A Year In The Life

Confession: I'm a Gilmore Girl. Not just a fan, mind you. I live Gilmore Girls. I rewatch all the seasons at least once a year. I secretly want to be Lorelai's daughter and Rory's sister. Don't tell my mother.

After Amy Sherman-Palladino left the show, I was heartbroken. The seventh season suffered because of it. Spelling the end of the series.

For years I prayed for a movie. Begged the universe for closure. And it seemed I wasn't the only one because eight years later we got four new episodes that are all 90mins long. Basically, 4 movies that help sum up Lorelai's and Rory's stories.

I was ecstatic when I first found out. I couldn't wait to watch all of them. And since they were coming from Netflix I knew we would get all four at once. So I patiently waited for November 25th.

Now that it's here, I'm torn. I'm happy that I finally get the resolution I have been yearning for. And I'm sad because this is it. Four episodes. There's nothing more after.

When the idea of a movie was just floating around in the ether there was still hope. I guess we all willed new episodes into existence.

I just finished the first episode and it's beautiful. Check back with me in a few days. Yes, a few days. My mother insists we watch one a day. I agreed because I want the experience to last.

So see you here at a later date and I'll tell you how I feel after I hear those four last words.

What about you? Are you a fan? Have you watched all the episodes? No spoilers, please. If you're not a fan, is there a show you lament ending? Or is there a show you want more off? Let me know in the comments section.

Writing Advice #7

It’s already November. Can you believe it? The year is passing us by. Because of this realization, I began thinking about the beginning of the year and the commitments I’ve made. I want this chance to share with you a little about my journey up to this point in my writing career.

I discovered a knack for writing because of my second-year high school English teacher. The assignment she gave us was to write a short story. This was the first time I’d ever written anything. The only thing I remembered about the exercise was that I had written a love story. When my teacher read it, she said I had something. From then on, I started writing.

My life has taken many turns since then. I went to medical school in college. Then, having realized that curing the sick wasn’t really my thing, I walked into the Literature Department of my university and never looked back. This led me to become a teacher then an essay consultant. All of that was nine published novels ago.

I believe you need to make a commitment when it comes to your passion. Don’t allow yourself to wake up one morning wondering what you did with your life. So many people realize this too late. And I don’t want that to happen to you. I knew that to be a writer was what I really wanted. Nothing made me happier than to type out the stories of the characters in my head and sharing them with readers. So, come January of 2016, I recommitted myself to my writing.

First, I decided to write every day, even if it was just a page or a chapter or a blog post. I committed to writing. Anything. I read once that to be successful at something you need to put in your 10,000 hours. That’s what the Beatles and Bill Gates did. When I learned to play the piano, my teacher always told me to practice. I preferred pounding keys on a typewriter, and eventually, a computer rather than the black and white of a piano keyboard.

Years later, I realized that practice is needed in everything that you do. If you want to be good at something, you have to do it every day. And I haven’t looked back since. For the first time in years, I have written something every day without missing a beat. No matter how stressed or exhausted my day had been. I’m not sure I’ve clocked in my full 10,000 hours yet, but I’m getting there, and I think, I won’t ever stop. It’s become a habit I’m thankful to have developed.

Second, setting goals. Not New Year’s resolutions, mind you. Actual goals that you want to single-mindedly achieve. When I was younger, I hated the question “What will you be in five years?” This is usually asked by guidance counselors or psychologists. I thought: how would I know what I’ll be in a week much less five years? It’s only since committing to my writing that I’ve realized how vital the answer to that question really is. So, I set goals. Attainable ones and the sky is the limit ones.

The attainable ones: finish writing the novel, edit the novel, and have it published, among other things. The sky is the limit ones: become part of the New York Times Bestseller List, to see my characters on the silver screen, to go on a world signing tour, and attend all the conventions. There’s nothing wrong with reaching for the stars. It’s absolutely free and so much fun.

Once you have your goals, you have to go about fulfilling them. This is the hard part. It’s the actual work. It’s sitting in front of your computer and putting your novel together. It’s believing that you’ll make it even when the odds seem against you. When The Secret came out, it became an international phenomenon. And this is what I’ve learned: Think it. Say it. Do it. These three things actually comprise what The Secret is all about. Think of what you want: to be a writer. Say it: I am a writer. Do it: write every day.

I’ll end my post here because I think there’s a lot to ruminate on already. Let the ideas settle in first. There will be more posts in the coming days, don’t worry. And please, don’t think I’m an expert. Far from it. I’m learning so many new things every day. I just want to share my experiences with you in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to help out, even just a little. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section. I’d be happy to answer them. And if there’s anything about writing or the journey itself that you want me to post about, suggest it in the comments too, and I’ll get to it in the future.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for another writing related post. If you've joined NaNo this year, you should be on chapter eight of your novel already. Remember, you can do it!

For now, this is Kate, signing out.


Writing Advice #6

I woke up a couple of days ago with a calendar note on my cell phone saying that I should send a query to a certain literary agency. I don’t remember when I saved the message on my phone, but it got me thinking.

Querying is probably one of the scariest, if not the scariest, part of the writing process. Let’s say you already wrote your novel. It’s been proofread. You’ve edited it so many times your eyes are crossing. You’ve shown it to critique partners and beta readers. Then, you edited it some more. Now, you’re ready to query. Feel the nausea? I sure did. Every time I sent out a query, I thought I was going to hurl. It’s an out of body experience, really it is.

When I began taking my writing seriously, I started putting together my agent list. For every YA novel I bought, I would make sure to read the Acknowledgement section. Usually, the writers mention their agents on this page. Write down the names of the agents and make a list. Doing this gives you credible agents to send queries to because how credible can someone get when that someone is being acknowledged by the writer for his or her participation in getting the novel published, right? Also you can casually mention in your query letter that you’ve read the book of the author that particular agent represents. This counts as doing your research. And don’t be afraid to set your sights high. If you want Mr. or Ms. Number One Agent, then why not? You never know. Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, all you need is one yes.

So, now, you have your list and your novel. Next, you need your pitch. It helps if you have a one sentence summary of your novel, a one paragraph summary, and a two to three paragraph summary. Each increasing in detail. Why do I say this? Because there are agents that only ask for one sentence. Some ask for a paragraph. While others give you more space, hence the two to three paragraphs. It’s best to stick to three paragraphs as a maximum. Why? Because it shows the agent that you know your story enough to fit the whole thing in three concise and well written paragraphs.

I’m not saying that this is set in stone. I have read about instances where the query of the author was the synopsis of the book itself. This does happen, but it does not mean that what worked for that author will also work for you. Safest thing to remember, read the guidelines of the agency website. Follow their query format or instructions to the tee. It’s the content of your query that really matters, but it also shows the agent that you followed specifically their site’s instructions, meaning you’re not just recycling your query letters.

In the end, I believe that your query and your first chapter is the initial impression you’re making to a prospective agent. Make sure you spell check, grammar check, and re-check. Have someone else read it first, just in case. I once wrote a query to an uber agent and I accidentally used Mr. instead of Ms. I was devastated when I reread the query after hitting the send button. Miraculously, she asked for a partial.

Keep plugging away on that NaNo novel. You never know, by the end of this month you might have a workable novel that will be ready for submission by next year.

Check back tomorrow for a post on making a commitment to your writing. Because, in fact, you and writing are in a relationship.

For now, get writing! This is Kate, signing out.


Writing Advice #5

Are you feeling the drag of the week? Did your day start off great? Or did your week begin disastrously? To those who’ve begun their week with a bang, kudos! May the streak continue. For those who’ve started their week in less than pleasant circumstances, it’s not the end of the world. Tomorrow is a new day and all that. When the unavoidable happens, don't let it keep you from doing what you love.

Everyone goes through rejection in some form or the other. I won’t get into the rejections suffered when in a relationship. That’s a whole different post. What I want to focus on is the rejection every writer starting out receives. I think it would be easier to count writers that don’t get rejected than those that do. Yes, there are those mythical cases of getting a yes the first time out. We won’t focus on those, either. What I want to look into is the writer that sends out query after query and receiving rejection after rejection.

When I started out querying Taste, I felt nauseous the whole time. I would send out ten queries per week. When the rejections started coming in, I felt bad. Of course, I felt bad. In the beginning, it feels bad, but I soldiered on. I began changing my mindset when it came to querying and submitting. I realized that querying is actually a process of elimination. Remember, your goal is to find the best agent to represent you or publisher to publish your work. You don’t want someone who’s only half-interested in your manuscript. You want someone excited about your story and willing to take a chance and to share it with the world.

Rejection is a necessary evil in the business of publishing. The question is: will you let a rejection stop you from seeing your work in print? All you need is one yes. No matter how many queries you send out or submissions you make, all you need is one yes. Of course, it’s nice to have several agents and publishers wanting your work, but in reality, one is more than enough. And, the best part, you can always submit again after going through another round of edits. They may have rejected you the first time around because your novel wasn’t what they’re looking for, but maybe the next time your submission becomes exactly what they want.

The author that became my inspiration when it comes to submitting is J.K. Rowling. Her work was getting one rejection after another until someone gave her a chance. Imagine how those who passed up her work must feel now that she’s made a bazillion dollars? One yes. That’s all it takes.

Mourn the rejection for a couple of hours (even a couple of minutes) then move on. Remember, there’s always a second, a third, a fourth chance out there for you. There's always one more book that needs to be written inside that beautiful brain of yours. There will be a publisher or an agent that believes in what you’ve written and will encourage you to make it the best that it can be. Someone who will champion your work. Weed out the rest and find the very best.

There’s nothing wrong with rejection. Actually, come to expect it. An agent or publisher rejecting you does mean that your work is crap. It means that they are not the right person for your work, and maybe, you won’t want someone without passion for your work representing you anyway. With so many agents and publishers out there, you would be hard-pressed not to find one.

Who knows? Maybe this next WIP you're working on will be the one that finally lands you that coveted "Yes?" Just keep at it.  

For now, this is Kate, signing out!


Writing Advice #4

So, you’re on your road to writing a novel, but life gets in the way. Some family problems arise or someone gets sick that you have to take care of. Life gets stressful. Work gets stressful. Basically, anything and everything happens to keep you away from your writing. What do you do?

The first thing, find the time. No matter what, find the time. If writing is something that you really want, and I’m sure that it is since you’ve made a commitment to get serious about it, you have to find the time. A paragraph, a page, that’s all you really need to move forward with your writing. Don’t let life get in the way of what you like doing. If writing makes you happy, then you can use it as a refuge, as a safe haven where you can get away and relax. If writing stresses you out, then you have to reassess your priorities (but that’s a whole different post).

Second, writing will always be there. You may not be able to get to it right now, but it will always be there. I’m not saying that you have to forget your writing, you just have to prioritize. I’m sure you hear and read that word a lot: Prioritize. Know what comes first. This is actually something difficult to do if you don’t have goals to keep you grounded.

Now, the reason why I’ve gone down this road is because of what I’m going through right now. My mother is recovering from major surgery. This might not seem like a big deal to many, but for someone who doesn’t get sick, to go into surgery is certainly something big. So, I’m the one taking care of her. This is a full time job in itself. It takes me away from my writing more than I care to admit. But, I also realize that my mother comes first. Without her, I wouldn’t be writing. This is an example of life getting in the way. It’s one of those obstacles that come along that tests your fortitude and planning skills.

So, using what I’m going through as an example, we can break down what I have been saying. First, I made sure that all my editing for the third Dodge Cove novel is done. A day before my mother’s operation, I sent my new WIP to my beta readers. One less thing I have to worry about. While at the hospital—and with the help of Wi-Fi—I made sure that the blog is updated. That counts as writing, too. At the same time, I caught up with my reading. All this added to feeding my mother, washing her, and cleaning the bedpan. Yes, I have become an expert in cleaning bedpans. I have to make sure to add that to my list of skills on my resume.

The bottom line, no matter what life hands you, it’s no excuse to stop what you love doing. Writing is something I told myself I wanted to do professionally for the rest of my life. So, no matter what, that’s what I’m doing. Regardless of the job you’re in, whether you’re an investment banker or a teacher or a sales representative, when life gets in the way, you still have to follow through, right? No matter how fun it is: Writing is still work. It’s still something that I have to do on a daily basis. I may not go to an office from nine to five, but I do sit in front of my laptop. I still plan on getting paid to do what I love. If I let life take me away from that, what happens?

You can do this. Just take a deep breath.

Check back tomorrow for a post on rejection. Let's get real.

This is Kate, signing out!


Writing Advice #3

For today's post on writing, I thought about Self-Doubt and Reality TV. How can these two concepts connect to writing? Well, they're closer together than you think.

First, Self-Doubt. Unfortunately, this is part of the writing process. A writer that doesn't have doubts may be knocking on the door of disappointment. Not having doubts doesn't mean you're confident. It can mean a myriad of things, which I will leave for you to dissect since that's not what this post is all about.

What I wanted to focus on is the upside to doubt. It makes you more receptive to feedback. Being closed to feedback can really hurt you as a writer. Feedback is important because it allows you to see new avenues into the story with which you might not have seen while writing. If you didn't have doubts, then possibly, you would not see the need to venture down those fantastic avenues.

Now, where does Reality TV come in?

Well, I love watching competition shows like Top Chef, Top Model, and especially Project Runway. What these shows have in common is the opportunity to pursue a dream. We are all pursuing our dreams; at least, I hope we all are because it would be a waste of a life if we didn't. If you watch these kinds of shows, you will see that more often than not the contestants have self-doubt.

At the moment, I'm watching Season 15 of Project Runway, and from what I'm seeing, there's a lot of talent among the contestants. But even the most talented ones second guess themselves. When Tim Gunn comes in to critique the works-in-progress, the designers go two ways. They either doubt themselves more or they find clarity based on the critique.

As writers, we are faced with doubts. Is my story good enough? Am I doing this right? What if they don't like it? What if I don't get an agent? What if I don't get published? What if I crash and burn? I'm sure there are many other similar questions in your head right now as you participate in NaNoWriMo.

But at the end of the day, it always boils down to the "make it work" moment, borrowing Tim's catch phrase. Will you make something out of those doubts? Or will you let the doubt paralyze you from following your dream? In the reality shows that I’ve mentioned, these questions come to life. Those who make it work find success while those who let themselves drown in doubt end up sent home.

Don't go home. Keep going. You can do it!

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See you back here tomorrow for a new post.

For now, this is Kate, signing out!


Writing Advice #2

Character development is a tricky thing all writers have to face during the process of creation. We may say we know our characters well, down to what they may be listening to while getting dressed in the morning, but have we really developed said character within the folds of the plot?

I struggle with character development.

Sometimes, I believe I know my character a certain way and then when I start writing a scene, my character does something totally different from what I had in mind. Note, I may have used the word "struggle," but I don't mean it in a negative sense. It's good to struggle with developing a character because it allows you to explore different sides of a story. Without characters, we don't have much of a story. Or, at least, that's how I choose to see it. When I read a book or watch a show, it's the characters and the way the story is told that keeps me interested.

I've heard about Sons of Anarchy for a long time now. I must admit to not paying it any attention until recently: seven seasons, to be exact. You might think that Sons of Anarchy is the last thing I would choose for a show after writing about The Vampire Diaries yesterday. But, as a girl who likes anything with an engine, I said: why not? I started with the first episode of season one on a Thursday and started mainlining the whole series for the rest of the weekend. Seriously, a season a day. Yes, I have no life. But as the biker drama took a fierce hold of me and refused to let go, I learned something: the art of character development.

When you watch Sons of Anarchy, you can't help but sympathize and fall in love with the members of the club. You know they deal guns (which is illegal) and the law is after them for it, but something happens while watching where you start rooting for the club versus the justice system. You actually want them to get away with it. That's what I call excellent character development. When the line between good and bad blurs and you're not quite sure who's the hero and who's the villain it's an example of masterful writing.

Let's take the character of Jax. He is the vice president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original). Smart. Strong-willed. Compassionate. Stubborn. And complicated. He can even be cruel and cold-blooded when he needs to be. Basically, Jax gets things done, for the club and for those he loves. Notice, I mentioned compassionate and cold-blooded in the same paragraph. How is this possible? That's character development, right there. It's not necessarily about showing who the character is, but more like dropping him into any situation and seeing what he does.

For example, Jax can go from dealing with a rival motorcycle gang where he acts tough to coming home for the night and cooing at his baby boy, and it's believable. You believe that Jax can hassle a rival gang and be a loving father to an infant. He begins to feel real. You stop suspending your disbelief and actually accept every decision the character makes. This is what great character development does to the audience.

Forgive me for my little divergence. I'm a visual learner. Demonstrate something, and I can usually do it afterward, which is why I watch TV. I know it sounds like such a slacker life, and I promise, I do air myself out once in a while, but watching shows teaches me how to write. I learn how to put scenes together, how to end a chapter where the reader will flip to the next page because he or she can't wait to see what happens next, and how to develop a character so complex that you would forgive him anything because he touched your life in a way most real people don't.

I may not be making sense at this point. And I may be writing this purely as a fan sucked into the world of SAMCRO. But, I also know I've learned something because of this series. I wish someday I get to a point in my writing where I can blur the line between good and bad and show readers characters they will love to hate and hate to love.

So, I leave you with two questions: Just because a guy does something bad, does that make him a villain? And if a bad guy does something good, can he be a hero?

Certainly something to ponder while getting to know the characters in your head. If Sons of Anarchy taught me one thing, it would be: no one is inherently good or totally bad. The situations we find ourselves in and the decisions we make while in said situations is what develops character.

Now, if you will excuse me, I think I'll start from season one all over again. Check back tomorrow for another writing-related post.

This is Kate, signing out!


Writing Advice #1

It's sad that The Vampire Diaries is ending this year. Wait! This is a writing advice post, I promise. Bear with me. All I can say is: Daemon, my heart will always be yours! And whatever major artery you so choose.

I'm not kidding.

If there was a vampire you'd want falling hopelessly in love with you, it's Daemon. And Lestat, but that's neither here not there. What I want to write about are cliffhangers.

I've mentioned before that I watch TV because it teaches me something about writing. Sounds oxymoronic, I know. But there are specific shows I die to watch on a weekly basis not only for the compelling storylines but also for the lessons in creating scenes they teach. TV allows a writer to envision a scene. How compact it can be. The detail put into it. And the dialogue and body language of the characters. Putting all these together, especially when beginning and ending a scene can make for effective writing.

When I'm reading a good book, what really gets me turning pages is a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. There are even writers who have several cliffhangers in a single chapter. That's what I call effective storytelling.

If you can have one for each and every chapter, I believe you'll have a very compelling if not breathless novel. Of course, ending on a cliffhanger can be difficult because you need to know when exactly to end a chapter so that your readers will say "I need to know more!" and then turn that page. This is the beginning of their sleepless night, turning page after page in the quest to know what happens next.

The writers of The Vampire Diaries perfected the cliffhanger. If you're a fan of the series, you'll know what I'm writing about. Each episode is ended in such a way that will keep you wanting more, if not wondering why you have to wait a whole week for your next installment. It's like a drug, I tell you.

If you're not a fan, you can actually take any episode from any of the eight seasons and you'll still see what I mean. Each episode is like a chapter in a book. It's ended either on an action about to take place or a revelation or something utterly shocking. Each of these can be used to force a reader into needing to know what happens next.

Sometimes, when writing a chapter, you know exactly where it ends. It feels right. But ask yourself, will the reader want to continue reading or will she call it a night and put your book down for the next day?

For example, your character is about to make an important decision in a chapter. Instead of ending your chapter with the decision being made, why not end it at the moment where he or she is about to make said decision. Let's say jumping off a cliff. You can end the chapter just as she reaches the edge.

Or what if your character is about to confess something to another character. A great way to end the chapter is by cutting the confession. Maybe something significant happens that pushes the actual confession to a later chapter. Or he's just about to say it and you cut the chapter there. So you have your readers holding their breath, but they can't exhale until they read the next chapter, then you start the whole cliffhanger all over again.

I can go on and on about what you can do, but in the end, writing your novel is in your hands. I just love sharing what works for me. In this case, cliffhangers. Something to consider when writing a chapter. And a great way to learn is by watching The Vampire Diaries. The writers on that show . . . I swear they are wicked awesome!

I hope I was able to help today. Remember, take my advice with a grain of salt. What may work for me might not work for you. Each writer's process is different. Don't be afraid to find your own.

Check back with me tomorrow for a new post.

This is Kate, signing out!


Let's NaNoWriMo!

Writers, fire up those laptops! It's that time of year again when millions of us come together and write. There will be victories. There will be defeats. But the great thing is we are all writing as one. NaNoWriMo is here!

As a part of the celebration, I will be using the entire month of November to post various writing tips and advice that I have gathered over the years. Now, take these posts with a grain of salt. Not all techniques work for everyone. This is not a one size fits all.

The most important thing is: write and finish that novel. My aim is to help in what little way I can. It is my hope that you take something away from what I have learned along the way. Do what feels right for you. Write the way you want to write. That will get you to where you need to be.

So catch me back here tomorrow for my first of 29 posts this November. Let's start writing!

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