I guess I should start this post by wishing you a Happy Winter Solstice… But I’m not a fan of winter. 😉 Either way, it’s hard to believe that another season has passed, and what an inspiring and productive autumn it was, creatively speaking. The funny thing is, when I was writing the end-of-summer Creativity Corner, I was already looking ahead to fall… and I realized that October and early November would be the best time to get as much writing done as possible before Thanksgiving and Christmas.
What a fantastic decision that turned out to be – because I’m stunned at how much I accomplished since then! I’ll get into all of that shortly. And as always, feel free to share what you’ve been reading and writing (or revising, editing, etc.) this past season in your comments.
What I’ve Been Writing
Storm (YA / College-Age Magical Realism)
Since the end-of-summer update in September, I’ve added 22,000 words to Draft #1 of Storm, bringing its current word count to 63,000. And honestly, that number is… just… mind-boggling. Especially since it took me a year-and-a-half to reach the same word count with my previous WIP. 😮 But I already know a couple reasons why Storm is developing so much faster, so I might do a post about that in the future – when I finish Draft #1, of course.
Because there’s still a ways to go, though it’s hard to say how much. Right now, my guess is it’s over halfway done, and the completed draft should be about 100K. Which is high (too high, in fact) for YA magical realism, but I’m not worried. If I was able to get a 132K YA high fantasy story down to 98K by Draft #3, I should be able to get Storm down to the 80K range in later drafts.
On top of the writing, I’ve also been researching and conducting informational interviews for Storm. Two sets of these interviews have been on mental health (anxiety disorders and depression). Doing this was important to me, because even though I’ve had experience with both anxiety and depression, I wanted to hear from other people so that I’m not basing my characters’ experiences solely on mine. The responses I’ve since received will be immensely helpful, and I’m grateful for the interviewees for their bravery and willingness to share this part of themselves with me. ❤
The third set of interviews, on the other hand, pertains to my main character’s father’s job as a home remodeling contractor. I’m still not sure why on Earth I chose it, since no one in my family works in construction. (Though I bet my love for home remodeling shows on HGTV must have been a big influence!) But once I had brainstormed how to incorporate magical realism into that idea, I knew I had to pursue it.
To keep the rest of this story short: I reached out to a few local home remodeling contractors in November and early December to see if they would answer some questions about the administrative or “behind the scenes” aspects of their jobs… And while only one “yes,” it still means that one of them said “YES!
That interview has since taken place, and the information that the contractor shared with me will be so valuable as I continue working on Draft #1. I’ll definitely write more about these interviews in the future, especially since they were courage-building exercises as much as they were learning experiences. (Confession: I was TERRIFIED of making those cold calls to the contractors!)
Finally, I want to give everyone a big thank-you hug for their comments on the the premise of Storm, either in person or here at the blog. I’m so grateful that people realize that not only is this a more personal manuscript, but that it’s also unique. Few novels out there right now cover the first-year college / university experience. And since I know first-hand how challenging that time in life can be, I hope this story might be able to fill a void and help future readers who can relate to the protagonist’s struggles with mental health, family, friendship, and self-confidence.
So, here’s the hug!
I’ve finally submitted poems again! After rounds of edits, reading aloud, and more edits, I sent a trio of poems to a contest in early October and another four poems to a literary journal in November. No word yet from either, but if I hear anything, I’ll let you know when the time is right. 😉 I’ve also written more new poems and revised a few more older ones. It feels so… so good to be back in the poetry swing, after being away from it for so long.
I’ve also devised a “system” to better balance novel-writing and poetry. For every 1,000 words I add to Storm, I take an evening off to focus on poems. So far, it’s going pretty well – and by that, I mean I don’t feel guilty about working on one project and not the other, since I’m now actively making time for both.
What I’ve Been Listening to While Writing
With every season, the playlist for Storm is shaping up to be more and more diverse. Yet each song is so appropriate to the story in terms of the emotions conveyed in the lyrics or music. That matters more in the end, I think. 🙂 Anyway, here are the most recently added songs I listened to during the first draft:
- “Autre Temps” by Alcest
- “Basket Case” by Sara Bareilles
- “Gone Gone Gone” by Phillip Phillips
- “Insomnia” by Kingfisher Sky
- “Mushroom Wall” by Kingfisher Sky
- “Season of Denial” by Guilt Machine
What I’ve Been Reading
I read 15 books over the fall, which brings my current reading total for the year to 54. With 2 weeks left in the year, I’ll probably fit in two more books (or three, if I’m lucky) to make my grand total for 2017 reads to 56. That would be just under last year’s total of 58 books read, so I’m happy to see I’m still reading at a consistent yet comfortable pace. 🙂
So, what were my favorite reads of the fall? Here are my top five:
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: I’m still reading this book as of today, so I don’t have a complete review to share yet. However, I already agree on what many readers have said about this YA contemporary inspired by the Black Lives Matters movement. It’s raw, powerful, and one of the most relevant novels out there right now.
- The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo: An exquisite collection of myths and folklore that inhabit Leigh Bardugo’s GrishaVerse, her fictional world made famous by the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows Duology. Not only does each myth feel like an integral part of each culture she invented for this world, but they also twist the concept of fairy tales into dark allegories of warning, difficult choices, and hard lessons. The book itself is also stunningly designed, thanks to Sara Kipin’s gorgeous illustrations and the embossed jacket art.
- Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older: This book was FUN. It’s a YA urban fantasy set in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, with an incredibly diverse cast of characters and a dynamic magic system where ancestral spirits are infused into music, chalk murals, and other art forms. Yes, an art-inspired magic system. You know you want to read this now. 😉
- Skullsworn by Brian Staveley: After reading Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades over the summer, I’ve been itching to read other books set in his Unhewn Throne universe. (TEB is the first book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy.) Skullsworn is a standalone novel set in the same world, about a young woman named Pyrre who must complete seven killings in order to become a priestess of the god of death – and one of those deaths must be someone she loves.
- Wild Beauty by Anne-Marie McLemore: Another gorgeously written YA magical realism novel by Anne-Marie McLemore. This one follows Estrella, who can grow starflowers with a touch of her hand on soil, and a young boy who has forgotten his name and all memory of his life before appearing in Estrella’s family’s garden. It’s a hypnotic and fiercely charming tale of family, love, and loss. Oh, and flowers, too!
By the way, I’m planning to reveal my favorite reads of 2017 after I come back from my holiday blogging hiatus. And like last year, I might do another double giveaway. 😉 Keep your eye out for it in January!
Speaking of which…
Last But Not Least, I’m on Hiatus Until Tuesday, January 9th
Since Christmas is almost here, I’m taking the rest of the year off from blogging, as well as the first week of January. I’m sure I’ll sneak in now and then to respond to comments and visit friends’ blogs. Otherwise, I’ll be back with a new post on Tuesday, January 9th. And until then, I wish you all the very best this holiday season, and have a wonderful start to your New Year. See you in 2018! 🙂
How are your writing projects going? What books have you read lately? How about musical artists or albums you’ve been listening to? Also, now that it’s December, do you take time-off from creative pursuits while preparing for the end-of-year holidays? Or do you keep at it, just at a more casual pace?