This is a phrase people throw around too lightly, when they’re under a lot of pressure, or even when they’re just a tiny bit stressed… myself included. I recently finished writing a book where my main character constantly suffers from panic attacks, and I thought if I read enough about their signs and symptoms and people’s genuine experiences, I would be able to write about it properly.
Boy was I wrong.
I’ve been under a lot of pressure those past three months. I left my job early September, and the hunt for a new position hasn’t been successful. That is not to say I haven’t been working; I’ve actually been buried deep in freelance work and I’m generating more income than my previous salary. Still, it’s very nerve-wracking when you don’t have a steady paycheck, and I have gone through several sleepless nights over it. I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually crack under all that pressure. Continue reading “It took me having a legit panic attack to know I’ve been writing them all wrong.”→
That’s right. I never plan a book before writing it. I never know what the ending will be, or what the major point of conflict will end up as, or any other information beyond a main character and the very bare bones of a plot. This often leads to excessively long periods of writer’s block, but I honestly can’t help it.
I’ve recently begun working on a new book. I am exceptionally proud of it. I feel like it could be the one. You know that one book you feel will be the best book you ever write and has a higher chance of scoring you a publishing deal? Yes – that one. It’s still at the very first stages, and all I can reveal about it right now is that it’s (probably) going to be titled, “THE UNDERWATER LIBRARY”, and that it’s set in the 1930s, 40s and 50s… or to be more specific, pre- and post World War 2. As you might imagine, this means that it’s a bit grounded in the bloody history of that time period, and – yep, you guessed it – it also means it requires a whole freakin’ bunch of research.
Every year I say, “Okay. This is it. This is the year I publish my second book.” But I can’t even finish a second book. All my manuscripts are scattered around me, at 50%, 25%, 75%, 40% and 20%, and it’s like a big pile of laundry where I don’t know if I should start with my whites or my darks.
I won’t lie; I’m starting to feel kinda frustrated with myself. I feel like I’ve bitten off so much more than I can chew. I start new projects every other week or month – whether it’s launching my own business, or taking up calligraphy, or marathoning entire shows – and I almost never see them to completion.
Five years ago I wrote a post about how I always avoid profanities in fiction, declaring my stance against including swear words and sex scenes in my books. To begin with, let me just say I’m still fixed upon the non-inclusion of sex (except maybe in fade-to-black-situations), but recently I’ve found myself budging when it comes to swearing.
When before I didn’t think they have any merit, I realise now that there are some situations that call for the occasional f-bomb. When before I thought I could find squeaky clean alternatives, I instead found myself struggling with authenticity. Try as I could to make things work without resorting to profanity, it just wasn’t working this time.
I’m working on a book (currently) titled “Mail Order Thief”, and my main character is as cynical and rude and angry as they come. When I set out to write him, to draw the outlines of his character, I tried to wash his mouth with soap but he spat it out and snapped at me. He was not amused, not in the slightest, that I was trying to drown out his voice just so I wouldn’t bruise my ideals. Continue reading “Revisiting the Swearing Question”→
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard some (or many) people complaining about the trainwreck that was 2016. Many famous people died, Brexit happened, Donald Trump got elected President, we’ve had a number of terrorist attacks and a coup in Turkey, etc. And yeah, sure, these are all bad things, but that doesn’t mean the year was any worse than any other.
People forget that bad things happened in 2015, 2014 and every other year before that. Why, we’ve had a lot of famous people die before… Leonard Nimoy and Christopher Lee in 2015, and Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2014. Plenty of terrorist attacks occurred… in fact, I feel that 2016 has been calmer on that front than 2015.
On a personal level, I had an uncle pass away in 2016… compared to an aunt and uncle in 2015. I know it’s not a nice comparison to make, but I’ll still take the year with the one less tragedy.
But a lot of good things happened this year too. People simply choose to forget them.
I watched “Arrival” this weekend. For the uninitiated, it is a movie about aliens arriving on Earth and the world’s attempts at communicating with them. The main character, Louise Banks, is supposedly one of the best linguists in the world, a translator whose work has greatly helped the United States, and naturally she is recruited to translate the alien language. Whether I liked this movie or not is besides the point, what I want to address in this post is the portrayal of Loiuse.
While I’m absolutely thrilled that there’s a movie that paints us translators as the real MVPs (because let’s face it, we’re not the most exciting bunch around), and sheds light on the importance of languages… during run time, I was just thinking, “Um. That’s… not how translation works?” Now that some time has passed since I watched it, I think I can finally put my finger down on what was bothering me.
Translators can translate one language into the other, provided that they do know both languages before hand.
Translators cannot translate a language that, until two days ago, had not existed and there is no record of it anywhere. They cannot be expected to translate anything that is given to them. They are not walking dictionaries, for goodness sake. I was absolutely baffled when the MC was approached with some voice recording and asked to translate it. Like… are you even for real? Continue reading “What Translators Can and Can’t Do”→
Last week, I woke up with an intense pain in my thumb and an overall numbness in my hand. To say I freaked out would be an understatement, especially since I was totally fine when I went to bed the previous night. In fact, I was more than fine; I was writing.
I had a new idea, a post-apocalyptic novel with flying islands and metal dragons and this really badass heroine. I was – and still am – super stoked about it… so stoked that I decided I must write it by hand. A fantasy novel, possibly a trilogy, fully written by hand… I must be insane, right? Bit of a background here, though: nine or ten years ago, I used to write everything by hand. I had notebooks upon notebooks filled with stories. Then I bought a laptop and it seemed more convenient to just type them in right away, from the comfort of my bed, no notebook balancing needed. I didn’t abandon my penmanship completely – I still brainstormed on paper, I still had some journals… but I was no longer writing for prolonged periods of time.
I think, in those years, my hand sorta forgot what it was like, writing full-blown novels, assuming it had completely passed on the baton to the tips of my fingers. So it was in for a rude awakening when I made it write 30+ pages in 3 days, and it retaliated by giving me my own rude awakening. Quite literally. Continue reading “Writing is dangerous. No, really – it is.”→
Inky hands, correction pen stains, crumpled up paper, doodles on the corners… that was more or less my perpetual state as a writer when I was younger. Then computers came along and I migrated to the digital forms of writing, leaving my notebooks behind to collect dust while I sang the praises of Microsoft Word, with its pristine fonts and formatting options and the ability to start over and delete words with the click of a button.
Lately, however, I have been having difficulty even coming up with words to delete.
To be fair, when I was younger, I never had to approach a computer screen with a work mentality – it was a tool for fun and procrastination, but now I mostly associate it with translation and proofreading. I was also not involved with the Internet as I am now, and knew only a handful of websites. Social media wasn’t rampant, and my attention wasn’t diverted every few seconds by new tweets, Instagram posts, blogs, videos and forum replies.
I knew I needed to take a step back if I were ever to pull myself out of this neverending loop of distraction, disconnect a bit from my laptop, build my focus… and so I decided to go back to the basics. I think I went too far back though, because I bought myself a typewriter.
Today I had the privilege of meeting the wonderful Brandon Sanderson a second time. I wish I could say I didn’t fangirl again, but I did. I was so in awe of this man that I completely forgot any and all questions I wanted to ask him. Got three of my books signed though, and got a tiny pep talk from him when I told him my dreams of winning a writing competition were crushed a couple of hours earlier – cheered me up right away.
I didn’t just meet Sanderson the author, I also met Sanderson the professor. And he was brilliant. I wish I had him as a teacher back when I was still in school. The workshop we had him was titled, “Sanderson’s Laws of Fantasy Writing”, and it was really quite enlightening. The laws are applicable not just to fantasy, of course, and the wisdom should really be shared. This is all paraphrasing of course, and I’m just relying on my notes here!
Procrastination Station took me to Reddit today (as it often does), where I came across a 2-week old AMA (a Q&A sort of thing where anyone can ask the poster of the thread anything) by R. L. Stine, whose books I’m sure have kept many of you up at night on more than one occasion, and one person was asking him about his writing process.
24 BOOKS IN ONE YEAR? Holy crap. Okay, so Goosebumps and Fear Street books aren’t that lengthy, but it is still amazing to me that one can be so productive with their writing and keep up a constant stream of ideas. The last book I finished writing was 2 years ago. Last year I only was able to squeeze out 15 thousand words. I just… wow. Continue reading “Of Writing Robots & Lazy Humans”→