There comes a time in every girl's life when the "later" becomes "now". 

I always told myself I'd take my writing more seriously once I graduate, because no matter how much I stretched myself, time was always tight. It's been three years of promising that, the moment I graduate, I would sit down and write that novel. Well. I finished and submitted my thesis. After much deliberation (that stemms from my long-lasting insecurities and lack of time) I threw in the towel and signed up for NaNo. I'm going to write 50,000 words in 30 days. And no, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, except for a vague idea of a basic plot, a long playlist of my favorite rock-bands and a few images of derelict mental asylums for inspiration.

Worst case scenario, I don't win, but it's a start. I believe can do 1,666 words a day in order to finish.  It's going to be hectic, but I bet it's going to be a lot of fun too.

Feel free to add me as your writing buddy!

Miracles happen

So, that novel, the awful one, that I wrote about in my last post? It disappeared from my flash disk almost two years ago, along with a bunch of short stories, novel drafts in various stages of writing/editing, and lots of research notes. I was devastated. everything I wrote in two years and put so much time, love and effort into simply vanished. I had to start again from scratch or comfort myself with several documents that were saved to my email. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I lost everything I ever wrote. Moved on, wrote other stuff, but still heavily missed my stories.

Then two days ago, after I ran a routine virus scan of the disc, the Awful First Novel miraculously reappeared. Only that document, nothing else, stuff that would make me much happier, but I still felt like I won the lottery jackpot. It's still awful but it's there. 

On another note, I wrote nothing to The Back Butterfly in the last couple of days because I'm reading articles for my diploma paper (that's due in a year, but I love my topic--female characters in Edith Wharton's novels and short stories in the light of the American Theory of Race). Also been reading more for reviews, and gave my book blog a new design. That was a pain in you-know-what since it demanded a lot of HTML tweaking. I stopped journaling; if I have minute or two, I write anyway, so I'd rather write for my current projects.

So, now I'm going through it and it makes me giddy just like the time when I was writing it. I'm happy because I can apply all that stuff it taught me to make it better. It will demand major rewrites, or better to say, there's only about 20% percent of it that I'd actually keep. But a precious 20 % it will be (insert huge happy smile here). Let's see if there's more knowledge to be drawn--if nothing else, editorial. Never has hitting the delete button make me happier. 
Oh, joy!

Recently I followed a link on Twitter that had the same intriguing tittle as this post. It led me to Sarah Dessen's post on BlogHer where she talks about few mistakes she made when she wrote her first novel, mostly mistakes related to the setting that drew attention from the real story. Few sentences that I really liked: 

I wrote my first novel in college. It was terrible. No, really: it was. When you write your first book, you feel like you have to put your entire life and all you know into it, and that’s pretty much what I did. (...) was my novel, so of course I was proud of it.
I wrote my first novel in college, too. I was obsessed with it. I had dreams in which my mind played scenes from my novel. I was writing like a maniac for several hours a day. The funny thing is, I never once got a block. The story was just flowing, something which never happened afterwards. If I didn't have access to computer, I was scribbling in notebooks. I was so terribly proud of it. As the novel was reaching a word count of almost 100K words, I started to think about what was I going to do with it. Of course, at some point the "p" word came up. I subscribed for newsletters of a number of writing and publishing pages. Anyway, as I started reading them, it dawned on me that this thing that I was writing was awful. Terrible. Not even good for its pages to be used as coasters (okay, maybe not that awful, but still). What did I do wrong? Oh, boy.

One thing I know I succeeded at was characters. I loved them all. They felt so real to me that I considered them to be my closest friends. In everyday situations, I would ask myself, what would Ivy or Tyler or Max do. I made real people out of them, with all their vices and virtues, their quirks and peeves. Looking back on it now, almost two years afterwards, I know I had the motivation right. They were driving the story, not the other way round. A plus for me. It still is so, that everything I write is character-driven. I'm just there to give them a voice.

The plot was too stretched. There were so many cliches in it that sometimes I feel like pointing a finger at myself and laughing a Nelson-like HA-HA! The big twist was not much of  twist. Yes, I loved it (a girl reunited with her father-what's not to like there???) But I did it all wrong. It's supposed to come unexpected, right? That's why it's called surprise twist, duh. The other twist had much more prospect of being surprising, but I just didn't work it out well enough. In so many ways, I went with the most simple and affordable solution, and in doing so, betrayed my own imagination.

For its genre, it wasn't any near dark and mysterious enough. I mean, for a novel that kicks off with six people being shot in cold blood and one escaping being the seventh by hair's breadth, the voice was just wrong. Too optimistic. And a happy ending, everyone living happily ever after? Give me a break. When you have bullets raining on you, some shit has to happen. It's one of my pet peeves, to have solutions popping out like waving a magic wand, and yet, I did it too.

Setting. There was none. I simply didn't know where to place it, so all the places were undefined, either an apartment that could be just anywhere in the world or a road going basically nowhere. I love it when I read a book and know exactly where I am. When I walk the streets with the characters, and see the town through their eyes. Even if it's an imaginary town, I like to know where I am. Why was I doing the exact opposite in my novel?

It has taught me so many things. It was an invaluable experience and a perfect writing exercise. All the things I rushed through the first time, I now let sit and simmer until I know I can't make it any better.
It has showed me something that I find myself questioning every so often. I CAN do it. I CAN WRITE A NOVEL. If it takes years of writing, research, editing, rewriting, deleting and starting all over again to get it right, so be it, but I know I can do it. A bit more patient, much wiser and with lots of knowledge gained in the past two years. Yes. I can.

Journaling #4

Today's Writing Prompt: Temper

When you "lose your temper" where is the best place to find it?
I'd like to think of myself as a cool, calm and collected person, but more often than not, I let bad stuff get the best of me. The mantra I practice is telling myself that I'm a better person than that, and reminding myself that I'm going to regret it the moment I say it.

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