for some time. We've had to break up several times now, and I hope we'll get back together eventually, but it might be awhile. It has a lot of issues that need sorting out, and they require more time than I have at the moment.

     I am in LOVE with the soundtrack of La La Land, despite not having seen the movie (so no spoilers please!). I basically have all the songs on repeat all day, and my favourite would have to be 'Another Day of Sun.' Apart from that, I'm enjoying 'Church Bells' by Carrie Underwood and any NF song ever.

    Surprisingly okay. I think the happy musical soundtrack blaring in my ears helps, which is nice considering I've been having a mix of highs and super lows recently. Settling into life in Australia has been really, really, hard, and not only the broken down cars and delayed flights, but the sheer mental energy it's taking. 

    I've been exposed to a place where I know almost nobody outside my family, and finding connections to people I've shared no experience with is...well, it's hard. I should be a better writer and think of a synonym, but 'hard' already sums it up well enough. Thankfully I've met some of the nicest people, and they've been an awesome help (you know who you are, lovelies).

    I am missing Thailand and my old life and friends, and that's okay. I would be concerned if my heart didn't ache for them, and it does. For now I just need to plow forward, stretch into the new, and keep my sanity through my love of words.

Enough about me; let's talk about you! What are you reading at the moment? How's your writing coming along? Anyone else obsessed with La La Land's soundtrack?
Let me know in the comments, and have an awesome month! <3

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Beautiful People: Couples Edition

     Welcome to another Beautiful People! Not only am I excited to share with you all my answers to this awesome link-up's questions, but also some information on my new book idea, Splintered Crown

     But before we get into that, we should of course give credit to the wonderful dragon queen Cait @ Paper Fury and the lovely Sky @ Further Up and Further In. Beautiful People is all about helping you get to know your characters better and to share about your writing projects; do check it out!

     Now here's a little bit about Splintered Crown. First, a blurb:

Recovering from a bitter civil war between two princes, the nation of Cynnica eagerly awaits the announcement of the next Heir to the throne. Three royal children were sent away at birth to grow up out of palace hands, and when the time is right, the best and most suited to rule will be chosen. The other two will never be the wiser of their parentage, and Cynnica will never be caught between siblings again.

Crim is as sure he'll be the chosen Heir as he's sure he's attractive. In other words, a hundred percent. Raised under the watchful eye of a noblewoman who took him from an orphanage in hopes he'd be a prince, his only focus has been preparing to rule--and his violin.

When the Heir is declared to be a sister he's never met, Crim's life spins into chaos. What will he do now? How could they not choose him? After all, he's perfect...right?

    And secondly, an equation of words that make up the story:

Broken perfection + yellow roses + the darker side of mercy + five green birds + a king trying to avoid hurt + "you want to hold my hand?" + haunting cries of a violin + a young man trying to find himself when all's been stripped away = Splintered Crown.

    The couple featuring in this special couples edition are Crim and Mira. Onto the questions!

1) How and why did they meet?

    Well, this is awkward. *clears throat* So I'll give a full disclaimer here: Crim (full name Crimson) is not a perfect guy. He's made a ton of mistakes, but I swear he has a good heart, he's just never been taught how to use it. Crim met Mira in the tavern she was serving in, where he asked her questions about her family, if she liked working there, etc. Things went further than a conversation...I think I'll leave it at that.

2) What were their first impressions of each other?

    Crim of Mira -- he was drinking, but he still noticed her good looks. Noted her bright smile, then proceeded with the questions between refills.

    Mira of Crim -- a handsome young lord, whose first words out of his mouth at her were not crude or humiliating. He charmed her by asking questions that made it seem like he actually cared.

3) How would they prove their love to each other?

    Um, so I haven't really written much of Splintered Crown; at the moment Crim and Mira are less of a gooey love-eyed couple, and more of a make-shift one that could collapse at any moment. The only reason they see each other is because of their *spoiler alert* daughter. Not exactly spouting love declarations over here. More like apologies and regrets.

4) What would be an ideal date?

    Crim would buy some sweet meats and a loaf of fresh, crusty bread from the market, and then Mira would show him a little spot in a meadow by the tree she used to climb with her sister. He would bring the violin, she would bring her rhythm. Then she'd dance to his music, and for a moment, they could forget that they weren't a regular couple.

5) Is there something they emphatically disagree on?

     How often Crim can see his daughter, Vee. Mira only wants him at her house once a week at most, until he cleans up his act, but Crim would see Vee everyday if he could.

6) List 5 food quirks they know about each other.

     #1 - Mira loves to eat (edible) flowers.
     #2 - Despite his refined upbringing, Crim would prefer simple food over the fanciest dinner
     #3 - Mira's allergic to any kind of seafood
     #4 - Crim can't stand apples
     #5 - They have a mutual love of eating with just their fingers

7) What's one thing they know about each other that no one else does?

     Mira knows how he hides his passion for the violin, and acts like it's just a hobby; rulers aren't artists, apparently. Crim knows the real reason she 'moved' out of her parents' house.

8) What's one thing they keep a secret from each other?

    Crim hides his true identity; Mira hides how much he's hurt her.

9) How would their lives be different without each other?

     Well, they wouldn't have their daughter, and that makes a dramatic difference, but the full details are spoilers, so... 

10) Where do they each see this relationship going?

     Mira is doubtful it will last much longer; the bet is he'll pack his bag and call it quits within several months, and she'll be on her own all over again. But Crim is determined to stay---at least, until his enemies catch up with him.

What story are you working on right now? Would you like me to do more Beautiful People on Splintered Crown? And if you did Beautiful People this month, please link below so I can check them out!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

How I World-Build (And Hello!)

     Hello everyone! It's been ages since I last posted, and I'm super happy to be back. Life has been a whirlwind of settling into Australia and a new school, but I'll save all of that for another post. (For now I'll be sticking to weekly posts until I get settled into a routine). Thanks for dropping by on the blog even over the holidays; I hope you had a great one!

     Let's get to it, shall we?

(Note: all images, and the content they contain, used in this post are copyrighted)

     Over my hiatus not only did I do some editing on Draped in Deception, I also imagined a new story called Splintered Crown. (But more on that in another post) Like I do with practically all of my stories, I let it simmer in my mind for some time while I pulled together bits of inspiration. When I'd fleshed out the general premise and some semblance of the main characters, I decided to jump into world-building.

     For me world-building isn't just borrowing some Earth culture and shoving obscure customs and unnecessary rituals on it to make it original. It's not about creating odd shaped plants, dangerous terrain, and savage beasts that terrorize travelers (though they're fun). I like to go to the people, and the history that shaped them. That's where I start.

    I don't know about you, but the thought of writing out textbooks of history that will probably never come up in a story makes me wince. So as I stared at my journal, prepping myself for long paragraphs on the world's most important moments, and less than thrilled about it, I got an idea.

    The page started out as a doodle of birds as I begun to think everything through. Then it became a drawing, and soon, something I now refer to as scrapbook world-building.

    The pages are mix of simple (and not that great) drawings and words done in different hand-drawn fonts, to bring attention to certain lines. The above page is about the world's first people, who found safety with the help of five green birds. I also included snippets of paper, as if they were torn from different texts, each showing a different perspective on the event. 

    I've realized now that in most other stories I'd written, I only knew historical events from one group's perspective, but it's so important to know it from all angles. These different perspectives can be vital in forming different cultural groups, enemies, allies, and on and on.

I apologize for the little you can read, but most of the images I took contain spoilers
    The drawing in this picture is nothing more than an arrow, and I could blather on about how symbolic it is, but I won't. I've found that even the simplest drawing makes me spend more time on a page, and the longer I spend, the more time I have to flesh out the story. In this case, what started out as a vague conflict led to a key antagonist revealing himself.

    The fun and amazing thing with scrapbook world-building is that you don't have to write everything down. A mix of drawings and words can convey the feeling of a time period or certain event, and help you visualize how it's seen in the story. I was planning to have a jumbled collection of images to represent Splintered Crown's POV Crimson, but somehow I found the starkness between the small and large print to mean much more.

The bigger text reads "I'm the best. I'm the Heir. I'm perfect." while the tiny, almost invisible words between other letters say "Help me, someone. Please?"
    So that wraps up today's post! I really hope you enjoyed it and perhaps got some inspiration for your next world-building session.

How are you? How's your writing going, and have you done any world-building recently? How do you create your story world?
Let me know in the comments; I'm dying to hear from you! <3

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