Archive | June 2013

Novel in Progress: Week 4

I had planned to read my manuscript, jot down an outline, and do some research.

I botched up my plan. That’s what I do sometimes: plan to do one thing, end up doing quite another. How did it happen? Well, I started reading my first chapter, and got stuck in it. I didn’t like it as much as I had when I’d first written it. Obviously, I couldn’t move on. So I tossed sentences around, deleting a lot, adding some; I changed wording; I whittled down and sharpened the dialogue; I charged up the five senses in the description of the scene; I worked on Kate’s voice, trying to make her sound as she does in the prequel, A Measure of Guilt (I reread some chapters from it); I thought about a hook, high stakes and a cliffhanger, and so on.

I worked on the chapter the entire week, but I still didn’t finish it. Or rather, it’s finished, but I’m not satisfied with it.

I’m the harshest critic of my writing. If I don’t like it, I can’t possibly expect my readers to like it. So I will keep working on it until it sounds OK—to me.

Next week I hope I’ll finish this chapter and start revising Ch. 2.

Today I reread the WD interview with Chris Cleave, British bestselling author of Incendiary, who said about himself, “I’m not one of those writers who’s naturally gifted. I have to work at it.” (Writer’s Digest, Sept. 2012, p. 46) I was surprised and…glad, because I can certainly relate to that.

He also said this: “I like to be honest with my readers. My deal with them is: I promise to only write about things I really care about.” And that’s exactly how I feel about my writing and the theme that I’ve chosen for my new novel.

I’ve been thinking…maybe I should stop blogging about this novel in progress, since I’m moving at a snail’s pace? Then again, I’m so curious about how many weeks/months it’ll take me to finish it, not to mention the fact that blogging keeps me accountable. So I might as well continue. 🙂

Author Interview: Inspiring Authors

At this stage of my new novel, I need all the inspiration that’s out there. And I’ve found this clip where several successful authors (most of them I love) giving me their advice. Nice to know that I’m not the only one struggling during the writing process. They all do! 🙂 Very inspiring!

Lisa See’s “Dreams of Joy”

Before reading Lisa See’s Dreams of Joy, I strongly recommend starting with its prequel, Shanghai Girls, which helps one to fully understand the extent of a mother’s love and sacrifice.

Dreams of Joy is set in China where nineteen-year-old Joy flees to in order to find her biological father, a famous Chinese artist, as well as to atone for her causing the death of the father who raised her. Her mother, Pearl, rushes over there, hoping to bring her daughter back home to L.A., where she was born and grew up, where she belongs. Pearl stayed away from her native land for the past twenty years, and now she sees many drastic changes for the worse.

Joy, on the other hand, is filled with idealistic views of Mao’s communist society of social equality and overall happiness, fed to her by her university friends. So she is eager to be part of “rebuilding the country.”  She considers China, the country she’s never been to before, her true home.

The girl is shocked by the discrepancy between the slogans and reality right away. The inequality between the haves and haves-not is quite obvious: whereas the “important” people, like her father and the Party members holding high positions, entertain themselves with banquets with abundant delicious meals and live music, the rest of the population work long days and have rationed food. But, although she admits that enjoying a good life is “a betrayal of her ideals,” she doesn’t feel guilty, explaining it by her wish to “know more about China.”

Joy realizes her mistake almost too late.

Not to ruin it for those who hasn’t read the novel yet, I’ll just say that Lisa See describes the situation in Red China masterfully. The depiction of Mao’s dangerous policies and their disastrous results is so detailed I had goose bumps while reading it. The so-called “great leader” was so hell-bent on imitating China’s “big brother,” the Soviet Union–in all spheres of life, that he even “copied” the Russian famines of 1921 and 1932 that had killed millions.

I highly recommend this wonderful sequel to Shanghai Girls.

Novel in Progress: Week 3

I’m glad that I assigned myself to write only 5,000 words this week. I wouldn’t be able to do more, unless it was total garbage. Not that these five thousand were pearls of wisdom. 🙂 I just typed whatever came to mind, knowing that I’d go back anyway at some point, and plow through every paragraph and sentence and word, over and over, until I felt satisfied, more or less.

Well, that’s the thing: I think I’ve finally reached the point when I’ve got to stop writing new scenes, but go back instead, to the very beginning, and start revising all over again, chapter by chapter. And while doing that, I’ll simultaneously jot down the steps of my plot in a separate file. So, since I write organically, I’ll do my outline in reverse. Actually, I’m excited about it: I’ll be able to see my novel in miniature. Also, parallel to that, I’ll do some research on the Internet, which I haven’t done in a while.

So, my accomplishment this week is nothing to brag about. I wish I could say what Elizabeth George said in her wonderful book, Write Away, about her routine: “I approach my daily writing with anticipation, joy, and delight. Really.” (177)

Lovely! Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about my work. Some days, yes, I’m very excited, tickled with anticipation of what will happen with my characters. But other days, when I’ve no idea whatsoever what I’ll write about, I dread sitting down at the computer. Then, luckily, I remember the advice Isabel Allende gives to writers: “Show up, show up, show up!” And that’s exactly what I do. And did, this week. In fact, upon completing my self-imposed 30-day writing marathon, I haven’t missed a day of work. And that on its own makes me smile. 🙂

Author Interview: Vince Flynn

I’m very sad about the death of one of my favorite authors, Vince Flynn. I’ve read all of his thrillers, and each one of them is an action-packed, suspenseful page-turner. I feel sorry for him–to die at only 47, for his family, and for his readers all over the world.

Extreme Measures was the first novel of Flynn’s that I read, and I fell in love with the protagonist, Mitch Rapp.

In the video below, Vince Flynn discusses Extreme Measures and gives advice to aspiring writers as well. The world will miss his talent.

Lisa See’s “Shanghai Girls”

“Everything always returns to the beginning,” says May to her sister, Pearl, in Shanghai Girls, a rich, thought-provoking, beautifully written psychological drama, taking place in China between 1937 and 1957.

May says these words almost at the end of the novel, and Pearl wonders whether she’s referring to the “original meaning of the aphorism—that no matter what we do in life, … we will have children who’ll disobey, hurt, and disappoint us just as we once hurt and disappointed our parents—or is she thinking about Shanghai and how we’ve been trapped in our final days there ever since we left, forever destined to relive the loss of our parents, our home…” (276)

I think May means both points because people can never leave their experiences behind, good or bad. After all, our past shapes us, makes us what we become.

These two sisters certainly cannot forget their happy past, free of financial and emotional burdens, especially because they never regain what they have once lost.

Two decades earlier, they enjoy the life of the privileged: they are the so-called “beautiful girls” (i.e., models) in Shanghai (“the Paris of Asia”), pampered by their well-to-do parents, living in a big house with servants, modeling in the evenings, partying through the night with their rich friends, sleeping late the next morning. This carefree life ends abruptly when their father makes a startling announcement: He has gambled away all of his family fortune, so he has no choice but to arrange marriages for his daughters. He has practically sold them to Chinese men from Los Angeles. May and Pearl have no choice but to obey so that their parents won’t end up on the street, begging.

And so the young women’s ordeal has begun. Before they are able to leave for the US, they suffer from the hands of the Chinese gang and the Japanese invaders; but when they finally arrive in the States they suffer from both the American authorities and general population.

The sisters have to make heartbreaking decisions and sacrifices; they share a disturbing secret; they cannot return to their homeland, but they have a hard time surviving in their new country. When they finally feel at home in the States, they have to deal with new disasters.

The novel is so emotionally-charged and so suspenseful it grips your attention (and your heart!) from the first page and holds it till the last.

Five stars! 🙂 Highly recommend!