March 28, 2010

The Deal With White Space

My current work-in-progress has taught me a lot about white space.

I took a lot at some of my finished manuscripts, and I couldn't help but cringe. Words upon words were stuffed into single pages without room to breath (figuratively speaking).

They looked so intimidating, and they made me want to find something else to read.

White space makes a manuscript look more friendly and approachable. It might add more to your overall page count but it's actually worth it. More pages with fewer words are easier to read from a psychological point of view compared to a lot of words in a few pages.

Meg Cabot once said on her blog that readers will thank you for plenty of white space by buying your books. I think she's right.

Imagine a paragraph that looks like this:

Blah. Blah. I'm going to keep on talking so this paragraph will look really long. Blah. Blah. Blah. So, is it long enough yet? I guess not. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. So, yeah, I'll keep on typing. Is this paragraph annoying yet? If it is, then good. I'm trying to make a point. Haha. Okay, I'm babbling. I'll shut up now. Back to regular programming. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Taylor Lautner is so hot. I just had to put that in here. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Is this paragraph suffocating you? Not yet? I'll keep on going then. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Get my point? See how daunting that paragraph is? Aren't your fingers just itching to press the enter button? I know I am.

March 27, 2010

What's the Big Idea?


I have this idea for a YA fantasy...

...and it scares the crap out of me.

I don't know if it's just me or if this has happened to other writers, but I like my idea A LOT. I feel like this idea can bring my writing to a whole new level and push me out of my comfort zone.

It's in a setting I'm familiar with and a ton of characters I can't wait to get to know. Also, this is the most important aspect for me, it's all about Filipinos. Yeah! I love my culture and I guess I've been writing about other nationalities way too much. Since it's set in my native country and features the people I love, I think this story--whatever it'll turn out to be--is going to have more heart.

That's why I'm scared of writing it. I don't want to screw it up.

I guess I don't have enough faith in myself as a writer YET (I'm trying to be positive by thinking of yet as the operative word). So, to convince myself that I can handle my BIG IDEA and hopefully to convince other writers as well, I made this list:

Remind yourself that you're a fabulous writer.
You are! Just believe it. :)

Remind yourself why you HAVE and LOVE to write.
Why do you write? It's not likely that you'll get rich by writing (only a few have manage to do that) but you love it anyway. So, profit is definitely not your main motivation. You want to be heard and the only way to achieve that is by...

Just start that novel/short story/whatever the hell it is already!
Just type the first sentence that comes into your mind. You can always change it later. What's important is that you've started. Now, all you have to do is finish it.

What about you? Have you ever been intimidated by A BIG IDEA?
March 25, 2010

Finally!

I finally finished revising Manuscript #4. It's a good thing that I didn't delete it when I felt the urge to do so. I hated it with a burning passion a couple of weeks ago. Now, I actually kind of like the outcome.

I think that's the cool thing about the revision process. I don't know about other writers but I only tackle my rough drafts about three weeks after I finish them. That way it feels like the whole thing was written by someone else. I feel like I'm settling into the story and meeting my characters all over again. I can spot the flaws (typos, OOCs, etc) better and view the whole thing with a critical eye.

Not to toot my own horn or anything but...

I was entertained when I read Manuscript #4. A lot.

*Insert big grin right here.*

So, I sent it off to my publisher a couple of minutes ago. I hope it gets approved. *Crosses fingers.*
March 24, 2010

The Magic of John Hughes

I've been watching a lot of John Hughes movies like Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and The Breakfast Club lately. Sixteen Candles is next on the list.

I think John Hughes completely ruined teen movies for me.

Don't get me wrong. His movies are amazing. The characters resemble people I go to school with, and I can relate to their experiences. Also, the dialogue in his movies sound so real.

But maybe his movies are too amazing.

I used to think that 10 Things I Hate About You was completely brilliant, but it doesn't even compare to Pretty in Pink. Ditto for Get Over It. I saw that movie when I was about twelve or thirteen and I thought it was the best movie ever.

I've come to realize that the teen movies that have been coming out lately don't reach the standard that John Hughes' movies set. They're too clich├ęd, and the twists and added special effects don't make them any better. I mean, where's the witty dialogue and the geeky boy we could all fall for?
March 22, 2010

In Ten Words #1

Public Transportation in Ten Words:

Getting stuck in public transportation with someone who has B.O.
March 19, 2010

Thoughts: Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James


Summary (Source: www.juliejamesbooks.com):

WHEN IT COMES TO THE LAWS OF ATTRACTION . . .

Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson are lawyers who know the meaning of objection. A feminist to the bone, Payton has fought hard to succeed in a profession dominated by men. Born wealthy, privileged, and cocky, J.D. has fought hard to ignore her. Face to face, they’re perfectly civil. They have to be. For eight years they’ve kept a safe distance and tolerated each other as co-workers for one reason only: to make partner at the firm.

. . . THERE ARE NO RULES.

But all bets are off when they’re asked to join forces on a major case. At first apprehensive, they begin to appreciate each other’s dedication to the law—and the sparks between them quickly turn into attraction. But the increasingly hot connection doesn’t last long when they discover that only one of them will be named partner. Now it’s an all out war. And the battle between the sexes is bound to make these lawyers hot under the collar . . .

What I Think (The Reader Me):
Lately, I've been so busy that I end up putting a lot of books down. It's not that I don't like the said books. It's just that they didn't really catch my attention, and I ended up thinking that I had better things to do.

Practice Makes Perfect is definitely not one of those books.

I couldn't put it down. It made me laugh out loud and I cared about the characters' relationship. The sexual tension between Payton and J.D. just sizzled and made them leap out of the pages. They hate each other on the surface but the readers knows that there's a lot more going on underneath.

This was also a battle-of-the-sexes kind of book. Payton and J.D. are both after the same thing and only one of them can get it. Payton is strong and sassy without being annoying. J.D. is also very masculine without being a chauvinist. The characters are just right. I think Julie James resolved the conflict between them in the end quite nicely. She didn't cop-out and the ending was just right, albeit a bit predictable.

What I Think (The Writer Me):
I learned a lot about creating sexual tension from this book. Julie James is a master at it. My spine was already tingling and the characters hadn't even kissed yet. That's saying a lot.

The book also kind of reminded me of a movie, something along the lines of The Proposal or Laws of Attraction (except a whole lot better). I visited Julie James's website and learned that she wrote scripts before she started writing novels, so I guess that explains the whole movie-ish feeling.

Obsessive-compulsive freak that I am, I also checked out her blog. I saw her post on who she'd cast as Payton and J.D. She said that she pictured someone like Sarah Michelle Gellar as Payton and Ryan Reynolds as J.D. I completely agree with her choices.
March 17, 2010

I Loathe You

I'm really, really tired at the moment.

I had two exams today--Ethics and Afro-Asian Literature--and I had to answer nearly twenty essay questions. My brain has literally been drained.

Anyway, I'm still revising Manuscript #4. I planned on submitting it to my publisher on the nineteenth, but I'm having doubts.

I completely hate it.

I don't know if it's the book itself or if the revision process is taking its toll on me. I want to delete every word. Better yet, I just want to delete the whole thing to make it go away. I don't know. Maybe I'll feel better about it or like it a little more in the next couple of days. At the moment, though, I just want it to disappear.

Manuscript #5 update:



3547 / 20000 words. 18% done!
March 14, 2010

Research-Friendly

Most writers are either plotters (use outlines) or pantsers. I'm actually somewhere in between. When I'm not sure I can sell a project, I take my time with it and just let the characters take me where they want to go. When I want to set a deadline for a writing project, I use outlines.

And that's what this post is about.

Usually, I don't have a specific location for my work-in-progress. As a result, outlines are harder to compose. I have no idea where the characters are supposed to go or what they're going to do next. It's up to me to come up with ideas for the plot.

For my current work-in-progress, I decided to try something new. I've been trying to integrate research into my fiction for a while now, and this is the first time that I'm really going to give it a short. My current manuscript is set in Tagaytay. I've been there before but that was nearly five years ago. I don't remember much anymore.

I've discovered that research actually makes coming up with an outline easier. While jumping from one website to another, I've discovered a lot of places. For example, there are a lot of tourist spots that can serve as romantic backdrops. I also learned that horseback riding is a popular activity for tourists in Tagaytay, and there are also cool ecotrails. These are things that my hero and heroine can do together while they're getting to know each other or--more accurately--falling in love. My research materials are giving me tons of ideas for scenes. I've become a big fan of research.

However, all this research scares me. Information on the Internet can be unreliable. Therefore, I have to verify information by checking out various sources. Also, including all that information into my manuscript is also a risk for me. What if I get something wrong like the name and feel of a place or the culture of the people?

When doubts like that start creeping up on me, I tell myself to breathe and that I'm working on the rough draft. The revision process will give me a chance to edit and correct everything later.

What about you? From your point of view, does research really help move the plot forward?

On a different note, I finished Manuscript #4 yesterday. I'll start editing some time soon. :)



20041 / 20041 words. 100% done!
March 11, 2010

MS #3

Yay!

I got news yesterday that my third manuscript, tentatively titled His Saving Grace, has been accepted for publication. :) Unfortunately, I had to restrain myself upon hearing the news because I was at school. I had a big smile on my face the whole day. I only told two friends, and they can't wait to read it. Thanks, guys.

Anyway, I have to keep this short since I have a European Literature exam tomorrow. I haven't even touched my notes yet. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus will be included in our exam, and it's making my head hurt.
March 10, 2010

Location, Location


(Santorini)

Only two more chapters to go and I'll be finished with my current WIP.

I think I'm getting antsy. I really want to move on to something else now. I like my characters and this work-in-progress is really a challenge for me. With my past three romance novellas, the characters started hating each other and then they eventually fell in love. I've never actually written a romance wherein the characters are friends/have a platonic relationship which develops into love. This novella is my first foray into that arena, and I'm not sure if I managed it. At least, I stretched my wings as a writer even in a little way.

My next project will be set in an entirely different location. I'm trying to choose between Santorini and Tagaytay. I want to go to Santorini someday and the research is interesting. However, I love Tagaytay too. I think the story will be more realistic since I've actually been there. Also, the research will be easier.

So, I guess I might pick Tagaytay after all...

Originally, I wanted to set a story in Baguio but a couple of my fellow writers from MSV have used that location in some of their recent books. I guess I want to take my readers somewhere new.
March 08, 2010

500 Words A Day

500words-300w

I've signed up for Inkygirl's 500 Words A Day Challenge. I think 500 words a day is a nice pace for me. The cool thing about it is that those 500 words don't have to be in my current WIP. I can even count the words in this blog post and add them to my total. The important thing is that you get those 500 words done. The only catch is if you write more than 500 words today, those extra words don't count for the next day.

According to Inkygirl, here are the rules:

Try to write 500 words a day, at least six days a week.

As long as you are sincerely and consistently TRYING to write 1000 words a day, then you can post the badge on your blog or website. If life occasionally gets in the way, that’s ok — as long as you promise yourself to get back on the wagon as soon as you can. If you sometimes don’t reach 500 words, that’s also ok — but try again the next day.

The badge has to link back to the 500 Words A Day Challenge page.

What about you? Have you joined any writing challenges lately? What do you think about them in general? Are they helpful?
March 06, 2010

Scary, Creepy Research


(image from deviantart.com)

Research scares me.

I'm not saying that as a student but as a writer. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I've never written anything that forced me to come out of my comfort zone. I choose settings I'm already familiar with, and populate my work with the kind of people I usually hang out with. I never bothered to figure out how someone truly different from me ticks. Yes, I write in two languages, but, if you translate my work, you'll realize I still write the same kind of thing.

I've decided to remedy the situation.

I'm going to stretch my wings.

Really.

Lately, a story has been calling out to me. It's demanding to be set in Santorini, Greece, a place I've never even stepped foot on. I know nothing about the culture and the people there. Nada. Zero. Zilch. That's what scares me. What if I get something wrong? What if I place this particular inn here and it's located three streets away? What if one of my characters who supposedly grew up in the place breaks one of its most well-known traditions?

I think it's very arrogant of me to try writing about a place I've never set foot on, but I'm going to try anyway.

I'm going to forget all my fears and write about Santorini. Maybe I'll get to go there someday. In the meantime, pictures from the Internet will have to do.
March 04, 2010

The Curse of Being Nearsighted

Writers are supposed to be more observant than “average” people, or at least they’re expected to be.
The thing is… I’m not observant at all. I don’t notice little details like the hole in my Debate professor’s shirt, the white hairs on my twenty-year-old classmate’s head, or the prints on the cafeteria lady’s blouse. I don’t notice stuff like that. I can make them up, but usually with great difficulty.

These little details make a piece of writing come alive. They suck the reader in and make him forget that he’s reading. They form pictures and create a stronger impression in the reader’s mind.

It’s hard admitting this but description is my greatest weakness as a writer. I blame it on my myopic eyes (I don’t wear glasses—it’s a nerd thing), but I sound like I’m making excuses for my lame observation skills.
Lately, I’ve been trying to remedy it. I try to add little details to my work. I hope to see some improvement soon. I also intend to wear my glasses everyday as soon as I get new ones. I’m convinced that there are a lot of interesting details in the world that can help my writing shine. I just have to see them.

WIP Update:


9004 / 21000 words. 43% done!
March 03, 2010

Through My Myopic Eyes

I've been jumping from one writer's blog to another lately. Some of them were funny, some were serious, while all were definitely inspiring in one way or another. Aside from getting published, most of their entries tackled different elements in writing like plot, characters, settings, and a ton of other issues involving writing.

I just started my blog, and I'm simply flailing around. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. I haven't found my own "blogging" voice yet. Also, I have no idea what I want to say.

All I know is that I want to write about writing.

That's it.

But how?

And will anyone even bother to listen to me?

My questions scare and excite me at the same time.

In the meantime, here's the prologue of my current WIP. I want to know what you think. It's only a rough draft, so please be kind. :)

Prologue

Through my myopic eyes, the world looks like a painting. The sky is a gigantic blue smudge with white cottony clouds. Do you remember that game kids play when they try to find things in the clouds? You know, they point out a particular cloud that looks like an elephant or maybe a pig or a cartoon character.

I do that a lot. I lie on the grass, take off my glasses, and stare at the clouds. The clouds stare back at me, and I blink a couple of times. Things are more interesting when I don't do that, when I don't have my glasses on and everything is a bit blurry and beautiful at the same time. I can feel the wind on my face, and my arms are tickled by blades of grass. The whole field is silent and I end up wishing I could hear crickets instead of the sound of my own breathing.

As I stare up at the sky, I realize that this is my favorite time of the day. The afternoon is ending. The sun isn't too bright and hot, but its still warm and the breeze is cool. Just perfect.

The clouds end up looking like cotton candy, and I just want to break off a piece and start chewing. I sometimes ask myself what flavor the clouds would be since they're white. I can't really think of anything that fits, so I just settle with vanilla. Vanilla cotton candy. That sounds nice.

The trees are the best part. When I don't have my glasses and am practically as blind as a bat, trees that are usually ordinary-looking end up looking like something from a fantasy world. They look like various shades of watercolor green dabbed into a canvas, darkly beautiful and more detailed than anything else. The leaves aren't individual leaves. They all end up looking like a part of a whole. When they start swaying to the wind, it becomes a fantastic view, like a painting come to life.
Sometimes, when I get lucky, I see trees with flowers on them, usually red or yellow. When I was a kid, I made up a story about them, the trees with flowers. I imagined that if a flower fell from one of the trees, you could make a wish and it'd come true in three days. It was stupid, but I was only five and crazy over Astroboy. I don't really know what the trees with flowers are called, but I think they're still beautiful anyway.

Sometimes, I dream of the trees with flowers, but then I soon hear a splash. My dream turns out to be a nightmare.
March 02, 2010

The Write Way



I want to write about writing, but I really don't know where to start. What can I say that hasn't been said by a thousand more gifted writers before me?

I guess I should start at the beginning. I started writing when I was in the third grade. I wrote in a ton of notebooks I bought from the school bookstore. Most of my stories were based on fairy tales. I tried combining some of them, writing something between short stories and novels. I never finished any though. I also started writing in a diary around that time. I used to write stupid details about my day, like how I noticed my crush was eating a grape-flavored Popsicle. My 3rd grade diary is a pretty funny read. For me, at least.

I also read anything I could get my hands on. I started with the Nancy Drew series and moved on to the Hardy Boys. When I reached the fourth grade, I discovered Beverly Clearly and fell in love with her books. Dear, Mr. Henshaw became my favorite. It's about a boy whose parents just got divorced (my parents were getting divorced around the time I discovered the book), and writing helped him cope. It really helped me understand that sometimes two people aren't meant to be together. We can't force them even if they're our parents.

So, this entry has been really interesting for me. It made me think of how I was as a child, and the things I experienced. I mean, every single thing I thought and went through helped shape who I am today.