Each year I started something new, went out of my comfort zone and improved myself as a writer little by little.
Sometime in 2012 I began the first draft of "Our Father" which was originally titled Not your Average Love Story. I wrote ten chapters for that story and then I lost the flash drive. I was super into it, and worked on it everyday after school. That time, my writing was very much dialogue based and it was not good dialogue. My descriptions were vague or not there at all. Many of my stories from years ago have fascinating plots, but that's it. I just started trying to write actual novels. I used to write stories in elementary school, transitioned to poems in middle school, then back to fiction in high school. It was a struggle creating real characters that weren't cliche or boring. During this era, I would start a story, lose inspiration, start another story, lose inspiration and you get the point. There were no outlines or thought put into it. I just started writing whatever came to mind and thought it would make sense. There is an art and a structure to fiction writing. It takes more than a good plot to create a real story that will entice readers and make sense. Not Your Average Love Story was a mystery novel filled with romance and suspense. The characters were one dimensional and they didn't have clear motives for why they did things. I also started writing another novel, "Deeper into Danger" later that year. This story is also about stalking, ex relationships, friendship, and personal growth. Sounds like "Our Father".
In 2013 I wrote and completed "Illuminate my World" (available on amazon) in three months, but I should have kept going. It's not a terrible story, but I do plan on revisiting it. That story took me into the state of mind of a person with schizophrenia. It sounds crazy, but hear me out. As I've mentions before, understanding your characters is important for the development of a novel. So, I dug deep into Brielle's (main character) brain. The interesting part of this is when I first started writing IMW, my intention was to create a character that was sad and struggling with life events. What I didn't realize was I wrote a character with the symptoms of schizophrenia. It was a complete surprise to me! I had watched a couple documentaries on schizophrenia beforehand, so it's possible my mind gravitated towards that. Other cool accomplishment in 2013 is participating in Nanowrimo for the 1st time. I joined about a week before the starting date and I did not begin a new novel. Instead I continued "Deeper into Danger". Nanowrimo was a new territory for me, but somehow I knew it would help me with my writing in the long-run and it has. Seeing other writers complete their goals motivated and inspired me. I had never been in a community of writers and it felt like a breath of relief. Finally, others who understand the struggles of writing, but love it with everything within them.
In 2014 I finished "Deeper into Danger". This book was 30,000 words more than Illuminate my word and took me a year to complete. I dealt with more characters and a bigger plot. It was my first mystery novel and I was very proud of the outcome. The first draft of DID was on the lost flash drive. A lot of research went into this book just like with IMW. The only difference is with IMW most research went into schizophrenia symptoms and with DID it was different things. For example, much effort was put into figuring out the setting, understanding characters' motives, and criminal procedure. Establishing relationships between characters became a challenge because they needed to connect to one another with reason. How does this character influence the other? If I remove this characters, will the story thrive? There are hints and clues in various places about the antagonist, but I may have made them too obvious. My idea is to lead the reader on and allow them to solve it as the chapters went by. I didn't want to reveal the antagonist's true face until the end. I branched out and tried something new from what I was used. Growing up, I read a lot of mystery and horror novels like Nancy Drew and the Goosebumps series, but I never envisioned myself writing one of those. It seemed difficult and out of range. I didn't give up though! Despite my lack of knowledge on this genre, I continued with this story and created something amazing. Sometime in the future I will go back and edit the whole thing.
Somewhere in the summer I started writing Being a Model. The idea for BAM came from two places. One, a dream I had about a model going to a photo shoot. Crazy right? Two, another idea about a woman looking for her mother. I can't recall how or when the combinations of ideas occurred. BAM went through multiple drafts and variations of the final plot I have now. It is drastically different from where it first began. Change is inevitable even in fiction. Again, I went out of my comfort zone writing BAM. I knew absolutely nothing about the fashion industry or modeling except for a few misconceptions. (I do have a blog post discussing Misconceptions of the Modeling industry One ting I knew for sure, was my love for the main character, Mai. There is a special connection with her. It's the same way I feel about Robyn from "Our "Father". This was not always the case. I had a hard time connecting to Mai in the beginning because I couldn't understand her position. My creative writing teacher in high school suggested I learn more about her lifestyle and the fashion industry to assess Mai based on that. Now, I understand her personality, every decision she make, why she made it, etc. This doesn't mean we're the same. Her personalities and choices are not what I would do. As a writer, I need to make distinctions between myself and a character. They are extensions of myself, but they are not me nor do they embody me.
To end 2014, I participated in Nanowrimo for the 2nd time. I decided to make Deeper into Danger a trilogy. The one I completed is the second book, and the one I worked on for Nano. My goal was to write fifteen thousand words for this new story and I surpassed it! The beginning of the book is my favorite part, well mostly the first page. My details and descriptions were breathtaking. I can't compare it to anything else. Whatever zone I was in writing that, I need to go back because my words set the scene. I reached out to a teacher for advice on criminal procedure because my main character went to jail. By this time, I wasn't hundred percent confident in myself as a writer, but I knew my writing was getting better. My understanding of fiction became clearer.
2015 was a chill year in terms of novel writing. I finally self-published Illuminate My World. I stopped working on it for two years and during the beginning of 2015 I started the process of self-publishing. The thing blocking me from doing this sooner was the fact that people might read my book. I was going to put out a piece of myself to the world. That's bold. At the end of the day, publishing IMW was an accomplishment for me. I needed to do it as a writer. Since age six, I wanted to have a book published. It was a lifelong dream come true. It gave me more confidence as a writer to believe in myself and my writing. IN my creative writing class, we had an assignment to write a short story. Our teacher encouraged to write about something new to us and branch out. I chose to write a story about a man that was cursed in the forest in Minnesota (I think). A woman finds him and tries to hep reverse the curse, but he ends up killing her to save himself. Sounds cool, right? I might revisit that idea. This was a new idea for me, but I wanted to venture far out of my imagination. I then chose to write a similar story but about a woman in Madagascar. This is how The Other Side of the Mirror was born. A woman named Volana was cursed an ugly second face at the back of her head because of her beauty. I got the idea of the second face from a famous American TV show. If any of you know what I'm referring to, kudos to you! OSOM is a fun story that has allowed me to learn about another culture. Many people probably think the only inhabitants of Madagascar are animals from the movie, but that's not. There is an entire group of diverse people living in Madagascar. OSOM gave me another opportunity to grow as a writer by encouraging me to do more research and invest in my stories and characters.
In 2016 I restarted Our Father during Camp Nano in July. There were six thousand words before July so my goal was to write twenty thousand which I surpassed. I held onto this story for five years before that point. I would write some redrafts, but nothing serious until Camp Nano. Something in me realized it was time to bring back my favorite story. Exhausted from school, there wasn't much energy left in me to take an entire month to write twenty thousand words. I was burned out by the end of it, but still proud of achieving my goal. I changed some things about OF like the title and the ending. I didn't know what the second half of the book would be about when I first wrote it. It was supposed to be a mystery novel laced with romance, though it still is,... kind of. It's more three dimensional than that.
I also participated in Nanowrimo again, but not officially. I challenged myself to write a poem a day and that was fun. It worked for a little bit though, I wrote 14 poems total, but not on consecutive days. This was a hard year for me for various reasons, and I wrote a lot of poetry, but not much for my novels.
Ah my favorite year thus far, 2017. So many great things happened last year including my flash drive malfunctioning. I lost things that weren't backed up on my computer including the last part of "Our Father". The poems I lost hurt me, but I'm not too heartbroken over them. So why is that great? Without the loss, I would not have regenerated "Our Father". The book was beginning to lag and drag without anything exciting happening. I needed to redo the last part and give my characters better motives and story lines. I needed to cut scenes and revamp the story.
Most of that occurred during Camp Nano in July when I completed the entire novel!!! I started the story with Camp Nano and ended it with Camp Nano. Those four weeks were... I can't even explain in words. Writing the ending chapters were my favorite. The story was reaching its climax, characters were learning secrets, and everything was happening so fast. There's one scene in particular that I really enjoyed writing so much, I rewrote a couple times to make it perfect. I wanted to convey the right emotions and depict the perfect scene. I even had a music playlist dedicated to that scene. It makes me laugh honestly. This character thought she could double cross someone and got double crossed herself. (Fav. Line)
This wonderful blog was created on July 1st to document the journey to completion for "Our Father" and share my thoughts with the world. The idea of doing that was daunting to me at first. I was scared to let others read my writing and possibly judge, but I couldn't let that stop me. Planning, organizing and writing this blog takes a huge chunk of me and I love it. It's freeing to own something and share what you want with everyone. This is my art.
During the summer, I restarted a lot of old projects from high school collecting virtual dust on my computer. Each week or two weeks in certain months were dedicated to a story. Some stories needed an outline, others needed a better plot, and others just needed more content. That was the most productive summer I've ever had in terms of writing. Hours and hours went into this everyday. Imagine sitting in front of your computer for that long. Sometimes there wasn't much to write so I made covers or character pictures instead. I dont know if I've ever had that much inspiration and motivation before.
Finally to the end of 2017. It wasn't as exciting unfortunately. I participated in Nano again and had the intent of writing a old story with new ideas. I wanted to continue my remodeling behavior from the summer and recreate a story from high school. "16 years ago" (summary). In the original idea, I did not include reincarnation, the man was a random creeper, and the main character was white with a different name. School took over and I didn't have enough time to plan the story properly. So when Nano came around, I had difficulties writing scenes because I wasn't sure what was supposed to come next or how different things connected. The dialogue is also pretty bad. However, the story itself is interesting so I will revisit it.
Last but not least, my goals for this year:
I'm excited to see where this year will take me and what goals -realized and unrealized- I will accomplish. Working on stories is a mixture of fun and hard work. Most, if not all, of my energy is diverted into this craft I have developed over the past fifteen years. I went from passively writing for fun to using research and outlines to create a stories destined for the shelves. I hope this inspired you to keep doing what makes you happy and driven.
*1st photo by chuttersnap, 2nd and 6th photo by Prochurch media, 3rd photo by Zac Ong, 4th photo by Christian Joudrey, 5th Photo by Pablo Garcia Saldana, and 7th photo by Kyle Ellefson on Unsplash