26 January 2019

Which Book is Brewing?

Writing is definitely part toil and trouble.

After I made the decision to redo The Name and the Key from scratch, I hit some snags, and fixing some of the problems of the book was starting to feel like solving complex mathematical equations - my brain was burnt out and I had no idea how to go about redoing the book. As painful as it was, I decided to just put my series aside altogether for the time being until I could figure out a game plan for the rewrite. Poor Andresh and Lily, (Andresh especially), I'm going to miss you while we're in time out!

Over the years, I've had multiple projects in the works. In terms of books, The Name and the Key, The Step and the Walk, The Eye and the Storm (a trilogy), The Clockwork Prince, Kill it With Fire, and Stolen Fruit (all standalones). I also have an untitled short story set in post-revolutionary France and a graphic novel called Son of the Siren, which combines several fairytales into a single narrative about an illegitimate, half-human prince who unwittingly uses the power of his siren voice to cause great catastrophe to his kingdom. Each of these works has been started, with varying chunks written (and trust me, they will all get written!), but they each take turns getting pushed aside because it's difficult for me to multi-task. I never finish projects unless I fully, single-mindedly commit to them.

This took five billion hours because I suck.
Don't get me started on coloring!
Let's talk about Son of the Siren, because this is what I'm working on now! Except it can't be a graphic novel anymore - at least not by me, anyway, and not anytime soon. It's too difficult! I made a cover, and I made the first page, and it took weeks. And I just don't have the artistic skill (or technical skill, since it's all digital art) to make this happen. So... 

Son of the Siren is now a book! 

And I've been busy with the worldbuilding stages. One of the things I've been doing is designing characters via the Live Portrait Maker by Angela He  (I have the Android apps for male and female character creation). This is just too fun! Then I have been creating the world itself through an online site called Notebook.ai, which is designed for writers, tabletop RPG games, and more. A large chunk of the site is free (enough to make one world), but if you want to add multiple worlds or more details such as weapons, animals, etc., you have to upgrade to a subscription. I'm playing around with it for preliminary stuff, but it's been helpful with creating the family trees for my main characters, getting the base locations in, and more. 

This is Angela He's art that you can customize in-app (and
then I fancied her portrait up in BeFunky).
Behold, the siren of Son of the Siren!
Besides diving into world creation, I have actually written part of the manuscript. But I've hit a snag - I'm writing it in third person limited but I'm not feeling this vibe at all. It also has generic "Epic Fantasy Voice" (which I'm also kind of hating) that seems to pop up whenever I try third-person in fantasy.  I think I've gotten too used to writing in first-person. It's really comfortable for me! As much as I keep trying to third-person this bad boy, I don't think it's working out. First-person allows me to get inside the character's head a lot easier, and it's also less of a challenge for me to give them a distinct voice. Given the subject matter - I'm retelling multiple fairy tales within a fairy tale - combined with first-person POV, whether I intend it or not, this will probably be considered YA

My first book, The Name and the Key, started out very much like a fairy tale and was even supposed to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Then about halfway through the book I took a narrative 180 and the novel splintered (it very much feels like two different books). The fairy tale plots and influences in the novel disappeared as it became more and more about magic, alchemy, gods, and all sorts of esoteric goodness. 

But my brain doesn't let me forget ideas, even if years pass, and somehow I always come back to them and rework them in another way. I have always loved fairytales - they were my introduction to fantasy and have always been among my favorite things, so I always knew I wanted to write my own fairy tale. Concepts that bubbled up in The Name and the Key are reappearing in The Son of the Siren. Images that I've had in my brain for years, from dreams and daydreams, are finally having their moment to shine. 

Fairy Tale of Kings by Mikalojus Konstantinas ─îiurlionis,
1909 (Source).
So far, Son of the Siren is pulling elements from these fairytales (or their classifications), and working them in a single narrative:
  • The Six Swans
  • Rapunzel
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Cinderella
  • The Snow Queen
  • The Armless Maiden
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Donkeyskin
The book follows some of the traditional fairy tale tropes, but also takes some time to spin some of them on their heads. I've been absolutely giddy blueprinting this novel. 

I've heard somewhere that for many writers, their first book isn't the first book they publish. For the longest time I felt really bad about that, because I love my first book so much, and I truly wanted it to be my first book out in the world. However, it's looking like Son of the Siren may be the contender for potential success. I can't predict the future (and I'm really bad about not living in the present), so I can't say anything for certain, but I have a good feeling about this. 

~*~

Readers, what book are you brewing?

20 January 2019

Trying to be Writerly While Burned Out


It's been months since I wrote on this blog, and the one post (of a total of three) I wrote for all of 2018 was a bombshell admission that the thing I had spent years chronicling on this blog - my book (aka my graduate thesis at Seton Hill University) - could no longer be pitched or published in its current iteration because the baby I wrote and loved and bled for was too problematic despite my efforts, and that if it was ever going to see the light of day, I just needed to do a complete do-over of the entire thing.

Then... radio silence from me. For ages.

I've felt incredible guilt over letting my website die. I started it in 2010 as a required component of my graduate degree program, but it was never meant to disappear after I graduated in 2013. This website was to be the home of my author identity - the major component of my writer platform besides the books I'd publish. For a couple years after graduation I kept this baby alive, talking a lot about my fandom obsessions (like anime and cons!), occasional updates on my projects, random writing advice posts, a few author interviews, and -  for a time, when I knew I needed to keep the website running but had no time to regularly write - signal-boosting posts for author blog tours.

But yeah...after working very hard to build what I thought was a successful blog for a "nobody" writer, I let this blog go kaput. Every year subsequently, my posts just drop...and drop...and drop. What happened?

I became a teacher! 

I did two years of community college teaching right out of graduate school that just...kicked my butt...and now I'm in my third year in Japan teaching EFL to high school students in Kumamoto prefecture. While teaching in Japan has been a far better gig than teaching in the US, I've not been able to shake a pervasive exhaustion that has crept into my bones and settled there.

This "blehhhh" I'm feeling is burnout. And reading the now-viral article from Buzzfeed "How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation" and its follow-up "Here is What Millenial Burnout is Like for 16 Different People" helped me find the words to go with the feelings, even if those words aren't mine.

It started with people lambasting the younger generations for their decisions not to vote in the 2016 midterm election (don't look at me, I voted even though I live in Japan), and then Anne Helen Petersen of Buzzfeed sought to know more...why is dropping an envelope in the mail so exhausting? Of course, there's more than meets the eye than just simple "laziness" here, and these articles were so comforting to me because they accurately depict my experience - having to always be "on," for one thing, and never really feeling like I'm living in the moment - that every decision has to be some sort of conscious stepping stone to an ever-elusive future lifestyle for which I must continually market myself.

How can I write, edit, promote, submit, and sell my work (and my "self") when I only have enough energy to get through the classes I teach each day? How can I rewrite my first book, and then more books after that, if it takes all my willpower to just feed myself dinner after work and do laundry on the weekend? Not to mention dishes needing done, the house needing cleaned...

I think of what modern writers are "expected" to do - self-published or not - and the list looks exhaustive:

  • Write every day
  • Read every day (especially work in your genre)
  • Self-promote and publicize
  • Maintain a social media presence and author platform - website, Twitter, FB, Goodreads, etc.
  • Regularly engage with your audience
  • Build professional relationships within your industry
And there's even more to this list depending on the type of writer you want to be and how you want to be published!

Anyway, I've been feeling burned out for years, and there are genuine consequences when you're too exhausted to keep on. Besides the fact I haven't written a new book since 2013 or published anything since 2017, I've let this website deteriorate dramatically after investing so much time and money into putting it together. 

My *only* shining spot in this field has been the editing work I've done (I'm proud to be a contributor at Speculative Chic, among other things), but editing is not the same as me writing my own stuff.

I'm not going to call this a New Year's Resolution, but let's just say this year I'm trying to slowly reemerge with a stronger writer identity, and that includes more of my own writing on this blog and then trying to work on some of my fiction, whether it's the redo of The Name and the Key or the new-ish project capturing my attention now. 

I've felt disengaged from the writing world for quite some time, so my goal is to just produce more of something - ANYTHING - and try my best to get regular with it again. 

~*~

How do you keep on writing when you're burned out?